The evening of May 5 started off the weekend of the 2018 meeting of the General Conference of Elders, with international meetings in the morning and afternoon. Later in the evening a reception was held to welcome all elders.
The Sabbath started off with a Bible study by Rex Sexton titled “The Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament.” Following the Bible study were three tours of the home office. Many were interested in seeing the progress of the new Beyond Today recording studio. In the afternoon Sabbath services started at 2 p.m., with split sermons given by president Victor Kubik first and chairman Donald Ward second.
Mr. Kubik’s sermon focused on the theme of the weekend, “Iron That Sharpens Iron,” while Dr. Ward’s sermon was titled “Pillars and Anchors of Life.” He posed the question we must ask ourselves, “Am I a pillar?” We must remember we are personally accountable to Jesus Christ.
After services there was plenty of time to fellowship and then have a group dinner with more fellowship. During dinner there were welcome comments by Dr. Ward, with a ceremony recognizing ministers and employees who have worked for mile-marker years, such as 10, 25, 50 years, etc. as well as those retiring. Later in the evening a question-and-answer session was held by the Council of Elders and administration.
Annual Meeting Held on Sunday
On Sunday morning Dr. Ward called the main meeting to order at 9 a.m. Last year’s minutes were approved with balloting for new Council members, and other business was led by Gerald Seelig, GCE secretary. Then the meeting went to the president’s address by Victor Kubik. He once again focused on the theme of the GCE: “Iron That Sharpens Iron.” Mr. Kubik touched on the Strategic Plan, Operation Plan and Budget document for this upcoming year. In reference to the the lower Beyond Today magazine numbers, he focused on that we need to sow the seed and then hopefully reap the harvest.
Another important topic is the member-to-pastor ratio. There has been a lot of work going into pastoral development for those who are new in the ministry. We pray that God’s will be done and that the direction we are headed in the Church is the direction He desires for us. Mr. Kubik has put ministerial training as the top of his goals because he believes this is the direction God is leading us as a Church.
Dr. Donald Ward, chairman, then gave his address. He addressed Christian orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the main concern of theologians, scholars and clergy. The problem here is that those who profess orthodoxy always return to trinitarian theology and the idea that today is the only day of salvation. These are the main aspects of traditional Christian theology. We know that God is not calling everyone to salvation at this time. The Church is maintaining this hope of the resurrection.
Dr. Ward presented the questions: Is the Holy Spirit teaching you? What does that question mean? He said that Jesus tried to help his disciples to think first in spiritual terms, not physical. The Holy Spirit reveals truths about God and what God wants us to know as we accomplish His will. One important way on how the Spirit leads us is through reading and studying of the Scripture.
Rick Shabi shared his report next. He went through the yearly audit. Another point mentioned was the fund for the video recording studio. It stands at $870,000, with projected construction and outfitting costs at $950,000. As a church we’re in a good financial position overall as we are heavy on assets and short on liabilities. We must keep in mind that we are in a vibrant but uncertain economy. Things can change rapidly. We also have an aging ministry and membership which can affect the future revenue streams. We also face contant rising expenses. Mr. Shabi then thanked the Financial Services staff before providing salary ranges and other technical aspects of Financial Services information.
Next report was from Peter Eddington, Media and Communication Services Operation Manager. He talked about the new studio and how it is nearing completion and will be done this summer. He also talked about what the new studio could be used for, such as dailies, four-minute short films, the 20-30 minute main program and how they are experimenting with 50-minute religious documentaries. The main focus is also on streaming video platforms such as YouTube. Mr. Eddington touched on the conclusion of the Beyond Today Live campaign in Southern California.
Next, Greg Thomas, pastor of Cleveland, Ohio, would take the stage to lead the GCE in a tribute to the past year’s deceased elders and wives.
After lunch there were International reports presented by Marcos Rosales of the Netherlands, David Dobson, senior pastor for the Philippines, Carmelo Anastasi, pastor and administrator of the Church in Italy, Roy Demont, senior pastor in South Africa, and Doug Gray of Australia.
Monday started off with a Women’s session that was preceded by a breakfast for the women to spend some time together. The roundtable discussions were moderated by Bev Kubik and Lisa Fenchel. There were two presenters, Dr. Kayleen Schreiber and Pan Kuver who focused on the topic “Connecting Across the Generations.”
Dr. Schreiber discussed how technology has crept into our lives and we have to be able to use it properly. We need to use discernment when it comes to our online presence on social media and how we can seek out a different viewpoint from our own. Pam Kuver discussed how we as humans have a need and desire to connect with others. We need to have a balance with connecting with others in both a digital and non-digital way.
Three different seminars were presented throughout the day. One was presented by Gary Petty titled “Dissatisfied With the Church.” He listed three negative elements that will cause or be hindered by dissatisfaction. He went into details on each and gave details on what to do if you become dissatisfied. Lastly he gave some positive dissatisfactions and how to use this in a good way to edify the Church.
Another seminar was given by Andy Lee titled “Living Spiritual Lives in a Material World.” He touched on topics of economic inequality supported by the parable of the talents in Matthew. He also talked about God-given talents that go beyond funds and how ministers can help encourage members to assess and utilize these talents. He also talked about encouraging others with money and helping them to prosper. His last point focused in on the use of gleaning and the godly use of money.
The last seminar was a roundtable discussion moderated by Brian Shaw. Topics were based around the theme “Iron That Sharpens Iron.” He talked about how iron is never metallic in its raw form and that it needs to be changed into the metal through a specific process. The questions in the first half were focused on this process of change. Change is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be painful. The second half of the session focused on the various techniques and methods of smelting and sharpening iron. The discussion at tables was focused on various ways elders can help sharpen each other and their congregations with a focus on growing and building character through spiritual guidance.
After the seminars the GCE ended with a hymn and a prayer. Overall, the conference was edifying and helped build each of these members in the Church through sharpening each other for the benefits of others.
Council of Elders seats:
- Anthony Wasilkoff, international
- Scott Ashley
- Robert Dick
- Len Martin
- Approve the 2018-2019 Strategic Plan — Approved, 238 for; 12 against
- Approve the 2018-2019 Operation Plan— Approved, 231 for; 19 against
- Approve the 2018-2019 Budget — Approved, 228 for; 23 against
- Approve adding Rule 5 Asset Protection to the Rules of Association — Approved, 224 for; 19 against
(This amendment assures that building and land assets are held in the name of UCG IA or an equivalent international associated body.)
- Approve Procedure for Amending the Fundamental Beliefs — Approved, 192 for; 42 against
- Approve amendment to Bylaw 8.4.1 Number of Council Members — Approved, 226 for; 14 against
(This amendment assures that, when a Council member is elected they retain their domestic or international status through the duration of their term, regardless of relocation or adjustment of duties.)