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75th Church of God International General Assembly: Historic Encounters, Hints of What Lies Ahead


First, a primary objective would be to undergird Church of God commitment to the unique and distinctive status of the people of Israel. Traditional Church of God teaching has long affirmed the historic and prophetic significance of the modern State of Israel. Israel is also an ally for democratic government throughout the world, including the United States. Therefore, I think, we can and should support the right of Israel to exist in security and prosperity in its ancient homeland. We should thus oppose terrorist groups and terrorist acts against Israel in principle, policy, and practice. However, we should simultaneously guard against any over-identification of the present secular State of Israel with the covenant people of Israel in the Bible. They are in a sense inseparable but they aren’t strictly synonymous. Accordingly, we must not abdicate our prophetic right, indeed, our prophetic responsibility, to challenge bravely any government, including Israel, which betrays our Christian faith and values. But we must not capitulate to the often insipient and sometimes blatant anti-Semitism that is once again on the rise in this world order.

Second, a primary objective would be to undergird Church of God commitment to the broader community of the people of Palestine. Among Arab and Palestinian peoples are Christians, including Pentecostal Christians, and including Church of God Christians. These saints in Christ have every reason, and every right too, to expect their sisters and brothers around the world to lovingly and prayerfully stand with them in solidarity and to be supportive of their physical and spiritual wellbeing. Nationalistic or regional politics must not be allowed to trump ultimate commitment to the Kingdom of God and of Christ. Beyond the Christian sisters and brothers in Palestine are humanitarian concerns for everyone. Access to basic needs is essential for human sustenance. A Christian ethic cannot countenance intentional and extended periods of depriving families, including women and children, of food and water, shelter, work, education, and so on. Policies which promote the violation of basic human rights are to be rejected vociferously by believers. Yet one thing must be abundantly clear: we will not, indeed we cannot, in all good conscience as followers of Jesus Christ, align ourselves with any individual or group that even hints at the slightest tolerance of terrorist tactics.

Perhaps one of the most divisive agenda items of the week involved a proposal to move General Assembly business meetings to a quadrennial and international basis while retaining alternating quadrennial celebratory meetings in the United States. My biggest concern here is that we’re allowing parochial paranoia to prohibit much-needed internationalization. I personally am not in favor of extending the time between Assemblies from two to four years. For me, we should assemble together not less but, if anything, more often as we see the time of Christ’s returning drawing nearer. However, I would be in favor of something like an alternating schedule between US and international locations and venues. Over and over again in this session we heard passionate appeals from the General Council floor by international members for more active involvement and sensitivity to the needs of the global movement. I’m convinced we ignore these appeals at our own peril. The Church of God is no longer a Southeastern US entity. It is global. Our International General Assembly policies and practices should joyfully reflect this glorious reality! Yet neither should we forget the tremendous debt that the Church of God owes to its American history and generosity. Accordingly, an alternating Assembly seems to me to be a plausible and reasonable option honoring both national and global perspectives.


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Category: Church History, Summer 2014

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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