UCG Report May 8-10, 2018

The Annual GCE Report is here.

United Church of God, an International Association

Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report

Milford, Ohio

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Rainer Salomaa was connected electronically because of health difficulties. Scott Ashley came in about two hours later because of teaching an ABC class.

Dr. Ward welcomed everyone, including the new incoming Council member, Len Martin, and the new secretary in training, Frank Dunkle. The last Council meeting minutes were approved from the February/March meetings. The agenda for the week’s meetings was also approved.

Chairman Ward asked for Gerald Seelig, as secretary to the Council, to read the qualifications of chairman and procedures for appointing the chairman and deputy chairman. The appointments will be done on Thursday.

Dr. Ward expressed his appreciation for the GCE meetings and recited Psalm 19:14 and the importance of it every day in our lives.

Review of the 2018 General Conference of Elder’s Meeting—Charles Melear

Charles Melear led discussions on input from this past week’s GCE meetings. Mr. Melear commented that many told him how well they felt the meetings went. Overall registration was down by just 21 from last year. There were some difficulties with registering for the GCE, and hopefully by next year it will be the same as Feast registration to make it more efficient.

The hotel staff were about 90 percent new from last year and were understaffed, so this created some challenges.

Chairman Ward mentioned it might be a good idea to consider another location to see what other options are available.

Mr. Melear commented that compared to other venues the hotel rates are much lower here at the Holiday Inn Eastgate. Chairman Ward agreed that the prices are at least $50 lower than areas around Dallas, Texas.

President Victor Kubik mentioned there has been a major renovation of the Holiday Inn, and this is the only full-service hotel in the area.

Mr. Melear said the GCE task force would suggest ideas in the August Council meetings for the 2019 GCE. There is also a need to add a few more people to the task force to help. There are currently five active members on the task force. Chairman Ward suggested adding more from the field ministry.

The dates for the 2019 GCE are May 5-6.

Legal Update—Larry Darden

Due to the confidential nature of Larry Darden’s legal update, it is normally done in executive session. However, Mr. Darden was able to briefly mention in open session the possibility of a donation of a potential meeting hall and church office facility in the Caribbean. He went through the details for the same as currently proposed by the senior pastor for the Caribbean, Chuck Smith. The donation, if accepted, would entail expenditures for needed improvements, but these could be paid for in about six years using funds that would otherwise be expended for the rent we now pay for a leased meeting hall. A comprehensive feasibility study is now underway for this potential acquisition and more details will be coming, but he wanted to keep the Council informed.

Governing Documents Review Team—Dan Dowd

Dan Dowd led the discussion for Rainer Salomaa since he wasn’t able to be there in person. Mr. Dowd read the resolution to disband the governing documents review team since they had completed their work. The review team had been created in March 2011 to help the Roles and Rules Committee with the task of reviewing the three principal governing documents of the Church. The review team had completed their work so there was a need to officially disband the review team.

A quorum of the Council unanimously approved the resolution (Scott Ashley was teaching an ABC class). The Council expressed their appreciation for all the work that was done by the review team.

Edit to Elder Ordination Process—Dan Dowd

Mr. Dowd led the discussion going through some finalized editing to the Elder Ordination Process in the Pastor’s Policy Manual ( The process was presented, and minor edits were done.

A quorum of the Council unanimously approved the edits to the process (Scott Ashley was teaching an ABC class).

Driving Mission Through Financial Management—Victor Kubik/Tim Pebworth

Mr. Kubik introduced Tim Pebworth to give a 90-minute presentation on options for financial management that could help drive our Mission Statement if the Council decides to pursue them. Mr. Pebworth discussed the Church’s balance sheet, and more specifically its capital structure, suggesting that the distribution of our assets be evaluated against specific benchmarks to determine if we can better advance our mission.

Mr. Pebworth offered several recommendations to consider, included establishing a long-term (15-20 year) capital budgeting process and perhaps hiring a full-time development director to communicate the long-term vision, projects and goals of the Church to potential donors and coworkers. Also discussed was the possibility of engaging an investment advisor who could recommend alternative investment strategies and a real estate professional who could evaluate whether owning more facilities would be a better long-term approach to our capital structure.

Dr. Ward thanked Mr. Pebworth for the presentation and said it would give the Council some options to consider as they move forward.

Thrift Plan Amendment—Chris Rowland

Chris Rowland led the brief discussion going through a resolution to amend the Thrift Plan to add an option for Roth contributions by the employee.

The Council unanimously approved the resolution.

Review of Personal Correspondence Department (PCD) Letter Reviewers—Dan Dowd

Dan Dowd gave an update to apprise the Council as to where the process for reviewing PCD letters currently stands. The review team is comprised of Dan Dowd, Bob Dick, Mario Seiglie and Rex Sexton. They were assigned the task of reviewing PCD letters during the February meetings. They have almost completed the first round of reviews and edits.

