Echoes from the Global Church of God Alliance
By Carl Stagner
Historic and catalytic, the inaugural gathering of the Global Church of God Alliance (GCGA) this year proved providential in agenda, scope, and trajectory. Wielding singular aspiration to strengthen the bonds of the Church of God movement around the world for the advancement of the kingdom, representatives of the Church of God, otherwise separated by location and language, worshiped together, wrestled common challenges together, and wrought framework together by which the Church of God can embrace its collective calling. Though the GCGA met on the heels of the Church of God Convention in Tampa four months ago, echoes of the event can still be heard. Several such echoes take on the timbre of insightful and inspirational recollections and reflections of those who were there.
Leaderwell Pohsngap hosted the conversation over two days of meetings in Tampa. For Leaderwell, home is Shillong, Meghalaya, India. But for Leaderwell, home can be anywhere the Church of God offers its signature warm and inviting hospitality. “It never dawned on me [before this gathering] that the Movement is in so many countries of the world,” he reflects.
More than ninety countries, to be sure—one of which is Barbados. Lennox Boyce, representing the Church of God in Barbados, shares similar sentiment. “I will remember the camaraderie, unity, and sense of purpose that prevailed in the room,” he recalls. “While there were differences in the process of establishing the Global Church of God Alliance, there certainly was unity of purpose in its necessity, importance, and relevance…. One of the things I enjoyed most, apart from hearing such interesting reports from each region of the world, was getting to know my brothers and sisters from around the world.”
Reports presented from each region of the world certainly connected listeners with fascinating statistics and captivating anecdotes summarizing the work of God outside the all-too-common confines of national communication. Part of what the GCGA will accomplish is the creation and continuation of communication (particularly in both English and Spanish, widely used across the globe—and therefore, also during the meetings of the GCGA). Without a doubt, God is still active in the whole world; testimony to that assertion tends to encourage both perseverance and affinity.
“Without a doubt,” Esteban Zapata insists in Spanish, translated into English, “it’s being able to share experiences with so many leaders from different continents, knowing what’s going on with the Church of God in other parts of the world, and hearing about struggles and victories, which are similar to the ones in our region.” Zapata, representative to the Global Church of God Alliance from Honduras, explains the vital next steps to stewarding such knowledge. “Being able to hear reports from different regions [means] having the opportunity to pray for one another.”
In view of the worship, the dialogue, and the connections, Leaderwell suggests the best part of the event, though, was ultimately its simple purpose—“to launch it.” In the early stages of development, the GCGA aims not to provide one more event on the calendar for international Christian fellowship. The GCGA, as Leaderwell sees it, exists so the Church of God globally can “encourage each other, pray for each other, and serve as a platform from which we can think of joint missional efforts with others in the Movement.” He also points out the value of theological discussion concerning present-day issues confronting the Church of God in various contexts and cultures.
Lennox Boyce underscores this evident need for more than fellowship. “The world has become a very small place, and we have much more in common than we know,” he observes. “The devil has convinced people that it is more important to focus on what keeps us apart than what unites us. In the Church of God, we are looking for ways to unite. Global unity as a Movement is essential. Observing common trends and looking for ways to tackle them are necessary. Supporting each other with prayer and personnel is vital to the life and future of our existence. [Therefore,] cross-cultural ministry opportunities, which can develop from this Alliance, are important. We can do more together than we can do by ourselves.”
For Cyril Pillay, from the Church of God in South Africa, the profoundly beautiful moments of worship and prayer during the Tampa gathering were especially memorable. Meeting Church of God leadership from across the globe was an even brighter highlight. But he maintains focus on what yet needs to be accomplished as the GCGA moves forward. “Strategic planning is a must,” he asserts. While the Church of God presence in ninety-plus countries is encouraging, he says, “We must entrench the Church of God’s presence in another ninety countries!”
Pillay, Boyce, Zapata, and Pohsngap are cautiously optimistic about the possibilities. They pray for swift and decisive action as next steps are implemented. They anticipate solid leadership and clear direction. They look forward to the Spirit’s blessing upon meetings that will represent the world’s diverse locations and perspectives well, while fostering unity in Christ. They long to see just what the Lord can accomplish through a united Church of God.
In September, the Ministries Council of the Church of God met to determine representatives to the Global Church of God Alliance for the United States and Canada. Among them are Tatum Osbourne, Andrew Gale, and Jim Lyon.
Stay tuned to CHOGnews for further developments as they emerge. Learn more about the international ministries of the Church of God in the United States and Canada at www.chogglobal.org. Read more about the inauguration of the Global Church of God Alliance here. Special thanks to Global Strategy missionary Jonathan Todd for photographs.