May 3, 2015
Follow the UCGIA rolling blog that’s reporting on the annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders being held in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 2-4. The blog is being updated regularly at http://www.ucg.org/gce-2015-live-blog. Check towards the end of the Web page to see what has been added each hour.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
At 9:02 a.m. Eastern, Council of Elders chairman Robin Webber called the 20th meeting of the General Conference of Elders to session. After a few introductory welcome comments, He called upon Phil Aust, an elder from Georgia, to open the session in prayer.
The 2014 meeting minutes were approved. The first item on the agenda was a presentation honoring Bob and Evelyn Fahey of Chicago, Illinois, for their 50 years of faithful service to God and His Church.
Next newly ordained elders and wives were introduced to the assembly. New elders include Tom and Jody Adams, Vivien and Cathy Botha, Graham and Tammy Cowley, Rod and Tammy Foster, Gabriel and Andrea Garcia, Todd and Susie Herridge, Benjamin and Shannon Light, Arlindo and Iracema Lima, David and Kimberly Nunn, Alfred and Edith Siame, John and Peggy Yule, and Jerry and Ellie Zemlicka.
Mr. Webber then called upon Victor Kubik, president of UCG, to honor Church retirees and employees who have reached significant employment anniversaries. Retirees are Steve and Evelyn Shafer and Noel and Becky Horner. Those honored for significant work anniversaries include John Elliott, Alec Surratt and Jim Tuck, Randy D’Alessandro, Joe Dobson and John Labissoniere, for 40 years of service; Gary Petty and Connie Seelig, for 30 years; Barbara Antion for 20 years; and Dan Dowd, Linda Wasilkoff and Moise Mabout, for 10 years.
At 9:22 a.m. the ballot for Council of Elders selections was taken. This was followed by the ballot on the various business items at 9:26. After the ballot was taken Mr. Webber began his chairman’s address.
Chairman’s address—Robin Webber
Council chairman Robin Webber stressed that we need to continue to develop the positive environment of love and mutual respect so that we may continue to grow in the Spirit of God. He said the Church needs to be looking up and leaning forward. We have a chance now to look back at the past 20 years and learn lessons that we can take forward into the future. We are celebrating this weekend, but we’re not celebrating ourselves. We’re celebrating the love, patience and blessing of God and Jesus Christ that have brought us this far.
When UCG was founded we were looking to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church—not to any man—to lead us forward. He alone paved the way for everything we have done in 20 years. He provided the hope we needed at that time. We are His servants, and as God has provided we have continued to serve in His name. We continue to provide service and leadership for congregations across the world. We continue to provide Feast sites where people can convene to worship God. We have continued to provide opportunities for our youth in the camp program. We have continued to do these things only because of God’s blessing.
Twenty years ago we were only beginning this journey in the United Church of God. We codified a set of beliefs and created a governance structure to safeguard those beliefs and our community. But those things weren’t an end to themselves. They were just the beginning of the work of the Church.
Mr. Webber points out that those things are of no value if our hearts are not surrendered to God’s Word and His Spirit. We continue the work of examining ourselves in the mirror of Scripture to ensure that our hearts are aligned with God’s plan for our lives.
He says that unity is not just superficial conformity, it’s something that comes from spiritual maturity. It’s a characteristic of a godly heart. Those who are growing in this Church and those who are coming to us for guidance deserve our best effort in walking “according to the calling of which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1). The apostle Paul made sure that we knew there is one calling, one Lord, one hope, one faith and one baptism that we hold to. We dedicate ourselves to that God and to that calling.
He exhorts the assembly that as we move forward we need to look above and keep our eyes and hearts focused on our God. He tells us, “Follow me.”
Church president Victor Kubik then took the stage for his address.
President’s address—Victor Kubik
Mr. Kubik begins by thanking everyone for their service in making this event happen. He also expresses his appreciation that he has such a good working relationship with the Council of Elders and the various operation managers in managing the daily work of the Church.
He expresses excitement about new opportunities in both media proclamation and ministerial service that will propel the Church forward into the future. We want to make certain that the Church and Beyond Today as its media arm are recognizable to the general public as we preach the gospel. We are in the process of consolidating our media presence under the Beyond Today identity, with print, television and Web content to be presented as Beyond Today content.
Our media is very balanced and spread across many different technologies and platforms to be most easily accessible to the greatest number of people. We’re very excited about our new website, which just recently launched. UCG.org is now mobile friendly, which is an absolute necessity in taking the gospel message to the largest number of people possible. We want to continue making UCG and Beyond Today the go-to place for biblical answers.
We’re in a place where we have the chance to make some very positive and forward-looking changes. We will be adding ministerial support for our congregations and developing new ministerial trainees who will be hired in the future. We’ll have opportunities for those who may be ordained in the future to serve in a training capacity. Ambassador Bible College will be further developed as a place of biblical learning and training in service and leadership. We’re looking into it being accredited for international students to be able to more easily come and learn as well.
We’re truly an international association. The room today is filled with people from all over the world, all dedicated to the same purpose of service to God and one another. We can have hope in that purpose despite the headlines that fill the news every day. He encouraged us to pray for God’s blessing and continue His work in preaching the gospel and preparing a people.
After the president’s address Robin Webber took the stage again to dismiss the assembly for a short break.
Robin Webber reconvened the meeting at 10:46 a.m. He introduced Church treasurer Rick Shabi for his address.
Treasurer’s address—Rick Shabi
Mr. Shabi begins by expressing that we need to be deeply thankful to God for His sustaining blessings. We’re in an excellent place financially, and we should be thankful for times of abundance. He references 2 Chronicles 26:5. The very holds great instruction for us in making sure that we are seeking God’s will and obeying Him in all we do. That’s the best practice in assuring financial stability.
Our internal audit showed no internal deficiencies in practice, meaning that the Church is well run, with everyone doing their job properly. This assures financial transparency and wise use of God’s blessings. We consider our funds to be God’s money, so we make sure that we are using what He gives us and allows us to use in the best possible way to serve Him and His people
Overall our cash balances are doing very well, with strong increases across the board. Our good financial position enables us to better fulfil our mission, which is to preach the gospel, prepare a people for God and care for the disciples that He calls.
