More Corporate Doublespeak from UCGIA

by Tim McCaulley

Tim McCaulley attends the services of, and contributes equity and goodwill to the Jacksonville Florida congregation sponsored by the corporation known as the United Church of God, An Inter na tional Association. He has been a member of the spiritual Church of God for 28 years, is married, and has two teenage children. Daytime phone: 904-727-5590 (8AM to 4:30 PM). Other times: 904-743-9811.

On June 18, 1998 UCGIA president Les McCullough wrote what amounts to a "state of the corporation" letter to the brethren who support that corporation with their equity (tithes and offerings) and goodwill (prayers for and attendance and participation in the activities of that corporation). The corporation UCGIA is in trouble and that trouble is spelled c-a-s-h-f-l-o-w.

Like many of his colleagues in the corporation, president McCullough is ambiguous and unclear in distinguishing between the UCGIA, a Corporation (herein after referred to as "the corporation") and the Church of God, A Spiritual Organization (herein after referred to as "the Church").

President McCullough and all the credentialed ministry are members of both the Corporation and the Church. Their non-ordained brethren are members of the Church only. The corporation is organized, run, and managed by the members of the corporation for the benevolent purpose of doing the work of the Church and serving the members of the Church. These are useful distinctions to keep in mind as you read selected excerpts from this letter.

Because the corporation uses the shorthand name "the Church" to refer to itself, it is easy for members of both the corporation and the Church to have trouble distinguishing between the two. This confusion is doubled for those members of the Church who are not members of the corporation (ie. the non-ordained brethren).

President McCullough’s 06-18-98 letter is really an accounting of the failures of the corporation to fulfill its stated purposes for existence. But when it suits his purposes, he blurs the distinction between the corporation and the Church. It most often suits his purposes when it’s time to apportion and shoulder responsibility for the problems facing the corporation, as a selection of quotes from this letter illustrate.

We have expected at some time to face an outside source which would generate great problems for us. We haven’t and didn’t expect the problems to arise from among us.

Those problems have come and much heartache has resulted. Some members have decided to disassociate themselves from UCGIA for a variety of reasons. Some have joined a new organization led by David Hulme and others have decided to stay at home. Some have chosen to become totally independent. All these things have had their effect.

Who does he mean, when he says "us"? The first two sentences seem to allude to the defection of David Hulme et al. By the middle of the second sentence of the next paragraph we begin to see a blurring between members of UCGIA (who consist of only the credentialed ministry) and the brethren with the use of the words "some" and "others". The first and second "some" could be either Church or corporate members, the last "some" and "others" almost certainly refers to non-corporate Church members. Thus begins the implicit denial of responsibility for corporate failure on the part of corporate members by the spreading of the blame to the non-corporate Church members.

The saddest part is that this is all so tragic and senseless. We all believe and accept the same basic doctrines, but differences of opinion divide us. Christ tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. The majority of the membership remains and we must determine to stand together in our common problems. We all need strong leadership or anarchy will rule and confusion will reign. We know that God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). So let us make peace among ourselves and join in doing a great work.

Exactly who does President McCullough mean when he says "the majority of the membership remains and we must determine to stand together in our common problems"? If he is referring to the corporation, then why is he addressing the letter to the non-corporate Church members? If he is referring to the Church members who have supported UCGIA (which seems to be the case) then in what way are these problems of cash flow the responsibility of those brethren? They had absolutely no say in the hiring, determination of salaries, strategic planning, or anticipated income projections, all of which have been woefully botched by the council of elders committee system and the home office management team. These items were dutifully supported by the rest of the ministry in their yearly general assemblies.

This is not to say that the Church members do not have a keen interest in seeing the corporate members succeed in their efforts to assist the Church members in doing the Work of God and serving the members of the Church. It is to say that it serves no good purpose for the corporate members to dump the blame for their bungling of personnel and budgeting decisions in the laps of those who had no say in those decisions.

Also, are President McCullough and the rest of the corporate membership ready to reach out to all the other corporations who are serving members of the Spiritual Church of God and whose only reason for existence is (as is UCGIA’S) over a "difference of opinion"? The conduct of their ministerial services department in such places as Kansas City and Big Sandy where they have sown division over the existence of another corporation other than their own would appear to say otherwise.

