Justice & Equity Task Force

Unity with a Heartbeat of Holiness

“He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.”

– Proverbs 2:8-9 nkjv

Celebrating Unity in Diversity

preacher
preacher

As part of a 2023 General Assembly initiative, the second Sunday in March has been designated PreacHer Sunday, with the goal of “having women fill as many pulpits in Church of God congregations as possible.” Led by Christian Women Connection, this Movement-wide celebration seeks to “empower voices, elevate women, and amplify inspirational preachers all over the world.”

Pentecost Sunday Celebration

The 2023 General Assembly also designated Pentecost Sunday – May 19, 2024 – as a celebration of our Movement’s multi-ethnic identity, “to celebrate and challenge the church to remember this is what we believe and this is who we are as a Movement.”

Watch for more details coming soon!

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The 2023 General Assembly designated Pentecost Sunday – May 19, 2024 – as a celebration of our Movement’s multi-ethnic identity, “to celebrate and challenge the church to remember this is what we believe and this is who we are as a Movement.”

Holiness and unity require hard work and openness to the fresh wind of the Spirit. On the original Pentecost Sunday—often described as the church’s “birthday”—as the Holy Spirit fell on the believers and possessed them, the first broken place in the broken world He addressed was tearing down walls that separated “the devout” from all over the world.  The Spirit overcame all of the tensions, prejudices, and barriers that the devil could muster, dividing the people of God, and made them one in Christ.  Three thousand, famously, were added to the church that day.

How can we, the Church of God in 2024, experience that same transcendent, supernatural holiness and unity?  How can we surrender to the Spirit’s power to sanctify?

It is my testimony that the presence of the Holy Spirit has made himself known in an atmosphere where obedience becomes key. The assembly on the day of Pentecost exhibited the bare ingredients. There were no protocols in place, just their will to be obedient and to abandon what was customary. They abandoned personal ideas and agendas all because they believed that what had been promised would manifest at His very word. Something special happens when the draw of the moment seems to gravitate to the desire of the Holy Spirit. Nothing that we in our humanness could ever formulaically create could achieve such a transcendent experience. In celebration of the day of Pentecost, I implore this body of believers to posture its heart at the altar of obedience and to be present, to be together, and to live from under the shadow of what is customary for the expectation of what is promised to be extraordinary.

 

Twila Butler
Toledo, OH

Reflecting on the Power of Pentecost

Acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s power and ambition to unite a divided church—which is a pure expression of holiness

Awareness of the diversity and breadth of the Church of God worldwide and here at home—the barriers to holiness and unity within the Body

Acceptance of the beauty, wonder, and blessing of a church united in its God-given diversity—a witness to a divided world

Questions to consider:

  • How did you come into the Church of God? Were you raised in it? Did you discover it later in life? What’s your history?
  • How aware are you of the breadth of the Church of God and its many cultures, ethnicities, communities, and their distinct strengths and contribution to the whole?
  • How accepting are you of these differences?
  • How do you acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in your congregation?
  • Do you see the fruit of Pentecost—in the way the Spirit brought people together from many different countries, cultures, languages, and made of them one Church of God? (see Acts 2:9-12)

Ideas for Celebrating Diversity

Here are suggestions for local congregations to explore and emphasize the wonder of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, Spirit-breathed and Spirit-filled Church of God:

  • Organize a carry-in dinner featuring multi-cultural cuisine (with stories of the food’s origins); encourage ministry-at-the-table; breaking bread together.
  • Display and/or have a procession of flags from around the world or specific parts of the world. Flags used in this way are not intended to be for missionary emphasis, but understanding the beauty and diversity of the Body of Christ around the world; the Church of God is at work in 90 countries in 23 time zones.
  • Encourage members of the congregation to wear clothing representing their (or their family’s) original cultures and heritage; do not appropriate someone else’s culture, but celebrate everyone’s by presenting your own; give opportunity to explain the background and story of dress.
  • Encourage church staff and leaders to explore books and ideas that lead to reconciliation across cultures, ethnicities, and diverse communities within the Body of Christ; stretch the horizons of understanding about our neighbors and brothers and sisters raised in cultures different from our own; take the dare to tackle hard truths, difficult content, tough stuff, while clothed with humility and love.
  • Produce and deliver testimonies (e.g. in writing, by video, by audio, or live) from a variety of voices, describing their own life journey, worship, challenges, opportunities, and the beauty of their culture growing up and experienced in adulthood—and then make these available to the whole church.
  • Imagine something tangible that could be given away—placed into everyone’s hands on this Pentecost Sunday at church—something that will remind them of a spiritual truth drawn from the celebration of Pentecost Sunday (e.g. a pocket flashlight representing Jesus, the Light of the World).
  • Focus teaching on the Holy Spirit—the “x-factor” of knowledge and power. Don’t let the church leave the building before the Holy Spirit is introduced and invited in—and let everyone understand it is the Spirit that will open our eyes to the diverse unity and wonder of God’s church; holiness and unity cannot be found until will surrender all and are clothed with the Spirit’s power.
  • Invite voices from Church of God communities—different from your own—to share, teach, and celebrate, encouraging them to illustrate the exposition of the Word with personal experience in their culture and community.
  • Support local businesses that are grounded/owned/operated by communities different than your own (e.g. if catering food for the Pentecost Sunday meal or reception).
  • Plan for a unity service with other congregations that do not look like your own.
  • Develop a plan/opportunities for local church members to enjoy a meal or meet-up with someone different, one-to-one or two-by-two, to enhance understanding and respect for each other.
  • Offer opportunities for “field trips” across town to diverse communities to learn and love and/or promote travel abroad to see and meet the global Church of God; contact Church of God Ministries for ideas and opportunities.
  • Explore how your local church’s facilities/space can be shared with Christian ministries focused on another culture or community—and how to then build relationships with those meeting in your building for worship, etc.
  • Feature a biblical text on Pentecost Sunday that unpacks the synergy between being filled with the Holy Spirit and the tearing down of walls between people groups (e.g. Acts 2, as the Gospel is proclaimed from the upper room balcony, or Acts 10, as Peter’s prejudices and walls collapse under the Spirit’s leading to Cornelius).
  • Explore the fruit of the Spirit—and the gifts of the Spirit—as enumerated in the New Testament this Pentecost, exploring how they all can unite the church and how they all illustrate the Lord’s design for diversity within the Body of Christ (e.g. God equips the church in diverse ways and manifests His presence in the way many parts work together as one).
  • Explore the diversity of biblical characters, all used by God throughout biblical history, to achieve His ends (e.g. Jews, Gentiles, Simon the Cyrene, Rahab, the Samaritan woman at the well, the demon-possessed man set-free in “the region of the Gerasenes,” men, women, old, young, from different cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds.  Celebrate that God “so loved the world …” not just the world we know best and that raised us.

