The two videos embedded below show segments of the Passing of the Baton worship service held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday, October 14, 2018. For a third video that addresses the lead-up to this historic change in GCI’s presidency, click here.
Joseph Tkach’s Legacy
In this video, several GCI leaders recount key contributions made by Joseph Tkach during his tenure as GCI President:
We are thanking God that no GCI members were injured or experienced significant property damage due to hurricane Michael, which recently ravaged parts of Florida and Georgia. Please continue praying for all who experienced loss and continue to suffer.
This week we break with our “from the President” format to report on the ceremony held on October 14, 2018 in Charlotte, NC, where Dr. Joseph Tkach passed the baton of GCI’s presidency to Dr. Greg Williams. The report below was written by GCI-USA Regional Pastor Rick Shallenberger. For additional information about this historic occasion, click on the links at right. —Ted Johnston, GCI Update editor
Never in my 58 years with WCG/GCI have I experienced a smoother, more meaningful transition in leadership. The honor given to Joseph and Tammy Tkach at the Passing of the Baton ceremony was equaled only by the support shown to Greg and Susan Williams.
The ceremony included presentations recounting the journey of change GCI experienced under Joseph Tkach’s capable leadership. Russell Duke (Vice Chair of GCI’s Board of Directors) provided an overview of the Tkach presidency. Michael Morrison (GCS Dean of Faculty) then gave a brief history of how Grace Communion Seminary began. That was followed by a presentation in which Celestine Olive (GCI Board Member) recounted how GCI’s teaching regarding women in ministry changed. Ted Johnston (GCI Publications Editor) then reviewed the process by which the denomination’s name was changed to Grace Communion International and the significance of the new name. Gary Deddo (GCS President) then addressed GCI’s journey of embracing incarnational Trinitarian theology. These presenters were then followed by President Tkach (pictured below) who addressed the significance and process of passing the baton of GCI’s presidency to Greg Williams.
Following the passing of the baton (see above), Greg (below) addressed the audience, speaking about the way forward for GCI and his excitement concerning how the Father, Son and Spirit are leading our journey. The special worship service was concluded with Communion and a benediction as one era of GCI ended and a new one began.
It’s hard to capture in words the wonder of what was a very special day. Hopefully, the pictures provided with this report, and the videos linked at left will help. Note as well the comments below from GCI denominational leaders who were in attendance.
Traveling from afar, it was a real privilege to be part of the Passing of the Baton service. From the call to worship, to the benediction given by Greg Williams, it was a very inspiring service. The choir and the worship set a wonderful atmosphere where speakers outlined events and accomplishments during Dr. Tkach’s tenure. The Communion service, led by Joseph and Tammy Tkach together with Greg and Susan Williams, summed up the love, unity and peace of Christ that encompassed the whole event. —Daphne Sydney (Assistant National Director, GCI-Australia)
It was an honor to attend the presidential transition ceremony. It was a living example of how peaceful, pleasant and yet profound leadership change can be when directed by the Holy Spirit. It was an example for any organization, large or small, of how such things can and should be done. Kudos to those involved, particularly Joseph Tkach for his willingness to pass the baton of GCI leadership with such humility, grace… and humor! —Randy Bloom (Regional Pastor, GCI-USA)
The best way to describe the passing of leadership from Joseph to Greg is to picture the orange, yellow and red glow of the horizon as the sun sets. After you take a few seconds with your eyes closed, enjoying the scene, you open them only to magically see the first ray of sun piercing the morning sky followed by the canvas of light bringing in a new day. It was a majestic moment for GCI. —Jeffrey Broadnax (National Coordinator, GCI-USA Generations Ministries)
The Passing of the Baton service was very moving—a powerful testimony to the grace in Joseph Tkach’s empowering servant leadership. We are seeing the future with excitement and are inspired to participate in this chapter of the GCI journey, fully supporting Greg’s leadership. It is great to be GCI! —Eugene Guzon (Mission Developer, GCI-Philippines)
Often in the past, passing the baton ceremonies felt like a pause in the race, with a stumbling restart and often a change in direction. On October 14, I saw no misstep or break in stride. The direction of the race is clear and the momentum earned by the outgoing president clearly carries over to the incoming president. —Tim Sitterley (Regional Pastor, GCI-USA)
It was exciting to be present at the beginning of this new chapter in GCI. I’ve appreciated the leadership of Joseph Tkach in getting us to this place in our history. I’m sure that I speak for all the Canadian members of GCI when I say that we look forward to the future under the leadership of Greg Williams. —Bill Hall (National Director, GCI-Canada)
