77th International General Assembly Review

A look Back at GA18 Normally, I would have begun with a different aspect of the General Assembly. Something exciting like the programming, worship services or the appointments. However, I choose to just dive in and share my heart about some of the agenda items and their outcomes. Typically, the moderator has not taken the opportunity to share his opinions or speak to the agenda once the business has begun. To do so would require relinquishing the chair for a time and stepping onto the business floor to participate as anyone would in the discussion. It’s certainly possible – but challenging and somewhat problematic to do so. In this article, and at the risk of my own alienation with some, I will offer my thoughts and heart expressions about a few of the agenda items from the recently concluded General Council. In this article… I will offer my thoughts and heart expressions about a few of the agenda items from the recently concluded General Council. First of all, I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed a greater sense of calm and Christ-like demeanor over the General Council than we saw in Orlando. I had given most of the past two years to my own personal preparation and immediately felt at ease with the deportment and unity of the body. To those of you who participated, thank you for your kindness and patience toward me and your awesome respect for the process. The Agenda By Wednesday, it was evident that we would move through the agenda quickly. I even became concerned that the possibility existed that we would finish both the printed agenda and new motions so fast that we would need to adjourn with at least one planned session of the council not even being necessary, creating an empty schedule until the General Assembly could meet on Friday afternoon. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Personally, I was glad. Our time is valuable and needs to be put to its optimum use, even if some or all of our own individual hopes are not realized. Our time is valuable and needs to be put to its optimum use, even if some or all of our own individual hopes are not realized. By the way, you can still visit ga18.org and read the motions that were passed. I don’t need to take your time to go over each one here but let me briefly address a few items considered by the General Council: The General Council passed six resolutions calling for task forces to address various areas related to Visional Actualization, Ministerial Activation, Structural Acclimation, and more. These groups will work with the next General Assembly in mind, helping formulate implementable motions, that if adopted, will better posture the Church of God for its FINISH Commitment goals. While the bylaw change for a Council of 24 didn’t pass, there were amendments relative to the composition of the Council of Eighteen. In 2020, the Council of Eighteen will have three (3) more pastors, for a minimum of twelve (12), and at least one more member from outside the United States, for a minimum of three (3) foreign nationals residing and ministering outside the United States at the time of their election. The General Council adopted a measure that calls for global forums to be held to address the meaning and usage of the term “Bishop,” Women in Ministry, and Qualifications for Ministry, with the purpose of bringing back motions to the next General Council. I will be announcing the plans for these forums in the September meeting of the Executive Council. With very little debate, a motion calling for State Level Church Planting Task Forces was adopted. I’m personally pleased with this because our Church Planting efforts and partnerships have paid off over the past few years. We must now become more regionalized and local with our training, and we must be more intentional with our development of church planters. The Church Planting Task Forces will greatly help in that process. During this Assembly, a motion passed which called for State Overseers to have a minimum of five years pastoral experience. From the floor an amendment passed during debate that accommodates those Overseers and Youth Directors currently serving until the completion of their tenures. In all, thirty-three different items were adopted in the General Council and subsequently by the General Assembly. In my opinion, the General Council had a busy and meaningful week of business. No, everything didn’t get done and not everyone had their dream agenda fulfilled, but the process worked. Did it function perfectly? Probably not. Was everyone satisfied? Excuse me while I hammer the gavel and say, “point of order.” Of course not. We live to go at it another time. If Jesus doesn’t come first, that “another time” will come in just over 650 days. We live to go at it another time. If Jesus doesn’t come first, that “another time” will come in just over 650 days. With that in mind, allow me to lay this out and run out the side door…. MOVING FORWARD In my heart and mind, the 2018 General Council was largely about the 2020 General Council, and to be productive, 2020 must produce some long-awaited answers to some long-endured questions. I didn’t say it had to produce what I want or what you want, but it needs to produce some clear direction on how the Church of God will facilitate ministry going forward. For example: We have got to answer the “Bishop” question. As Secretary General in 2004, I publicly read a measure at that Assembly almost identical to the measure before us this time. It had been talked about for four year before then. After almost 20 years, it is past time to lay this issue to rest. Are we going to be called Ordained Bishops? Will we be Ordained Ministers again? Writing this today, I can’t say because only God knows. But I can say that it needs to be firmly decided and implemented. The Church of God needs to answer the questions regarding credentialing women at a higher level and women in leadership. There doesn’t need to be a side door motion or a veiled effort that just sort of carries it along or brings it in a “round about” way. Let’s just walk through the front door with the question. Ask it and answer it. Present the motion. Debate it. Amend it. But answer the question. Up or down. Yes or no. But again, let’s answer the questions. In 2020, we need to better exemplify the Kingdom of Heaven as it relates to representation in the Church of God. I completely understand that one of the passions behind expanding the Council of Eighteen was to increase opportunities for voices of ethnicity and internationality to hopefully have a seat at the table. While I regret that more than a few were troubled by the chair’s ruling at the close of the General Council, I don’t regret that we now have time to make sure we get this one right. While the resolutions this year were a start, in 2020 we will need to firmly land on harvest propositions that establish goals that speak to personal discipleship, pastoral health and sustainability, local church vitality, and the multi-generational participation of laity and ministers. It is time for action. In 2020, whatever the Agenda looks like, whatever the motions are from the floor, one thing I know, we will work through it all together. We will say yes to some and no to others. However, when it’s over, we will celebrate some, cry some, and yell “point of order,” but we will be a Church of heart and passion for lost souls. ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS Now, with all that said, let me add a few additional thoughts. It’s vital that we ask ourselves over the next few months, “What problems are we really trying to solve and what impact will our decisions have on the future of the Church of God and our commitment to FINISH the Great Commission?” Any physician will tell you the importance of making a thorough diagnosis prior to an operation. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” Too often we are drawn in and sold on solutions to problems that have not been clearly understood or defined. It’s vital that we ask ourselves over the next few months, “What problems are we really trying to solve and what impact will our decisions have on the future of the Church of God and our commitment to FINISH the Great Commission?” We’ve spent years on some issues, but did we accurately diagnose everything? I can answer that question in the most definite way. Yes! No! Maybe! And sometimes. Conclusion The bottom line is that today’s decisions have long-term consequences, so it is vitally important that we get them right. Therefore, as we approach these decisions, remember this – the most important thing is not to simply be accommodating. We must be “harvest intentional” and scripturally-founded as we do our best to define and answer issues in the best interest of the church, as well as in our long-term effectiveness to reach a lost and dying world. You can’t wait for part two now, can you? Sorry, but these long flights seem to stir this stuff up in me. Let’s Keep Talking About It…. Tim Hill

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