Thursday, December 5, 2013

Organization And Authority in the Church of God


The very impudence changing that is mind-boggling … to some. What was established by God must forever remain! We dare not tamper with what God brought forth, or we become like ancient Israel touching, carrying lightly the “holy things” of God.

Relocating the 2014 North American Convention from the Indiana cornfields to the Oklahoma oil-fields is producing “Richter Scale reactions” for some. For people who value the long tradition of the NAC/GA in Anderson, the upscale values of AU education, and the list could go on, and in a few instances the personal effects are cataclysmic, turning some people’s lives upside down, or inside out, as the case may be. The Movement is no longer what it once was!

While I may have slightly overstated the case, I want to introduce an idea we don’t discuss often. We are a pretty traditional people, whether we will admit it or not. We do not change easily, especially if we think we are right. J Changing NAC 2014 from Anderson to OKC offers a handle for introducing this a comment from a former colleague and friend, B. Gale Hetrick: “The fact that we refused to accept the formal processes of organization only resulted in slowing the evolution of structure” (Hetrick/Laughter Among the Trumpets/1980/105).

Movementally, we grew to adult immaturity as a reactionary movement and we still get some pretty good knee-jerks. One of our weak joints was our firm conviction of the worthlessness of organization. You can readily trace the thread of our anti-organization bias. 

Hetrick had just been called from his Kalamazoo pastorate to a position of State leadership in the Church of God in Michigan. Establishing his home in Okemos, MI (East Lansing), he found himself building on a structure some would characterize as a still-born baby or a prematurely-born fetus. He slowly nurtured that “preemie” that had not been properly planned for. C. E. Brown, future Editor in Chief but then pastor in Detroit, helped deliver that baby at Lansing South Church of God in 1920.

I call it somewhat “still born” because it was so developmentally challenged. That group of Michigan ministers made a decision and acted upon it, but before Brown knew it, he was quickly challenged by national leaders. Setting up a state organization was seen as competitive with the only working structure they had thus far allowed themselves, and that was the recently formed, still new, 1917 Ministerial Assembly.

This is not the place for a historical treatise, but it registered enough on their Richter Scale that Brown candidly confessed and rightly concluded, “We brethren in Michigan did what was, for the time, a daring thing.” He did concede that it was a birth greatly-needed. Ministers circulated freely with questionable credentials. Churches and pastors each experienced their own peculiar difficulties with times of transition. Factually, they had no mechanism with which to deal with such problems or the resulting conflict when they became too obvious to longer sweep them under the ecclesiastical rug.

The rest of it is history and today the Lansing, MI Service Center of the Church of God finds itself a highly respected coordinative and administrative agency under the able leadership of Dr. William (Bill) Jones, a devoted churchman. The Command Center he supervses details a long list of interlinking Ministries that resource each other. The Service Center is a State Government of sorts, co-equal with every other state administration, while each is also interdependent upon one another and co-equal with Chog Ministries in Anderson, which serves in the capacity of Federal Coordinator.

By 2013-14 this interlinking mesh of organizational structures is how the Church of God does business. It also reflects our attitudinal change from anti-organization to viewing organization as a means to an end, that end being the mission for which God brought us into being.

A few years back, the Program Committee of the now defunct Central States Ministers Meeting requested Church Historian Merle Strege present a paper dealing with the issue of authority in the Church of God Movement. Strege consequently presented a prepared paper he called “Managers and Sages: The Idea of Authority and the Church of God Movement.” As the elected historical authority in the church, Strege told attendees at the March 1989 Meeting this “Historian” story.

According to history, former Missionary Board Executive C. Lowry Quinn once asked F. G. Smith for some personal advice on how Smith managed to become Editor-in-Chief of the Gospel Trumpet by the young age of thirty-five. Smith’s reply was, “I got in line and I stayed in line” (Strege, Managers and Sages: The Idea of Authority and The Church of God Movement”, 1989 (worth reading if you can find it.)

As was my custom, I filed that paper, delivered in Saint Joseph in 1989. Looking back, I find Strege wrestling with this same demon that has plagued us across the years, from Warner until today. Strege offered classic instances of times when we were challenged by this problem in one way or another. It happened as early as when Enoch Byrum succeeded D. S. Warner and re-interpreted some of his pronouncements. Hetrick faced it again when asked to become the Administrator of an organization that was no organization at the time. 

This issue, like a bad penny, periodically reappears; or maybe, it just never totally disappears. Gale built the Church of God in Michigan upon the biblical concept of Jesus and the idea of servanthood. That is very different from the trap of centralized authority that F. G. Smith fell into when he asked his GA peers to pass a resolution that the Church publish only that which was in line with our standard teachings, which at that time happened to be those outlined by – guess who – F. G. Smith. It was that power grabbing that the Assembly sensed and opposed when they replaced Smith in the seat of the Editor in Chief, who was then the church’s chief spokesman.

Strege’s 21-page paper distinguishes between what he described as Managers and Sages and he used two Latin words to find the best authority: auctores and auctor. Papal authority is basically auctores and resides in the office held. Auctor is what we lift up for Jim Lyons to achieve. We elected him and gave him “an office” but as every pastor knows, Jim must earn that “authority” by how he serves the church as we work together in achieving what we believe God calls us to do as the Church of God.

We have long understood the church is the Body of Christ, inhabited by the mind of Christ. That means we are interdependent and mutually accountable. It means as we become more like Jesus (who is our maturity) we become less independent, less autonomous, less of a loosely-jointed amalgamation or association and we become a strong healthy body, lithe of limb, trim rather than obese, every member actively functioning in the same kind of good works Jesus did when upon earth.

We are a work in process and how we come together will determine our usefulness. From Warner’s World, this is

Monday, November 25, 2013

After retiring to Michigan from Texas, retired pastor Frederick Davey came out of retirement from a career that culminated at Houston, Texas First Church of God, to spend several retirement years as pastor of the Crystal Springs Church of God in Benton Harbor, MI.  Fred has now returned to another of his passions, writing. The Longing of God for His Own offers Fred’s latest contribution to the church.

If you check Fred out on Face Book, you might come up with some silly family snapshot of Fred & family at a recent Tiger Ballgame or even this one with a family member.

However, if you check him out as an author, you will find this small self-published volume of 95-pages well done, easy to read, simply written, and easily understood--printed by Reformation Publishers. Aside from a few editorial errors I really did not expect to find, since Fred has a daughter retired from the Editorial Department at Warner Press, Otherwise, it is a good job well done by both the author and the on-demand printer, Steven Williams.

Fred launches his book with a recollection of Weldon Johnson’s popular poem “Creation.” He pursues his focus with a series of “C” words in 13 short chapters that range from the Creation, which God pronounced good, to the Creation of family life, and the Cataclysm of the flood. He includes chapters on the Covenant, the Chosen Family, and the Covenant People, while also confronting the new Covenant, the Cross, and the Church, before concluding with the Culmination.

Should you read the book, you may encounter some new ways of looking at things, as I did. I like Weldon Johnson's Creation poem, but I encountered some new thoughts right off, then settled into a kind of ho-hum reading a little at a time on going to bed. Half way through the book I awoke to the awareness that I was holding in my hands a rather well-written handbook that offers an excellent resource for pastors and others who might want to help people clarify their thinking about the church on mission in ministry, the present reality of the Kingdom of God, even what it means to be part of the laos (people) of God.

