CGOM discusses change in donations policy
By Dixon Cartwright
TULSA, Okla.--In an apparent major policy shift, the Churches of God Outreach Ministries (CGOM) decided near the end of its annual conference here to take exceptional steps designed to increase monetary donations from its supporters.
After a humorous and emotional plea from Gene Lamb, a CGOM supporter from Colorado, the delegates meeting in the building owned by the host congregation, the Tulsa Church of God, abruptly embraced a change of procedure that will include regular mailings of letters to the 5,000 people on the ministry's mailing list.
The letters would include envelopes preprinted with the CGOM's address that would make it convenient for supporters to reply with orders for the ministry's literature or to include tithes and other donations with the orders.
The change in policy happened Sunday, March 11, just before the conference dismissed at about 12:30 p.m. The CGOM, since its beginning six years ago, has accepted donations but has not actively solicited them.
The CGOM organized in 1996 in Texas as a grouping of independent congregations that had split from the Tyler-based Church of God International. The CGOM began as "an association with a fresh concept," said Julian Cruz of San Antonio, one of several elders and "stewards" who helped moderate the meetings here.
The CGOM's approach entailed forming a loose association of congregations (and, later, individuals) that retain their independence. In other words, a congregation affiliated with the CGOM is still a sovereign, independent group but voluntarily, in various ways, supports the affiliation.
The CGOM began with about 40 associated congregations. At the beginning of this year's conference the association listed 21 congregations on its official membership list.
"We have not been without growing pains," said Mr. Cruz, pastor of the San Antonio congregation affiliated with the CGOM and current "committee coordinator," the closest thing the CGOM has to an overall director. "But much has been accomplished during our six years of existence."
Mr. Cruz listed among the association's accomplishments a Web site, a variety of literature including two magazines and a Bible-study course, and the sponsorship over the years of several Feast of Tabernacles sites.
The congregations, being independent, can produce and distribute their own literature, sponsor their own Feast sites and pursue their own evangelistic efforts. But they're also encouraged to participate in and support the combined efforts.
The official CGOM Feast sites for 2002 will be in the Canadian province of Ontario and in England and probably South Texas, although as of this writing the Texas location--either Corpus Christi, San Antonio or Austin--hadn't been nailed down. The dates for this year's Feast, which follow the Jewish calendar, will be Sept. 20-28.
The Journal has attended CGOM conferences in other years, including the one in 1997 near Wagoner, Okla. Notable at this year's conference was a lack of controversy that was evident in 1997 (see "Representatives Tell Requirements for Congregation Membership in COGOM," The Journal, June 27, 1997).
In 1997, for example, delegates indulged in heated discussions on the controversial subject of "sacred names."
Another emotionally charged topic at the time was whether the CGOM was trying to be a Church of God denomination rather than its stated purpose of only an affiliation. Some voiced their disagreement with anything that would smack of another Church of God organization that would presume to call itself a church.
Conflicts that have roiled through the Church of God movement as a whole have taken their toll on the CGOM association. Besides sacred names, a factor in the CGOM's loss of member congregations has been the calendar controversy.
As a rule, CGOM member congregations adhere to the Jewish calendar. Some who have left have cited as a reason for their departure that they are no longer comfortable associating with Church of God members who follow the Jewish system of determining the timing of feast days, even though the Churches of God derived from the Worldwide Church of God have long used that calendar.
James McBride of Lincoln, England, a regular at CGOM conferences, says he is the only CGOM affiliate remaining in the United Kingdom, thanks in part to the controversy over the calendar.
One reason for a drop in CGOM membership in the U.K., he reported, are that several members of a CGOM-affiliated congregation in London have moved out of the country in recent years.
Still, although Mr. McBride has personally felt the effects of the CGOM's general decline in membership over the six years, he is optimistic in his outlook and demeanor and is busy, along with other CGOM stalwarts, making plans to do "the work," efforts that the association hopes will result in more supporters and more member congregations.
They're miserable out there
After the CGOM's customary three opening prayers (at each opening, closing and break between sessions, the delegates takes turns offering three successive prayers), Mr. Cruz, the first conference speaker, on Friday, March 9, said "God's Word" is "going out" and is "being imprinted in the minds of human beings."
