United Church of God, an International Association
Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report
Monday, December 9, 2019
Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about 30 minutes later because he was teaching an ABC class.
Chairman Ward welcomed everyone. The last Council meeting minutes were approved. The agenda for the week was discussed and approved.
President’s Report—Victor Kubik
President Victor Kubik greeted everyone. He began by reading Isaiah:55:8-11 and mentioning this is God’s Work and His Strategic Plan. God’s plan will be accomplished. Mr. Kubik then commented on some of the following milestones that have taken place since the August Council meetings.
United Youth Camps had their 21st consecutive annual camp team conference at the home office in November. The camp program continues to look at ways to improve every year.
Compass Check magazine has been published for five years. Steve Nutzman will be retiring from being the editor and Dan Preston will be the new editor.
Ambassador Bible College (ABC) has a class of 18 students this year eager to talk about the classes during breaks. They are preparing for their upcoming charity auction and class trip. Mr. Kubik has enjoyed teaching the General Epistles class beginning this year.
The Feast of Tabernacles had a total attendance of 13,235 with 64 Feast sites for 2019.
Podcasts are continuing to be developed and improved with a variety of individuals being interviewed.
International areas were discussed including the desire to have a pastor serve in New Zealand for three years to care for the brethren there. The Philippines will have a Pastoral Development Program in December. David Dobson, Earl Roemer, Vic and Bev Kubik, and Darris and Debra McNeely will be going.
Organizational Stewardship has begun to be featured on the back page of the United News in a blue box to help educate anyone interested in various ways for planned giving.
Good Works and Life Nets have continued to have success with donations.
The Indianapolis congregation has just purchased a new church building. They will have their first Sabbath Services there on December 14. Mr. Kubik later showed slides of the new facility.
Operation Manager Reports:
Ministerial and Member Services (MMS)—Mark Welch
Mark Welch summarized some MMS activities and his travel since the last meetings in August:
Labor Day leadership workshop weekend was very profitable (8/30-9/3).
Visit with Vince & Carol Szymkowiak in St. Louis (9/25).
Sabbath and Feast of Trumpets in the Oklahoma and Kansas area with Ed & RaeAnn Dowd and Kent & Kristy Foraker (9/26-10/1).
Camp meetings with a great camp team and considering the possibility of a preteen camp in Central Florida for next summer (11/4-11/5).
Pastoral Development Program that was very beneficial (11/10-11/20).
Visit with David & Jolinda Schreiber and congregations in La Crosse, WI and Southern Minnesota for the Sabbath (11/22-11/23).
North Central Regional Conference in Minnesota that was uplifting (11/24-11/26).
Sabbath in Rome, Georgia with Rick & Angela Beam and Ryan & Nissa Hall (12/6-12/7).
Visit with Roy & Norma Holladay and Bill & Betty Cowan (12/8).
Current statistics include:
Eleven new ordinations:
Cephas Chapamba (Nkhwazi, Malawi)
Neil Crane (East Texas)
Gregory Dullum (Cape Girardeau, Missouri)
Andy Duran (Chicago, Illinois)
Clive Demont (East London, South Africa)
Brent Fogelson (Phoenix Northwest, Arizona)
Alan Gunn (Columbus, Ohio)
Richard Moulton (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Frank Reckerman (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
Haiton Thungula (Lilongwe, Malawi)
Dave Wells (Troy, Illinois)
399 elders in the United Church of God (UCG)
110 outside the U.S.
289 in the U.S.
75 church pastors
11 associate or assistant pastors
1 ministerial trainee
195 churches and Bible study groups in the U.S. (180 Congregations)
40 baptisms since the August meetings (124 baptisms so far in 2019)
Average U.S. Sabbath attendance continues to hold steady
Media and Communications Services—Peter Eddington
Peter Eddington went through some of the following statistics as of November 30 this year:
United News circulation is currently at 17,743, just below its all-time high of 17,795 and 5.7% more than this time last year.
Our coworker count is now at 6,525, our highest ever (and 3% higher than the same time last year).
Our donor list now includes 7,350 people—1% higher than this time last year. (Our all-time high was 9,564 in June of 2016.)
