[Ugh! Why do Blogger templates mess up the formatting so much?]
I had pondered previously about why David Buchanan’s letter got such a wide circulation and yet I had not seen Erik Jones’ entire letter. Well, I now have a copy, and it is republished below in its entirety. Afterwards, to be fair, I have also posted a link to Dr Paul Kieffer’s blog where he addresses one, but only one, point in the letter. I am unaware of any other posted rebuttals.
While I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything in the letter, it does echo many of the concerns I and others have raised of late. Even on points where I might ordinarily agree with the COE, I have trouble in many cases understanding why and how they were done, and this letter illuminates some of that as well.
So, without further ado, Erik Jones’ letter to the United Church of God Council of Elders [reformatted somewhat]:
To the Council of Elders of the United Church of God:
I hope this letter finds all of you well. I am a member of the United Church of God in Akron, Ohio and have been in United since its beginning in 1995. I love this Church and have always loyally supported it. But recent events in our organization have led to intense concern about the overall direction and behavior of our current Council.
I have been very concerned with the direction of the UCG for about 2 years and have considered writing the Council on a number of occasions, but decided to refrain and watch instead of directly expressing my thoughts to the Council. Unfortunately, current events in the Church have convinced me the time is now to express some of these concerns to the Council, hopefully in a spirit of love and concern for the Church of God and not in a spirit of anger or hostility. Though this letter contains specific concerns about the actions of some individual personalities, I pray that it does not come across in the spirit of accusation. It is important to note that these concerns are shared by many others in the Church, not just myself. I am also aware that other individuals and groups of concerned people have written the Council only to be ignored—and I will not be surprised or offended if that is the approach taken to this letter. I understand I am not a prominent name or personality within our organization—I am merely a member that tries to be active and serve up here in northeast Ohio. I do not write in the spirit of “I could do a better job,” because I recognize and acknowledge my own personal shortcomings and mistakes.
The current Council of Elders is composed of talented men who have made positive and honorable contributions to the work of the Church over the years—in writing, editing, and presenting the truth to the world. I openly recognize those contributions. Unfortunately, actions over the past three years by this Council have not been honorable.
I believe this is supported by the fruits of this Council over the past three years. Currently there is no denying the Church is in crisis. A random sampling of the brethren and ministry reveal that our brethren are concerned, worried, saddened, and in shock because of the recent actions of the Council to ask for President Kilough’s resignation and the subsequent resignations of Mr. Franks and Mr. Salyer. I have heard and read talk of members holding back tithes, temporarily or permanently attending the Living Church of God, and members just downright angered or saddened by what has happened. I know that a large percentage of the ministry and the Regional Pastors are extremely concerned and do not support the actions of this Council. And I must remind you all that this is not a phenomenon of the last week, these concerns have been there by many for the past 2 to 3 years. Even if the men that form the majority of this Council believe their actions are right and just, there is no denying the extreme dissatisfaction and concern that is felt across the spectrum of the UCG—from regional pastors, to pastors, local elders, and even among the general membership. Are all these people crazy and paranoid? Are the concerns expressed through letters and other avenues all illegitimate and just people trying to create division? Has the Council deeply considered the fruits of their actions and behaviors the past three years?
At this point I want to emphasize my extreme concern and dissatisfaction with the Council’s recent actions towards Messrs. Kilough, Franks, and Salyer. I believe the Council’s treatment of these men has been dishonorable and shameful. I believe the reason for the open outrage amongst the Church is because these men are solid and well-respected leaders. The Chairman keeps repeating the line that there were differences and the Council could not work with the administration. Has the Council considered that the problem may lie with the Council and not with the administration? The administration led United with a cautious and steady hand with a vision towards growth since 2005. It has not been abusive, frivolous, or unstable. When the Council has proposed ideas such as deficit spending and reducing reserves, the administration has constantly been the voice of reason and fiscal responsibility. The former administration has continually advocated emphasis on long-term strategic planning, while the Council has seemingly gone the opposite direction towards short-term planning primarily in media (http://coe.ucg.org/council-report/council-elders-meeting-milford-oh-2009-12-09). I believe the wisdom and leadership of the former administration has been a blessing to the Church over the past five years, and I am very saddened that the Council majority ended Mr. Kilough’s service in this manner and is now portraying him negatively to the Church. With the way the Council has treated Mr. Kilough the past 2 to 3 years, it is hard not to wonder if some were not looking for any excuse they could find to remove him. Whatever the case may be, I believe the Council would have been wise to allow Mr. Kilough to serve out his term with honor instead of put him and the Church through this.
