UCG Conference of Elders Report Aug 20-22 2019

Items of interest:  A new book on “Grace” is hoped to be published in time for the fall Feast.  This new “Grace” book is intended to be a major foundation of the new UCG perspective on interpreting and applying its list of fundamental beliefs.  They are interested in using their new recording studio to push the subject of “Grace” big time during the worldly December holiday season. 

Don appears to be very anxious to get this rolling and has refused to grant a reasonable amount of time for COE members to examine the book more than superficially, instead ruling to move rapidly ahead with such an important project. 

This UCG big push on “Grace” has been coming for a long time now:  For the plain truth on Grace see the top four articles here.

There is nothing complicated about Grace!  Grace is: God’s merciful forgiveness for all those who sincerely repent of all past sin and make an unshakable commitment to STOP sinning and go forward to forever live by every Word of God in dedicated enthusiastic zeal!

The Council wants to make the 25th Anniversary GCE conference in May 2020 an extra special event by paying for the elders accommodations and meals. I speculate that with the book being handed out near the Feast and its contents being pushed over the winter [think WFW] they want to make this coming GCE a love-fest in support of the new “Grace” book and position.

Also see the initial UCG Conference of Elders Report 19 Aug 2019

Council of Elders Meeting Report – August 20 – 22, 2019

United Church of God, an International Association

Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report

Milford, Ohio


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present.

*Correction from the Monday, August 19 report: “Mark Fike was appointed interim pastor for Reno, NV.”


GCE 2020 and the 25th Anniversary of UCG—Darris McNeely

President Kubik mentioned the landmark moment of our 25th anniversary for UCGIA. The upcoming GCE meetings in May 2020 are a good time to remember this milestone moment. The desire is to make those meetings more special and there are some proposals for the Council’s input.

Darris McNeely was introduced to present the current ideas of the GCE planning task force committee. The task force consists of Charles Melear (chair), Dan Berendt, Peter Eddington, Lisa Fenchel, Frank Fish and Darris McNeely. Mr. McNeely presented proposals from the task force for ideas for the 2020 GCE meetings.

One of the goals for the 25th anniversary is to encourage as many elders to attend the 2020 GCE meetings. The proposal was for elders to pay for their traveling expenses and then their room and board would be paid for. Mr. Shabi was consulted on this idea and he didn’t have a problem with the increased budget for the 2020 GCE meetings. The Council agreed and unanimously approved the increase in the budget for those meetings.

The Council then went through ideas for potential themes. They discussed themes for the GCE meetings and narrowed it down to a list they would think about and make a final decision on Wednesday afternoon.

Chairman Ward requested Tony Wasilkoff to be added to the GCE planning task force committee so at least two Council members are on the task force. It was agreed upon.


Review of Updated Safety and Security Manual—Dan Dowd

The review of the updated Safety and Security Manual was a follow-up from the May meetings. There was additional input since then from Larry Darden, legal counsel.

Dan Dowd presented the overview with the edits made. There continues to be more violence in the world and this manual has common sense reminders for tornado and other emergency preparations and safety issues. There were some proposed edits.

It was requested to do some additional editing and bring it back on Wednesday for the Council to review. Dan Dowd, Bob Dick, Darris McNeely, Len Martin and Larry Darden were asked to help with the edits.

The Council went into executive session at 11:25 a.m. to go over personnel matters.

The Council came into open session after lunch at 1:05 p.m.


Tone Chart Update and Discussion—Dan Dowd

The discussion of the media department’s tone and voice chart was another follow-up discussion. Dan Dowd led the discussion picking up where Rex Sexton left off in the May meetings.

Darris McNeely had invited Dan Dowd to meet with the media department about this topic at the home office on July 8, which he did. The tone and voice chart goes back to 2008 with a desire to have a consistent approach across all our preaching efforts because we no longer have one personality like Mr. Armstrong.

Tone is the manner the voice is heard and how we present the material. Voice refers to the person using it with everyone having a different personality.

Mr. McNeely was introduced to explain the voice and tone chart. He read the tone and voice chart and mentioned that it describes how we come across to those through the message going out. He explained that content is separate from tone and voice. Voice has many different components from loving and caring to authoritative at times which depends on the topic.

Mr. Dowd mentioned one of the comments from the media department, that our publications are not primarily for our members.

Peter Eddington explained we take a “milk to meat” approach. The Beyond Today (BT) is often the first introduction to the Church and the United News (UN) has additional, deeper doctrinal material. Then, many of our booklets go into greater doctrinal depth, more of the “meat” of the gospel. And this has been our historical approach.

