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Business Sessions Conclude with Most Resolutions Approved

This year’s business sessions closed Friday with strong endorsement for the Vision for Transformation process, as the General Council approved almost every resolution brought to the floor for debate.

This year’s business sessions closed Friday with strong endorsement for the Vision for Transformation process, as the General Council approved almost every resolution brought to the floor for debate.

"This Vision for Transformation, under the leadership of the Lord, will help us to, shall the Lord tarry, be better prepared to reach our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ," General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask told pastors and delegates at the start of Friday morning’s business session.

Of the 19 Vision for Transformation-related resolutions considered Friday, only one was rejected, and many of the proposals passed with little or no discussion. Most had already undergone revisions during the General Presbytery meeting earlier this week.

Resolutions that generated the strongest debate included items focusing on the governance structure of local churches, the creation of a local-level ministerial credential, and the participation of women at the General Presbytery level.

Vision for Transformation Resolution (VTR) 1 proposed greater freedom for congregations in how they structure their church structure. The resolution expanded the permitted models that could be used, as long as adequate safeguards were in place to prevent dictatorial control.

One phrase in the resolution — "district-approved governance models" — drew most of the attention during debate. Several pastors said they would feel more comfortable if the General Presbytery outlined acceptable models; others wanted the decision to be left entirely to the local church.

Ultimately, after several attempts to amend the resolution, VTR 1 was approved in the form presented by the General Presbytery.

Local churches will soon be able to offer their own credentials to people who feel a call to ministry but are not yet ready to obtain credentials from the Assemblies of God.

The proposal approved Friday, VTR 7, permits a local congregation to credential a person for up to four years, with the goal of mentoring that individual and helping him/her with whatever educational requirements must be met.

Some pastors debated the risks of offering such credentials, while others wanted the credential to be a longer-term proposal. Ultimately, VTR 7 was approved, along with VTR 9, which made other necessary changes to the bylaws.

The only resolution rejected Friday was VTR 16, which proposed appointing three women, active in ministry, to the General Presbytery.

The afternoon session began with a strong response to this year’s Spiritual Life Report, which posed seven questions that the Assemblies of God must answer during this "new day" in America, including "Do we truly believe that apart from Him we can do nothing?" and "Are we willing to proclaim God’s eternal message in a new day?"

"It’s unacceptable in the kingdom of God for a Spirit-filled church to have empty altars, empty nurseries, empty baptismal tanks, a lack of converts, no one to disciple — it’s unacceptable," Trask told the audience.

Friday’s afternoon session extended longer than scheduled, so that all business could be conducted by the end of the day. In one of its final decisions, the General Council decided to wait until 2005 before having a new debate over the issue of ministerial credentials for people who were divorced prior to conversion.

Two years ago, during the 49th General Council in Kansas City, Missouri, a resolution was approved that permitted consideration of such applications. The North Texas District had sought to bring the issue to the floor again this year, but the General Presbytery recommended waiting until two years from now, a proposal that won approval from pastors and delegates.

These other resolutions were approved Friday by the General Council:

  • VTR 2, a constitutional revision reinforcing the sovereign rights of General Council-affiliated churches
  • VTR 3, a constitutional revision restoring the "Cooperative Assembly" status for congregations that wish to work with the Assemblies of God without officially joining the Fellowship
  • VTR 4, a bylaw revision emphasizing church planting as a priority at all levels of the Assemblies of God
  • VTR 5, a constitutional revision giving licensed ministers the right to vote at General Council; the change will go into effect for the 2005 Council
  • VTR 6, a bylaw revision creating a clearer process for accepting ministers who transfer to the U.S. Assemblies of God from other groups in the World Assemblies of God Fellowship
  • VTR 10, establishing a fee-based clearinghouse to oversee mandatory screening on all individuals seeking ministerial credentials
  • VTR 11, a bylaw revision noting that district officials do not have to hold their office full-time, if the district council choose to adopt that governance model
  • VTR 12, a bylaw revision adding a definition of the role of presbyters at the district level
  • VTR 13, a bylaw revision modifying references to ethnic/language representatives
  • VTR 14, a bylaw revision seeking to strengthen the cooperation between ethnic/language and geographic districts
  • VTR 17, authorizing the Executive Presbytery to make additional internal changes in the next two years, as the Vision for Transformation process continues. The resolution also endorsed a change in the name of Assemblies of God Home Missions to Assemblies of God U.S. Missions.
  • VTR 19, a bylaw revision expanding the Board of Administration to include all elected executives
  • VTR 20, a bylaw revision modifying the membership of the Commission on Christian Higher Education to highlight the role of other ministerial training institutions, including Master’s Commissions and church-based Bible institutes
  • VTR 21, endorsing a national placement service that would assist ministers searching for ministry opportunities and help churches identify candidates who match their unique congregational personalities
  • Resolution 22, a bylaw revision to the Commission on Ethnicity. This resolution came out of the General Presbytery meetings earlier this week and was not related to the Vision for Transformation process.
  • A courtesy resolution that, among other things, thanked MCI/Washington Convention Center and Washington, D.C., officials for their hospitality this week.

Two resolutions included in the packet sent to ministers this summer were withdrawn by the General Presbytery earlier this week: VTR 8, which sought to move the licensing and certification of ministers to the district level; and VTR 18, which proposed giving a voice and advisory vote to credential holders and delegates not attending General Council.

Also Friday, in an advisory vote, VTR 15, the General Council said it was not interested in a proposal to elect executive presbyters by region rather than through at-large voting. That proposal would have been drafted for the 2005 Council.

All 11 non-resident executive presbyters were elected by the end of Friday; one of the elections had occurred on the first ballot cast Thursday afternoon. The full list of individuals, along with short biographies, will appear in the Sunday edition of The Council Today.

And the General Council received a short statement from the General Presbytery defining "apostolic ministry."

"This church is not opposed to apostolic ministry, not opposed to an apostolic tradition," Trask said. "That’s what Pentecost is."