Even with limited finances and the necessity of relying on volunteer labor, he said, much remains to be done to "reach people who are just miserable out there, not knowing where they're going, not knowing what life is all about."
Ad in 'USA Today'
Many comments at the conference concerned the reaction of the general public to an advertisement the CGOM placed in America's biggest newspaper, USA Today, five months ago.
On Oct. 26, 2001, the CGOM took out a quarter-page ad that offered a free copy of a special issue of one of the CGOM's magazines, Fountain of Life, that analyzed the terrorism of Sept. 11.
(The Journal also included the special Fountain of Life as part of its Dec. 31, 2001, issue as a paid advertisement from the CGOM.)
The price for a quarter-page ad, which appeared in American and international editions of USA Today, was about $27,000. The CGOM "stepped out on faith" and committed to the ad, even before it had anywhere near enough money in the bank to foot the bill for it, said Pat Dennis, a pastor from Coffeyville, Kan.
But, even though contributions from CGOM affiliates have been relatively minimal over the years, they rose to the occasion when CGOM supporters heard about the plans for the ad, and enough money came in, almost overnight, to finance it.
The advertisement resulted in more than 900 immediate responses. Responses are still coming in.
The Internet's reach
Even so, the 2002 conference was abuzz with talk about another way to reach people: the Internet.
The Journal talked with Alan Ruth of Detroit, Mich., founder of Barnabas Ministries and the www.biblestudy.org Web site, the largest among the Sabbatarian Churches of God. Mr. Ruth wasn't in Tulsa for the recent conference, but he did attend one sponsored by the Tulsa Church of God (a prominent CGOM member) in 2000 in Tulsa.
Mr. Ruth said that in 2000, even though he made a conference presentation to drive home the point that a Church of God ministry could employ Web sites, E-mail and other features of the Internet to garner responses for an average of about 1 cent each, the conference delegates in 2000 seemed almost not to believe him and instead concentrated on plans to preach the gospel to Europe, Asia and the Americas via satellite, an effort that Mr. Ruth said could cost as much as several hundred dollars per response.
This time around, however, several CGOM delegates seemed impressed by presentations that touted the power and ubiquitousness of the Internet. Even Mr. Dennis, who allowed that the USA Today ad, at $27,000, was well worth the effort, was heard wondering aloud what would happen if that amount had been invested in efforts over the Net.
A mission to spread
After introductions by the 50 or so people in attendance at the first Saturday session, Mr. Dennis reviewed the mission and purpose statements and statement of beliefs of the CGOM.
"The Churches of God Outreach Ministries is an evangelistic organization with a mission to spread the good news of God's soon-coming Kingdom to this earth and the eternal life that He shall bring to all who will accept it," he read.
Member congregations are "interdependent" on each other, he said. They work locally to spread the Word in their geographical areas, but through the CGOM they can "combine their strengths and talents so as to be most effective in large evangelistic efforts such as the USA Today ad."
The association provides "leadership, information and biblical teaching in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ," he said.
The association's "marching orders," said Mr. Dennis, are Matthew 28:19-20, which includes the admonition to "teach all nations" and baptize people "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Mr. Dennis sees the structure of the CGOM as similar to the structure of the church in New Testament times.
"They had the testimony of Christ," he said; "they kept the commandments of God; they were scattered in small congregations, such as in Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Jerusalem and many others. They communicated with each other and helped one another, just as we do."
He quoted Matthew 10:42, concerning an attitude of service.
"It is in this spirit that CGOM desires to be of service . . . The philosophy behind CGOM is simply to be found doing the work when Christ returns."
Undercurrent of frustration
Mr. Dennis mentioned an emotion that seemed to describe an attitude just below the surface at the CGOM conference: frustration.
"There are vast resources waiting to be used in God's work," he said. "But a lot of people are frustrated, seeing money squandered in organizations of people trying to do the work of God but going about it in a way that is a little top-heavy, if you get my drift."
The delegates had no trouble envisioning the big picture: the Kingdom of God, the preaching of the good news, of repentance and acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice. But they, along with many others in the modern Churches of God, seem frustrated by not knowing exactly how to go about what they know they should be doing.
