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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 3, 2010

My answer to Erik Jones

Filed under Council of Elders

Erik Jones, a member of the United Church of God’s Akron, Ohio congregation, wrote a letter to the Council of Elders dated April 28, 2010. In his letter Erik makes a false statement about my position on the question of centralized training for ministers.

Erik gave permission for his letter to be published on the internet. I have written him privately to make him aware of his inaccurate statements, to no avail. Since his letter is on the internet, I take the unusual step of publishing my private note to him here.

April 30, 2010

Hello Erik,

I received a copy of your letter to the Council and I respect the time you put into preparing this letter.

However, I would point out that you have implied something about me that I never said. In so doing, you have made false statements about my position. For example, I have never said that full-time pastors are not necessary or that we do not need some form of centralized training. You wrote:

"One of the arguments I heard against the proposal to build a training center was that training full-time pastors was not necessary because we could shift pastoral responsibilities to local elders. Former Council member Paul Kieffer even argued in his 2008 COE Questionnaire that using the local elders to mentor young leaders could be an alternative to a ‘training center.’ "

Your statement about me is false.

Nowhere in my 2008 COE Questionnaire do I talk about a "training center" nor do I claim that we do not need full-time pastors. (This latter false accusation has been circulating since 2008.)

If you reread the quote you lifted out of context, you will see that my main thrust is UCG’s demographic situation and the problems that may arise because of that.

What I actually said was:

"For example, viewed strategically, running out of the pool of ‘Ambassador College’ graduates can be seen as a strategic opportunity instead of a strategic threat. It provides an opportunity to think ‘outside the box’ we used for 40 years to educate ministers and train ministers. That could mean electronic distance learning and alternative forms of mentoring including utilizing the mentoring skills of elders who are not pastors."

I am on record as a Council member as supporting the establishment of centralized training in Cincinnati.

"Mentoring" is about practical application once the ministerial candidate/ hire/trainee is "in the field," as we used to say. The administration recognized the need for this and included it in two separate proposals to the Council (while I was on the Council), in addition to centralized theoretical training.

I stand by comments made in the 2008 Council Questionnaire concerning mentoring, especially in view of United’s demographic situation, which is worse than what I thought it was. If the administration admits that we are retaining only about 60% of our youth (this was their figure, not mine, as part of the Strategic Plan review), then our UCG demographic pyramid is far more inverted than what I thought.

I also stand by my comments made at a Strategic Planning committee meeting (with the administration present) last summer, when I said that this demographic situation may force the administration in the USA to rethink its manpower concepts.

I am in an area where we are forced to do things differently, because of manpower and financial contraints. Unless things change in UCG in the USA demographically, you are also headed in this direction. Without the service of our non-employed elders here, we would be forced to curtail the already limited service we provide to members.

As an example of the utilization of our non-employed elders, I cite our financial assistance review committee, comprised of non-employed elders, which reviews requests for ongoing financial assistance based on guidelines approved by our National Council.

I appreciate the concerns you expess in your letter. However, I do not appreciate being misquoted in a way to make a false claim about my position. However, with the overall situation we face in United at this time, I understand that your accusation is what you likely have been "fed" or exposed to, since false rumors like this have been circulating for nearly 2 years now.

Best regards,

Paul Kieffer

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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