Chairman Ward mentioned the main reason this topic was brought up to the Council level was because some long-standing ministers have had their articles turned down because of their tone but they were not told why. The articles were for the UN where more meaty doctrinal articles are to be sent. Dr. Ward asked who decides whether articles are accepted or not.

Peter Eddington said the UN content team is Vic Kubik, Darris McNeely, Peter Eddington, Justin Palm and the editor of the publication, Ariana Del Signore. There is a variety of reasons certain articles may not be published. We are trying to introduce the gospel message to the world. Every issue of the UN has a content meeting and sometimes judgment calls need to be made regarding what can be included. Sometimes there is simply not enough space in an issue to fit the articles that were submitted.

Mr. McNeely said the articles go through doctrinal review and the doctrinal review team for the UN is David Mills, Rex Sexton, Tony Wasilkoff, Jerold Aust, Gerald Seelig, Darris McNeely, Peter Eddington and Vic Kubik who are seasoned ministers.

Dr. Ward asked for improved communication when articles are not accepted.

Ariana Del Signore, the new associate editor of the UN, said she would communicate who reviewed the article if they are not accepted.

Scott Ashley said some articles sent in have good ideas, but they aren’t written well or are untimely for what is needed for certain issues.

Mario Seiglie mentioned that anyone who writes knows that not everything will be used. He encouraged writers to not take it personally and to keep submitting articles.

Jorge de Campos said that the feedback he has received for our publications is very good. Those producing them are doing an outstanding job. He encouraged anyone who has concerns to apply Matthew 18 instead of raising issues directly to the Council. He complimented the administration for what they are doing.

Dr. Ward reminded everyone the issue is how to communicate back to the ministry when an article is not accepted. If an article is not accepted because of tone then the ministry should have a copy of the tone and voice chart, so they know why.

Mr. Ashley said writer’s guidelines could be given to the ministry and writers. It can be passed along and posted online.

Mr. McNeely recommended also posting a link for writers to a 50-minute writer’s class about tone and voice given by Scott Ashley.

Mr. Dowd concluded by mentioning good communication back and forth will go a long way in helping resolve future situations. He also suggested distributing the tone and voice chart to all writers and this was agreed upon.


Nielsen Report – Impact of Beyond Today on WGN-America—Peter Eddington

Peter Eddington presented the results from the Nielsen report for Beyond Today on WGN America. Tom Disher did most of the work in going through the information and compiling the results. He helped to answer any additional questions. The Nielsen report was for a three-month period—February, March and April of 2019. Rating results for different demographics and statistics were presented for both the Saturday and Sunday program listing of Beyond Today.

The results were presented and discussed. Some of those statistics included the following:

Watch time: Sunday = 40,000 people on average watch at least one minute of the program each week; Saturday = 12,000 people on average watch at least one minute of the program each week.

Age: Sunday = 69% are 55 years old or older; Saturday = viewers skew slightly younger.

Race: Sunday = 70% are white; 22% are black; Saturday = 60% are white; 40% are black.

Education level: Sunday = 68% had a college education or greater; Saturday = 82%.

Political leanings: Sunday = 58% are Democrat, 33% are Republican and 9% are Independent; Saturday = 55% are Democrat, 22% are Republican and 22% are Independent.

The higher percentage of Democrats watching Beyond Today was a little surprising to some Council members. Dr. Ward wondered why our message is more appealing to Democrats rather than Republicans.

Mr. Eddington had one theory that conservatives are generally happy with their churches, but those leaning to the left are still searching for answers.

The Council went into executive session at 2:26 p.m. to discuss international ordinations.

The Council came into open session at 2:52 p.m.


Manner of Approving Official Relationships with Other Religious Organizations—Rainer Salomaa

Rainer Salomaa, chair of the Roles and Rules Committee (RRC), presented the document titled “Manner of Approving Official Relationships with Other Religious Organizations.” This document was presented to the GCE for input following the February meetings. There were three elders who provided minor edits. Mr. Salomaa presented the current 11th draft with those proposed edits.

The Council discussed it for about 90 minutes, suggesting more edits and the best way to proceed forward.

The RRC will finalize the edits proposed and will bring it back in the December meetings ready for the Council approval and ready to submit it to the GCE for approval in May 2020.

The Council adjourned at 5:09 p.m.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present.

