+1.423.559.5100 info@cogop.org

Available in: Español

A Centennial Call to Christian Unity: Appreciating and continuing our forefathers’ efforts to be faithful to Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Adrian Varlack, Sr. serves as church historian for the Church of God of Prophecy International Offices in Cleveland, Tennessee. He is a regular writer for the White Wing Messenger, and has contributed lessons and articles for college-level texts, Sunday school curricula, and other training courses. His book, Church of God of Prophecy: Concise History, Polity, Doctrine and Future, is a part of the Foundations Series, used to train ministers in the COGOP. Bishop Varlack is an in-demand speaker and conferences and conventions around the world.

Adrian L. Varlack, Sr. | Church of God of Prophecy Historian

Revisiting Christian Unity

Perhaps with the Old Testament promises in mind, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome expressing his zeal for the salvation of Israel. As he watched other nationalities flock into God’s kingdom ahead of the Jews in the early gospel dispensation, he strains to explain that God had shut up all (both Jews and Gentiles) in disobedience, so that in God’s economy, He may have mercy upon all. The contrasting inference that Paul makes is that while at that time the Jews were enemies of the gospel for the sake of Gentiles, it was God’s intention and plan to have mercy upon all. Accordingly, the acceptance of the gospel by other nations ahead of Israel would eventually result in the salvation of the Jews, because they are beloved for their fathers’ sakes. Paul is so struck by God’s divine wisdom in working all this out despite what looked like impossibilities, he exclaimed in Romans 11:33,

“O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”

We, too, are here today because of what God has done and has promised in the Scriptures (Ephesians 1:10) and raised up our forefathers to be a part of! We are God’s beloved people for their sakes, and we are blessed to be associated with this great heritage. Their hopes and dreams for Christian Union (Christian Unity) are our hopes and dreams too, and we are as confident as Paul was that God’s great wisdom and knowledge will also work out the great puzzle of Christian Unity. What one generation began, subsequent generations must bring to fruition, to maturity, for the sake of God’s victorious kingdom! I believe that the Holy Spirit is working faithfully among God’s people to achieve this very goal. The issue becomes, “What can we do to facilitate the work that God is doing among His people?”

In light of Christian history and our own Holiness/Pentecostal Tradition, it may seem futile and farfetched to re-present the call for Christian Unity.[1] However, it will be the contention of this paper that this Centennial Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy (CGP) is not only a perfect forum for our quest to reflect biblical unity, but indeed we should make this occasion an opportunity to broaden, deepen, and expand our relationships with those who share this heritage. To do this, of course, implies that we have (or should have) a thorough understanding of our own tradition and a clear sense of how our Church has understood this question of Christian Unity and its implications. Such an engagement with others is necessary to help our Church further crystalize the restoration role God has called us to as a people both in His Kingdom and for the world.

As our forefathers understood it, the impetus of the gospel of Jesus Christ is evangelism and Christian nurture. These are the commonly accepted premises that, in essence, form the Church.[2] Simply put, it is natural that when persons respond positively to the preaching of the gospel, they are formed into communities for instruction, discipline, and growth in the knowledge of Christ, to journey and serve together as God’s people in the world. We sometimes refer to these groups as mission stations and local churches. This same thought can be adduced from the minutes of our first assembly in 1906 when the delegates discussed Evangelism as “strong men wept and said that they were not only willing but anxious to go.”[3] Succinctly put, the gospel―our Lord’s mission to save— calls forth the church, and that same gospel is therefore the ultimate ground for Christian Unity as taught and witnessed through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:3).

Reviewing the Historical Call of the Spirit (1984)

While presenting several concerns about Christian unity, we should address some correctives to the dogmas and quietly held assumptions of our own historical experience. I would like to address these through the merciful and gracious “Call to Repentance” of the Holy Spirit, which occurred during the 79th International Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy held in Cleveland, Tennessee, September 4-10, 1984. This Call may be framed within three familiar Christian academic or theological disciplines: Pneumatology, Missiology, and Ecclesiology. First, the Call posited our need for a renewal of “a vital relationship” with the Holy Ghost, from whom “we had drifted.” Second, the Call highlighted our lack of compassion for a lost world “living under the judgment of God to eternal damnation”, intimating a serious need for the renewal of our harvest focus, our participation in the missio dei, God’s holy mission to seek and to save the lost (Matthew 18:11). Third, this Call included the language “. . . rededicating ourselves to being (sic) the Church of God of the Bible”.[4] We will take each of these in turn.