I have felt confident with the leadership of the administration of the last five years. But that confidence has not been there with this Council. By keeping careful track of the Council reports and actions over the past three years, I have grown to be more and more concerned with the Council—not the administration. I believe it is the Council that has shown itself untrustworthy and questionable over the past three years—not the administration.
Please let me express five of my major concerns with this current Council of Elders:
1. The political nature of its members and actions. Though the Council is made up of many talented and hardworking men, my concern is that the current composition of the Council is the result of a group of men who united together in opposition to the Texas relocation (and the administration) and capitalized on unrest to garner support among the General Conference of Elders. It is common knowledge that there was an alternate forum set up where a group of elders conversed to express dissent against the former administration. This led to the resignation of one Council member, but it is believed that other members of the current Council participated in this. Was this godly or political? This and other factors have given the appearance of bloc voting and politicking to attain the office. Is that godly or political?
Council member Darris McNeely gave a sermon on May 31, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana entitled “GCE Recent Events.” I listened to that sermon in 2009 and was very troubled by some of the views expressed in that sermon. Part of my lack of confidence in this Council is based on some of the perspectives given in this sermon. The mp3 of this sermon can be found here: http://indianapolis.ucg.org/sermons?page=1
In this sermon, Mr. McNeely:
• Admits that before he was elected to the Council, he took part in criticism of the old Council and the administration. He also insinuates in that sermon that the Indianapolis congregation knew where he stood on the Texas issue (opposed to it). (Direct quote: “I can’t criticize the Council anymore, because I’m part of the Council”).
These admissions were troubling and concerning. Mr. Dave Myers has been my pastor for 14 years, and I have never heard him criticize UCG leadership (or admit to criticizing UCG leadership) from the lectern. That is why I find Mr. McNeely’s statements so concerning in that sermon.
• States that he had a unique vision for the church (shouldn’t we all agree and have the same vision?) and that he and his two friends (Messrs. Webber and Kieffer) wrote more in their Council write-up than anyone else and insinuates that is the reason for their election.
Here is a direct quote:
“The, the other issue on this, and this is more from a personal perspective brethren, just to talk with you for a minute about that. Obviously three new Council members were elected to the Council of Elders and I think this is probably the first time that that has happened in our very short period of twelve years existence that we’ve had this big of turnover on the Council of Elders. Um, and I happen to be one of those new, new guys. We call ourselves the three newbies, ahh, on the Council. And from a personal perspective I was not expecting it. I, um, I had written up a Council biography of myself and I wrote five pages and I said, “this is going to be the one chance I get to put my vision out there before all of the ministers and I’m going to take whatever room I, they, they said you could write whatever you want, it won’t be edited. Um, so I wrote five pages. My fellow Paul Kieffer and Robin Webber we, we wrote the most of anybody—and we got elected. Ahh. Laughs.”
I see a troubling perspective here. Essentially, the more you write and better you articulate a particular side (or platform) can get you elected as a Council member in the United Church of God. This seems to reveal four things:
- The election of Council members has become an issue of opposing sides or platforms.
- The side that can articulate and convince most effectively their platform can win the votes necessary to secure power.
- The other side did not take it upon themselves to write out a detailed and long vision in their Council bios (aka: campaign).
- The election of Council members is less about the stability, reputation, and wisdom of the elders (accompanied by prayer and fasting) and more who can best articulate their particular side or vision.
The reason this is so concerning to me is because this is apparently the view of one of the most influential men on the current Council.
• Mr. McNeely says that the leadership of the Church (prior to the 2008 election) contained a “climate of fear” and that Mr. McNeely would promote a “climate of trust and openness … a climate of a church that loves one another.” Is it appropriate for a Church leader to express to his congregation that Church leadership had engendered a “climate of fear?” I also believe many elders and members would disagree with his opinion that we had a “climate of fear” in United before Mr. McNeely’s election to the Council.
