UCGIA Ministry Letter Ignores Member Fast

The following letter was written by Les McCullough, president of the UCGIA on June 26, 1998. Please note that this is one day before the fast scheduled in the previous letter sent to the members. We, as well as many UCGIA members, find this letter almost beyond belief. It contains a complete program of budget cuts which were implemented before the members had a chance to fast and pray, asking the Eternal for his will in the matter. These cuts included 30% of the full-time ministry being reduced to half pay (or in a few cases no pay)—one of the largest cuts in any "Church of God" history.

The letter makes no mention of the member fast at all. It never mentions the possibility of divine intervention to improve the situation. It notes that 10% of the membership left in 6 weeks, but seems totally unconcerned with why those members left and says absolutely nothing about making organizational changes that would cause members to return—or that would cause existing members to stay. Indeed, there seems to be little sorrow that existing members are leaving—separating brethren in local areas. It makes many rosy, positive statements, but almost none of them have any substance to them.

There is not a hint of a plan to transform UCGIA into an organization that would serve the many scattered Church of God brethren better. The UCGIA has done little in three years to bring new members to the organization. The only place where they seem to be able to promise and deliver is to budget and spend all of the money that they receive.

We would hope that after a major event such as the doctrinal reversal and breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, that ministers from that organization would stop and seriously ask: "What does the Eternal want us to learn?" Instead, it looks like they are trying to go on in the way of the "50s and 60s" as if nothing has changed. We do not like to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems that if major changes are not made in the UCGIA, that it will continue its current path of diminishment, until it cannot even pay its own headquarters staff. We really think that anyone who looks to this organization to pay its retirement is making a real mistake. We hope that those leaders and ministers in the organization will realize that neither their own documents nor their own members regard the UCGIA as "the one True Church". If they do not do a superior job of serving the brethren in their organization, should they not expect it to continually decrease in size?

Following is Les McCullough’s letter:

 

June 26, 1998

Greetings Fellow Ministers and Wives,

Most of you are probably aware of the cost-cutting measures which went into effect this week. Most of them were referenced in the member letter which should have been received by now. But I felt it important that I give you a personal update on what has actually taken place. We would like you to be armed with the facts when questions begin to arise.

We are most grateful for the outstanding example being set by the ministry during this most stressful time. It has been encouraging to talk to so many of you over the past several days and see a willingness to make the necessary sacrifices for the good of the Church.

This is the spirit and attitude that the work was built on in the 50s and 60s. It is good to see that same spirit at work in the ministry of God's Church today.

This past week the Council met for two days via teleconference to finalize a number of changes in Church personnel. The total meeting time was about eight hours. This was grueling and quite exhausting.

In preparation for this meeting the Regional Pastors made contact with most of the full-time ministry to discuss our manpower needs in each region. Following these discussions, the Ministerial Services Team met for two days in Arcadia to review all the input from these men.

All in all hundreds of man-hours have been invested in this process to arrive at the most equitable decisions.

A few days prior to these meetings, the Council was informed by our treasurer, Tom Kirkpatrick, that $840,000 of cuts in the salary area (on an annual basis) were needed immediately, in addition to other expense cuts.

This was the order of magnitude of cutbacks that needed to be made to survive to the fall festivals in light of our current level of financial support.

Some have wondered about the abruptness of this action. Suffice it to say that we have lost at least 1500 people between the Last Day of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Pentecost. This is more than 10% of our Church attendance departing over a period of six weeks. Simple mathematics tells you that our income will drop proportionately. We are happy to report that the income has not dropped quite that dramatically, but this has been largely due to the generous Holy day offerings. With no Holy days for the next four months, we are facing a serious crisis by September 1. These cuts are necessary now to ensure our ability to pay salaries and other commitments that will be due between now and September. While these are the most painful days any of us have experienced in some time, it is absolutely crucial that we make these cuts. We could hide our heads in the sand and continue spending at our current level, even though our membership has decreased. In our opinion, this would be foolish and contrary to what God has clearly shown us. We must do the right thing and we must do it now.

As a Church with limited assets, the only area where we can make these kind of cuts is personnel. Our Home Office staff has been reduced to a bare subsistence level of 12 full-time people. We are operating with just under 100 full-time men in the field ministry, which equates to an average workload of 115 people in attendance for each pastor. This is considerably fewer when compared to past years.

In order to achieve our goal for cuts, we took a look at the entire ministry and began to make adjustments. We believe that all our men are loyal and dedicated servants of God, but we must face the reality of how many men do we need at full pay to accomplish the task of caring for the people of God. It is painful to consider, but we had to do it. Based on the workloads, it was clear that changes could be made in the ministry. We only wish we had more time for families to make the necessary adjustments in their lifestyle to assimilate a severe loss in income. Please know that if we had the luxury of time, there would be no question but that we would extend that to all our employees.

In the US field ministry we have 42 pastors each serving 100 members or less in regular attendance. We realize that there are a number of mitigating circumstances—multiple churches, long distances, etc. But this is the reality. In order to continue to serve the members in these areas, we have contacted many of these men and asked them to look for part or full-time work. We will pay them a reduced wage to continue pastoring the local congregations where they are presently assigned. This plan keeps men in our employ, continues the service to the brethren, and allows a minister to augment his income with an outside job. We have had success with this program in the past in very limited areas. We are hopeful that this will be received with a positive attitude by the men who will be involved. Many have already contacted us and it has been quite humbling to hear their inspiring comments. It is so encouraging to see the spirit of sacrifice that these men exhibit. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.

I am sure you are all interested in who has been put on 1/2 salary and who hasn't. While we can't give you all the names at this present time, we can provide some limited information as we go into the weekend. In the past few days 29 men have been contacted about going to a 1/2 salary. This equates to almost 30 percent of the entire ministry. Roughly 1 in 3 of the full-time men has been asked to go to a 1/2 salary. We have also terminated a few men in areas that we can adequately handle by other pastors in the same city or by combining Church circuits with a neighboring pastor. We feel badly that in some of these cases we could not even offer a 1/2 salary. We truly value these men, but simply felt, given the circumstances, that we had no other choice. These are very difficult matters and no doubt there will be factors which get overlooked. When you deal with this large a group of men, there will always appear to be inequities. But, please be assured, we have done our best to be fair and equitable to everyone. We want to emphasize that these men who were given 1/2 salary are all considered full-time employees and pastors, but will generally be less available to the membership (primarily evenings and weekends).

Of course, in addition to the reductions to 1/2 salary, and the terminations, we also begin across the board salary reductions for all in the regular full-time ministry (but not those going to 1/2 salary) with our next paycheck. These reductions will be in effect through the Feast of Tabernacles. It is our desire to restore the salaries to their current level after the Feast, but obviously this will depend on our financial condition at that time. We have also drastically reduced ministerial expense. If you have any questions about these items, then please contact one of the members of the Ministerial Services Team.

The point we must be clear on is that everyone in the organization will be asked to make some sacrifices. Given our sudden membership loss, we are forced to take these steps. With God's blessing, we will weather this current crisis and move forward with our goal of preaching the gospel and caring for the people of God.

Thank you all for the wonderful comments we are hearing. It is truly inspiring to work shoulder to shoulder with all of you. Let's pray that God binds us closer together through this current storm and makes us a stronger body for the future. Please feel free to share this information with your congregations.

—Les McCullough &


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