Pastor's Corner - May 7th, 2021
The first Sabbath of the month of May has traditionally been reserved for the General Conference of Elders meetings back at the Home Office. This year - the meetings were held virtually (same as last year) for this 26th General Conference of Elders.
I wanted to take a moment this week to update you a bit on this past weekend's meetings.
Last year's meeting was to be the big 25th anniversary celebration - but it got pushed back to this year, and ultimately pushed back to next year - so we look forward to commemorating 25 years on year 27. This year - we listened into the messages from Home Office talking about how abundantly God has blessed the Church over the years, and how important it is to acknowledge God for His ongoing blessings, with the same blessings we have been given stewardship over, and reflected on the importance of our vision, and what the coming years will bring as we go forward into the future. Keeping that vision in spite of the challenges that we face is critical to be able to move the work of God forward.
When the United Church of God formed in 1995 - we were coming out of a difficult situation, in the doctrinal collapse of our former organization - as a result, we had a number of individuals who had been hurt, were traumatized, and dealing with the repercussions of that collapse. For those that went through the fallout - it created in each of us a certain degree of trust issues. A certain suspicion that has us weighing every word, and often over analyzing every statement. A certain amount of this can be healthy, but often it is more debilitating.
One of the best explanations I heard was that when we were under attack - is that we circled the wagons so to speak, and that enabled us to defend the truth, to protect our families and our brethren... but in order for us to move forward - it requires us to uncircle the wagons so we can get back on the trail.
When we formed the constitution and bylaws of the United Church of God - we recognized the importance of including measures that would prevent a similar thing from happening again. A situation in which one person could dictate the direction of the entire organization without fail safes in place to be able to prevent it.
So we designed our system of governance specifically to account for this. We built failsafes into the bylaws, and into the constitution.
In fact - for an amendment that would change doctrine to take place - it requires a 3/4 majority of the entirety of the General Conference of Elders to approve it. Right now - we have approximately 400 elders between the United States and the International areas. To make a doctrinal change - it requires us to have 301 yes votes to make a change. Either to add to, or to remove something from the Fundamental Beliefs as stated in the Constitution. This has created some challenges in recent years as we don't typically have 300 total elders vote, so several years ago, a needed Fundamental Belief on marriage in the wake of the overruling of the Defense of Marriage Act, was unable to be added a few years back due to the high standard that was created for doctrinal changes.
So it is a double edged sword, and we are in the process of working out the reasons why we don't have enough elders vote each year, and solutions to this issue at this point so we can grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2nd Peter 3:18)
Our governance isn't perfect - but the individuals who framed it took the events of 1995 into consideration and 25 years later - as we look to the future, and the next 25 years of the United Church of God - I am heartened by the men I have had opportunity to meet through the various meetings of the General Conference of Elders... whether Pastors or Elders serving in a congregation, their passion and desire to serve God and His sheep is palpable and it makes me optimistic for the future of the United Church of God.
The results of the voting for the Council of Elders was as follows:
Scott Ashley and Len Martin were re-elected to their positions, Brian Shaw was added, and Paul Wasilkoff was added as the international representative. The Strategic Plan, Operations Plan, and Budget passed, and both amendments up for vote this year were rejected - one of which attempted to solve the issue that I described above with regards to balloting on amendments, the other providing limitations on who would be eligible to serve on the Council depending on their job assignment.
I appreciated your prayers for God's will on behalf of the meetings, and for His guidance as we balloted. I hope and pray that we will be able to meet in person this coming year - to be able to have the valuable discussions that take place at meals and between meetings as iron sharpens iron, and the older men mentor the younger.
Please pray for the Council, and the decisions which will come before them in the coming year, and for God's will for His Church.