GCI Update

About the GCI Board and plans to relocate our Home Office

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

In this letter I take a look at the GCI Board of Directors and then, at the end of the letter, share information about plans to relocate our Home Office.

Concerning the GCI Board, I’m often asked two related questions: “What does the GCI Board do?” and “Who are the GCI Board members?” I’ll answer both of these important questions here, hoping you find the answers both encouraging and informative.

What does the GCI Board do?

The GCI Board meets several times a year to set the budget, conduct the business affairs of our fellowship, maintain our doctrinal integrity, and serve as the mother board of the multiple boards of directors and trustees within GCI in various places around the world.

Though it doesn’t have a high public profile, the GCI Board is highly important. Its role is guided by the Corporations Code, with the Board operating according to Articles and Bylaws of Incorporation. The Articles, which are filed with the State, set forth basic matters for our church to operate within the law as a nonprofit religious organization. The Bylaws deal primarily with internal matters of church governance. For example, they require that the Board has no less than five and no more than fifteen people serving as Directors, and that the Directors be GCI ordained elders. Since we have nearly 900 congregations in 100 countries around the world, we also strive to ensure that the Board has an international flavor that reflects the diverse nature of our fellowship.

Who are the GCI Board members?

I’ll answer this question with pictures and short biographies of each of the current members of the GCI Board. I serve as Chairman of the Board, and since you likely are already acquainted with me and my wife Tammy, let’s begin with Dr. Russell Duke, who serves as Vice Chairman of the GCI Board.

Dr. Russell Duke

Russell and Phyllis Duke

Dr. Russell Duke has been part of GCI since his parents became members of the Radio Church of God in 1953. Russell attended the denomination’s grade and high schools through 1966, then moved to Big Sandy, TX, to attend Ambassador College. He holds great memories of summers at camps in Big Sandy and Orr, MN, as a camper, counselor, and ski instructor.

In 1970 Russell married Phyllis Havens, from Lawton, OK. “The best thing to happen at Ambassador!” he says. The Dukes have two children, Chris and Tracy, and six grandchildren. Together they have directed music for Imperial Schools, and for church, festival and Ambassador College choirs. Most memorable was the six years directing the Young Ambassadors singing group in Big Sandy that performed in six tours of churches in the middle and eastern U.S. “Great relationships were built on those long trips.”

Russell pastored churches in Topeka, KS (1974-77) and Blue Springs, MO (1978-1984), before becoming a professor at Ambassador College in 1984. At Ambassador he served as an instructor, director of the Young Ambassadors, chair of the Theology department when the college became an accredited university, then president from 1995-1997. Following his time at Ambassador, Russell opened the Ambassador Center at Azusa Pacific University (APU), where he began splitting time between the church and university. He helped develop Grace Communion Seminary (GCS), serving as its President from 2008-2015. He continues serving GCS as Liaison Officer and professor.

Carn Catherwood

Carn and Joyce Catherwood

Carn Catherwood was born in a small village in western Manitoba, Canada. When World War II began, Carn’s dad left the farm his grandfather had homesteaded in 1885, and enlisted in the Canadian Army. He contracted TB in England and was hospitalized for more than 20 years. Carn’s childhood was spent in St. Boniface, a small French-speaking city in Central Manitoba, where he became bilingual.

Carn was only 14 when he first heard Herbert Armstrong on the radio. “His dynamic analysis of the Bible and world news fascinated me.” Carn applied to Ambassador College in Pasadena and entered in 1957, only the second Canadian to attend. He spent his senior year at the Bricket Wood campus in England, and graduated there in 1961. In 1962 he married Joyce Sefcak from Taylor, TX. They have been blessed with three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Ordained a year after graduation, for the next 45 years Carn pastored or supervised churches in six U.S. states, and in Canada, Belgium, France, England and Italy, as well as parts of West Africa. He also taught Christian Leadership at Ambassador College for 14 years. Carn is presently retired, living in North Texas.

When the Church began its time of renewal in 1995, Joyce and Carn quickly saw the need for doctrinal change. As their understanding of the New Covenant continued to grow, they began to realize that a relationship with Jesus is at the heart of the Covenant and Jesus should be the center of our worship and our lives.

