Sunday, August 9, 2015

Church-family History

I returned home just this evening from a 3-week emergency journey to Kentucky, caring for family members. I returned via Anderson, Indiana where I stayed over with Dale and Cheryl Stultz and participated in the Friday-Saturday event of the Church of God Historical Society.

This group has over 300 members and fulfills some important functions but enjoys little recognition from the church at large. It lacks serious standing with Church of God Ministries, yet it is one of the important groups working in Church of God (Anderson) life. How so? Among other things, the Society keeps us aware of our historical perspectives (roots, vision, message) at a time when the church is floundering at the national level and trying to rediscover its biblical purpose.

Robert Reardon played a large part in the founding of the Society after Dale Stultz made some discoveries relative to Barney Warren, the Church of God’s original song writer. Barney composed many of the early hymns and collaborated with D. S. Warner/J.C. Fisher in producing our earliest hymnals et al. Dale Stultz discovered the Barney Warren cabin that now resides on East 5th Street in Anderson after President Reardon used his pen to find funds for Dale’s bringing the cabin from Springfield, Ohio to Anderson.

As Doug Welch tells it (loosely translated), Boss Reardon said to Professor (employee) Welch of the Seminary, “We need a historical society and YOU ARE the Secretary-Treasure.” Dale Stultz eventually became Vice-President and Church Historian and Seminary-Teacher Strege served as president. They funded the Memorial Stone of the unmarked C. W. Naylor grave and engineered bringing the Warren Cabin to Anderson and the Society was in business, loosely speaking.

All the while, Dale Stultz has used his multiple skills in the recovery of many and varied artifacts in becoming the most knowledgeable person among us regarding our history, our beginnings, and our family stories. He has without doubt the largest computerized photographic collection in the Movement and is continually adding new items to his collection and to the University Archives, with whom he works closely.

While Strege gave little visible support, Stultz and Welch produced THE BOOK OF NOAH, OLD MAIN, and THE GOSPEL TRUMPET YEARS. This project cost over $70,000, costing Dale some sweat since it went on his Credit Card, but the books are paid for and many are circulating about in the church today. 

THE BOOK OF NOAH details daily life in the Grand Junction Publishing House between 1887-1898, when they relocated from Grand Junction, MI to Moundsville, WVA. OLD MAIN describes the evolution of Anderson University as it is today, first begun as the Anderson Bible Training School in 1917, a department within the Gospel Trumpet Company. THE GOSPEL TRUMPET YEARS shows the journey taken by the Gospel Trumpet magazine produced first by D. S. Warner, beginning in 1880 in Rome City, Indiana and journeying through Indianapolis, IN; Cardington and Bucyrus, OH; Williamston and Grand Junction, MI; Moundsville, WVA and Anderson, IN until it changed its name in 1961 to ‘Vital Christianity”.

Some call this a revisionist history but it does give us a much less romantic and a more accurate detailing (than A. L. Byers BIRTH OF A REFORMATION) of our early years. The Church of God Movement goes on and we continue recording history as we pursue God’s vision for his people, but the magazine ceased publication the week of September 16, 1996.

When you don’t know where you come from, you are not likely to discover where you’re going. This can be said of most organizations and it can be said of us. We are struggling to wrap itself around its global message, but we are finding ourselves as we learn better how to fulfill our purpose. We are doing better than ever before, in some ways and more poorly in other ways. We have some soul searching yet to do and it may well be that we need to have another “Gethsemane” as Doug Oldham once sung about so beautifully. Such experiences are painful but purposeful.

As the Movement now exists, our Anderson, IN headquarters base has been restructured from a well-established series of serving Agencies and crunched into a single autocratic “Agency” called Church of God Ministries led by a leader dubbed by some as the Jim Lyons Show. This Agency Office seems to be on its way “out of Anderson” and God only knows where it will go. Support for it seems lacking on every hand making some wonder if this is to be another “one-term President” like certain politicians hoped to do to Barack Obama.

The members of the Historical Society love God. They are members because they love our message and our mission as God’s people on mission around the world. Members share the varying opinions of the church at large, but they are committed to being his people, pursuing his mission, and using their resources to accurately record how all of this comes about.

I salute Dr. Gary Agee the new General Assembly Historian and Chairman of the Society, as well as the other officers. This I know: I nursed as an infant from a bottle of milk filled with Reformation teachings at Grand Junction. My birth came but 32 years after the death of D. S. Warner (12-18-95) and  after almost 65 years of Church ministry, had I to do it all over again, I most certainly would!  Yet, I could not have done it without my mentors, Gray, Linn, et company.

Alabama Pastor Loren Sutton said it so eloquently at our closing event Saturday evening, and I certainly agree. We have a message but it does not belong to us; it belongs to our Spiritual Director, the Lord Jesus Christ. It remains for us to be faithful to Him …
on behalf of our church family and those who follow us … I am

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