I especially liked chapter 12, The Longing of God – the Church. We have always liked to preach and teach on the church and the Priesthood of Believers. In view of the renaissance taking place in the Church of God today regarding the church’s ministry and God’s intentions for the church, consider this quote from pp 87-88:

“Just a layperson? What a tremendous claim that is; to be a part, a member of God’s own people. It says you are a minister to the world, a mirror of God himself, to show his wonderful deeds and love. What a privilege—to know God personally, intimately. And that privilege is yours if you will accept it. Open your heart, and He will come in, will commune with you, and make you a part of the greatest enterprise ever, the building of His church” (Italics and bold emphasis mine).

Every chapter comes with an appropriately selected scripture passage at the beginning, scriptural references throughout, and practical questions for good dialogue at the end. Fred tells me he did his own test-run recently when given opportunity to share it where he currently worships. He felt it was well received and he was so comfortable with it that when people asked about the book, he refused to name a price, asking only enough to cover his costs.
For anyone interested in reaching Fred, you can reach him at his Yearbook address:
Frederick J. Davey
3017 Johnson Rd., Lot 65,
Stevensville, MI 49127

From Warner’s World, I am suggesting you give Fred's book a try; you might just like it  - The Longing of God for His  Own.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reaping As We Sow

As my friend and I discussed professional football, he admitted, “While I still remain an avid fan, I too, don't like the violent part of the Game.”

Then referring to when the New Orleans Saints were found putting "BOUNTIES" on the best players of opposing, he added, “That not only is distasteful, it speaks volumes to the extent that "Winning" plays in our culture.”

He then made this statement, which brought both of us to agreement: “There has been more than one occasion when either the violence, or the extreme rancidness that is rampant in some cities, I nearly swore off the sport altogether. I think my changing attitude has something to do with age, but more than that for me is the effect the Word of God has on me. It’s not just watching sports, it is the whole spectrum of life that seems like God has lifted a veil from my eyes, and I now see so many things differently. Politics more so than any other subject.”

Think about it. Human history is filled with violence. The occupation of North America came by means of a great deal of violence, against First Americans, even against one another. Global news is war, genocide, poverty, child soldiers… Hollywood movies feed an insatiable public appetite with what – violence: murder, mayhem, shoot’em up Westerns, you name it. Until more recently, even ESPN football commercials featured the brain-damaging violent crashing of human bodies against one another as reason to anticipate the game.

The ugly truth is we are little different from the early Romans going to the Coliseum to watch bloody gladiators compete to the death. Now young thrill-seekers are sucker-punching strangers for the sheer thrill of knocking them unconscious. Words are now seeds of violence called bullying.

Seeds have natural life cycle. Plant a seed and it will eventually reproduce itself, be it an apple, an act, or even a thought. The seeds of violence we are sowing are like a dangerous cancer; they will destroy people, nations, and will eventually destroy our very culture.

From Warner’s World, this is reminding each of us that as we sow, so shall we reap.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Who Never Heard of God?

Who never heard of God? I met such a lady some years back. Born in Baffin land, 400 miles south of the North Pole, she admitted, “Only after becoming a Christian did I know inner satisfaction.”

When her husband died, she took her orphan child home to Aberdeen, Scotland and waited for opportunity to return home to Baffin land. Once back in civilization, she admittedly “got lost.” Eventually; she found herself in America, where she became a lecturer.

On moving to Indianapolis, IN she found a home just two blocks from Glendale Church of God. On Sunday she went to church to hear the music and singing. There, she met my friend through the years, E. Joe Gilliam. She referred to her experience as happening on what she called the “quiet day every now and then.” On returning home, she announced “I’ve been to church!” adding, “We’ve been going ever since.”

Her growing understanding brought increasing faith and she became a devout Christian. By the time I heard her speak to our pastor’s conference, some time before her death, she recognized that “God found me a long time before I knew he was looking for me.”

I thought that story was the most beautiful I had ever heard! It is also the ageless story of the centuries. It describes how God finds the unfound. It becomes the history of real people discovering failure, admitting it, and finding faith.

It is no sin to fail! It is a sin to trip over your failure and not use it to good advantage to find faith. Admitting failure positions one to face one’s problems and one’s possibilities. There came a day when I had to take a hard look at myself and admit to myself that I was a failure. I was bitterly disappointed in myself. Only slowly did the realization become clear: “You are what Christ came into the world to die for.”

That realization of personal failure became a revelation of personal faith, faith in a God who already knew and loved me, faith in a community of believers that accepted me with the same Grace by which they had been accepted, faith in a revelation that opened the door for a personal resurrection.

This is suggesting 
it is never a failure to fall, but it is a failure to fall and just lay there. So, why not make today the first day of a new life with the God who has been searching for you all of your life?  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let Go and Let God

The Duchess of Buckingham attended Lady Huntingdon’s Chapel of Bath and heard the plain teachings of those people called Methodists. “It is monstruous,” she protested, “to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth.” I do not wonder that her ladyship relished such sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.

On the other hand, do you remember Fleur, old Soames Forsyte’s daughter in John Galsworthy’s novel, Swan Song? Fleur caused a destructive fire on the family homestead through willful negligence. Watching the firemen try to save cherished paintings, Soames sees Fleur directly in the path of a heavy frame about to fall. He pushes her out of the way,  but is mortally wounded. Kneeling by him, she takes his hand and in remorse penitently promises “Yes, Dad, I will be good.”

Soames gave his life for his daugher’s sinfulness, loving her at the highest cost he could pay. She was redeemed and forgiven. Men have fallen on their knees in the face of love like that and thanked God. Yet, these people did not redeem the other person the way Christ did. They did not substitute for God working in us, but their sacrifice would never have been made had not God first loved us at the cross.

But, what if this father who sacrifices himself for us is none other than God, our Heavenly Father? What if He willingly takes the consequences of our willfulness and turns to us still with love. This becomes the power of sin broken, for it has nowhere else to go. This is grace! William Temple concluded, “In Christ’s agony, we see what our sin cost God; and in his bearing before his enemies we see how God regards us as we inflict the blow ... We cannot go on wounding one who accepts our wounds like that; we are filled with fear, not the old craven fear of punishment, but the fear of wounding the tenderest of all hearts.”

On the deepest level of life, Christ intercedes for us by bringing us back into full fellowship with our Heavenly Father. A young woman was stabbed and taken by ambulance to the great hospital. There she was assigned a nurse to sit with her, until she died. Looking at the lines in the young girl’s face, the nurse thought what a pity for such a pretty face.

Then the girl opened her eyes, whispering, “I want you to tell me something and tell me straight. Do you think God cares about people like me? Do you think he could forgive anyone as bad as me?”

Not daring to respond until she asked for God’s help, she responded, “I’m telling you straight; God cares about you and He forgives you.” The girl sighed and slipped into unconsciousness, her facial lines softening with approaching death. But something happened between God and that girl. In that moment, something happened that reminds us of another day on a green hill outside a city wall long ago. John Masefield described it in The Everlasting Mercy:

Saul Kane was a depraved, lecherous man, fastening his sins upon young people and pulling them down into his pit. Drunken, profane, full of lust, he was confronted by a gentle Quaker lady:

“Saul Kane,” she said, “When next you drink
Do me the gentleness to think
That every drop of drink accursed
Makes Christ within you die of thirst.

That every dirty word you say
Is one more flint upon His way,
Another thorn about His head,
Another mock by where He treads,
Another nail, another cross.”