Dr. Charles Fleming

Charles and Carmen Fleming

Dr. Charles Fleming, GCI overseer for our Caribbean churches, first learned about our church in 1967. As a member of his high school’s debate team, he was doing research for a debate and came across a copy of the Plain Truth and subscribed. Two years later he joined the church and then attended Ambassador College. After graduating in 1977, he was sent as an intern to Puerto Rico. Since then he has served as a pastor in Jamaica, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and currently serves as Mission Developer for the Caribbean.

During his internship in Puerto Rico, Charles met and married Carmen, the love of his life. Together they have three children: Robert, an engineer; Michelle, a math teacher; and Anne Marie, who works for the University of Central Florida. They consider themselves an “island family” with Charles born in Grenada; Carmen, Robert and Michelle born in Puerto Rico; and Anne born in Jamaica.

Charles says a highlight of his life has been the privilege of living through the remarkable renewal of an entire denomination. This has left him with a strong sense of just how much God is an active agent for change in our confused and confusing world. The remarkable transformation of a church, moving from extreme legalism to embracing unfathomable grace, has left him with a deep desire to help others know and experience the loving presence of the Triune God of grace. He sees our denomination as one of God’s ministries for doing just that.

Charles completed a doctorate in Missional Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he now works part time as an adjunct professor. He says his exposure to students who serve as missionaries in just about every country on earth has increased his appreciation for the ways God reaches out in love to people from every nation, tribe and even religion. Charles is able to bring to his region and all of GCI fresh insights he gains from the highly experienced missionaries in his classes.

Franklin Guice

Franklin and Cora Guice

Franklin (“Frank”) Guice was born September 1, 1938, and was named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The first five years of his life were spent in Pineland, TX, a lumber mill town not far from Big Sandy. His parents then moved the family to Wichita, KS, in pursuit of a better life. It was there that Frank received his basic public education. Brought up in the Baptist church in Wichita, Frank developed a love for music by singing in the choir with the adults. In the seventh grade he sang in a boy’s quartet and learned to appreciate harmonizing. It was in junior high that he developed a love for sports in general, and basketball in particular.

Taking a break in formal education, Frank joined the U.S. Navy and traveled through much of the western and eastern U.S., and many cities and countries in the Western Pacific region. After three years in the Navy, Frank returned to Wichita and found employment at the U.S. Post Office. It was there that he met and married the love of his life, Cora Scott. This year they will celebrate 55 years of “a really blessed union.” Cora and Frank were blessed with two children, Stephen and Stephanie, and a granddaughter Kayla Gibson (Stephanie’s child).

While in Wichita, Frank sensed God’s calling to the Church of God and had his love of learning rekindled. He attended Wichita State University for a semester and then Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1975. After graduation, Frank continued to study, taking classes at Los Angeles City College and Pasadena City College. After working for a couple of engineering firms, he returned to work for the U.S. government, working for the Treasury Department for 29 years. Frank retired in 2006 after working for the government a total of 43 years.

Frank feels it has been a life blessing to journey with others through the learning experience of the Worldwide Church of God and now Grace Communion International. He has been blessed to serve as a deacon and elder in our fellowship. Frank was selected to serve on the Ambassador College/University Board prior to serving on the GCI Board. He says it is an ongoing joy to worship with and serve in our worldwide fellowship, including his home congregation, New Hope Christian Fellowship, in Los Angeles. He appreciates his physical and spiritual families, realizing how much love there is in GCI when many brothers and sisters around the world prayed for him after learning of his illness many years ago through a prayer request in GCI Weekly Update.

Though now in physical decline, Frank rejoices in the spiritual health he has in Jesus Christ that continues to grow. “A growth that God makes possible for all of his children.”

Curtis May

Curtis and Jannice May

Curtis May was born in Greensboro, AL, on November 3, 1944. After graduating from high school in 1963 as class president and valedictorian, he moved to Brooklyn, NY, and studied accounting at the Brooklyn Adult Vocational School. He later worked as a postman in the Church Street Station in Manhattan, NY. During the 70s his focus was on biblical studies. During that decade he attended Ambassador College and married his wife, Jannice Everett.