I have also been concerned by the political language of Mr. Robin Webber, such as in this quote from the August 11, 2009 COE meeting:
“Robin Webber said that we need a stimulus package in the Church. We talk and we talk, and we plan and we plan, then go our ways. If we put the energy of this Church into preaching the gospel, then the relationships in the Church will increase. We need intensity and passion—to wake up the Church and show that we are serious about doing a work. He commented that the membership does not believe we are committed to what we say we are committed to. The membership needs to know that we are committed—the brethren want a change.” (http://coe.ucg.org/council-report/council-elders-meeting-milford-oh-2009-08-11, emphasis mine).
Again, these kinds of comments are why I (and many others) lack confidence in the balance and stability of this Council. This Council is less about solid and reasoned leadership based on history, facts, and wisdom—and more on political ideas and making decisions based on emotions and pleasing constituencies. This has never been my understanding for the basis of decisions in the Church of God. To use a political term such as “stimulus plan” and apply it to the work of the Church is concerning. To make decisions based on the brethren wanting “a change” (and evidence was not given to back up the statement) is not a solid, reasoned and wise basis for making decisions within the Church. The Council is given the responsibility of leading the Church based on the lead of the Spirit of God and making wise decisions that are reasoned, solid and for the good of the whole Church. The Council should not be making reactionary decisions based on Council member’s unsupported perceptions of what the will of the people is and change for the sake of change.
In the same meeting, Mr. Melvin Rhoades comments: “Melvin Rhodes said that some members in his area, although devoted to the United Church of God, follow the media efforts of other Church of God groups and sometimes donate to help fund them, because they do not believe United is doing enough of a work. It would help the membership to see a greater work being done—especially on television.” (Ibid.)
Again, is the Council of Elders responsible for pleasing constituencies and making decisions on unsupported perceptions of what members want?
Mr. Ashley is quoted as saying: “The GCE wants change and wants things done differently. The vehicles for proclaiming the gospel have not changed. The idea is to spend what was lost—what was not spent last year, much less the last two years.” (Ibid, emphasis mine).
In the February 23, 2010 meeting Mr. Webber is quoted as saying: “He would like to see an extraordinary move—a “game-changer.”
Again, do these comments represent balance, wisdom, and seeking what is God’s will and the best for the whole Church? Or do they represent a more politically driven approach based on perceptions, emotions, pleasing constituencies, and making decisions based on unsupported statements?
The phraseology being used by the Council comes straight out of the current political culture of the United States:
• “we got elected”
• “Stimulus Plan”
• “the brethren want a change”
• “the GCE wants change”
• “game-changer” (“Game Change” was the title of a recent book about the 2008 Presidential election. http://www.amazon.com/Game-Change-Clintons-McCain-Lifetime/dp/0061733636).
• More time and research of the Council Reports could produce more of these statements, such as use of the terms “town hall meetings” and “freedom of speech.”
2. The current Council is demanding submission and unity when many of its members refused to show the same submission and unity towards the former leadership. My second point is closely related to the first point. Mr. McNeely clearly expressed disagreement with the former leadership of the Church. He clearly says he ran for the Council with a different vision than the former leadership had. He reveals that his members knew where he stood on the Texas issue. He insinuates the former leadership engendered a “climate of fear.” It is well known that Mr. Paul Kieffer set up an alternate forum and that disagreements with the former administration were openly discussed there. Unfortunately, the other Council members who participated in that forum are not known. I also know others on the Council have been critical of the former administration.
In the Council’s December 28, 2009 letter, the Council strongly asked the Church and eldership to cease from questioning and disagreeing with the current Council and get on board with the current Council’s decisions to promote unity within the Church. Perhaps if the current composition of the Council had applied that to themselves before they were in power, we would not be in the situation we are today. My concern is that this Council does not have the moral authority to demand submission and unity with its decisions and actions. Leadership should lead by example, not just by words and submission should not be demanded only when it is convenient for those in power.
