Cleveland, TN—The International Executive Council of the Church of God met in their regularly-scheduled spring session on Monday, April 20, 2020, where they made the historic decision to postpone the 78th International General Assembly until 2022.
In what would have been a session to finalize the agenda for the Assembly, members of the Church’s governing body instead grappled with the fallout of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has impacted millions of lives and caused countless deaths around the globe.
From the beginning of the process, the Council adopted clear priorities in making their decisions:
● Decisions had to be pleasing and honoring to the Lord;
● The health and well-being of members and participants had to be first and foremost in the thought process – and to consider both national and international delegates;
● The financial and economic concerns (of the local church, pastors and delegates);
• Decision had to be as least intrusive on the Church of God Minutes and Bylaws as possible.
Working from a proposal crafted by a specially-appointed General Assembly Task Force, the Council adopted a resolution stating in part that, “the 78th International General Assembly be postponed until the summer of 2022 (and) the International Executive Committee is authorized to continue its negotiations with the City of Indianapolis.”
The extensive resolution presented to the Council was the result of hours of discussion and debate by the Task Force, chaired by Executive Council member Dr. Mark Williams. A second item recommended by the Task Force and presented to the Council dealt with a continuity of governance within the Church of God in the intervening period of 2020-2022. The resolution stated that, “persons currently holding general elected positions continue in their positions with full legal and ecclesiastical authority until such time as nominations or elections by the International General Council and elections by the International General Assembly can be properly conducted and successors chosen.”
“We must answer the question, ’How do we keep the plane flying?’” Williams expressed to the Council when referring to the continuance of governance. The resolution cited this “unprecedented period the Church of God, as well as the world is experiencing through the shutdown of economies, churches and businesses and how the continuing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus is preventing the usual operation of the denomination.”
An overarching sentiment expressed throughout the Council meeting was a concern first for the health and well-being of Church of God constituents around the globe. Comments from Task Force members revealed the on-going travel restrictions that are and would likely be in place well into next year and concerns for the timing of an economic recovery worldwide.
“We are in unchartered waters and decisions made by this body may not be pleasing to everyone,” Hill stated in his closing remarks to the Council. “We have done our best to be respectful of our Minutes. God knew this was coming…He knows where we are and that this body would be in place to grapple with this matter. My prayer is for a period of continuing to be a ‘Church on Mission’ as we seek to FINISH the Great Commission.”
The two resolutions voted upon and carried by the International Executive Council are presented in their entirety below:
Motion to Postpone the 78th General Assembly
WHEREAS, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has impacted millions of lives and caused countless deaths around the globe and, at present, there is no known vaccine or a drug that serves as an antidote to this destructive and deadly virus, and projections are that it will take from 12 to 18 months to develop a vaccine to fight the coronavirus;
WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control contends that the virus and pandemic may continue for months and even spread further as we seek to open back up from the initial “stay-at-home,” “shelter-in-place,” quarantines, border closures, travel restrictions, and other containment orders;
WHEREAS, even the “open-back-up” plans in the United States and other nations of the world, are being done in a phased-in and gradual process in which large gatherings are either prohibited or greatly discouraged;
WHEREAS, the economic impact of the virus on most of our churches, ministers, and laity has been drastic even in the initial weeks of the pandemic, and unemployment and economic productivity are expected to decline further as the nations of the world seek to recover from the impact of the virus;
WHEREAS, Indianapolis has been named a current “hot spot“ of the virus by the Centers for Disease Control, with rapid spread of the virus to the citizens in and around that beautiful city;
WHEREAS, as of this date, seeking to plan, secure a location for, and then finance the cost of a General Assembly in 2021 and then another General Assembly in 2022 seems cost prohibitive to both the international church, as well as the local church and laity;
WHEREAS, there are no clear indications when certain travel restrictions and outright travel bans will be lifted by the United States and other countries, and further there is no indication when air travel, both domestic and international, will allow for pure freedom of movement for delegates attending the General Assembly;
WHEREAS, contractual negotiations are currently underway for potential sites for the 2022 General Assembly, such occurring in the normal course of events in planning for future General Assemblies, and securing a sufficient site for a General Assembly prior to that date would be difficult considering the current status of the virus and no clear understanding when the pandemic will come to an end;
WHEREAS, the health and well-being of the membership of our church and every delegate to the General Assembly is of the utmost importance and no person‘s health should ever be potentially jeopardized by attending an event sponsored by the church; and
WHEREAS, the Bylaws and Minutes of the Church of God do not specifically address a crisis like which the church currently is experiencing, but do provide guidance specifically at S2. BYLAWS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, ARTICLE VI, Governing Bodies, 3. INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, Authority, page 63, by stating that “This council shall consider and act upon any and all matters pertaining to the general interest and welfare of the Church of God.” And further at S3. INTERNATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY, II. Procedures, 2., page 65 by providing that “Arrangements for the time and place of the International General Assembly shall be left to the International Executive Council.”
THEREFORE, WE HEREBY RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING:
That the 78th International General Assembly be postponed until the summer of 2022. The International Executive Committee is authorized to continue its negotiations with the City of Indianapolis.
Continuity of Church Government
WHEREAS the Church of God, as well as the world, is experiencing an unprecedented shutdown of the economy, churches and businesses; and,
WHEREAS the continuing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus is preventing the usual operation of the denomination; and,
WHEREAS no contingency plans for the continuity of government of the church exists in the bylaws or Minutes of the International General Assembly; and,
WHEREAS the 78th International General Assembly is possibly going to be postponed which will prevent elections for tenure expiring positions; and,
WHEREAS the highest governing body of the church between Assemblies is the International Executive Council; and,
WHEREAS the Minutes task the International Executive Council with the responsibility and authority to act upon any and all matters pertaining to the general interest and welfare of the Church of God (Church of God General Assembly Minutes, S5. International Executive Council; III. Duties and Authorities, paragraph 1, page 69);
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the International Executive Council herein exercises the above-noted authority granted it by the International General Assembly, and declares that all persons currently holding general elected positions continue in their positions with full legal and ecclesiastical authority until such time as nominations or elections by the International General Council and elections by the International General Assembly can be properly conducted and successors chosen.