He thanks the rest of the financial services staff for their quality work and dependability. They work well as a team and together assure the proper use of God’s funds.
At 11:13 a.m. Roy Holladay took the stage for his address.
Ministerial and Member Services address—Roy Holladay
Mr. Holladay says that the ministry have been called to a unique responsibility in the Church. They are called to be helpers and servants of the membership and those whom God calls. There are 366 elders in the United Church of God, with 283 in the United States and 83 in international areas. There are 87 U.S. congregation pastors. We see a larger number this year due to the newly ordained men we introduced earlier.
There are 196 congregations in the U.S, and we had 131 baptisms in the past year. We are planting the seeds of growth through our gospel proclamation efforts and our work to provide good service and leadership for our congregations across the world. We are working to be ready for a greater response to God’s message in the future.
Mr. Holladay emphasizes the work that is underway in the leadership training and development department. We are at a confluence of three major trends in the Church: retirement, education and leadership development. There is a continual need to train and develop new ministers, refresh current ministers and train new leaders. A new training plan is being started, in which men will be pastors-in-training, with the eventual goal of being used as church pastors. We have great opportunities ahead of us as we work to fulfill God’s commission to make disciples and care for those disciples.
Media and Communication Services address—Peter Eddington
Mr. Eddington begins by playing a short video that introduces the new site and describes the major changes from the last version. Highlights are the mobile-friendly, adaptive design that scales to any size screen, from smart phone to tablet to desktop monitor.
Mr. Eddington says that we’re much better positioned for the future with the launch of the new, mobile-friendly UCG.org. In addition, we’re working hard to get on as many streaming platforms as possible in the coming year. We’ve heard stories of users finding the gospel truth almost accidentally by coming across our content on streaming platforms. There are many opportuntities in streaming services that can get Beyond Today content into many more households across the world than ever before possible.
We have the most coworkers on file that we’ve ever had in UCG’s history, showing that people are able to connect with our message and are looking for ways to become a part of the mission of the Church. We pray for God’s continued blessing in taking His Word to a world that so desperately needs it.
Mr. Webber called on Shannon Lucas to dismiss the assembly for the lunch break.
The meeting reconvened at 1:30 p.m., with Council chairman Robin Webber calling upon Jorge DeCampos of Cincinnati, Ohio, to open the afternoon session in prayer. He then introduces Ken Martin of Georgia to lead a presentation to honor recently deceased elders and wives.
Those honored include Angie Erickson, Robert Happel, Al Mischnick, Primrose Mukarati, Norm Myers, Francis Northrip, Paula Olson, Tom Peine, Rita Stitt, and Ron Woodbridge.
Mr. Webber then took the stage to introduce
The Canadian national office of UCG has eight total employees, two full-time and six part-time. Anthony Wasilkoff is the director of operations, Edwin van Pelt is the treasurer, and Dale van Zant is the HR manager.
Average church attendance is 525 for the past four years, and there are over 20,000 Canadian Good News subscribers. There have been over 40,000 responses to Beyond Today TV over the past 10 years.
Ghana and Nigeria—Paul Moody
Paul Moody from Spokane, Washington, followed with the report on the Church in Ghana and Nigeria. Mark Mickelson, a Council of Elders member from Washington, is the senior pastor of the region, and Benjamin Agyapong of Ghana is the pastor for several of the Ghanaian congregations.
The United Youth Camps program in Ghana and Nigeria are very successful and gives Church youth there opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.
Jorge DeCampos points out that it is not the Portuguese language work, it is God’s work in Portuguese. The vast majority of the Portuguese work takes place in Brazil. There is currently a religious revival of a type in Brazil, with many different types of religions, including outright paganism, becoming very popular. This is both an opportunity and a challenge in preaching the gospel message.
French language—Tim Pebworth
Tim Pebworth of San Jose, California, along with his wife Maryse, serve in the French-speaking areas. There are 5,500 Bonnes Nouvelles subscriptions sent to individuals in 51 countries. There are 180 French-speaking brethren in Africa, along with several in Quebec, Canada, as well. We just recently have congregations in Cote D’Ivoire as well, where there are 70 members.
British Isles—David Fenney
United Church of God in the British Isles operates on its own national council with five executive members and three non-executive advisors. The council serves eight congregations across the British Isles, with an additional congregation that meets every other Sabbath. The Church in Britain is looking to develop more helpers to serve the membership and preach the gospel more effectively.
After a short break Robin Webber introduced the keynote speaker Don Ward.
Keynote: “The Trunk of the Tree”—Don Ward
Dr. Ward begins by commenting that the spirit and conversation at this year’s meeting is one of the best he’s seen in his years in the Church. He says that we who have been given the precious gift of God’s Word must struggle for the truth.
The purpose of this conference is to stir us up to labor in the Word and stay close to the “trunk of the tree.” The trunk of the tree is the set of beliefs that is necessary and essential for salvation. That is what must be clung to at all costs. We must struggle for that truth.
The first article of faith is in Hebrews 11:6—We must believe that God is. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. This is the first great truth. Other great truths: Who is God? What is God? What is God’s purpose? Who is man? What is man’s purpose? What must one do to inherit the Kingdom of God? The answers to these questions are available in God’s Word, which we hold dear and precious.
Our great future is to be part of God’s family along with God the Father and Jesus Christ. God is love, and love is His motivation in sharing Himself and His nature with mankind.
The ministry has a God-given responsibility to read the Bible and teach the brethren sound doctrine. We must not be thrown around by every wind of doctrine. We must cling to and be willing to give our lives for the trunk of the tree.
Mr. Webber took the stage at 4:03 p.m. to introduce Roy Holladay once again.
Laboring in the Word—Roy Holladay
Mr. Holladay said that it is the responsibility of Ministerial and Member Services to make sure that the theme and focus of the General Conference of Elders meeting doesn’t get forgotten moving forward. We have the responsibility of preaching the Word. Our preaching needs to be true and accurate—exactly what the Scripture says.