3. This Council has taken an adversarial approach towards the former administration.
The Council reports reveal a very adversarial approach taken by the Council toward the administration for the past 3 years. This should have been expected since certain members of this Council were open about their disagreements with the administration before and during their election to the Council. Again, Mr. McNeely’s use of the term “culture of fear” symbolizes the perspective some of our Council members had as they entered the Council of Elders.
I do not believe I need to meticulously quote Council reports to prove that this Council has been adversarial and hostile to the administration for the last 3 years. The new Council majority has:
• Forced the administration to go back and present “premises” for immersion education over a long period of time, delaying action, and then ultimately rejecting the solid premises presented all together.
• Recreating old committees that were believed to be no longer necessary by past Council’s in order to weaken the administration’s initiatives and ideas and give the Council the ability to directly control and micromanage the administration’s implementation of preaching the gospel. It has been concerning for many to see the work of the Council under Mr. Robert Dick overturned and reversed.
• Changing policies to remove authority and responsibility from the administration because the new Council disagreed with one decision made by the administration under that policy (the Outside Speaker Policy).
• Rejected solid proposals the administration has presented to the Council and then openly criticizing the administration’s handling of those proposals (the original Media Mix plan).
• Openly criticizing and accusing the administration during an open session of the Council meetings.
• Ultimately, demanding the resignation of the administration for proposing a resolution within the guidelines of the bylaws and making untrue charges that the proposed resolution was harmful to the United Church of God.
Many who have observed this behavior have been deeply troubled and disturbed by this adversarial approach taken by the majority of this Council towards the former administration. Clyde Kilough, Jim Franks, and Larry Salyer are solid men who are known for their stability, doctrinal integrity, and showed in their leadership a dedication to balanced and wise stewardship of the United Church of God. I believe they have done their best to humbly work with the Council and implement the Council’s initiatives. Again, I believe that the problem was on the part of the Council—not the administration.
4. Use of “spin” when presenting information to the Church.
One of most disconcerting elements of the last three years has been the way information and explanations of Council actions have been presented to the Church. This has been noticed by many and openly brought to the Council by different people. I feel it is so serious that I must repeat it in this letter.
According to the Real Life Dictionary of American Politics, “spin” is defined as: “public relations twist of words or facts to turn a possibly negative incident into a positive one, or at least to give the impression of a minimal problem” (1994, p. 260). A “spin doctor” is defined as: “a person whose role or job is to manipulate words to turn a potentially bad situation into a positive one or minimize bad news (ibid.).” Spin seems to be one step on the road to “bearing false witness.”
Many brethren and elders have discerned the use of “spin” in the Council correspondence to the membership by Chairman Holladay in three instances:
• The removal of Mr. John Foster as Council Reporter on July 16, 2009.
Mr. Holladay’s announcement of the change read: “As part of a comprehensive communication strategy, the Council desired to make this change at this time. It is the Council’s intent to look closely at the process and method by which Council reports are generated and presented to the General Conference of Elders. The Council is evaluating a number of recommendations to improve how it communicates its work and duties to the ministry and members.” (http://coe.ucg.org/council-report/council-elders-teleconference-meeting-2009-07-16). The announcement went on to imply that removing Mr. Foster was also a financial decision for the Council to be “financially prudent.”
As other correspondence to the Council has openly pointed out, the above reasons were not the real reason Mr. Foster was removed from his job. Many individuals have taken it upon themselves to contact Mr. Foster and have learned that specific disagreements over the content of the Council reports precipitated the above Council action.
Even without contacting Mr. Foster, the above announcement should be questioned because there has been no discernable improvement or difference in how Council reports have been constructed and communicated to the ministry and membership under the authorship of Mr. Seelig as opposed to the authorship of Mr. Foster. In fact, I have noticed that Council reports have tended to contain less direct quotes and have been slower to be published under Mr. Seelig. Others have pointed out that recent Council reports have not included certain statements and answers to accusations by men who do not represent the majority of this Council.
• The announcement to the membership of the resignations of Mr. Kilough and Mr. Thompson on July 31, 2009.
