January 14, 2011 Member Letter
January 14, 2011
Dear Brethren around the world,
It is hard to find the appropriate words to adequately express to all of you our sincerest and heartfelt gratitude for the prayers, fasting, support and thoughtful input that you have been offering over the recent days and weeks. As ministers and members left the Louisville conference we were all a bit awed by the magnitude of the tasks ahead, but we were also tremendously encouraged by the positive spiritual atmosphere that pervaded these meetings. God's people everywhere are in a time of decision and sorting through many mixed emotions that may range from high hopes to deep sadness, but the evidence was clear in Louisville that He responds to the fervent petitions laid before Him and will provide solace and direction.
None of us have witnessed in our lifetimes the fullest extent of what God can accomplish in us when we are living "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zechariah 4:6). But among conference participants there existed a strong sense of confidence that if we will walk humbly with Him, He has much more yet to do in our lives and through our efforts.
We encourage you to read the detailed reports about the Louisville conference on the Church's Web site, http://www.cogwa.org, but we also want to rehearse for you several key decisions made by the assembled elders that will immediately help us begin the building process.
First, by overwhelming choice, our name is now officially the "Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc." Members submitted over 400 name suggestions, many of which could not be considered due to legal or other reasons. From the five final options, of the 118 elders present, 78 chose this one, and the other four names split the remaining 40 votes. This process was about as easy as asking 100 people to name your baby! The advantages, disadvantages, likes, and dislikes varied greatly, but we were pleased at the end of the day to see a clear preference emerge.
The most important decision now ahead of us is to determine the church's long-term governance system. We hope to accomplish that relatively soon, but in the meantime many organizational issues need immediate attention and require having an administration and governance in place. To that end, the pre-conference short-term governance committee proposed two options. By more than two-thirds margin (84 to 37) the elders selected the one that called for the existing temporary board of directors and leadership team to continue serving in their roles until a permanent form of governance is established.
What is now known as the Interim Governance Team consists of Jim Franks, Doug Horchak, Clyde Kilough, David Register and Richard Thompson; the Board of Directors consists of George Evans, Kenneth Giese (secretary), Michael Hanisko, Greg Sargent (treasurer) and Roger West. To legally fulfill the requirements of the elders' decision, on Monday Mr. Hanisko stepped down as president of the corporation and was reappointed as board chairman. This option also required the Interim Governance Team to select a chief executive officer from among themselves, so later that evening they appointed Clyde Kilough as president. The bulk of the day-to-day work falls on the shoulders of the governance team, but both groups will be working closely together.
After the conference ended on Tuesday, the governance team organized its duties according to the mandate spelled out in the option the elders chose. Jim Franks will manage the areas that pertain to ministerial and congregational care; Richard Thompson will coordinate financial affairs with the treasurer and accounting firm in addition to coordinating our festival planning; Doug Horchak will be the liaison with the international areas; David Register will work with areas of communication and our education program including youth camps; and Clyde Kilough will focus on media efforts pertaining to preaching the gospel.
Several presentations during the conference demonstrated how we are already working on projects such as Feast of Tabernacles planning and education program development (especially summer camps for the youth). We are also moving quickly on putting into place a review process for insuring doctrinal integrity, devising a ministerial credentialing process, developing a personal correspondence system, planning communication channels to the Church and ministry, helping with international assistance, building Web sites, and many other projects. We will also be focusing on laying a foundation of ideas for preaching the gospel. Any suggestions in this arena will go through a review process by the long-term governing body and administration, once those groups are defined and put into place, but we want to go to work immediately on planning for this fundamental mission of the Church.
The Interim Governance Team is just that: interim. We understand the temporary nature of the team's purpose, but as we tend to the immediate organizational needs, we will be striving to implement systems that will make it easy for the permanent governance and administrative structures, when put in place, to continue smoothly.
What about the system of governance that we will eventually establish? We all know how critical it is for us to seek God's will in this matter—"unless the Lord shall build the house" was a phrase repeated numerous times during the conference! We also believe that through humbly examining the lessons learned from past mistakes, carefully searching God's Word, and, most of all, humbly seeking God's will, that He will lead us to organize in a manner that will help us minimize mistakes of the past. But as the long-term governance committee chairman, Bruce Gore, noted in his conference presentation, we also know that no structure of governance can guarantee a problem-free future. We all must be governed first and foremost by God's Holy Spirit working effectively in each one of us.
So as this committee continues its work in the near future, we ask that you will regularly ask God to give His blessing to their endeavor. While His thoughts are certainly higher than our thoughts, through the effective working of His Spirit it is possible to comprehend His thinking. Prior to the conference Mr. Gore received more than 60 emails from members giving input. A full report summarizing these suggestions was submitted to the committee, and one clear trend emerged: while we humans can hold strong ideas about what the Church needs, our opinions sometimes differ dramatically from those of others. Obviously, we cannot all be right! So, we must all take care to carry alongside our passionate proposals for governance an equal degree of humility and trust in God to bring us into a unity of the faith. The committee members are committed to studying everything in a deliberate manner, and when their work is complete they will bring forward their recommendation(s) in a formal and complete presentation. Their work is not deadline driven—this is a task that needs to be done well rather than fast—but they are making this their primary focus with the goal of completing it as soon as reasonably possible.
In closing, brethren, the Louisville conference signaled a fresh start, not only in organization, but more important, in spirit! It was tremendously encouraging to see among all of the members and ministers present a deep sense of dedication to God's calling. As André van Belkum noted in his closing message, "if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have" (2 Corinthians 8:12). He also pointed out how the Macedonians "first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God" (verse five). Today we don't know what we will have in terms of financial resources. But we do know that members and ministers are bringing with zeal "first a willing mind," along with their skills and experience—and these are deep spiritual resources that let us start walking forward in faith, not by sight!
This is the first of what will be frequent communications to you. As we shoulder the responsibilities entrusted to us we do so with deep respect for each and every one of you as an integral part of the body of Jesus Christ. We are thus pledged to giving you timely information, as well as receiving your constructive input, and we are committed to giving our all to be good stewards in service to God and to you. Thank you again for the many encouraging messages you have already sent, as well as the financial shot in the arm that has allowed us to get up and going in these early days.
Until next time, may God be with you all,