At the quarterly Council of Elders meetings May 21 and 22, the Council crafted and unanimously approved the following announcement about the results of the GCE ballot May 18:
"We have just completed a profitable General Conference of Elders meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our new Strategic Plan, the Operation Plan and the budget for the next fiscal year were approved by large margins. We greatly appreciate your prayers for the overall success of this annual event.
"This announcement is to update you regarding the proposed home office relocation to Texas. As you know, a resolution to rescind last year's ballot approving the move was placed on this year's agenda. This resolution passed by 187 in favor and 175 opposed. It is clear that the two ballots on the relocation of the home office demonstrate that we are not united on this issue.
"So how do we proceed now?
"All of us who serve on the Council of Elders and in administration want you to know that we remain dedicated to our primary purposes of preaching the gospel and preparing a people. We must not allow our differences over the relocation issue to undermine our commitment to do the work that God has called us to do. All of us want the facilities which will best serve our needs.
"The initial reason for proposing the move was to address the needs of the Church, both short term and long term. The administration has the task of bringing to the Council recommendations on how we should now proceed. We will keep you informed of decisions and progress on this important aspect of God's work.
"Thank you for your continued prayers and faithful support."
Resolution to Move Forward
This announcement, read in UCG congregations May 24, was the culmination of a discussion of "where do we go from here?" after the GCE reversal of the decision on relocation to Texas. The Council also asked President Clyde Kilough to present a resolution as to how he would proceed from here.
The following resolution was approved May 22 by 11 in favor (Richard Thompson was not present due to teaching an Ambassador Bible Center class).
"Whereas, in light of the passage of the resolution to rescind the 2007 relocation decision, the United Church of God must yet address the strategic issues and questions that led to the 2007 proposal,
"Therefore, it is hereby resolved that the President bring recommendations for determining how to proceed from this point in addressing these issues and questions and,
"It is further resolved that this report will be presented to the Council of Elders at the August 2008 meeting for Council review and approval."
Masterful Meetings Workshop
Following the annual General Conference of Elders meetings, the Council members and the U.S. regional pastors met on May 20 for an all-day workshop on meeting facilitation with Michael Wilkinson of Leadership Strategies.
During the Council meetings May 21 and 22, Paul Kieffer, Darris McNeely and Robin Webber were in attendance, having been selected by the GCE to serve on the Council beginning July 1, 2008.
The Council meeting following the GCE meeting traditionally has an abbreviated report from the president, since much of the material is presented to the GCE, but Mr. Kilough did provide the Council with some additional information.
ABC starts in September with a nine-month program, which may mean a drop in attendance this year due to the transition to a September start for the next academic term. Clint Porter is preparing a video about ABC that will be sent to all the congregations. It is hoped that the video will stir more people to consider attending ABC.
There will be general Bible studies and 11 to 13 different seminars in seven of the U.S. Feast sites this year. The preteens will also receive newly revised Festival brochures.
The proposed ministerial training program has now been put together, and it was presented for Council review. It includes both short- and long-term plans for training.
To this date, the "Breaking Free" Web site has had 26,000 page views. There have been more than 4,600 first-time visitors, and the average time a person spends on that site is about 15 minutes. The most popular articles accessed are about losing weight and stories of those who are overcoming alcoholism.
Mr. Kilough offered an interesting example of the power of the Internet in preaching the gospel. Aaron Booth, Internet managing editor, found software that allows the audio of a video clip to be transcribed into English, which then scrolls along with the video. The English version of the transcription can then be translated into scores of other languages (see "Subtitles Add Possibilities," page 1). This illustrates one possibility among many of how the Internet can be used by international areas to further the gospel.
Treasurer Jason Lovelady then presented two recommendations to the Council. One, we should expand our annual budget reporting to the Council and administration to include monthly budget reports. Second, once we are able to implement monthly budgeting, we should then be able to project what our available cash balances and reserves will be each month in the year ahead. The Council was in favor of both these ideas, and so a more formal presentation of this proposal will be put forth in August.
Mr. Kilough also discussed the recently held meetings relating to Human Resources. One of the strategies in the Strategic Plan was to develop a comprehensive human resource program. In that regard, the firm of McNeely and McNeely has been engaged to help the administration in this endeavor. Dee Kilough, who has much experience in these matters, has been hired by McNeely and McNeely to assist in this process.
Mr. Kilough mentioned as well that June 30 is the target date for the administration to come up with action plans that will be added to the strategies.
Mr. Dick took time in the meeting to bring the new Council members up to date on the next step in the strategic planning process. The focus will be on monitoring now that the plan is ratified. The Council left the strategic planning retreats knowing that monitoring was critical if the plan was to be a working tool. As a result it contracted with the facilitator to return after three and six months to oversee the quarterly review process.
Executive Summary of Survey
In order that the GCE have more information as to the findings that led to the briefing book for the strategic planning exercises, Mr. Dick proposed to send the GCE the executive summary of the survey results. The Council approved this proposal by consent without a resolution.
Review of Papers From the Doctrine Committee
Larry Salyer led the Council in a review of a study paper titled "Reconciliation and Matthew 18." This paper had been developed over the last few years by the Godly Leadership Task Force. Leon Walker stated that this paper is meant to be an explanation of the principles of reconciliation that are found in Matthew 18. It was approved by 10 Council members (Richard Pinelli was not present and Aaron Dean abstained).
Leon Walker then led the Council through a statement on swearing. The Church already has an approved statement on this topic, but the Doctrine Committee proposed a more thorough explanation. The proposed statement was approved by 11 Council members (Richard Pinelli was not present).
Letter of Support and Encouragement to China
As news reports have shown, areas of China have experienced great tragedy as a result of the recent earthquakes. Victor Kubik introduced a letter for the Council to send to Dr. Richard Liu of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
Frank Fish, an elder in California, was involved with Dr. Liu in making arrangements for Herbert Armstrong to visit China in the 1980s. Dr. Liu also arranged for the Chinese Young Ambassadors to come to America as well.
In a memo to Mr. Fish, Dr. Liu had asked that the Church send a letter of encouragement to the Chinese and asked for our prayers. The Council agreed to send a letter of encouragement and, in the closing prayer of the day, Mr. Kubik asked for God's mercy to come upon those suffering.
Two GCE members, Edward Smith and Gerhard Marx, were unanimously reconfirmed by the Council to serve another three-year term on the Amendment Committee.
The Council discussed the need to implement a regular self-evaluation process for itself. This issue of self-evaluation, and how it will take place, was remanded back to the Roles and Rules Committee and will be discussed at the Council meetings in August.
The Council reviewed the document on the role of the international Council members. Many of the roles and tasks originally envisioned for the international members are no longer applicable and their roles are the same as the others on the Council. The Council approved a resolution to rescind this document with 11 in favor (Richard Pinelli was not present).
There was also a proposal for the Council to receive regular reports from each of the international areas. Reports could be presented twice a year that would include congregations, baptisms, elders, subscription information and income statistics.
Mr. Lovelady mentioned that we could develop statistics from these figures in order to present reports detailing the total worldwide impact of United. Bill Eddington then asked the Council to consider what information could be requested for the reports coming from the international areas.
Complete Council reports are on the members' Web site. UN