Stand Against the Storm: General Assembly 2012
By Joseph D. Allison
Chair Randall Spence challenged the 2012 General Assembly of the Church of God to stand against a “perfect storm” that now engulfs the movement. His report to the Assembly on Tuesday warned that the Church of God is “like a rudderless ship being blown by the winds of fate, all the while taking on water. Now is…a time for bold and godly action.”
Dr. Spence announced that the Assembly’s Ministries Council has appointed a Future Story Team to write a narrative of what they believe God is calling the Church of God to do in the next decade. Chaired by Dr. Andrea Cook, president of Warner Pacific College, the team will bring its recommendation to the Ministries Council this September.
“Now is the time to seek the face of God for that God-sized vision that will galvanize our hearts, our imaginations, and our spirits and take us to places we have not gone before,” he said. “Now is the time to embrace deep change that is not born out of a desire for survival but out of a passion…to bring to faith in Christ those who are lost and estranged from God.”
The Assembly heeded this call to action with three key decisions:
North American Convention. The Assembly adopted a committee recommendation to hold NAC each year in Anderson, Indiana, with simultaneous regional conventions in distant cities. Live video feeds will link worship services at all of the conventions so that more people can connect with the experience.
Expectation of Giving. The Assembly called upon local congregations to give a tithe (10 percent) of their income to outreach and mission beyond their local communities, through the state and national ministries of the Church of God.
Church of God Scholarships. Beginning with the 2013 World Ministry Budget, all funds designated for the movement’s institutions of higher learning will be used to fund scholarships for Church of God students.
Other rays of sunlight appeared on the stormy horizon. College presidents James Edwards (Anderson University), Andrea Cook (Warner Pacific College), John Fozard (Mid-America Christian University), and Greg Hall (Warner University) brought reports of innovative new degree programs, increased enrollment, and greater financial stability at their institutions. Rev. Paul Dreger reported on the expansion of Sustaining Health and Pastoral Excellence (SHAPE) and announced the launch of a parallel ministry for laypersons, Sustaining Health and Relational Excellence (SHARE).
Church of God Ministries announced that Guidestone Financial Services now extends health insurance benefits to all ministers of the Church of God. Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Guidestone already provides health insurance for national church staff at an affordable cost.
The Assembly approved several changes at the Board of Pensions, which begins doing business under the new name of Servant Solutions on July 1. Board president Jeff Jenness said that the changes are designed to serve the changing financial needs of ministers; they will encourage young ministers to begin saving for retirement at an early age.
In other actions, the Assembly voted to reduce its quorum requirement to three hundred members. It reaffirmed the importance of conditional deeding, and advised congregations to deed their property to their state, regional, or provincial assembly in the event that the church is closed or ends its affiliation with the Church of God.
In discussing these actions, several members expressed their desire for the Assembly to take more bold, visionary action. The Global Gathering at Anderson in June 2013 will displace the normal North American Convention and shorten the session of the General Assembly, but one gets the sense that leaders of the church will not allow that to stand in the way. Many said they are ready to move forward in pursuing God’s will for the movement.