We also have a responsibility to provide good spiritual food to the Church and to the world. It should be a balanced biblical diet that nourishes their spiritual lives.
Mr. Holladay reintroduces Dr. Ward to finish up the discussion, since he is heading up the educational initiative.
Dr. Ward says that we have the challenge of helping the Church accomplish its vision and mission. There are four basic areas to the initiative. There will be a series of courses on biblical topics available for the ministry. This will act as a “refresher” program to establish sound biblical teachings. There will also be classes available about pastoral care.
He hopes we will all read the Bible afresh and read it for what it says and preach the pure truth of God’s Word.
Robin Webber took the floor once more to announce the ballot results.
Ballot results—Robin Webber
Approve 2015 Strategic Plan—Yes 229-14
Approve 2015 Operation Plan—Yes 220-22
Approve 2015-2016 Fiscal Budget—Yes 219-24
Approve Proposed Amended Bylaws—Yes 169-49
Approve Proposed Amended Bylaw Article 12.0: Amendments—Yes 180-31
Procedure for Amending Constitution, Bylaws and Rules of Association—Yes 184-31
Approve Amendment Constitution Section 1.2.4: General Conference of Elders—Yes 204-22
Approve Amendment Constitution Section 3.2: Functions Within the Church—Yes 199-24
Approve Amendment Constitution Section 3.2.2: The Local Congregation—Yes 197-29
Approve Amendment Constitution Section 4.10: Attendance at Meetings of the General Conference—Yes 207-15
Approve Procedure for Appealing Suspension or Expulsion From the General Conference of Elders—Yes 200-21
Council of Elders Seats
International representative—Anthony Wasilkoff
United States representatives—Bob Dick, Mark Mickelson, Scott Ashley
The meeting recessed for the day at 4:40 p.m.
The blog is being updated regularly at http://www.ucg.org/gce-2015-live-blog. Check towards the end of the Web page to see what has been added each hour.
May 9, 2014 [Taken from a live ucg.org blog on May 4 by Media and Communications Services employee, Milan Bizic]
We’re live blogging from the site of the 2014 meeting of the General Conference of Elders. This page http://www.ucg.org/blog/2014-meeting-general-conference-elders-creating-environment-growth/ will be updated throughout the day, so check back periodically for updates and news.
The 2014 meeting of the General Conference of Elders convened at 9:00 a.m. EDT. Chairman Robin Webber called the meeting to order. He called on Jerold Aust, pastor of the DeFuniak Springs, Florida, congregation, to lead the Conference in prayer.
Mr. Webber pointed out that this is the 20th annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders, an important milestone. The first order of business was to introduce new elders and wives to the ministry of the United Church of God.
He then called on Church secretary Gerald Seelig to conduct the balloting portion of the meeting. After the ballot was taken, chairman Robin Webber once again took the floor the address the Conference.
Introductory Address—Robin Webber, chairman
On the occasion of the 20th meeting of the GCE, he asks, “Where did the time go?” This meeting is a time for some reflection on the past and what the Church has been through over the last two decades. He asks how the Church should move forward into the future, spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God and the personal peace that news can bring people right now.
Mr. Webber introduces the overrarching theme of this year’s GCE meeting: Creating an Environment for Growth. It’s a theme that focuses on the personal spiritual growth that God expects of all Christians. The theme was gleaned from the messages of the epistles of Paul and Peter. These epistles consistently end with the words “grace and peace.” They are two great concepts that bookend the gospel message the Church has been commissioned to take to the world.
These words represent a blessing that God is offering people who come to Him and humble themselves to His will. He offers grace and peace to His people in a world that is so often devoid of both.
God promises to complete His perfect work in His people. Christians must have patience and endurance in allowing this perfecting process to take place in them.
Jesus Christ, the Rock upon which the Church is built, is our one constant. People come and go, but He will never change and will never leave us. We can always place our trust in Him.
He turns to Ephesians to focus the meeting in this direction: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians:4:1-6).
The apostle Paul provided the proper focus for Christians: that there is one Spirit that binds us together; one Lord, Jesus Christ, who leads us by His divine example of perfection; one faith; one baptism that washes away our sins; one Father, by whose power and might all things were created.
Creating an evironment for growth isn’t accomplished through techniques, technologies or programs. It’s created by giving our lives to our one Lord, our one Father, and Their one purpose for the Church. Growth begins internally through God’s Spirit guiding us to become more like Jesus Christ, who gave His life so that we might have ours.
The key to creating this environment is that we can truly say, “What [God] has done for me, I can share with others.”
After his address concluded, Mr. Webber introduced Church president Victor Kubik.
Keynote: Creating and Environment for Growth—Victor Kubik, president
Mr. Kubik points out that this year’s theme has four main concepts within it: creating, which is begun by Jesus Christ and God the Father and extends to the Church as we follow Their lead; environment, which needs to be based upon the culture of faith, grace and peace that is revealed in the Bible; spiritual, which means that everything is based on God’s Spirit, which He uses to lead us in following Him; and growth, which begins within each individual Christian, then extends to the congregation, then the Church as a whole, and then those not yet a part of the Body who God will work with in their time.
In times past those who were seeking the gospel message really had a limited choice in where to go. Currently there are so many avenues people can take to find the truth of the Bible. There is much clutter in the space of Bible knowledge. Much of it is good, but much of it is not. We need to give people their best chance of finding good biblical food.
People have questions. Questions about the basics of life. The Bible has the answers. God’s job for us is to help people find the right answers, based on what the Bible actually says about how God wants people to live.
We need to be able to have positive pride in our congregations. They need to be places we can be happy to have new people come to, with kind, gracious members who can each help others grow in grace and knowledge. We need to be a group of people who deeply desire to share with others what God has given to us.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you.” Do we live in that peace every day of our lives? Does it pervade everything we do? It’s a peace that comes from God’s Spirit within us and leading us to God’s perfect peace. Growth comes from peaceful environments.
Mr. Kubik says that Christians are identified by the love and peace they create within their environment (John:13:35).
The number one environement that each person has control of is their own lives. We can be the starting place for an environment in which others can grow by setting the right example in everything we do.