Some of these same people were members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the 1950s and '60s when that California-based organization's message blanketed America and other parts of the world on more than 600 radio stations. As many as 150,000 people attended the WCG's Feast of Tabernacles sites in some years. That church sent out as many as eight million copies of its flagship magazine, The Plain Truth, in one month.
But now the WCG has transmogrified into hundreds or even thousands (if you count the living-room groups) that uneasily coexist and that sometimes disfellowship and mark each other in an apparent bid to protect their flocks and scoop up the shifting, dwindling remnants of the WCG.
The CGOM has adopted some attitudes and practices that, to this writer for The Journal, seem quite different from the post-WCG Church of God mainstream.
Some COG ministries, for example, will not officially acknowledge the existence of other COG ministries except to criticize them.
Some adopt the attitude that either the other ministries do not exist or, if they do, they are Laodiceans (as per Revelation 2-3).
That kind of attitude and talk was not evident at the CGOM gathering. Other ministries were openly talked about and acknowledged, almost always respectfully.
In a discussion about literature and the ethics of borrowing ideas from other COGs' writings, Lawrence Gregory, the Tulsa pastor, spoke up to say that borrowing was fine as long as the lifted material was properly attributed and the writer and ministry were properly credited.
Such sentiments were a far cry from Church of God organizations whose Web sites would never consider linking to other Church of God organizations' Web sites.
Mr. Ruth, the Barnabas Ministries founder, mentioned to The Journal shortly after the Tulsa conference that he had asked a member of the United Church of God's council of elders why, since he is willing to link from his www.biblestudy.org site to United's (www.ucg.org), United will not reciprocate with a link back to his site.
Mr. Ruth said the council member said he was powerless to make such a decision. The United site links to no COG sites other than those operated by United congregations and will not even link to those if those, in turn, link to sites operated by other organizations.
United is not alone in its exclusivist policy regarding Web links. The links pages of several other COG denominations reflect similar policies.
We love them to death
CGOM congregations subscribe in general to a list of 28 statements of belief. However, noted David Hope, a member of the Tulsa Church of God, "we have people [affiliated with CGOM] who attend in our church that keep the Passover on one day, and somebody else keeps it on another. We had a family that kept the Day of Pentecost on Sunday, and they also wanted to keep it on a weekday because they didn't want to be wrong."
Such people do not cause "problems," he said. "They come; they visit; we love them to death."
What about Dianne?
Ken Svehla of Downers Grove, Ill., a Chicago suburb, began a short discussion that touched on an aspect of the CGOM's statement of beliefs. Since the CGOM's official position is that only men can serve as "elders," what would happen if Dianne McDonnell of Arlington, Texas, pastor of the Church of God Dallas-Fort Worth, wanted to join up. How would the CGOM handle her request?
Jeff Henderson of Half Moon Bay, Calif., who presided over several conference discussions, responded from the audience to Mr. Svehla that, yes, the CGOM would surely not recognize Mrs. McDonnell as an elder, but that did not mean that she or her congregation could not affiliate with the CGOM.
"If she were to come and want to be associated," said Mr. Henderson, "certainly we may not recognize her as a pastor, but she could certainly be associated with us . . . There are ways to still be accommodating and to look for consensus and cooperation without being necessarily abrasive and combative and that sort of thing.
"I'm not suggesting for a moment that we would give up our beliefs . . . but we could look for legitimate and rational compromise, certainly."
CGOM and the Internet
The Internet came up many times, including when Matthew Steel of Tulsa presented "The Internet and CGOM."
"To me the great equalizer is the Web," Mr. Steel said. "For a very little cost we can present ourselves as big as anybody. We can be as big as United, Global, all the big churches. We have lots of resources [to be able to employ the Internet], and we're trying to do that."
The CGOM has goals, said Mr. Steel, of more-faithfully posting materials to its site (www.cgom.org).
"We want the material to be punchy, to be exciting, to be attractive to our visitors," he said. "They don't want to arrive next week and see the same material" visit after visit.
The site includes a "churches to visit" list, he said. The listing includes congregations with which a person on a journey could attend church services. They are not all CGOM congregations; they are churches the CGOM feels comfortable in recommending to other COG members.
A goal of the CGOM's Internet efforts, said Mr. Steel, is to "build relationships and links with other organizations."
