Sunday, December 23, 2012

Continuing Cost of UCG's Split and UCG's Choices

UCG's split has hurt the work of preaching the gospel to the world.

Bob Thiel (COGwriter) has reported on United Church of God finances. He quotes Robin Webber as saying that UCG's spending on media for preaching the gospel has been pruned. He also quotes Aaron Dean as saying that UCG's annual payroll was 8.1 million dollars before the split and 5.7 million last year, but UCG is serving virtually the same number of congregations.

Here is a link to that post:

How much of UCG's paid ministry went to COGWA when UCG split?

John Carmack in a post around that time reported an estimate of about 60%, maybe a little less, an estimate I agree with. Here is a link to his post:

So before the split, UCG's payroll (all employees I presume) was $8.1 million. About 60% of UCG's paid ministry left in the split, and the payroll after the split was 5.7 million. Presumably, more ministers were hired to replace some, but not all, of those who left.

Let's do some math.

They start with a payroll of 8.1 million. Most of that must be for the paid ministry. Let's assume 7.5 is for the paid ministry and $600,000 is for staff and ministers who do not supervise congregations but work at headquarters. I will look at another possible estimate later.

60% of the paid ministry leaves. Now the ministerial payroll is less than what it was before by 60%, or in other words, it is 40% of what it was before. 40% of 7.5 million is 3.0 million. Add the $600,000 in overhead and administrative payroll back and you have $3.6 million in payroll. Yet, payroll last year was $5.7 million. $2.1 million is a lot of new hires.

Now if you figure overhead and administration at headquarters at 1.1 million, that would still show $1.9 million in new payroll since the split.

What this tells me is that a large number of new ministers were hired full-time to replace the ministers that went to COGWA.

But it was not just ministers who left to go to COGWA but members too. The total workload of pastors was reduced because the members are fewer. Enough members went to COGWA to support the COGWA ministers.

The bottom line: Look at the total number of ministers and members of UCG and COGWA today. There are now more ministers total in proportion to members than before. You have about the same number of members in both groups combined as you had before the split. But you have many more paid ministers because of the new ministers UCG has hired. You have virtually all of the original paid ministers, those who stayed in UCG plus those who formed COGWA, in the two groups combined, PLUS many more ministers UCG has hired since the split.

So the total cost of the ministry in all UCG and COGWA has substantially increased and the number of members served by each minister has declined because of the split.

What this means is less money available for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. UCG before the split was not doing a very powerful work of preaching to the public, and now it looks like they will do even less.

But why did the cost of a paid ministry have to increase?

UCG since the split had to make a choice. They did not have to replace the ministers who left with newly hired ministers. But they did.

Look at this at the congregational level.

If the paid local pastor stayed with UCG, chances are, most of the members stayed with that pastor. He would continue to serve the same members. No new pastor needed to be hired.

If the paid local pastor left to go with COGWA, probably the majority of the members of the congregation went with him. Not in every case, but typically. If that were not true, then COGWA would not have enough members and the tithes of those members to support their ministry, but they do. Enough members went to COGWA so that the COGWA could live from the tithes of those members.

If the ministry and most of the members of a congregation left UCG to go to COGWA, did UCG need to hire a new full-time pastor for those who remained in order to fulfill Christ's commission to feed the flock? No, they did not. They could have established video groups that would be served by local unpaid elders.

Now, if they did that, some of those members who stayed with UCG would have then gone to COGWA to be served by their old pastors. But what would be wrong with that? Would they not be fed spiritual food as they were fed before by the same pastor?

If these pastors who are now part of COGWA cared for their flocks when they were in UCG, could they not do the same as part of COGWA? So why be concerned if members in that area go to COGWA? So for example, if pastor "John Doe" served the "Spiders Breath, Montana" congregation of 130 members in UCG for 5 years, then the split occurred and he went with a new organization, COGWA, but stayed in Spiders Breath, and 90 of his members continued under his care but now in COGWA, and 40 members said, "no, we want to stay in UCG", does UCG HAVE to hire a full time pastor to replace John Doe to serve those 40 members? Why? UCG could set them up as a video group, and if they feel they need a full time pastor, they can go to COGWA and be served by the same pastor who served them before, John Doe. If they were content to be under the care of John Doe before the split, why not after the split?

Does UCG now claim that the ministers who went with COGWA have not done a good job of caring for the members they pastored? If so, where is the evidence? If not, they why be concerned if members of UCG follow their pastors into COGWA?

The real reason these new ministers were hired was not that the members in the local areas would not be properly taught without a full-time pastor, but they were hired to try to keep members from going to COGWA.

Hiring more full-time ministers is a choice UCG made to give priority, NOT to the feeding of the flock over preaching the gospel, but giving priority to HOLDING ON to the most members over preaching the gospel. UCG is taking money away from preaching the gospel and a warning to a public that desperately needs it just to keep some of its members from going across the street to a COGWA congregation, where in most cases they would be just as well served spiritually.

Does this make sense?

It depends on how you look at it.

From the perspective of this world's corporations which compete with each other, yes this makes sense. UCG and COGWA are competing organizations, and each will fight to keep the most members.

But from God's perspective, that the members and ministers both in UCG and COGWA are part of the body of Christ, this makes no sense. Christ's right hand should not compete with His left hand.