President McCullough’s plea for an end to "anarchy and confusion" would have a more sincere ring were it not for the record of UCGIA’s regional pastors and ministerial services department. They have gone around with gestapo like efficiency expelling anyone from participation in their corporation’s affairs who showed any originality not thought of or approved by the home office or council. These actions were about how to preach the gospel or organize the local affairs of a congregation. Who has sown more division in less time among the Spiritual Church of God in the name of corporate control and uniformity than UCGIA? This is not to deny our brotherhood and solidarity with the corporate membership because we believe and trust that they are also fellow brethren and Church members. It is to say, however, that a plea to "make peace" rings hollow when it is preceded by the ultimatum that it must be on the terms of the corporate membership whose actions have precipitated the discord.

None of us are blameless in the problems and difficulties we face. We can probably all do better in growing in patience, understanding, and respect for one another. we all need to learn to bear with one another, recognizing that all are human, subject to making mistakes, and we will not be perfected until we are resurrected to immortality in God’s family.

The above expresses the truth of our common humanity. It is something with which no one can argue. It is also a meaningless non-sequitur since the topic of the letter is not the common carnal frailties of all mankind, but the mismanagement of the Church’s assets by the corporation. It’s sole purpose for existence is supposed to be for the efficient and effective proclamation of the gospel to the world and the feeding and care of the flock.

It is neither cruel nor unconverted behavior for the Church to expect an accurate and honest accounting from the custodians of the corporation before they decide whether to place the tithes and offerings of God under their control into the hands of any who would claim stewardship over them.

The task which faces all of us—the council, the administration and all of you as members—is a daunting one. We are facing extremely serious difficulties which try the dedication and commitment of all of us.

Now exactly who is President McCullough referring to when he says "us" and "all of you as members"? This passage as clearly as any shows the dichotomy between corporation and Church members. It’s "them" and "us", and the idea of "we" is totally absent. Strictly speaking, this sentence can only correctly refer to the collective credentialed ministry, since they are the only ones who can be "the council, administration, and members" of UCGIA.

Again, this is not to say that the members of the corporation are not spiritual brethren of the non-credentialed members of the Church, and that we do not care about their trials. It is to point out that the corporations and their members have become a modern day Sanhedrin and created this "wall of separation"(Eph. 2:14) within the Church. It is complete with its own talmud of constitution and bylaws that, when expedient, ignores the counsel of scripture in the way it isolates the shepherds from their flocks and instead encourages them to be hirelings of the corporation.

For the welfare of us all, we must ask a series of important questions—and answer them honestly. The whole body is truly involved in the outcome. Just how much do we believe in the system, or organization, of the United Church of God? How committed are we to its success? How convicted are we that God is dealing with us and is a part of this organization? Do we want above all for the United Church of God to succeed? Are we dedicated to doing a worldwide work of preaching the gospel? Are we??

Finally, a clear distinction between corporation and Church! For non-corporate member brethren who support UCGIA some of the following might be helpful in answering the above questions. We repeat the above questions individually:

How much do we believe in the system or organization of the United Church of God?

To the extent that it does not ignore the counsel and guidance of scripture in the conduct of its affairs on behalf of the Church. Christ gives His brethren guidance on how to answer this question in Matt.7:15-20 and Lu. 6:43-44. These scriptures show that a tree (in this case the corporation UCGIA) is known by its fruit. You cannot gather figs from thorns nor grapes from a bramble bush. It is time to take an honest and sober view of UCGIA based on its fruits. Are the corporate chieftains false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing or simply inept?

How committed are we to its success?

The 1998 spring Holy day offerings for UCGIA have increased with fewer members than they were in past years. Since the primary focus of President McCullough’s letter is the cash flow shortage, the answer should be obvious.

How convicted are we that God is dealing with us and is a part of this organization?

Since when are problems a sign that God is not "dealing with us and is a part of this organization"? Haven’t we all known that sometimes God’s answer to heartfelt and earnest prayer is "no"? (Luke 22:41-42) Don’t we all know that God corrects all whom he loves and that without correction we are nothing more than Spiritual bastards? (Heb. 12:5-11).

However, this again brings up the intriguing question of exactly who is this "us" that President McCullough is referring to? Exactly who "is a part of this organization"? It also begs the question, does God appreciate or endorse those who, in the name of the artificial fiction of a corporate entity, promote division within the brotherhood of The Church?

