Sunday, June 3, 2012

Selecting a New General Director

“May 30, 2012
Dear Partner in Ministry,
Last week you received an e-mail from Dr. Randy Spence, chairperson of the General Assembly and Ministries Council, regarding the launching of a succession process to identify and select a new general director for Church of God Ministries, given Dr. Duncan’s planned retirement prior to the end of his current term.

“In preparation for this transition to new leadership, the Ministries Council has chosen a Succession Committee to prepare a profile of the future general director and to engage in a search process to present a candidate to the General Assembly in 2013 for ratification of this critical position in the life of the Church of God. As part of this process, we have engaged Dr. Russell Crabtree and Rev. Nancy Moore to lend their expertise as professional consultants. As the Succession Committee, our desire is to solicit input, listen to the church at large, and provide opportunities for you to speak into this process over the next few months.

“Dr. Crabtree has developed a survey to send to all ministers and national leadership within the Church of God reformation movement in North America. This survey, called a VISTA, is an instrument that will provide an opportunity for you to contribute your perspective of the necessary characteristics and gifts of the next general director as the Church of God looks to the future. The VISTA will inform the committee as we assess the needs of the church and develop a profile of required traits for the new general director.”

I would be the first to affirm our need of input from the grassroots to help implement the work of our national administration. BINGO! The general attitude is a one-way communication that is too much from the top down and too little heard from the bottom up, in spite of all the right words heard. Having said that, too little of the communication from the grassroots is often biased criticism and not always adequately thought through.

Like some of you, I worked my way through the VISTA asap . Today, I have a few reactions I hope are well intended, well received, and pertinent (Whether technically correct, or not, I hope to be more than simply biased rhetoric).

In the qualities looked for in a General Director (Church of God lingo for a denominational Administrative Bishop or Superintendent), one of the options was a “vision setter.” To that I had some gut level reactions that said things like, “I don’t need somebody to set the vision for me.” We go to considerable effort in the Church of God to provide leaders and train pastors with the finest theological-ecclesiological-sociological training by which to lead our churches. It is my assumption that this finely equipped leadership needs to be collaboratively heard and utilized more than corralled and re-directed from Headquarters.

I further observed that this VISTA was all about the national-global church of God. The job at hand is a national job; yes, I understand that. I also understand that our ministry is not building a finely tuned administrative headquarters; the real work of the church is MOSTLY ABOUT SAMARIA AND THE UTTERMOST PARTS, rather than Jerusalem (using that biblical model to guide our thinking). The Church of God of North America is just that and little more. Although we have the most financial and physical assets around the globe, we are no longer THE GLOBAL CHURCH - not until we collaboratively work with the global church that has resulted from our 132 years of ministry and is now OUR EQUAL - peers not subordinates.

That suggests that in terms of our General Director in Anderson, he must become a collaborative peer with a host of established ministry leaders of the Church of God around the globe. Moreover, it suggests to my mind that his/her (I doubt we would even consider a “her”) primary ministry could be resourcing the North American Churches. Now, if it is true, we are most blessed financially et al, then s/he must also be sensitive to more collaborative resourcing of non-American congregations and their evangelism efforts. Remember: there is but one mission in the church … telling the story.

As an aside, I am old enough to have worked with many national leaders from the 40s-50s-60s until now. We had a fine group of agencies evolved, people I knew, utilized, loved, and trusted. Granted they were, like welfare, in need of reforming, but like some of you, I helped us throw out the baby with the dishwater and we are almost to the point now of having a finely developed Chog Ministries that Dr. Crabtree repeatedly referred to as our “Headquarters.” And, although we all know better ecclesiologically, the perception and precedent are there for a denominational headquarters that controls and coordinates the church under its administration. This needs to be reexamined in the light of who we really are and what it is we really want to aachieve.

A third observation I offer concerns me greatly: “I saw” no real option for a leader whose primary purpose was that of a “Spiritual leader”. I’m not saying it was not there; I’m saying I did not see it. Thinking further on this avenue of thought, I was drawn to comments by Dr. Leon Henson regarding John Wesley, the man Henson was tempted to dub as “the man nobody really knows”. He observed that Wesley founded a fellowship of Christians who have transformed the moral tone of Western Society, for which he deserves recognition.

Consider this paragraph from Henson:
Wesley is not the most penetrating thinker in Christian History. His was not the moist scientific creation of a theological organism. He was not the most careful scholar of his era. Sometimes he misread his contemporaries, but, oh, how he read! The product of his reading of a vast variety of literature--Christian literature, social, economic, political, literature, the public media--was a unique blend of the abstract and the concrete. He created a system of great merit, worthy of our attention. He clearly perceived the heart and soul of biblical faith. This he joined to history--the history of his era--and fashioned a theology of faith and ethics that stands up under intensive scrutiny” (Henson/The Wesleyan Revival/Schmul/1999/p9/emphases mine).

Dr. Duncan has made good use of guiding us toward “transforming our culture,“ which we are a long way from doing. We stand in need of another John Wesley who can once more call us to become People of "The Book" whose field is "The Globe" God planted us on. We sorely need a new era of moral integrity in the life of the church, openness to theological diversity, and serious biblical scholarship that has within it the transforming power for renewing the church and transforming society.

From Warner’s World, this is

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