The Spirit’s Summons to Repentance (Pneumatology)

The Spirit’s intervention, based on the “Solemn Assembly” call of Joel 2:15–17, is a clear and encouraging reassurance that the Church of God of Prophecy, and indeed the larger Church of God movement that began in these Appalachian foothills in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was a true work of the Spirit, making us a legitimate part of the people of God in the world, the Body of Christ (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Therefore, having been raised up by the Spirit, we can only continue in and by the Spirit. As the “Appeal for Church-wide Repentance” aptly states, “We cannot continue the pursuit of our mission without convincing evidence of His presence and approval.”[5]

In this regard, let us also note that about 10 years after this Call, the then executive leadership of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) led by General Overseer Robert White, called for a “Solemn Assembly” series of meetings based on the same biblical text, Joel 2: 15–17. Their counterparts from the Church of God of Prophecy were invited to join with them in hosting this series of fellowship services and prayers to mark the occasion of this special solemn assembly period centered around the ideas of repentance and forgiveness. At the last of four joint services on January 9, 1995, (services held at the Dixon Center, our Upper Room, their Prayer Chapel, and the Peerless Road Church of God of Prophecy) the late Bishop Billy D. Murray, then General Overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy, read a prepared statement, “A Plea for Forgiveness” on behalf of the Church to our Church of God brothers and sisters. The lead paragraph of the statement framed it in the context of the Spirit’s 1984 Call to Repentance referenced above. Bishop Murray said, in part,

“In recent months, our minds have been drawn to our relationship with other Christian groups, which in some cases lacks the warmth of genuine fellowship that we feel would be pleasing to our Savior and for which Jesus died.

“For all sectarian attitudes we have held and exhibited, attitudes which are unholy and spiritually divisive, we ask God’s and your forgiveness. A lost world awaits the witness of genuine Christian unity [Christian Unity], which expresses truly the love of the Savior who remains their only hope. It remains that all men will know we are true disciples of Christ by the love we express toward one another and toward the lost.

“We admit our guilt of an institutional pride” Murray continued, “which does not reflect the humility of this world’s only Savior. Please forgive us for any lack of true fellowship you may have felt. It is our desire that we work in unity toward reaching this perishing generation, remembering that Jesus died that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Looking back with a view from heaven one day,” said, Murray, “we will be glad we laid aside petty bickering over issues not essential to salvation”[6] (entry in square brackets added).

Assistant General Overseer, the late Robert Fisher of the Church of God, spoke at the service held in our Upper Room that same morning and highlighted, “with deep feeling,” how God had been dealing with them for some 10 years about this matter of repentance. While no formal document was delivered, Brother Murray’s subsequent summary in the open letter to pastors captured the spirit of these meetings:

“We do not pretend to understand fully all that God is doing or what purposes of His were fulfilled in these special meetings. We do know that His prayer in John 17 that we all be one is going to be answered. We who were present know also that the love and fellowship we felt was much more than something arranged by man. It was divine―it was powerful. Barriers which Satan had erected among blood-bought brothers were melted, and we give God praise!”[7]

These mutually exchanged feelings of forgiveness (which were welcomed by our then General Overseer Emeritus, the late Bishop M. A. Tomlinson) were not successfully followed-up in any formal way. My view is that Murray’s 23-year old apology can still be a premise for a more formal relational rapprochement between our two groups, but the real point is that our apology grew out of the Holy Spirit’s Call to Repentance in 1984, and our sister Church issued a scriptural call to a Solemn Assembly in which our international leadership participated. That the Spirit of God worked among us in these complementary actions cannot be denied.[8] That He may be grieved over our joint failures to further act toward a more solidly relational unity for the sake of world witness should be seriously considered. The Spirit still awaits our “separate and joint obedience,” to coin a phrase.[9]

The Spirit’s Concern for a Lost World (Missiology)

The renewal of a vital relationship with the Holy Ghost led naturally to His renewal call to mission. It took us 10 years to formally respond, but in 1994 our Church launched “Turning to the Harvest,” which became for us a major new paradigm centered in a gospel priority in place of our previously church-focused one of “On to perfection.”[10] As we have been turning more to God’s Kingdom harvest, we have discovered the need to revisit our approaches to ecclesial government, to develop a greater openness to other Bible-believing Christians, and to revisit our exegetical approach to the Scriptures. This honors our long-standing commitment to, “walk in the light to the best of our knowledge and ability.”[11] Such a noble membership commitment implies that the Church operates by this same standard and must be true to it in the conduct of its own affairs. In the relevant language of the 1994 “Turning to the Harvest” brochure on file at our CGP Archives, our Church committed herself as follows:

Recognizing That Harvesting Will Require United Efforts:

We turn from―all that impedes genuine cooperation and fellowship among brethren;

Recognizing That Today’s Harvest Requires The Urgent, Concerted, Cooperative Labor Of The Whole Kingdom of God:

We turn to―act upon the Great Commission in a spirit of cooperation and service, without regard to who gets the credit.