Do we want, above all, for the United Church of God to succeed?

[This statement seems to assume that the UCG is the pinnacle of God’s plan for the world. How can anyone prove that? What if God is primarily working somewhere else and hopes to steer the UCG members in that direction? —NSE]

Only if the corporation truly serves the Church. Otherwise it has no claim to the tithes, offerings, prayers, and participation of the Church.

Are we dedicated to doing a worldwide work of preaching the gospel? Are we?

Asking this of Church members is not being honest about the three year history of the corporation. Over the past three years the brethren who support the corporation have been very energetic and inventive in looking for ways to proclaim the gospel and feed God’s sheep in addition to paying multiple millions of dollars of their tithes and offerings to the corporation.

What has been the corporation’s response? To squelch any effort that was not under the control of the council or home office! And when the corporate plans did not materialize as anticipated, to blame it on not enough money. Congregations were split and divided. Church members who didn’t "snap to" and endorse all the corporation’s plans were told they were no longer welcome at the corporations church services.

The corporation has no broadcast ministry except that which was invented by local congregations working on their own. The corporation’s most significant publishing effort, The Good News, is similarly produced beyond the home office confines by men whose primary tasks involve other things.

The corporation has been consistently wrong in its estimation of potential membership, income, and needed ministry. It has consistently diminished the flock God gave it over the past three years. Now, given this record, to whom would you think this question most appropriately applies?

Tom Kirkpatrick (new UCGIA treasurer) and I are new in our jobs. We inherited a structure where there have been problems of overstaffing, other financial commitments, and actions which now plague us. The solution is not an easy one. We want to serve you and all the brethren to the best of our ability. It is our intent to work in partnership with the membership to produce the best possible product we can, using the talents of as many of God’s people as we can. These things take time to work out, but we have already made progress.

The "problems of overstaffing, other financial commitments, and actions that now plague us" may have been a legacy of corporate mischief by David Hulme and Steven Andrews but both the council and General Assembly of Elders (in other words all the corporation) share in both responsibility and blame for the performance of UCGIA these past three years. The council (except for three resignations) is identical to the original one in its membership.

The words "you and all the brethren" are confusing at best. Is this just a redundancy (since the letter salutation reads "Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ") or is this yet another distinction between corporation and Church members?

One is also reminded of the famous saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". It would also be interesting to learn just exactly what the corporation considers its "product" and exactly how and when the corporation plans to "use the talents of as many of God’s people as we can".

I don’t like asking this, but can you help? It is imperative. We need the largest offering you can personally make. We need help from the congregations as a whole. Will we all join together to resolve this problem? Can we commit ourselves to this so that we can do the work? We are just getting positive things going in the media area and now it seems we may need to consider cutting back. Brethren, I personally don’t believe that is God’s will or desire. What do we do? It seems the Father is testing each of us to see just where we stand and how committed we are to doing a worldwide work of preaching the gospel.

Now we see the creative use of the pronoun "we". Just who is President McCullough referring to when he says "we" in this passage? Since UCGIA (like taxing governments) possesses no wealth it has not been given by non-corporate brethren in the first place, the first and second use of "we" is an obvious plea for more money from the brethren. It is to be hoped that the next two uses of "we" that refer to joining together to resolve problems and committing ourselves to doing the work refer to both the corporation and Church members.

Since the corporation has taken total ownership and control of the work of away from their non-ordained Church brethren, the rest of this passage can only correctly refer to the entire corporate membership and not their non-credentialed Church member brethren.

It would be easy at this point to just say with a smirk to our corporate brethren, "you made your bed so now go sleep in it". But that is neither Christian nor constructive. It is both humbling and sobering to see our collective ministry faced with the potential for such a monumental rebuke and correction by the Eternal God. Their most cherished beliefs about the righteousness and godliness of corporate control are on the verge of collapse. Would any but the most bitter or cynical not yearn for them to once and for all wake up and finally understand that there has been something terribly wrong with the way they have been doing things? Who of us called to a similar accounting by Almighty God would not want mercy shown to us under similar circumstances?

The tithes and offerings of God’s people are the only finances we have with which to operate. They have fallen off for whatever reason. Why? Have some forgotten Malachi 3:9-10? Look at what it says:

"You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house, and prove me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it."

