Recently, three of GCI’s Southern California congregations—New Covenant, New Hope and NewLife—gathered at a park in Arcadia for what Pastor Bermie Dizon described as “a great reunion of three congregations coming together for worship and a picnic.” Here are video highlights:
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), of which GCI is a member in the U.S., will be conducting a webinar on September 20 at 2:00pm (EST), titled Pastoral Care of LGBT Persons and Their Families. The presenter will be Christian psychologist Dr. Mark Yarhouse, author of “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” and founder of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University (click here for his bio, and here for a paper he authored).
Normally, the webinar costs $25, but NAE is making it available to GCI folks at no cost. To gain access to the webinar, register by clicking here. Space is limited, so sign up soon.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We’re all familiar with the scripture that says, “Patience is a virtue.” Except, well, there isn’t one, though the Bible does say a lot about patience. Paul lists it as part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 ESV). He also encourages us to be patient in affliction (Romans 12:12), to wait patiently for what we do not yet have (Romans 8:25), to patiently bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2), and to not grow weary in doing good, because if we are patient, we’ll reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). Scripture also tells us to “wait for the Lord” (Psalms 27:14), but, unfortunately, some mistake waiting patiently with inactivity.
One of our regional pastors (RPs) attended a meeting in which each discussion item referring to renewal or mission was responded to by the congregation’s leaders this way: “We know we need to do that in the future, but we are waiting on the Lord.” I’m sure these leaders believed they were being patient as they waited for God to make clear what direction they should take in outreach. There are other congregations “waiting on the Lord” to give them a sign they should change to a day or time of worship more convenient for new believers. The RP told me, “I finally asked the leaders, ‘What are you waiting on the Lord to do?’ Then I explained that God was likely waiting on them to participate in what he was doing already. As I did, I started hearing several say, Amen!”
When faced with difficult decisions, we’d all like a sign from God we can show others—one telling us where to go, and how and when to go there. But that is not how God typically works. Instead he often simply says, “Follow me,” exhorting us to take a step forward without understanding the particulars. We should remember that Jesus’ original disciples, both before and after Pentecost, struggled at times to understand where their Messiah was leading. Though Jesus is a perfect teacher and guide, they were not perfect learners and followers. We too often struggle to understand what Jesus is saying and where he is leading—sometimes we fear moving forward because we fear that we will fail. This fear often drives us into inactivity, which we then wrongly equate with patience—with “waiting on the Lord.”
We need not fear our mistakes, or a lack of clarity about the road forward. Though Jesus’ first disciples made many mistakes, the Lord kept giving them opportunity to join him in what he was doing—to follow where he was leading, even if that meant correction at points along the way. Jesus does the same today, reminding us that any “success” we experience will be the result of his work, not our own.
We should not be alarmed when we’re unable to fully understand the things of God. Times of uncertainty call for patience, and sometimes that means waiting for God to intervene before we take the next step. But whatever the situation, we’re always Jesus’ disciples, called to hear and follow him. In that journey, we must remember that our learning doesn’t come just from praying and reading Holy Scripture. Much of it comes through taking action—moving forward, in hope and faith (informed by prayer and the Word), even when it is not clear where the Lord is leading.
God wants his church to be healthy and thus to grow. He wants us to join him in his mission to the world, taking gospel-directed steps to serve our communities. When we do so, we will make mistakes. Sometimes our mission and outreach initiatives will fail to produce hoped-for fruit. Yet we will learn from those mistakes. As we see in the early church of the New Testament, our Lord will graciously use our mistakes as we entrust them to him, in repentance if need be. He will grow and mature us, forming us more closely to the image of Jesus Christ. With this understanding, we will not view a lack of immediate fruit as failure. In his time and way, God can and will bring forth fruit from our efforts, particularly when those efforts are focused on introducing people to Jesus by living and sharing the gospel. And the first fruits that we may see will be those in our own lives.
True “success” in mission and ministry comes only one way: faithfulness to Jesus—a faithfulness informed by prayer and Scripture by which the Spirit leads us into truth. But note that we don’t learn this truth instantaneously, and inactivity can hinder our progress. I wonder if, perhaps, this inactivity comes from a fear of truth. Jesus often predicted his death and resurrection to his disciples, and fearing this truth, they were, at times, frozen in inactivity. So it often is in our day.