Saul Kane saw in the horrible light of God’s judgment what he had done; children ruined, life depraved, a mother’s broken heart. What a burden for one man to carry! In the mystery of God’s goodness he realized he did not have to carry it any longer. He felt the presence of Christ close to him.

I knew…
That Christ was standing there with me,
That Christ should plough, and as I ploughed
My Savior Christ would sing aloud,
As I drove the clods apart
Christ would be ploughing in my heart.

Through rest harrow and bitter roots.
Through all my bad life’s rotten fruits.
O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight…
O clover-cops half white, half red
O beauty from behind the dead,
O blossom, key to earth and heaven,
O souls that Christ has now forgiven.

Saul Kane found God had not forsaken him in the darkness of his sin. What he could not conquer in his his own strength, he conquered by the power of God through Christ. When our life harbors rotten fruit, we need not hold it for harvest. We can plow it under, burn it with consuming fire, and say experientially what Saul Kane said poetically:
The water’s going out to sea
And there’s a great moon calling me;
But there’s a great sun calls the moon,
And all God’s bells with carol soon
For joy and glory and delight
Of someone coming home tonight.

inviting you to discover the God who transforms life from sorrow to peace. Let Him delete the condemnation of sin from your life. Like Saul Kane, let God fill you with his own strength and joy. When sin leaves you with no other way to go, God will do for you what you could never do in your own strength! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Winchester Sun, a central Kentucky newspaper, picked up an article that caught my eye when visiting there recently. Written by AP reporter Josh Lederman, the article was entitled “Obama nurtures his faith away from the spotlight.” The story featured a photo of Joshua DuBois, the President’s informal spiritual advisor. The article grabbed my attention because of persistent claims by well-intended but poorly informed individuals trying diligently to denigrate our highest elected official by portraying him as a closet Muslim, a dangerous subversive, a faithless socialist.

Dubois, I noted, administered the President’s faith-based office until earlier this year. He continues to write-and-supply the President with Blackberry devotionals that weave Scriptures with reflections from well-known literary figures as Maya Angelou and C. S. Lewis. Consequently, DuBoise reports he has “certainly seen the president’s faith grow in his time in office,” adding, “When you cultivate your faith it grows.”

DuBoise’s digital dailies have been compiled and will be published in a forthcoming volume titled, “The President’s Devotional.” A typical response from Mr. Obama says, “A snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me.” The President admittedly plans to continue with the morning meditations, the birthday call with pastors and ad hoc prayer circles” according to a senior advisor not authorized to comment by name.

“This office tends to make a person pray more,” Obama told a reporter in an interview with Cathedral Age magazine. “And as President Lincoln once said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”

From early on, as when Obama announced his candidacy from the Lincoln Memorial in Illinois, I have followed his interest in our sixteenth president, which parallels my own. One cannot miss the parallels, such as similarities in leadership style, between Presidents Lincoln and  Obama. Doris Kerns Goodwin described it well in her magnificient masterpiece, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

I have also observed some of the spiritual advisors Mr.Obama retains in his inner circle. I know he distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright, proclaimer of the “God Damn America” sermon. But as I have frequently observed after researching that sermon and carefully reading the verbatim: “I’d have to confess that in proper context I could easily have preached that sermon myself!” The problem was people read it totally out of context.

On the other hand, Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Orlando’s 15,000-member Northland Church is a solid white theological conservative, although I must admit, he does have a social conscience that many conservatives lack. Vashti McKenzie is a venerable bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a highly respected and historic black denomination dating back to the slave days of Richard Allen. Dr. Joseph Lowery  remains as one of the stalwarts of the Civil Rights Movement and a respected religious figure among black Baptist clergy.

It interested me to note that when young Obama’s Chicago friends noted his social concience, it was the young Chicago black Baptist pastor Alvin Love that referred him to Jeremiah Wright, because Wright was the social activist in Chicago church circles. Love, however, remained Obama’s influence. 

Maranis further reported young Obama’s experiences in Chicago, after arriving in the city to work for a faith-based group as a community organizer. Obama later admitted this “forced me to confront a dilemma that my mother never fully resolved in her own life: the fact that I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my deeply held beliefs. The Christians whom I worked recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, an observer among them

"I came to realize that without a vessel for my beliefs, without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith, I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart, free in a way that my mother was free, but also along in the same ways she was ultimately alone.’” (Maranis/556, italics mine).

Wright became Obama’s pastor/friend but Obama left organizing because he began to see the ultimate limitations of it. A couple of quotes from Maranis are highly suggestive.

From Kenya, Maranis reported: “After the story was finished, and after Barack had been shown some of the tangible remnants of the lives of his forebears, the registration book that his grandfather had to carry as a native servant, a letter that Betty Mooney had written trying to get his father admitted to an American college, he stepped out of Mama Sarah’s hut and into the yard, walked to the corner by the mango tree, fell to his knees between the graves of Hussein Onyango and Barack Hussein Obama, and wept” (570).

Following Kenya, Maranis noted: “A life of leaving and being left had come full circle. He would be leaving soon, but never again in the same way. ‘I made these enormous attachments, much deeper attachments than I would have expected,’ he said later of that time. This made leaving difficult in one sense, but easier in another. ‘I knew that I would come back … I had relationships there, people who cared deeply about me and that I cared deeply about’” (570-71).

However, adds Maranis, it was “In Chicago he had found the place to which he could always return.”  The life of Barack Obama has been a long journey filled with the void of atheism, religion, social values, but it was in Chicago that he found Christian friends, values he deeply cared about, and the love of Michelle Robinson and her family of faith, that ultimately brought the future President to a deeply personal--be it private--faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ.

I, for one, prefer that he quietly nurture it away from the spotlight, rather than parade it frivolously for political gain. From Warner’s World, I am …

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Neighbors: Jean Fremion-McKibben - KPCNews: Home

Neighbors: Jean Fremion-McKibben - KPCNews: Home

As you watch this, you will observe the headstone of Joseph C. Fisher, D. S. Warner's early compatriot in ministry, long since ignored and neglected... 

Monday, November 11, 2013

NASSER FARAG - The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Friend Dale

I sealed my note to my friend, turned back to my work station and the phone rang. Picking it up up and answering, I heard that familiar voice asking, “Well, how are you, my friend?"
 Is this Esp? or somekind of Providence? Friend Dale is on the line inquiring about me . . .
As a boy, I was exposed to preaching greats like Boyce Blackwelder, Hershel Rice and celebrities in my circles. When older I encountered the likes of Ewald Wolfram, Harold Boyer, A. F. Gray and O. F. Linn. I learned to know them as friends, mentors, models, and significant others.
They were “names” but there were also the nameless. The last time I spoke with Walter Weaver was 1945, on College Avenue, Anderson, IN en route home from church, following old Park Place with the new W. Dale Oldham. Walter was my pastor in my adolescence. Hard years; they prompted Walter to make-and-sell donuts to survive depression days. He was a quiet presence I remember seven decades later.
In more recent years I found a new friend via my pursuit of church history—Dale. Circumstances could have made our paths cross before they did, but they didn’t, but when we met, we bonded.
Dale is a sharing person, authentically genuine. He compulsively gives his life away. He is heart and soul of our Church of God Historical Society. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, his first remembered pastor was M. P. Rimmer, but he identifies with Emmet Caldwell--a major influence. Caldwell went back in Church of God history to the Grand Junction-Moundsville era—a preoccupation for Dale!
There was the mother that took her son to Anderson camp meeting, a faithful saint who had been a friend of young Dale Oldham. Thus, son Dale became a namesake of Dale Oldham.  Dale feels blessed by growing up in the golden age of the Church of God, the era of Oldham and CBH-radio.
Dale went to Anderson College, not to attend, but to drive his brother Lowell to school. Feeling inadequate with his dyslexia, Dale ended up in AC, managing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Arts/Crafts, a miracle he gladly shares.
What I like best about Dale is his utter humility. Some of us consider him more gifted than he sees himself, and he just looks at you and stares. I see the exact opposite of a self-seeker in Dale. I love his utter selflessness!. Buttressed by a compulsion to give himself and be useful, he spent his career teaching arts and crafts, and now gives back to the church—so freely.
Dale visualizes concepts, seeing pictures rather than words, which enabled him to enrich his career by also serving as a photo-journalist stringer (free lancer) for the national news.
With Dale,“what you see is what you get!” What you see is who he really is! Moreover, I would rank him top of the ladder of character, finding him as fine a composite of what our theology and doctrine teaches as can be found. Dale loves people with a Godly grace. He is generous to a fault … humble … anything but self-seeking, and scrupulously honest … yet comfortable in his own skin.  

