UCG CoE Conference report; posted according to the “Fair Use” provision of the copyright act.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about an hour later because of teaching an ABC class.
Mr. Webber welcomed everyone and commented on how wonderful the retreat was the day before (Sunday) with all the Council members. He remarked how productive and beautiful it was to see God’s Spirit in action. To remind everyone of the spiritual tone of the meetings he turned to Philippians 2:1-5. He also read Psalm:119:103-105How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. about our love for God’s law and God’s word being our standard and the Bible being the foundation of knowledge. He then read through the mission and vision statements.
The last Council meeting minutes were approved as well as the agenda for the week’s meetings.
President’s Report—Victor Kubik
President Victor Kubik greeted everyone and also commented on how wonderful and productive the retreat with the Council was.
Mr. Kubik began by thanking God for His goodness and mercy in direction and providing resources to the Church to continue to preach the gospel and for the spirit of peace that exists on all levels. He also thanked the ministry and all the employees for their tireless work.
He covered brief updates regarding Media and Communication Services, Ministerial and Member Services and Financial Services of the Church that are covered in more detail later in the meetings.
Some of the other items that were covered were:
- Modest bonuses and premiums for all employees were given at the end of November.
- Planned Giving Brochure, which helps to answer often-asked questions about wills and other future giving.
- Two Youth Corps missions, one to Eagle’s Nest Orphanage in Guatemala and the other to northern Brazil, where there is an agricultural program helping our remote brethren.
- Health of our ministry is a concern right now.
- The Philippines office is moving from Davao to Manila.
- Larry Darden and Victor Kubik will attend the National Council meeting in the Philippines on January 11th and prior to that visit our brethren in Hong Kong for three days.
- The Content Committee is working on a new songbook and considering a supplement of new songs for possible integration after seeing how they are received.
Mr. Kubik concluded his section by referring to the various communications he has with the Church and readership through letters and blogs. He expressed how happy he is with the United Church of God and our direction.
Operation Manager Reports:
Ministerial and Member Services (MMS)—Chris Rowland
Chris Rowland was filling in for Roy Holladay, who was traveling to see his brother-in-law in the hospital.
Mr. Rowland went through describing various activities:
- Ambassador Bible College (ABC): The 16th year of ABC began on Aug. 17 with 30 students.
- Ministerial Online Training: This is the third year of ministerial online training that began on Aug. 24. There are 18 students signed up for the pastoral care class and 24 signed up for the Epistles of Paul class by Don Ward.
- Labor Day Leadership Workshop: From Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, the 13th annual Labor Day Leadership Workshop was conducted in Cincinnati. This year, there were 26 men and 20 wives participating.
- Feast of Tabernacles: We counted over 13,500 as observing the Feast or receiving the DVD to listen at home because they were unable to travel to the Feast. This was 1 percent higher than our total for last year. This year instead of the video we tried a live webcast, which had overwhelmingly positive comments. We anticipate trying something similar next year.
- Deuteronomy 6 Model: We recently completed the roll-out of the Deuteronomy 6 model of youth instruction. The theme of this year’s Family Study Guides, “Making God Real,” covers the foundational doctrines of the Bible. The first two guides can be found under the “Family Education” link at members.ucg.org, along with other resources for the program.
- Camp Conference: This year’s camp conference was held at the home office from Nov. 10-12. The camp directors reviewed the past season with the goal of improving the camp experience for next year.
- Leadership Workshop in Youngstown, Ohio: We have been holding regional “mini” leadership workshops as we travel to hold ministerial conferences. We held our third such workshop on Nov. 16, near Youngstown, Ohio. In these regional workshops, we make sure to cover different material than we do at the workshop that we hold at the home office over Labor Day weekend, so that attendees will get new material if they attend both. We had 84 in attendance at the Youngstown workshop, which was an amazing turnout. We had a cross section of ages who attended the workshop from teenagers to retirees. The emphasis was on Christ-like service based on humility.
- Area Ministerial Conference in Youngstown, Ohio: We held our most recent area ministerial conference near Youngstown, Ohio, from Nov. 16-18. We had 24 ministers and 20 wives in attendance at the conference.
- Sabbath Attendance: Sabbath service attendance in the United States is approximately where it was last year at this time. Attendance over the summer was lower, approximately 7,300, due to summer camps and other activities, but has returned to over 7,600 for September and October.
- MMS Statistics: We have had three new elders ordained since the last Council meetings, bringing us to 362 elders currently credentialed by the Church, 281 in the United States and 81 in other countries. We have had several pastors begin new Bible study groups in outlying areas, bringing our number of congregations and Bible study groups in the United States to 198.