The CGOM's use of the Internet, he continued, "is not so much as a tool to bring people to churches but to bring the gospel to people right where they're at."
Whistle a happy tune
Fred Porter of Hot Springs, Ark., who attends with the Church of God of Central Arkansas, suggested that visitors to the Web site might like to hear music.
"I don't mean church music," he said, "but a lot of people are into Christian music. The largest-growing facet of music for young people is Christian music nowadays."
Mr. Svehla said one of the greatest things that could happen to the CGOM's site would be for Mr. Ruth to link the huge www.biblestudy.org site to the CGOM's.
The Journal later asked Mr. Ruth about that. He said that, as long as the CGOM has an "active site"--that is, one that is frequently updated--he is happy to link to it.
Mr. Cruz recommended that delegates read a book he is impressed with: The Internet Church, by Walter P. Wilson.
He quoted Mr. Wilson as saying that a new Web page comes online every four seconds and that computers outsell television sets in the United States and Japan.
"With the Internet we have the opportunity to reach every man, woman and child on the face of the earth in the next decade."
"Content"--what to post on the site--is not a problem, Mr. Cruz continued. The collective Churches of God have plenty of content. "It's just a matter of tapping into it."
Sharon Owens of Moore, Okla., said she could help Mr. Steel and others in the CGOM with the Web site, especially in the area of "metatags" and "keywords," which are software devices that help make a site more visible to "search engines."
Where's our goal?
Mr. Dennis, who with his wife, Aletha, came up with the idea of the USA Today ad in the first place, launched into a history of the USA Today effort and the responses to it.
The reaction to the ad included 914 requests by regular mail and 1,845 readings of the online version of Fountain of Life magazine. He calculates that, with these and other responses, the CGOM has paid about $10 per response.
Still, he said, "it's incredible to think of the amount that could be accomplished using the Internet as opposed to what happened with the actual physical placing of the ad in the newspaper. If we could take that kind of money [$27,000] and ... get a higher profile for the information we have that answers life's questions, and do it in a much more cost-effective manner, that's the goal we should be having."
Speaking of adversity
The ranks swelled when it came time for Sabbath services Saturday afternoon. Speakers were Dennis Horlick of Toronto, Ont., and Mr. Dennis.
Mr. Horlick spoke about adversity.
"Where is God in our adversity?" he asked.
Adversity is not only inevitable in a Christian's life, he said, but it can be invaluable.
Mr. Dennis also spoke about adversity, but delivered a sermon that in many ways was quite different from Mr. Horlick's. Mr. Dennis's adversity amounted to martyrdom for Christians rather than a place of safety in Jordan (as taught by the old WCG and many present-day COG ministries).
Yet "we know that our Savior has conquered death," he said. "We know that it has no real power, no power whatsoever, over us."
Church of God folks who have a WCG background, he noted, considered "physical protection" to be a big part of their "religious experience."
But COG members have barked up the wrong tree, he intimated. The Bible, he said, prophesies of Christians in the end time dying for their beliefs, not hustling off to a safe physical location.
The session immediately after the Sabbath service featured a representative of the Christian Leadership Academy of Benton, Ark. Fred Porter pinch-hit for CLA founder Alfred Harrell, who had planned to attend the CGOM conference but was not able to.
Mr. Porter told about the CLA's new building in Benton, just south of Little Rock.
Although the CLA still presents campaigns in various cities when invited to do so, the academy now operates closer to home, offering classes in leadership and evangelism from its new base of operations.
Lack of expertise
Later, Mr. McBride began a discussion of training programs.
Since members of some of the affiliated groups lack expertise in conducting weddings, funerals and baptisms, the CGOM needs to produce manuals and other materials to help people conduct such ceremonies.
"How do you go about baptizing a person?" he asked. CGOM members and others could benefit from guidelines.
"If you're leading a small group and one of the brethren or a relation asked you to conduct a funeral, would you know how to do it?"
Mr. McBride's research committee plans to compile and write materials to help congregations' members who feel they are novices at conducting some of the basic rites of their religion.
Mr. McBride, as chairman of the outreach committee, reported on New Horizons magazine, which he edits from his home in England.
New Horizons is a bimonthly, he said. "You might say its target audience would be the Bible belt. In other words, [its readers] would be people who would be into Christianity to some degree but have a rather distorted view of what man is, what God is, the Trinity, this sort of thing."
