GCI Update


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachThere are many themes that are appropriate to preach on the Day of Pentecost: God reverses the tower of Babel; God takes residence in his people; God gives spiritual unity; God gives new identity; God writes his law in our hearts; God reconciles people to himself and more. A theme that has been going through my mind in preparation for Pentecost this year is based on what Jesus said concerning what the Holy Spirit would do following his resurrection and ascension: “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14, NRSV). There is a lot in this sentence. We know that the Spirit works to convict us of the truth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We also know that he reveals that Jesus is our elder brother who unconditionally loves us and has reconciled us to the Father. But another way the Spirit fulfills what Jesus said, is by inspiring what we do in proclaiming the gospel message through our relationships and interactions with others.

We see a wonderful example of this when we read about the birth of the New Testament church on the day of Pentecost ten days after Jesus’ ascension. You’ll recall Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to wait for what would happen that day: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about’” (Acts 1:4). Because they followed Jesus’ instructions, the disciples witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit in great power. Acts 2:1-13 describes the gift they received that day, just as Jesus promised. First came a sound like a violent wind, then tongues of fire, and then the Spirit demonstrated miraculous power by giving the disciples a unique way to share the story of Jesus and its purpose for humanity (the gospel). Most, if not all, of the disciples spoke in this miraculous way, and the people hearing were amazed and perplexed to be hearing the story of Jesus in their own language and from people who they considered to be uneducated and uncultured (Galileans). A few in the audience mocked the unfolding event, accusing the disciples of being drunk (mockers still exist today, don’t they?). But the disciples where not drunk in the flesh (and it does violence to the text to suggest that they were “drunk in the Spirit”).

St. Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
St. Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Peter’s sermon/testimony to the gathered crowd is recorded in Acts 2:14-41. Peter explained the validity of this miraculous event in which the language barrier was supernaturally transcended as a sign that all people would now be gathered together in Christ. In order to show God’s love for all and his desire that all be included in his international people, the Holy Spirit initiated this declaration of the gospel in the native languages of the audience. The Holy Spirit continues in our day to enable the proclamation of the gospel message in ways that are relevant and accessible to all people. He enables ordinary believers to bear witness to that message in ways that pierce the hearts of those God is calling. In doing so, the Holy Spirit points people to Jesus, the Lord of the universe who sheds light on everything and everyone in the cosmos.

The creed issued at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 has only this brief statement on the Holy Spirit: “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” Though the creed says much more about God the Father and God the Son, we should not conclude that the creed’s authors were giving the Holy Spirit the short end of the stick (thinking that the Spirit should be given short shrift, some, unfortunately, have wandered into tritheism). There is a reason for the relative anonymity of the Spirit in the Nicene creed. As theologian Kim Fabricius rightly notes in one of his books, the Holy Spirit is “the self-effacing and anonymous member of the Trinity.” As the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, he does not seek his own glory, but works to glorify the Son, who, in turn, glorifies the Father. One of the primary ways the Spirit does this work, is by enabling, inspiring and guiding us to participate with Jesus in his ongoing ministry to fulfill the Father’s mission to the world. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus does the heavy lifting in this ministry; yet he invites us to participate in substantial ways, including befriending, encouraging, helping and interacting with people—just like he did (and continues to do). When it comes to ministry, we might say that Jesus is the heart surgeon and we are his attending nurses. As we participate with him in his ongoing ministry, we experience the joy of what he is doing and we fulfill his commission to his church.

Nothing in the Hebrew scriptures or in the religious tradition of first-century Judaism would have prepared the disciples for the absolutely unique and dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit on that day of Pentecost. Nothing in the symbolism of leaven (used by Jews during the Days of Unleavened Bread), would have led the disciples to expect the Holy Spirit to cause them to speak in other tongues so that they would be able to communicate the gospel message across cultural and linguistic barriers. Indeed, on that day of Pentecost, God was doing something new. Understanding this, Peter declared to the gathered audience that the “last days” had arrived (Acts 2:16-17)—a truth even more significant and amazing than the miracle of speaking in tongues.

In Jewish thinking the idea of the “last days” was associated with numerous Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God. Peter was saying, in effect, that a new age had dawned. We rightly call it the age of grace and truth, the church age, or the age of the new covenant in the Spirit. As revealed on that Pentecost, since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God is working in the world in a new way.