- Retirement and Training: We are looking at eight potential retirees for 2015, which means that we have some work to do to identify and train replacements. Since our last meetings, we have hired Andy Diemer as an associate pastor for Worcester, Massachusetts, and Seabrook, New Hampshire, working with Len Martin. The plan is for him to replace Mr. Martin, who will be reassigned to the Columbus, Ohio, area next spring, as Vernon Hargrove’s successor.
- New Projects: We have been discussing several new projects, including the feasibility of publishing a hard-copy magazine or newsletter for the youth and teens in the Church. We have also had some discussions on establishing some educational material for our young adults, possibly in the form of Web seminars and discussions that bring together groups of young adults at several different geographic locations on a regular basis.
Financial Services—Rick Shabi
Rick Shabi began his report by stating that the Church’s financial condition continues to be strong and that the trends for the first five months of the fiscal year, from July through November, are favorable. God is to be thanked for the continuing “higher than budget” tithes, Holy Day offerings, and other donations received by the Church.
The fiscal year-to-date Financial Report was distributed, and several factors and indicators were presented and discussed. Overall, the Church is running well above budget projections for this year, as well as over prior year results.
It was also reported that the independent audit had been completed and the report received. The Church received an “unqualified” opinion from the auditors and no internal control weaknesses were noted. The partner from the external audit firm was scheduled to make a presentation to the Council later that day. A copy of the complete audit will be published in United News.
Finally, an update on the Planned Giving program and accompanying brochure was presented. Mr. Shabi commented that this program is designed to offer support and assistance to those who would like to include the Church in their estate through a bequest in their will, as a beneficiary on a life or other insurance policy, or if someone wanted to donate stock, bonds, or mutual fund shares instead of cash. Comments from the Council were solicited, and it was stated that the brochure would then be finalized and be made available.
Media and Communications Services—Peter Eddington
Peter Eddington went through some statistics:
- United News circulation is the highest it’s been in 45 months.
- Coworker count is now the highest it’s ever been.
- 2013 was a five-year record for the number of personal correspondence answers sent, and 2014 is on track to be an all-time record.
- Magazine insert cards and literature response cards processed for 2013 were the highest in five years, and 2014 is on track to surpass that.
- Response to our subscriber development letter offering our Tools for Spiritual Growth booklet last December is more than 21 percent. This equals the highest response to a subscriber offer back in 2002.
- Literature responses to the president’s last three coworker/donor letters are 10 percent of the combined 23,438 letters mailed. Financial contributions are 8.6 percent of the total letters mailed, adding up to more than $100,000. This is about four times the cost of printing and mailing the letters.
- The president mailed a subscriber letter to all 151,275 U.S. Good News subscribers in November, which also included our membership. Including our members gives them a glimpse into our subscriber development process. Responses to the literature offered (Are We Living in the End Time?) are beginning to come in this week, including many with helpful donations to further the work of preaching the gospel. Donations received have already exceeded the printing and mailing costs of the letter (approximately $48,000).
- The French Bonnes Nouvelles magazine print run now equals the highest on record.
- Beyond Today responses are 17 percent higher for January through November compared to last year. The total number of responses has already surpassed 2013, with the month of December yet to go.
- The cost per response for Beyond Today so far this year is less than it was for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and it may end up being the lowest since the 2010-2011 year.
Mr. Eddington then discussed trends and future planning for the media department.
Committee Chairman Reports:
Ethics Committee—Mario Seiglie
The committee was working to fill the vacancy of one of the two Elder’s Forum (EF) monitors. As requested by the Council, a message was sent to the GCE for volunteers or recommendations and from the list of elders compiled, the Council selected Richard Kennebeck to fill the vacancy. The other EF monitor is Ed Dowd.
Media Committee—Scott Ashley
Scott Ashley reported that he had updated the committee on issues related to international areas impacted by our media. Some international areas are affected by anti-discrimination and hate speech laws in those countries.
Strategic Planning and Finance Committee—Bill Bradford
The committee looks at where we have been and the future planning. The Strategic Plan is part of this as we look to God for what He wants done. It comes down to what we do, but also what we must become.
Roles and Rules Committee—Roc Corbett
The biggest and most important current project in the Roles and Rules Committee is a thorough review and updating of the Bylaws. This past May the GCE overwhelmingly adopted the amended Constitution, and now it is time to finalize the preparation of the Bylaws for presentation to the GCE for possible adoption next May. In that regard, this week the Bylaws will be presented for review to the Council. Also being worked on are two documents that we hope to present for discussion this week, if time permits. These documents pertain to the work of the Expelled Elder Appeal Committee, and are in need of updating. The titles of these documents are “Suspension and Expulsion from the GCE” and “Appeal of Suspension or Expulsion from the GCE.”
The Roles and Rules chairman is also the liaison between the GCE Responsibilities Advisory Committee (GRAC) and the Council. Dan Dowd is the chairman of the GRAC, and has submitted the final report of the GRAC to the Council. As soon as time permits, the Council will review the report, write a complementary letter and send these to the GCE.