New Horizons has published 150 articles in its six years, he said. He mentioned that he hopes the articles can appear on the CGOM's Web site.
CGOM printed materials include Bible Basics, a set of lessons, he said.
Another set of lessons is the Bible correspondence course.
Still another CGOM publication is TODAY (which stands for Teaching Obedience, Discipleship and Agape to Our Youth), a quarterly newsletter for "parents, teachers and anyone interested in teaching and training our youth," produced by Shelby Faith of House Springs, Mo.
Two target audiences
Renee Steel (Matthew's wife), as chairman of the marketing committee, presented information about the CGOM's efforts to reach the world with a mission of service and support for its independent affiliate church-group members.
The CGOM has two target audiences, said Mrs. Steel:
The latter, she said, are former members of other Church of God organizations who feel disconnected from their brethren.
"These are people who may feel like they do not have any support group behind them."
Mrs. Steel noted the CGOM's advertisements that ran in The Journal Dec. 31, 2001, and the accompanying "insert," which took the form of a special edition of Fountain of Life magazine that focused on the terrorism of Sept. 11.
"The purpose of that ad," she said, was to promote "peace, love, hope, truth, salvation."
Even though these terms are "buzzwords," she said, the purpose of the advertisement was to help people "get these words off the paper and into their lives."
How can a disaffected COG congregation implement the concepts implied in such words?
"There is a new way," she said: "CGOM."
The CGOM is "different" from other Church of God ministries, she said. "The difference is our loose network, our loose affiliation, our lack of a hierarchy. We're doing something that hasn't been done before in a very long time."
At the same time, Mrs. Steel said, CGOM groups "need to build bridges with those other organizations, whether it's just putting links from our Web site to their Web sites, or just taking baby steps toward working with them, or trying to step out of ourselves a little bit, trying to reach out."
Mr. Cruz chaired a session in which the delegates selected committee chairmen and members.
The upshot of the session was that all four committee heads will continue chairing the same committees. Mr. Cruz is the coordinator of all five committees.
Following are the committee personnel:
Reports from over there
The conference included two "international reports," one from the United Kingdom, from Mr. McBride, and one from Canada, from Mr. Horlick.
"Sadly, we've gone onto a bit of a plateau," reported Mr. McBride. "We had to reduce quite substantially what we've been doing [in the U.K.], mainly because the finances have gone so drastically down. But we continue to work on New Horizons, of course. That and the other publications take up quite a bit of my time."
Income over the last year has dropped about 50 percent in Britain, he said.
"We lost quite a large number of people, comparatively, because of the calendar issue, and that took away quite a bit of our financial support."
The most promising development in the CGOM at large, said Mr. McBride, has been "the development on the Internet."
Another factor in the decline in the United Kingdom has been that Christian Educational Ministries, directed by Ron Dart of Tyler, Texas, began sending out its own materials in Britain, whereas until recently Mr. McBride's office provided that service for CEM.
The change means less visibility for the CGOM in Britain and therefore less income for the CGOM, Mr. McBride said.
Further, "there's a general laxity among people today," he said. "I remember when we started church way back in the early '60s people would travel for hundreds of miles for a Sabbath service. In England that is far."
But now, he said, if a church group does not meet near a church member's home, he will probably opt to listen to tapes rather than venturing out.
At present, said Mr. McBride, the CGOM does not conduct any meetings in Britain "on a regular basis."
Unless a "big change" occurs in Britain, he said, "we're going to have to reconsider just what we're doing over there."
Looking on the bright side
Ron Buchanan, a nonordained representative from Ontario, spoke about the CGOM's situation in Canada.
He reported that a friend said recently that the Canadian brethren affiliated with the CGOM are "just spinning their wheels" because attendance is down and little is apparently happening.
"But I don't think so," said Mr. Buchanan.
Eleven new people have begun attending church over the last 12 months, he said. Some attend regularly, some occasionally. Some of them are former members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The CGOM-associated group in Guelph, Ont., reports weekly attendance that varies from four to eight.
Mr. Buchanan said he longs for the CGOM members in the United States and elsewhere to "put their arms around us and sort of cuddle us along and help us to grow, because right now we're the bottom of the barrel. We can't go any lower."
