Forty-four people quietly gathered In Lansing, MI on December 28, 1920 and found enough consensus between them to elect officers for a new Michigan Assembly that included all ordained/unordained ministers and one lay member from each congregation. Officers of this new organization were: C. S. Sisler of Lansing, Chairman; William Hartman of Kalamazoo, Vice Chairman; and Secretary E. C. Grice.
From Warner’s World, walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com invites your further comment.
They adopted sufficient bilaws to govern them as they worked in three specified areas of need that had prompted them to meet and organize. The problems prompting them were: 1) ministers circulating with dubious credentials; 2) pastors experiencing difficulty transitioning from one congregation to another; and, 3) internal conflicts within congregations. Gale Hetrick later noted that “These three concerns would dominate the business sessions of the Assembly for nearly two decades) (Laughter Among the Trumpets/119).
The group included twenty-five pastors, five evangelists, several female spouses that included ten women, one of whom was Allie Fisher Allen. Michigan was the first state to organize in this manner; thus, the succeeding organization of the Church of God in Michigan is today the oldest of its kind in the movement. As it approaches its coming centennial in 2020 it currently represents more than 14,000 people in 102 churches, down from the peak number of 136 churches.
Brown later described this effort as a “daring thing” for which the officers were called on the ecclesiastical carpet and admonished by national leaders the following Anderson Camp Meeting. It was a new and daring experiment because these were people of the Reformation Movement, sometimes known as “come-outers.”
Beginning with Warner, Fisher and the Coles,the primary thrust had been to call people out of sectism into spiritual unity and to avoid all appearance of the denominationalism we so severely thrashed.
Until C.E. Brown finally convinced us that we could organize to do the work of the church, although we knew we could not organize the church itself, we [the Movement] had been vigorously anti-organization and we are still plagued with that disease. That bias seemingly went far beyond Warner’s perception of the church as something created and organized by God. To some of us it appears to run hand in glove with Warner’s loss of credentials in the General Eldership of the Church of God, almost like an emotional hangover, that Warner himself never got over and forever after had this vendetta.
I offer this backward peek to make a couple of observations relating to our transition into a new period of ministry and growth under the leadership of Dr. Jim Lyons. It has been my observation that we are unclear about our identity and our core DNA. As a result, we have proclaimed vigorously our message of holiness and unity but we have avoided coming to the table of dialogue with that segment of the church our earlier literature designated as “Babylon.”
Out of our antipathy to Babylon and to organization we have become relatively ineffectual in serious cooperative evangelism, working together and reaching out to win the none-churched. We have, in fact, become a comfortable private membership, YMCA of sorts for spiritual health addicts, disinterested in getting socially involved in redeeming either society or the people in it.
I BELIEVE IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE DECIDE WHO WE ARE AND WHAT OUR MISSION IS. TO DETERMINE THIS, WE MUST ONCE MORE BECOME PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.ONCE WE DO THIS, WE WILL HOPEFULLY DISCOVER THAT WE ARE PEOPLE OF GOD NOW. And with this, I draw some conclusions:
1. As people of God, our mission is that unique mission given God’s people in the Scriptures--reveal God to the inhabitants of the world. In other words, our primary mission is missions itself, or evangelism and since that was God’s mission, that is our primary mission, around which our whole church ministry should be singularly organized. Building buildings and institutions, doctrinalizing the church, and teaching our distinctives are not our primary mission. The church is about searching for that one lost sheep, while we provide for the ninety and nine
2. As people of God, we are His people NOW, not at some future time of fulfillment. Our generation is run in the ground with garden varieties of millennialism, while we have no one proclaiming a forthright amillennial apologetic. Instead; we must go outside our circles to find scholarship like N. T. Wright, who reminds us with refreshingly with sound reason and biblical basis for proclaiming that through Jesus we live in a new era of GOD’S KINGSHIP and that we ignore that at our own peril.
3. If we are God’s people, and if we presently live under God’s authority and the mentoring of Jesus, we cannot be like Jesus and be independent consumers, autonomous and untrusting of each other, but we must organize our cooperative work to do whatever it takes to win the world at any cost, and the rest of our institutional life will be shaped by our mission and by who we are.
We will do what we do because of who we are
and this will determine whether or not we are a loosely connected association or the tightly-knit Body of Christ. This will determine whether we as the Church of God attempt to be an evangelical holiness Lone Ranger or we come to the table of dialogue with holiness churches, Pentecostal churches, Calvinists and Arminians and we find ways to cooperate and complement to win the lost at whatever cost.