Though Chairman Holladay’s letter is non-specific and elusive as to the reason for these resignations, he frames his letter in a way that would lead the casual observer to believe that these men resigned from the Council of Elders due to the “demanding” nature of Council work and time constraints (http://coe.ucg.org/updates/letter-chairman-july-31-2009). Mr. Holladay writes: “Knowing firsthand of the workload and commitment required to serve on the Council, we respect both their past contributions and their current decisions to step away and focus on other duties within the Church.”
Again, the definition of spin: “public relations twist of words or facts to turn a possibly negative incident into a positive one, or at least to give the impression of a minimal problem.”
All who are informed about the current situation in the UCG know that this announcement was giving “the impression of a minimal problem.” Many among the eldership and membership know that the “personal reasons” these men resigned were of a much more serious nature and had nothing to do with workload.
• The announcement of the resignations of the administration on April 12, 2010.
Chairman Holliday frames the resignations of Messrs. Kilough, Franks, and Salyer as a normal event within our organizational routine of changing responsibilities among the leadership of the Church. Other than Mr. Hulme (who served before terms were adopted), both Mr. McCullough and Mr. Holladay were allowed to fulfill their entire 3 year term (an extra year being added to Mr. McCullough’s). Many believe these resignations were much more significant and serious than routine administrative change. The perception is that solid men who have faithfully served United well in these offices were pushed out in a power grab by the Council of Elders. I have discerned for awhile (as well as others) that this Council’s goal was to gain total control of the organization to lead it into a fundamentally different direction than we have been going for the past few years (the Council hinted at the premature removal of the administration in their December letter to the elders). That is demonstrated in other portions of this letter.
Regarding the main reason given for the demanding of the resignations, Mr. Holladay wrote to the membership that: “Matters finally came to a head with the introduction of a proposed resolution that was outside of the Church’s established means for proposing changes in the Church’s governing documents and structure.”
Is this being honest with the membership? Did the officers propose any specific changes to the governing documents or structure?
Article 7.9.2 of the Bylaws of the United Church of God state that: “The secretary must include a particular item on the agenda, upon written request presented by any four (4) members of the Council, any officer of the Corporation, or by twenty-five percent (25%) of the General Conference as constituted for the time such meeting is called, provided such written request is delivered before notice is given.” (http://coe.ucg.org/content/bylaws, emphasis mine).
The proposed resolution was submitted by three officers of the corporation and according to this bylaw the Secretary was obligated to include it in the “agenda.” The proposed resolution was submitted according to the bylaws of the United Church of God. Furthermore, having read the proposed resolution, it does not meet Mr. Holladay description of “proposing changes in the Church’s governing documents and structure.” Mr. Holladay seems to frame the resolution as an amendment in order to lead the membership to believe that Mr. Kilough (and the two other sponsors) were seeking to make a change to our governing documents. The resolution proposes no specific changes to the governing documents or structure of UCG. It merely was a proposal to create a task force to evaluate our governing documents and whether or not changes should be proposed in accordance with Article 12 of the bylaws. That task force would have had no authority to enact changes, but only authority to propose recommendations that could only be enacted through the process outlined in our governing documents.
According to Secretary David Johnson, Mr. Holladay was aware of the resolution on March 15, 2010 and did not request a “traditional review of the full Council and our legal counsel” as paragraph 10 of Mr. Holladay’s April 13, 2010 letter implies was necessary.
Mr. Holladay further pointed out in his April 13 letter that: “The highest authority in our physical organization is the General Conference of Elders, which is all of the nearly 500 elders of the United Church of God who choose to participate.” (Paragraph 8).
The proposed resolution would have either been rejected or accepted by the General Conference of Elders—the highest human authority in the United Church of God.
5. Alternative organizational ideas among the Council.
One of the most concerning aspects of this Council is the ideas held among some of its individual members. It is even more concerning when there are open connections between groups of Council members that give the impression that a team of friends with very similar ideas are now controlling the Church. One of the most concerning of these underlying ideas is:
• Promotion of ideas to reorganize the ministry and organization into a different structure.
It is widely known that one idea that some members of this Council have advocate is the idea of the Church employing less full-time pastors and moving toward a system that gives more responsibility to the local (non-salaried) eldership. One of the arguments I heard against the proposal to build a training center was that training full-time pastors was not necessary because we could shift pastoral responsibilities to local elders. Former Council member Paul Kieffer even argued in his 2008 COE Questionnaire that using the local elders to mentor young leaders could be an alternative to a “training center.” (source: http://www.ucog.org/PDF/coe2008.pdf).