In the whole province of Ontario, he said, about 60 Church of God members attend the various CGOM-affiliated groups.
"It's a blessed shame that we have allowed ourselves to fall this low," he said.
Mr. Buchanan credits a recent visit from Mr. Gregory, the Tulsa pastor, for "waking us up."
Johnny and his business cards
The last session of the CGOM's conference of elders and stewards for 2002 began at 8:30 Sunday morning, March 10.
Mr. Henderson presented an idea for spreading news about the CGOM's Web site that he called the Johnny Appleseed Project. He handed out cards, the size of a standard business card, with the CGOM's name and logo and Web-site address imprinted on them.
"All you have to say [when you give the cards to people] is it's a great site; check it out," he said. "Do not engage in conversation . . . Just give them the card."
Mr. Henderson encouraged the delegates to sponsor the handing out of thousands of the cards in their home areas.
Mr. Andrews reported on his member-services committee, and Mr. Cruz reported on the Feast site in Corpus Christ, Texas, last year.
"Close to 200 people attended in 2001," he said. "We bend over backwards to make [the Feast] a very family affair. We have children reading Scripture every day; we have our teenagers . . . involved in our worship service . . .
"We had offerings of $13,541 and total expenses of $10,860, so we were able to send to CGOM close to $3,000."
Mr. Cruz said the Feast in 2002 could be in Corpus again, or perhaps San Antonio or Austin, Texas.
Cosponsoring with the CGI
Mr. Andrews led a discussion of whether the CGOM should again cosponsor a Feast site near Wagoner, Okla., with the Church of God International, as happened last year.
At the end of the discussion, it was not clear whether the CGOM would combine with the CGI for this year's Feast observance. Whether the site is officially CGOM-cosponsored or not, said Mr. Andrews, members of CGOM groups are free to attend the Feast at Wagoner or at any other site.
Mr. Horlick reported on last year's Feast observance at Collingwood, Ont., Canada.
The site, at the Toronto Ski Club, which boasted beautiful weather, mountains and a lake, could accommodate up to 200 Feastgoers this year, he said.
The delegates listening to Mr. Horlick describe the environs of Collingwood and the Feast last year were so taken with his description that Mr. Cruz commented that perhaps the CGOM should not sponsor a Feast in South Texas in 2002 after all but should instead encourage the brethren to travel to Ontario for the Feast.
Mr. Cruz was not joking. A discussion ensued in which the pros and cons of canceling the Feast at Corpus Christi, San Antonio or Austin were taken up.
Mr. Svehla, from the Chicago area, reported on plans for a Feast of Tabernacles cruise that would leave from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and venture as far south as ports in Venezuela.
The cruise Feast will not be an official CGOM site but will be a "CGOM-recommended" site.
"We plan to observe the first holy day in a hotel in San Juan," said Mr. Svehla, "then we can tour San Juan that evening. Sunday morning we would have services again, then set up some kind of a shuttle system to take us immediately to the cruise ship."
Mr. Svehla said that, because the cruise Feast is advertised in The Journal, people are signing up whom "we don't even know," so he expects a good response. One hundred shipboard rooms are available for the Feast observance; 22 are already signed up for.
For more information about the Feast that floats, visit www.wherecog.org/cogdg, or call (630) 434-0081.
Feast of prayer
Steve Kieler reported on plans for a Feast site at Lake Texoma, Okla.
"We are a site recommended by CGOM, and we appreciate that," said Mr. Kieler.
Unusual at Mr. Kieler's Feast, he said, is that "every day in the evening we have a prayer session where those who want to get together can get together, maybe half an hour of open prayer. That's been a very wonderful experience."
For information about Mr. Kieler's Feast, write him at 2193 Sheker Dr., Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501, U.S.A., or email@example.com.
Opportunities for speakers
Duke Schneider of Gravois Mills, Mo., and the Mid-Missouri Church of God in Eldon and Versailles, Mo., talked about a CGOM-recommended Feast site at Lake of the Ozarks, in the largest state park in Missouri.
The observance will include a pie-and-ice-cream social, opening-night get-together and seniors' luncheon, he announced.
"A lot of people can't get out and travel anymore," he said. "So we just serve kind of a local part of the country there, and we'd be glad to have any of you there."