Public Appearance Campaign (PAC) Cost Analysis—Rex Sexton/Rick Shabi

Rex Sexton led the discussion of the cost analysis of the 22 PACs. The Council and the administration continually are trying to evaluate the effectiveness of preaching the gospel. There are four types of soil in the parable of Matthew 13. Our goal is to sow good seed on fertile soil. We see in the world that the soil is changing rapidly, and we are to see how we can improve to be as effective as we can be.

The cost-per-response for the PACs came to about $420 per new attendee. Mr. Sexton said we have tried other ways to preach the gospel and asked if we are making the best use of our funds. We remain committed to reaching all peoples with the gospel.

The Council discussed for about 30 minutes other methods that might be more effective.

Mr. Sexton mentioned how popular TED Talks are right now. Maybe a 15-minute Beyond Today presentation could be tried to see how effective it could be.

Peter Eddington stated that the $295,000 spent on the 22 PACs was about 1 percent of the media budget over the course of the campaigns, so it was a small amount used to try another avenue for preaching the gospel.

Jorge de Campos mentioned trying the Kingdom of God seminars again at the local level.

Mario Seiglie said the PACs in California were beneficial for the pastor and congregations as well. The presentations were encouraging to see how the three speakers approached the subject. He stated that he saw the PACs as more of a pilot program to help determine if the PACs would be effective.

Peter Eddington mentioned that in the first PAC in Cincinnati they invited magazine subscribers and utilized billboards along with Pandora ads and Google ads to target the general public. The general public did not respond as positively as subscribers did, so the focus for the future campaigns was moved to inviting and targeting just current readers and viewers.

Dan Dowd liked the idea of TED Talk type programs, where an ongoing series on our beliefs could be covered. Also radio is still a very valuable area to try again with possible podcasts.

Tony Wasilkoff said name recognition does have an impact with the PACs. When they tried PACs in Canada there were several that wanted to see the Beyond Today presenter.

Peter Eddington mentioned the bulk of the expense for the PACs is sending the invitation letters to get guests to attend. Over the course of 22 events, 52,000 letters were sent out three times at a cost of 50 cents per letter for printing and postage. One third of our total signups would occur each time the letters were sent out. About half of those that signed up to attend would not show up. So an additional challenge is getting guests to show after they have signed up.

Jorge de Campos suggested looking at the option to e-mail out invitations and see if that could work better.

John Elliott commented that the gospel message has to be preached even with low response. With different advertising approaches there is usually a 1.5 percent response, and our PAC response concurs with this. Sometimes the fruit comes later, but the gospel must be preached.

Mr. Sexton thanked the Council for their feedback.

The Council went into scheduled executive session at 2:45 pm. for evaluation of the secretary and the president.

The Council adjourned at 5 p.m.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council members were present. Rainer Salomaa was connected electronically. Scott Ashley came in about 90 minutes later because of teaching an ABC class.

The Council began in scheduled executive session.

The Council came into open session at 4:53 p.m.

Upcoming Dates for Council Meetings—Don Ward

Aug. 20-23, 2018

Dec. 3-6, 2018

The Council adjourned at 4:59 p.m.


Thursday May 10, 2018

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. Eleven Council members were present. Rainer Salomaa was connected electronically. Scott Ashley came in about 60 minutes later because of teaching an ABC class.

Honoring Outgoing Council Member

Mementoes of appreciation were presented to the outgoing member of the Council and his wife.

Mark and Michelle Mickelson

Chairman Ward expressed the Council’s appreciation for the service he had rendered, which was followed by personal comments by him for receiving the honor.

Honoring Outgoing Senior Pastors

Appreciation was expressed for those senior pastors and their wives for their service to the international areas.

John and Merrie Elliott—East Africa

Mark and Michelle Mickelson—West Africa

The job of going overseas is a difficult one and often includes dangerous travel. They were commended for their service and care in their international responsibilities that they have now passed on to others. Aaron Dean commented that they both left their areas better then when they found them, and it was appreciated.

The Council went into scheduled executive session at 9:11 a.m.

The Council came into open session at 10:39 a.m.

Council of Elders Statement

The Doctrine Committee and its subcommittees completed review of the paper titled “The God of the Old Testament” submitted by Mark Mickelson. The conclusion reached by the Doctrine Committee was that God the Father and the Word were and are both very active in all of Scripture. The paper did not receive support to move forward. The Council recommends that everyone read the UCG study paper “The Nature of God and Christ,” to gain additional background on this subject.


