November 30, 2011
Dear fellow ministers,
Once again, we are just a few days away from our quarterly Council of Elders meetings, which begin at the home office on Monday, December 5. They will finish on Thursday, December 8.
Our meetings this time will be somewhat different, with the first day devoted to a “retreat” style discussion on our Strategic Plan, led by the chairman of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, Robin Webber, assisted by Bill Eddington, chairman of the Roles and Rules Committee.
After the retreat, we will be meeting in open session on Tuesday to formally discuss the Strategic Plan for the General Conference of Elders to consider and approve in May of 2012.
What is going to be truly helpful in guiding us during these two days of deliberations will be the surveys that were sent to members, ministers and employees. We’ve received very meaningful input from church members, which will help us with our planning. Our thanks goes to Julie Zutz, who did an excellent job compiling the results of the survey, in her own time. An article is scheduled for United News soon to report on the survey results.
Continuing in a renewed spirit of unity and peace, the Council will be deciding on how best we can move forward as a church, to more effectively and efficiently preach the gospel to the world. We will also discuss how we can constantly strive to improve our service to those whom God has called, following the example of service set by our Elder Brother and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Our greatest desire as a church is to develop much spiritual fruit. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
After the two days devoted to strategic planning, we will turn our attention to a very full agenda, beginning with the regular quarterly reports from the president and the three operation managers.
Amongst other things, we will be discussing plans for the expansion of the home office to enable the building of a new recording and production studio to increase our broadcasting effectiveness. Also, attention will be given to the annual international reports submitted from every region of the world. These will be particularly interesting this year as we hear of the progress that has been made in different areas following the challenges we faced a year ago.
The Council agenda is attached for those who appreciate more detail. You may share the contents of the agenda and this letter with members this week.
I would like to take a moment to explain item number 2.7, which is a discussion of “Doctrinal Matters.” At a time when we still hear of websites erroneously claiming that we are about to change doctrine, I want to reassure you that this is not the case. The Doctrine Committee, under the chairmanship of Bob Berendt, spends its time defending doctrine, not discussing changes to doctrine. Thanks to the committee, members of the Church may request a review or clarification of a doctrinal issue. They can also submit study papers on a biblical topic for further study by members of the committee. The Doctrine Committee has consistently upheld the traditional teachings of the Church, proving once again the truths we all believe and share.
Please pray for us as we meet. The United Church of God has a unique opportunity to significantly move forward at a time of peace and unity. Let us seek inspiration from Jesus Christ, the living Head of the Church, and then follow where He leads us.
In Christian love and service,
November 30, 2011
In many seasons of our lives, it can seem like all too often we get caught in the grip of winter, like there is nothing but desolation and sadness filling our world to the brim. It’s at times like these we can draw many lessons from nature around us. The lone leaf left dangling on a tree at the end of autumn falls to the forest floor, where it’s surrounded by other leaves. We all can and should look around us for others who are in times of need so we can help them, and in the process, find God’s purpose for ourselves.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
November 23, 2011
On Sunday May 21, 2006, the first Beyond Today television program began airing in Canada. The program, Changing Your Life Is Possible, brought in a modest 20 responses. The program aired Sunday mornings on what was then The Christian Channel and at 2 a.m. EST Mondays on Vision Television. Five and a half years later we’ve recorded nearly 20,000 direct responses from Canadian viewers of the program. That works out to an average of just under 70 responses per week. In the next few days we anticipate breaking the 20,000 response mark.
Over the years, the airtime has improved and we’re still on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. EST on what is now known as Grace TV, and at 10:30 p.m. EST on Vision Television. Grace TV is available to digital cable and satellite subscribers while Vision Television is available as a part of most basic cable packages across the country.
This change in air time is one factor for the continuing impact and success of the program in Canada. Improvements in the production of the program also played a role, but most importantly it is collective prayers that have made a difference.
Several pastors reported having new attendees at Sabbath services as a result of the program. Some have become donors and co-workers as well. While most of the viewers are not in our database (56%), the rest are on file. A large number of those are repeat viewers.
Prophecy is one of the more popular subjects among our viewers. Over 27% of the responses received to date have been from prophecy-based programs. Finances are another topic that is on the minds of our viewers. Programs offering the booklet Managing Your Finances receive the third highest average number of responses per program. The booklets What Happens After Death? and Heaven & Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? are also popular.
