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July 20, 2012 / nickpark

General Assembly Agenda: Item 2

Here’s another motion that will be debated at the Church of God General Assembly in Orlando next week.

We recommend:
That we amend pages 137, 138, S49. AFFILIATION WITH CHURCH OF GOD, by substituting the following:
That non-Church of God churches that wish to affi liate with the Church of God be allowed to join as associate churches. They shall be able to retain ownership of their properties. They shall make monthly reports to the state/regional and general offi ces with the same financial accountability as International General Assembly congregations. The pastor shall submit to a background check and he/she shall secure Church of God ministerial credentials in accordance with the denomination’s polity.
An associate church can remove its associate status by placing the church properties on a Church of God warranty deed with the approval of the administrative bishop and the state/regional council.

At present Church of God congregations in the United States, if they own a church property, are supposed to deed their properties to the denomination.  In many other parts of the world this is not an issue.  For example, in Ireland most Church of God congregations  rent their properties – and there would be huge legally problems in trying to lodge the deed to an Irish property with an institution with headquarters in another nation.  Many items in the Church of God Minutes were framed in an American context with little thought for how that might work in another country – which fails to reflect that the vast majority of Church of God members now live outside of the United States.

In the US, there are independent churches which would desire to come under the covering of Church of God, but which, quite understandably, wish to retain ownership of properties that they have sacrificed over the years in order to build or purchase.  This measure would allow such churches to come into Church of God while retaining ownership of their property.

In my view this is a win/win measure.  But a similar motion was voted down two years ago at our last General Assembly in 2010.  The opposition seemed to come from two pretty opposite viewpoints:

a) Some see the policy of retaining title deeds at headquarters as necessary to stop churches from leaving.  This, to me, is depressing.  Surely a movement that is going forwards should be looking to carry its churches into the future through a shared vision?  If we have to blackmail churches into staying by threatening to take aaway their buildings then we’ve probably lost the plot anyway.

b) Others would like to see existing churches in Church of God allowed to hold the deeds and ownership to their own properties.  Therefore they look at this measure and say, “Why should others get a freedom that we don’t have?  If I can’t benefit from this change then I’ll make darn sure no-one else will either!”  Again, this is short-sighted.  The existing system involves thousands of churches and with many loans and mortgages being underwritten by denominational headquarters at State level.  It makes sense to proceed with caution.  Allowing Associate Churches would be a prudent first step whick, with very little risk, could pave the way for similar freedom to be extended at some time in the future to existing Church of God congregations.

Needless to say, I will be voting in favour of this motion.


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