CORWIN SPRINGS - The man who oversaw several organizational changes in the Church Universal and Triumphant and said it was his goal to move the sometimes controversial New Age sect more into the mainstream is resigning as president, it was announced Friday.
In a church news release, Gilbert Cleirbaut said he wanted to spend more time with his family and that he knew that the longer he was involved with church business the harder it would become to make impartial changes.
"In the last few months, I have come to realize that I am too ingrained in the process and therefore am no longer able to add the objectivity and value this organization needs," said Cleirbaut, who was elected president three years ago.
Management of the church will be turned over to the church's board of directors and management team, the release said. Cleirbaut's resignation is effective July 31.
While he said he would remain a member of the church, Cleirbaut added that he would move back to Canada. He is a former director of human resources for Union Carbide, British Petroleum and the government of Alberta.
In previous interviews, Cleirbaut talked frankly about the financial problems of the church, his desire for it to be seen more as a mainstream religion and less as a cult and the need to move away from what was once the centralized leadership of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, whose late husband founded the church.
Prophet, while still the spiritual leader, has been dealing with health problems over the last few years, including epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease.
According to the release, Cleirbaut told church members at the organization's 40th annual summer conference, being held in Paradise Valley, that many of the changes that he intended to make are in place. He oversaw the consolidation and elimination of many jobs within the organization and the selling of many of its assets and land holdings.
The goal, church officials said, is to take focus away from the headquarters and spread the religion through its more than 200 teaching centers worldwide.
"Gilbert was like the midwife appointed to assist in the birth of a new life cycle for our organization," said board member and minister Neroli Duffy. "Now that the baby is delivered, like any good midwife, Gilbert is handing the baby over to the next team of people who can help oversee the process of infancy and growth."