Such a bold re-embracing of God’s kingdom-mission to save the lost adds up to a tacit admission that the Harvest is much greater than our own efforts could ever bring in. While our Church has shown much greater growth since turning our attention to the Harvest, our actions to fully embrace and participate in and with what others are doing in formal ways, are still lacking. In the light of the true change of paradigm represented by these words from our late General Overseer, “Christ is the message; the church is the messenger,”[12] we should sit together with others more often and in more formal ways so that our cooperation in harvest and service endeavors will become more intentional. It is evident that our exposure within the PCCNA (the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America) is helpful. Our scholarly presence in academic organizations like the SPS and of late, our new membership in the World Pentecostal Fellowship, are positive moves. Our Leadership Development and Discipleship efforts through the Center for Biblical Leadership, Youth Ministries, Children Ministries and Accredited Ministries Development are likewise to be commended and much good has been done through many labors of love.[13]

Our forefathers and all those who through personal dedication and the practice of holy, sacrificial living, along with practical knowledge born of experience as they walked with faithful adherence to the leading of the Holy Spirit in prayerful dependence on God’s Word, and who have labored together with God and have brought the Church along in her harvesting through the years, are to be commended and honored! Not forgotten or despised! Some of you have seen us through the many ups and downs in history and we are blessed because of you; and now we ask you, “Can you bless this new era into which the Church is entering”? We cannot, should not, and will not go forward without you! We must also congratulate all those among us who have faithfully studied and have earned Certificates, Diplomas, Masters and Doctoral degrees. We commend those institutions who have graciously partnered and journeyed with us through our growing appreciation of life-long learning both inside and outside the United States. We trust that together all of us will now help to move the Church forward with greater biblical and pastoral understandings as we sit together with others at Jesus’ table, led by His Spirit. However, the aggregate effect on CGP’s harvesting activities and cooperation with other Bible-believing Christian groups remains to be assessed and realized in the future. This hints at greater intentionality and more deliberate planning in our harvest approach as we strive toward a deeper, sustainable, and observable Christian Unity.

God’s Spirit still works to save the lost while grieving over our divisions, but that does not relieve us of the devastation and shame of our historical disunity. What joy will there be in heaven, and what great rejoicing on earth, when all true Christian churches again elevate and restore the Missio Dei (the gospel) which calls forth the Church to its proper function of uniting, of creating a people who show forth the praises (virtues) of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:10)! We must now turn, more directly, to the ecclesiological side of the Spirit’s call.

The Call to be the Church of God and the Call to Jesus’ Unity Table (Ecclesiology)

The Call of the Spirit for our rededication to be the Church of God of the Bible, but away from an ecclesial self-centeredness,[14] is a challenge that needs to be carefully interpreted. Our ecclesiological DNA is both in Christian Union of 1886, and in the Holiness call to restore the church of the New Testament represented by the Holiness Church at Camp Creek, which was organized May 15, 1902 and with which A. J. Tomlinson united a year later, on June 13, 1903, declaring it to be the Church of God. He was ordained a minister of the gospel on the same day and appointed pastor to lead the little flock. Restoration movements are raised up by God within the historical stream of the church to call her back to biblical and Spirit-led themes. One of the tendencies of such movements is for the church to drift into considering themselves to be the whole church. The Wesley brothers (John and Charles) fought this tendency for many years in Methodism, but rejection by their Mother Church and the pull of the new movement eventually yielded the Methodist Church or group of churches. The truth is that it is easier to return to scriptural norms in isolation (that is, by claiming to start the church anew) than to bring reformation to older, less vibrant ecclesiastical structures and systems. As history shows, this has been the plight of all reformers. None of our movements have been free of this tendency, but God has helped us by the intervention of His Holy Spirit to mature sufficiently to see that we are not the whole church, and that in humility and by God’s grace we ought to recognize what God is doing in His Kingdom and in His world. Eventually, we all must come to what I am calling “Jesus’ Unity Table.”[15] I believe that our Church has been and is being readied for this process, as are all true Christian churches. I believe that we are now in a period where there is a special “Call of the Spirit” to our Lord’s Unity Table. It seems that everything else needed to facilitate the broad convening of such a Table is ready―all things, that is, except the church herself!

