GCI Update

Tribute to Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson lecture at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington sponsored by the Seattle Pacific University Image Journal
Greg and Susan Williams

Almost one year ago, on October 22, 2018, the Christian community lost scholar, pastor, and Bible translator, Eugene Peterson. Peterson was a pillar for the Christian community and at age 85 he completed his “long obedience in the same direction.” Christianity Today interviewed eight different leaders to offer their reflections about Eugene. See the comments from Trygve Johnson below.

Pastoral ministry is serious, consequential work.

I first heard the name Eugene Peterson in college. My chaplain, after listening to me wrestle with a sense of calling, squinted like a doctor making a diagnosis, pulled a book from his shelf, and handed me The Contemplative Pastor. “Read this!” he said. I did. In Eugene’s words, I found a vision for pastoral life I had always hoped existed but did not know how to articulate.

Years later Eugene befriended me. He had recently retired to Montana. I was a young aspiring pastor, and he took me on, inviting me into a mentoring relationship through letters, conversations, books, and pilgrimages to Flathead Lake. This invitation changed my life and my ministry.

Eugene gave me a vision and a language for who I could be as a pastor. He restored honor and dignity to the calling of the pastor. Eugene revived a vision of a pastor as someone serious, intelligent, savvy, creative, playful, and prophetic. Eugene encouraged those in ministry to resist the seductive sirens of the pragmatic pastor, in favor of a ministry animated by the patient and cruciform witness of a long obedience in the same direction.

Through this encouragement, Eugene pulled me into a larger world of consequence. His words and vision helped me see and experience the wide-open country of salvation. Here, Eugene invited me to explore the geography of the Trinity, which expanded my imagination and bent my reason back into shape. The use of cliché or paint-by-numbers theology was unworthy of the work. The pastor, Eugene counseled, required a charged imagination, an earthy piety, with a double shot of humor! He showed me that a ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God was a more interesting place to spend the day.

The key to this larger world was the Bible. Eugene showed me how to read with a scriptural imagination. He taught me that the goal of reading Scripture was not to know more, but to become more. His great lesson was that Scripture had everything to do with the neighborhood, because the neighborhood is where Christ shows up.

Maybe Eugene’s greatest legacy on my ministry was that he taught me to love by simply loving me. Eugene gave me time. He always wrote back. He never refused a call. He always welcomed me into his home. Never was I treated as an abstraction or a project to solve. He treated me as a friend. He showed me that healthy ministry requires, even demands, relationships where we can be known and understood.

Receiving the news of Eugene’s death feels like what the Fellowship of the Ring in the Tolkien novel of the same name must have experienced when they lost Gandalf. What do you do when your guide is gone? But Eugene taught us well, for he reminded us to practice resurrection. And so we carry the Message on! — Trygve Johnson, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College


What a testimony. Eugene Peterson impacted scores of people with his life-on-life style of mentoring and friendship. He instructed and mentored even more through his prolific writing.

Certain lines stuck out in Johnson’s tribute. “Ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God” is such a brilliant way of characterizing the context of pastoral ministry. It is finding the rhythm and dance steps that allow us to commune with Father, Son, and Spirit, while experiencing the peace, purpose and passion that flows from the divine relationship. It is joining in with what God is doing within our sphere of life and entering this divine participation that penetrates the human realm.

“Reading the Bible with a Scriptural imagination” is another choice line. As pastors and ministry leaders we don’t approach the scriptures with a clinical mindset attempting to exegete properly with the sole purpose of constructing a sermon. The Bible is God’s inspired word to us and ultimately points us to an engagement with the Living Word – Jesus. The words of the Bible should wash over us afresh each time we read the ancient words, and our imaginations should be re-ignited.

The final line that I want to highlight is “Scripture has everything to do with the neighborhood.” Pastoral ministry must navigate out from the private study, out from the sanctuary, and into the streets of the neighborhood. The Bible clearly communicates human nature and all its pitfalls; it communicates a broken world in need of deliverance, and ultimately it communicates about the Savior who is uniquely drawing all humanity unto himself and is in the process of redeeming all that is broken. This is the story that rings true for all peoples, in all places, at all times, and it needs to be proclaimed in all neighborhoods.

Thank you, Eugene Peterson, for a life well-lived, with long obedience in the same direction. And thank you GCI pastors for your long obedience in the direction toward Jesus and his eternal kingdom.

Greg Williams

P.S. In addition to The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson has contributed an entire series of books that help to guide and influence pastors in a true course. Here are a few titles of his books that are “must-reads” for any pastor who takes his/her calling seriously.

The Contemplative Pastor
Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
The Unnecessary Pastor
The Pastor: A Memoir


Featured image credit: Eugene Peterson lecture at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington, sponsored by the Seattle Pacific University Image Journal, by Clappstar via Wikimedia Commons.

Devotional – Love All, Serve All

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Anyone who has feasted at the griddle of one of the 185 Hard Rock Cafés across the globe, could not help noticing their slogan, “Love All – Serve All” emblazoned across the wall in huge gold letters.

Personally speaking, I prefer the soft tinkle of a baby grand to loud rock music when I’m eating out, but I admire the HRC’s philanthropic aim to “do well by doing good” even though the cynic in me says it’s just a slick marketing ploy.

