Ohio Ministry Network Finds Denominational Walls Disintegrating
What's happening in the Ohio Ministry Network (district) right now would have been nearly unimaginable in some circles a decade or so ago. Stigmas, stereotypes, untruths, and even history seemed to dictate that the Assemblies of God and other denominations would keep their distance from each other largely along racial and ideological lines.
Yet in the last 12 months, Ohio Ministry Network Superintendent John Wootton says he has been greatly surprised and incredibly pleased by what he sees as a divine move of God to break down barriers and bring the body of Christ together.
"What's happening is beyond us - doors are opening that we never anticipated," Wootton says. "I also believe the timing (in light of the culture in America today) is heaven saying to us all, 'Hello! Do you see what is going on out here?'"
Wootton says that he has recently met with the state leaders of the Foursquare Church as well as the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee; Church of God, Anderson, Indiana; Church of the Nazarene; and most recently, Church of God in Christ (COGIC); and there are plans to reach out to even more church leaders.
"We have reached out to some of these denominations, but others have come to us," Wootton says, appreciation and a bit of wonder evident in his voice. "You have to understand, a couple of these denominations are not Pentecostal, yet they're still reaching out to see how we can learn from one another and forge pathways and Kingdom partnerships."
The effort to reach out and respond to those reaching out to them has proven fruitful for the Ohio Ministry Network. Wootton says he's been invited to speak at a number of other denominations' leadership meetings and COGIC, Foursquare, Church of God, and Nazarene leaders have all recently been invited to speak for Ohio AG events. In fact, COGIC Bishop David Herron will be speaking at the Ohio Network Conference in May.
"This has got to make the Lord smile," Wootton says of the growing harmony.
"What John and the Ohio Ministry Network are demonstrating is the ability to set aside 'agendas' and place priority on furthering the kingdom of God," says AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. "I believe God is pleased when we set our hearts on building bridges rather than walls."
Wootton credits much of what is occurring in Ohio to Dr. Wood and his encouragement for racial healing. In addition, Wood's decision to stand with the Church of God in Christ following the Ferguson shooting and riots is also paying dividends.
Wootton says a key factor drawing all these denominations together is the cultural climate in America, from gay rights to same-sex marriage, as they have presented incredible challenges for church leaders who want to maintain biblical truth in addressing these issues, but are unsure of what exactly they can or should do.
"Without exception, these leaders have come to the realization that there is so much more to be gained by partnering together than by continuing to address challenges that we all face as islands," Wootton says. "We [the Ohio Ministry Network] are going to work towards bringing leaders [from throughout Ohio] together and being facilitators in getting conversations going, creating an environment where leaders feel comfortable in expressing their concerns and ideas, and in joining together to pray down spiritual strongholds in Ohio.
"We may not share the same nuance in theology," Wootton readily admits, "but the reality is, the church of Christ needs to speak with one voice - a voice of clarity, healing, and hope - there is no other choice."
The AG is poised to participate in these conversations as one of the most ethnically diverse religious movements in the U.S. More than 40 percent of AG adherents in the U.S. are ethnic minority.
Pictured: COGIC Bishop David Herron (left) and Ohio Ministry Network Superintendent John Wootton (right)