Curtis served in the pastoral ministry for 30 years in WCG congregations in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, MD; Norfolk, VA; Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA. He also taught at Imperial Schools and directed youth summer camps. In the early 2000s, he served as District Superintendent of the Southwest District.

In January 1996, Curtis was appointed Director of the Office of Reconciliation Ministries (ORM). He also is the editorial director of ORM’s newsletter Reconcile. He has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Alaska, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South America, the Caribbean, England, and Ireland to conduct ORM workshops. Curtis has received training at the Center of the Healing of Racism in Houston, TX, and is now a member of the Center as well as a member of the International Reconciliation Coalition. Curtis also is a member of the Board of Directors at African Enterprise, where he serves on the executive committee.

Curtis’ wife, Jannice, is Founder and President of Connecting and Bonding Inc., an organization that serves ministers’ wives. The Mays have two children: Angela Clark, a CPA; and Bradley May, a Corporal in the city of Pasadena Police Department; and two grandchildren: Jaden (age seven), and Bryce (age three).

Wendy Moore

Wendy and Gary Moore

Wendy Moore’s family began fellowshipping with the Worldwide Church of God when she was just beginning school in South Africa. In spite of the tensions and challenges in South Africa during those years, Wendy’s childhood was positive. “Attending SEP camp every year as a teen had a big impact on me. It was due to the example and encouragement of some camp volunteers from Ambassador College that I decided to travel the great distance to California to attend Ambassador College.”

Wendy stayed busy in college, taking advantage of the numerous opportunities presented. After graduating, she worked for the church for a number of years, got married, and became involved in service in a local church. This led to an opportunity for Wendy and her husband to be involved in pastoral ministry. They moved to the San Francisco, CA, area for a year of training, then returned to South Africa.

This period was characterized by the immense doctrinal changes that transformed our fellowship. “It was exciting, as we moved to a much more Christ-centered theology, with the strong focus on God’s triune nature we now have. During the trauma of that time, some leaders and a significant number of members chose to disassociate themselves from us.” Wendy went through the personal trauma of divorce during that time, but says, “The gift of a long-desired child of my own was a huge blessing from God in an otherwise dark time.”

Wendy had been working at the church office in Johannesburg, and with the departure of two of three employed elders, was asked to serve as the National Coordinator of our fellowship in South Africa. This was a very busy time in her life (being the single parent of a small child!), but a richly rewarding one as well. “We have some wonderful pastors and many dedicated and loving members in our 25 churches scattered throughout South Africa. It was a great pleasure working with, and serving them.”

Wendy’s role in the church required her attendance at the 2005 International Conference in California where she met Gary Moore. Within about a year they were married. Our Canadian churches loaned Gary to South Africa for a year of teaching and pastoral training. The newlyweds much enjoyed working together in ministry throughout the country. The year ended on Canada Day 2007, and Wendy and Gary moved back to Canada where he resumed his role as National Director, though initially retaining a link with South Africa serving there as a mission developer. Wendy now works closely with Gary, especially in the growing international mission work that GCI-Canada conducts. She has very much enjoyed getting to know the members in our Canadian churches, and deeply appreciates their generosity to help serve the cause of Christ wherever in the world the opportunity to do so presents itself.

Wendy says the doctrinal journey of our church has been one that has vastly enriched her understanding of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “As we live our lives in relationship with him, each day becomes an adventure. What a privilege to enter into his ministry to the world, and see him work with us and through us to benefit others!”

Mathew Morgan

Mathew and Pam Morgan
Mathew and Pam Morgan

Mathew (“Mat”) Morgan, MBA, serves as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of both Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary where he is responsible for overseeing the financial, legal, accounting, human resources, IT, and facilities departments. He also serves as a Director and Secretary of the GCI Board.

Mat was born in rural Montana and spent his early years in Montana and South Dakota before moving to California to attend Ambassador College. There he met and married Pam, the love of his life. During their 28 years together they have been blessed with two children, Mathew (now a financial consultant) and Jessica (now an elementary school teacher).

