Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Appreciation of Old Values

I'm currently doing something I've done little of: re-reading books I've read before. Somehow it seemed I never had time to re-read things; I was always too busy pressing forward with a new author, a new book, or a new interest. That, like the writing of books is, as the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote so long ago, endless ... of the writing of books there is no end. How thankful I am for the accumulated wisdom of the ages.

One such re-read was AS THE RIVER FLOWS by former AU president J. A. Morrison. Now one of those hard-to-find books, it was a delight to reacquaint myself with Dr. John's recollection of his Ozark days on the Meremec River and his adventure in Anderson, IN, where he became the longest standing college president in America. That is a delightful story in itself, but later ...

Rereading Dr. John prompted me to pick-up a book entitled AS I RECALL... THE WILSON-MORRISON YEARS, by Linfield Myers. I was spending an overnight with Dale and Cheryl Stultz, and getting ready to depart for MI. Dale had a stack of books on his down-sizing table and I picked up this copy of Myers' book. I remember when it was published but never gave it much thought; Myers was a banker and Wilson a GM Exec; I was more interested in theological perspectives, but I carried Mr. Myers paperback home and determined to read it.

I don't know what faith community Banker Myers comes from, but he was obviously a thoughtful man, appreciative of enduring values, and a friend of the church. Truthfully, author Myers lifted my perspectives to a new level, giving me an area of thought that I am still cultivating. As a servant of the church, I carry a life-long conviction of the church's worth. I have immersed myself in the history of the church, both the church catholic and universal, and that body sometimes called the Church of God Reformation Movement.

I am fascinated with the discipleship of the Radical Reformation (Anabaptist), and increasingly convicted of the worth of the Wesleyan holiness movement. I came into Grand Junction, MI only thirty years behind D. S. Warner, so I have a deep loyalty to his journey, even when I view some of his judgments with a jaundiced eye. It is no secret that the ministry of the Church of God has been in a state of transition, so it comes as no surprise that some wonder at the lasting value(s) of our movement. I have many such questions myself, after more than sixty years in church ministry.

One thing I learned long ago, was the worth of doubting. "Lord, I believe!" said the father of the boy the disciples could not heal, but "help my unbelief" he said as Jesus brought healing to that situation. And here, Mr. Myers started the juices flowing and I am still casting about in those waters, intrigued with the fish to be caught.

Myers' narrates a story of Anderson, IN that reveals a banker, a business man, and a preacher becoming friends. Their friendship forms a structural history of that bedroom community to Indianapolis. The banker befriended the young business man, whose business acumen became the driving economic force of the Anderson community for many years. That launched the career of the man that would become CEO of General Motors, Detroit, but as Anderson transitioned from rural to industrial economics, Remy et al became the paycheck that gave life to the citizenry of the community.

But time swiftly transitions ... economics change. Today I drive through Anderson and see factories that once were, but are now restructured elsewhere. The third man in Myers' book saw a very young pastor from Delta, CO, come to Anderson in 1919, not quite fresh from the Meramec, deep in the Ozarks of MO. That youthful and hardly-educated preacher picked up the dream of the President of the Gospel Trumpet Company and ran the ball for a touchdown by growing a university of which the church can be justly proud.

John Morrison couldn't run like Adrian Peterson, one of my NFL favorites, but he carried the ball for thirty-nine years becoming the longest-term president of any college in America--1919-1958. The point being, that today Anderson is probably best known as the home of Anderson University, rather than "little Chicago", or Delco-Remy and Guide Lamp, or GM and industry, or even Warner Press Inc.

Anderson University started as the leadership training department of a struggling publishing company, founded by a dedicated young religious zealots that were as poor as Job's turkey. They didn't add much to the Anderson economy and they were not always greatly beloved. And although some of the church saints tried to disrupt the educational process, Dr. John et Company pursued the course, flowing "As the River Flows". As a result, the future of Anderson Indiana builds today "Faith, Learning & Life" that exist in our Christian University.

I don't know if it is true, but I suspect Anderson University might be the biggest payroll in the Anderson economy today. I understand how its educational progress plays a pivotal role in the business and economic future of Anderson today, not to mention its religious influence.

The Church of God Reformation may not have converted the world ... yet, but its ministry is global. We may not preach "come out" quite like the pioneers did, but we have a better relationship with, and a better understanding of, the field in which we are called to work. I for one am deeply thankful and appreciative of my heritage, and the privilege of being part of a church tradition that values education, that dares to allow diversity, and that does not shun the doubter.

