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Efforts to Seek Reconciliation

Repeated Efforts for the Council of Elders to Seek Reconciliation

December 9, 2010

Dear Fellow Brethren,

Some are saying that the Council of Elders has refused to discuss current issues and concerns, trying to create the impression that the Council is recalcitrant and unwilling to pursue reconciliation. The question is whether the Council has or has not been willing to meet to discuss the issues of the relocation to Texas, bloc voting, ethics, governing documents, alternate forums, etc.

The facts are that the Council of Elders has met repeatedly, no fewer than six times over the last three years, to discuss these issues with involved parties. These meetings were not publicized, but held in private to allow participants to speak freely to allow for open and frank discussion and to hopefully reach agreement and reconciliation. Here is a list of these meetings:

  • In November 2008 nine Council members, including the president at the time, met for a special two-day meeting to discuss in great detail problems in our relationships with one another.
  • After the May 2009 General Conference of Elders and regular Council meetings, another special three-day meeting was held for the Council of Elders near Indianapolis specifically to address these issues. All major issues were discussed and explanations were accepted as satisfactory. Those present left the meetings feeling the Church could move forward together in a spirit of cooperation. But again, the issues were thoroughly discussed.
  • At the August 2009 Council of Elders meetings, the Council spent many hours in executive session to again discuss in great detail conflict between the Council of Elders and members of the administration. Again we thought we had reached agreement on ways to better work together for the overall good of the Church.
  • Due to growing disagreements between the Council of Elders and the administration, in October 2009 a special face-to-face meeting of all Council members and the president was convened at substantial additional expense to again address specific issues and accusations and to seek reconciliation. We agreed that division was not our desire and again we left the meetings hopeful. Subsequent events and actions prevented any agreement from holding.
  • At the December 2009 Council of Elders meetings, the Council of Elders once again spent many hours in executive session to discuss the growing differences between the Council of Elders and the administration.
  • At the February 2010 Council of Elders meetings, the Council once again spent many hours in executive session to discuss the deteriorating relationship between the Council of Elders and the administration. (Finally, in April 2010, the Council of Elders concluded that it was in the best interests of the Church to move forward with new leadership in the administration and reassigned the president and various members of his administration to the field ministry.)

While the issues have not been resolved, the fact is that hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars have been spent in trying to address issues and to reconcile. These are still going on.

In nearly every case, the issues raised by people have been addressed in official statements or papers issued by the Council, the chairman of the Council, and/or the president. Sadly, some appear to be unwilling to accept these statements and instead demand different answers or that the Council reopen and readdress issues that have already been balloted on and settled. In some cases elders or members have raised questions or made accusations against Council members and the Council has gone to considerable expense to meet in person with those individuals to answer their questions. In other cases the Council has offered to meet with individuals or groups, only to be met with demands that the Council considered unworkable, effectively preventing any meeting.

Statements that issues have not been addressed or that the Council is unwilling to meet or address issues are simply not true. When shown to be wrong, the Council has apologized for missteps in a serious attempt to reconcile so we can get on with our mission of preaching the gospel and preparing a people. Regrettably, what is true is that there has been only temporary acceptance, if even that, of the answers given, typically followed by more letters and continued accusations against some on the Council and no apologies or admission of mistakes made by those claiming they seek reconciliation.

The Council of Elders and administration feel that continued discussion of these issues in forums where most would not have adequate background and knowledge would be counterproductive—especially in light of actions by some former elders who are now seeking a following among members of UCGIA.

Reconciliation is our goal. We remain open to sincere attempts for reconciliation. But reconciliation does not mean unilaterally giving in to demands that we capitulate on the founding principles and documents that the ministry of the United Church of God has overwhelmingly agreed to abide by. True reconciliation can only come when two are agreed to walk together and fulfill all steps in such a process. We are and remain dedicated to fulfilling a ministry of reconciliation among all who are sincere and willing.