Mat credits his parents, Richard and Edythe, for introducing him to God and church work. “Because of their desire to serve God and others, the Morgan house was always open for guests or even animals who needed help.” Richard and Edythe joined WCG when Mat was about five years old. In those early years, the family drove 250 miles each way to the nearest congregation or Bible study, either in Great Falls, MT, or Spokane, WA, depending on which direction had the better weather that day.

Mat has worked for GCI and GCS in various positions for more than 32 years. After receiving his MBA in 1994, he worked in both the legal and financial areas and has been in his current positions since 2005. He counts it a privilege to have worked for the church during its challenging years of transition because he has seen God’s hand in the journey and has “served with some of the most wonderful people in the world.” He looks forward to what God has in store for GCI in the years ahead. “Following God’s lead has never been boring or easy, but it has always been filled with an overall sense of peace and joy that can only be explained through the presence of God along the way.”

Celestine J. Holman Olive

Celestine and Leonard Olive

Celestine (“Cella”) Olive was born in Houston, TX, to a Navy veteran, Daniel Holman, and a Baptist, gospel and blues pianist, Vera Levy Pittman (both born in East Texas). She has 10 living siblings (the eldest died as an infant) of which she is the third oldest. Her father began listening to Herbert Armstrong on radio in the early 50s and the family started attending festivals in Big Sandy, TX, when she was seven years old. “There was no congregation in Houston at that time.” Cella was baptized at age 19 in the Houston congregation.

Cella met Leonard Olive Jr. of Compton, CA, in the late 60s when their respective families were attending a festival in Big Sandy. During her senior year in high school she began working part-time in a vocational training program for NASA/Manned Spacecraft Center (now NASA/Johnson Space Center). She was hired full-time upon graduating high school and worked there until leaving home and moving to Pasadena, CA, in 1971 to live with her sister and long-time duet partner, Linda Morgan, who had earlier moved from Houston to Pasadena. She and Leonard began dating and eventually married in January 1973. They have two sons, Phillip Olive, Eric Olive (married to Michele) and three grandsons, Trenton, Eric II and Cameron, all of whom are baptized members of GCI.

Cella was ordained a deaconess in 1991. Over the many years of her membership she has served on the Pastoral Advisory Council for three pastors, and for seven of those years served as Church Treasurer. She was ordained an elder in 2007 and commissioned as an Assistant Pastor in New Hope Christian Fellowship, which currently meets in Eagle Rock, CA, where she presently serves with Pastor Glen Weber on the financial team. She also facilitates the New Hope Women’s Fellowship meetings. Cella has enjoyed being involved in music most of her life, having studied piano and voice with both private and university instructors. She serves as the Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministry at New Hope and has been conductor of the New Hope Praise Choir for the past 17 years.

Celestine began working for GCI full-time in various capacities in 1996. She presently works in the Accounting Department as Supervisor of Member Services and Cash Accounting. She was invited by GCI President Joseph Tkach to become a member of the GCI Board and began serving in January 2015.

Norman Smith

Norman and Charlene Smith

Norman Smith was born on the family farm near Burnt Prairie, in Southern Illinois on February 18, 1930. He lived there until at age 20 he left to attend Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA. Norman’s wife, Charlene also enrolled in Ambassador in 1950. They began dating in their sophomore year and married in their senior year. Their daughter, Deborah, was born in 1954, their first son, Kevan in 1956, and son Kyle in 1960. The Smiths have two grandchildren.

Norman was baptized in 1950, and has served the church in various capacities ever since. 
He began working in the church’s recording studio in 1951, which soon turned into a full time job that continued during his last two years of college. He was made director of the broadcasting studio in 1952, and after graduation in 1954, became manager of the church’s radio and television production facilities. He was ordained an elder in 1955, regularly giving sermons to various congregations in Southern California.