In our first full year of airing the program in Canada, we averaged 33.9 responses per week. In our sixth year we’re averaging 118.3 responses per week, an increase of about 250%. Our cost per response is nearly half what it was just 2 years ago.
It takes time to build an audience, but momentum with Beyond Today in Canada is increasing. With God’s on-going guidance and blessing we expect to see even more success with this United Church of God program, not only in Canada, but in other parts of the world as well.
Edwin van Pelt—Office Manager, United Church of God – Canada
November 22, 2011
This year they are moving the Friday and Saturday activities to the new Hilton Hotel in downtown Vancouver, Washington, with seminars on Friday; and Sabbath services, teen costume dance and adult dance on Saturday.
Sunday’s sports—volleyball, basketball and cheer squad—will be at Skyview High School in North Vancouver, just 10 minutes from the Hilton. Last year’s Monday ski day was such a success that we will again spend Monday skiing, tubing, sledding or just enjoying the winter landscape at beautiful Mount Hood.
Accommodations for skiers will be at the Lodges at Salmon River Meadows. For registration, lodging rates or event information go to nww.ucgpdx.org and for questions email us at NWWeekend@gmail.com or find us on Facebook – NWWeekend.
November 17, 2011
This week, Beyond Today presenters Steve Myers and Darris McNeely began producing a new feature for the Web titled “BT Daily.“ BT Daily will be a regular, five days a week, Web-based video commentary on relevant, current topics in the news and items of interest to our audience.
BT Daily is an effort to start a conversation and to bring people behind the scenes and into a deeper relationship with the process that is behind the Beyond Today television program and the topics that are covered.
Mr. Myers said on the opening segment, “We’re going to look at news events. We’re going to look at different topics whether it’s marriage, whether it’s family, whether it’s schooling, whether it’s education, whatever it may be—politics. How does it apply? What is it and how is it relevant to the message of Jesus Christ?”
Beyond Today presenter Gary Petty will do segments when at the home office for monthly videotaping. He will also do some remote material from his home in San Antonio, Texas.
Most BT Daily segments will be done in the home office production studio. As the men travel, some recording will be done remotely, using laptop computers to record material. The goal is to provide regular daily commentary on life, news and biblical questions sent in by viewers. BT Daily is the first step in developing relevant daily commentary on the Web for our growing Beyond Today audience.
You will find BT Daily on the United Church of God main website and also on a new BT Daily page in the Beyond Today section of our website. The first two dailies are now online. We welcome your comments and feedback on this new project.
Darris McNeely—Associate Media Producer
November 16, 2011
The Cincinnati East, Ohio, congregation of the United Church of God is continuing it’s bi-weekly Bible study this Wednesday evening, November 16. The study begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT and is available live via webcast.
The series on the Pastoral Epistles continues tonight. We will study 1 Timothy chapters 4 and 5.
Presenters will be Steve Myers and Peter Eddington. Please plan to learn from the Scriptures with us. You can listen online with hundreds of brethren from around the world or join our live, local audience. Also, please note that we have a mobile option. You can view the Bible study using your smartphone!
Steve Myers—Pastor, United Church of God Cincinnati East
November 15, 2011
What a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles everybody seems to have had. Inspiring, unifying, peaceful—these were words people used in their Feast reports. Some said it was the best Feast they’ve had yet!
It may be hard adjusting back to “real life” after the Feast, but at least we don’t have to worry about paying the bills. God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided us with a system to save for the Feast—removing the headaches that come from a heavy debt load.
Sadly, our nations have not followed biblical laws regarding saving and debt, but have chosen rather to overspend and borrow excessively. The result is the current international debt crisis that threatens to engulf us all.
In this regard, 2011 may turn out to be as significant for Europe as was 1989. The fall of communism led directly to the rapid growth of the European Union as the Union absorbed most of the countries that had formed the Eastern Soviet bloc.
Now, this year we are seeing significant changes in Europe once again.
To begin with, earlier this year serious financial problems led to the fall of both the Irish and Portuguese governments. Then in November it was Greece and Italy’s turn to go through government upheaval. In just one week, the prime ministers of both countries announced their resignations, and their governments collapsed. They could not get majority support in their parliaments to deal with the overwhelming debts facing both countries. In an interesting development, both countries have had leaders imposed on them who were not elected. They are technocrats, not politicians.
In addition, the international debt crisis is far from over. Spain and France are two more eurozone members in trouble. In the last few days, France has announced austerity measures.
