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

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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