As an associate member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the Audio Engineering Society, and the Acoustical Engineering Society at the time the Ambassador Auditorium was being designed, he played an important role in the design of the lighting and sound system in the Auditorium. He obtained a master’s degree in management science from West Coast University, Los Angeles in 1976, and later completed a Master of Science Counseling Psychology program at California State University, San Bernardino in 1993 to facilitate counseling and training in the areas of alcoholism, addiction, and child abuse.

In 1976, Norman was assigned to pastor the Chico, CA, congregation and be the Area Coordinator for ministers in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. In 1980, the Smiths were transferred to San Diego—Norman’s first pastorate with no other responsibilities. The couple then transferred to the San Bernardino congregation in 1987. Norman thrived in his pastoral responsibilities, delighting in performing weddings, anointing and praying for people and seeing God bless and protect them through their trials. He delighted in counseling with people, seeing them develop a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and make changes in their relationships with others. His “pastor’s heart” always led him to be alert to people’s needs and find innovative ways to help them.

Norman stated in a 1994 interview, “I attempt to look at both the great progress the church has made since I have been a part of it and also admit the mistakes which have seriously hindered some people’s ability to see the love of Jesus Christ. Admitting the mistakes does not mean to dwell on them. But, admitting the mistakes is a form of reaching out to those who have been hindered and have faltered.” Norman retired in 2005 and has served as Assistant Pastor in the Eugene, OR, congregation to the present. He was a member of the church’s Advisory Council of Elders for several years and has served on the GCI Board since January 2015.

Concluding thoughts and an announcement

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Board members. Perhaps you were pleasantly surprised to learn who serves on the GCI Board. I wish all of you could share in the privilege I feel working with these talented women and men—each is an inspiration to me, and I’m proud they all serve as Board members. I think it’s the most qualified Board we’ve ever had in our history as a denomination. Three of our Board members have doctorates, two have MBAs, three are internationals, and two have histories that reach back to our Radio Church of God days, where they had daily contact with Herbert Armstrong. Our Board has been through it all!

As a Board, we spend a lot of time praying for all of you, and I invite you to pray for all of us—joining us as prayer warriors on behalf of GCI and our mission of living and sharing the gospel. Regarding that mission, we’re always looking for ways to be as effective as possible in using the resources that God provides. Toward that end, our management team, for the last several months, has been carefully analyzing options for moving our Home Office (currently located in Glendora, CA) to a location that would serve our needs better in terms of cost to the denomination and to our Home Office employees (including providing more affordable housing).

Just this morning (August 25), after months of prayerful deliberation, the GCI Board met, concluding that we should proceed to implement plans to relocate the Home Office to a yet-to-be-determined location in North Carolina. I ask for you to join us in praying about this important move (and the many details involved). Please read what I have to say about the move in my September letter to GCI donors—you’ll find it online at https://www.gci.org/letter/1609.  We’ll keep you informed as additional details emerge.

Your brother in Christ,
Joseph Tkach

Medical mission in the Philippines

GCI’s church in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, recently celebrated their 15th anniversary as a congregation. They did so by reaching out to the community by conducting a medical mission. In partnership with two local agencies, they served 245 adults and children. Each participant received counseling, followed by assistance related to their identified physical, emotional and spiritual needs. All were fed a full meal. These interactions provided ample opportunity to pray with those being helped, and to share with them the gospel of Jesus. Many said that they felt encouraged, having found hope in the midst of their trials.



Ministry ABCs

Here from Jeff McSwain (national coordinator of the GCI-USA Intern Program) is a list from A to Z of practices that exemplify an incarnational-relational approach to ministry.


Appropriate with all relationships

Build a relationship as if you are going to know the person for the rest of your life


Do the unexpected (random acts of kindness, shoot a text just to let them know you are thinking about them)

Eye contact (don’t look over the shoulder of the person you’re talking with to scan for others)

Family (learn to see the person more and more in his/her family context)

Go wherever folks congregate (especially those disinterested in God)

Hi! Be the first to say hi. Initiate with people and see where the Spirit leads.

Identify without being identical (when confronted with questionable stuff, don’t condemn but don’t condone)

Joke around without sarcasm (avoid “one-upmanship” while building up)

Keep your word

Listen sincerely (don’t be leaning towards “the next thing”)

Make them the experts; find opportunities for them to teach you (very difficult when you’re not interested!)

