Dear Fellow Ministers,
We have just finished a productive series of meetings between the Ministerial Board of Directors and the administration of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. A full agenda required attention to many questions and a variety of discussions, but the work we accomplished together was positive and encouraging. We experienced a definite spirit of respect and humility, along with a united and deep desire to help move the work of God forward. The board has had in hand since Thanksgiving the proposed strategic plan, budget and the office location study, all of which we had carefully studied in preparation for these meetings.
As we began on Monday morning, I gave a brief review of the genesis of our present organizational structure. Not all board members or officers had been involved in the long, careful process of developing and proposing this structure to the ministry of the Church for approval. I reviewed many of the sometimes hard lessons we learned from the past 15 years and more of Church history and how they motivated us to improve the structural relationship between the president and his administration and the MBOD and to add additional safeguards—such as the Doctrine Committee and the Morals and Ethics Assessment Committee—against improper behavior by any involved in our leadership.
The board has important legal responsibilities, such as selecting our corporate officers, including the president, approving operation managers proposed by the president, and assessing and approving annual plans and budgets. At the same time, the board is not to insert itself into the management of the Church; rather, it is to work in the background, supporting the president with advice when he seeks it, as he provides spiritual leadership under Jesus Christ to our Church organization around the world.
I concluded the presentation with observations many of us have made over past months. These included the fact that our future success depends not on documents or corporate structures, but on the extent to which we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must respect one another as brothers in Christ and continue to nurture the trust between us, which we now strongly feel but which will require continued attention and effort. As board members, we must be honest with one another and the president, giving open and frank judgments as we discuss issues, always with the goal in mind of seeking what is best for the Church. Finally, I reminded us all that we are first and foremost part of the Church of God. Any legal structures and procedures we develop exist only to support our work as a spiritual body, and they must never be allowed to take precedence over the spiritual principles contained in the Word of God.
Strategic plan. Our president, Jim Franks, then presented the strategic plan. The strategic plan explains the spiritual foundation for why we are doing the work of God, which consists of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness, making disciples of those God calls and teaching those disciples to observe all things that Christ has commanded us (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). Mr. Franks organized the strategic plan around three questions: Why? How? What?
The answer to the first question—why?—is that we preach and teach as God commands us in order to prepare for the Kingdom of God, a goal that must always motivate us.
How will we fulfill this mission? We will preach the gospel by all means available, based on the resources God makes available to us, with the immense potential of the Internet being our primary focus. We will then, with God’s guidance, make and teach disciples through the work of pastors and the congregations for which they care. The ability to continue teaching disciples in the future will require an ongoing attention to training new pastors. The how also requires that we pay attention to always acting in accordance with God’s law in all our efforts.
What must we do? We must preach and teach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as it is revealed in the Bible. This message includes all aspects of obeying God and learning His righteous way of life.
Operation plan. Following Mr. Franks’ presentation of the strategic plan, Clyde Kilough, Media operation manager, presented the operation plan for his department. He began with an overview of what has been accomplished in our first start-up year: the establishment of various websites; the generation of booklets, blogs and answers to Bible questions; and the online posting of sermons, Bible studies and conferences.
The next step will be the establishment in the coming months of a new website that will directly aim the gospel message to the world at large in electronic media forms effective for people who have yet to be introduced to the truth. Our present cogwa.org website will continue to be developed as a member-oriented site. The new website will require generating a great deal of media content, and the media department will seek the participation of a growing number of ministers and other members to produce motivating explanations of the truths of God. More details will be announced soon about these exciting plans. Other specific items, such as the need to produce video content and a limited role for print media, were also discussed.
Doug Horchak, Ministerial Services operation manager, then presented the 2012 operation plan for his department. He explained various areas of responsibility he plans to implement—such as congregational care, education and development, youth programs, youth camps and the Feast of Tabernacles—and who is specializing in each area. Mr. Horchak provided an overview of congregational attendance and pastors assigned around the world, as well as discussing upcoming transfers necessitated by the rebalancing of congregational needs and recent manpower changes, especially men moving from pastoral responsibilities to the administration.
Next, Mr. Franks and Jason Lovelady presented the proposed budget. This has required great care and was not prepared without some difficulty, since we are still very much in a start-up phase and a great many of the figures available are provisory. Based on the information at hand, an estimated income of a little under $8.5 million was budgeted. Mr. Lovelady went through an account-by-account explanation of proposed allocations, including what was requested and what could reasonably and equitably be allocated after administrative adjustments.
Start-up stages in any organization require great fiscal care and keeping financial belts tightened until reserves can be built. We were encouraged, however, to see that based on the information available we can reasonably project an income that will allow the Church to continue its developing efforts to preach the gospel to the world and to continue its care for our brethren around the world. We must continue to look to God and His provision for our need.
We were pleased to be able to give our unanimous approval to these three plans for 2012, and the board thanked the administration for its excellent work.
Office location study. On Tuesday, we turned out attention to the office location study. In preparation for the meeting, an independent report was assembled by Kim Gatley, senior vice president and director of research for NAI REOC, one of the largest commercial real estate companies in San Antonio, Texas. Mrs. Gatley (who is also a Church member) was asked to research six U.S. cities—Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Raleigh, North Carolina. The complete report was more than 45 pages long and contained considerable detail for each of the six cities. The report was provided to MBOD members prior to Thanksgiving in order to give time for study and to address any questions.