To the household of GCI around the world, you can be well pleased with the love, grace and dignity that permeated this moving occasion of historic significance in our fellowship. We cannot underestimate the value of the years of service and sacrifice of outgoing President Joseph Tkach and his wife, Tammy, who were honored and celebrated in thanksgiving. Then Greg and Susan Williams were launched into the new role with personal love and enthusiasm and a swell of uplifting support. To God be the glory! —Rod Matthews (retired Mission Developer, Southern Asia and South Pacific)
Our members in Europe salute Joseph and Tammy Tkach for the wonderful job they have done in our fellowship, and celebrate the smooth transition to Greg and Susan Williams. Our gratitude goes to them for the inspiration they give our churches around the world—merci beaucoup, muchas gracias, muito obrigrado, dank u zeer, vielen Dank, mange tak, grazie mille, tusen takk, Благодаря ти много, tak så mycket, Ευχαριστώ πολύ, большое спасибо вам—thanks so much! —James Henderson (Mission Developer, Europe/UK)
It was a privilege to attend the worship service, including the transition ceremony in which Joseph Tkach passed the baton symbolic of the role of President of GCI to Greg Williams. Joseph has been used to provide stability and doctrinal direction for us through the most turbulent waters. For me, he has been an empowering and supportive leader and friend for whom I have the deepest respect. It was wonderful to witness the peaceful transition to Greg’s faithful, passionate leadership. —Gary Moore (retired Mission Developer, GCI-Canada)
I am humbled and honored to receive the baton as GCI’s fourth president. I have many memories from that day and felt overwhelming support from all who were present. One experience that was especially meaningful was the support from my family—all my children and grandchildren were in attendance. My younger brother Mark and his family came along to show support as well. Mark has not been an active member of GCI for the last 27 years, and he intentionally approached Joseph Tkach to congratulate him on the monumental changes that have occurred in GCI over the 23 years of his presidency. Those changes include the move to orthodoxy, the inclusion of women into ordained positions as church elders, the name change to Grace Communion International, the addition of Grace Communion Seminary and Ambassador College of Christian Ministry, immersion into incarnational Trinitarian theology, and the move from a corporate sole advisory board of directors to a governing board. What a strong foundation to build from going forward! —Greg Williams (GCI President)
Here is the bulletin from the Passing of the Baton service:
Here is a biography with an overview of the life of newly-commissioned GCI President Dr. Greg Williams.
Greg entered pastoral ministry in 1986 with his wife Susan at his side. The couple served various congregations while raising three sons: Glenn, Garrett and Gatlin. Glenn then married Crystal and Garrett married Marlo, and today Greg and Susan are the proud grandparents of Emory, and twin brother and sister Braxton and Ellison. Here is a picture of Greg (in the gray suit) with Susan and other members of the family to Greg’s left:
Concerning family and ministry, Greg said this:
I’ve always taken seriously the scriptural teaching of Paul for an elder to manage well his home if he or she is going to manage one of the churches of God. My marriage is not perfect and neither are my children, but by the grace of God we have been deeply blessed and experience incredible love within our family circle. My most memorable moments were the privileged times when I baptized my three sons and experienced the pride and sense of release as I handed each of them over to the eternal care of their heavenly Father.
Greg notes that his preparation for GCI’s presidency has been a learning process involving various leadership roles. Within GCI, Greg has been a pastor, festival coordinator, GenMins national coordinator, Intern Program coordinator, regional pastor, director of Church Administration and Development, and GCI vice president. Greg also worked for ten years with Youth for Christ, an international para-church youth ministry organization where, according to Greg,
I was exposed to cross-denominational ministry, and actively engaged in youth evangelism. I remained connected to and active in GCI during those years, while gaining rich experience that helped shape me for the role I now fill as GCI’s fourth president.
Greg’s academic preparation included a earning a B.A. from Ambassador College, an M.A. from Liberty University, and a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University (where his thesis centered on cultivating interns for Christian ministry).
One of Greg’s strengths as a GCI pastor was in mentoring young leaders. Many current GCI elders, ministry leaders and lead pastors have been personally mentored by Greg. The formalizing GCI’s internship program and the development of Journey with the Master (a curriculum for helping young adults identify their gifts and discern their calling) are additional evidence of Greg’s passion for incarnational ministry. His commitment to raising up leaders ties in with what Greg enjoys most about ministry leadership:
I enjoy seeing people coming alive in Jesus and then seeing how they blossom in that growing relationship. There is nothing more enjoyable than being in community with people who know Jesus and are growing in his amazing grace and knowledge.
When asked what he enjoys most about being part of GCI, Greg said:
I enjoy the national and international relationships of some of the most interesting, loving and diverse people across God’s green earth. As Joseph Tkach Sr. often said, “We are family!” And I love the GCI family.