After Victor Kubik’s keynote address the conference recessed for a short break.
The meeting reconvened at 11 a.m. EDT. Macon and Columbus, Georgia, pastor Ken Martin led a presentation honoring recently deceased elders and wives for their years of faithful service to God and Jesus Christ.
Following the tribute, president Victor Kubik, chairman Robin Webber and Lisa Fenchel of Women’s Services presented a tribute and honor to Church employees who have served God and Jesus Christ for 50-plus years. He echoed the apostle Paul’s sentiment to God’s servants: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans:13:7). The service of these faithful men and women is much appreciated.
At 12:20 p.m. chairman Robin Webber called on Bill Robinson, elder in the Columbia, Maryland, congregation, to lead the Conference in prayer for the lunch recess.
At 1:34 p.m. chairman Robin Webber reconvened the meeting by calling on David Jones, associate pastor of several congregations in the Nebraska/South Dakota areas, to lead the Conference in prayer.
He then introduced Rick Shabi, UCG treasurer, to present his report on Church finances.
Treasurer’s Report—Rick Shabi
Mr. Shabi begins by quoting the Bible about King Jehosephat: “And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” He also quoted Psalm:127:1“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Mr. Shabi says that as long as we seek God and follow Him in Spirit and truth, He will build the Church and care for its needs.
The Church’s cash reserves are ahead of projection and the minimum figure legislated by our reserve policy. He doesn’t anticipate that we will take our reserves under minimum during the coming year.
He reiterates the mission statement of the Church: “The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples.” There are three main elements of the mission: preaching the gospel, making disciples and caring for those disciples. In the proposed budget, all three elements are well represented.
A big part of caring for disciples is the section of the budget that’s directed toward congregational care. We care for our congregations by providing trained pastors and resources for education and opportunities for our members. One educational opportunity we provide is Ambassador Bible Center, where members can take part in a focused biblical curriculum.
Other areas this section of the budget provides for are festival sites for God’s Feasts, assistance for members in need, and international subsidy, which helps us care for our members all over the world.
Another section of the budget we prioritize is preaching the gospel. This part of the budget provides funds for Beyond Today TV, the ucg.org website, advertising for all of our media efforts, producing and printing our library of booklets and study aids, and The Good News magazine.
Our Good News renewal rate has increased, which means that we are building an audience who rely on the biblical message we help provide.
After Mr. Shabi’s presentation, Roy Holladay, Ministerial and Member Services operation manager, took the floor for his update.
Ministerial and Member Services Report—Roy Holladay
Mr. Holladay begins by stating our congregational goal, which is, “A godly environment that promotes Christ-like service, spiritual growth, humility, love and unity.” As each local congregation builds in strength and character, the Church as a whole will grow in unity and become more like the Church that Jesus Christ wants us to be.
Our attendance dropped a bit during the harsh winter months we had, but thanks to the local Sabbath services webcast from the Cincinnati East
congregation, those people were often still able to be cared for on a weekly basis.
This past year, our Holy Day attendance was over 8,000 in both the latter festivals of 2013 and the first festivals of 2014.
Mr. Holladay emphasizes that we must provide and develop strong and effective leadership for the Church. Where do these leaders come from? They come from our congregations. They’re people who are already serving and leading by godly example in every church around the world. These individuals will be developed further to become even more effective and service-oriented. Our current pastors are acting as mentors for the next generation of leaders and servants, following Jesus Christ’s example of selfless service.
Mr. Holladay then turned the floor over to Peter Eddington, operation manager of Media and Communication Services.
Media and Communication Services Report—Peter Eddington
Mr. Eddington begins by discussing the power of a true multimedia approach to preaching the gospel. Beyond Today’s best programs for the 2013-2014 fiscal year were “The Four Horsemen of Revelation,” “Seven Prophetic Signs Before Jesus Returns,” “The Next World Superpower,” and “Is the Rapture Real?”
Many of our programs actually do better on repeat airings than they do upon their initial airing. Repeats on the ION Network are giving some of our older, WGN-aired programs new life.
Mr. Eddington says that TV is the dominant advertising channel. It makes up 38.1 percent of total media spending. The predictability of TV audience is one of the greatest strengths for using it as a premier media channel. Ads on TV are more influential than ads on other mediums.
Tablet Web traffic is becoming the new leader. More people will use a tablet to access digital content than a PC in the coming year. TV still blows it away in terms of traffic and access numbers. Nearly every American watches TV. By 2017 90 percent of all Internet traffic will be video.
We receive many encouraging letters from people who watch our TV show, read our magazines and use our website daily. God is calling people to His truth.
One reader said that “UCG is a church like none that I have ever seen before.” This type of positive response is very encouraging as we continue to work hard to preach the gospel to a world that so desperately needs God’s message and His way of life.
We have the highest number of coworkers on file since UCG began. We are very thankful for their engagement and support of what Jesus Christ is leading the Church in accomplishing. We have had 86 baptisms from January to April 2014.
We have a limited budget to do the most important work in the world–the work of God. But God provides and makes every dollar and every penny go as far as humanly possible. None of it would be accomplished without His guiding hand and unending support. He is the one who makes it possible to make a difference in people’s lives as the gospel message impacts them.
Chairman Robin Webber took the floor to recess the Conference for a short break at 3:03 p.m.
President Victor Kubik recovened the Conference at 3:33 p.m.
Importance of Local Websites—Victor Kubik and Tom Disher
Mr. Kubik points out that active, well maintained local websites are an important and powerful tool in helping those God is calling find His truth and become involved in His Church. He expresses thanks for those in the ministry who have stepped up and put forth a strong effort in developing their local congregational websites and making them a welcoming, inviting, helpful place for people to go.
Mr. Disher asks, “Why does our information need to be online?” In the modern world people looking for information go to the Internet first. He points out that 80 percent of people research a product online before buying. That principle holds true for people looking for biblical truth.
Since the new local websites were launched, 128,791 people looked for Sabbath service information on the local websites.