Pentecost is a powerful reminder of this truth for us today. We do not observe Pentecost as an old covenant festival, nor as a required festival. Celebrating what God did on that day of Pentecost is part of church tradition—not only the tradition of our denomination, but of many others. Pentecost celebrates the saving acts of God in the last days involving a deeper working of the Holy Spirit, who renews, transforms and empowers us to be his witnesses—those who spread the good news in word and deed, in small and even sometimes extraordinary ways, and always to the glory of our God and Savior—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I’m reminded here of a grand quote by John Chrysostom. Chrysostom is the anglicized form of a Greek word that means “golden-mouthed.” This nickname came from his fantastic preaching. He said:

So the whole of our lifetime is a festival. For when Paul said, “Let us keep the feast” [1 Corinthians 5:7-8], he wasn’t referring to the Passover or Pentecost. He was pointing out that all time is a festival for Christians…. For what good thing has not already come to pass? The Son of God was made human for you. He freed you from death and called you to a kingdom. Now that you have gained such good things—and are still gaining them—how can you do anything less than “keep the feast” all your life? So let no one be downcast about poverty or illness or the cunning of enemies. It is a festival, all of it—our whole lifetime! (Homilies on 1 Corinthians 15.6).

Loving to keep in step with the Holy Spirit,
Joseph Tkach

A kingdom perspective on the church

Several Christian authors are helpfully calling for a recapturing of a kingdom perspective on the church. Here are some examples that you may find helpful in your teaching:

  • A Leadership Network interview with Reggie McNeal:

  • An article on the kingdom of God from GCI theologian Gary Deddo at https://www.gci.org/bible/kingdom (this article, which appeared previously as a series of posts in Weekly Update, is now posted on GCI’s website as a single article).

Death of Carol Schantz’s mother

We were saddened to learn of the death of Carol Schantz’s mother, Margaret Allen. Carol is married to Steve Schantz who pastors GCI churches in Melbourne and Orlando, Florida. We received this announcement from Steve.

Carol  Schantz with her mother
Carol Schantz with her mother

My wife Carol’s mother, Margaret Allen, passed on Saturday evening, May 9 after a four-month-long battle with liver cancer. She was 81 years old and surrounded by her children and grandchildren at the time of her death.

Carol is spending time at her mother’s home helping her brothers and family sort through and process the loss—it will take time for all of us. A host of friends and neighbors attended her funeral last week near her home in Springville, Alabama. As I glanced around the funeral parlor I recognized several former WCG pastors and members—ones who were friends of Margaret in the Birmingham, Alabama church: Bruce and Phyllis Gore, Rick and Angela Beam, and Dave Dobson. Her current pastor, Tom Kirkpatrick, delivered the funeral message, and it was my privilege to open with prayer and introduce special music performed by four of Margaret’s grandchildren.

My wife Carol and I want to express our deep appreciation for your prayers for us and for Margaret’s family over these past few months.

Cards may be sent to:

Steve and Carol Schantz
1799 Mallard Lake Rd
Viera, FL 32940-6768

Death of Bill Stenger’s daughter

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Yasmin Naomi Plummer, daughter of Dr. Bill Stenger, an assistant pastor in the GCI congregation in Big Sandy, Texas. Here is the death announcement Bill sent us.

Jasmine Stenger
Yasmin Naomi Plummer

Yasmin, my firstborn daughter, died  recently, leaving behind her 13-year old son, Cameron William Stenger. My younger daughter, Serena Joy Seifreid, has graciously accepted the responsibility of caring for Cameron.

Yasmin’s faith in Jesus remained strong to the end. I know Yasmin rests secure in her salvation. I appreciate your prayers for Cameron and Serena through this difficult time.

Cards may be sent to:

Dr. William Stenger
104 Shady Grove St # A
Big Sandy, TX 75755-2108

Death of Gladys Dudley

William and Gladys Dudley
Willie and Gladys Dudley

We were saddened to learn of the May 14 death of deaconess Gladys Etta Dudley, wife of GCI elder Willie Dudley, members in GCI’s Manhattan, New York congregation. Her funeral was held on May 18. Here are excerpts from her obituary.

Gladys was born in 1924 in Dinwiddie, Virginia. Her family moved to New York City where she grew up with a strong belief in the Lord and a commitment to helping those in need.

DudleysGladys and her first husband were among the founding members of the Manhattan Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God. Gladys became the mother of hospitality for the congregation and would regularly host traveling pastors and evangelists. She was well known for her culinary talents, including her delicious meals and famous rum balls. Gladys also became well known as a seamstress for a bride’s wedding dress, den mother to the girls in the church, and adviser to young people due to her beautiful, but firm motherly personality to everyone.