Based on the research, several charts were assembled analyzing these six cities according to the following five criteria: (1) cost-of-living index, (2) airport analysis, (3) church attendance, (4) total local and state tax burden and (5) the cost of leasing office space. Based on the criteria, the six cities were ranked according to a point system—from six points for a first-place finish in any one category to one point for a sixth-place finish.
Based on the results, the order of the six cities was as follows:
1. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas – 24 points.
2. Atlanta, Georgia – 23 points.
3. Houston, Texas – 21 points.
4. Austin, Texas – 20 points.
5. Orlando, Florida – 19 points.
6. Raleigh, North Carolina – 16 points.
This is the third time in the past 16 years that an office location study has been conducted. In the previous two studies the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex was ranked in the top three, and it placed first in the latest study. These six cities were close in the final analysis, but the MBOD unanimously approved Dallas/Fort Worth as the location for the principal office. The board was satisfied that the administration had done its due diligence and felt that Dallas/Fort Worth was an excellent area in which to locate its headquarters (the MBOD agreed that the term “headquarters” was an appropriate one for our principal office) for many years to come. The administration will now take on the responsibility of locating appropriate space for lease in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as soon as practicable.
Compensation Task Force and MEAC. On Wednesday morning the board discussed the establishment of a Compensation Task Force, composed of businesspeople not employed by the Church, that would be charged with studying and recommending appropriate compensation ranges for our employees. To avoid any conflict of interest, it is common practice in nonprofit organizations to request from nonemployees the research and advice on which to base such policies. After the discussion, the board approved the establishment of the task force and named five people and two employee advisors to it. We have asked that their report and recommendations be presented to the board by the spring holy days.
Mr. Franks then chaired a discussion of candidates for the Morals and Ethics Assessment Committee (the MEAC). This committee is established to insure that unethical or immoral conduct by any elder will be addressed appropriately and without partiality. It is also empowered to hear appeals in cases of removal from the ministry or removal from the MEAC or Doctrine Committee. It also hears appeals on interpretations of the Bylaws or the Constitution in the event that the board’s interpretation of either of these documents is contested by the president or by an individual board member. It is important to have men of excellent reputation and sound judgment on this body. We were encouraged to see that there were more than enough candidates among our ministry who fit the criteria.
Upon recommendation by the president and after discussion, the board appointed Mike Blackwell, Larry Neff, Mike Hanisko, Les McCullough and Paul Suckling to the MEAC.
The MBOD also reviewed and approved review processes put forward by the Doctrine Committee. These procedures are designed to protect the doctrinal integrity of the Church by insuring that all publications are properly reviewed before publication.
Secretary David Johnson then conducted a random drawing to determine which board members would serve a four-year term and which ones would serve for eight years. The results were as follows:
David Baker – four years.
Arnold Hampton – eight years.
Joel Meeker – four years.
Richard Pinelli – eight years.
Larry Salyer – eight years.
Richard Thompson – eight years.
Leon Walker – four years.
Overview discussion. The final item on the agenda was a discussion of the current spiritual condition of our Church brethren around the world and a discussion of lessons learned from our recent past. Though the board discussed these things at its last meeting in August, we now have three new members who were not present at that time. So it was a chance for them to share their perspectives and for us to update our understanding of the present state of the Church following the Feast of Tabernacles.
We take this very seriously. It is our strong desire to see that our brethren around the world receive the best spiritual care and support that we can collectively provide. The Bible often speaks of God’s love and concern for each and every one of His people. We want to do our best with His help to make sure that our efforts, as a Church, reflect that love and attention toward all our brethren.
Because the information the MBOD needed to consider for approval was available well in advance, and because the preparatory work had been done well, we were able to complete the items on the board’s agenda half a day ahead of schedule, at the end of Wednesday. I believe I can speak for all present when I say it was very encouraging to work in a harmonious, unified and forward-looking atmosphere.
Fellow ministers of Jesus Christ, thank you for your encouragement and the support of your prayers for the MBOD in its work and now especially for Mr. Franks and the administration who will, over the course of the next year and beyond, implement the plans and policies that have been approved.
More detail about the strategic plan and the operation plans for Media and Ministerial Services will be shared with the employees and elders in two webinar meetings scheduled for Dec. 15 (all employees) and Dec. 18 (all elders). These meetings will set the stage for moving forward together into our first fiscal year.
We are still laying the groundwork for our work of years to come. It will take some months—and years in some areas—before we fully hit our stride, so some patience will still be necessary. But God has granted us the firmest spiritual foundation possible in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has also blessed us with a stable physical foundation of committed Church members and ministers to serve them, as well as experienced and talented administrators who sincerely seek to be guided by God’s will in all things.
Let us continue to pray and work together in the bonds of brotherhood so that our Heavenly Father can accomplish His will through our part in His work, as we look toward the coming Kingdom of God.
Yours very sincerely in Christ’s service,
Joel C. Meeker