When Dale met Missionary-Educator Douglas Welch; they became two sides of one nickel. Dale seeing, Doug describing. Their picture-word combination for Church of God history created three-volumes from their eight years of research: The Book of Noah; Old Main; and, The Gospel Trumpet Years.
His friendship reminds me that within this blog are numerous hidden stories. Should you encounter Dale along your path know that this highly personable guy doesn’t palaver or do academia, but he will swap stories with you.

Ask to see his picture collection—hundreds, probably thousands. Ask about sculpting. Ask how he met Warner Clayton and how that became a book. Ask about finding Barney Warren’s boyhood home or the burial site of Joseph Smith and WB Grover.
He might just regale you with experiences with Jerald Frederic, the genius son of F. G. Smith who travelled in Europe as a classical musician. This stranger rediscovered his Reformation roots through Dale. And although Dale is not a Minister, Jerald Frederic’s family turned to Dale for final eulogizing and memorializing. And … who did President Robert Reardon share his precious final moments with … his history-collecting buddy, Dale. 

I watch Dale spread loving grace among the highest and lowest, from University Presidents to homeless persons for whom he is “home”. I am not the person, but I hope someone with more time left than I have, and with greater skills than I possess, will record Dale’s contribution to Church of God history, the AU Archives, and our church Historical Society.
My cherished moments with Dale (and Chery) reveal an authentic treasure--in our midst--but unknown to too many Choggers. Doug Welch is part of that story! Their contribution is one of a kind. It ought to be told! Without it, we will be impoverished.

From Dale, I’ve learned much history; but more, I’ve learned classic Christian values! From Warner’s World, this is

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Resolving a Global Problem

From David and Kathy Simpson comes this very contemporary message of concern from Bulgaria:

“Don’t worry.  Children adjust to these things.”  A church leader whispered these words to me after my prayer request for a suffering family.  A 42 year old woman recently died, leaving three children, who now live with their grand-parents and great-grandmother in a two-bedroom apartment.  The logistics are trying; the grief is agonizing.  But five weeks after the loss, this person apparently thought the time for mourning had passed.

“An otherwise physically fit 43 year old man explained to the church that his blood pressure was dangerously high and his physician hadn’t been able to find a medicine which was effective for him.  Obviously distressed, he asked for prayer.  Instead of truly acknowledging the concern, a leader publicly replied, “Almost everybody has blood pressure problems.” 
If these were isolated incidents, it wouldn’t be so disturbing.  But over and over we see church members minimize the anguish of others.  It is difficult for us to understand the responses, and painful to see individuals rebuffed.  Someone recently reminded us, “It’s easy for Americans to be open.  But our ancestors were slaves to the Ottomans for 500 years, and we were oppressed by the Soviets for 45 more years.  We had to learn to hide our emotions.”

“We realize that, in general, Bulgarians do not easily show their feelings.  We’ve also learned that many Christians here view the expression of intense sorrow as a lack of faith.  We have repeatedly asked ourselves, “Are we trying to force our own cultural expectations on others, or is the heartfelt display of concern and support an essential component of Christian living?”  We have seen the seeming lack of empathy inflict pain and damage relationships in our fellowship. We are convinced that compassion must transcend culture; it is the way of Christ.

“We can’t count the number of times we have addressed this issue in sermons, Bible studies, leadership meetings and individual conversations.  Please lift up the grieving family and the man with the blood pressure problem, and also pray for us to persevere with “…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NASB) 

“Perhaps the folks our age and older cannot learn a new way, but we cannot give up.  We will continue to encourage the established members, while focusing our efforts on discipling younger believers. We want to challenge them to live lives which are consistent with the character of Christ.  Among other things, they need to understand that David wept, Jeremiah wept, and Jesus himself wept.  We too must sometimes weep, both for ourselves and for others.  We hope one day to see an authentic Christian community – a fellowship of Bulgarian believers who will, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (NASB)”

Not only is this a problem in Bulgaria; it is a problem in America and I experience it when I attend my local small group meeting. It is in fact a problem which I too find difficult to cope with. While some find it easier to share emotionally than others, the problem remains universal. So, is there a solution?

If the teachings of Jesus the Christ teach nothing else, the Bible and especially the New Testament affirm one central teaching that all believers can biblical affirm: love God supremely; and, love your neighbor as yourself. In practicing this core teaching of Jesus, Paul instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 NKJV).

I wonder … What would happen if we applied this practice to Beltway politics and the healthcare debate? ... What would happen if we applied this to the UN resolution regarding the crisis in Syria? ... What might happen if we began applying this principle to our foreign diplomacy? ... What might take place if we began practicing this reconciling principle to American church life? ...  How might you and I make a difference walking in each other’s shoes today?

From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner, 

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Psalm 24 makes a simple declaration that is in conflict with much of the modern world, especially the world of commerce (business). The author opens with a strong proclamation of God’s sovereignty over the earth and everything in it. Elsewhere, he acknowledges “the earth hath he given to the children of men,” (Psalm 115:16),  BUT the common claim throughout the Bible is God’s claim that the earth and everything in it is his by his act of creation (cf Psalm 50:10). How we take care of our earthly resources is a theological issue with far deeper moral and ethical implications, rather than just being politically corrects or incorrect. 

If you happen to be the CEO of an oil company or an energy corporation, you will likely challenge this, because you operate from a utilitarian basis of the “bottom line.” Your only concern is, is it profitable? The business world will accept a certain level of ethics in business,  and you will even find courses that teach business ethics, but the driving force of business is profit and ethics is acceptable only as long as it does not interfere with profit.

I’m concerned, for example, HOW the profit motive is allowed to convince corporations that their “ownership” of certain lands gives them inalienable rights to use that land any way they choose, or from my perspective, abuse it. I’ve been seeing a rash of TV commercials that do what is “greenwashing”.  According to the New Oxford American  Dictionary, greenwashing  is “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” Energy companies do not want to change their modus operandi, so rather than change the kind of energy they produce, they “greenwash” coal, convincing us it is clean energy, when we know it is anything but clean.