Total Beyond Today magazine circulation worldwide is at 294,703—which is 5% less than the same time last year and 9% less than two years ago.
U.S. magazine subscribers are at 241,014. This is 7% less than the same time last year.
The December subscriber development letter from Victor Kubik was sent to 179,166 subscribers. It offers the booklet, What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?
Responses are expected to begin coming in during the third week of December. This December letter is also designed to encourage end-of-year tax-deductible donations.
Those people on our U.S. file associated with the Church (teens, members, associated) is at 12,261.
The number of telephone and website responses from Beyond Today TV since 2006 stands at 341,773.
The number of Google, Yahoo and Bing advertising impressions since 2004 stands at 12.26 billion.
UCG.org is currently ranked the 16th highest Christian denomination website in the world by Alexa (in the past we have been as high as #9), and #46 among all Christian-related websites.
Beyond Today Results on YouTube:
13,052,761 = Total number of Beyond Today video views on YouTube since inception. (This includes BT programs, Dailies, Bible Studies and BT related videos.)
2,300,957 = Total number of Beyond Today video views on YouTube in past 12 months (December 4, 2018 – December 3, 2019).
Roku App Advertising Results:
221,290 channel installs (26% increase over last November).
536,969 unique viewers (45% increase over last November).
735,016 videos watched (40% increase over last November).
We have an average of 25,914 ads running per day and 665 videos being watched per day.
AmazonSmile Donations: The United Church of God continues to receive checks from the AmazonSmile Foundation. The amount donated to the Church as of November 30 is $10,496.
Treasurer and Financial Services Report—Rick Shabi
Rick Shabi began his report by reviewing the annual external audit report, noting that the auditors again cited no deficiencies in internal controls, and needed to post no adjustments to the Church’s internal financial statements. It was noted that the Church’s financial condition continues to remain very strong. Income for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, was over $19 million, about the same as the prior year, and net assets increased, as they have done consistently over the past several years. On the other hand, operating expenses during the year increased significantly over levels seen in prior years.
The complete audit report will be printed in the next issue of the United News.
Next, current year (fiscal year 2020) financial statements including the balance sheet, income statement, departmental expense statements, and operating statistics were presented and discussed. It was noted that income for the first five months of the fiscal year is well above budget, but that higher operating expenses continue to be noted across all department levels.
Looking forward, income budgets for the remainder of the year were discussed, and the Council reviewed attendance and other information pertaining to the Holy Days, now that the Holy Day “year” is completed, as well as Feast of Tabernacles expenses.
Mr. Shabi concluded the financial report by acknowledging God’s blessing on the Church and commented that as long as we seek His will and do it, He will continue to bless the Work.
Committee Chairman Reports:
Ethics Committee—Dan Dowd
The Ethics Committee (EC) is tasked with addressing ethical violations by any elder, overseeing the Member Appeal Committee (MAC) and the Elder Appeal Committee, in addition to any other matter the Council would remand to the EC.
Currently there are two member appeals before the MAC. Time was requested later in these meetings to discuss a clarification of the application of this appeal process. Because of the EC review of the MAC, Mr. Salomaa will bring forward some technical edits to the Member Appeal Committee Scopes and Responsibilities Overview and the Policy for Member Appeal to the Council of Elders later in these meetings.
Time was also requested to discuss moderators for the GCE Elders Forum. This matter came up in the August meeting and some input will be presented to the full Council.
Roles and Rules Committee—Rainer Salomaa
The Roles and Rules Committee (RRC) had a videoconference on November 14. Discussion centered around options for asking GCE approval of the Manner of Approving Official Relationships with Other Religious Organizations. Two options will be presented to the Council to see which route to take.
Strategic Planning and Finance Committee—Bob Dick
The Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC) is preparing the process to engage the Council in preparing a balanced budget for the February meetings. The SPFC, in the August meetings, was asked to review the cash reserve policy that was rescinded in 2011. A cash reserve policy will be presented to the Council for review and approval this week. The SPFC examined current wage scales compared to cost of living tables and also reviewed the retirement policy for those hired before 2009, compared to those hired prior to 2009. These will be presented to the Council this week as well.