UCG seems to have made a choice to follow Satan's model of competition between organizations rather than go all out to preach a warning message to Israel and the world about the tribulation to come. That is not godly love.

And still, no plausible explanation from either side why the split occurred.

God says clearly in the book of Ezekiel that the blood the people is on our head if we don't warn them about the tribulation to come. Members of the Church of God, whatever organization they attend, should take this seriously and make sure they are supporting a group that is effectively giving a warning to the public if they do not want the blood of the people who die in the tribulation to be on their heads.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:



Anonymous said...

The post infers that the UCG split resulted in a diminished preaching of the gospel. I would counter that it was the increase in the preaching of the gospel that was a part of what caused the split. Larry Salyer (former UCG media director) was strongly opposed to any increase in PTG expenditures beyond the 19% level. Robin Webber campaigned for the council with a message of "dramatically increasing the expenditure on public proclamation". Webber won, Salyer lost. This was a central part of the leadership change that led to Salyer and others departing. UCG then very quickly increased PTG expenditures to 31%. They tried to maintain that level, but have run into these recent difficulties. Is there less total preaching of the gospel today than before? Perhaps, but it can't be blamed on the new UCG leadership. said...

I see your point. The present UCG leadership seems to have had a desire for a greater effort at public proclamation. And that might be one of the contributing causes of the split, though it is hard to prove since neither side has given a clear explanation for the split. If Larry Salyer and other COGWA leaders did not want to spend the cash surplus on more media spending, what did they want to do with it?

Before the split, UCG had accumulated certain cash reserves. Those reserves and the positive budget balance year by year that produced those reserves gave UCG a certain capacity to expand the preaching of the gospel once a decision to do so was made. Let's say that the present UCG leadership intended to use that money to finance a greater work of preaching the gospel than the older leadership which went to COGWA, and let's say that the leadership that left UCG opposed that. Then the decision by UCG to spend more of that money on preaching the gospel may have lead to the division between the two camps that ultimately grew into a split.

Yet there may be some irony in that, while the desire to preach the gospel on the part of UCG leaders may have contributed to the split, the actual split itself has diminished the capacity of UCG and COGWA combined to actually do it. UCG may be doing more today and in the future than they did 4 or 5 years ago, but they will not be able to do as much as they could had UCG stayed together. With the current UCG leadership in place, had the COGWA leaders and ministers stayed in UCG (or had they been able to stay, depending on how you look at it), if UCG stayed together under the new leadership, they would be able to do a far greater work of preaching the gospel because the feeding of the flock would have been more efficient with fewer paid ministers. said...

Whose fault is the split?

While I do not say that COGWA leaders are all without fault in this, I am of the opinion that much of the blame falls on the UCG leaders. They did not seem to really want reconciliation. They seemed to put pressure on COGWA leaders to leave, such as with the Sabbath paper, which while it remained unclarified and uncorrected must have caused concern among members who would question their ministers who then had to take a stand, and which was clarified only AFTER the split had passed the point of no return. And they never showed a good reason to fire Leon Walker in the first place, in my opinion. They like to say, even in the business world, if a manager did not obey orders, he would be fired, but that is nonsense (as if these people know much about the corporate business world). Most business corporations would not tear themselves apart because a manager finished a trip before coming in for a meeting. If the manager is valuable, they would try to work things out to keep him. If a business corporation would be willing to do this for the sake of profit, why were not the UCG leaders willing to do this for the sake of the gospel?

All UCG needed to do is say, ok Mr. Walker, if you can't interrupt your trip, then meet with us (the second time) immediately after your trip. For the sake of a few days, the UCG leadership split the whole organization down the middle. Why? I suggest it was to cement their power. Now, the COGWA ministers can no longer vote UCG leaders out of office because those ministers are no longer in UCG. I think this is what UCG leaders wanted. Which is why I have pointed out that the organizational structure of ballot-box governance, of ministers ruling themselves instead of submitting to the rule of Christ, has been a major reason for the split.

I suppose the UCG leaders believe passionately in their cause and felt they were defending their cause, for the sake of God's work, by strengthening their power at the ballot box by forcing or pressuring ministers out who would vote against them. But then, if they think Christ leads UCG through balloting, why not try to keep the organization together, reconcile with Leon Walker, and keep the whole ministry in UCG, then trust Christ to inspire the balloting to keep them in power while they do a greater work of preaching the gospel?

Anonymous said...

author, in my view Leon Walker's firing is an old school/new school thing.

When my father immigrated to Canada, showing anykind of being one minute late habitually for work would cause dissmissal. One time he was told that if he would help out his friend at work do his job, basically help a fellow employee out for a couple minutes, he would be fired the next time.

I would say if this were the 1950s a large majority of people, whether they were believers or non believers would support the firing of Leon.

Theirs was a different mindset and parts of it still remain in today's culture.

I would say people need to be very careful offering their views on this kind of subject. All it may be is biting off more than a person can chew.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that UCG hasn't hired a substantial new number of employees.

They've ordained several new elders, but a lot of them are unpaid. They are increasingly relying on unpaid and local elders to fill the gap.

Which brings up an interesting question about the payroll disparities.