Currently, Oil Companies promote natural gas as a suitable substitute to abundant clean energy. Natural gas is clean-er than coal, but insisting on greenwashing  is a delay tactic to avoid going to renewable energy, AND increased investments in natural gas are only a bridge to a hot and dirty future. Oil Companies have discovered abundant natural gas available through a process called “fracking”. The Oil Company says they can do this safely. THE TRUTH IS, whether they can or not remains questionable; THE TRUTH IS although we have certain laws guaranteeing the public clean drinking water, in 2005 VP Dick Cheney, working with Oil Company Lobbyists, got an exemption to the SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT for the Oil Companies called the Cheney or Halliburton Loophole. This keeps federal regulators  from enforcing the protective regulations of the SAFE WATER ACT.

The result is that fracking has exploded in 28 states. Fracked wells increased 41% across the country and shale gas fracking has gone up from 1% to 20%. Wells in Pennsylvania increased 600% from 2008 to 2010 and in Texas 3,000% from 1998 to to 2007.

WHAT IS FRACKING? Briefly, fracking is injecting a mix of water and poisonous chemicals into the ground that break up the Shale and rock to obtain gas that was not available to drillers until they learned this newer process.  Now remember, drillers already have the HALLIBURTON LOOPHOLE, which means the public does not have the protecting regulations of the CLEAN WATER ACT being enforced.The chemicals used in fracking are kept secret from the public and local officials but analysts have identified 41 known chemicals with extreme toxicity (poisonous), 75% of which affect skin, eyes, sensory organs, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. We are angry with Syria for using chemical welfare against innocent people. Well, how about fracking chemicals in your drinking water?

Radioactive wastewater from fracking has been found in the Monongahela River, threatening hundreds of thousands of innocent people in WVA, W. PA. In late 2011, explosions of earthquake proportion happened  near certain Ohio drill sites. Fracking sometimes utilizes underground chemical “bomb-like” explosions and a single frack can require more than a million gallons of water, not to mention the injection of the chemicals that potentially threaten our water supplies. If we go to the trouble to recycle and avoid putting “hazardous wastes” into the earth so they do not disturb our water resources, why inject chemicals that will sicken people, even kill them? Certain people in PA even found their water on fire, coming out of the kitchen faucet.

How right is it to use our earth resources to endanger people’s health and very lives? How ethical is it to “greenwash” or spread information via advertising to convince people that an untruth is true? The last I knew that was called lying and no society can long survive when we can lo longer believe each other. How right is a profitable bottom line that creates people suffering headaches, experience blackouts, causes asthma sufferers to multiply, horses to go blind and cows to drop dead? A house in Pennsylvania blew up and killed three people. AND ALL THIS CHEAP NATURAL GAS IS TAKING INVESTMENT MONIES AWAY FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY AND FURTHER DELAYING OUR TRANSITION TO LEGITIMATELY CLEAN ENERGY.

The next time you hear DRILL, BABY DRILL! stop and think about who owns all of this, which I believe should determine how it is ultimately used. From Warner’s World, I am

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Emigrants, Legal or Illegal

An Advocacy group reminded me today to support their Emigration Reform ... "Stand With the Dream!" That is a hot political potato but that does not keep people from having an opinion. 
I once was part of that 6% of the world’s population enjoying celebrity status for owning the biggest, best, and most cars. We drove on the best highways; we burned the cheapest gas. I remember 19-cents a gallon Sinclair gas.

 We had the most telephones! The best gadgetry! We were the biggest, sweetest slice of Apple Pie on the hemisphere … until everybody wanted to be one of “us”.

 Although midway through my eighth decade, and I do not remember ever living without emigrants. Our neighbors were Dutch, German, Polynesian, Yiddish, even First Americans; I didn’t mention Spanish ‘cause I didn’t know any back then.

 We only recognize immigrants now because we want to rid ourselves of THEM; if they’re immigrants, they must be illegals … they all are. This political football gets kicked all directions these days … AND if we could just get rid of all the illegals, things would be okay!

 I wonder! That’s like going to church where everybody is a charter member-- a homesteader—and we reject any membership applications from candidates unable to qualify as second generation Christians. NO n-e-w members, unless you come in through the right channel.

 Harry Sanford was a friendly neighbor. I walked past his house every school day, en route to Indiana Avenue School in South Haven, MI. He was just another black guy, until I discovered his Polynesian roots. I could not deny the beauty of his two daughters, a little older than me--two of the most beautiful females I ever met.

 In my adolescence, the Zwars’ came to our church after escaping Hitler’s horrors. White Europeans: they attended our white church. We were pleased … until we were horrified because they kept their old country custom of brewing beer in their basement. I have no idea how that turned out, except we were teetotalers.

 Ewald Wolfram was a beloved and outstanding church leader. One of my favorite preachers, he was a fellow student, and a near neighbor when growing up. In time, I  discovered his East Prussian roots and how his family and others escaped to America, accompanied by their Church of God faith and fervor.

When Ewald died the victim of a horrendous highway death, the Grim Reaper stole a friend from me and left many of my friends impoverished. This emigrant, with his prissy, precise manners, his degree of formality; his whole character marked him as different from our informalities. But, I smile remembering his Prussian demeanor; frankly, I miss it; he was a beloved friend and peer, legal or illegal!

Luz, pronounced “Loose”, became my friend in 1964--one of numerous Hispanic friends in my adult years. Luz and I have a mutual friend with a crazier name—Vasilis, one of my most cherished friends today. Vasilis, better known as Bill, “emigrated “to America. With a western education, enjoying the American dream, so to speak; he has spent his life working at making this a better world.

I accuse him of mixing his Greek and English sentence structures – typical of foreigners that can’t speak the language! And, I encounter them increasingly … Nabil, from Beirut; Suwan, owner-operator of a favorite Chinese Buffet; Michelle, a bank teller whose husband became a police dispatcher following their escape from Vietnam.

One day I sat down to eat and visited with two young men that literally swam out of China, to get here. Another day while walking, I talked to two men cleaning the parking lot of a downtown church. They were Indonesian and they were immigrants, BUT WE WERE FAMILY - Christians now congregating at First Baptist Church.

Social intercourse remains impossible, without encountering these aliens. They’re everywhere! You find them even in the most unusual places. Then, there’s the political rhetoric, pro’s and con’s of America’s problem with illegals and immigrants , legal or illegal.

My life would be impoverished today without their enrichment—including illegals! Thus my concern: which is less about their legality and more about our attitude. We have issues of the heart that need to grow beyond legal and illegal:

(1) What is your attitude toward “foreigners”; or, toward people different from you? Although the Pilgrims were fleeing religious bondage, they were also foreign invaders. White America was created as a nation of slavers; they tolerated savagery, and sometimes genocide.

(2) How do you view them? With fear? Do you look through them without seeing their humanity? Are they merely jobs threat? They’re non-Christians—heathen...? So is hedonistic, self-serving democratic American humanism.

(3) Can you even conceive of “them” deserving the same breaks you got in life? Can you view THEM not as “different, not as Muslims, not as terrorists, not as ex cons, not as illegals”, and see them as people wanting the same chance at life you had, people hungry to see the truth of God’s Good-news love revealed, even as you were?
Does this make me “liberal”! A dreamer?  I am hard-nosed realist enough, as a man of faith, to believe God meant what he said when he expressed great concern for foreigners and aliens. Moses instructed ancient Israel to love the aliens in their midst (Deuteronomy 10:19): treat them as if they were citizens (Leviticus 19:34). The Bible’s bluntness startled me when re-read that word in Deuteronomy. The purpose of such treatment was so ”they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God (Deut. 31:12).

