Unification of Ohio COG, Comments from the Cocoa Listening Tour, and Hopes for an Integrated Florida State Office

*UPDATED TO INCLUDE: FL – Cocoa Listening Tour Transcript (below in red)

This week, Bill Isaacs, State Administrative Bishop for Northern Ohio announced a series of developments in the trajectory of the State Offices (Northern & Southern) in Ohio from his Facebook page.  There he said…

  • Today could mark a big step in the COG for Ohio. Joint State Council meeting to decide if they will recommend to the ministers the option to merge into one state again. 40 years ago, the state was divided along I-70 and perhaps it may be that merger will bring them back together in 2010. it’s an exciting opportunity…but most important we want to be positioned in God’s will and purpose as a community of faith. 2/18/10 6:51 am
  • Today was a pivot point for the Church of God in Ohio (both North and South). Very proud of the leaders in both regions and the leadership they are giving to the future of the COG in this state. 2/18/10 7:46 pm
  • UNANIMOUS vote by joint state councils of NOCOG/SOCOG to recommend merger of OnePhio at 2010 Assembly.  8 Listening Tours begin March 1-25. 2/20/10 9:04 am
  • OneOhio STate Ministers meeting will be March 27 in the Columbus area for all credentialed ministers in both regions. 2/20/10 9:05 am
  • OneOhio will have 240 churches/54,000 members, although recent Executive Council decision will lower numbers some. 2/20/10 9:20 am
  • Contracting two offices to one will save huge and will allow or new leadership paradigms and function, we believe. 2/20/10 9:21 am

Also, more discussion is available on Actscelerate from Rodney Mullins, pastor of Life Church in Easton, Ohio.

So, the state offices in Ohio have initiated the “contraction” or unification of their offices from the State Council to the State Ministers.  The State Ministers will vote whether or not to contract, which based on the unanimity of the State Council and the ensuing comments, it certainly looks like this will happen.  But, even if it was to somehow fail, there is much to be learned with substantial ramifcations for the separate offices in Florida. Consider the following solutions to the segregated leadership paradigm in Florida.  The number of next steps that could solve this institutionally divisive arrangement in Florida seem to have been broadened by the State initiated response in Ohio.  Their action and the precedent it sets certainly has implications for other state offices.  And, if Florida was to respond similarly by contracting or unifying, it would have precedent for states and regions nationally as well.  Here are some observations of the possibilities going forward:

PATHS FORWARD:

  • The Executive Committee could on their own resolve the segregated offices in Florida by combining the states and appointing an African America State Administrative Bishop like Jimmy Campbell, Wallace Sibley or another prominent leader who has a proven track record of proficiency in the COG and begin appointing racially diverse leaders over any our states/regions, as opposed to a handful of states like Florida (Cocoa).
  • The Florida State Council (Tampa) could follow the same path as Ohio by recommending unification with the caveat that an African American Ordained Bishop be appointed  over the newly formed Florida office.
  • The Executive Committee could split Florida into two regions, a north and south making Cocoa offices a S. Florida and Tampa, a N. Florida Office.  In my opinion, this would be the most politically safe approach.  It would not be in keeping with our desire for less overhead, and we would have unnecessary redundancy with two Administrative Offices in Florida where with good leadership and local church empowerment, we could easily manage a large state and the management needed for such a state.

SOME BENEFITS & OBSERVATIONS:

  • Florida (Tampa) AB, Martin Taylor is term limited.  He’ll be leaving the Florida (Tampa) State Office at this General Assembly.  So, there is a vacancy in Florida (Tampa). In that respect, timing is good for unifying offices.
  • From what I understand, Florida (Cocoa) is experiencing significant financial challenges due to a number of issues, including some churches in Cocoa being courted to move over to the Tampa offices, according to comments made in the Cocoa Listening Tour. *Download and Read the Florida_Cocoa_Listening_Tour_Transcript
  • The tour also showed that a majority of comments (15 of 26 or 57.7% of total comments) made requested more information about the possibility of a unified office in Tampa, challenges between the two offices, question about why there was a separate Listening Tour for Tampa and Cocoa, and/or a desire to see expanded denominational leadership opportunities for African Americans.
NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS
  • The implications from Ohio yield that Florida or any states/regions are permitted to initiate talks to combine offices.  This also seems to be established as a possibility in the listening tour by members of the Executive Committee.
  • Assuming Florida follows suit with Ohio and an African American serves as an AB of a unified Florida, what’s stopping any good, trusted leader from serving in any state or region without bias or prejudice against one’s skin color?

CONCLUSION:

Now that Ohio has jumped out ahead of the cuts and launched into the process of re-unifying their state in anticipation of the cuts and in order to be more efficient and united, other states should follow suit and also use the opportunity to correct the sinful/pragmatic approach to racial separation by opening opportunities to a great pool of leaders.  Some of our greatest leaders in the COG are black, latino, asian, etc…  I love my brothers in Florida and in the Church of God and am more than happy to receive leadership based on their ability to lead with strength and humility no matter what town or to what parents they come from.  I am thankful that Jesus loved me and became flesh and moved into my neighborhood without bias to my melanin.  I’m glad he didn’t disqualify me from serving others in the Kingdom because of my race or nationality.  We should be like Christ in this.

It’s time we begin following Jesus in this matter of race and leadership and correct our institutional biases and injustices.  What say you?  Are there other paths to achieve this unity in our body?

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