With all due respect to our faithful local elders in United, these ideas run contrary to the historical pattern of success in the modern era of the Church of God. Some of the strongest arguments against these ideas have been expressed to me by two local elders in the area I attend. The ministry of Herbert Armstrong in the Radio/Worldwide Church of God showed that success came as a result from a dual approach of putting a strong focus on preaching the gospel through media combined with the establishment of higher learning facilities that trained a skilled full-time ministry. Last year I had the honor of writing a history of the Akron congregation of the Church of God (which was placed in the context of the history the overall work and Church). My research into our modern Church history showed that growth occurred once this dual emphasis was established. When Mr. Armstrong had a less centralized organization with an untrained ministry, the Churches tended to disintegrate and divide. This is one of the reasons I was confident in the leadership of Mr. Kilough and Mr. Franks, because they understood these historical facts and were leading the United Church of God to continue these Critical Success Factors.
But some on this Council do not seem to believe this. One of the most concerning comments from the most recent meetings of the Council was this comment made by Mr. Robin Webber:
“Robin Webber said that mission and money are important, but we also need to look at structure. Sometimes we look at history and try to run on the past. He believes we are top heavy in structure. He would like to see an extraordinary move—a “game-changer.” He stated that the ministry needs to show some sacrifice and there needs to be a realignment of overhead. Jason Lovelady said that you cannot realign overhead quickly, but it must be done in a measured way.
President Kilough asked what is top heavy—manpower? Robin Webber responded that, while not impacting the brethren around the world, there needs to be realignment of managerial levels and within the ministry. Our people are going through the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression and maybe the ministry may have to take on more of a sacrifice themselves—ministerial benefits and premiums should be considered. He said that he believes the membership wants to see more of a sacrifice from the ministry.” (http://coe.ucg.org/council-report/council-elders-meeting-milford-oh-2010-02-23, emphasis mine).
This quoted comment is disconcerting on many levels. First of all, Mr. Webber seems to think history should not be a major factor when dealing with the organization of the Church. I believe this is dangerous, because if we don’t base our decisions and organization on historical precedents of success, what do we base it on? Personal philosophies? Current organizational trends within the Church of God community and outside of it? Second, how does he believe we are “top heavy in structure?” What is a “game-changer?” “Realignment of overhead?” With all due respect, these are radical terms and even political terms (As noted earlier, “Game Changer” is the title of a recent book on the 2008 Presidential election).
I personally emailed Mr. Webber after this statement was published. His response confirmed that he did believe (and has believed for awhile) that a restructuring was necessary; but he did not go into specifics into what exactly that restructuring would mean or look like.
Again, Council members have expressed the belief of shrinking the full time ministry and relying more on the local eldership. That is a radical change. I have also heard from more than one source that certain members of the Council believe that the Regional Pastor structure should be abolished or democratized. The Council also seems to believe in a less significant, weak Home Office that is micromanaged by the Council.
Other things trouble me about the philosophies of some on this Council:
• There is also a troubling fact that a significant group of the membership of the Council that are pastors in the United States continue to operate local boards (or councils) in their congregations and facilitate local collection of tithes. I know that our Rules of Association permit this, but it is telling that such a high percentage of Council members that are US pastors operate boards when such a lower percentage of the rest of the ministry do not. Do some Council members support a more congregational approach to church governance?
• I have also been told that Mr. Kubik is advocating “a building program” to provide “new church buildings” for local congregations (2 each year) in his 2010 COE Questionnaire. This would be another significant shift in direction and lead towards a more congregational approach and a policy that was being adopted by the Worldwide Church of God just prior to the 1995 split. This policy was also openly advocated by Mr. Melvin Rhodes in a November 20, 1995 article for In Transition. Mr. Rhodes writes: “It is a good time, too, to rethink our policy on church halls…Local, permanent halls are a priority. They are not the top priority right now…But soon, very soon, we should all be able to start setting money aside each month until we can afford our own facilities.” (p. 6). If Mr. Rhodes still holds this opinion, both opinions run contrary to our current policy on Local Church Buildings (which states they are only to be sought if there is proven need.). My fear is not local buildings, but an approach towards a more congregational approach to our organization where a major part of the work is considered to be a local congregation’s active involvement in a community through the presence of a building. In the above article by Mr. Rhodes he looks to the Seventh Day Adventist as a possible model for the Church of God.