Sending home all illegal aliens will not eliminate "our problem," but it does accent the spiritual nature of our problem. God’s Apostle to the Gentiles (non-Christians) said it this way: SO FROM NOW ON, WE REGARD NO ONE FROM A WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW … THEREFORE, IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATION …” (2 Cor. 5:16-17 NIV).

From Warner’s World, this is
reminding you that when you walk with God you view people as HE views them,
not as the world views them . . .
legal or illegal.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on Camp Meeting

Dr. Bill Jones addressed the Church of God in Michigan in our August online “Action” paper, after a summer of family gatherings and Camp Meeting at Charlevoix and St. Louis, and being guest preacher at Payne, Ohio. He had scheduling problems with Warner Camp and sent Demetrius Booker in his place and I was delighted to see my friend Demetrius, even if he is Afro-American rather than Greek as his name might suggest (love you bro!).
Bill recalled that camp meetings “were a major form of evangelism and spiritual training for our fledgling movement,” which is no longer true. American culture has changed and we Americans have changed, as has the role of Camp Meetings. Whereas early camp meetings drew thousands from communities across America, most attenders today are devoutly loyal, but as one who has attended camp meetings for 85 years, today’s version is more family tradition and vacation than evangelistic.

He wondered if Camp Meetings are like Sunday night services ... something that had its time but its time has passed. Whatever the case, we need to dialogue his question as to “…what is the purpose of Camp Meetings today?”

I would be the first to admit that few people use camp meeting for leadership training, or Christian Education, or Missionary Education anymore. As a child I was thrilled beyond measure when exposed to Warren and Frances Edmondson, raising funds to go abroad. Warren was killed following that camp but Frances married Bob Clark and they spent a lifetime in Missionary Service. Now, the feature service on Missionary Day at Warner Camp can scarcely draw 50-75 people, and that mostly Christian Women’s Connection.

Most camps I know have scaled back to a family vacation, a purpose I neither minimize nor want neglected, but that is not our primary focus as people of God. Bill wrote after attending Charlevoix, St. Louis, and Payne, Ohio. Add Demetrius Booker being at Warner camp and I have to say “We can’t be more historical than this, if our purpose is teaching history and maintaining a museum.” Bill had a scheduling conflict, but he did send Demetrius, one of very few blacks attending Warner this year, and I didn’t see many more at St. Louis—we were pretty colorless, if I do say so (a whole other story)!
Bill observed that almost everything we do at camp meeting, we can do equally well-or-better at home or elsewhere. He also said what I know to be true, “Every Camp Meeting I attended this summer was tight on finances and wondering how it could generate more support.” … Does that suggest that we are already concentrating our funds to where, as Bill days, “… money flows to vision and ministry.”?
SO, what might our Camp Meetings think about in the years ahead? Bill suggested that we “focus on the value of God’s people from all across the state getting together to "network and discuss with people of common mind, and allow great ideas to be hatched" and build ties that bind us together. Good as far as it goes . . . !
Here in Michigan, I would like to see our several Camp Boards cooperate together, coordinate  programming and events, and refocus their mission so as to be of more value to the local church and more in harmony with our primary reason for existence. I resonated with this paragraph: “Second, focus on the community where the Camp Meeting is being held. Campers can band together to do service projects, feed the hungry, and love the children of the community. If there is a local Church of God near the Camp Ground, do it in the name of that church that can continue ministry when the Camp Meeting is over. What if a Camp Meeting held a community health clinic, or did a concert for the youth of the community, or provided a neighborhood party with food and games for those in the area? Somehow, we ought to think about how we can reach, serve and love those who are not at our Camp Meeting."

One thing I know: If Camp Meetings remain “a party for the saved,” they will die! If they are as of much value as some of us contend, then we should invest enough money and programming into them to develop them as the viable Retreat and Educational centers they could be. If not, we should divest ourselves of the financial drain and turn to more productive measures. This will sound extreme to some, but I have invested my blood, sweat, and tears in church camps across this nation, and I am reevaluating my own commitment and values, having attended my first camp meeting at Grand Junction in 1927-28, not sure which, but a babe in arms.     

 Our CM Boards are limping along as best they can, with totally inadequate resources. The house at Grand Junction that was the home of D. S. Warner is badly deteriorated after we restored it in 1992 to the best of our financial ability. NOW, if repaired, it will be, at best, a restored farm house, a onetime historic relic that was a pretty nice Queen Anne style home occupied by D. S. Warner. BUT, we disgrace him and our message by our limp-along efforts, so I took it upon myself in annual business session in 2012 to make the motion empowering the Trustee Board to restore if able  or destroy and build a fitting facility commensurate with the needs of our camping program—as a memorial. DO WHAT THEY NEED TO DO!

This monologue is not a neatly defined plan for future camp meetings, but I hope it will illustrate our need to think on what Bill said and even open up dialogue-and-action enabling us to return to being the people of God Peter described by I Peter 2:9people of clear origin (responded to God), of unique character (a royal priesthood), with a focused purpose (declare his praises, meaning more than just fellowshipping together). 

As Gerald Nevitt once wrote:  “A new vision of what the church is to be and do in our world must begin with an understanding of who we are. Although every Christian may not fully understand, it is critically important that each church havea firm conviction regarding his identity” (GOD’S PEOPLE ON MISSION THROUGH MINISTRY/29/1995).

Personal thoughts from Warner’s World ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fulfilling the Promise

I met a young friend at the recent Global Gathering in June; her name is Emily Clark. I’ve known Emily through her family at Warner Camp for quite a few years now – long enough for Emily to work as a teen in the Camp Dining Hall for Susan Stace and my wife, long enough for me to baptize Emily although she belonged to Tom Tufts flock at Kalamazoo Westwood, long enough for Emily to matriculate from Anderson University and now hold a Bachelor of Divinity from the School of Theology + receive her CPE for Clinical Pastoral Education, and now long enough for Emily to begin finding her way into church ministry.

Emily is a committed Christian. She has achieved an excellent education!  Emily is competent to go wherever she is called, but she has chosen a place that captured my fancy back in 1985 when I drove to South Dakota and spent one week as the person in charge of our Mission at Wounded Knee; the real Mission Agent at that time was away at the national gathering of Native American Mission leaders. That gave me a learning experience I never forgot. It taught me much I did not know before—especially just how little I really knew about our First American culture. I married an Oklahoman with considerable Cherokee in her. Her father travelled the Trail of Tears from NC to AR as a boy and later served as an interpreter in the Indian Court, but this was a new education for me, and I discovered just how much I did not know.

In Anderson, I learned of Emily’s passion for Wounded Knee and her intention of “Fulfilling the Promise.” This became my chance to give Emily a small boost by sharing her dream with YOU. The Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota have long lived under the shadow of broken promises; I went there not really believing that. The United States government offered the tribe treaties promising that they could keep their land, their language, and their traditional way of life; unfortunately the government broke these promises. This betrayal left the Lakota unable to thrive as they once had on the prairie and resulted in a new way of life in which these people struggled to survive. The effects of that betrayal are still evident in the difficulties of daily life on Pine Ridge. Shannon County, home to most  of Pine Ridge, is one of the poorest counties in America—80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is around 85%. The rate of teen suicide on the reservation is 150% higher than off the reservation. The high school dropout rate is 70%. The life expectancy for the reservation is 48 for men and 52 for women.