The ongoing and future projects of this committee are many. Some of them are:
- Presenting of amendments from GCE members that have been brought forward by the Amendment Committee for Council review during the December meeting.
- We have prepared a “Procedure for Amending the Fundamental Beliefs” and will present this for consideration at the next opportunity.
- The library of approved documents is under construction, and is now officially open on the ministerial website. An announcement will be sent out soon with details.
- Drafting a policy and procedure for nominating and selecting the Council chairman and the president.
Education Committee—Rex Sexton
The committee has heard positive responses on the Christian Education program and its Deuteronomy 6 program, which is currently on the second month. They are also working on the appraisal of ABC with the surveys that were sent out. They received 125 responses from alumni and church pastors.
Doctrine Committee—John Elliott
One of the primary responsibilities of the Doctrine Committee is in the statement: “Preservation of the truth is paramount to the mission of the UCG.” The Church welcomes the submission of doctrinal and prophecy papers from the ministry and membership and has established an orderly process for the review of papers dealing with these topics. The committee is working on several papers including the Last Great Day/Eighth Day study paper among others.
After a brief break the Council went into executive session until lunch.
External Audit Report—Bill Bradford
Following lunch, Bill Bradford, Chairman of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, introduced Kerry Roe, who is a partner with Clark Schaefer Hackett—the independent accounting firm the Church engages to perform the annual audit. Mr. Roe made a presentation to the Council on financial highlights from the recent audit, showing how assets had increased. He commented that the Church’s condition is strong and that the audit went very well, with no internal control weaknesses noted and no needed adjusting of entries.
Strategic Exercise: Review of Members, Elders and Employee Surveys—Bill Bradford
The attendees, elders and employee surveys were initially reviewed in open session. There was much discussion about the input from the surveys and what can be done to improve. Certain key comments from the surveys were shared beyond the bars, graphs and figures of the surveys. Two major focus comments centered on the following: 1) The desire of the membership for increased spiritual edification via literature and programming, 2) Concern that the ministry is being stretched thin by current circumstances and what can be responsibly done about it with our current size and environment.
The Council went into executive session to further discuss the surveys.
Strategic Exercise: Review of Vision Statement, Guiding Principles—Bill Bradford
The Council began to go through the vision and mission statements and the Strategic Plan’s guiding principles to look at possible improvements and analyzed them with Scripture. There was much discussion and input as they went through these statements.
The Council adjourned at 6:24 p.m.
© 2014 United Church of God, an International Association
Posted under the “Fair Use” provision of the copyright act.
United Church of God, an International Association
Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:11 a.m. and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council of Elders (Council) members were present. (Don Ward was ill and returned home to Texas. He joined us via videoconference for the Wednesday meetings.) Mario Seiglie joined about an hour later because of teaching an Ambassador Bible College class.
The Council focused on: 1) A discussion from the retreat last Sunday now brought into formal open session and, 2) Recent comments by General Conference of Elders (GCE) members to review the organization and classification (not the current content) of doctrine statements and study papers. Many papers have been written and approved over 20 years and the classification given has not always matched the gravity of the topic. This need to coordinate our written material to best serve the GCE and the general membership was officially remanded to the Doctrine Committee by the chairman. It was also requested that this be a high priority.
Chairman Address regarding Fundamental Belief Amendment Submissions
“As Chairman of the Council of Elders and the General Conference of Elders, it came to my attention the week before the December session of the Council of Elders meetings that we were experiencing a procedural challenge regarding standardized time allotments to move matters forward for the Council of Elders to fulfill their constituted role in reviewing Fundamental of Belief submissions before the next step of going to the General Conference of Elders. This involves two separate amendments: 1) Sanctity of Marriage, 2) Passover (additional wording and verses to support current position).
“The GCE members who submitted these two items did so according to established procedural timeline. Yet, it has been considerable time since Fundamental Beliefs amendments have come to the fore, and they happened to arrive at a time when the committee providing oversight had lost a member and was below a quorum. While the situation was rectified according to due process, its delayed progress through the procedures that were mandated by the GCE caused it to fall short of meeting the necessary time requirements for presenting them at this year’s annual meeting of the GCE.
“Once again, it’s been considerable time since such amendments have come to the fore and it’s now obvious that further attention needs to be given to assure confidence in our procedures that are mandated by GCE approval.
“Appeals have been made that the CoE override the procedural lapses by resolution and review them during these meetings. Please note: These are GCE-approved documents that the CoE cannot alter on its own authority. Historically the CoE finds that any action taken out of designated guidelines does not ultimately bear fruit even when it seems urgent at the moment.
“Even though the lapses occurred before our stage of involvement, the Council of Elders, after two separate meetings on this matter, unanimously felt duty-bound to maintain its 30-day period of review of any proposed Fundamental Belief amendment before moving the process forward to the General Conference of Elders.