After the tragic death of her first husband, Gladys married Willie Dudley in 1968. Together they served tirelessly and passionately in the Manhattan congregation. They were known as the first to arrive at every church event or activity and among the last to leave. Gladys typically took charge of the kitchen or organizing an event.

Gladys is survived by her husband, Willie Dudley, two daughters, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, one great great-grandchild, three sisters, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Cards may be sent to:

Mr. Willie C. Dudley
3736 10th Avenue, Apt 13M
New York, NY 10034-1814

Linda Dick in hospice care

Here is a prayer request from Ron Dick, retired GCI pastor, concerning his wife Linda.  

Linda has had so much trouble with her health over the last 20 years that we would have been guilty of news overload to report all the issues. Suffice it to say that she was physically unable to participate like she desired in the ministry and in society in general. After years of medical tests with no name to put on her condition, she learned to manage her situation the best she could. There were tests and scans by the scores even as recently as February this year. None revealed anything more than a peptic ulcer.

On April 15 while entering a sleep clinic, she caught her toe on the threshold and fell face-first breaking her nose and raising large bumps on her head. At the ER they found no serious damage but she was very sore. About ten days after the fall, her back began to hurt causing catches in her breathing. The pain persisted so her doctor ordered more scans that revealed anomalies in her lungs. Unable to be sure what they saw, a biopsy was ordered. The result was severe bleeding. A breathing tube and drain tube were inserted. Several days of observation brought the conclusion that the scans were showing hundreds of cancerous tumors. The danger of further biopsies left them not knowing the source of the cancers but that they were serious and her condition was terminal.

Linda is now in hospice care. She requires regular pain control and sleeps continuously. The situation has gone from an unknown back pain to terminal hospice care in one week. Our daughters arrived to see their mother and Linda was able to tell them goodbye and assure them that everything will be all right. Through the fog of the narcotics she remains cheerful and encouraging in the few words she is able to say.

Linda loved her many close friends in the church all over the world. She began attending in Seattle Washington with her mother at age 11. She was baptized at 16, attended Ambassador College in England where she graduated in 1969, was married and spent the next 42 years supporting her husband and family as they were involved in numerous departments in our denomination. She is grateful for a full productive life in the church and with her family.

Those few who are aware of Linda’s situation have offered encouragement and prayers for her peace and comfort. Those prayers are being answered daily and we are grateful to you all.

Cards can be sent to:

Ron and Linda Dick
63 Loren Drive
Sarasota, FL 34238-5157

Arlen Bryant

We noted last week Pastor Arlen Bryant’s surgery to remove a brain tumor. Here is a more recent Update from Arlen:

My surgeon called recently with the pathologist’s report. He said I have a very aggressive type of cancer and we need to move quickly to slow or get rid of it. He wasn’t able to remove all of the tumor during surgery because it could have damaged my speech or ability to walk. I go next week to get the staples removed and set up a schedule for further treatment. My daughter wants me to go over to Vanderbilt for further treatment and I am considering that option, though I’m not worrying about this because I know my life is in the hands of the GREAT PHYSICIAN. My thanks for everyone’s prayers, cards and phone calls. I love all our folks and appreciate their concern for me and Jean.

Cards may be sent to:

Arlen and Jean Bryant
2054 Benton Young Rd
Cookville, TN 38501

Death of Dave Gilbert’s father

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of David Samuel Gilbert, Jr., father of GCI Pastor David Gilbert III. Here is the death announcement: 

David Gilbert
David Samuel Gilbert, Jr.

David Samuel Gilbert, Jr., 86, of Elizabeth Twp, passed away peacefully Monday, May 11, 2015 at home surrounded by his loving family. He was born July 7, 1928 in Christy Park and was the son of the late David S. Gilbert, Sr. and the late Elizabeth Vaughn Gilbert. He was a retired  carpenter, builder, construction manager and consultant, as well as a real estate broker. He built homes and several churches. He also was an inventor, holding a patent on Drain Nut Pliers which he developed for the plumbing industry.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Dorothy Rudd Gilbert, four sons, a daughter, five grandchildren, two great grandchildren, a brother and two sisters. He was preceded in death by three sisters and a brother. His funeral was held at the Greenock United Methodist Church on Friday, May 15. Pastor David S. Gilbert, III, officiated

Cards may be sent to:

Mr. David S. Gilbert, III
249 Frogtown Rd
Kintnersville, PA 18930-9644