Notice their achievements (be ready for “How did you know?” If it’s publicly available it’s not stalker-ish!)

Open-ended questions (“So tell me about the team this year, how’s it looking?” vs. “Is the team going to be good?”)

Pick up where you left off  (“How is your grandmother doing?” “How did that science test go?”)

Quit while you’re ahead (before their awkward, “Uh, sorry, but I gotta go”)

Remember names (“A person’s name is the sweetest sound to them in any language.” – Dale Carnegie)

Show up just to see them and or support them (not to invite them to something) 90% of success is showing up!

Talk about what they are interested in

Understand before being understood (They don’t care how much you know ‘til they know how much you care!)

Vary levels of contact  (see, talk, do, deepen—don’t underestimate the value of level one: simply being seen)

With-ness before witness (nothing communicates like consistent presence)

Xpert on your community (newspaper, websites; notice and attend community or school events)

Yearbook is your friend (use it to familiarize yourself with the school culture)

Zealous in prayer before, during and after (God is in charge—give him your successes and failures)

Death of pastors’ brother/uncle

We were saddened to learn of the death of Larry David Smith, brother of GCI pastor Tom Smith and uncle of GCI pastor Carrie Smith. The information below was provided by Carrie.

Brothers Larry and Tom Smith
Larry (left) with his brother Tom Smith

Larry, a resident of Bristol, TN, died at age 78 on August 23. His wife Betsy preceded him in death in 2007. Four children survive: daughter Suzie Arnie; and three sons: Mike, Scott, and Kevin.

Given the ten years between their ages, Tom considered Larry not only a beloved brother, but also his “second dad.” Carrie had the opportunity to minister to Larry’s children through the difficult final stages of their father’s life. Carrie wrote about this experience:

These past several weeks have been a trying time for his children as a visit to the doctor led to a hospital stay, moving to ICU, and making some hard decisions about what is best for their father. I had the privilege to come alongside them during that difficult time.

Carrie and her uncle
Larry with his niece Carrie Smith

God definitely works in mysterious ways. As Larry’s children prepare to celebrate the full life of a wonderful man, I am currently in Ohio celebrating the beginning of life as Hope Pregnancy Center (in Clarksville, TN where I serve in ministry) is training to “GO” into the community with our mobile unit this fall. What an incredible opportunity God gives us to journey together from beginning to end, no matter the point (or points) of intersection in someone’s life. This is what matters: Life WITH others, in relationship, for their good. Multiplying joys and sharing sorrows. Life together. Thank You, Lord that You have made us for relationship—with YOU and others.

Cards to the family may be sent to:

Tom Smith
346 Steele St
Monroeville, PA 15146-4656

Good News festival

New Life Fellowship, GCI’s Baltimore, Maryland, congregation, invites you to join them for their 2016 Good News Festival called The Father Loves and Likes You Fest. It will be held October 13-16 at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront Resort Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland.

The festival theme, Worship! Oneness! Witness! (WOW!), from John 14-17, will focus on participating with Jesus in proclaiming his gospel to those who don’t yet know it, so that Jesus may be encountered as humanity’s grace in word and deed. This message is for everyone, so invite your family, friends and neighbors—the gospel will be boldly proclaimed! Preacher/teachers will include Jeff McSwain who will be bringing with him several GCI interns. For additional information, click here.


Festival registration and hotel reservations

Conference registration and hotel reservations are done separately:

  • To register for the full conference package (including meals), click here. To register for conference sessions only, click here. Note that the registration fee increases on September 16, so register early. For assistance phone Jamie Stewart at 1-410-701-0810 or contact her by email at jamiestewart1981@gmail.com.
  • To reserve a hotel room at the reduced conference rate click here and enter group code NL6, or phone 1-866-834-3613 or 1-410-524-1600. If you wish to come early or stay late, the special rate applies from Wednesday, October 12 through Monday, October 17. The hotel reservation discounts remain in place until the hotel is fully booked and all rooms are taken.