Council Wraps Up Business
The General Council affirmed a fourth purpose for the Fellowship’s existence on Friday — less than 24 hours after rejecting the same resolution.
The reconsideration was prompted by General Superintendent George O. Wood, who said he was “troubled” that he did not speak during Thursday’s original debate. This is the first time he has served as chairman of the business sessions at a General Council, and he said he had wanted to be respectful of everyone else’s opinions.
On Thursday, the General Council rejected the resolution, which redefined the ministry priorities of the Assemblies of God. The AG Constitution currently says this Fellowship exists for three reasons: evangelizing the world, worshiping God and building a body of believers who are growing spiritually. Resolution 1 proposed adding a fourth reason: meeting human needs with ministries of love and compassion.
Speaking from the floor of the General Council — instead of his usual spot as chairman of the business sessions — Wood said the resolution was necessary and appropriate based on the ministry of Jesus. The Assemblies of God passionately proclaims Jesus through word and deed: Evangelism is the word, and compassion is the deed.
Some people expressed opposition Thursday because of a fear the Fellowship would drift toward a “social gospel.” That fear is unwarranted, Wood said Friday, because evangelism and compassion feed each other when “joined at the hip.” AG congregations already are involved in feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, assisting inner-city kids, supporting HealthCare Ministries and Convoy of Hope, responding to human trafficking and helping communities after natural disasters.
“Churches engaged in compassion ministries are the most effective in evangelism ministries as well,” Wood said. “We become better disciples when our hands as well as our hearts are involved in ministry to the lost.”
Because Wood did not vote on the measure Thursday, he could not reintroduce the resolution for reconsideration, but another minister stepped forward to make that motion and it was approved. There was an attempt to amend the resolution by merging the emphasis on compassion ministries into the Fellowship’s priority of evangelism, but the amendment was rejected.
The resolution required a two-thirds vote, and ministers and delegates were asked to stand for the vote. It was approved 586-247.
Transgeographic district rejected
Ministers and delegated voted against Resolution 19, which proposed the creation of a four-year pilot program establishing a transgeographic district that would include up to 40 AG churches, along with Pentecostal churches that have expressed interest in affiliating with the Assemblies of God if such a district were established.
The measure had been proposed by the Executive Presbytery, but during its meeting earlier this week, the General Presbytery voted to withdraw the resolution. Because sponsorship was withdrawn, the resolution could still be considered if a new sponsor was found — and a new sponsor stepped forward from the floor.
Supporters emphasized the experimental nature of the proposal, with a recommendation from the Executive Presbytery in 2013 to either make the district permanent or disband it.
“I believe it is time, I believe it is for our time, I believe it is for our Fellowship, I believe it will be a blessing,” said Jim Marocco from Hawaii.
The resolution also would open the door to new, creative ways of expanding the impact and influence of the Assemblies of God, supporters said.
“This is an opportunity to sow seeds,” said J. Don George, pastor of Calvary Church in Irving, Texas. “Churches plant churches, so why shouldn’t districts plant districts?”
But opponents questioned the impact on churches that might choose to participate in the pilot program. If a senior pastor leaves a church in either a geographic or language district, the congregation remains part of the Assemblies of God, said Northern Missouri District Superintendent Ray Brewer. But the proposed transgeographic district could leave churches in a difficult position after a pastoral change.
“It is unstable because it is pastor-based rather than church-based,” he said.
Opponents said churches already have the opportunity to affiliate with like-minded congregations through existing ministry associations. And several speakers said the resolution might have other impacts, including conflicts in church planting, and once the pilot program was launched, it could prove difficult to end if the Fellowship’s leadership believed that was the best decision.
The vote was taken using a secret ballot, and the resolution was defeated 522-789.
Additional resolutions approved
During Friday afternoon’s session, the General Council also approved:
- Resolution 18, which revises the entry on unethical financial management as a reason for disciplinary action against a credentialed minister.
- Resolution 21, which reaffirms the Fellowship’s commitment to the initial physical evidence of Holy Spirit baptism. Wood shared an opinion from the parliamentary committee that the resolution was out of order, under Robert’s Rules of Order, but it was permitted under the Fellowship’s governing documents. Wood followed one of four options presented by the committee: a vote without debate.
- Resolution 27, which revises the requirements for credentialed ministers. Changes include the elimination of the specialized ministry license, removal of the requirement that certified, licensed and ordained ministers preach a specific number of times each year and the addition of language requiring a credential holder to be involved in ministry.
- Resolution 28, which permits the Fellowship to change a minister’s status from lapsed or resigned to dismissed, if officials become aware of an offense that would have warranted disciplinary action.
- Resolution 30, which adds a provision to the AG By-laws for removal of an executive officer who cannot continue serving because of “incapacity, inefficiency, incompetence or other grounds.”
- Resolution 31, which renames the U.S. Missions Church Planting and Development Department to the U.S. Missions Missionary Church Planters and Developers Department.
- Resolution 32, which clarifies that all executive officers and divisions of the national headquarters be amenable to the general superintendent.
- A courtesy resolution praising God for His work in lives this week and thanking local officials, the host districts and other individuals for their contribution to this year’s General Council.
And in an announced move that brought smiles to the crowd, Wood received an honorary headdress from John E. Maracle, president/chief of the Native American Fellowship.
In earlier action this week, seven individuals were named honorary general presbyters because of their years of ministry to the Assemblies of God: Arden K. Adamson, John W. Beardsley, Charles Crank, Pettus T. Palmer, Walter L. Davis, R. Kenneth George and James K. Bridges.
Bridges received special recognition from the General Council, particularly for his service as general treasurer from 1993 to 2008.
And on Wednesday, the General Council received a report regarding a 2007 motion requesting that the use of off-site electronic voting be referred to committee. General Secretary Douglas E. Clay said the committee concluded this idea was not a viable option at this time. Even though the necessary technology exists, it’s uncertain what impact this move would have on attendance and participation. Additionally, the constitution requires ministers and delegates to be registered and in attendance, Clay said.