I attended my first Anderson camp meeting/youth convention in 1944, the year E. Stanley Jones spoke. When I attended Global Gathering 2013 following years of conventions/camp meetings my family and I attended, following my Dallas, Texas ordination in 1952. I could count the number of times I missed during those years on one hand. I was never good at being a “yes” man, but I remained keenly aware of the institution. My family afforded those things even when we could not afford other necessities and if I didn't, my wife insisted!.
Yes, I was a “company” man. If pastor of a Church of God congregation, I made it part of my job description to attend state and national camp meetings, although I was never what you would call a “camper.” I made it part of my expectation that the church I pastored used Warner Press materials by Church of God writers. I felt attended General Assembly although I seldom said anything. I was comfortable to agree or disagree with whatever, BUT, I always respected the word and ways of the Assembly.
Bob Reardon told this story at the close of the 1992 General Assembly. E. A. Reardon, Bob’s father, was the first chair of our Assembly. As chairman there came a time when he offended the Assembly with some blunt remarks about the sectish spirit building in our midst at that time. Consequently. E. A. Reardon was voted out as GA Chair. When the Assembly met the following day, everyone cautiously awaited Reardon’s response.
As Callen reports it, the senior Reardon stood to his feet, faced the Assembly and said in his typically blunt manner: “Well, I’ve been over and looked at the Assembly vote. I see you voted me off both of these boards (Missionary/ABTS). Amid the dead silence, the disenfranchised chair said, “I have just one thing to say to you. The Assembly gave, the Assembly has taken away, blessed be the name of the Assembly” (Callen/Journeying together/1996/17). Italic added.
With all due respect to God’s prophets who brought the word of the Lord from time to time, this Movement has generally found the voice of God within the body politic—God works through His People. And while I personally have always emphasized the democratic nature of our polity, I seldom strayed from the unanimity of The Body, locally or nationally.
Thus, it comes as quite a surprise when I read the letter of protest by my respected friend, Dr. Jerry Grubbs, former dean in the AU system. Grubbs is an institution within itself in the Church of God, going back to J. C. and J. D. as far as I know. I became familiar with the Grubbs brothers when pastoring in the old South. They reared sons and cousins who have had great ministries. Best known of all now is Marty, by virtue of being the popular pastor of the Oklahoma City mega-church at the crossings. And what a ministry Marty has had, a real tribute to Dave, his dad, and his upbringing at old Dayton Salem aka Clayton Salem.
As host to our recent 2014 Convention/GA Marty received a letter from his cousin, Dr. Jerry Grubbs, protesting some of the protocol in relocating the Convention from Anderson to Oklahoma City (see attachment). When first I heard of the move, I applauded guardedly, having supported a relocation of the Assembly from Anderson from the mid-sixties forward, with counsel from some of our national leaders
I still remember the year my friend E. E. Wolfram took me aside as a pastor in Mississippi attending Birmingham Convention. Sitting me down in a quiet corner of the Pinehurst narthex, Ewald encouraged me with, “There was a day when you could not do this!” I was editor of the Mississippi Co-ordinator and actively campaigning to move our Assembly back and forth across the four time zones, in a manner similar to Southern Baptists Messengers.
We still find it difficult to deal honestly with our diversity and so we struggle with dialogue, either honest or dishonest. This year is no exception, except circumstances continually force us to reconsider “our diversity.” So, although a midwesterner, I applauded the election of Jim Lyons, a west coaster and his diverse ways—sometimes different, as was Bob Pierson, another westerner, except we fired him.
However, I candidly confess that when I first heard of the “tickets at the door” to which Jerry alludes; that was so utterly contrary to the Church of God’s open door policy of camp meetings that I thought my informant had “lost her marbles!” My wife had talked to someone in OKC via phone and learned of it. She has been critically ill, and I questioned that she was sliding into dementia—only to learn that she knew whereof she spoke … an ungodly truth.
Historically, the Gospel Trumpet Company underwrote Anderson camp meeting and grounds, until the church found it expedient and necessary to assume that cost. If the Assembly cannot find support in “our budget” for this needed item, then lets chuck it – kill it dead!
Needless to say, this minister of more than 60 years was mortified … appalled … shamed that the Ministry Council had supported Jim Lyons in doing what was done in OKC recently. Making someone pay to get into one of our services is OBSCENE AND SINFUL. Experiment with moving the Convention! Call it NAC! Call it whatever, or meet wherever! BUT, DON’T USE A TECHNICALITY TO END-RUN AROUND THE ASSEMBLY. AND, don’t insult the majority of our ministers and parishoners by putting a price tag on our most institutionalized meeting.