Doctrine Committee—Mario Seiglie
The Doctrine Committee (DC) has completed eight projects this year. There are five more lengthy projects being worked on that are not ready to be presented to the Council at this time. The DC is also working on procedures within the policy to expedite the process for the future.
Education Committee—Aaron Dean
The Education Committee (EC) has not been assigned any special work at this time. Mr. Dean took the time to give an update on continuing education items. ABC already has 18 applications received for the 2020-21 school year. There may be a housing problem next year. Mr. Dean is looking at the feasibility of putting together a group to buy some housing. He is looking to find out who would be interested in loaning funds for this purpose.
Media and Communications Committee—Scott Ashley
Since the August meetings, the Media and Communications Committee met by teleconference on December 5 to review the President’s Report and the Media Operations Report that were presented to the Council.
External Audit Report—Kerry Roe (auditor)
Following lunch, Chairman Ward introduced Kerry Roe, who is the President of the accounting firm of Clark Schaefer Hackett and the partner who oversees the Church’s annual audit. Mr. Roe made a presentation to the Council based on financial highlights and analyses from the recent audit. He commented that, based on the audit and their review of internal controls and systems, the Council can rely on the accuracy of monthly financial reports generated internally, and that their audit once again resulted in an “unqualified opinion” on the financial statements.
He also commented on several of the financial indicators apparent in the report. He cited the Church’s continuing strong financial position and that the Church continues to maintain a healthy cash balance of about 5 month’s operating expenses. He noted capital acquisitions during the year, the increase in cash assets, and also commented on the escalation in operating expenses.
Following his presentation, Mr. Roe fielded several questions of a general nature from Council members.
Proposed Amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws—Rainer Salomaa
Rainer Salomaa, chair of the RRC, presented a proposed amendment to Constitution 4.7. Rainer Salomaa and Gerald Seelig submitted the proposed amendment. The amendments proposed were to help make the wording clearer and easier to understand. The proposal was discussed and unanimously approved to be presented to the GCE for their consideration in May.
The second amendment was to the Bylaws to amend Article 8.4.1. Steve Buchanan submitted the proposed amendment. The amendment proposed would add a requirement that the Council must have at least three of its 12 members who are not employed and not receiving retirement income from the Church. The Council discussed it for about 40 minutes. There was not the required four Council members who supported it going forward, so a statement of concern is to go out with the proposed amendment to see if there is enough GCE support to place it as a ballot item in call and notice for the 2020 GCE. The statement of concern was unanimously approved in the Wednesday meetings.
Resolution to Amend the Tax Deferred Annuity Plan—Chris Rowland
Chris Rowland presented a resolution to amend the 403b TDA plan as requested by Mutual of America. The resolution gives one of the officers the ability to keep this older plan in compliance with the law. It was discussed and the Council unanimously approved the resolution.
Resolution to Increase Matching for Employee Health Savings Accounts—Chris Rowland
Chris Rowland presented the resolution to increase the employer match for employee Health Savings Accounts (HSA). The matching program would increase by $250 annually. Beginning on January 1, 2020, when an employee contributes up to $1250 to an HSA the Church would match 100% of those contributions. Mr. Shabi and Mr. Darden were asked for their input and they both agreed it wouldn’t be a problem and would be a good idea. The Council discussed the resolution and unanimously approved it.
The Council went into scheduled executive session to discuss presenters and finalize the schedule for the 2020 GCE meeting.
The Council adjourned at 5:44 p.m.
Tuesday, December 10, 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 members were present.
Discussion and Review of Financial Policies—Bob Dick
The Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC) was tasked with the responsibility of bringing forward a Cash Reserve Policy. The updated policy was presented to the Council for discussion and approval.
Dan Dowd asked for the Treasurer’s viewpoint on the proposed policy. Mr. Shabi was consulted and helped to put together the Cash Reserve Policy. Mr. Shabi fully supports it.
The Council discussed the proposed policy with some minor edits. The Council then unanimously approved the Cash Reserve Policy. It can be viewed by elders on the UCG ministerial SharePoint site.
