Delegates Reject Redefinition of Assistant General Superintendent Role
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In the wake of the decision by Assistant General Superintendent L. Alton Garrison not to seek re-election, the General Presbytery proposed making the office a nonresidential one. Currently, the assistant general superintendent is one of six members of the Executive Presbytery who works full time at the national administrative offices in Springfield, Missouri. The remaining 15 members of the Fellowship’s top rule-making body come together five times annually for two-day meetings.
The failed resolution stated, “The Executive Leadership Team and the entire Fellowship would be well-served by a nonresident executive officer.”
In an accompanying proposed change from the past, a resolution suggested rather than accepting assistant general superintendent nominations from the floor, “the General Presbytery, serving as a nominating committee, shall be entrusted with the responsibility of making careful investigation concerning the qualifications and general fitness of available candidates.”
The debated topic spurred fervor among proponents and opponents. Bradley T. Trask, lead pastor of Brighton Assembly of God in Michigan, sponsored an amendment that passed to eliminate a proposal that the General Presbytery rather than nominations from the floor would determine candidates.
Trask, whose father Thomas E. Trask served as general superintendent from 1993 to 2007, said the post should be open to any ordained AG minister regardless of status, rather than a select few.
The General Presbytery, a 360-member body made up of representatives from the 67 AG districts and networks, suggested that the General Council vote to authorize the 21-member Executive Presbytery to fill the vacant assistant general superintendent office by appointment until the 2021 biennial gathering. The General Presbytery is the top rule-making body when General Council isn’t in session.
Trask noted that the four top officers elected in 1993 — his father, Assistant General Superintendent Charles Crabtree, General Secretary George O. Wood, and General Treasurer James K. Bridges — all came into office as a result of floor nominations. The group served 14 years together, the longest tenure in the history of the Fellowship. Trask, who has been a general presbyter for a decade, said no ordained minister should be overlooked as a candidate.
New York Ministry Network Superintendent and Executive Presbyter Duane P. Durst, who served on the study committee to reshape the role of assistant general superintendent, explained the redefined structure would have allowed a grassroots representative to bring a different perspective to leadership. The concept viewed the nonresidential executive as continuing in active pastoring while simultaneously serving as a national representative.
Greg Perkins of Springfield, Missouri, spoke about the importance of having a full-time, on-site assistant general superintendent who administratively oversees departments and divisions.
The resolution to redefine the assistant general superintendent role as a nonresident executive officer failed by a vote of 1,301 to 957.
Historically, the assistant general superintendent’s role has been largely undefined, with the officeholder primarily serving functions as assigned by the general superintendent.
The position, originally called assistant chairman, came into being in 1923, nine years after the founding of the Fellowship. The title changed to assistant general superintendent in 1927 and remained that way until the end of World War II.
But for the next 20 years, four assistant general superintendents served simultaneously. A resolution passed in 1945 detailed that because of the growing responsibilities on executives, it had “become physically impossible for them to meet the demands of their offices, and the constant requests for field ministry require them to be absent from the office to such an extent that it renders them unfamiliar with current affairs at headquarters.”
The elected quartet, each overseeing various national ministries, served “without portfolio to function in one harmonious group under the direction of the general superintendent.” The denomination added a fifth assistant general superintendent from 1965 to 1971.
After much discussion, in 1971 the post reverted to a solitary assistant “who shall serve without portfolio.” It has remained that way the past 48 years.