Sincerely,

The Council of Elders—[Scott Ashley, Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, William Eddington, Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, Darris McNeely, Melvin Rhodes (chairman), Mario Seiglie and Robin Webber] and

Dennis Luker—president

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Council of Elders, President's Office | | 36 Comments

Latin American Ministry Reconciliation

Efforts to Reconcile With the Latin American Ministry

December 9, 2010

Dear Fellow Brethren,

In its Dec. 9 letter to ministers and members about there being only one UCGIAaffiliated church organization in Latin America, the Council of Elders noted that it continues to seek resolution of the situation in Latin America regarding former ministers and members. Some have subsequently asked, “What has the Council done to date and what does it plan to do to achieve reconciliation?” These are fair questions. In a spirit of openness and transparency, allow us to summarize the facts to date. Hopefully these will prove useful to you in helping to pray and ask God to open the minds and hearts of those involved that we may all achieve resolution and unity in God’s time.

As you will see, numerous direct attempts have been made by the Council to meet with ministers and brethren in the region over the past six months. Some efforts have achieved at least partial success. Other efforts have failed for the moment, although the Council made—and will continue to make—good-faith efforts to achieve success both in the short- and long-term.

The good news is that more than a quarter of the members in Latin American countries have chosen to remain with the United Church of God, an International Association. As reported in United News and elsewhere, the Church was able to set up Feast sites and Sabbath services for these brethren over the past six months. Additional brethren in those areas are welcome to rejoin our fellowship. The home office in the United States continues to support and fund this fellowship.

The challenge remains that some ministers and members have chosen to form organizations and fellowships apart from UCGIA. Some profess that somehow UCGIA and these new groups are one and the same, although even a casual view of the factual situation shows this not to be the case.

So what has been done and what will be done? In this letter we will make plain and open certain facts that have previously not been disclosed. We previously did not disclose them because we hoped to nurture and achieve real reconciliation (1 Peter 4:8).

By way of review and to put the situation into context, the Council of Elders first sent Mario Seiglie, a then-new member of the Council, to visit ministers and members in Latin America last June. Mr. Seiglie speaks Spanish fluently and has served some two decades in Christ’s ministry both in Chile and other areas of Latin America. He knows many of the Spanish-speaking ministers personally. These travels followed the situation where Leon Walker was removed as the regional director for the region.

During the early part of the summer, acting as the direct representative of Dennis Luker (who was named regional director for the Latin American region in addition to his responsibilities as president of the Church), Mr. Seiglie attempted numerous times to contact certain ministers there. Despite the fact that these ministers continued to receive a salary and support at the time from the United Church of God, an International Association, none of them would meet with Mr. Seiglie.

Sadly, these same pastors and elders also prevented Mr. Seiglie from meeting directly with members in Latin America. Since these ministers possess and control all of the contact information for members living in Latin America—a situation which regrettably still exists—neither Mr. Seiglie nor UCGIA officials have a clear means by which to communicate to everyone directly. We have, of course, translated and posted several pieces of communication in Spanish on the Church’s Inside United: Realtime blog (https://realtimeunited.wordpress.com) and elsewhere, but not all of the brethren in Latin America have access to the Internet.

We must remind everyone that some have spread a considerable amount of disinformation about Mr. Seiglie both during this time and since, and this has distracted from the real issues. Unfortunately, Mr. Walker continues to deny the fact that he has been replaced as director for UCGIA affiliated entities in the Latin American region. This continuing act of denial has sadly created a considerable degree of confusion for those who have limited access to the real facts.

As openly reported last August, the Council at that time invited Mr. Walker to meet and try and find a basis for reconciliation. Sadly, he continued during the meeting to deny any responsibility for earlier divisive actions. These actions led to his removal from the ministry of the United Church of God earlier in the year. To be open to all of you, we here disclose again that his continued stance remains that he must be reinstated as director over the Church’s Latin American region and his ministerial credentials restored before any reconciliation efforts can take place. Given this position, the August efforts proved unproductive.

In a second attempt to meet with the five pastors in Latin America who had earlier refused to meet with Mr. Seiglie, one minister in Latin America was asked to be an independent emissary and extend an offer for each of the ministers in Latin America to meet one-on-one at the home office. Like earlier efforts, this attempt also proved unproductive.