When we talk about participating with Jesus in reaching out to unchurched people, it’s easy to react with fear. But we need not fear, because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV). Trusting in Jesus and his Word calms our fears. Indeed, faith is the enemy of fear. That’s why Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36 ESV). When, in faith, we actively engage in Jesus’ mission and ministry, we are not alone. We have the Lord of all creation with us, just as Jesus promised long ago on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16) where, shortly before his ascension, he gave his disciples the instructions we commonly call The Great Commission:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Notice the “bookends” here. Jesus begins by stating that he is in possession of “all authority in heaven and on earth,” then concludes with these words of assurance: “I am with you always.” These statements should be a source of great comfort, confidence and freedom to us as we go about doing what Jesus commanded: make disciples. We do so with boldness knowing that we are participating with the One who has all power and authority. And we do so with confidence knowing that he is always with us.
With these thoughts in mind, rather than seeing patience as inactivity, we will wait patiently on the Lord while actively participating with him in what he is doing to make disciples in our communities. In that way we will be practicing what we might call active patience. Doing so is Jesus’ command to us because it is his way—the way of faithfulness that bears the fruit of his ever-present kingdom.
Actively patient with you,
Here is a list of recent ordinations. Congratulations to the new elders, their families and churches!
- Michael Guibord, Mt. Sterling, KY
- Kenneth Pinnix, Jacksonville, FL
- Lenrose White, St. Louis, MO
- Rachel Nhlapo, Mondeor, South Africa
- Aaron Ng’ambi, Kitwe, Zambia
- David Kachimwa, Kaoma, Zambia
- Thomson Zuze, Kabompo, Zambia
- Christopher Simbeye, Mpika, Zambia
- Kennedy Musopelo, Lusaka, Zambia
- André Nimpagaritse, Nyabungeri, Burundi
- Fabrice Habonimana, Mushanga, Burundi
- Nestor Niyongabo, Buhindo, Burundi
- Samuel Mbanye, Rugombo, Burundi
- Eric-Aimé Nindengera, Carama, Burundi
- Damascene Nyandwi, Cuzwe, Burundi
- Gordien Muhigigwa, Nyenzi, Burundi
- Six leaders from Malawi were ordained elders at a recent combined service in the city of Blantyre. Here are their pictures (top to bottom, left to right): Rodrick Mwatchipa, Jacob Stonad Kazembe, Blessings Ngwira, Alexander Mambiya, Hastings Kachali and Kasandi Ngubulwa).
This report is from Jeff McSwain, National Coordinator of the GCI-USA Ministry Development Team.
A group of us recently met in Durham, North Carolina, for GCI’s third annual Orientation for U.S. Interns and Pastoral Residents. In addition to these young emerging leaders, Orientation participants (pictured below) included sponsoring pastors, coaches and various members of GCI’s Church Administration and Development (CAD) team.
The women and men participating in the GCI-USA Intern Program are given a chance to explore vocational options in a two-year-long Christian discipleship program that combines higher biblical-theological education with hands-on, practical ministry leadership experience. Instead of spending hours on administrative tasks or other pastoral duties such as preparing sermons and doing hospital visits, our Interns spend their time “outside the walls” of our churches, engaging with their communities through some sort of outreach-centered ministry expression.
Those serving as Pastoral Residents (apprentice pastors) have either graduated from the Intern Program or come to us with extensive ministry experience. Other than age and experience, the Pastoral Residents are just a step away from being assistant pastors, senior pastors or church planters. A pastoral residency is a time when these women and men shadow an experienced senior pastor, doing the things and learning the patterns that are typical in the life of a pastoral minister.
I’m thrilled to report that after two years of vocational exploration in our first class of Interns, Jillian Caranto and Andy Rooney (pictured at right) have felt led to pursue the next step, which is to serve as Pastoral Residents. We congratulate them both!
Comments and pictures
The time we experienced together in Durham was truly rich. It was a blessing to hear first-time attendee Lauren Reierson say she felt rejuvenated and loved—ready to get out and engage with her community. That’s what we were shooting for! Following are additional comments and pictures from our 2016 Orientation.