The late John W. V. Smith (d. 1984), a former historian of the Church of God movement (Anderson) proposed six points about the approach to Unity that deserve careful consideration from those of us with roots in the Wesleyan Holiness Traditions. I list them here for convenience:

  1. Believers in holiness must not be too ready to accept easy answers in rationalizing division in the Church. Even “liberal” Christians pray God’s forgiveness for participating in the sin of division.
  2. A passionate concern for personal sanctification should not subvert an equally great concern for the doctrine of the Church. It is well to keep in mind that the Apostle Paul used the word sanctify in [with] regard to both persons and the Church.
  3. In the light of Christ’s prayer for the Church (John 17), the concepts of “spiritual unity” and “invisible oneness” are inadequate and inconsistent with the apparent implications of “perfect love.”
  4. Associational-ism and conciliar-ism are abortive approaches to Christian unity in that they only mitigate the evils of division and do not remove it.
  5. Nondenominational-ism is an inadequate concept for the full realization of Christian unity in that it expresses primarily a negative rather than a positive character to the Church.
  6. This time in Christian history seems to be an especially propitious one for all proponents of holiness to dedicate themselves to giving major attention to the relational implications of this doctrine to the end that, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to lead the way towards unification of the whole Church so that indeed the world may believe.[16]

The realization of Christian Unity as prayed for by Jesus our Lord (John 17:20–23) must eventually work itself out in the church as we, with all seriousness and gravity, exert every effort (corporately―collectively in our groups, and individually) to reflect that unity in practical, observable ways. Jesus’ prayer ties this to His call to the world to believe that the Father has sent Him. This oneness, I think, is what Paul had reference to in his letter that bears the designation “To the Ephesians.”[17] Chapter 4:1–13 certainly can be read as reflective of the Spirit’s work in building the body of Christ in the unity that is in Christ and in God. There, we are admonished “to endeavor to keep (continue to strive for, reflect, guard) the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.” This is no small undertaking, and it should be treated with intentionality. It is every Christian’s duty and responsibility. Unfortunately, throughout Christian history, the Ecclesia of God has failed in this mighty reflective task, and continues to fragment itself into separate units or organizations and sub-organizations. As we enter deeper into the worsening culture of these “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3) we (the whole church) ought to take the admonition of Paul to Timothy in verses 14–17, as he refocused him on the authenticity, role, and authority of the Scriptures. The church must still resort to the Scriptures (in a spirit of love and deep humility) to be able to realize and effectively display that unity which the Spirit engenders. It is high time that we, the inheritors of the Church of God movement that began in this area, more formally engage this issue, and we need to begin among ourselves.

To seriously approach Jesus’ Unity Table, we must each be fully cognizant of what constitutes our own Church’s tradition. We must know what we truly believe and be able to present it in a spirit of love and of humbleness of mind. We must allow it to be tested, refined, and shaped biblically by the insights of others. We must cultivate an openness of mind towards God’s Spirit who predominates at Jesus’ Unity Table. To do this effectively and practically, we must form some representative body whose primary job it is to clearly articulate what we believe, identify where we differ with others (the ones nearest our own tradition first and then others farther off) and continually work in a healthy relational atmosphere to propose areas of practical cooperation, adjustment and reconciliation. I am aware that much groundwork has been done on Church Unity over the last century or so, much of it in ecumenical circles. But we in the Church of God of Prophecy and in the Church of God movement that began in these mountains must more directly engage the task. We must join the efforts in reducing tensions and in creating understanding that could lead to more effective cooperation for the sake of the gospel. Simultaneously, we should begin lower-level parallel efforts[18] in all the churches from this heritage, to form dialogical units (commissions) which have as their ultimate objective to talk to each other after assessing and crystalizing what reconciling actions, we may recommend to our own church leaders. This implies an honest and unbiased evaluation of our own histories, identifying areas of mistakes and ways of correcting them or making amends, and seeking common paths of service to the Kingdom, until we reach a point where we can, without prejudice or guile, approach each other around a common denominational table in preparation for sitting at Jesus’ Unity Table, relationally healed and in one accord. Again, I believe that our Lord is calling all His people to His own special, common Unity Table! I believe that the Spirit of God will enter our guileless and humble efforts to honor and practically obey Him.