According to Greg, commitments to relationship and community shape his leadership style:
I refuse to engage in the mission Jesus has given us apart from the company of others, and I am pleased with the amazing people that God has placed on our team.
In keeping with his team-based leadership style, Greg is committed to aligning GCI leaders around the globe with structures and systems that position GCI for becoming the best expression of the church of Jesus Christ it can be—a vision for GCI he sums up with the phrase Healthy Church.
In late September, 34 GCI members (pictured above) from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, gathered in Tickfaw, LA, for Resting in Jesus—a spiritual formation retreat facilitated by Dr. Larry Hinkle and Gracie Johnson of Odyssey in Christ (OIC). It was the third OIC retreat held in that part of the GCI-USA Southeast Region. Here are comments from participants:
What greater desire could any of us have but to deepen and strengthen our relationship with God? For two days I left everything behind and came with an open heart to hear from God. He spoke and I listened as his grace, love and presence became real. (Michael Horchak)
My wife and I left the Resting in Jesus spiritually rejuvenated. The way Larry and Gracie conducted it was awesome. The Spirit of God was clearly present from the outset! We know the Spirit is always in and around us, but setting up the atmosphere and tone to contact and commune with our Lord is vital and so often neglected in our personal relationship with God. I was deeply touched and plan to participate again. (Rannie Childress)
Resting in Jesus was a new idea for me, but I was soon able to see the impact it has on those who practice what the retreat taught. It does take practice to know Jesus more fully. Prayer was emphasized—its importance and impact on our lives and on those we pray for. I’m now able to pray with more depth. I’m learning to listen to Jesus in prayer, and through listening, learning the importance of obeying. Obeying then opens the door to closer relationship with our Lord, which helps us listen even more attentively as we realize how much we are loved, wanted, accepted and included. (Walt Baudoin)
Back at my home church after the retreat, I asked those who attended to share their experiences. As a group we’ve attended many retreats: Women of Faith, Promise Keepers, Walk to Emmaus and Kairos, among others. But as one of the members who attended Resting in Jesus said, this one was truly “transformational.” “Rest in Jesus” focused on rekindling our spiritual flame and it was awesome! Thank you Larry and Gracie for sharing your gift with us! (Anthony Rice)
Resting in Jesus allowed me to move away from day-to-day concerns and distractions and become energized, establishing new spiritual disciplines that are proven and effective. The retreat topics were relevant to all who attended. I drew especially on The Spirituality of Aging and The Sacrament of the Present Moment. I also appreciated one called Wasting Time with Jesus—I have found it to be a great help. (Dave Huffman)
This week’s “From the President” is by GCI Vice President, Greg Williams.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I’m sure we all pray that our non-Christian loved ones—family, friends, neighbors and coworkers—will give God a chance. Each of them has a viewpoint concerning God, but is the God they envision the triune God revealed in Jesus? How can we help them come to know that God in a deeply personal way? How can we help them respond to King David’s invitation in Psalm 34:8 to “Taste and see that the Lord is good”? This is no marketing gimmick—David is referencing the profound truth that God makes himself known to anyone who searches for him. He is inviting us to a robust, life-changing encounter with God—one that engages every dimension of our human existence!
Taste that the Lord is good
Taste? Yes! Experiencing the complete goodness of God is like having delicious food or drink roll over your tongue. Think of rich dark chocolate melting slowly, or perfectly aged red wine puddling on your tongue. Or think of tasting a center cut of tender meat, seasoned with the perfect blend of salt and spice. A similar thing happens when we come to know the God revealed in Jesus. We want the delightful taste of his goodness to linger and last!
Meditating on the richness of the triune God’s nature and the complexities of his ways arouses hunger for the things of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6). When we come to know God personally, we long for righteousness—for good and right relationships—just like God does. Especially when things are bad, that desire is so intense that it hurts as if we were starving or dying of thirst. We see that intensity in Jesus’ ministry to those around him and in his anguish over those who reject God. We see it in his desire to reconcile relationships—especially our relationship with his heavenly Father. Jesus, God’s Son, came to give us that good and fulfilling right relationship with God—to share in God’s work of making all relationships right. Jesus himself is the bread of life who fills our deep hunger and hope for good and right relationships. Taste that the Lord is good!
See that the Lord is good
See? Yes! It is through our sense of sight that we behold beauty and perceive shape, distance, movement and color. Think of how frustrating it is when something we long for is blocked from sight. Think of an avid bird-watcher hearing the sound of a long-sought-for rare species, who is unable to see it. Or the frustration of trying to navigate through an unfamiliar darkened room at night. Then consider this: How can we experience the goodness of a God who is invisible and transcendent? That question reminds me of what Moses, perhaps a bit frustrated, said to God: “Show me your glory,” to which God replied: “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you” (Ex. 33:18-19).