• Certain Council members’ historical participation and endorsement of The Journal publication. The Journal is a publication that seems to slant towards the “independent” perspective within the Church of God and gives editorial voice to a wide range of independent groups and heretical ideas.
These facts lead me to be concerned with the philosophies and perspectives of this Council.
I want to conclude this letter by thanking the Council for hearing and considering the concerns I, and many others, hold about the conduct and actions of the current majority of the Council of Elders of the United Church of God. I want to repeat what I wrote in the beginning of this letter by reinforcing that I respect the gifts and contributions that many of our Council members have made to our Church in their other areas of responsibilities—especially in producing written literature to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world. We all agree on the vital importance of doing the Work and fulfilling the Great Commission given in Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.
However, I believe that the fruits of the Council over the past three years has had a negative impact on the United Church of God. Please consider what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:18: “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” I have wondered if some of the members of this Council are filling roles in the body where they simply do not fit. Verse 28 distinguishes the gift and role of “teachers” and “administrations” (‘kubernesis’ – pilotage, directorships, governments). My concern is that some of the current members of the Council of Elders may not have the gift of “administrations.”
This letter was written with prayer, fasting, and counsel from faithful elders and members of the Church. I do not take this lightly since I do believe in respecting and honoring authority within the Church. I hope none have taken personal offense at my specific concerns. I have no personal ill will or animosity towards any on the Council of Elders. My concerns are with documented actions and ideas of the Council majority—not with the Council as men and Christians.
I just plead, as a loyal member of the United Church of God, that you all will consider what I, and others, have expressed to you and reconsider your present course of action. Please do not do any more harm to this Church. Please restore honor, dignity, and truth to our organization and seek God (not each other or constituencies) for the correct direction for the future of the United Church of God. It is not too late to change course or resign for the good of the Church.
Sincerely with deep concern,
Erik D. Jones
[email address removed]
And Dr Kieffer’s clarification on what he actually said: My answer to Erik Jones
I read this letter when it first came out. I think it was on one of the facebook sites, the one that turned into a private site dedicated to ripping the present administration.
Erik's letter surprised me. Although I don't know him personally I have seen things on forums that he has written and as he says he has been a strong supporter of ucg. Although he gave voice to a number of concerns, a few that I would agree with and some I would not, and tried to say that it be taken in the right spirit, the tone of the letter is quite accusatory. I can see why it would not be well received.
I also read this letter when it first came out.
John, I appreciate your fair-mindedness on this crisis.
Concerning the points Erik makes. Most are easily debunked and can be proven to be false accusations. One of the reasons this situation has gone on as long as it has, is that the anti-council/administration side is simply not interested in listening to the responses. That sounds harsh, but is the truth. Mario Seigle's response to Leon Walker's recent letter is just one of many examples of this.
I don't doubt anyone's sincerety. But when any of us (me too) take sides it also takes away our objectivity.
Perhaps someone (I doubt I will) can go through, point by point and show where Erik's points are simply inacurrate.
As usual, lack of ALL, or even most of, the facts leads to wrong conclusions.
Anonymous wrote: "…site dedicated to ripping the present administration…"
That's sort of the crux of what really annoys me these days. It shouldn't be about supporting or ripping an organization, an administration or even the people involved. It should be focused on Jesus and what He is doing.
"the tone of the letter is quite accusatory"
Perhaps. However, these days the sensitivity of those in charge is so high that even mild statements from people who would normally be supported are taken as "rebellious".
Jim Butler wrote: "Perhaps someone (I doubt I will) can go through, point by point and show where Erik's points are simply inacurrate."
Well, my time is about to become very constrained for a short while at least dealing with a family matter. However, if anyone has already written one up, I'd be glad to look it over and consider posting it.
