Opinion—A Summer with the Church of God

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Op-ed

By Malcolm Tyree

Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.

This summer I was privileged to experience the Church of God in three unique ways—in three distinct venues—and I hope you’ll consider traveling with me in this type of adventure for our future.

In June, I participated in the Church of God Convention and General Assembly in Tampa, Florida. The bulk of the time for the General Assembly meeting was spent reviewing the findings of the Justice and Equity Task Force (JET Force). Their findings revealed discomforting experiences and shortcomings of our Movement’s treatment of women and racial minorities. Baylor professor and author George Yancey’s concepts of “colorblindness” and “assimilation”1 and their inherent limitations resonated as I observed a predominantly white audience at an event meant to embrace the fullness of our Movement. The implicit message was undeniable: the challenge of inclusivity is ongoing and cannot be swept aside by mere intentions. Yet, the stark underrepresentation of minority participation was a reminder that we must transcend surface-level interactions; it demands a deeper, intentional commitment to address disparities.

Less than two weeks after the Tampa Convention, I attended the Convención Nacional de Concilio Hispano de Iglesia de Dios, the National Convention of the Hispanic Council of the Church of God, in Oklahoma City. Business consultant Erin Meyer’s insights2 into communication patterns truly came to life. My presence as a white, English-speaking leader among a Hispanic group was an exercise in understanding the principles of “low-context” and “high-context” communication. Just as Meyer suggests that misinterpretations can arise when differing communication styles clash, my experience underscored the importance of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps. Effectively transcending such barriers requires a willingness to adapt our communication methods, fostering an environment where meaningful dialogue and understanding can flourish. I was honored to be overwhelmingly welcomed by my fellow pastors. I was also excited to see active participation by Anderson University and Mid-America Christian University, just as I did in Tampa.

Christy & Malcolm Tyree

Four weeks following the Concilio meeting, I traveled to West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, to attend the 107th Camp Meeting of the National Association of the Church of God. This was my first time at our Movement’s nationally recognized, historically Black camp meeting. I made the decision to attend after years of expressing a desire to go but failing to journey to Zion’s Hill, as it is affectionately called. As I listened to the JET Force in Tampa, I knew I needed to go. The National Association had been through two major hardships in recent years. First, the membership wrestled with the palatable possibility of separating from the Movement due to perceived lack of support from white members of the Church of God. Secondly, there had been a major fire, resulting in the need to demolish two buildings on the sacred ground. My brothers and sisters voted to stay in the Movement and I wanted to be with them as an expression of support for their contribution and participation in our Movement. In a world striving for racial harmony, I hope my presence was received as an expression of solidarity, engaging in the importance of acknowledging and respecting the unique history and experiences of all members of our Movement. I know I felt abundantly welcomed and wanted by my extended NACOG family. It was good to see Anderson University representatives and a handful of other white pastors who attended the Tampa Convention there, as well.

I traveled to each of these events because I am part of the Church of God. I also traveled hoping to better understand how to effectively minister in my neighborhood, which is filled with great diversity. Alejandro Mandes3 reminds us that we are at a demographic tipping point and that the church must come to grips with the changes if we hope to live out Jesus’ prayer of “on earth as it is in heaven.”

As we stand at the intersection of unity and diversity, I challenge us to seek ways to live into the multiethnic Christian family. Instead of retreating into our preferred experiences, let us actively seek cross-cultural opportunities that challenge our perspectives and deepen our connections. In doing so, we honor the rich tapestry Jesus began weaving, expressed in the book of Acts and the epistles, that is foundational for our faith. This is the path towards a richer, more inclusive, and more transformative journey—one that embraces the diversity that is both our challenge and our strength. As we heed Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “build the beloved community,” may we embrace his legacy as we work to eradicate the vestiges of division, standing shoulder to shoulder with hearts aflame with the transformative power of Christ’s love and unity.

May we travel together in honor and collaboration, so that we can “give the godless world evidence that you [God] have sent [Jesus]” (John 17:23 MSG).

Malcolm Tyree is the lead pastor at New Vida Church in Dallas, Texas. New Vida is a multiethnic, multigenerational, bilingual (English y español) community of faith, growing into the Jesus-life, juntos! Malcolm and his wife Christy are graduates of Mid-America Christian University. Malcolm has been participating with the Concilio Sur Centro and the Texas State Association, along with Texas Ministries of the Church of God, for several years.

Feature (top) collage: Scenes from this year’s Church of God Convention, Convención Nacional de Concilio Hispano de Iglesia de Dios, and Camp Meeting of the National Association of the Church of God.

1In his work Beyond Racial Gridlock, George Yancey identifies a spectrum of racial tensions that are prominent in American society while proposing for “mutual responsibility.”

2In her work The Culture Map, Erin Meyer navigates the complexities of cross-cultural interactions in a globalized world. Meyer’s book offers a framework for understanding cultural differences and provides practical strategies for effectively communicating and collaborating with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

3In his book Embracing the New Samaria, Alejandro Mandes offers insights from his experience as to how the church can navigate into a multicultural future.

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