Throwback Thursday: Use of the Term “Bishop” for State/Regional/National or International Offices: Discussion on Church of God General Assembly, Nashville 2016 Agenda

Currently, the item is under referral for further study to be presented as a report at next assembly. Apart from its historical usage in the tradition and current IRS church related rulings, the item relates to the following issues currently in discussion as presented to the International General Council in four year increments:

  1. Titles for all Ranks of Ministry  (as related to current Item 10)
  2. Qualifications of Ministry (as related to current Item 11)
  3. Women in Ministry (as related to current Item 8)

Historical Presuppositions
The Church of God recognizes three ranks of credentialed ministers: exhorter (initial level), ordained minister (intermediate level), and ordained bishop (highest level). In addition to the rights and privileges held by exhorters and ordained ministers, ordained bishops are authorized to assist in ordination ceremonies. State/regional overseers are designated “administrative bishops”, International Executive Committee members as “executive bishops”, and the general overseer as “presiding bishop”. Women are eligible to be exhorters and ordained ministers. However, only men can become ordained bishops. There are also categories of licensed minister of Christian education and licensed minister of music.

All ordained bishops in the Church of God are members of the International General Council. The General Council meets every two years to decide what items or actions to recommend to the General Assembly for a final decision. It elects 18 ordained bishops to serve with the executive officers on the International Executive Council. Furthermore, the ministers in each state/region elect between 4 and 12 ordained bishops to serve on the state council.

In 2010, the Church of God Said: Women Can Be Leaders But Not Bishops
The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) has decided to permit women to serve on local church councils, but has maintained its rule that they cannot be ordained as bishops. By a narrow vote during its recent General Assembly, the denomination changed its policy on congregational councils by deleting the word “male” from its previous statement saying “members of the Church and Pastor’s Council shall be loyal male members of the church.” Just prior to the meeting, which concluded July 30, more than 62% of the denomination’s ordained bishops voted not to consider changing church policy prohibiting women from being ordained as bishops.

In 2014, The 75th General Assembly of the Church of God amended page 148, S56. ORDAINED BISHOP, I. MEANING AND USAGE OF THE TERM BISHOP (section A, Biblical Understanding of Ordination) by adding the following as paragraph 8:

That a study be done and a theological paper prepared defining the meaning and usage of the title Ordained Bishop; and should it be necessary change the current nomenclature in order to clarify and fulfill the intent of the International General Council with respect to designation of ministerial rank in the Church of God. Further, that said study is brought back to the 2016 International General Assembly and that the results of such study be included in the Minutes of the International General Assembly of the Church of God.

and page 102, S23. STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, paragraph 1, by striking the word “male” so as to read:
1. In each state, territory, or country where needed, the state overseer shall, at a state meeting or called meeting of the ministers of the church, or at a state convention of the membership of the church, appoint a State Board of Trustees of not less than five members.

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68 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Use of the Term “Bishop” for State/Regional/National or International Offices: Discussion on Church of God General Assembly, Nashville 2016 Agenda

  1. Link Hudson says:

    The modern pastor role and duties doesnt exactly correspond with anything in the New Testament. The Bible never says the apostles appointed the pastor over the local church. In the 1800s, letters to Timothy and Titus came to be called the pastorals. There is a Roman Catholic tradition that Timothy later became a bishop. But Paul refers to him and Silas and himself as apostles of Christ in I Thessalonians 2. He tells him to do the work of an evangelist and doesnt call him the pastor.
    Traditionally, clergymen were called priests. Priest comes from the Greek word for elder, presbuteros. The apostles appointed elders in every church, we read in Acts 15. That tells us that churchs can exist without elders. It also tells us that they appointed local men from within the very congregations they planted. The appointed more than one of them. Acts 20:28 shows us that Paul told elders of the church in Ephesus to pastor the church of God. He also called them bishops. I Peter 5 tells elders to pastor the flock of God.
    So we see a difference, with the local pastor being brought in and hired as opposed to being raised up locally (which may happen rarely under the current system.) The current system makes the pastor the sermon-preacher every week, a tradition not taught in scripture. The Bible leads us to believe there were many teachers in a given church, or should be as a church matured (see the end of Hebrews 5). The elder/bishop was requried to be apt to teach. That doesnt mean only elders could do so.
    Elders of the church are to be examples to the flock. As the Lords undershepherds, they should encourage obedience to the word of God. I Peter 4 shows us that using spiritual gifts to minister to one another is a stewardship issue, including gifts that include speaking to others. That means believers are required to use their gifts. As pastors, the elders of the church should encourage believers to be obedient and use their gifts, including using their gifts in church in accordance with the teaching of scripture. Elders should use their own gifts as examples to the flock, modeling good stewardship so that others can follow the example.
    3. Obession with church buildings.
    The Jerusalem church met in the temple and from house to house. Churches among the Gentiles, in scripture, met primarily in homes: the church in the house of Aquilla and Pricilla, the church in the house of Nympha, the church in Philemons house.
    When church planters and churches are freed from the traditional, unscriptural ideas about church meetings, the roles of clergy, and obsession with church buildings, then this can go a long way in helping churches grow and reproduce.