I perused the letter. Erik Jones makes a number of interesting points. Some of the points I would have to look into a little more to accept but overall I thought it was well documented and reasonable. It didn't come across as accusatory to me. Other than the resignation comment at the end, I thought the letter was very respectful. He doesn't really attack anyone personally that I can see. Council members are public figures in UCG and what they say and write should be subject to scrutiny. I heard Clyde Kilough's Texas move scrutinized a lot more harshly than this. I didn't have a strong opinion one way or another on the Texas move but I did hear some pretty unfair things said about Clyde Kilough that imputed motives that I didn't think could be proven or were accurate.
I found this paragraph to be interesting though:
"I have also heard from more than one source that certain members of the Council believe that the Regional Pastor structure should be abolished or democratized. The Council also seems to believe in a less significant, weak Home Office that is micromanaged by the Council."
I'm not sure when this was written but I assume it was sometime earlier this year. His statement about the Regional Pastor structure turned out to be true. The reasons given by Vic Kubik for getting rid of the RP structure seemed a bit questionable at the time and now seeing this makes it even more questionable. If I would have read this earlier this year I would have cast this statement off as baseless speculation. Reading it now after it has been shown to be true makes it more interesting.
He seems partly right and wrong in the last sentence. The Home Office seems to have gotten more powerful then it was under Clyde Kilough. The current administration has actually made the home office more powerful by consolidating the middle management structure (RP's) down to three people. 2 of which work at the Home Office and one of those being the directer of Ministerial Services himself. I thought that was very strange when I heard it that the go between between the department and the pastors (for 1/3 of the ministry) is the department head itself. I've never seen this before and don't think this structure will be very effective, unless its the leaderships goals to make the pastors much more self sufficient and independent than they used to be. Gary Antion's fulltime teaching and overseeing role over ABC will also making his management of the entire western region ineffective IMHO.
I would agree with the last sentence in that the Home Office does seem more micromanaged by the Council. Right now there seems to be very little line dividing the administration from the council.
Overall, this was an interesting read and gave me some things to think about trying to make sense of all thats going on in UCG.Thanks for posting it John.
Some of the problems here are a failure to understand the relationship between the president and the council. I hear charges of the council micromanaging. Some also think the president is some sort of independent part of UCG government. The bottom line is that the president reports to and is responsible to the council. He is there to facilitate their directives being implemented not to have his own agenda. He serves at the pleasure of the council. Dennis Luker has taken some heat for saying that he was there to implement the council's will and will carry out whatever they tell him. Well, that's his job. A few times in the past there seemed to be times when the president didn't look at it that way. As I read the council reports the last couple years it was clear there were some areas the administration was dragging their feet carrying out the council's wishes, one area being in media. If Dennis Luker or any president finds they fundamentally disagree with the council then the honorable thing to do is to step down.
There are problems out there, the sabbath paper for instance and perhaps some unwise actions in handling the LA situation, but quite honestly the model is working right now the way it was intended with the president carrying out the council's will.
Anonymous wrote: "There are problems out there, the sabbath paper for instance and perhaps some unwise actions in handling the LA situation, but quite honestly the model is working right now the way it was intended with the president carrying out the council's will."
The problem, of course, is that questioning in one area leads to questioning in others. After a while, they get tangled up with each other.
For example, if it weren't for the "Sabbath paper", I doubt as many would have become upset as have been. Since it is November, it is probably safe to say that was the worst mistake the current administration has made all year.
Because of that, people began to ask more questions about L.A., about reducing the number of regional pastors, about the fasting paper, etc., etc., etc.
The president may indeed be the administrator charged with carrying out the councils' "will" but he is also an officer of the corporation and must if his conscience moves him to take any concerns about the direction of the church to the council and if need be the General Conference. The president is also an elder first and foremost.
The current administration gives the appearance on too many fronts to be the vehicle to execute judgment and render verdict on behalf of several members of the council not the entire council.
The are not (at least on the surface) displaying the duty of reconcilator. If the administration was strictly just carrying out the will of the entire council then it would have sought full approval to release non-doctrinally approved papers and would have consulted the full council when it arbitrarily decided to disassembled the RP strucure.