Several retirement issues were brought to the Council in August of 2018 and resolved but it left other issues still unresolved. The SPFC suggested creating a task force to examine the remaining issues to bring back a full report and recommendation. The Council discussed and unanimously approved creating said task force. The task force will be looking for 2-3 additional members to add to the following members: Bob Dick, Aaron Dean, Len Martin, Darris McNeely, Chris Rowland and Rick Shabi.
The Council went into executive session at 9:44 a.m. to discuss additional financial policies.
The Council came into open session at 10:37 a.m.
Ethics Committee’s Review of the GCE Forum—Dan Dowd
This discussion is a follow up from the August meetings when the Ethics Committee (EC) was asked to review the GCE Forum policy. The EC reviewed the policy and contacted the three current moderators (Ed Dowd, Richard Kennebeck and Victor Kubik). All three asked to be replaced for various reasons. The Council unanimously approved the Council Secretary to email the elders asking for volunteers to help with moderating. The EC would then bring the list of the top four to the Council for consideration.
It was also suggested to update the current GCE Forum’s webpage and to increase the delay for sending out the Elder Forum (EF) posts to 12 hours to give the moderators time to review them. The GCE Forum can be a good tool for elders to use and hopefully will be used more to help with discussion.
The Council went into executive session at 11:20 a.m.
The Council came into open session at 12:21 p.m.
Doctrine Committee Update—Mario Seiglie
As chair of the Doctrine Committee (DC), Mario Seiglie updated the Council on the five current projects that are being worked on. When they are completed they will be presented to the Council. Mr. Seiglie also mentioned the importance of creating an index for finished projects, so they can be used for future duplicate questions if they come in.
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 and the Council discussed it again in August. Mr. Salomaa presented the current 12th draft. Two options were presented on how to proceed. The Council discussed it for about 70 minutes and all 12 Council members agreed on proposing an amendment to the Constitution and Bylaws to change the wording from “official relationships” to “mergers.”
The proposed amendments to clarify the wording will greatly help in international areas that want to have an official relationship with UCGIA but will not be merging with our organization. A statement of justification will be created to explain the proposed changes and will be submitted to the GCE for approval in May 2020. The proposed amendments and statement of justification were unanimously approved in the Wednesday meetings.
Discussion of Current GCE Balloting Process—Len Martin
Len Martin presented the topic of the current GCE balloting process. While some aspects of the GCE balloting process are defined, the entire process has never been fully documented. There have been questions that are asked about our process and how it is to be done. We have a few documents that give some detail, but they don’t cover all the aspects of how it is to be carried out. Through the years it has varied, so the question presented to the Council was whether a task force should be created to go through and detail in writing the process and how it should be carried out. This will help to give the guidance needed when questions arise. The Council discussed this topic for about 40 minutes. The Council unanimously approved the Roles and Rules Committee (RRC) to update our current documents and to document our GCE balloting process.
The Council went into executive session at 3:58 p.m.
The Council came into open session at 4:50 p.m.
Member Appeal Policy—Rainer Salomaa
The Council came into open session to unanimously approve technical edits and housekeeping updates to two policies “Member Appeal Committee – Scope and Responsibilities” and “Policy for Member Appeal to the Council of Elders.”
GCE 2022 Dates—Peter Eddington
The Council approved the dates for the 2022 GCE and gave the reminder for the years leading up to it.
2020: May 2-4, 2020
2021: May 1-3, 2021
2022: May 14-16, 2022
The Council adjourned at 5:05 p.m.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about 30 minutes later because he was teaching an ABC class.
Discussion of Church Hymnal—Len Martin
Len Martin went through the background of some questions asked about the church hymnal. Clarification was asked in regard to how the hymnal process came to be. Steve Myers was there to give some of that history and the process it went through. The Doctrinal Committee (DC) in 2006 or 2007 went through each hymn for doctrinal accuracy.
The Council discussed this topic for an hour. The consensus of the Council was that it did not want to do a full review of the hymnal at this time. It was decided that more education should be done to help the members and the ministry understand why the various hymns are in our hymnal. Mr. Myers was asked to write an article for the United News and for the Education Committee to review the article and help with this education process.
The Council had a break and went into executive session at 10:25 a.m.
The Council adjourned the December meetings at 4:55 p.m.
[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
James: Video’s are no longer posted for the brethren.