  2. Pat Fretwell says:

    God has an order to everything he made. He said to not forsake assembling together. The pastor is set as head of the church. The five fold ministry comes next. Theres perfect order to Gods people. Harmony….

  3. Robert Borders says:

    There you go reading the Bible and church history again and messing with my man made traditions. Next youll be wanting to see true biblical Christianity and worldwide revival!

  4. Dollas Messer says:

    The New Testament account indicates that a plurality of elders were appointed as bishops to oversee and pastor as stewards of the house of God. The present one pastor scenario is not a New Testsment model. And bishop as a level of ministry in hierarchical church structure is certainly outside the scope of New Testament teaching. Futhermore, the New Testament church had a plurality in general oversight. There was not one senior Apostle and eleven associate/assistant Apostles.

  5. Cleatis Jeffcoat says:

    Consider…Divine order demands a line of authority. Historically (and scripturally) prior to Nicene council, churches/congregations had one Bishop (overseer) elders presbyturon, and servers/deacons. Following the Jewish tradition for congregation/synagogue, the Bishop was the leader or chief among peers/equals. In that position he was required to have a servants heart while maintaining veto authority, if a situation required it. Just saying.

  6. Dollas Messer says:

    The New Testament divine line of authority in the local church is Christ as the head (the Chief Shepherd, the Bishop, the Apostle), then bishops (who were also referred to as elders, pastors/teachers, under shepherds, stewards) followed by deacons. The church at Phillipi had bishops and deacons (Ph 1:1), not bishop, elders, and deacons, The idea that a leader among equals has veto power makes the Catholic papal the ideal New Testament order, which Protestants reject, except when it comes to one bishop rule in the local church.

  7. Dollas Messer says:

    Ever noticed that most churches have one pastor with a board of deacons. How many churches have one deacon? Why do we practice the New Testament plurality of deacons, but not the plurality of pastors?

  8. Randy H Johnson says:

    This is all nice in theory, gentlemen, but I have been in the ministry for over 33 years, and in all that time I would have loved to have found a group of men to serve as elders as you describe here. I looked for them, and I couldn find them. They simply weren there. I was not willing to use worldly standards for selecting leaders, only biblical ones, and I could not find a sufficient number of men spiritually mature and knowledgeable enough to serve as elders.

    One of the biggest problems I found with church boards (as I had in the Assemblies of God) were that most men were more concerned with making sure the money people weren upset with the way the church was being run. They did not have the backbone to stand up to the carnality of some church member and administer discipline where needed and where necessary. And too many judged by the standards of this world (physical appearance, secular education and occupation, economic class) instead of the guidelines of Scripture.

    I have known Link Hudson online since the mid 1990s, and he has been beating this same drum since then. The one thing he has never been able to answer for me satisfactorily is where to find these people he is talking about. Because I have looked, numerous times, and I have not yet found them.

