Executive Presbyters Elected; Interdenominational Resolution Stirs Some Ecumenical Debate
In its final day of business, the General Council elected two new members to the Executive Presbytery and spent several hours working through revisions to the Fellowship’s constitution and by-laws on Thursday.
The two newest executive presbyters are John M. Palmer from the North Central Area and Douglas E. Fulenwider from the Gulf Area.
Palmer succeeds David W. Argue, who had served since 1993, while Fulenwider takes the place vacated by L. Alton Garrison, who was elected Wednesday as the new executive director for U.S. Missions.
Palmer has pastored First Assembly of God in Des Moines, Iowa, since 1985. He has served as Iowa District mission’s director since 2004, and previously pastored New Life Assembly in Athens, Ohio.
His other ministry experience includes serving on the Central Bible College Board of Directors, the National Decade of Harvest Task Force, and the Mission America National Committee.
Fulenwider has served as superintendent of the Louisiana District since 1994, after stints as the district’s Christian education director and secretary-treasurer. His pastoral experience includes time in three different Louisiana churches.
Since 2001, he has served as chairman of the Southwestern AG University Board of Regents. He also is a member of the board of directors for Hillcrest Children’s Home.
The most intense floor debate of the day came over Resolution 19, which sought to rephrase the Fellowship’s stance on interdenominational and ecumenical interaction, included in the by-laws under the List of Doctrines and Practices Disapproved.
Several pastors from New England states expressed opposition to the resolution because it failed to acknowledge the dangers of the ecumenical movement and because it created confusion for former Catholics who now belonged to AG churches.
The new guidelines, one Connecticut pastor said, could be interpreted to say that AG ministers could associate with denominations that appear to be evangelical, but actually endorse such practices as ordaining homosexuals.
But supporters said the proposed changes did not weaken the Fellowship’s stance on maintaining doctrinal purity. Robert Rhoden from Fairfax, Virginia, said Resolution 19 was an attempt to strike a balance between two extremes: those who would ignore the risks of the ecumenical movement, and those who would say Pentecostals should have nothing to do with other denominations.
Additionally, supporters argued, the new statement did not alter the Assemblies of God’s fundamental theological views.
This is not a document that is defining doctrine, said one pastor from Indiana. It is a document that defines how we interact with other faiths.
Using secret ballots, delegates and pastors approved Resolution 19 on an 899-767 vote.
Other changes for Constitution, By-laws
Much of Thursday’s energy was focused on additional revisions to the AG Constitution and By-laws, most of which were rooted in the Vision for Transformation process.
Delegates juggled multiple documents and booklets as they considered and debated numerous changes to the governing document. All of the proposals were approved, though some attracted discussion from the floor.
One of the more significant revisions came in the area of elections. Under the new guidelines, nominees for the general superintendent and assistant general superintendent must receive at least 15 votes on the nominating ballot to be presented to the full Council.
And beginning with the 2007 General Council in Indianapolis, the general secretary nominations will come from the General Presbytery, instead of from the Council floor. That’s how nominations already are handled for general treasurer, executive director for U.S. Missions and executive director for World Missions.
Here is a summary of other revisions made to the AG Constitution and By-laws:
New policies were instituted for the Resolutions Committee. Resolutions submitted by the Executive Presbytery, the General Presbytery or a district council are exempt from referral to the Commission on Doctrinal Purity. The Resolutions Committee will now have discretion on whether to send resolutions to the CDP, though that aspect was debated on the floor of the Council. One pastor had sought to refer all scripture-related resolutions to the commission, but the Council rejected that amendment.
Numerous editorial and wording changes were approved, including uniform use of Holy Spirit; revised language when discussing ecclesiastical annulments; modified language when talking about ministers with disabilities; and a minor revision to the Local Church Credential.
The size of the General Presbytery was increased Thursday by 22 positions, as the Council approved the addition of U.S. Missions departmental directors and all the presidents of AG-endorsed postsecondary schools to that body.