The Council of Elders unanimously reaffirms its support of Fundamental Belief 2.1.1, which is printed below:



2.1.1    We believe in one God, the Father, eternally existing, who is a Spirit, a personal Being of supreme intelligence, knowledge, love, justice, power and authority. He, through Jesus Christ, is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. He is the Source of life and the One for whom human life exists. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the Word and has eternally existed. We believe that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the divine Son of the living God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born in the human flesh of the virgin Mary. We believe that it is by Him that God created all things and that without Him was not anything made that was made. We believe in the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of God and of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the power of God and the Spirit of life.

Doctrine Paper Conclusion From Doctrine Committee

The Doctrine Committee presented the Council with the conclusion of its review of a paper that was submitted to it, “Exactly Three Days and Three Nights,” where the author urged reviewers to take two time periods into account: the time Jesus would be dead until His resurrection (from approximately 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday), and the period He would be in the tomb—three days and three nights.

The Doctrine Committee has studied the Church’s position on Christ’s resurrection taking place around sunset on the Sabbath after His crucifixion, which is biblically founded. The importance of the sign He gave as proof of His Messiahship is of great consequence. Christ gave only one sign: He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. This would mean His burial period, from being placed in the tomb to when He was resurrected. The point about the time it took to prepare Him for burial to the time of His resurrection is not the sign and is therefore incidental.

The main point is that Jesus said being in the tomb three days and three nights would be the only sign of Him being the Messiah (Matthew 12:39). That event is the specific focus of the Gospel accounts, both for the Jews, the Romans who guarded the tomb, for all the first century disciples, and for all generations to come. A timed tabulation specifying the hours and minutes of His entombment is not a precise element of the biblical record. However, the fulfillment of the time of His being three days and three nights in the tomb is duly noted. Even an angel confirmed this fact when an angel said to the women, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6, emphasis added). The phrase “as He said” would include the time period Jesus had predicted as the sign of His Messiahship.

Consequently, Christ was resurrected after being in the grave for three days and three nights, as stated in Matthew 12:40. The differing phrases addressing those three days in other passages (“on the third day,” “after three days,” “in three days,” “within three days”) describe the same event in different contexts or with other emphases. Hence, these facts from Scripture are the basis of the Church’s long-held belief, which was reaffirmed by the Council, as stated below:

7    We believe that the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead after His body lay three days and three nights in the grave, thus making immortality possible for mortal man. He thereafter ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.

The 2017-2018 Council adjourned at 10:45 a.m.

Selection of the Council Chairman and Deputy Chairman for 2018-2020—Gerald Seelig

The newly seated Council was called to order with Len Martin added to the roster.

Gerald Seelig led the special meeting with the selection of the chairman and deputy chairman.

The Council selected Don Ward as chairman for 2018-2020.

The Council selected Bob Dick as deputy chairman for 2018-2020.

The Council adjourned at 11:13 a.m.

The Council was then convened again for populating of the committees and chairs.

Chairman Ward apprised the Council of the process for populating the committees of the Council and selecting their respective chairs.

The following are the updated committees and their chairmen:

  • Doctrine Committee: Scott Ashley, Jorge de Campos, Len Martin, Mario Seiglie (chair) and Rex Sexton.
  • Education Committee: Aaron Dean (chair), Dan Dowd, Rainer Salomaa and Tony Wasilkoff.
  • Ethics Committee: Bob Dick, John Elliott (chair), Mario Seiglie and Tony Wasilkoff.
  • Executive Committee: Scott Ashley, Aaron Dean, John Elliott and Don Ward (chair).
  • Media and Communications Committee: Scott Ashley (chair), Jorge de Campos, John Elliott, Rex Sexton and Tony Wasilkoff.
  • Roles and Rules Committee: Jorge de Campos, Dan Dowd, Len Martin and Rainer Salomaa (chair).
  • Strategic Planning and Finance Committee: Aaron Dean, Bob Dick (chair), Dan Dowd, Len Martin and Rex Sexton.

The Council adjourned at 11:38 p.m.


Council Reporter
Shawn Cortelyou

© 2018 United Church of God, an International Association

Reproduced under the far Use Provision of the Copyright Act


Pentecost Letter from Chairman Don Ward

May 14, 2018

Dear fellow elders and brethren,

            We have just completed one of the most inspiring General Conferences of Elders meetings in the history of the United Church of God. One could sense a positive spirit and attitude that prevailed and provided a synergistic energy to everyone in attendance.

            There were several elders and wives who stated that this was the best conference in recent memory with expectations of good things to come. And, of course, the members of the Body of Christ have abiding within them the anticipation and expectation of being born as glorious, radiant spirit beings into the family of God. Each one of us needs to fan the flames of anticipation and expectation that is burning in our hearts and minds as begotten sons and daughters of God.

            We are now looking forward to the day of Pentecost with great anticipation and expectation. On that day some 1987 years ago, God sent his very essence, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in the hearts and minds of the Israel of God, the Church of God.