From the inspiring worship, to the intimate breakouts, to the laughs during meals, the 2016 Orientation was unlike any of the others I’ve attended. There is a newfound level of spiritual rapport and healthy camaraderie between the Interns and Pastoral Residents, which is only a taste of what the Holy Spirit is doing for the future of GCI and its young leaders! (Jillian Caranto, Pastoral Resident with Pastor Bermie Dizon)
I’ve been taught to look at the kingdom of God as “already-not yet,” but it often seems a lot more “not yet” than “already.” That wasn’t true at Orientation! It was so encouraging to be immediately loved and accepted by such an incredible group of people. (Justin Cole, 1st year Intern with Regional Pastor Randy Bloom)
It was great to be able to dig into the theology of GCI a little more, and to ask questions and get a better general understanding. The most impactful thing for me was the experience of authentic community. I’ve always been aware of the inclusive community that GCI fosters, but it still astounds me every time how amazingly loving and accepting we are. In a moment when I was truly afraid and deeply doubting God’s calling for me, my community, my family, immediately surrounded me. It showed me that I’m not called on my own. God, through his Holy Spirit, is with me AND doing the work for me! It also showed me that God has blessed me with an incredible community who will have my back and point me back to Jesus when I am afraid. (Xiara Lee, 1st year Intern with Pastor Tim Brassell)
It was a unique experience of learning about the Intern Program through deep fellowship, theological engagement and seeing awe-inspiring examples of those theological commitments lived out in the Durham area. It was challenging, fun and moving. (Eddie Lowe, 2nd year Intern with Pastor Dishon Mills)
Getting together with my GCI brothers and sisters under the banner of Jesus was amazing! Our future as a denomination is so bright! There was so much love there! (Ceeja Malmkar, Pastoral Resident with Pastor Mike Rasmussen)
The young adults involved reveal a bright future for GCI. They truly are sold-out for the Trinitarian theology described in Scripture and will no doubt gain (and teach) a much deeper understanding of this Good News as time goes on. What a gift! (Associate Pastor Mike Urmie)
At this Orientation I saw powerful, Holy Spirit momentum building in the ranks of our younger generations. My friend Greg Williams, Director of our CAD team, saw it too. Here are his reflections on the 2016 Orientation:
I was overwhelmed by the variety, depth, personalities, talents and passion of these young women and men. They expressed deep love for the Lord and deep bonding with one another. They are so smart—it’s almost intimidating—yet they are personable and fun-loving. GCI is blessed to have these young people in our circle of trust and love. I invite the churches who host them to make space in their hearts and ministries to allow them to grow and shine. Our Interns and Pastoral Residents are a huge part of the renewal movement happening within GCI. Thank you Holy Spirit for joining them with us!
On to GCnext
GCnext is about planting seeds for GCI’s next generation. Toward that end, we will be holding a GC Next gathering in Durham over the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday weekend (January 13-16, 2017). The event, which will gather 18-28 year-olds from across our GCI nation, is led by Andy Rooney and our other Pastoral Residents. Many of us sense that it will be another pivotal moment in the development of future GCI leaders. Click here for additional information, including registration.
We want to express our thanks to the congregations that are financially supporting our Intern and Pastoral Resident Programs through donations to our GCnext fund. The fund also supports the GCnext work of Generations Ministries and Church Multiplication Ministries. If your congregation would like to join in, click here to learn about the fund, which advances our GCnext vision and mission.
Because a pastor’s work is never done, it’s important that they manage their time well. For some assistance, click here.
We were saddened to learn of the death of Larry David Smith, brother of GCI pastor Tom Smith and uncle of GCI pastor Carrie Smith. The information below was provided by Carrie.
Larry, a resident of Bristol, TN, died at age 78 on August 23. His wife Betsy preceded him in death in 2007. Four children survive: daughter Suzie Arnie; and three sons: Mike, Scott, and Kevin.
Given the ten years between their ages, Tom considered Larry not only a beloved brother, but also his “second dad.” Carrie had the opportunity to minister to Larry’s children through the difficult final stages of their father’s life. Carrie wrote about this experience:
These past several weeks have been a trying time for his children as a visit to the doctor led to a hospital stay, moving to ICU, and making some hard decisions about what is best for their father. I had the privilege to come alongside them during that difficult time.