We celebrate Pentecost Sunday because of what it represents—the Holy Spirit falling on His people, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, religious background, etc. It is with this in mind that we urge the Church of God to celebrate the diversity that makes up this gorgeous, distinct body of believers. As I’ve prayed about what Pentecost Sunday celebrations could look like in our movement in this era, I’ve become very convicted that we need to take an active role in repentance and reparation for any harm caused to our brothers and sisters of color within the movement. How have we contributed and remained complicit in prejudices within the Church of God and in our world? How can we go about advocating for our brothers and sisters of color actively and vigorously, not in the passive manner which we have become so accustomed? At my church in Muncie, Indiana, our leadership has been doing extensive training and learning to become better equipped to be good neighbors to those in the minority. We’ve read books and hired a consultant to teach us what our biggest blind spots are as we desire to become a congregation that is multicultural. It is my hope that as we strive to celebrate diversity in the Church of God, that we can be the countercultural movement we’ve always been & improve how our brothers and sisters of color are experiencing the negative impacts of our systemic racism in America. The time to rise up and stand with the minority is now. May heaven truly come to earth as we pursue this holy work. 

 

Stephanie Niemoeller
Muncie, IN

History & Genesis of the “JET Force”

Beginning in 2020, this country experienced a heightened awareness of the painful reality that certain people groups are often treated in unthinkable and unjust ways – including black and brown people, Asian Americans, and immigrants of all kinds. The inequality and unrest wasn’t bound to matters of race; stories of women being denied access to leadership positions — particularly within the church — began to paint a picture of an environment long overdue for bold action.

And so it was this moment in which a motion to the General Assembly of the Church of God was born with this simple premise—can we study the Church of God to see if we are actually living out what we say we believe in both the areas of racial equality and the priesthood of all believers?

The 2021 General Assembly of the Church of God issued a resounding charge to seek out and clarify the “composition, beliefs, and practice of the Church of God in regard to racial justice and the equality of men and women.” To answer this charge, the Justice and Equity Task Force was formed.

Process & Findings

Over the course of two years, the Justice and Equity Task Force (“JET Force”) conducted a large survey, engaged in focus groups, utilized current minister data, and reviewed our credentialing process. What they discovered out of this work is documented in the report below, which was presented to the 2023 General Assembly.

Through data, infographics, and commentary, this report offers:

  • New data revealing the opinions of our Church of God constituents about the role that race plays in our practice of unity.
  • Information about the status of women in ministry and the challenges we face in living out our doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
  • Recommendations from the Justice and Equity Task Force on where we go from here.

These findings and recommendations are intended to guide our Movement toward visible and intentional fulfillment of the holiness and unity for which Jesus prayed. We invite a careful reading of this report. And we pray for our Church of God agencies, pastors, and congregations to have the wisdom and the courage to change.

READ THE REPORT

FAQS

Who is the Justice and Equity Task Force?

The volunteer Task Force is a broad cross-section of the Church of God with diversity in age, gender, race, ethnicity, occupation, region, etc. The task force members are:

Are we looking to change the theology of the Church of God Movement?

The justice and equity resolution’s focus on composition, beliefs, and practices gives us the opportunity to look at how we live out our theology, and is not about redefining our theology.

Who should contact if I have questions?

If you have any questions, please email unityteam@chog.org. Our volunteer team will review your email and follow up as we can. Thank you.

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