There may already be extant bodies in our groups that could be adapted, expanded, or refurbished to begin to meet this need. But no existing subjects or added goals or objectives should cloud this unity agenda. The sole focus should be on reconciliation and relational unity in prayerfully realizing what the Lord called us to in this great heritage, our shared history! The greater harvest yet awaits!

The Wisdom and Knowledge of God (The Answer to Disunity)

Paul’s great doxology (Romans 11:33), penned as he realized the inestimable wisdom and depth of God’s riches and His infallible plan to save the world, celebrates what the coming, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished. Jesus Christ our Lord is the fulfillment of God’s promises to our father Abraham! That word from God created the holy nation made up of all peoples, nations, languages (Abraham’s family) that we in microcosm represent today (1 Peter 2:9,10). But this fact, how God intended to do this for Abraham, was hidden in history until revealed to and through God’s holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:1–5). How God will bring all of His people into the Unity of Jesus’ prayer is also somewhat hidden from us, but I believe the same power that reunited Jew and Gentile in one body through the breaking down of “the middle wall of partition” on the cross is both active and able to achieve God’s holy purposes of Christian Unity. We are already one in Christ through His Holy Spirit! Because of this, nothing can stop the eventual united world-witness to the magnificent salvation that is in our Lord Jesus Christ. His prayer prevails, and His glory will be seen in the church (Ephesians 3:21) My view is that He now presses us to engage in all the readiness that is preparatory to this unity.

Beloved for the Sake of the Fathers

Yes, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God movement, we are beloved for the sake of our fathers; yes, we have a heritage of believing in and preaching and teaching Christian Unity in one form or another. But we must now move, not just beyond their legacy, but deeper into the full realization of the fulfillment of it, in our Lord’s John 17 prayer. Two succinct summary statements by James Earl Massey and Barry L. Callen form a fitting conclusion to this appeal: Massey wrote, “Unity is given, but our experience of it must be gained.” Callen put it this way, “While Christian unity is a gift from God through the Spirit, it is realized only as Christians intentionally open themselves to be in community with other believers.”[19] Our willingness to follow the Spirit’s lead is well reflected in our 1991 CGP Assembly theme. It is a prayer, a desperate cry for our Lord’s intervention: “Jesus Take Charge!” And it is a cry that would signal both our willingness to be reconciled, our commitment to worship, and our desire to submit one to another, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:18–33.

Yes Lord! Take charge and spread your Unity Table in our sight, in our time! Help us to give to You all that divide us! Help us to take from You all that unites us! The Church, Your Church yearns and longs to be healed so that we might faithfully reflect You to the nations, so that Your harvest would be reaped, and the watching world challenged to believe in You; that the Father may be glorified in the Son and the Son in His people. Help us to bow and to worship in deference to Your headship of the Church, for You are the Head of the Church and the only Savior of the Body! In our divisions and diversities, please come to us anew in Your Unity and with Grace of the Holy Trinity!

“O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” Amen!

Lord Jesus, Your Church depends entirely upon Your holy wisdom and knowledge!

Adrian L. Varlack Sr., Church Historian

Historical Sermon/Paper

Prepared for

The 100th International Assembly, Church of God of Prophecy,

Pre-Assembly Heritage Commemorative Service,

Fields of the Wood, Cherokee County, NC July 17th, 2018

This article continued from the June 2020 Issue of the White Wing Messenger.

[1] I have chosen, for special emphasis and because of its contemporary and ecumenical importance, to render “Christian Unity” as a capitalized descriptive phrase although this is not grammatically required! Accordingly, it will be so rendered in all its uses throughout this paper, except when quoting others.

[2] Koivisto, Rex A., One Lord, One Faith: A Theology of Cross-Denominational Renewal (Wheaton: Victor Books/SP Publishers, Inc. 1993) 193. One of John Wesley’s definitions of the church based on Acts 5:10 reads as follows: “And here is a native specimen of a New Testament Church: called by the gospel, grafted into Christ by baptism, animated by love, united by all kind (sic) of fellowship, and disciplined by the death of Ananias and Sapphira” (as quoted in, Kenneth J. Collins, The Theology of JOHN WESLEY: Holy love and the Shape of Grace, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007, 239, 240)

[3] Minutes of Annual Assembly of the Churches of East Tennessee, North Georgia and Western North Carolina January 26, 27, 1906 (tract form) p. 4, paragraph 2 (CGP Archives, Cleveland, TN).