It was Dr John who said religion is more important than education BECAUSE: education may, or may not, produce religion (much of it does not today). On the other hand, religion does produce self-improvement and education. The American religious establishment created the core of American secondary education. The not-all-that-educated Church of God produced a University system that includes Anderson ... Warner Pacific ... Mid-America Christian ...  Warner et al ...

Beyond institutions, the Church of God is today educated people who are highly developed personalities that can think rightly, feel deeply, will strongly, love truth passionately, hate evil vigorously, imagine vividly, sympathize warmly, enjoy greatly, and serve unstintedly. This kind of person, said Dr. John, "knows the truth and loves the truth and does the truth. He is an alumnus in whom any alma mater may justly take pride" (Faith, Learning & Life/Callen/24).  

From Warner's World, this is
with another Morrisonism: "the soul of education is the education of the soul."

Friday, February 15, 2013

“The Trumpets Are Sounding”

B. Gale Hetrick spent a year researching and writing his very fine history of the Church of God in Michigan—LAUGHTER AMONG THE TRUMPETS. Now more than three decades old, Gale’s work came out as a centennial volume in 1980. We all appreciated his work and saw it as a fine tribute to Gale’s twenty-eight or so years as Executive Secretary of the Church of God of Michigan.

Knowing that his book will soon be updated, I re-read portions of the original work this week, and was especially challenged by Chapter 8, “The Trumpets Are Sounding.” That title comes from Isaiah 18:3, a scripture used on the masthead of the GOSPEL TRUMPET when printed at Grand Junction. Gale quoted Rudyard Kipling’s lines:

“There’s no use in going further so they said and I believed them,  Built my barns and strung my fences in a little border station tucked away among the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

Then a voice as bad as conscience rang interminable phrases in one everlasting whisper day and night repeated so; ‘Something hidden, go and find it; something lost beyond the ranges; something lost and waiting for you. Go!”

Anybody might have found it but the whisper came to me!”

If the movement” Gale suggested, “is to have any major relevance in its second century, it is essential that we look to the quality of our life as a people,” and his call was “to be a people biblically aware—spiritually alive”. He further suggested “It is time now for our congregations to fulfill both the theology and the spirit of Christian unity>"

What captured my attention was this paragraph: “We face the real question as to whether the fire still burns today or whether we have been vaccinated with the substance of the movement and are incapable of’ ‘catching its burning fever.’ As with the past, the future also rests on the question of passion” (Italics mine).

I became a child of the Movement in 1927. I heard “the whisper” and became an ordained leader in the Movement in 1952. I look at Gale’s world in 1980 and compare it to 2013, and I have to wonder: are we so indoctrinated with perfectionism, calls of heart unity, “come-outism” and numerous Movemental themes that we are no longer capable of catching that burning fever that drove our pioneers in flagrant disregard of themselves and all else?

Gale spoke of the passion our pioneers had to (1) restore the church, (2) save the lost, and (3) deliver the gospel to the world ASAP. Passion today prompts some toward the firebrands of religious radicalism, others toward the terrorism of the Taiban or Al Queda, and others to other bizarre behaviors. Those first disciples in the first century church discovered life’s deeper demensions in an” Upper Room”, where they were touched by the Spirit of God and a new realization of God’s indwelling presence that produced a personal and powerful relationship resulting in healing, wholeness, and holiness in their own day-to-day lives.

Some can only see a world of politics that preaches fear; “protect” yourself with a gun. This is a hostile world  that remembers only centuries-old wrongs, and forever feeds hatreds. It is a world that finds forgiveness and reconciliation utterly incomprehensible. Occasionally, the church splatters a lot of mud spinning its program wheels and revving up its ecclesiastical motors for competition in the drag race of public attention and social power. BUT, WHERE IS THE HEALING WHOLENESS AND THE HOLINESS THAT RESULTS IN WELLNESS?

I suggest the answer may be found in the quiet, consistent, and well-lived life modeled by the Godly saint that has experienced a re-birth of Galatians 5--life in the Spirit. This is a life where God’s loving grace predominates legalism and judgment, or even justice. This is a life lived as a pipeline of God’s loving grace. If the church is the BODY of Christ; if WE are His hands, then it seems to me that if the world is to experience goodness and mercy, undeserved forgiveness and reconciliation, loving kindness rather than retaliation, justice rather than retribution; it must begin with us. They must experience it from us!

