This past June, I wrote about the new movement in our identity as Church of God people: our new General Director, Rev. Jim Lyon, is using the phrase “Jesus is the subject” as the primary rallying cry for the Church of God in this present time. In that article, I called this phrase a “wonderful starting point.” I still believe that to be true: that “Jesus is the subject” is a wonderful theological truth, and that it is just the beginning of the reflections we can make on our identity as the Church of God.
In the past few weeks, many important changes have been unveiled by Church of God Ministries, our movement’s central offices in Anderson, Indiana. I would like to discuss one of them in particular with you, the Mt. Haley Church of God family, in this article.
The Church of God has had an annual summertime meeting for as long as we all have been alive, and longer. It has been labeled with various names over the years: Anderson Campmeeting, the International Convention, the North American Convention, and last year’s Global Gathering. And for many years (but, importantly, not all of our years as a movement), this meeting has been held in Anderson, the location of our headquarters and the site of our movement’s growth in the early 1900s.
In June 2014, the Church of God Convention will be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The theme of this convention is “Be Bold,” and it promises to be full of big-name speakers and music groups. This represents a major change in how we do our summertime meeting on a number of levels, some of which I agree with and some of which I disagree with.
- The location change is a big surprise to everyone. We have seen this coming for several years; attendance at the Anderson conventions has been dwindling, with the exception of last year’s Global Gathering. And many Church of God people live prohibitively far away from Anderson. Our General Assembly has discussed rotating the convention to various parts of the country to alleviate that difficulty. I had a feeling that the location of our summer meeting would change in the future, but honestly I was surprised that it came this quickly. All that being said, though, I am looking forward to visiting this new location and how it may enable some to attend who live further away and have not traveled to Anderson in the past.
- The programming of the convention concerns me. At this point, there are no plans for children’s ministries or other age-appropriate activities in Oklahoma City. Everyone will be invited and expected to attend each plenary session. From a logistics standpoint, I believe this will make it rather difficult for parents of young children to attend the convention. From another perspective, there will be no break-out conferences as there have been in the past. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for you about a series of conferences I led along with some ministry colleagues of mine. These conferences were called “Difficult Texts of the Bible,” and we had tremendous support for these biblical studies. Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to lead this conference (or others we had led on different topics) in 2014. Perhaps that will change in 2015!
Many changes are happening these days in the life of the Church of God movement. My pledge to you, as your pastor, is that I will remain faithful to you, to the Lord, to our theological heritage, and to our movement. At this point, I plan to participate fully in next year’s convention, even though it will cost more in terms of housing (in Anderson, I could just stay with my parents for free!). I intend to do this because I believe that we need to meet together in order to stay connected with each other.
The campmeeting tradition is very strong in our movement and in several other church groups. As I wrote back in July, it is necessary for us as Church of God people to gather together. We belong together, and our relationships with fellow believers help to define who we are. I know this to be true in my own experience, and I have observed this to be true in your experiences, whether you have attended Anderson Campmeeting in the past, or perhaps St. Louis Campmeeting, or perhaps simply by worshiping with the Mt. Haley Church of God every Sunday.
We belong together. And our relationships, rooted in love and humility, point toward the Lord who unites us and makes us holy. If you have taken the time to read this far in today’s article, please take a few more minutes and read John 17:20-26, in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples – so that the world may believe that God the Father has sent God the Son.
For this purpose, we love each other.