The Hebrew word translated glory is kabod. Originally meaning weight, it came to be used to refer to the shining forth (for all to see and enjoy) of the totality of who God is—all his goodness, holiness and uncompromising faithfulness. As we behold the glory of God, all hiddenness is removed and we see that our triune God truly is good, and that his ways are always right. In the glory of his righteousness and justice, God is committed to making all things right. Our God of peace and life-giving love is opposed to all evil and has guaranteed that evil has no future. In his glory, the triune God shines forth, revealing his essence and presence—the fullness of his merciful and righteous grace. The light of God’s glory shines in our darkness and reveals the radiance of his beauty. See that the Lord is good.
An unfolding journey
Coming to know the triune God is not like hurriedly consuming a fast-food meal or casually viewing a three-minute video clip. Coming to know the God revealed in Jesus Christ involves having the blinders stripped from our eyes, and the taste restored to our mouths. It involves being miraculously healed to see and taste God for who he truly is. Our unaided senses are far too weak and damaged to apprehend the fullness and glory of our transcendent, holy God. This healing is a life-long gift and task—a miraculous, unfolding journey of discovery. It’s like a lengthy meal that involves the explosion of tastes over multiple courses, with each surpassing the previous one. It’s like a compelling mini-series with myriad segments—you can binge-watch it without ever growing tired or bored.
Though an unfolding journey, coming to know the triune God in all his glory has a focal point—what we see and behold in the person of Jesus. As Immanuel (God with us), he is the Lord God become visible and touchable flesh. Jesus became one of us and took up residence with us. By paying attention to him as he is presented in Scripture, we discover the one who is “full of grace and truth” and we behold the “glory” of “the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14, ESV). Although “no one has ever seen God… the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18). To see God as he truly is, we need look no further than the Son!
Go and tell
Psalm 34 paints a picture of the God who is good, just, loving and personal—the God who wants his children to experience his presence and goodness, and who delivers them from evil. It tells of a God who is so real that our lives are forever transformed and our hearts, like Moses, yearn for him and his ways. This is the triune God to whom we introduce our loved ones. As followers of Jesus, we are called to share in our Lord’s ministry of evangelism—sharing the gospel (good news) that the Lord truly is a good God. For GCI resources to assist you in your ministries of evangelism, click here and here.
Tasting, seeing and telling that the Lord is good,
PS: In the United States and some other countries, October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I want to extend my personal thanks to the fine men and women who give so generously of their time, talent and treasure in pastoring our congregations around the world. I also want to encourage all our congregations to show their appreciation to their pastor and to their pastor’s spouse.
PPS: The next issue of GCI Update will be published on October 24.
Chula Vista Resort and Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, WI, was home to more than 350 people attending EngageGCI 2018. With the theme, “The Great Invitation,” the event pursued faith, family and fellowship through general and breakout sessions, plus activities for all ages that included meet-and-greet, senior’s luncheon, praise café, family fun night, midnight church (for teens and young adults) and bowling. The event ended with a worship service on Sunday.
One of the highlights of EngageGCI 2018 was the opportunity to reconnect with friends and make new ones within the GCI family. As one attendee noted, “I enjoyed the company, the reunion and comradery.” To enhance the opportunity to connect, breakout sessions began immediately after morning devotions and just before general sessions. Doing so provided lots of free time for family and friends to fellowship. Here are pictures from the event (click on each to enlarge):
This announcement is from GCI-USA Regional Pastor Randy Bloom.
I’m happy to announce that Timothy Brassell, Lead Pastor of GCI’s Baltimore, MD, congregation, will also be serving as Assistant Regional Pastor for the GCI-USA East Region. Tim has God-given gifts and experiences that will enable him to assist me in various ways as we, through support and supervision, help the pastoral leaders in our region pursue GCI’s healthy church vision. Congratulations Tim!
An important event in GCI history will occur in a worship service to be held on October 14 in Charlotte, NC. In this setting of worship, we’ll be celebrating Dr. Joseph Tkach’s many years of service to our denomination, and the installation of Dr. Greg Williams as GCI’s new President (Dr. Tkach will continue as GCI Board Chairman). In the video below, Greg interviews Joseph concerning his tenure as GCI President and the preparations that have led to the passing of the GCI presidency baton to Greg. That weekend, we’ll also celebrate the retirement of a few other GCI leaders—we’ll include pictures and additional details in a special issue of GCI Update published on October 24. Thanks for your prayers concerning this event, including safe, trouble-free travel for those attending, some from overseas.