God definitely works in mysterious ways. As Larry’s children prepare to celebrate the full life of a wonderful man, I am currently in Ohio celebrating the beginning of life as Hope Pregnancy Center (in Clarksville, TN where I serve in ministry) is training to “GO” into the community with our mobile unit this fall. What an incredible opportunity God gives us to journey together from beginning to end, no matter the point (or points) of intersection in someone’s life. This is what matters: Life WITH others, in relationship, for their good. Multiplying joys and sharing sorrows. Life together. Thank You, Lord that You have made us for relationship—with YOU and others.
Cards to the family may be sent to:
346 Steele St
Monroeville, PA 15146-4656
Here from Jeff McSwain (national coordinator of the GCI-USA Intern Program) is a list from A to Z of practices that exemplify an incarnational-relational approach to ministry.
Appropriate with all relationships
Build a relationship as if you are going to know the person for the rest of your life
Do the unexpected (random acts of kindness, shoot a text just to let them know you are thinking about them)
Eye contact (don’t look over the shoulder of the person you’re talking with to scan for others)
Family (learn to see the person more and more in his/her family context)
Go wherever folks congregate (especially those disinterested in God)
Hi! Be the first to say hi. Initiate with people and see where the Spirit leads.
Identify without being identical (when confronted with questionable stuff, don’t condemn but don’t condone)
Joke around without sarcasm (avoid “one-upmanship” while building up)
Keep your word
Listen sincerely (don’t be leaning towards “the next thing”)
Make them the experts; find opportunities for them to teach you (very difficult when you’re not interested!)
Notice their achievements (be ready for “How did you know?” If it’s publicly available it’s not stalker-ish!)
Open-ended questions (“So tell me about the team this year, how’s it looking?” vs. “Is the team going to be good?”)
Pick up where you left off (“How is your grandmother doing?” “How did that science test go?”)
Quit while you’re ahead (before their awkward, “Uh, sorry, but I gotta go”)
Remember names (“A person’s name is the sweetest sound to them in any language.” – Dale Carnegie)
Show up just to see them and or support them (not to invite them to something) 90% of success is showing up!
Talk about what they are interested in
Understand before being understood (They don’t care how much you know ‘til they know how much you care!)
Vary levels of contact (see, talk, do, deepen—don’t underestimate the value of level one: simply being seen)
With-ness before witness (nothing communicates like consistent presence)
Xpert on your community (newspaper, websites; notice and attend community or school events)
Yearbook is your friend (use it to familiarize yourself with the school culture)
Zealous in prayer before, during and after (God is in charge—give him your successes and failures)
GCI’s church in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, recently celebrated their 15th anniversary as a congregation. They did so by reaching out to the community by conducting a medical mission. In partnership with two local agencies, they served 245 adults and children. Each participant received counseling, followed by assistance related to their identified physical, emotional and spiritual needs. All were fed a full meal. These interactions provided ample opportunity to pray with those being helped, and to share with them the gospel of Jesus. Many said that they felt encouraged, having found hope in the midst of their trials.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this letter I take a look at the GCI Board of Directors and then, at the end of the letter, share information about plans to relocate our Home Office.
Concerning the GCI Board, I’m often asked two related questions: “What does the GCI Board do?” and “Who are the GCI Board members?” I’ll answer both of these important questions here, hoping you find the answers both encouraging and informative.
What does the GCI Board do?
The GCI Board meets several times a year to set the budget, conduct the business affairs of our fellowship, maintain our doctrinal integrity, and serve as the mother board of the multiple boards of directors and trustees within GCI in various places around the world.
Though it doesn’t have a high public profile, the GCI Board is highly important. Its role is guided by the Corporations Code, with the Board operating according to Articles and Bylaws of Incorporation. The Articles, which are filed with the State, set forth basic matters for our church to operate within the law as a nonprofit religious organization. The Bylaws deal primarily with internal matters of church governance. For example, they require that the Board has no less than five and no more than fifteen people serving as Directors, and that the Directors be GCI ordained elders. Since we have nearly 900 congregations in 100 countries around the world, we also strive to ensure that the Board has an international flavor that reflects the diverse nature of our fellowship.
Who are the GCI Board members?
I’ll answer this question with pictures and short biographies of each of the current members of the GCI Board. I serve as Chairman of the Board, and since you likely are already acquainted with me and my wife Tammy, let’s begin with Dr. Russell Duke, who serves as Vice Chairman of the GCI Board.