After a short discussion the Council went into executive session at 9:24 a.m. to discuss personnel matters and discuss the GCE forum. The executive session ended at 11:50 a.m.


Discussion of Annual Assessment of All Operation Managers—Randy Stiver/Dan Dowd

Randy Stiver and Dan Dowd presented the question of whether the Council should perform an assessment of all operation managers. The Council currently assesses the Treasurer, but there is no assessment of the other operation managers by the Council. The question was whether the Council should be assessing all the operation managers.

The Council discussed this for about 30 minutes. The conclusion was the Treasurer is assessed as an officer and not as an operation manager. The operation managers are to be assessed by the President. The Council as a whole can ask to view those assessments of the operation managers when they feel they need to see them.

Tony Wasilkoff asked if the President formally reviews each of the operation managers every year. President Kubik said that their assessment will begin this year which was implemented by direction from the organizational stewardship operation plan. One of Mr. Kubik’s reports has been assessed so far this year and seven others are to be completed by June 2020.

After Council discussion it was decided to leave the assessments the way they are.


Doctrine Committee Update on Various Projects—Mario Seiglie

Mario Seiglie, chair of the Doctrinal Committee (DC), presented one doctrinal project to the Council. This project did not receive any support from the DC or their sub-committees. Presenting this project follows the guidelines for the DC to inform the Council of its completion and the author was informed there was no support. This project was #62, “Satan, Millennium, 2nd Resurrection.”

Mr. Seiglie concluded his remarks by mentioning the five current projects being reviewed and thanking the DC and its subcommittees for all their work. Chairman Ward also thanked Mr. Seiglie and the DC for all their work.

The Council went into executive session at 1:18 p.m. for the scheduled assessment of the Treasurer.


Treasurer Reaffirmed for Another Three-Year Term

The Council carried out the annual assessment of the Treasurer in executive session and reconfirmed Rick Shabi, as Treasurer, for another three-year term.

The Council came into open session at 2:53 p.m.


Update on Grace Booklet—Scott Ashley

Scott Ashley, as the primary author of the new booklet on Grace, went through its status in the review process. It is currently being looked at by three proofreaders. Mr. Ashley went through some of the history of this booklet. Ten years ago he began outlining it and was doing research and then actively began writing it about a year ago. He hoped everyone on the Council read it. He had also shared it with Peter Eddington, Darris McNeely, Tom Robinson and Vic Kubik. He thanked them for their feedback.

The current timetable for this booklet has the proofreading finished by the end of this week. Final proofing will be completed next week and it will be sent to the printer next Friday, August 30. Printing and mailing should have it to Church members before the Feast of Tabernacles.

Mr. Ashley mentioned the booklet is 96 pages. Grace is a big topic, so it would be a big booklet. There are lots of sermons on our UCG website and some articles, but we have never had a booklet. It is a very comprehensive look at grace.

Aaron Dean enjoyed reading it and especially the first-century perspective of grace.

Dan Dowd asked for more time to go through it. He hadn’t finished it and would rather not hurry it to press. It is an important body of work and he would like to see a good thorough review take place. No one is expecting the booklet, so it could wait.

Mr. Ashley said it was sent out for review four weeks ago and there is a short window to get it out before the Feast. He explained that if it wasn’t done now it would have to wait until January or even later. He also said he could give another four days for further comments for those who needed more time to review it. Mr. Kubik also would like it now so he can promote it for his November subscriber letter.

The booklet was sent to the Council for the first time on July 24, 2019 for review.

Len Martin also asked for more time. The deadline to return comments was August 1, 2019. With camps and a vacation this summer, he said that he didn’t have time to go through it. He also would rather not hurry the process.

Scott Ashley said that between six and eight Council members had already responded and there were no concerns over the doctrinal content of the booklet. There were only rewording suggestions.

Randy Stiver thought the first 40 pages of the booklet were outstanding and motivational. However, he felt that  the rest of the booklet was more exhaustive and that readers would lose motivation to read the last part of the booklet. He suggested keeping the core of the booklet and using the rest for future articles to keep pointing back to the booklet.

Mr. Ashley explained that the remainder of the booklet is to help answer questions about the topic. It is intended to give a comprehensive answer to the important topic of grace.

Rainer Salomaa was very happy with the booklet. He mentioned maybe using the later part of the booklet as a doctrinal study paper and having a shorter booklet.

