Officially beginning on July 29, many delegates arrived a day early to participate in the LEAD Conference which featured three prominent church leaders for an intense three-hour session. Guest speakers in order of appearance included Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Christian Research; Hayden Shaw, author of Sticking Points; and Reggie Joiner, chief executive officer of Orange Resources.
Earlier that morning, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke during a special prayer gathering at the convention center. Following his presentation he was presented the “Order of the Towel,” a recognition given by Church of God Prayer Ministries.
The award was established as a way to “... honor those who serve Christ with a servant’s heart, men and women of deep humility who carry themselves with grace and gentleness, yet, whose lives are both forceful and impactful.”
Other pre-Assembly events included gatherings for chaplains and a World Missions recognition and awards service.
On Tuesday night, a service — especially for women — was attended by more than 2,000 at the Hyatt International Ballroom, adjacent to the convention center. Keynote speaker for the event was Deven Wallace, co-pastor of Redemption Point Church in Ooltewah.
The official opening of the Assembly took place on Tuesday morning, July 29, with the drop of the gavel by General Overseer Mark Williams, serving for his first time as moderator of the Assembly. Three sessions of the General Council took place that day, beginning 3½ days of business and deliberation by the ordained bishops.
For the first time, the General Council did not go through the process of nominating the Executive Committee, the five-man leadership group of the organization. When they were elected in 2012, the terms were for four years instead of two. Other leadership posts, however, were voted upon and included the re-nomination of Gary Lewis as director of Youth and Discipleship, David Blair as assistant, Tim Hill as director of World Missions and John Childers, assistant. The nominations were ratified on Friday by the General Assembly.
The General Council then took the rest of the morning session and a portion of the afternoon to elect the Council of Eighteen, the governing body of ministers.
Those elected were Kevin Wallace, pastor of Redemption Point Church in Ooltewah; David Ramirez, field director of Latin America; Raymond Culpepper, former general overseer and now state overseer of Alabama; T. Bryan Cutshall, former pastor of Twin Rivers Worship Center; Victor Pagan, former assistant director of Church of God World Missions; Thomas Madden, state overseer of Delmarva-D.C.; Oliver McMahan, vice president for ministry formation with the Pentecostal Theological Seminary; William T. Isaacs, state overseer of Ohio; Dwight Allen, pastor of Cooper City (Fla.) Church of God; Niko Njotorahardjo, pastor of Gereja Bethel Church in Jakarta, Indonesia; Nick Park, pastor in Drogheda, Ireland; Chris Moody, pastor of the South Cleveland (Tenn.) Church of God; Tony Stewart, pastor of City Life Church in Tampa, Fla.; David Cooper, pastor of Mt. Paran Church of God in Atlanta, Ga.; Kip Box, pastor of Oak Park Church of God in Mobile, Ala.; Mark Walker, pastor Mt. Paran North Church of God; G. Dennis McGuire, former general overseer; and Jimmy Smith, state overseer of Western North Carolina.
General Overseer Williams took the remainder of the afternoon session to deliver his “State of the Church” address.
The agenda was advanced Tuesday evening and in subsequent morning and afternoon sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The 59-item agenda included several “housekeeping” items, seeking to clarify and contemporize language in the Minutes of the Church of God, some portions which had not been updated for decades.
Deliberations on the agenda included adding three new Core Values — Communication, Discipleship and Education — to the Mission and Vision Statement of the Church; seven amendments pertaining to the general requirements of applicants for ministry, qualifications of ordained ministers and qualifications of exhorters; and definition of the team and program involved in restoring disorderly ministers.
An item that did not pass was Item No. 29 in the agenda which proposed to establish a Church of God Ministry Operations Manual. This would have modified the Minutes into two sections and given the International Executive Council authority to review and revise the section that included the managerial and operational items.
An amendment that opens the door for ministry applicants with more than one divorce prior to their conversion to apply for credentials was debated and passed both the General Council and the General Assembly.
A policy statement that reaffirms the church’s position against same-sex marriage, upholding the Church of God’s longstanding and unwavering biblical view of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman was approved by both the General Council and General Assembly.
The General Assembly also passed concurrent items to bring tenure of several key leadership posts to four years instead of two. Those positions included director and assistant director of youth and discipleship, director and assistant director of world missions, and state overseers. All will take effect at the 76th General Assembly in 2016.
Several innovations were put in place at this Assembly, highlighted by an expanded online presence allowing more and more people to be engaged.
A livestream broadcast was in place for the duration of the event and included an Anchor Desk where live interviews and updates took place. In addition, an expanded social media presence was in place with multiple ways to be involved both on and offsite. The General Assembly employed the Twitter hashtags #GA12 and #onecog.
Keynote speakers during the General Assembly included Williams, who opened the night worship services on Wednesday with a message on the 2014 theme, emphasizing one, capitalizing on the subtitles of “One Faith, One Lord, One Mission.”
On Thursday, Evangelist Joycelyn Barnett headlined the service which included an extended program of pageantry, parade of nations and appeal for World Missions.
Closing out the Assembly on Friday night was Samuel Rodriguez, director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.