[4] Minutes of the 79th Assembly, Church of God of Prophecy, 1984, pages 126, 127, Questions and Subjects Committee Report, “An Appeal for Church-wide Repentance.”

[5] Ibid

[6] See Murray’s full statement in, Varlack, Adrian L., Foundations: Church of God of Prophecy Concise History, Polity, Doctrine and Future (Cleveland TN: White Wing Publishing House and Press, 2010) Appendix D, 179.

[7] General Overseer’s open letter to North American Pastors published in the February 14, 1995 issue of the White Wing Messenger (Official Publication of the Church of God of Prophecy) 9.

[8] Ibid, pages 8, 9, for complete letter.

[9] As an outgrowth of “Together 2000,” a meeting of Pentecostal leaders held in Washington, DC, the then General Overseers of the Church of God, Dr. R. Lamar Vest, and Bishop Fred S. Fisher Sr. of the Church of God of Prophecy, signed a jointly sponsored and equally funded Cooperative Evangelistic Initiative to take effect from August 1, 2003 until August 1, 2006. The effort was overseen by a joint Cooperative Initiative Committee, made up of a total of six members, three from each of the movements. Reverend Billy Wilson was appointed the first “International Minister of Outreach” and served until the effort was abandoned at the end of the three-year period. Both Vest and Fisher had ended their terms before the end of the agreement. Making such projects viable and sustainable clearly needs much more work!

[10] Minutes of the 88th Assembly, Church of God of Prophecy, July 11-17, 1994, pages 9-12.

[11] Quote lifted from the Membership Covenant of the Church of God of Prophecy which reads, “Will you sincerely promise in the presence of God and these witnesses that you will accept this Bible as the Word of God, believe and practice its teachings rightly divided, the New Testament as your rule of faith and practice, government and discipline, and walk in the light to the best of your knowledge and ability?” Assembly Minutes, 82nd World-wide Assembly, 1987, page 53, (Q & S Committee Report, Section 10, B #3).

[12] An Introduction to the Church of God of Prophecy (International Offices promotional pamphlet) 3rd Printing, 1999, 11.

[13] Incidentally, it was during the administration of former General Overseer Fred S. Fisher Sr. that the attention of the CGP was drawn back to higher education although the efforts were not fully realized until the administration of another former General Overseer, Bishop Randall E. Howard.

[14] The 1984 Appeal for Church-wide Repentance (Church Business Guide 1992, page 73) includes a call to confess our self-centeredness that lacked deep compassion for a lost world. This was an ecclesial self-centeredness!

[15] This term came forcefully to my mind in June of this year while teaching a class on “Ecclesial Formation” in Bronx, NY for the Center for Biblical Leadership. Since our Lord Jesus Christ is our common “Denominator” His Unity Table can be both a neutral and corrective ground for all of us, His faithful churches. By bringing our differences and tensions, the whole Church may once again experience a Jesus-led “ecclesial feet-washing” as His disciples did at the Last Supper! Luke tells us that they too had quarreled about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24).

[16] Quoted in Callen, Barry L., “Joining Holiness and All Truth,” The Church that God Intends: Reconsidering the Reformation Heritage of the Church of God (Anderson) (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2009) 43. First published, John Smith, “Holiness and Unity” Wesleyan Theological Journal (Spring 1975) 35, 36.

[17] This could well have been a circular letter (encyclical) to be read in several locations (See Mac Donald, The Pulpit Commentary Vol. XX, “Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians” iv)

[18] By lower-level efforts I mean to suggest that continuity be built into any process or processes we may establish. Often, at the top-level offices of our churches, fairly frequent turn-over of lead officials are the norm. Accordingly, emphases differ, get lost, or are assigned lower priorities as administrations change. A continuing commission made up primarily (but not exclusively) of lower-level personnel, field leadership (pastors and overseers), and academics, tend to endure and to maintain and secure any gains made.

[19] As quoted by Elizabeth H. Mellen at the beginning of her article, “An Ecumenical Vocation for the Wesleyan Holiness Tradition?” in, Barry L. Callen, Editor, The Church That God Intends, op cit., 211.

Available in: Español