Dr. Russell Duke
Dr. Russell Duke has been part of GCI since his parents became members of the Radio Church of God in 1953. Russell attended the denomination’s grade and high schools through 1966, then moved to Big Sandy, TX, to attend Ambassador College. He holds great memories of summers at camps in Big Sandy and Orr, MN, as a camper, counselor, and ski instructor.
In 1970 Russell married Phyllis Havens, from Lawton, OK. “The best thing to happen at Ambassador!” he says. The Dukes have two children, Chris and Tracy, and six grandchildren. Together they have directed music for Imperial Schools, and for church, festival and Ambassador College choirs. Most memorable was the six years directing the Young Ambassadors singing group in Big Sandy that performed in six tours of churches in the middle and eastern U.S. “Great relationships were built on those long trips.”
Russell pastored churches in Topeka, KS (1974-77) and Blue Springs, MO (1978-1984), before becoming a professor at Ambassador College in 1984. At Ambassador he served as an instructor, director of the Young Ambassadors, chair of the Theology department when the college became an accredited university, then president from 1995-1997. Following his time at Ambassador, Russell opened the Ambassador Center at Azusa Pacific University (APU), where he began splitting time between the church and university. He helped develop Grace Communion Seminary (GCS), serving as its President from 2008-2015. He continues serving GCS as Liaison Officer and professor.
Carn Catherwood was born in a small village in western Manitoba, Canada. When World War II began, Carn’s dad left the farm his grandfather had homesteaded in 1885, and enlisted in the Canadian Army. He contracted TB in England and was hospitalized for more than 20 years. Carn’s childhood was spent in St. Boniface, a small French-speaking city in Central Manitoba, where he became bilingual.
Carn was only 14 when he first heard Herbert Armstrong on the radio. “His dynamic analysis of the Bible and world news fascinated me.” Carn applied to Ambassador College in Pasadena and entered in 1957, only the second Canadian to attend. He spent his senior year at the Bricket Wood campus in England, and graduated there in 1961. In 1962 he married Joyce Sefcak from Taylor, TX. They have been blessed with three daughters and eight grandchildren.
Ordained a year after graduation, for the next 45 years Carn pastored or supervised churches in six U.S. states, and in Canada, Belgium, France, England and Italy, as well as parts of West Africa. He also taught Christian Leadership at Ambassador College for 14 years. Carn is presently retired, living in North Texas.
When the Church began its time of renewal in 1995, Joyce and Carn quickly saw the need for doctrinal change. As their understanding of the New Covenant continued to grow, they began to realize that a relationship with Jesus is at the heart of the Covenant and Jesus should be the center of our worship and our lives.
Dr. Charles Fleming
Dr. Charles Fleming, GCI overseer for our Caribbean churches, first learned about our church in 1967. As a member of his high school’s debate team, he was doing research for a debate and came across a copy of the Plain Truth and subscribed. Two years later he joined the church and then attended Ambassador College. After graduating in 1977, he was sent as an intern to Puerto Rico. Since then he has served as a pastor in Jamaica, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and currently serves as Mission Developer for the Caribbean.
During his internship in Puerto Rico, Charles met and married Carmen, the love of his life. Together they have three children: Robert, an engineer; Michelle, a math teacher; and Anne Marie, who works for the University of Central Florida. They consider themselves an “island family” with Charles born in Grenada; Carmen, Robert and Michelle born in Puerto Rico; and Anne born in Jamaica.
Charles says a highlight of his life has been the privilege of living through the remarkable renewal of an entire denomination. This has left him with a strong sense of just how much God is an active agent for change in our confused and confusing world. The remarkable transformation of a church, moving from extreme legalism to embracing unfathomable grace, has left him with a deep desire to help others know and experience the loving presence of the Triune God of grace. He sees our denomination as one of God’s ministries for doing just that.
Charles completed a doctorate in Missional Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he now works part time as an adjunct professor. He says his exposure to students who serve as missionaries in just about every country on earth has increased his appreciation for the ways God reaches out in love to people from every nation, tribe and even religion. Charles is able to bring to his region and all of GCI fresh insights he gains from the highly experienced missionaries in his classes.
