The weekend started off with registration, international meetings and mentoring and ministerial training on Friday, May 5. That evening a welcome reception was held in the large Holiday Inn atrium for those attending.
On the Sabbath a Bible study titled “Practical Application of Judgment, Mercy, Faith” was given by Gary Petty, and a large number of elders and wives attended. Sabbath services followed at 2 p.m. with split sermons given by president Victor Kubik and chairman Donald Ward.
A group dinner was held in the evening, and almost all of the ministers and wives were there. Dr. Ward gave welcome comments, and after the main course, he and Mr. Kubik coordinated a ministerial and employee recognition ceremony. A question-and-answer session with the Council of Elders and administration was held later that night. Most years this event lasts for about an hour and a half. But this particular year it was a mere 30 minutes long. Questions revolved around plans for Ministerial and Member Services (MMS), results of the Beyond Today Live events, why some elders don’t vote, and whether women should write for United Church of God publications.
Sunday Business Meeting
On Sunday morning Dr. Ward called the main meeting to order at about 9 a.m. Last year’s minutes were approved, and balloting for new Council members, and other business was led by Gerald Seelig, GCE secretary. Dr. Ward then introduced Victor Kubik for his address to the General Conference of Elders.
Mr. Kubik showed his appreciation for the spirit of fellowship amongst the elders. He touched on the reasoning for the recent Church-wide fast and pointed to the spiritual purpose of fasting: “to humble ourselves before God and draw closer to Him and to make His purpose our purpose.” Mr. Kubik emphasized that what is important is that we develop strong relationships among God’s people and that we are ready to pass on knowledge and the work of the Church to the younger generation when the time comes. Mr. Kubik also touched on the questions about the structure and function of Ministerial and Member Services.
After Mr. Kubik address, Dr. Ward gave his address, which was focused on the importance of leadership—that we all must continually strengthen our relationship with God in order to make sure we are following Him and His way. He also pointed to the need for godly men and women who will stand in the gap and lead by example.
Treasurer Rick Shabi was then introduced to report for Financial Services. He explained that the Church’s finances are in very good shape this year.
Next to speak was Peter Eddington, Media and Communications Services operation manager. Mr. Eddington spoke on how the gospel needs to go to the entire world just as Paul spoke of the gospel in his ministry. He also gave an update on the proposed new video recording studio. The goal is to break ground around July of this year. He also touched on the new booklet Angels: God’s Messengers and Spirit Army and gave an update on the Beyond Today Live events. There were 17 events total with 579 new people who came to see and hear our BT presenters in a live setting.
The last person to speak before lunch was Greg Thomas, pastor in Cleveland, Ohio, who led the GCE in honoring the elders and wives who died this past year. After lunch, Aaron Dean, international advisor, gave his international report and concluded this portion of the GCE presentations.
After Mr. Dean’s report, Chris Rowland took the stage to lead the roundtable sessions. This portion was a huge success because it gave many of the elders and wives time to interact with each other and help work through situations they either have encountered or might encounter during their ministry. Discussions during the roundtable session were thorough and deep. There were many lessons and stories where elders were able to glean from each other.
The three topics during the roundtable discussions followed the theme of this year’s conference: judgment, mercy and faith. During the discussion on judgment the topics included: What kind of responsibility does a pastor or elder have in the area of judgement when a couple asks a minister to marry them? How can we keep ourselves and members from judging others before getting the whole story? Can you have forgiveness without reconciliation? How do we interact with those in the church who are struggling with same-sex attraction?
When talking about mercy the talk revolved around whether there can be mercy without judgment coming first. Also, how can we have mercy on those who have made decisions in their life they regret? For example: a woman whose husband is not in the Church; she found out she is pregnant and had an abortion. She is emotionally damaged. How long should a suspended member stay away from church, and when should they be allowed back? Many more scenarios were covered.
The last topic was faith. Topics revolved around how faith and works work together. Questions focused on: How to put faith into action; how to help the members in the congregation mature in their faith; allowing a safe place for members to share their doubts and struggles with faith; how God shows His faithfulness to us.
After the roundtable discussions, Gerald Seelig announced the ballot results.
In the evening there was another group dinner and fellowship time where elders were able to strengthen friendships and relationships with fellow elders and wives. Later in the evening there was a seminar by Scott Ashley titled “Remez: Key to Understanding Several Gospel Puzzles.” Remez is a Hebrew word that means hint, clue, a look back at something. Mr. Ashley showed several New Testament scriptures that have a keyword or clue connected to an Old Testament scripture and how the audience at the time would have understood the references.
Monday Seminars and Discussion
Monday started off with a ministerial wives meet-and-greet followed by a ministerial wives workshop roundtable discussion coordinated by Lisa Fenchel and Beverly Kubik. The main scripture that was focused on was Colossians 3:12-14, with a special emphasis on forbearing (bearing with) and forgiveness.
The first part of the discussion focused specifically on forbearing—with discussions on what prevents us from bearing with others. How can we overcome these obstacles? And how do our experiences affect our approach to people we come in contact with and benefit them? There was also much discussion on how to apply this concept by focusing on principles to “bear with” others and what are we investing when we do bear with others.
The second part focused on forgiveness. The discussion was on how we can move past anger so our spiritual life is not hindered. How can we help foster a spirit of forgiveness among God’s people? Also, how does unforgiveness hurt those with whom we are closest? What steps can we take to move towards reconciliation and restoration?
After the women’s session (and the brief break the men had), everyone was brought back together for the rest of the day. There were three separate study seminars presented throughout the day. One of the seminars was “Addressing the Influence of Multiculturalism in Our Congregations” presented by Charles Melear. It was on how to interact and talk to members who may have hard-hitting questions such as “Should I go to my homosexual sister’s wedding?”
Another seminar was titled “Discipleship and Opportunities for the Church” by Darris McNeely. It focused on how ministers have to point people to Christ through the love that is in their hearts and that an environment for growth within each congregation needs to be created.
The last seminar was “Aging and Succession: Pastoral Leadership” by Bill Bradford. Mr. Bradford took the positive approach to focus the group on the fact that the ministry is not necessarily aging. He pointed to the fact that God is involved, and the truth will be passed down to the next generation. The truth is not going away.
At the end of the day, everyone reconvened in the main hall where final ballots were confirmed by secretary Gerald Seelig, and Dr. Ward gave his concluding comments. Steve Myers led the assembled ministers and wives in a traditional final hymn, and David Mörker delivered the closing prayer.
Read the full report here: https://www.ucg.org/members/news/annual-meeting-of-the-general-conference-of-elders-2017
Approve the 2017/2018 Strategic Plan:
Yes 246; No 16— Passed
Approve the 2017/2018 Operation Plan:
Yes 240; No 21— Passed
Approve the 2017/2018 Budget:
Yes 240; No 21— Passed
Approve the proposed amendment to Constitution Section 5.1.1(1)—amendment to the governing documents:
Yes 143; No 18— Failed
Approve the Proposed Revisions to the Rules of Association:
Yes 227; No 23— Passed
Council of Elders Seats
Rainer Salomaa (new, international)
Aaron Dean (reinstated)
Don Ward (reinstated)
Dan Dowd (new)