Okay here comes the guilt trip! We have not gotten enough money, therefore you people must be stealing God’s tithes instead of sending them to us. For the sake of the corporate membership may we sheep suggest a few possible other reasons for your apparent short fall in cash flow?

1. Your ministerial services has run off hundreds of people and their ministry whose only sin was wanting to take some ownership of the work of the Church on a local congregational level and do something after the several years of council and home office dickering showed them that not much of anything was coming out of Arcadia.

2. Your presumption that you have the exclusive ownership of all the tithes of those who attend your services is practically and scripturally indefensible. Because you have taken over the sole control and ownership of the work of the Church and consigned the brethren to paying, praying, staying put, and shutting up, they have no other means to register their displeasure with your stewardship of God’s tithes and offerings other than to contribute them elsewhere. Thankfully, God has provided a multitude of alternative ministries that seek to serve the Sabbatarian Church of God community. There are even more than enough Feast of Tabernacle sites that are non-aligned to siphon off Holy Day offerings if you keep on going down the path of arrogance and pride that you have been traveling for the past three years.

3. Your council and home office has a three year record of blown budgets, bungled projections, and remarkably little to show for all the millions of dollars of God’s tithes and offerings you have spent over that time.

I know most of you indeed have been very supportive of the council and management team. Your letters tell us that. I know you want to see the Good News subscription list grow, and the invitation for life it carries, be made available around the world. I also know most of you are very supportive in your tithes and offerings. That is why this letter is so hard to write. I thank you for all your efforts most sincerely. But I must ask, Can you do something more to get your work through this time of financial crisis? It is simply not financially responsible to continue on the basis of one set of projections when all the facts indicate something else is needed.

"Your work"?!!! By what fiction do the efforts totally controlled and originated by the corporation become the responsibility of the Church?

Now is the time for us to unitedly seek God’s answer to whether or not he is pleased to work through us in the manner the General Conference and leadership of the Church has laid out. we individually or collectively may still have some blind spots which God is trying to show us. Let us all ask him to make known, as dramatically as he has in times past, whether he is with us now in fulfilling our, and we hope His plans. His will be done.

A sober, humble, and reasonable request.

As president of the United Church of God, I must ask if you will join together as the combined congregations of God’s people for a special day of fasting and prayer.

The council and I are asking you to set aside the Sabbath of June 27 for this special time. All of us need to repent of our sins and grow closer to our Father. We need to ask him in the most heartfelt manner for his intervention and help. We need to ask God to provide new coworkers to help carry the heavy load. We need to ask Him to give the council the wisdom only he can give to make the proper budgetary adjustments so that such a problem doesn’t arise again. Those adjustments will hurt, I am sorry, but there is no alternative. We should ask God’s blessing on each individual in His Church. We need to ask Him to grant us the willingness to make a special sacrifice at this time and help His Church out of the deep problems which afflict it"

Asking the brethren to fast is entirely appropriate in such a situation as that which faces the corporation UCGIA, as is seeking Godly repentance for our collective sins. We then see a rather interesting reversal of Christ’s prayer for the Father to send more laborers for the harvest (Matt 9:37-38, Lu 10:1-2). President McCullough and the corporation do not need more laborers for the harvest, but rather more harvest for the excess of laborers.

For the Church members who support the corporation UCGIA the dilemma is whether bailing out UCGIA will result in the repentance of its members from their irresponsible stewardship of God’s tithes and offerings or reinforce those corporate members (particularly the council, the home office, and ministerial services in their intransigence.

Epilogue

Christ teaches an important lesson for both the brethren who support the corporation UCGIA and the brethren who are members of that corporation.

"He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, "Look for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down, why does it use up (waste) the ground?" But he answered and said to him, "Sir let it alone this year also until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well, But if after that you can cut it down"’" (Luke. 13:6-7).

The brethren who have supported the fruitless efforts of the UCGIA fig tree these past three years are waiting to see if its caretakers (the corporate members) will take the actions needed for it to bear fruit or not. I intend to take Chairman McCullough’s requests before God in prayer with fasting. I hope President McCullough and the rest of the "Sanhedrin" corporation will tear down that wall of separation between them and the rest of their brethren in the Church. Right now I rather doubt it, but God has not run out of miracles if the occasion warrants. &


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