The church can no longer echo the words and thoughts of the society of which it is a part. The church is in the world but not of the world. The church must once more speak only the words of Him who said “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

From Warner’s World, we are

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Electing a Pope

Pope Benedict stunned the world by announcing his resignation to his College of Cardinals. This has been unheard of for six centuries, leaving pundits buzzing about the why's and wherefores. His   apparent reasons suggest it is for the good of the church and the implication of his action suggests the need for more youthful vigor.

While the pundits continue to speculate, I suggest we give this good man credit for having social sensibility. We have too many politicians and others who cannot relinquish their political power, even when no longer able to give the service they are paid or elected to do.

Although we live in a time when the only good considered is what is good for me, and the common good is considered some kind of weird anomaly, Pope Benedict, as the administrative leader of the Roman hierarchy, has faced that time in his life when he is no longer able to pursue the common good of Roman Catholic issues that the church needs and that he would wish to give. I commend that!

The search for a new Pope among Roman Catholics is a little like our search in the Church of God, as we each seek a new administrative leader. Taking a cue from Pope Benedict, I would wish that the Church of God Reformation Movement, as some still refer to us, would not forget that we began as a very youthful Movement following a charismatic leader (D. S. Warner).

I would hope that we will not discount for potential leadership some that we consider "too young." By the same token, I would not discount some potential leaders because they are females, ethnics (black or Hispanic). Nor should we discount some that we may feel lack adequate educational attainment.

I am not sure we have anyone out there who is adequately prepared to administer the Church of God Movement in these uncertain times. Then I have to remember that when the youthful Daniel Warner invited Enoch Byrum to take over the management of his Gospel Trumpet office, Byrum was 25-26, an untested administrator and a "wanna-be" student, with no publishing experience whatsoever. Enoch brought his younger brother along, a 15-year-old farm boy who had yet to finish high school.

After more than a century, we look back at the Byrum brothers and acknowledge that their contribution to the life of the church and the publishing company is "unmatched" in its importance to our history as a Movement. Enoch, like Moses leading the people of Israel, successfully led the church through some of its most threatening moments. Between them, the brothers assumed ownership of the publishing company and protected it for the church, enabling the Gospel Trumpet magazine to represent the church for some 116 years.

I recall how J. T. Wilson enlisted a young Missouri school teacher, newly called to ministry and barely into his first pastorate after a few months of evangelistic meetings, to come and help him develop a new department of biblical training at the Gospel Trumpet Company. I just finished re-reading the memoirs of Archie Morrison, aka Dr. John Morrison, tracing his exit from the Ozarks to a Delta, CO pastorate, to Anderson, IN.

If one cares to read the story, go back and re-read AS I RECALL THE WILSON-MORRISON YEARS by Linfield Myers. I saw something in that book as Myers, a young local banker crossed paths with a young industrial engineer who in a manner of speaking put Anderson, IN on the map. Wilson's years with Delco-Remy saw Anderson reconfigure from a small farm community to an industrial center for the auto industry, and become a General Motors town.

I drove through Anderson only recently, and although it still has industry, the old "General Motors aura" is no more. The wheels of industry are essential to our economy and economics change and communities rise and wane like the tides of the sea. Today, the most valuable asset of Anderson, IN is ANDERSON UNIVERSITY, the net result of Dr John's 39 years as America's longest tenured college president. When J. T. Wilson invited that young (hardly qualified in any sense of the word) Morrison to come in 1919 and take over his dream of a liberal arts institution that would train the church's gospel workers and ministers, no one foresaw Morrison's successful 39 years of leadership, nor did anyone dream that when the economic hopes via General Motors were long gone, Anderson University would still be there as the lynchpin of that community ... a gift from the church.

Do we have anyone with enough qualifications to lead the church of which Anderson University is an integral part? I guess it depends on how you look at it. Having served 45 years of pastoral service to the church, I know that no one is indispensable. I have learned that God always has someone in the wings that He can use to do the job at hand, if  that person is teachable, passionate about service, and sensitive to contemporary issues.

The other ingredient in the recipe is the people themselves. Our most successful leaders did not come "ready rolled"; they (like Jesus) grew in wisdom and stature; they matured as they grew into the job at hand. Any church, denomination, or local congregation that wants a successful leader must be willing to grow in the same maturity by helping ... allowing ... enabling the leader to grow into the position. The progress and growth of  the Church of God, aka  Reformation Movement, will depend upon our mutual ability to listen, discern, and hear the voice of God ...

from Warner's World, this is