    One of the things Link proposes, and I agree with him in theory, is that all may prophesy. I agree that one speaker should not necessarily monopolize the meeting and be the only one who speaks. I believe and desire with Moses that all Gods people were prophets, and that God would put His Spirit upon all of them. The problem is that not all the people in our congregations are baptized in the Holy Spirit. It takes the baptism in the Holy Spirit to prophesy because prophecy is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, not a manifestation of the believer. The New Birth is NOT the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is separate from and subsequent to the New Birth, and just because you are born again DOES NOT MEAN you are able to prophesy. This is where I believe the biblically accurate model presented in the book, Open Church, breaks down. It breaks down by assuming that every born again believer can prophesy without the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

    Dollas Messer asks, Why do we not practice plurality of pastors? Simple, really. Pastors expect to be supported financially, and most churches spend the majority of their income on supporting one (1) pastor, let alone a plurality of pastors. In my first four pastorates in the Assemblies of God, I was a full-time pastor. I made less than the average man working in my congregation but I had housing provided for me. I wasn rich by any stretch of imagination, but my familys survival needs were taken care of. However, even with a church of 130 in the mid-1980s, there was no way we could afford a worship pastor or a youth pastor, or even to expand our facilities without going in to debt (and we didn ). Since I joined the Church of God in 2008 as an ordained bishop I have pastored two churches – one in Indiana with an attendance of 4 adults besides my family and the former pastors family, and one in Pennsylvania with 7 adults besides my family. I am no longer full-time, I work 40 hours a week at a college loan servicing company an hour from my house, but I still have a parsonage and utilities provided for. The church does pay me $150 per week which my wife uses to buy groceries and housekeeping supplies.

  9. Banjo Man says:

    Actually I must disagree. The collection of the two items is equally divisive. We are presented with an item that attempts to do several things all together without our prior consent. This is not Christ’s way of doing things.

  10. Jack Castro says:

    Where is the original text that the motion author claims to have submitted? Why was it not presented to us for a prior discussion? Why are we given something as divisive as this out of the box motion and expected just to vote over it without any questions?

  11. Marty says:

    Actually Tony, when you put two and two together is all and the same thing. As usual, the motion is not seeking to establish or empower but to mislead the voter to believe one thing while opening the door for another. Does it matter if women are bishops when in the next motion proposes we do away with the bishop title?

  12. Michael Goerge Smith says:

    I wonder how was this preposterousity conceived in the mind of the motion proposer? So in the first motion we accept that women and younger minister could vote on the floor without being bishops. Then, in the next motion we remove the bishops titles – to put it simply these two motions give women and young minister the highest ordination level but not before removing it from the already ordained bishops. Hooray I say unto thee – this is the way we do things…

  13. Daniel C. says:

    There will be lots on unhappy ministers because of these divisive ways to present a motion. I too wonder where’s the original text and who so masterfully crafted the final text of the motion after proposed by the original poster?

  14. Troy Day says:

    Pentecostals were the first (not liberal Protestants) to ordain women. Aimee Semple McPherson was one of the first American mega-church senior pastors (Angelus Temple in L.A. seated 5,000 a service in its prime).

  15. Mary Ellen says:

    Just finished CAMS here this spring. Just got licensed.
    As a woman, it does bother me that there’s a “men’s only” club.
    I don’t think the Bible teaches that.

  16. Louise Cummings says:

    You will love it. I am just an Exhorters also. I had a chance to go farther. But I was raising my family. So I didn’t try. Although they tried to get me to. I wish I had now. But love done good with Exhorters.

  17. Bishop Jackson Plant says:

    Please stop it! All this crying about a name! The idea from a group that if we can’t have it we will have it taken away? I question walk and salvation!

  18. Kerry Collins says:

    I been to church meetings, used to drive days to go, where some secretive information was to be given out, people are informed at these types of meetings with this type of instructions.
    The building will be secured no one leaves no one comes in after we start
    There is no recording of any thing period
    This is such sensitive material that many do not know about it
    After 30 yrs of salvation and being filled with the Holy Ghost for 29 years I became Leary of such meetings. I say if someone has some info that can help us as the body of Christ then why is it shrouded in such secrecy ?
    Peter says it is no private interpretation. The Holy Ghost for one is the same Holy Ghost for another if it’s the TRUE Holy Ghost of the Bible, the same Holy Ghost that speaks to one can speak to others. We need to get away from these secret type things.