According to the Wall Street Journal: “Italy may yet need financial aid if the mere announcement of a new government doesn’t stop the capital outflow…Failure to halt the crisis could lead, in the worst case, to an Italian debt default that cripples Europe’s banks, plunges the region into a slump and roils the global financial system” (“Exit From Italian Debt Spurs Fears,” WSJ, Nov. 9, 2011).
The debt contagion is spreading—with no country totally immune. Even those with little debt will be negatively affected by a slowdown in international trade and investment.
What’s been interesting throughout the never-ending European fiscal crisis is how well the value of the euro has held up against other major currencies, including the U.S. dollar. Today it stands at $1.35. “Europe’s problem isn’t the euro. If it were, Hungary, Iceland and Latvia—none of which use the euro—would have been spared their painful days of reckoning. The same applies for Britain. Europe is in a debt spiral brought about by spendthrift, overweening and inefficient governments. This is a crisis of the welfare state,” comments the Wall Street Journal (“Europe’s Entitlement Reckoning,” WSJ, Nov. 9, 2011).
The paragraph continues: “Mario Monti, who is tipped to lead a new government of technocrats, once described the Italian economy as a case of ‘self-inflicted strangulation.’ Government debt is 120% of GDP, making Italy the world’s third largest borrower after the U.S. and Japan.” America’s debt problem is worse than Italy or Greece!
What’s happening over there will soon be here—affecting the United States as assuredly as Europe is in crisis now!
It’s not surprising the Vatican has come out with an 18-page document titled “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority.” “Since then, it has been celebrated by advocates of bigger government the world over,” writes Robert A. Sirico in the WSJ (“The Vatican’s Monetary Wisdom,” WSJ, Oct. 27, 2011).
The Vatican paper correctly shows the origins of the current financial crisis, which goes back to currency changes that began 40 years ago when Richard Nixon severed the link between the dollar and gold—a direct consequence of his predecessor’s choosing to fight a war without raising taxes. Since then we’ve lived in a world of crazy money. The analysis of the problem may be correct, but the Vatican’s proposed solution of establishing a “world central bank” and a “global public authority” would mean the end of 250 years of Anglo-Saxon domination of world finance and pose a very real threat to national sovereignty, independence and individual liberty.
Yet this is exactly what is prophesied in the Bible. In Revelation chapters 17 and 18 we read of an end-time financial system that is a revived Roman Empire, in close relationship with the universal false church. Many of the European Union countries were a part of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. The desire for a European union has been a dream down through the centuries. In 1922 Mussolini announced a revival of the Roman Empire.
Only 35 years later, the modern European Union was established by the Treaty of Rome, with members pledged to form “an ever closer union.” Part of that pledge was fulfilled with the common European currency, the euro. Of the 27 EU members, 17 use the euro. In spite of the current fiscal crisis, Estonia embraced the euro only this year, becoming the fifth of 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 to adopt the euro, and the first ex-Soviet country to do so.
Numbers can be overwhelming. Revelation chapter 17 shows that 10 kings (10 leaders of political entities or countries), will at some time unite to form the final resurrected Beast power.
“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful” (verses 12-14).
Clearly, this is an end-time prophecy that is fulfilled just before Christ’s return. It also shows us that there must be further changes in Europe to bring about this final union of 10 nations.
A significant change already taking place through the financial upheavals convulsing Europe is that Germany has emerged as the key player and the most solvent major country in Europe. The Germans have been fiscally far more responsible than any of the other western nations, including the U.S. and UK—both of which were once dismissed by the late French President Charles de Gaulle as “the Anglo-Saxon debtor nations.” Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that: “It is now the task of our generation to complete the economic and currency union in Europe and create, step by step, a political union.”
Keep your eyes on Europe as it goes through the changes that will eventually lead to the formation of the Beast power.
At the same time, realize that this international debt crisis is a global pandemic that will reach us all in the near future. Governments everywhere will have to cut spending drastically. This includes the United States, and it will have a major impact around the world.
At the launch of the euro over a decade ago, The Economist magazine reminded readers that a major lesson of history is that eventually paper money always fails. This is the fate that will befall the euro, the U.S. dollar and the British pound.
It is also a reminder that we cannot put our trust in mammon. Matthew 6:24 says: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
This financial crisis is going to affect us all. Let us put our trust in God to preserve us through it and to help us stay focused on His soon coming Kingdom and on preaching the gospel of that Kingdom now—while we still have the opportunity to do so. Let us pray for our countries at this difficult time: that the financial means will still be present for us to preach the good news of the coming Kingdom of God to an unstable and unhappy world.