As time passed, another challenge in the region emerged. A number of elders and deacons from the United States who speak Spanish attended our new UCGIA Feast sites in Latin America. Sadly, these elders and deacons were directly told—in unsolicited comments—by many Latin American members that many—if not most—did not want their former ministers restored in pastoral positions over them. Time and time again these members in Latin America expressed emphatically that they did not wish to be in congregations pastored by ministers who remained in support of Mr. Walker.

Despite all of these and other developments, the Council continued to seek reconciliation. In spite of this, leaders of the new groups in Latin America continued to assert that they were still a formal part of UCGIA, even though their actions had demonstrated otherwise.

Accordingly, in a third formal attempt to contact and open discussion with these ministers, on Nov. 11, Mr. Luker sent the ministers in Latin America a letter and an e-mail. To clear up unnecessary confusion and set the record straight for all, the letter simply asked that these ministers let him know their intentions. Were they going to be a part of UCGIA and thus accept Mr. Luker as the director of Latin America, or were they going to continue to support Mr. Walker as their leader, who by this time had been removed for months as director over any UCGIA entities? In accordance with the Church’s governing documents and scriptural conditions, the letter pointed out that if they chose to continue supporting Mr. Walker and his emerging organization, their credentials might be removed. The Church cannot continue to uphold the ministerial credentials of any minister who is openly denying the organizational authority created by the Church’s governing documents.

None of the ministers who received the letter and e-mail responded.

To be as fair and open as possible and to follow established Church policy, the letter and e-mail from Mr. Luker was followed up with a direct phone call or e-mail to each elder. Each was asked whether they wanted to be directly affiliated with UCGIA, or whether they desired to continue supporting and following an individual whose ministerial status had been revoked. Apart from three who refused to respond at all to the follow-up phone calls and e-mails, all declared that they desired to be affiliated with the emerging organization rather than UCGIA.

This has been a time-consuming process for the Council of Elders and for the administration over recent months. Yet we remain committed to seeking reconciliation as God guides us. As demonstrated in this letter, the Council and administration have reached out repeatedly. But in order to achieve reconciliation, we must first begin talking. As noted earlier, even talking with one another has been rebuffed.

We also know that reconciliation is a two-way street. During the past six months the Council and the administration provided opportunities to those aligned with Leon Walker to make overtures to the Council and to the administration. Only one chose to do so.

The Council, together with the administration, must conduct itself in accordance with the biblical principles laid out by God and as they are reflected in the Church’s governing documents. We cannot unethically overturn the Church’s governing documents and pretend they don’t exist in order to accommodate other organizations with different leaders under the same name. Reconciliation does not mean capitulation of the founding principles and documents that the overwhelming number of ministers of UCGIA agreed to in 1995.

This is painful for us to revisit, yet we will press on. We hope the facts presented here will provide all of you with an opportunity to present focused and earnest prayers to God that we can make progress. We remain open to and hopeful for reconciliation according to God’s will and in God’s time. We solicit your prayers that we may all find resolution and that we may go forward together in unity to accomplish God’s purpose of preaching the gospel and preparing a people.

Thank you for your continued support and for your continued earnest prayers!

In Christ’s service,

The Council of Elders—[Scott Ashley, Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, William Eddington, Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, Darris McNeely, Melvin Rhodes (chairman), Mario Seiglie and Robin Webber] and

Dennis Luker (president).


December 9, 2010 Posted by | Council of Elders, President's Office | | 7 Comments

Only One UCGIA Organization in Latin America

We Have Only One UCGIA-affiliated Church Organization in Latin America

December 9, 2010

Dear Fellow Brethren,

The Rules of Association of the United Church of God, an International Association, permit only one UCGIA-affiliated entity in each country or geographical area of the world. Therefore, we feel it necessary and proper to bring you up to date on events that have transpired regarding the United Church of God in Latin America.