Lake of the Ozarks, he said, has 40,000 docks, 60,000 boats and 1,200 miles of coves, which makes for "plenty of exploring opportunity."
Also, "if any of you would like to speak, let us know, and we can plug you in on a moment's notice."
For people who like old
Mr. McBride plugged the Feast in England.
"If you go on a cruise you get seasick," he said. "If you go to Collingwood you're on a building site [the facilities are undergoing renovations]." On the sites near the lakes "you'll probably drown."
But "if you like old," come to England for the Feast.
Last year at the Feast the final meal took place in a 500-year-old inn.
"Can you even think back that far when you're living in America?" he asked. "Most Americans were living in wigwams then."
Since CGOM numbers are down in Britain, the Feast site relies heavily on Feastgoers from across the water, mainly Americans.
Last year's attendance was 24, but Mr. McBride would like to see the 2002 Feast numbers increase a bit.
He hasn't decided yet exactly where the Feast in Britain will be. One possibility is Yorkshire; the other is the "Cotswold area."
The British site will be an official CGOM observance, he said.
Individuals as members
In the Sunday session, three men joined the CGOM as individuals: Fred Porter of Hot Springs, Ark., Ken Svehla of Downers Grove, Ill., and Ray Kurr of Tulsa.
Mr. Porter was also at the conference to represent the Christian Leadership Academy of Arkansas. He attends services with the Church of God of Central Arkansas, which meets in the Little Rock area.
Mr. Svehla attends the Church of God Downers Grove.
Mr. Kurr is pastor of the Church of God Tulsa Fellowship, which is associated with the Church of God Big Sandy.
A discussion followed about the definition of CGOM membership. Normally churches or other fellowships join up with CGOM as groups. Now the way seems to be open for individuals to join on their own.
All three men said, either during the conference session or later to The Journal, that they plan to invite their congregations to become CGOM affiliates. Mr. Kurr also mentioned to The Journal that he would not want the new affiliation to affect his congregation's arrangement with the Church of God Big Sandy.
Frank Marang of Coffeyville, Kan., during the discussion about who can be a CGOM member, said he considers himself a CGOM member even though he is a credentialed elder with the Church of God International.
Mr. Cruz commented from the audience that, as long as a church organization allows its members to be members of other affiliations, he sees no problem with members of other groups and affiliations holding simultaneous membership in the CGOM.
Mr. Gregory, from the audience, stated that in his opinion a prospective CGOM member should resolve to be actively involved with the CGOM, regardless of any other affiliations. In other words, a new member should plan to support the CGOM by, among other things, attending the annual conferences and serving on its committees.
Bring out the buckets
In the final hour of so of the conference, Gene Lamb walked to the podium and delivered what at first sounded like a comedy routine regarding the CGOM's "lack of funds."
"We all know that there is considerable lack of funds," he said, "but I really believe I've got the method to get this thing [the CGOM] up and on a paying basis . . .
"We're going to have to start typing a whole bunch of emergency letters, and these emergency letters are going to have to be made up of sentences with a whole bunch of capital letters and bold letters and underlines, and we're going to have to make sure that people know that we need first tithe, second tithe and third tithe, and we need the tithe of the tithe, and we need generous offerings, and we need a special building fund, because Dennis [Horlick] is going to have to build that Feast site."
Then, said Mr. Lamb, "we're going to get a bucket out and empty our small change out of our pockets before we leave."
Amid laughter from the audience Mr. Lamb concluded what he called his "proposal for a fund-raiser."
He was serious
At first Mr. Lamb seemed to be poking fun at the way the Worldwide Church of God, the parent organization of most CGOM members, raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.
But, as Mr. Lamb continued talking, it became obvious he wasn't just poking fun. He was making the serious suggestion that the CGOM revise its policy of almost never asking for money nor even hinting that a need for money exists.
In the CGOM's publications, he said, he could find no statement that the association "would welcome donations."
The CGOM, he said, should consider making plain that it happily accepts monetary contributions.
It should even print statements to the effect that "if you find this publication beneficial, would you be willing to help finance it?"
Mr. Schneider spoke up from the audience that he had planned to make "that exact point": to recommend that the CGOM "come out and give people an opportunity to be a part" of the CGOM. That opportunity, he said, "needs to be stated a little more boldly, I think."