From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com asking the Ministry Council to “man up”! How could you do this to us? (following is Dr. Grubbs letter to cousin Marty, with permission.)
REFLECTIONS ON UPCOMING CHURCH OF GOD NORTH AMERICAN CONVENTION
As I am packing and getting ready to go to Oklahoma City for the Church of God North American Convention, I am thinking about the theme that has been selected for this year. It is BE BOLD!
Is it being bold to ignore the vote of the General Assembly two years ago to “experiment with a satellite site outside of Anderson in 2014?” That was an affirmative vote by those present and voting. No one to my knowledge (and I have talked to scores of persons who were present) assumed that Anderson, Indiana, the headquarters of the Church of God for over 100 years, would be the “satellite” and the convention moved to another city. If acting independently of the vote and wishes of the General Assembly is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to ignore twelve congregations of the Church of God in Madison County, their Pastors and Members in making the decision to move the convention? These congregations have graciously hosted the thousands of persons who have come to Anderson each year. And if being bold is to ignore them in the decision making process then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to ignore our largest university which has graciously hosted this convention for nearly 100 years? Anderson University has opened its campus, living facilities, dining facilities and classrooms to the convention. And if ignoring this fine institution in the decision process is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold walking away from the city of Anderson whose leaders, people and businesses have opened themselves to hosting this convention for over 100 years? Is it being bold to speak in such negative terms in newspaper interviews about the people and facilities of Anderson? Anderson, Indiana is more than able to provide everything needed to host and support the Church of God convention and to imply otherwise is a slap in the face of our Headquarter City. I have checked the prices of lodging in Oklahoma City and it is clear that only those with real financial means will be able to attend the convention. If this is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to insinuate in an Anderson newspaper interview that the Church of God has become more cultured than in past times whenever people came in their campers and RV’s to the convention? What does such an insinuation say to the thousands of persons across the years who have come and enjoyed the family atmosphere of the “campgrounds” and met and made friendships that have lasted a life time? What does it mean that we are “more cultured?” By the way, I am attending the Oklahoma convention in my RV, uncultured soul that I am. If such put downs of the thousands of persons who have found this experience fulfilling is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to structure the program of the North American Convention so as to totally exclude children and youth from participation? For decade upon decade, this convention has been a place where children and youth are instructed in the way of Christ and in a call to service within this Reformation Movement.
Literally thousands of youth across the years have made their way to the altar or to a prayer room where they have received Christ as Savior and Lord and for many thousand more who have received a call to Christian ministry as Pastors, Teachers and Missionaries. If ignoring these precious children and youth is what it means to be bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to move away from conferences which provide opportunities to explore Worship, Christian Education, Church Administration, Church Finances, etc.? Pastors and lay persons alike have come to the convention for learning opportunities that could be applied in their back home situation. If being bold terminates these learning opportunities, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Is it being bold to price the convention out of the reach of many persons? Is $95-$120 in Oklahoma City and $40 to sit in front of a screen in Anderson appropriate in this economy? What does such a financial requirement say to those who have experienced for over 100 years worship and educational opportunities at little or no cost? Are we being asked to underwrite high priced entertainers to come and perform as we watch instead of asking our own Movement worship leaders and preachers to plan effective worship services which are consistent with our heritage and traditions? If such a change in our approach is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
On a more deeply personal level, I raise the following. Our Grandson is serving in the United States Air Force and is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. We discovered that he would be able to attend the Tuesday evening service of the convention with us. When I contacted the National Office I was informed that he could attend and they would be selling tickets at the door. I was shocked. In almost 74 years of being in the Church of God I have never paid to here the Gospel or charged anyone to come in to hear the Gospel. For 100 years our convention has been open to any and all and thousands across the years have come in freely, heard the Gospel message, responded and went out to serve their Lord. I am absolutely appalled that we now tell those who might want to come in to one of our “performances” that they have to buy a ticket. What, dear Lord, have we come to? If this is being bold, then, I am not in favor of being bold.
Instead of a theme of BE BOLD, we would have been better served by choosing a theme of BE FAITHFUL. What would it really mean for the Church of God Reformation Movement to reflect on being faithful to her founding, history, heritage, theology, message, mission and ministry in the 21st century? I see the Church to which I have given a life-time of commitment and service slowly slipping away under the guise of being bold. I, for one, am really saddened by what I see taking place. I may just be one voice crying in the wilderness…or maybe not.
Dr. Jerry C. Grubbs
June 10, 2014