God, on the other hand, demonstrated true love and service for the whole of mankind when he sent his Son to die in our place. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

The mission statement on the Hard Rock Café’s website ends with this message: “Thank you for helping us in our goal to make the Earth a safer, healthier and better place.”  An ambitious and worthwhile mission, certainly, but Jesus had an even grander plan: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”  (John 10:10, MSG).

Jesus’ mission really rocks!

Prayer: Father we thank you that you truly love all and serve all and that you demonstrated this love in the only way that could save us from ourselves; by sending your Son Jesus Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.


By Peter Mill
Edinburgh, Scotland

We Are GCI Series | Richard Bolner

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI leaders and members are highlighted.
In this episode, Richard Bolner, GCI Pastor of Tipp City, Ohio, shares a little about himself and why he likes to serve in GCI and his love for bluegrass music.

North American & Caribbean Community of Practice

On September 20-23, GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, joined Michael Rasmussen (Superintendent of North America and the Caribbean), Bill and Averil Hall (National Director of Canada) and Robert and Tanya McKinney (future Regional Director of the Caribbean) for their first Community of Practice (CoP) meeting. This was the first opportunity these individuals have had to gather together face to face to discuss the vision of GCI and how to best implement and share it with those they oversee. The meetings took place in Nassau, Bahamas, just three weeks after the category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Islands. Nassau experienced some high winds and some flooding but escaped the worst of the storm.

Left to Right: GCI Canada National Director Bill Hall, Averil Hall, GCI President Greg Williams, Susan Williams, Caribbean National Director Robert McKinney, Tania McKinney, North American Superintendent Michael Rasmussen, and Juli Rasmussen

These meetings began on Friday morning with Dr. Williams giving a presentation on GCI’s structure and vision. His presentation generated good flow and alignment for the rest of the meetings. Michael Rasmussen followed with a presentation on Team-Based / Pastor-Led and what it looks like for a congregation to be healthy with multiple layers of mentored leaders who are positioned and freed up to serve in various areas of ministry.

Bill Hall gave a report on how things are progressing within Canada and some of the challenges they are facing. Robert McKinney followed by sharing some of the challenges they face in the Caribbean, with congregations spread across numerous islands with different cultural backgrounds and where different languages are spoken. We discussed what we mean when we use terms like Healthy Pastors / Healthy Churches as well as the Faith, Love and Hope Venues. Time was provided for all participants to share and to dream about what God is doing within our denomination and to pray for one another as we join him in what he is already doing.

Mike Rasmussen, Greg Williams, and GCI members who survived Hurricane Dorian pose outside for a photo in Nassau, Bahamas.
President Greg Williams and North American Director Mike Rasmussen meet the GCI members who survived Hurricane Dorian.

On Saturday, we all gathered for worship services. Due to the storms, there were regular power outages throughout Nassau. It was amazing to see the members adapt so quickly to the outage by moving the chairs and lectern near a glass door where light from the sun was shining in. The temperatures and humidity were extremely high, but the warm hearts and passionate attitudes of the members were even higher. It was wonderful to worship together with brothers and sisters from a different part of the world. We had the privilege of meeting some of our members who lived on Abaco and the Grand Bahamas who had survived the hurricane. All had lost their homes and earthly possessions, but they were still smiling and praising their Lord and Savior for sparing their lives. Their stories of God’s deliverance were inspiring and hair raising at the same time. Lots of help will be needed in Abaco and the Grand Bahamas, and GCI is coming alongside our local leaders to help where the need is the greatest. I have no doubt, these joy-filled, faithful brothers and sisters will rebuild and will continue to live their lives to the fullest in order to be a light to their communities and bring glory to God.

Left to Right: GCI President Greg Williams, Tania McKinney, Caribbean National Director Robert McKinney, North American Superintendent Michael Rasmussen, Averil Hall, and GCI Canada National Director Bill Hall

On Sunday morning, we once again gathered for worship, this time with no power outages. Greg Williams and Michael Rasmussen shared a sermon message and then commissioned Robert McKinney as the next Regional Director for the Caribbean. Greg Williams ordained Natania McKinney as an Elder. There was great rejoicing for what God is doing within our denomination.

On Monday we wrapped up our meetings with a time of reflection on what God has been doing and how we can be more strategic in joining him. We shared with one another some best practices our next steps in spreading the vision and the excitement of what God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are doing within Grace Communion International.

In Christ,
Michael Rasmussen

Photos by Averil Hall/McPhedran Phocus

Incorporating the Bertrams Congregation into GCI

I am excited to announce that last Sunday we formally incorporated Bertrams congregation as a GCI congregation! Bertrams was started by Pastor Gideon, who emigrated to Canada a few years ago. He then joined GCI in Canada, and recommended that the church he planted in Bertrams, Johannesburg, South Africa must join GCI as he left them without any structural support. We thank God for the blessing of coming together with them in the ministry of Christ.


We installed Pastor Issa Kwigomba as the Lead Pastor of the Bertrams congregation. We had over 140 people in attendance during the service to celebrate the incorporation of the congregation into GCI. We were also celebrating two baptisms, and we shared a meal afterward. In Bertrams, I experienced a Healthy Church. They are missional, generous, loving, caring, with an excellent mix of children, youth and adults. Their Love, Hope and Faith venues are strong. I had a very blessed time of fellowship with them.


Kind Regards,
Margaret Musekwa

GCI 2020 Denominational Celebration

Save the Date!

Main sessions run July 29 – August 2, additional registration dates available before and after the main celebration sessions.