Mr. Kubik says that there is a ladder of involvement in helping people find biblical information. If there are missing rungs on the ladder, people will begin to lose their way. Part of our emphasis needs to be on fixing the “missing rungs” and help people have an easier route to biblical truth and involvement in the Church.
Chairman Robin Webber then called on secretary Gerald Seelig to announce the ballot results.
General Conference of Elders 2014 Ballot Results—Gerald Seelig, secretary
- Approve the Strategic Plan: Yes–220; No–16. The Strategic Plan is approved.
- Approve the Operation Plan: Yes–212; No–23. The Operation Plan is approved.
- Approve the Budget: Yes–204; No–30. The Budget is approved.
- Approve the Doctrinal Review Process: Yes–215; No–16. The proposal passes.
- Approve the proposed revisions to the Constitution: Yes–211; No–18. The proposal passes.
- Council of Elders Elections: Bill Bradford, Aaron Dean, Don Ward, Robin Webber.
At 4:20 p.m. the 2014 meeting of the General Conference of Elders recessed for the day following a prayer of dismissal by Ken Murray, elder from Australia.
Milan Bizic—Media and Communications Services, United Church of God, an International Association
May 6, 2013
The General Conference of Elders of the United Church of God was reconvened Monday morning, May 6, 2013, by Council of Elders chairman Robin Webber. He introduced Victor Kubik to present the first plenary session of the day titled “Actually Using Spiritual Gifts.”
The former Soviet-bloc churches Mr. Kubik would visit told him, “You could do so much more with the Holy Spirit. Your description of the Spirit is very passive.” That has stuck with him.
We know one aspect of what the Spirit does is edifying or building the Church.
Since there has been abuse of things like grace and Spiritual gifts we’ve sometimes been afraid of them. That’s a shame, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Mr. Kubik says we need to look to the beginning of Christianity, in the book of Acts. The early Christians acted in such a way and with such boldness through the Spirit that people stood up and took notice.
How did the Church in Acts explode so quickly and so powerfully? How is it that with all of our modern methods, the Internet, TV, advertising, hype, etc., we can’t act as powerfully as Christians did 2,000 years ago?
When the Church in Acts preached messages that were threatening to the local authorities, they did it with power. Even though they were in danger. They were asked by what authority they did these things. Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly gave an answer. He wasn’t afraid to stand up and say that it was by the name of Jesus Christ, who they had crucified, that these powerful things were done. It was the Holy Spirit that gave him this boldness and power.
Mr. Kubik expressed the thought, using the book of Acts, that the time of greatest power for the Church is yet ahead of us. It’s just out of our reach. We’re almost there.
The Conference was recessed for a break at 9:55 a.m.
It resumed at 10:30 for the start of the breakout session workshops.
After the workshops, Council chairman Robin Webber called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m.
He summarized what was accomplished at the 2013 General Conference of Elders. He said that the attendees received so much in the way of instruction and inspiration from God’s Word. But any information is pointless unless it is put to good use. He encouraged everyone to go home inspired and ready to actually act on what we covered. God showed us the way to utilize and develop spiritual gifts. We need to follow His lead.
Mr. Webber expressed that if we look to men, we will be disappointed. If we always look to Jesus Christ as the Head of our Church, we cannot possibly be disappointed or let down. We will always be able to overcome with Him at our backs.
Jesus Christ took our lives which were at one time not worth anything, and made them full of worth to Him and to God the Father.
God will fill our lives with His peace that comes only from His Spirit.
Mr. Webber concluded: “We cannot be a people that are fear-based, but faith-based.”
The 2013 General Conference of Elders came to a close with a hymn led by Steve Myers and a closing prayer offered by Bart Bornhorst.
Milan Bizic—Media and Communications Services
May 5, 2013
Afternoon Report and Ballot Results
The United Church of God May 5, 2013, general conference afternoon session was brought back into session by chairman Robin Webber. He introduced the international reports.
Derrick Pringle spoke representing the region of southern Africa. His region includes the countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The region serves approximately 350 people. Around 900 people in the region receive The Good News magazine.
Johnnie Lambert represents the area of Eastern Europe, the Baltic region, and Scandinavia. He said that this region presents different types of challenges and opportunities than the other international regions.
Instead of serving congregations of dozens of people, we serve scattered individuals and families. Their faithfulness despite their isolation keeps the Church functioning in this area.
Bill Eddington then gave an upbeat and encouraging report about the work of the United Church of God in Australia and South East Asia.
Mario Seiglie presented an update on Latin America. There are seven ministers and wives who help to serve this large area. Some of the congregations are quite large, with many families and children.
Carmelo Anastasi represents the Italian churches. He says that socially Italy faces several challenges, such as large rates of immigration and high unemployment.
Taxes are very high, and the economy has been hurt by the economic system of the European Union.
Despite these challenges, due to God opening avenues using the Internet to preach the gospel, the Italian work can be more effective at first contact with the public through the Internet.
After the regional reports, operation manager of Ministerial and Member Services (MMS), Victor Kubik, took the floor to report on MMS activities. He began by mentioning that the name “Ministerial and Member Services” was inspired by Bill Eddington, who pointed out that the department serves the entire membership, not just the ministry.
Around the world as of April 26, we have 349 ordained elders. There are 272 in the U.S., and 77 in the rest of the world. We have 81 pastors in the U.S., of which 64 are salaried full time. Twelve are part time. Five are totally volunteer pastors.
One main goal for MMS this past year is to increase the effectiveness of our pastoral care in the congregations. We are finishing our first year of classes in the pastoral training online program. It’s been greatly successful in improving the effectiveness of our local pastoral care and training ministers more fully.
The most recently held regional conference was in the Northwest. There are three additional budgeted for this next year.
Peter Eddington then took the stage to give his operation manager report on the work of Media and Communications Services.
He began by quoting an article from the Minneapolis StarTribune stating that more and more people are watching religious programming on TV.
We have a long-standing and proven approach of utilizing all three main media: TV, print and Internet. We have a two-headed goal of preaching the gospel and preparing a people.
The dedicated Beyond Today Roku channel has been very successful so far. TV is actually growing, mainly because of Internet streaming on devices like the Roku. There will be 145 million people who watch TV this way in 2013. In 2014 these people will surpass 50% of the U.S. Internet user population.
