Canadians on quest for ideas and ministers
By Dixon Cartwright
TULSA, Okla.--The Canadian contingent--three strong--came to the Tulsa CGOM conference from Ontario looking for ideas--and "ministers."
"We've tried everything you could possibly think of," said Ron Buchanan, a Churches of God Outreach Ministries representative from Guelph, Ont. "We've tried sermons on the radio, even pamphlets, and we just don't have a response."
So Mr. Buchanan and fellow Ontarians Robert Stapleton and Dennis Horlick came to Tulsa to look for ideas about ways to give the Canadian "work," as they refer to it, a shot in the arm.
During a break in the conference, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Stapleton talked with a writer for The Journal.
"Is the material we're using in Canada too old?" Mr. Buchanan wonders. "Does it need to be livened up? We don't know. We're hoping to get feedback on that from down here."
The Canadians traveled the distance from Ontario to Oklahoma to talk to fellow CGOM delegates and learn better ways to "get the information out to people" and to try to figure out how to acquire and hold onto members of their congregations.
Take, for instance, the city of Toronto, said Mr. Buchanan, a self-employed businessman who runs a truck-driving school. The province has a population of eight or nine million. The city of Guelph, where he lives, has a populace of 300,000.
"We find that people don't want to watch a video or listen to a tape," he said. "They like to have somebody live in front of them. They want to have somewhere whereabouts they can have a person they can take their problems to and from whom they can get the proper answers."
In other words, continued Mr. Buchanan, the brethren in Ontario crave the assistance of "ordained ministers."
Mr. Stapleton, who was injured on his job as an auto mechanic and now attends classes to retrain as a computer operator, wants "ministerial intervention" to "help our stewards [the CGOM's term for unordained congregational leaders] train properly and effectively."
It's one thing to "have the truth," he said, "but even the ministers here [at the conference] are getting older, and we're looking at what to do about the next generation."
The Journal asked the men why didn't their congregation or congregations simply ordain somebody to solve their problem of the lack of a minister.
Mr. Stapleton explained that Canadians, "especially mainstream people," expect a "minister" not only to have been been ordained but to have studied at some sort of accredited institution of ministerial training in Canada. Yes, they could ordain one of their own, he said, but such a person still would not possess recognized credentials.
For example, someone they ordained among themselves could perform funerals but could not perform wedding ceremonies that would be recognized by the national and provincial governments.
Then, The Journal asked, why don't they ordain somebody who would perform a church wedding, then advise the newlyweds they must repeat their vows before the Canadian equivalent of a justice of the peace.
Mr. Stapleton acknowledged that that was the custom of the Churches of God in years past. When marrying, Church of God members would have dual wedding ceremonies: religious and civil.
But not being able to conduct legally binding weddings, said Mr. Buchanan, "really limits us in the eyes of people who come in."
"We still need ministerial guidance and training," agreed Mr. Stapleton. "We need ministers to sort of come in and decide, with help from the congregations, who is ready to be ordained, who is ready for the proper training. It's fine and dandy to ordain someone from among ourselves, but mainstream people don't understand that concept."
Mr. Buchanan said he would like to see a CGOM-affiliated elder travel to Ontario every three months or so from the United States. He hopes, if that can happen, Canadians inside and outside of the Churches of God will see the CGOM-affiliated congregations up north as viable organizations that can attract and keep new members, especially young people.
The two Canadians during the Journal interview were obviously thinking out loud as they cast about for ideas.
They requested that this article include ways to contact them and that readers of The Journal feel free to send them suggestions.
Write Mr. Buchanan at 1414 Safari Rd., Millgrove, Ont. L0R 1V0, Canada.
Write Mr. Stapleton at .
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