Sharon Owens mentioned from the audience that she had planned to make the same suggestion.
'We could consider'
"If we had an envelope right in the center of the magazine saying 'Your contributions are welcome,' then people who receive CGOM literature will "put few a bucks in it," especially if the envelope is "postage paid."
Mr. Gregory, standing beside Mr. Lamb at the podium, said nearly every piece of correspondence he receives from other Church of God ministries, including CEM, includes an envelope that makes it convenient for people to send in donations.
"This is something we could consider," he said.
Mr. Cruz, from the audience, supported adopting a more-active approach to making known the CGOM's monetary requirements.
Mr. Schneider said that all money is God's money anyway "so why not reach out and suggest in a very loving way that you could be a part of this, or we could really use your help?"
Mr. Gregory mentioned that his congregation already voluntarily takes care of the CGOM's banking needs, implying that the systems are already in place to accept more donations.
"We have our 501(c)3 approval," he said.
An organization with 501(c)3 approval is authorized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to accept tax-deductible donations.
Mr. Gregory asked, "How many would be against us doing that in a nice, tactful way? How many in favor?"
Most, maybe all, CGOM members raised their hands.
Since its inception, said Mr. Gregory, CGOM income has averaged $55,000 to $60,000 per year. Last year more came in because of the special project involving USA Today, which cost $27,000 and was financed by special offerings for that specific purpose.
Because of "our trust in God," Mr. Gregory said, the CGOM over the years has maintained "a positive cash flow." But now the association is at a point that, if it expects to do more, indeed continue to exist, "we're going to have to have more income. That can only come from tithes and offerings."
Mrs. Steel suggested sending out an informative letter to the mailing list twice a month. Each mailing would include a return envelope.
Mr. Dennis, the Kansas pastor (who is also Mrs. Steel's father), said people will respond if they are kept informed of the need.
Mr. Lamb, who brought up the fund-raising idea to begin with, suggested that a way to economize might be to combine the Fountain of Life and New Horizons magazines into one publication.
Mr. Gregory said some Church of God organizations have "millions of dollars coming in."
"Do you know what we could do at CGOM with $1 million?" he asked. "Do you know what we could do with several million dollars? We could do a tremendous thing, and maybe one day God will bless us in those ways."
Mr. Kieler sounded a slightly different note.
"We can do a lot with $1 million and a lot with $2 million, but with God's Holy Spirit we can do a lot more than that," he said. ". . . If all we're thinking about is what we have to do, we're not going to accomplish anything . . . If we go home and kneel down in prayer, we can accomplish a lot of things."
"Yes," agreed Mr. Gregory. "But we still have to talk in practical terms . . . We look to God in faith, and God supplies, but the practical thing is we have reached pretty close on a voluntary basis the peak at what we can do . . .
"We've got to have laborers, and we've got to have income if we're going to do more than what we're doing now. I'm not discounting spiritual things or great blessings, but I'm talking practically."
Mr. Kurr, from the audience, suggested: "If we know we're seeking God's will, let's ask Him. Let's approach Him, individually and collectively, to bring that to His awareness and ask Him to be a part of this, that it will happen if it's a part of His will."
Mr. Cruz concluded the conference by quoting Matthew 28:18-19.
"As we leave," he said, "we've got our marching orders. We need to realize we've had the all-powerful God behind our efforts."
Mr. Marang led the delegates in a song, "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning."
Then, as is the custom in CGOM meetings, the 2002 conference concluded with three closing prayers.
For a list of available literature, including CGOM Ministries newsletter, Fountain of Life magazine, Bible Basics study course, a Bible correspondence course, TODAY Sabbath-school newsletter, New Horizons magazine, 16 booklets and 33 separately printed articles, write CGOM, P.O. Box 54621, Tulsa, Okla. 74155, U.S.A.; P.O. Box 2525, Lincoln LN5 7PF, England; or 100 Northcote St., Aberdare, N.S.W. 2325, Australia.
The Journal: News of the Churches of God is available from P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and http://www.thejournal.org. For more information write . To comment on this article or any other article or feature in The Journal or Connections, write . The preceding article or feature is from The Journal, February 25, 2002.
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