Beyond Today responses are at an all-time high in 2013.
We find that 47 percent of those who call in as a result of BT are repeat viewers. We’re building a stable TV audience.
The Beyond Today YouTube station is also very successful, with 2.4 million views. Why do we bother with YouTube? It is the most recognizable and used online video hosting service in the world. The vast majority of U.S. Internet users (60 percent) visited at least once per work in March of 2013.
4.6 million unique visitors at UCG.org for the calendar year. We are running advertising dedicated to mobile devices. In 2012 desktop PC search volume declined for the first time. The mobile share of the market reached early 20 percent.
We’re currently 13 or 14 of Christian denominational websites in the U.S. online. It’s a very big deal to get into the top 10.
Following Mr. Eddington’s presentation, the chairman announced that the conference would recess for a 20-minute break.
The meeting was reconvened at 4:00 p.m. Darris McNeely presented a keynote titled “Creating an Environment for Growth.”
Darris McNeely points out that when the congregation in Antioch was in its early stages, it was something very different for the Church. In Jerusalem, which was the center of the Church at that time, a congregation in a gentile city like Antioch was new and different. They weren’t sure what was going on. They decided to send someone to find out what was going on.
They had a choice in who to send, and this choice defined what would happen at that time. They sent Barnabus. He was the right man for the job. Barnabus was an encourager. He didn’t go to Antioch to “put things straight” or to “investigate.” He went to help and to encourage the Christians there to continue to follow Christ.
Barnabus had vision. He could see repentance and conversion in people. He saw the grace of God working in the people of Antioch. He saw an environment and an opportunity for growth. The people in Antioch had a gift for evangelism. They had true riches in God’s ways, and they wanted to share it with the world.
Perhaps Paul had the people of Antioch in mind when he wrote about spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and other places. He experienced the grace and gifts of God working in the people there. No doubt it had an impact on him.
We need to be a church that expects growth. Not just in new converts, but also in spiritual growth among the members we already have.
One thing we must do to see this growth is something Barnabus did in Antioch. He listened. He listened to what was happening and how God was working there. We have to be willing to listen to one another and know one another deeply. We have to remove our own egos and agendas from the equation and truly submit to one another.
Next is having an encouraging attitude. Barnabus was, above all, an encourager. No one knew what to do with Paul after his past. Most people probably wanted nothing to do with him. Barnabus gave him a chance. Barnabus encouraged him to act with strength in the Spirit and serve God powerfully.
Thirdly we must have trust. We have to trust each other. In doing so we trust the Spirit of God within each other. Mr. McNeely mentions that he was looking into what the founding ideas of the United Church of God were 18 years ago. He said that as he revisited some of our material from that time, it was remarkable—we were talking about all of these things. They’re built in to our founding principles.
Chairman Robin Webber then introduced the next group of speakers.
Roy Holladay, Steve Nutzman, and Mark Welch presented on the United Youth Camps program.
Roy Holladay began the presentation by mentioning that many people work and serve to keep the camp program going. The camp directors do the majority of the groundwork for the camps. It’s their enthusiasm and heart that makes it all run well.
He turned the presentation over to Steve Nutzman to describe the success and benefits of the camp program.
We’re in the 19th year of UYC. There were over 300 staff last summer, and just over 500 campers. God has greatly blessed the efforts of the camp program.
Camp is all about relationships. All of the activities are used to build relationships and help the campers grow. They are a means to an end. A lot of the teaching actually takes place during and after activities. There are camp-wide and daily themes that we use to teach campers about God’s way.
“The mission of United Youth Camps is to support parents and the Church in teaching youth to develop their full godly potential (their calling into the Body of Jesus Christ and the work of the Church) while learning that God’s spiritual laws are practical ways of living.”
Mark Welch then gave an overview of our UCG pre-teen camps—which we often don’t concentrate on much.
Robin Webber then announced the ballot results for the 2013 conference:
- Strategic Plan approved 210 to 20.
- Operation Plan approved 211 to 19.
- Budget approved 210 to 16.
- Roc Corbett affirmed to maintain his seat on the Council of Elders 207 to 14.
- Amendment to Constitution 3.1 adopted 218 to 15.
- The Council of Elders Nomination Process ratified 191 to 34.
- Resolution for the GCE to submit an agenda item ratified 201 to 14.
- Resolution for the GCE to submit an agenda item without a meeting ratified 196 to 17.
- The following four men were elected by the General Conference of Elders to serve three-year terms on the Council of Elders:
- John Elliott
- Rainer Salomaa
- Mario Seiglie
- Rex Sexton
Milan Bizic and Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
May 5, 2013
The General Conference of Elders of the United Church of God reconvened at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 5, to the confirmation of the minutes of last year’s GCE. After the ballot was taken for general items and four Council of Elders positions, Scott Ashley presented the first keynote of the day titled “Edifying the Body Through Spiritual Gifts.”
Mr. Ashley focused on the reasons God gives spiritual gifts to His Church. God’s good gifts are to be used to build up and strengthen the Body of Christ, God’s Church (1 Corinthians 14:12). They are never to be used for personal gain, but always to God’s glory.
He encouraged Conference attendees to study through Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28; and Ephesians 4:11. After the first keynote, the Conference was recessed for a break to reconvene at 10:40 a.m.
Following the break, Council chairman Robin Webber once again took the floor. He expressed that the questions “why are we here?” and “where are we headed as a Church?” are important in defining what we’re accomplishing.
He expressed that the attendees of the Conference are called by God to be faithful servants both to God and His people, the Church.
He said that we must remember that the human leaders of the Church are temporary. They come and go. Jesus Christ as our Head and High Priest is eternal and unchanging.
He said that our biblical focus and grounding principles allow us to do some good every day.
Church treasurer Aaron Dean followed with his report on the finances of the Church. He pointed out that we went through some difficult times in terms of finances, but God’s mercy and guidance saw us through it. We are now presenting a balanced budget and back on the way to growth.