Passages that referred to such AG institutions as Ministers Benefit Association and the AG Foundation were replaced with a new passage on Corporations of the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Large passages of the by-laws were removed and placed into the General Council of the Assemblies of God Organizational Manual. Content in this manual includes a new organizational chart for the national headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.
Resolution 13, which refined the duties of the general treasurer, and Resolution 14, which included some of the details of the Division of the Treasury in the by-laws, were both approved.
Guidelines were created for national or global ministries that wish to be affiliated with the AG.
Because the sizes of the Executive Presbytery and Board of Administration have grown in thanks to previous Council actions in new quorum standards were established for those two bodies.
Executive presbyters elected
At each General Council, pastors and delegates elect the nonresident executive presbyters for the subsequent two years. These incumbents were re-elected:
Warren D. Bullock, who has served as an executive presbyter since 2001, was re-elected from the Northwest Area. He served as superintendent of the Northwest District from 1994 to 2002, after four years as the assistant superintendent. Since last year, he has served as associate pastor at Renton Assembly of God in Renton, Washington.
Richard L. Dresselhaus, an executive presbyter since 1997, was re-elected to represent the Southwest Area. He served as pastor of First Assembly of God in San Diego, California, from 1970 to 2003. His previous ministry roles include pastoring in St. Paul, Minnesota, and working as an instructor at North Central University in Minneapolis.
J. Don George has served as the executive presbyter for the South Central Area since 2001. Since 1972, he has been senior pastor of Calvary Church in Irving, Texas. He currently serves on the AG Theological Seminary Board of Directors and the Southwestern AG University Board of Regents.
Charles E. Crank has represented the Great Lakes Area since 2001. From 1969 to 2003, he served in various leadership roles with the Indiana District, including nearly 30 years as district superintendent. He has served on the boards of various AG colleges and universities.
H. Robert Rhoden, superintendent of the Potomac District, has represented the Northeast Area since 2001. He pastored West End Assembly of God in Richmond, Virginia, from 1969 to 1991. He is a member of the board of trustees for Valley Forge Christian College.
C. Dan Betzer, pastor of First AG in Fort Myers, Florida, has been the Southeast Area executive presbyter since 1995. Since 1994, he has been assistant superintendent of the Peninsular Florida District, and he was speaker on the Revivaltime radio program from 1978 to 1995.
Jesse Miranda Jr. has represented the Language Area/Spanish districts since 1995. He is pastor of Spanish Assembly in Brighton, Colorado, and served as superintendent of the Southern Pacific Latin American District from 1984 to 1992. He also has worked as an educator at Azusa Pacific and Vanguard universities.
Nam Soo Kim, pastor of Full Gospel New York Church in New York, has represented the Language Area/Other districts since 1999. He has served as superintendent of the Korean District, was a missionary in Vietnam, and is a member of the boards of directors for Central Bible College and Valley Forge Christian College.
Zollie L. Smith Jr., who recently became secretary of the New Jersey District, has represented the Ethnic Fellowships since 2002. He pastored Eternal Life Christian Center in Somerset, New Jersey, from 1990 to 2005. He has been president of the Black Fellowship of the AG since 1992.
Other Council business
Thursday’s session included the presentation of the Spiritual Life Report, which challenged the Council to ask what the Spirit is saying to the Fellowship, what He is saying to churches and ministries, and what He is saying to individual ministers and leaders.
An extended time of intense prayer and worship followed the report’s presentation, and General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask urged delegates and pastors to pray for each other, especially for those who felt worn down from stress or challenges.
There is no shame in being tired and weary, he said. The only shame is when we allow ourselves to stay that way.
Also on Thursday, the Council rejected Resolution 5, which would have added a new passage to the Statement of Fundamental Truths on The Humanity of Christ. The resolution’s author, Robert W. Lyle of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, told the Council that his resolution was needed to ensure that the Fellowship maintains its purity on this key doctrine.
But opponents said the current Fundamental Truths already adequately emphasize the humanity of Jesus, and no additional statement was needed in the AG Constitution, and the resolution was defeated.