Mr. Seiglie felt the deadlines were reasonable and should have been met by the reviewers. Right now a lot of the Council did send in comments and concerns, so he felt that it was ready to go out.

Mr. McNeely felt it was a very good job on a big subject. He mentioned he had read the draft of the booklet and sees no reason to hold it up and would like to get this booklet printed.

Jorge de Campos sent in his edits and thinks it would be a good gift to the Church before the Feast.

Dr. Ward mentioned his main concern with his edits sent in were that not all aspects of grace were explained in the first section, but were addressed later in the booklet. A shorter condensed version might be helpful. Most may not read a longer version.

Mr. McNeely said it went through the editorial review process without any problems.

Mr. Kubik explained that this booklet is intended to be motivational up front and then to provide more information to dig into later in the booklet. It is a very exciting exposition. We want it to be for everyone. This world talks about “cheap grace” and we want it to explain that it comes from Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Mr. Kubik felt this would be a very popular booklet and he looks forward to offering it to the subscriber list in November.

Aaron Dean also mentioned it is a good time to get it out when people want to donate in December.

Scott Ashley asked if it was ready to go forward. Seven agreed for it to go out. Three asked for more time (Dan Dowd, Len Martin and Randy Stiver) and two didn’t raise their hand (Bob Dick and Don Ward).

Chairman Ward said the consensus of the Council approves it to go out.


Cash Reserve Policy—Bob Dick

Bob Dick, chair of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC), passed out the updated policy for using cash reserves. The original policy from August 14, 2003, the revision of December 10, 2006 and the August 23, 2011 recension and use of cash reserve policy were needing clarity. The SPFC was commissioned with the responsibility of taking the previous policies and coming back to the Council with a single document that would restore a Cash Reserve Policy. The SPFC is unanimous in its recommendation of this document and presented it to the Council for review. The Treasurer, Rick Shabi, also supported the document.

The Council discussed edits and clarifications for about 50 minutes. It was decided to present an even more cleaned up copy before the Council later in the week. It was decided on Thursday to present it in the December meetings.


Updated Review of Safety and Security Manual—Dan Dowd

This follow-up review from the previous day presented the updated Safety and Security Manual with the proposed edits. Mr. Dowd presented the edited sections.

This manual does not establish a mandatory policy but serves as a resource to assist congregations in their planning to handle emergencies and safety issues. Ministerial and Member Services is responsible to pass the manual along to the U.S. pastors.

The Council approved the Safety and Security Manual with 11 voting yes and 1 abstained (Scott Ashley).


GCE 2020 Theme Approved

The Council reviewed the top three suggested themes for the 2020 GCE meetings.

After some further discussion, the theme of “Moving Forward with Conviction, Commitment and Courage” was approved.

The Council adjourned at 5:15 p.m.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:06 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present.

The Council began in executive session with legal updates from Larry Darden and personnel items.

The Council came into open session at 11:40 a.m.

Chairman Ward thanked everyone for the week of meetings and mentioned how well they went. There were disagreements at times, but everyone was respectful as they came together. He hoped everyone would have a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles.

The Council adjourned at 11:44 a.m.


Council Reporter

Shawn Cortelyou

[These are not the official minutes from the Council meeting. Elders can find those at the Home Office with the Council Secretary. Video recordings are posted for the elders on the UCG ministerial SharePoint site.]

© 2019 United Church of God, an International Association

News item printed under the Fair Use Provision of the copyright act


Add a Comment
  1. Did WCG have a booklet on Grace ? I carn’t remember there being one. I’m not aware of any other COG group having a printed booklet on the subject. Articles yes but not printed booklets.

    Grace is not specifically mentioned in the list of beliefs. https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/fundamental-beliefs-of-the-united-church-of-god-0

    The UCG articles on Grace can be found here https://www.ucg.org/bcse/search/grace
    Once the new book comes out I will take a close look and present my findings. I will not hesitate to either critique or to endorse it honestly and fairly.


  2. Recently I was surprised to read from another source of a UCG congregation having an “outside” (nonUCG) speaker give a message to the congregation. Now after reading your post which revealed “Manner of Approving Official Relationships with Other Religious Organizations.” I understand better.

    As a (previous) long time member of UCG I see they have/are making a U turn on this subject. Such an idea some years ago wasn’t even to be considered (not that it wasn’t suggested – it just wasn’t within the permissible rules). My how things change. Makes me think of the old BeeGee’s song (which may now be UCG’s theme-song) “Staying Alive”; especially considering their continuing decline of their membership count.

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