In the midst of this dark reality, the Wounded Knee Church of God on Pine Ridge stands as a testimony to a different kind of promise—not the promise of government treaties, but the promise of God’s kingdom (It is the “only” church mission utilizing Native American architecture). Theirs is a promise that the hope of the gospel means life can be brighter in Pine Ridge. Pastor Stanley Hollow Horn believes that Wounded Knee Church of God can make these promises a reality for his hurting community; however, he knows he cannot do it alone. He shared his dream with the good folk at Germantown, Ohio and they have LAUNCHED AN EXCITING NEW PROJECT AT WOUNDED KNEE CALLED “THE PLACE OF PROMISE.”

The Place of Promise will be a community center located on the church property. Here, the community can come together in healthy ways. Children can play a game of basketball, women can exercise, and youth can learn new skills.  This facility will provide accessible offices for the church, serve as an outlet for ministry and outreach, and, most importantly, stand as a symbol to the promise of hope for Pine Ridge. Here, the broken promises plaguing the reservation for over a century will fade away and people can experience the tangible, eternal promises of God.

ANYONE wishing to help FULFILL THE PROMISE please contact the First Church of God in Germantown, Ohio at 937-855-6907 for more information. OR, VISIT

Here is where Emily comes in (I didn’t forget her). SHE WILL BE AVAILABLE TO SPEAK, BEGINNING IN SEPEMBER--TO YOUR CHURCH-- YOUR SMALL GROUP--OR BUSINESS. When I baptized this happy, freckle-faced little red-headed girl from Kalamazoo into the waters of Lester Lake that long ago, I had no idea where following Christ was going to lead her. Since that time she has spent time at Wounded Knee and has plans for investing some of the most significant time of her young life at Pine Ridge Reservation and there she will give loving service.

You can contact Emily at emily.clark05@gmail or call her at 269-312-0837. Project leaders are looking for people willing to make a five-year financial commitment of some kind, to help make this promise a sustained reality. The Place of Promise (pictured at the top of the page) is a dream quickly becoming a physical reality, but in order to stand against darkness we depend on the light that comes from the whole community of God.

From Warner’s World, this is asking you who can to  support Emily in this vey worthwhile project. I thank you; Emily thanks you, and the project leaders at Germantown thank you . . . :-)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on the passing of a friend

The 121st camp meeting assembled at Grand Junction, MI just as it has since those earlier days when D. S. Warner and company fished in the waters of Lester Lake. Stories have become legend reporting the passage of small groups of Trumpet Workers making their way from the Church of God Saints embryonic publishing plant in Grand Junction, walking north along the railroad track, and then hiking that sandy trail over through a thick grove of huge trees, skirting the little farm and trekking down to water’s edge at Lester Lake for a few hours of leisurely meditation, fellowship – even a little fishing. It doesn’t sound very spiritual but they might take back a few dozen, or perhaps a-hundred fifty tasty fish. Noah Byrum even reported that non-religious but eventful day when George (I think it was) Cole reported a five-pound Bass flopping out of the water and into their boat. I’d like to have seen the look on his face, except this was NO urban legend.

Lester Lake and Warner Memorial Camp were the kind of places Ed and Nonie Schweikert loved to visit. It was little surprise to arrive this year and discover the Schweikerts already inhabiting this Church of God encampment. I’m not sure who all they had in their company, but I visited with both Nonie and her sister and we revisited scenes from the past in their Ohio days. I watched Silver guide her family about; she was one of our talented youth  when I first met her. I was in company with longtime friend Bill Miller and we were headed to Ontario, Canada camp meeting where Bill would serve as a liason representing the Church of God in Michigan. We were sharing the good fellowship in Thamesford, where I would make many new friends. Bill had brought Silver for reasons beyond my challenged memory. What I most remember is that it was a trip I would joyfully repeat several more times before I retired.

I was never much of a camper, but Ed was, as I suspect a lot of  Ed’s youthful friends would agree. The only time I was ever in Ed’s home, I recall my amazement and pleasure at viewing his A-frame home in Owosso. I envied his knowledge and building skills. It was always a pleasure to encounter Ed or Nonie at Camp Meeting, and whereas I could often be seen sitting in some solitary place just pondering the status quo of things; any time you saw  Ed he was either in a huddle of hilarious adults, or he was overwhelming you with his latest “Did I tell you about . . .?”, or he could be seen in the Dining Hall or out under the trees with a small group of enthralled children showing them one of his disappearing card routines, or some other mysterious act that he was so talented at inventing.

This year was no exception; Ed was just Ed … a little slower … obviously a little older, but he was in circumstances that he loved, among people with whom he had shared much of his life; and he was doing things for which he has long been noteworthy. Thus, we all found it abrupt, confrontational, and shocking when the leader of that evening service informed us that Ed Schweikert had suddenly left our company, fled our laughter and hilarity at his jokes, leaving children still marveling at his mysteries now stunned at his quick departure – Ed had gone to his final resting place, THAT PLACE for which he had been preparing assiduously throughout more than fifty years of Christian Ministry.  Oh, we talked among ourselves, as we covered up our shock and talked about the necessary grief of the family. He had touched us one and all. Someone described Ed preaching his final sermon last Sunday, at South Haven, and the fact that because the regular sound person was at camp meeting instead of being at home, they had not recorded his sermon.

Be whatever that may be; Ed preached his final sermon this week at Warner Camp. It had a lot of different components to it. It left out no one, and it included all, from the oldest Saint on the grounds to the youngest grandchild. It was Ed spending his last days at a place he dearly loved, with its side trips over to Lake Michigan and whatever else there might be. He was with people he loved more than life itself, doing things he most enjoyed. It was almost reminiscent of an earlier day when our fearless Camp Director privately confided to some of us  that he would be leaving us before camp broke-up that week--a few years back. It happened just like Ray said it would, leaving a safe-deposit vault full of memories and valued experiences. We were equally shocked when Ed left us too suddenly. We feel the pain of that sudden separation, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

We rejoice in the hope of our Lord’s promises. We feel some of that separation the family currently feels, but we rejoice in the beauty of the circumstances. We all face that final appointment when we step around that unseen corner of tomorrow—from which there is no return. But, we should all be so fortunate as to be in such a great company of friends and family, and in such loving, fun-filled, and meaningful circumstances as last week’s camp meeting. We all learned a lot about Christian Living from Ed Schweikert and we can learn a few lessons on how to spend our final days before death overtakes us.


Thanks Ed, for your company, and your valuable lessons; we rejoice in your promotion … So-long, for now … from Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Madness of Men’s Hearts

Jeremy Scahill describes the early stages of  what we now consider the America’s disgraceful political prison at Guantanamo—Gitmo. Scahill writes,

“The CIA began secretly holding prisoners in Afghanistan on the edge of Bagram Airfield, which had been commandeered by US military forces. In the beginning, it was an ad hoc operation with prisoners stuffed into shipping containers. Eventually, it expanded to a handful of other discrete sites, among them an underground prison near the Kabul airport and an old brick factory north of Kabul. Doubling as a CIA substation, the factory became known as the “Salt Pit” and would be used to house prisoners, including those who had been snatched in other countries and brought to Afghanistan. CIA officials who worked on counterterrorism in the early days after 9/11 said that the idea for a network of secret prisons around the world was not initially a big-picture plan, but rather evolved as the scope of  operations grew. The CIA had first looked into using naval vessels and remote islands.—such as uninhabited islands dotting Lake Kariba in Zambia—as possible detention sites at which to interrogate suspected al Qaeda operatives. Eventually, the CIA would build up its own net work of secret “black sites” in at least eight countries, including Thailand, Poland, Romania, Mauritania, Lithuania and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

“But, in the beginning, lacking its own secret prisons, the Agency began funneling suspects to Egypt, Morocco and Jordan for interrogation. By using foreign intelligence services, prisoners could be freely tortured without any messy congressional inquiries

“In the early stages of GST  program, the Bush administration faced little obstruction from Congress. Democrats and Rep0ublicans alike gave tremendous latitude to the administration to prosecute its secret war. For its part, the White House at times refused to provide details of its covert operations to  the relevant congressional oversight committees but met little protest for its reticence. The administration also unilaterally decided to reduce the elite Gang of Eight members of Congress to just four: the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. These members are prohibited from discussing these briefings with anyone. In effect, it meant that Congress had no oversight of the GST program. And that was exactly how Cheney wanted it.