Franklin (“Frank”) Guice was born September 1, 1938, and was named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The first five years of his life were spent in Pineland, TX, a lumber mill town not far from Big Sandy. His parents then moved the family to Wichita, KS, in pursuit of a better life. It was there that Frank received his basic public education. Brought up in the Baptist church in Wichita, Frank developed a love for music by singing in the choir with the adults. In the seventh grade he sang in a boy’s quartet and learned to appreciate harmonizing. It was in junior high that he developed a love for sports in general, and basketball in particular.
Taking a break in formal education, Frank joined the U.S. Navy and traveled through much of the western and eastern U.S., and many cities and countries in the Western Pacific region. After three years in the Navy, Frank returned to Wichita and found employment at the U.S. Post Office. It was there that he met and married the love of his life, Cora Scott. This year they will celebrate 55 years of “a really blessed union.” Cora and Frank were blessed with two children, Stephen and Stephanie, and a granddaughter Kayla Gibson (Stephanie’s child).
While in Wichita, Frank sensed God’s calling to the Church of God and had his love of learning rekindled. He attended Wichita State University for a semester and then Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1975. After graduation, Frank continued to study, taking classes at Los Angeles City College and Pasadena City College. After working for a couple of engineering firms, he returned to work for the U.S. government, working for the Treasury Department for 29 years. Frank retired in 2006 after working for the government a total of 43 years.
Frank feels it has been a life blessing to journey with others through the learning experience of the Worldwide Church of God and now Grace Communion International. He has been blessed to serve as a deacon and elder in our fellowship. Frank was selected to serve on the Ambassador College/University Board prior to serving on the GCI Board. He says it is an ongoing joy to worship with and serve in our worldwide fellowship, including his home congregation, New Hope Christian Fellowship, in Los Angeles. He appreciates his physical and spiritual families, realizing how much love there is in GCI when many brothers and sisters around the world prayed for him after learning of his illness many years ago through a prayer request in GCI Weekly Update.
Though now in physical decline, Frank rejoices in the spiritual health he has in Jesus Christ that continues to grow. “A growth that God makes possible for all of his children.”
Curtis May was born in Greensboro, AL, on November 3, 1944. After graduating from high school in 1963 as class president and valedictorian, he moved to Brooklyn, NY, and studied accounting at the Brooklyn Adult Vocational School. He later worked as a postman in the Church Street Station in Manhattan, NY. During the 70s his focus was on biblical studies. During that decade he attended Ambassador College and married his wife, Jannice Everett.
Curtis served in the pastoral ministry for 30 years in WCG congregations in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, MD; Norfolk, VA; Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA. He also taught at Imperial Schools and directed youth summer camps. In the early 2000s, he served as District Superintendent of the Southwest District.
In January 1996, Curtis was appointed Director of the Office of Reconciliation Ministries (ORM). He also is the editorial director of ORM’s newsletter Reconcile. He has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Alaska, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South America, the Caribbean, England, and Ireland to conduct ORM workshops. Curtis has received training at the Center of the Healing of Racism in Houston, TX, and is now a member of the Center as well as a member of the International Reconciliation Coalition. Curtis also is a member of the Board of Directors at African Enterprise, where he serves on the executive committee.
Curtis’ wife, Jannice, is Founder and President of Connecting and Bonding Inc., an organization that serves ministers’ wives. The Mays have two children: Angela Clark, a CPA; and Bradley May, a Corporal in the city of Pasadena Police Department; and two grandchildren: Jaden (age seven), and Bryce (age three).
Wendy Moore’s family began fellowshipping with the Worldwide Church of God when she was just beginning school in South Africa. In spite of the tensions and challenges in South Africa during those years, Wendy’s childhood was positive. “Attending SEP camp every year as a teen had a big impact on me. It was due to the example and encouragement of some camp volunteers from Ambassador College that I decided to travel the great distance to California to attend Ambassador College.”
Wendy stayed busy in college, taking advantage of the numerous opportunities presented. After graduating, she worked for the church for a number of years, got married, and became involved in service in a local church. This led to an opportunity for Wendy and her husband to be involved in pastoral ministry. They moved to the San Francisco, CA, area for a year of training, then returned to South Africa.
This period was characterized by the immense doctrinal changes that transformed our fellowship. “It was exciting, as we moved to a much more Christ-centered theology, with the strong focus on God’s triune nature we now have. During the trauma of that time, some leaders and a significant number of members chose to disassociate themselves from us.” Wendy went through the personal trauma of divorce during that time, but says, “The gift of a long-desired child of my own was a huge blessing from God in an otherwise dark time.”