In Christ’s Service,
November 15, 2011
The Bible seminars were announced in the September-October 2011 issue of the Gute Nachrichten magazine. The German office also invited every reader living within a 50 km radius to the seminar venue with a personal letter.
We didn’t know what to expect because a few years ago only one reader responded to an invitation to a public lecture. But this time we were quite overwhelmed by the positive response. We had 18 new visitors in Dormagen (average attendance in Dormagen is 35 people). Three gentlemen came all the way from Antwerp, Belgium. They had seen the advertising on the UCG website. 15 people came to Moerfelden (average attendance is 25) and 7 visitors to Hamburg (average attendance is 15). We had a 4 percent response to the letters we had sent out.
Two PowerPoint presentations were given by Paul Kieffer on the topics: “What was the message of Jesus Christ?” and “How up-to-date were Jesus’ predictions?” They were both well received. Mr. Kieffer explained how Christianity has lost sight of the message about the coming Kingdom of God, and he outlined the signs that will precede the return of Christ as given by Jesus Himself. The visitors commented frequently and enthusiastically how much they appreciated the messages.
The fellowship was enhanced by an abundant potluck meal and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. The visitors participated in the fellowship and also stayed long after the seminar ended. Among the audience were readers who have read Church of God literature for 30 years and others who just started reading the Gute Nachrichten magazine only a few months ago.
One visitor who is pastor of a Sunday keeping church realized during the seminar that the Sabbath is very important and still valid for the followers of Christ. When he realized what that meant for him and his church he cried out: “Oh Lord, help us!”
Every guest received a seminar folder containing the booklet “The Kingdom of God,” an 12-page reprint of articles on the subject of the gospel message, a handout of the PowerPoint presentations and an order form with all the literature available in German. The visitors could leave the order form with us if they wanted to order literature or leave their contact information to be contacted for the second round of seminars. Quite a few people want to come back for the second round and a few people mentioned their interest in visiting church services.
After the seminar in Hamburg one visitor sent the following email: “Thank you very much for your hospitality and your presentations. I drove home with much joy in my heart!”
Overall, the three seminars exceeded our expectations very much and were very encouraging to the congregations.
November 10, 2011
A very lively organizational meeting was held last Sunday in preparation for the United Church of God Winter Family Weekend. We began with discussing the purpose of the WFW and took suggestions on solidifying our mission statement for it. We had many valuable contributions. You’ll see the finished mission statement shortly.
We are excited to host this event in the Cincinnati area at the Great Wolf Lodge. Reservations are coming along nicely. Please be sure to register at wfw.ucg.org to ensure you have a room at the Great Wolf Lodge. If you are interested, an additional housing location that we are using is the King’s Island Resort, which is across the street.
We are thrilled to know that all is coming together nicely. We will soon be announcing the seminar titles and presenters, as well as the times and locations of all events. Recently, we were able to secure for Monday and Tuesday an additional sporting facility for flag football, speedaway and soccer. It will be just across the parking lot from our main sports facility being used for basketball and volleyball. These sporting facilities are a mere 5 miles from Great Wolf Lodge, so travel will not be time-consuming to and from the sport facilities and the Lodge.
Three dances are being planned and we will announce their themes shortly. Two will take place on Saturday evening. Sunday evening is the free pizza and drinks at the Family Fun Night with the Waterpark. Games for all ages will be organized for those who do not go to the Waterpark.
To assist in our planning, please go online and register for the events as well as for your lodging so we may have an accurate count of who is attending each activity. Please note, you can also volunteer to help with a number of activities, so please login and check the boxes for any areas where you can serve. This will be very helpful.
We have over 30 staff and their assistants eager to help you have a great experience and build strong relationships in a godly and positive atmosphere.
We look forward to seeing you on December 23-27!
Gary Antion/Roy Holladay – Event Coordinators
November 10, 2011
As the United Church of God’s teen Winter Camp is only six weeks away and counting down, we are happy to report that we’ve received over 40 camper applications with more arriving daily. The beautiful, snowy, white fields and hills of Wisconsin beckon more campers to embrace the cold and enjoy the friendship, fun and spiritual instruction that is Winter Camp.
We also have several staff positions yet to fill, especially in the area of dorm counseling.
Application details await your attention at: uyc.ucg.org/camp/winter-camp.
Randy Stiver/Dan Dowd