  19. Charles Page says:

    I’m still not certain what a “bishop” (Link Hudson) is in the Church of God. Can only bishops sit on the floor of the general council to vote. Are bishops all ordained men over the age 25? Jentezen Franklin is a CoG bishop and would be eligible as general overseer.

  20. Randy Johns says:

    It has nothing to do with private interpretation. It has to do with who will make a profit off the “information”. The business world has a strategy called “first to market”. If a product becomes popular, everyone starts jumping on the bandwagon to get a slice of the pie, but the first to market people have a competitive edge and initially make a significant profit while everyone else is getting up to speed.

    Meetings like you are describing are “first to market” meetings of supposed new revelation and spiritual truth. If you keep things secretive and you are the only source from the beginning, it is easier to claim rights of ownership over the material and fight contested copyright

  21. Pat Farewell says:

    R u speaking of the business world or church. I’ve been in semiconductor meetings that r for our ears only & some church meetings that were personal. Don’t really know what u mean!

  22. Louise Cummings says:

    I that they had voted that all ordained Ministers would or could be called bishops. Bro. Jentezen Franklin would leave his church in Georgia. He didn’t ever try to bring that church into the Church Of God, even tho he started pastoring the Church Of God in California. Bro Lahons Church. I think his Son in law is pastoring there now. He is back at Georgia. Well he didn’t leave it. He just pastored both. But I heard that he told the Church Of God , that he wouldn’t try to bring them into the Church. Afraid it would cause many of them to leave. I could be wrong. He might take General Overseer. But it would surprise me. And it use to be that yo didn’t have to be Ordained or a Bishop to be a General Overseer. But I sure that’s all been changed by now.

  23. Kerry Collins says:

    I think people need to read my comments and the reasons I state. I personally am not into it, I was just wanting input not comments to try and straighten this 55 year out.

  24. Louise Cummings says:

    I just always called it undenominational. I know our church are taking a load of youth this year to their youth rally. Some of them went last year and loved it. I think the world of Bro Jentezen Franklin. He preached one of our Camp Meetings one year. I like it that he is not afraid to speak what The Lord gives him to say.

  25. Rob says:

    Every denomination goes through change over time as original members and leaders die off. The role of the church should not change but continue to worship God, enjoy His presence, and offer the presence of Jesus to others.

    1. I don’t know what you mean by that term. All I know is that I grew up in a church setting that didn’t even allow women to join in mixed Sunday School discussions. And a woman’s testimony had to carefully steer away from expounding any Scripture, for fear of teaching the men.

      God set me free from that. I have learned from the Word that I am a SON of God, and not just a daughter… check out the Greek wording of Gal 3:26… and on this basis, there is (currently) neither male nor female in Christ Jesus.

      Just as in Christ there is neither black nor white, and on that basis, you would not refuse any man office or voice to preach in the church… even so, God sees male and female. We are all SONS.

  26. Oh yes! in fact, if it weren’t for the leadership of women in the church, Pentecostalism would probably be far different today.

    Women were respected as spiritual leaders in the Pentecostal movement until the Pentecostals began to try to become like other Evangelicals.
    But why did they begin doing this?

    First, I think they felt ignorant and uneducated, so they began to study other Evangelical study materials… not realizing that learning to think like non-Pentecostals would create non-Pentecostal believers.
    Second, I think they felt looked down on for their ignorance, and longed to have just a little respect from the anti-Pentecostal crowd… so they started trying to become more educated (as above)… which resulted in the slide away from the dynamic Pentecostalism of “the good old days.”

  27. DanBuckallew says:

    Amen,totaly agree,but why cant we just conentrat on what god his people to do and that is to serve the lord thy go with all thy heart i think a lot of this kind of kind of argueong is detramintel to what the church os all about and that is to bring all we can into fold before the lord comes back,to much bikkering is not good,I to am a bishop,and beleve some of our for fathers would chastise for all of this worreing whos who we need to conentrate more on winnig souls more than what rank we hold in the church after all last travk i had jesus is still the king of kings,and lord of lords! And that folks is my oppineon of the whole thing,come on lets be what called us to be ministers of the gospel .

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