Despite what some are saying, the Council of Elders and home office administration have made repeated conscientious, good-faith efforts to reestablish a close relationship and to attempt to settle and resolve our differences with the Latin ministry. Regrettably, the vast majority of these ministers have decided to follow another leader, outside of the organization of the United Church of God.

With this in mind, on Nov. 30 the Council of Elders discussed and subsequently reached a decision to pass a resolution on this matter. As you can appreciate, it is very important to distinguish between congregations and elders in Latin America that are recognized as being affiliated with UCGIA and those that are not. Here are the key points from the resolution:

  • Leon Walker was replaced as the regional director of the Spanish-speaking areas of UCGIA by the president of UCGIA in June 2010.
  • Dennis Luker is now regional director of the Spanish-speaking areas of UCGIA.
  • On Aug. 11, 2010, Mr. Walker stated that he remained in the position of regional director of the Spanish-speaking areas even though he had been removed from that post by the Council the previous June.
  • Leon Walker had his ministerial credentials revoked on July 1, 2010, and could not, as a consequence, hold such a ministerial position within UCGIA.
  • The Rules of Association for UCGIA state that only one body in a given country or geographical area can represent UCGIA (Rule 3-110).
  • The Rules of Association also state that a pastor (which includes a senior or regional pastor—the equivalent of a regional director) for a country or geographical area must be credentialed by, and in good standing in UCGIA (Rule 2-100 and UCGIA Pastor’s Policy Manual), and the Council is the authority that interprets which body or entity will be recognized as a part of UCGIA (Rule 4-130).
  • Therefore, the members and elders in Latin America who follow Mr. Walker (a decredentialed elder) as their regional director, can in fact, no longer be officially affiliated with UCGIA.
  • So, the Council of Elders has officially acknowledged that:
  1. Leon Walker, due to no longer being a minister in UCGIA, is ineligible to serve as a UCGIA elder, pastor or regional pastor or director.
  2. The Council confirms UCGIA president Dennis Luker as the regional director of the Spanish areas.
  3. The Council has determined that only groups or entities and their elders in the Latin American areas who recognize UCGIA’s governing structure with Mr. Luker as the regional director, or such other regional director as may be approved by the Council, are considered to be part of UCGIA.
  4. That elders in the Latin American areas who recognize Leon Walker as their regional director or pastor, cannot claim to be a part of UCGIA and are thus part of another religious entity operating outside of the officially recognized UCGIA entities in the Latin American region.

Brethren, please understand that the United Church of God has viable congregations throughout Latin America, each duly being shepherded by a UCGIA minister. At present, almost 500 brethren have chosen to remain with us, and we are providing financial support for their needs, arranging their summer youth camps, establishing youth corps projects, running Feast sites, providing scholarships to needy students, renting church halls and ensuring Sabbath services and Bible studies are held each week. In addition, three Spanish-speaking elders and other Church leaders are traveling on a regular basis to assist the two resident Latin American pastors.

We are seeing ongoing growth as more brethren decide to keep their UCGIA affiliation. We will continue to look after their needs. Thank you for your prayers and concern as we do all within our power to care for our Latin American brethren, and all of our brethren wherever they may reside.

Sincerely,

Melvin Rhodes—Chairman of the Council of Elders

Dennis Luker—President

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Council of Elders, President's Office | | 3 Comments

A Faithful Servant

December 9, 2010

To: All Members of the Living Church of God

From: Council of Elders, United Church of God, an International Association

God’s word tells us, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). It is with great sadness tempered by these words of comfort that we hear of the death of a faithful servant of God, Dibar Apartian. Our thoughts and prayers go to his widow, Shirley, and son, Dan, and his family.

Many of us worked with Dibar through the years and remember him fondly. He served the French-speaking members of the Church of God for more than fifty years. His desire to remain “on the line” in service is well known. He set a sterling example as a profitable servant in the fields of the Lord.

Three years ago Dibar visited our offices. The display of mutual warmth between him and other staff members is remembered to this day. We will miss our good friend, but look forward to the resurrection of the just when he will hear Christ’s words, “well done you good and faithful servant.”

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Council of Elders | | 9 Comments