            In my last letter I wrote of the 50-day journey that we have embarked upon—from the wave offering to the day of Pentecost—a journey that is often filled with great trials and triumphs. Even if there are trials on the journey we know we can be more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Romans 8:37). God so loved us that He gave His Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave His life to pay for our sins so we can be reconciled to the Father and receive the Holy Spirit. The Son gave it for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). What was that joy? That joy was to see you and me as His brethren in the family of God. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17).

            Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren because the same Spirit that is in God is in Christ—and is also in each one that has been sanctified. The apostle Paul makes this clear in Hebrews 2:10-12: “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Hebrews 2:10-12 King James Version throughout, emphasis added throughout). Please note the italicized words in verse 11: Both He that sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of one.

            Do you or I forget at times that we are all of one? Each one of us has the same spirit essence of God and Christ abiding in us. The apostle Paul writes: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Note carefully the italicized words in verse 13. Through the Spirit of God and Christ we are members of one body. Because we are members of one body we are exhorted to have love and care for each member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).

            In fact we are members one of another because all begotten sons and daughters have the same essence of God and Christ, the Holy Spirit, abiding in them (Romans 12:5). It is quite sobering to consider that we are members one of another. And just as it is with the human body, when we injure any body part the whole body suffers. A stubbed toe affects the whole body. A suffering brother or sister affects the whole spiritual body. Thus, we are admonished to love one another fervently. Note the words of the apostle Peter: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22).

            As we focus on the deep spiritual things of God we need to remember that the inward man must be daily renewed. Although the Holy Spirit is of God, and invisible, it conforms to the biological law of use and disuse—“use it or lose it.” A body part that is not used will atrophy and become useless. In a similar manner the Holy Spirit can be quenched.

            The Holy Spirit is symbolically likened unto fire. Paul admonishes Timothy to stir the gift that he received through the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 1:6). The Greek word anazopureo that is translated as “stir” means to kindle or inflame.

If we do not fan the flames of the gift that is within us the flame will begin to flicker and through neglect it will become a dying ember. This reminds me of the parable of the Ten Virgins where the lamps of the foolish virgins were going out. We must not wait till the midnight hour for the knock of the bridegroom on our door! We must fan the flames of the Spirit now. The inward man must be renewed daily. That renewal is done through prayer, fasting, obedience and reading and meditating on the Word of God. Jesus states: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). So we see that Jesus equates His words with spirit.

            The most precious gift of the Spirit is life. Our biological parents gave us physical life. We know how short this physical life is. The psalmist writes that our life is as dust, as the grass and flower of the field that flourishes for a short time and is gone with the wind (Psalm 103:14-16). But God and Christ have made it possible for us to receive everlasting life—to be born of the Spirit and live forever. Note the inspired words of the apostle John: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). At the resurrection of the just we will be born of God as glorious, radiant spirit beings in the family of God and Christ.

            So, as we observe this coming day of Pentecost, let us be glad and rejoice evermore in the precious gift of the Holy Spirit that imparts life and hope for a glorious future as kings and priests in the Kingdom of God.

                                                                                    In Christ’s Service,


                                                                                    Donald L. Ward


Add a Comment
  1. The conclusion reached by the Doctrine Committee was that God the Father and the Word were and are both very active in all of Scripture. The paper did not receive support to move forward.

    I couldn’t resist laughing at this. Has the COE decided the Father and Son are not very active in the Old Testament? Talk about puzzling.

    This is complete error, since the Father was NEVER active in any part of scripture beyond using the Holy Spirit to call some to him (John 6:44) through Christ. The Father will be present at the wedding feast in heaven but since creation he has NEVER been present on the earth; until he will later come with the New Jerusalem.

    Sin has separated humanity from the Father and as soon as sin entered in the Father left. The Father is not and has never yet been active on the earth since original creation; Jesus Christ taking care of the things on the earth as the mediator between mankind and the Father.

    Yes, the Father was mentioned in scripture but he was never active on the earth. John 5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

  2. Mr. COG Member wrote: “…The conclusion reached by the Doctrine Committee was that God the Father and the Word were and are both very active in all of Scripture. The paper did not receive support to move forward.

    I couldn’t resist laughing at this. Has the COE decided the Father and Son are not very active in the Old Testament? Talk about puzzling…”

    The conclusion reached by the Doctrine Committee was a reference to some paper titled “The God of the Old Testament” submitted by Mark Mickelson, which I imagine you have not read. And neither have I read it, but to remove some of the puzzling, by implication, I would muse that Mark’s paper must be emphasizing that only one, either God the Father or the Word is the active one in the Old Testament. United is countering Mark Mickelson by putting both of them on some equal footing.


    I will be doing a new post on the Mickelson paper and the DC response soon, as a follow up to the Law and Grace post. James

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