“In saying this, the Council of Elders fully appreciates the disappointment of the authors of these two amendments and understands the need to shore up our internal procedural mechanisms to promote ongoing trust of the GCE towards items they present for evaluation by the CoE. This will be remedied immediately after the Council of Elders meetings with increased mentoring of all committee chairmen’s responsibilities regarding procedures. These two aforementioned amendments are actually still viable and in process towards CoE review towards consideration by the CoE in the prescribed timeline for 2015-2016. Let us allow patience to bring forth its perfect work.”
The quorum of the Council unanimously passed the submission.
Strategic Exercise: Review of Objectives—Bill Bradford
The Council reviewed the objectives, critical success factors and barriers for the upcoming 2015-2016 Strategic Plan and Operation Plan. There was much deliberation, discussion and input on them. One of the items discussed was the Bible Reading Program (BRP). Rex Sexton asked why the date is being pushed back from July 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2015. Peter Eddington said it was because of lack of resources and lack of manpower. Rex Sexton mentioned that he is often asked when this BRP would start up again and asks that this program would get pushed forward.
Victor Kubik gave a presentation to the Council on behalf of the administration to discuss how to consolidate and simplify our media identity in a manner that increases audience awareness of the benefits of God’s way, the gospel message and the Church. This would include a name change for The Good News magazine as part of this process. It would also include assessing how all of our media products can become more recognizable with one identity for quicker identification by the public we are reaching. It would be more than just a name change, but it would include changing The Good News magazine to Beyond Today. More of a detailed letter will be sent out next week to explain this process.
Many of the media department employees were there to answer questions. This topic was discussed for about two hours. The administration proposed a resolution, but it was decided to cover the media department’s Strategic Plan strategies first.
Strategic Exercise: Strategies for Public Proclamation—Bill Bradford
There was much discussion on improving the strategies for public proclamation.
Identity Presentation Discussion
The Council had more discussion about the identity presentation. Bill Bradford wanted to know how this transition period would take place. It was discussed that for our membership, a letter of explanation would be sent out by the president and also that possibly a podcast on the subject could be recorded. Regarding our magazine readership, the name change would take place in a very measured way over several months. Aaron Dean asked when this would be done. Scott Ashley replied that it would likely be in the summer. Mark Mickelson mentioned that the members love the magazine and that it is a good publication and that should not change. Peter Eddington assured the Council that the purpose and the content of the magazine would be very similar. It was just the name being changed to Beyond Today.
After further discussion, Scott Ashley moves, Mario Seiglie seconds and the quorum of the Council unanimously adopts the following:
Whereas, the Church’s public proclamation effort should be cost effective, continually increase in audience response, promote literature conversions and produce congregational contact; and
Whereas, Public Proclamation strategy #9 of the 2014-2015 Operation Plan states we are to “Communicate in a manner that increases audience awareness of the benefits of God’s way and the gospel message;” and
Whereas, the Church continues to work toward the goal of effectively preaching the gospel to all nations and preparing a people as per Matthew:24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. and 28:19-20; and
Whereas, the Church wishes to increase the recognizability of the Church and its proclamation effort through a consolidated and simplified media identity; and
Whereas, the Church owns the Beyond Today name and identity across multiple media platforms; now
Therefore, it is hereby resolved that the name of the Church’s English-language Good News magazine be changed to Beyond Today magazine to consolidate and simplify its media identity in a manner that increases audience awareness of the benefits of God’s way, the gospel message and the Church.
Preliminary GCE Task Force Planning—Charles Melear
The discussion focused on the GCE meeting theme for 2015. Past names were mentioned, and five proposals for this coming year’s theme were deliberated on. The five, in no particular order, were:
- Overcoming & the Crown of Life
- Making Ready a People Prepared for the Lord
- A Sense of Urgency
- Serving Different Peoples: The Example of Paul
- Creating an Environment for Growth: Part 2
After much input and discussion, a combination of the second and third one was decided upon. The final proposal was: “Labor in the Word” (1Timothy 5:17)
Proposal: Labor in the Word (1 Timothy 5:17)—anchored with sub-themes: 1) Rightfully Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy:2:15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.), 2) Preach the Word! (2 Timothy:4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.).
It passed with a unanimous vote. This decision was derived by discussions from the Council retreat and surveys from our members to give expanded attention for both verbal and written messages that go deeper and flesh out the rich truths and spiritual depths of God’s Word.
Charles Melear asked if there was a list of duties for the GCE task force. The Council remanded to the task force to develop a scope of responsibilities for the Council to review in the future.
Mr. Melear also asked if the theme would be changed like last year. Mr. Kubik assured him that it was a special situation last year and it wouldn’t be changed like that normally.
The Council adjourned at 5:47 p.m.
© 2014 United Church of God, an International Association