Wendy had been working at the church office in Johannesburg, and with the departure of two of three employed elders, was asked to serve as the National Coordinator of our fellowship in South Africa. This was a very busy time in her life (being the single parent of a small child!), but a richly rewarding one as well. “We have some wonderful pastors and many dedicated and loving members in our 25 churches scattered throughout South Africa. It was a great pleasure working with, and serving them.”
Wendy’s role in the church required her attendance at the 2005 International Conference in California where she met Gary Moore. Within about a year they were married. Our Canadian churches loaned Gary to South Africa for a year of teaching and pastoral training. The newlyweds much enjoyed working together in ministry throughout the country. The year ended on Canada Day 2007, and Wendy and Gary moved back to Canada where he resumed his role as National Director, though initially retaining a link with South Africa serving there as a mission developer. Wendy now works closely with Gary, especially in the growing international mission work that GCI-Canada conducts. She has very much enjoyed getting to know the members in our Canadian churches, and deeply appreciates their generosity to help serve the cause of Christ wherever in the world the opportunity to do so presents itself.
Wendy says the doctrinal journey of our church has been one that has vastly enriched her understanding of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “As we live our lives in relationship with him, each day becomes an adventure. What a privilege to enter into his ministry to the world, and see him work with us and through us to benefit others!”
Mathew (“Mat”) Morgan, MBA, serves as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of both Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary where he is responsible for overseeing the financial, legal, accounting, human resources, IT, and facilities departments. He also serves as a Director and Secretary of the GCI Board.
Mat was born in rural Montana and spent his early years in Montana and South Dakota before moving to California to attend Ambassador College. There he met and married Pam, the love of his life. During their 28 years together they have been blessed with two children, Mathew (now a financial consultant) and Jessica (now an elementary school teacher).
Mat credits his parents, Richard and Edythe, for introducing him to God and church work. “Because of their desire to serve God and others, the Morgan house was always open for guests or even animals who needed help.” Richard and Edythe joined WCG when Mat was about five years old. In those early years, the family drove 250 miles each way to the nearest congregation or Bible study, either in Great Falls, MT, or Spokane, WA, depending on which direction had the better weather that day.
Mat has worked for GCI and GCS in various positions for more than 32 years. After receiving his MBA in 1994, he worked in both the legal and financial areas and has been in his current positions since 2005. He counts it a privilege to have worked for the church during its challenging years of transition because he has seen God’s hand in the journey and has “served with some of the most wonderful people in the world.” He looks forward to what God has in store for GCI in the years ahead. “Following God’s lead has never been boring or easy, but it has always been filled with an overall sense of peace and joy that can only be explained through the presence of God along the way.”
Celestine J. Holman Olive
Celestine (“Cella”) Olive was born in Houston, TX, to a Navy veteran, Daniel Holman, and a Baptist, gospel and blues pianist, Vera Levy Pittman (both born in East Texas). She has 10 living siblings (the eldest died as an infant) of which she is the third oldest. Her father began listening to Herbert Armstrong on radio in the early 50s and the family started attending festivals in Big Sandy, TX, when she was seven years old. “There was no congregation in Houston at that time.” Cella was baptized at age 19 in the Houston congregation.
Cella met Leonard Olive Jr. of Compton, CA, in the late 60s when their respective families were attending a festival in Big Sandy. During her senior year in high school she began working part-time in a vocational training program for NASA/Manned Spacecraft Center (now NASA/Johnson Space Center). She was hired full-time upon graduating high school and worked there until leaving home and moving to Pasadena, CA, in 1971 to live with her sister and long-time duet partner, Linda Morgan, who had earlier moved from Houston to Pasadena. She and Leonard began dating and eventually married in January 1973. They have two sons, Phillip Olive, Eric Olive (married to Michele) and three grandsons, Trenton, Eric II and Cameron, all of whom are baptized members of GCI.