“… As the new kill/capture program began to kick into full gear in late 2001, the CIA’s number-three man at the time, Buzzy Krongard, declared the ‘war on terror’ would be won in large measure by forces you do not know about. . .” (p26-27 DIRTY WARS/NY/Nation Books/2013)

This Father’s Day 2013 Jeremy Scahill describes a nation I no longer recognize, nor is it one I can recommend to those I love most. My father served proudly in the Coast Guard, a great tradition on Lake Michigan shorelines. I served a partial hitch in the Air Force, which is no longer about flying planes but  flying drones in covert operations from many miles away. 

Scahill further reminds us we  live in a world that thrives on war rather than peace, where politicians spend their careers protecting their profits gained either from special interest lobbyists that own their souls, or fostering “Black Budget” funds  to fortify Navy SEALS, Delta Force, Blackwater, “Special  Operations” forces ad infinitum -  covert wars against a “war on terror” that exists only in the minds of the war-mongers themselves. Much of it is being fought by “operations, operators, and paid mercenaries” that do not exist anywhere on paper or politic, while we continue to maintain a fa├žade of diplomacy and transparency.

Anyone having second thoughts of conscience, anyone daring to leak out a secret (classified so it cannot become public information and ruin our reputation for transparency) faces losing everything to become an unknown entity without a country, or prison, or political suicide, or life-on-the-run.

So, we have become a country that fights wars wherever we choose, because we are the world’s whipping boy; we justify torture because the end justifies the means; we spy on our own citizens via constitutional government that is no longer of-by-for the people, but the people in office. We have political prisoners that we can imprison for life, without charges, and we force-feed them to keep them alive and without hope—talk about HELL…

When I pass into whatever future God has for us, I want my grandsons to know that there was once a people on these  shores who governed by-of-and-for the people as the land of the free,  a place where differences were at least tolerated and opportunity primarily equal.These people loved God and respected one another; they didn’t always worship the same, but neither did they  worship Satan.

Charles G. Finney was  trained as a legal expert, a lawyer, until he thought better of it and dedicated his abilities to God and became one of the all-time great exponents of the bible and right-living. Could Dr. Finney speak to us today, he might dust off a sermon he preached from the text in Ecclesiastes 9:3: “Madness is in their hearts while they live…” He might also conclude, madness fills our hearts if and when we listen to THEM . . .

I take comfort in the words of Jesus when he said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God” and find life that will be found no where else but in following Jesus (Matthew 6:33). From Warner’s World, this is He has not failed me yet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Leadership in the Church of God

I ran across the following blog from my friend, now my new pastor, which I believe deserves a modest response in a different context. Jeff Eckman wrote his Midland congregation in the context of where they were at that time. He wrote, “While Studying for my sermon I was reminded why Democracy is not necessarily the leadership style of choice for God’s People.”

Jeff makes his point, in the context of their relationship, but I want to respond in a different context. Jeff continued, “Before you shoot me as a communist, remember that we live in a Republic, and though we often throw around the term “Democracy” and seem to be trying to create Democracy in other countries, this country is not one. Democracy means mass rule. Whatever the majority wants, the majority gets.  It doesn’t matter if the Majority is right or wrong, or whether what they want is the best thing for everyone (or anyone for that matter), they get what they want because they have a majority.

“When the children of Israel sent the 12 spies into the promised land to spy out the land and bring back a report, there we two spies who had faith that God would allow them to succeed if they followed him.  God had promised the land to the descendants of Abraham for hundreds of years.  God’s will was clear.  They were to move forward and conquer the land.  Unfortunately, what started as a fact-finding mission for strategy sake, turned into an opportunity for disobedience when the other 10 spies, talked about the giants in the land and all of the difficulties they would have if they moved forward.  Suddenly, moving forward to take the land, which was obviously the will of God, became negotiable, and the people chose not to go.  Democracy wins, but the people of God didn’t.

 “The vast majority of people in this world are not going to lead forward with vision and faith.  I believe God appoints leaders for that purpose, but if the system being used in the church functions as a democracy, those visionary leaders will almost always be overruled by those who are busy looking at the road blocks and not the opportunities.  These are good people mind you, and many of them will offer the excuse that they are simply counting the cost.  While it is important to plan and look forward, it is sometimes impossible to predict everything that the future holds, especially when you serve a God who can part the Red Sea.  Where God leads, He will provide a way, but the majority will very seldom vote to do what is challenging or difficult, and as a result they often reject the leading of their leaders in favor of the comfort of the status quo. For Israel, that meant wandering in the wilderness until an entire generation died off.

 “Only when we learn to trust and follow godly leaders, will we begin to move forward on God’s timetable. Mass rule WILL leave us disappointed in the desert” (emphasis added). I agree with Jeff’s conclusion, but I also see another perspective having grown up with what the church called “charismatic government” (our church polity). F. G. Smith was the great proponent of this, but, as it turns out, there came a day when Smith found his leadership challenged by a democratic surge that was the new Ministerial Assembly.

This “Assembly” challenged the old rule of the select few of the inner circle. It eventually replaced Smith as Editor of the Gospel Trumpet (with all the perks of being the ruling Bishop) and the new Editor, C. E. Brown, introduced a new era of democratic protocol in which the General Assembly assumed more responsibility and diversified the leadership roles. In the process of this happening, Smith introduced a measure to have his “writings” accepted as the official doctrine of the Church of God, a measure entirely contrary to all that Smith (and everyone else) taught through the years, a measure that would have been a great abuse of power.

It had been this same narrow sharing of leadership that had allowed Smith and Riggle to dominate the new Missionary Board which resulted in the unfortunate “firing” of one of our finest of missionaries, G. P. Tasker.

It was this same limiting of leadership that resulted in the autocratic release of a large group of local Church members in one of our church communities, which resulted in a schism (a worship war) in which the pastor created the changes he wanted for the congregation, but it resulted in a divided congregation with a new group hiving off, their community witness effectively damaged for years to come, and other unfortunate results.

Jeff is right; democracy is not the panacea, the cure-all of church polity, but the autocratic leadership with the corporate CEO as the model is not the answer either. I, for one, believe the role of pastor is a God-given gift to the church. On the other hand, I suggest that “God’s direction” is most often found within the collective wisdom of the people—the church body. The Spirit of God resides within that body known as the people of God, and while God always finds a Moses around somewhere in the process, God is by no means chained to the pulpit or confined to the clergy.

To say it another way, my most meaningful experiences as a pastor came not when I proclaimed my “thus saith the Lord” or when I prayed for a serious need or healing; rather, it came when we (pastor and congregation) mutually prayed, petitioned, sought guidance, and listened for the still small voice of God, and all obeyed.
We Americans tend to overrate Christian individualism and underrate the collective wisdom of the Church Body. From Warner’s World, this is