After two presentations, one honoring elders and wives for their longtime service, and the other honoring those recently deceased elders and wives, the meeting recessed for lunch at 12:15 p.m.
Milan Bizic—Media and Communications Services
May 4, 2013
The annual General Conference of Elders meeting of the United Church of God began with a Sabbath service on May 4, 2013. This year’s focus is on developing spiritual gifts and providing an environment for spiritual growth in the Church.
Elders and their families from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, to worship and fellowship on God’s Sabbath day. The service included split sermons by Bob Berendt, pastor of UCG congregations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, and Gary Antion, an elder in Cincinnati and instructor at Ambassador Bible Center.
Mr. Berendt’s sermon focused on the need for the Church to have a strong vision of God’s coming Kingdom. His Kingdom will last forever, and it will span an eternity with no pain, suffering, grief or sin. Mr. Antion spoke about the fact that spiritual gifts flow from God’s Holy Spirit working in the life of a Christian. He stressed that any gift given through God’s Spirit must be used to serve God and other people, and never to serve oneself.
After a several hour recess for fellowship, the conference reconvened Saturday night. The chairman of UCG’s Council of Elders, Robin Webber, introduced the conference and spoke about the theme of spiritual gifts. He then led the entire conference in a question-and-answer session, which covered topics such as UCG’s gospel proclamation efforts, the presidential selection process, and how the Church facilitates parents in raising godly children.
The session ended shortly after 10 p.m. and will reconvene at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 5.
Milan Bizic—Media and Communications Services
May 9, 2012
The General Conference of Elders (GCE) of the United Church of God met in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 5 through 7 for their annual meeting.
Amongst other business, the GCE chose two new members for their Council of Elders: Carmelo Anastasi and Mark Mickelson. They will each serve a three-year term. Two incumbents, Scott Ashley and Melvin Rhodes, were returned for another three year term each, and two councillors decided not to run for office again: Bill Eddington and Roy Holladay.
All items on the ballot were overwhelmingly approved by the General Conference this year. This includes the annual Strategic Plan, Operation Plan and Budget, plus a number of amendments to our governing documents. In addition, one of the approved amendments prescribes that Council of Elders’ three-year terms begin this week, so the two new members are taking office almost immediately.
More details will be written up for you in the June issue of United News.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
May 16, 2011
GCE Report: Monday
Melvin Rhodes, GCE chairman, began the Monday, May 16, General Conference of Elders meeting with additional information about ballot results from May 15. This was followed by two plenary sessions before the ministry and wives chose from various workshops and breakouts.
The first presentation was by Victor Kubik, operation manager for Ministerial and Member Services. He titled it: “Biblical Eldership: The Foundation of Church Leadership.”
Mr. Kubik explained that the apostle Peter exhorts elders to be shepherds to the flock (1 Peter 5:2). If we want to understand the work of an elder, we must understand the biblical imagery of shepherding. As keepers of sheep, biblical elders are to 1) protect, 2) feed, 3) lead, and 4) help meet the flock’s many practical needs.
Using these pastoral categories, he considered the examples, exhortations and teachings of the Bible about serving as Christ serves—elders who are shepherds.
Next, Aaron Booth and Tom Disher, Internet editors at the home office, gave a very visual presentation about the launch of UCG’s new website. It was titled: “Launch of UCG’s New Web and How You Can Promote the Gospel.”
It was an active, exciting presentation highlighting the launch of the new United Church of God website at www.ucg.org. The site was explained and shown on stage. It is a vital tool in our effort to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God online.
Our new website is a totally new experience for our users. The site is organized by topic and subject, and will be customizable by the viewer depending on his or her preferences. Also, it has social networking options and features.
How can the ministry and church membership get involved in this personal aspect of preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom? We saw firsthand United’s latest, technology-driven arm of doing the Work.
Workshops and Breakout Sessions
After a short break, workshops were held throughout the rest of the day, followed by an important wrap up by the chairman. Here is a summary of the day’s workshops and breakout sessions.
- “Serving as Christ Serves—A Perspective for Women” with LeeAnn Luker
This was an important workshop for our ladies with an in-depth discussion. How do we incorporate the theme of this year’s conference as we support our husbands in their ministry and service for the brethren?
- “How to Officiate at Church Ceremonies” by Gary Antion
This workshop took the time to address the practical application of our various Church ceremonies. It provided instruction to those interested, and to those who desired the additional training, on how to give baptismal counseling, how to perform a funeral, how to perform a wedding, and how to anoint the sick.
- “Biblical Eldership: Hands-on, Practical Application” by Victor Kubik
As keepers of Christ’s sheep, input was given in this workshop on how we can apply the principles of shepherding to 1) protect, 2) feed, 3) lead, and 4) help meet the flock’s many practical needs.
- “Opportunities and Challenges for Non-career and Bi-vocational Elders” presented by Greg Thomas and Roc Corbett
Attendees heard practical advice and gave their feedback on how to best manage the dual roles of ministry and career in their responsibilities as a non-salaried elder or a part-time UCG pastor.
- “Using the Web and Social Networking to Promote the Gospel” by Aaron Booth and Tom Disher
Hear is what was covered: How can Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools be used to advance the gospel message? How can the membership get involved in this personal aspect of preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom? How can our own website be leveraged by the brethren to do this? This was an important workshop with practical help for pastors to take back to their congregations.
- “Your Personal Computer, Microsoft Office 2010 and the UCG Ministerial Web Site” by Richard Kennebeck and Paul Wasilkoff
The I.T. staff at the home office showed how to leverage the most from your personal computer and use it as a tool to serve your pastoral needs and the members of your congregation. They learned about the new Microsoft Office 2010. They were shown how to use the online ministerial tools in the ministerial section of our website to make the most of their day. They received tips on how to be more productive while on the Internet.
- “Generational Dynamics” by Craig Clark and Jon Garnant
Here is a summary of what was covered. We are all, to some extent, products of the times in which we live. As there are differences in the way we think, act and understand things based on our gender, ethnicity, and heritage, there are also differences based on what generation we belong to. For the past 60 years there has been a tremendous focus on the Baby Boomers. Beginning in 2011 the first “Boomers” have turned 65 and, once again, this has received a lot of focus. However, there are currently five distinct generations attending services with us each week. Attendees at this seminar received important, practical advice on working with other generations that God is calling.