Cella was ordained a deaconess in 1991. Over the many years of her membership she has served on the Pastoral Advisory Council for three pastors, and for seven of those years served as Church Treasurer. She was ordained an elder in 2007 and commissioned as an Assistant Pastor in New Hope Christian Fellowship, which currently meets in Eagle Rock, CA, where she presently serves with Pastor Glen Weber on the financial team. She also facilitates the New Hope Women’s Fellowship meetings. Cella has enjoyed being involved in music most of her life, having studied piano and voice with both private and university instructors. She serves as the Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministry at New Hope and has been conductor of the New Hope Praise Choir for the past 17 years.
Celestine began working for GCI full-time in various capacities in 1996. She presently works in the Accounting Department as Supervisor of Member Services and Cash Accounting. She was invited by GCI President Joseph Tkach to become a member of the GCI Board and began serving in January 2015.
Norman Smith was born on the family farm near Burnt Prairie, in Southern Illinois on February 18, 1930. He lived there until at age 20 he left to attend Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA. Norman’s wife, Charlene also enrolled in Ambassador in 1950. They began dating in their sophomore year and married in their senior year. Their daughter, Deborah, was born in 1954, their first son, Kevan in 1956, and son Kyle in 1960. The Smiths have two grandchildren.
Norman was baptized in 1950, and has served the church in various capacities ever since. He began working in the church’s recording studio in 1951, which soon turned into a full time job that continued during his last two years of college. He was made director of the broadcasting studio in 1952, and after graduation in 1954, became manager of the church’s radio and television production facilities. He was ordained an elder in 1955, regularly giving sermons to various congregations in Southern California.
As an associate member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the Audio Engineering Society, and the Acoustical Engineering Society at the time the Ambassador Auditorium was being designed, he played an important role in the design of the lighting and sound system in the Auditorium. He obtained a master’s degree in management science from West Coast University, Los Angeles in 1976, and later completed a Master of Science Counseling Psychology program at California State University, San Bernardino in 1993 to facilitate counseling and training in the areas of alcoholism, addiction, and child abuse.
In 1976, Norman was assigned to pastor the Chico, CA, congregation and be the Area Coordinator for ministers in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. In 1980, the Smiths were transferred to San Diego—Norman’s first pastorate with no other responsibilities. The couple then transferred to the San Bernardino congregation in 1987. Norman thrived in his pastoral responsibilities, delighting in performing weddings, anointing and praying for people and seeing God bless and protect them through their trials. He delighted in counseling with people, seeing them develop a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and make changes in their relationships with others. His “pastor’s heart” always led him to be alert to people’s needs and find innovative ways to help them.
Norman stated in a 1994 interview, “I attempt to look at both the great progress the church has made since I have been a part of it and also admit the mistakes which have seriously hindered some people’s ability to see the love of Jesus Christ. Admitting the mistakes does not mean to dwell on them. But, admitting the mistakes is a form of reaching out to those who have been hindered and have faltered.” Norman retired in 2005 and has served as Assistant Pastor in the Eugene, OR, congregation to the present. He was a member of the church’s Advisory Council of Elders for several years and has served on the GCI Board since January 2015.
Concluding thoughts and an announcement
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Board members. Perhaps you were pleasantly surprised to learn who serves on the GCI Board. I wish all of you could share in the privilege I feel working with these talented women and men—each is an inspiration to me, and I’m proud they all serve as Board members. I think it’s the most qualified Board we’ve ever had in our history as a denomination. Three of our Board members have doctorates, two have MBAs, three are internationals, and two have histories that reach back to our Radio Church of God days, where they had daily contact with Herbert Armstrong. Our Board has been through it all!
As a Board, we spend a lot of time praying for all of you, and I invite you to pray for all of us—joining us as prayer warriors on behalf of GCI and our mission of living and sharing the gospel. Regarding that mission, we’re always looking for ways to be as effective as possible in using the resources that God provides. Toward that end, our management team, for the last several months, has been carefully analyzing options for moving our Home Office (currently located in Glendora, CA) to a location that would serve our needs better in terms of cost to the denomination and to our Home Office employees (including providing more affordable housing).
Just this morning (August 25), after months of prayerful deliberation, the GCI Board met, concluding that we should proceed to implement plans to relocate the Home Office to a yet-to-be-determined location in North Carolina. I ask for you to join us in praying about this important move (and the many details involved). Please read what I have to say about the move in my September letter to GCI donors—you’ll find it online at https://www.gci.org/letter/1609. We’ll keep you informed as additional details emerge.
Your brother in Christ,