The Path Forward
After the breakout sessions, the ministry and their wives reconvened in the main ballroom to hear from Dennis Luker, UCGIA president, for an important reminder. He asked everyone to turn to Romans 16 and thanked all of the women present for being valuable servants of Jesus Christ for many years. The ladies received a standing ovation from the men.
Melvin Rhodes, UCGIA chairman, then concluded with his thoughts on, “What We Accomplished at the GCE, 2011.” He said that we as a Church have an opportunity to show the love of God in all that we do. We always have much to learn in this regard. May we move forward in unity, with a spirit of Christ-like service. May we serve as Christ serves.
Finally, to close this year’s general conference, Dan Salcedo, an elder from Southern California, led everyone in a closing hymn: “Thank You Lord.” The closing prayer was offered to God the Father by long-time pastor, Vernon Hargrove.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
May 16, 2011
Melvin Rhodes, GCE chairman, began the Monday, May 16, General Conference of Elders meeting with additional information about ballot results from May 15. Here is what he explained:
“ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RELATIVE TO THE RESULTS OF THE BALLOT FOR MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS CONDUCTED ON MAY 15, 2011
“The passage of amendments to Bylaws 9.1 and 9.2 by the General Conference on Sunday, May 15, 2011, created some unusual circumstances that the Council of Elders addressed at a meeting held at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 16, 2011.
“Passage of the amendments resulted in the Council membership of Aaron Dean and Victor Kubik terminating at midnight on Sunday, May 15, 2011. As members of the management team, they were no longer eligible to serve beyond that time and their positions were declared vacant.
“John Elliott will fill the vacancy created by the termination of Victor Kubik, with his term of office expiring on June 30, 2013. This is in accord with the provisions of Bylaw 8.4.3 which states: “Vacancies on the Council shall be filled from the list of runners-up in the final ballot at the preceding meeting of the General Conference, based on the number of ballots the nominee received.”
“John Elliott was the first runner-up.
“In the ballot conducted on May 15, 2011, Donald Ward was elected to fill the seat vacated by Aaron Dean effective July 1, 2011. However, the amendment to Articles 9.1 and 9.2 created a vacancy in that position for the period from May 16 until Donald Ward assumes the position. In accordance with the provisions of Bylaw 8.4.3 as stated above, Roc Corbett will fill the vacancy left by Aaron Dean with his term of office ending on June 30, 2011.
“Roc Corbett was next runner-up.
“A similar situation to that of Aaron Dean occurred with the position of the International Representative on the Council of Elders. At the ballot for this position conducted on May 15, 2011, the General Conference of Elders elected William (Bill) Bradford (Senior) for a term of office commencing on July 1, 2011 and ending on June 30, 2014.
“The position Bill Bradford was elected to fill was already vacant as no eligible runner-up was available when the vacancy occurred in December 2010, and the Council of Elders had decided to leave the position vacant until the next Council election. When the result of the 2011 election was declared, an eligible runner-up became available to fill this vacancy.
“When the eligible runner-up declined the position, and after reviewing the options available to it under Bylaw 8.4.3, as amended by the General Conference on May 15, 2011, the Council of Elders appointed Bill Bradford to fill the vacancy until his elected term of office commences on July 1, 2011. This action is in accord with Bylaw 8.4.3 as amended.”
So, based on what was announced yesterday, and the above update, the Council of Elders as of today is comprised of:
- Gary Antion
- Scott Ashley
- Bob Berendt
- Bill Bradford
- Roc Corbett
- Bill Eddington
- John Elliott
- Roy Holladay
- Darris McNeely
- Melvin Rhodes (chairman)
- Mario Seiglie
- Robin Webber
On July 1, 2011, Donald Ward will take Roc Corbett’s seat.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services
May 15, 2011
Sunday AM Session
The 2011 general conference of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association (UCGIA), began at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, May 15. As in recent years, this year’s conference is being held at the Holiday Inn Eastgate in Cincinnati, Ohio.
After the opening prayer by Steve Nutzman, General conference chairman, Melvin Rhodes, began by seeking approval of the 2010 meeting minutes. The minutes were approved as written.
Next, Mr. Rhodes introduced the new elders and wives ordained or credentialed in the past 12 months. This included 15 couples, and their biographies and photographs were projected onto the large video screen as each elder was introduced. About half of them were in attendance today.
Mr. Rhodes then asked the ministry to fill out their ballots for selection of new and/or returning members to the Council of Elders. This was followed by filling in their ballots, to either approve or not approve, the submitted Strategic Plan, Operation Plan, Budget and two amendments to our governing documents. Results will be available later today.
The keynote speech was then delivered by Mario Seiglie, pastor in Garden Grove, California, who is also a member of the Council of Elders. “Serving as Christ Serves” is the theme of this year’s conference, and Mr. Seiglie delivered a 45-minute address examining the role of being a servant of God and a servant to God’s people. The ministry is not a lofty position or a lofty title. We are servants, even the most lowly of servants.
After a short break, the conference continued with reports and presentations by the UCGIA president, chairman and treasurer:
- Chairman Rhodes expounded upon the need to have genuine love in our service to God’s people: “Am I serving the people, or am I serving myself?”
- Dennis Luker, president, expressed his thankfulness for the spirit of teamwork between the ministry, home office administration and Council of Elders: “How can we ensure that this unity and spirit of consensus continues?” He then looked at several biblical principles that help us ensure that division and conflict are avoided.
- Aaron Dean, UCGIA treasurer, then provided a financial report and update to the ministry. He spoke less about numbers and statistics, but more about faith in God in creating a budget that will help fulfill our commission to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God and care for His brethren.
The morning session concluded with a heartfelt presentation by Gary Antion to honor our deceased elders and wives. Since this time last year, we have five servants of God who are now awaiting their resurrection to eternal life.
Donald Ward then led a prayer before the lunch break to close the morning portion of this year’s conference.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services