GCI Update

Biblical View of Racism

Hands placed over an open bible
Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The interracial and international makeup of Grace Communion International is a blessing and a strength of our fellowship. As I hear and read about the controversies between the “black church” and the “white church” in America, I am pleased that we have ongoing dialogue internally as a GCI family that cares about one another.

As President, I must continually pay attention to ways that the church is being challenged and then prayerfully consider how we move forward. Thankfully, I have a wonderful team of people around me who help me with the multitude of issues. Just as I ask our pastors to be “Team-Based, Pastor-Led,” I seek to be “Team-Based, President-Led.”

I recently asked one of my team members, Dr. Gary Deddo, to write some helpful thoughts on the topic of racism as we see it addressed in Scripture. See his thoughts below.

What does biblical revelation contribute to the concern regarding the evil of racism?

What biblical revelation offers out of its incarnational and trinitarian center can be summed up in four points.

  1. Biblical revelation sheds strong light on this form (and all forms) of evil. It does so by locating all sin—including racism—in the most comprehensive context there is. That context, that reality, is the history of humanity’s need for our Triune God’s redemption through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. That history reaches back to the beginning of created time and out to the future of eternity. In contemporary terms, the whole of biblical revelation provides us a complete story of humanity’s individual and collective brokenness—from its founding to its redeemed culmination. It is a history of all peoples, of all the families of the nations. By God’s grace, we have been given a metanarrative that includes the histories of all particular individuals, peoples, and nations. It is a story of our Creator and Redeemer’s redemption and, as such, is a story of true hope.
  2. Biblical revelation centered in Christ tells us what is wrong with our world and so with racism. It does not offer a superficial, biased, or naive view of any evil, including racism. It does not merely expose the symptoms of evil, but the root, the source of any evil including that of racism. Evil is rooted in our distrust and alienation from God. After being tempted by the evil one, humanity rejected a personal relationship with God. Evil is rooted in the lie that we don’t need God and we don’t need to be in relationship with God. The true seriousness of any and every evil is uncovered in biblical revelation. It identifies the root of all sin operating in this “present evil age.” It tells us that our real enemy is not other persons (“flesh and blood”), but the powers of evil that tempt us all and take advantage of our weaknesses. It tells us that every human being needs to be freed by the grace of our Triune God from the power of evil at the deepest level of who we have become.
  3. Biblical revelation, which has its center in Jesus Christ, makes known the final end goal of our Triune God’s own eradication of all evil, including racism. It ends upon Jesus’ return as Lord of all. It does not stop short by pointing us to false hopes, misguided compromises, partial results, or hopelessness. Rather, it supports the true hope for all—ultimate redemption and reconciliation between all. Going to the root, Jesus has—through his shed blood on the cross and resurrection from the dead—achieved victory over the source of all evil. At his return, he will eradicate sin as everything is placed under his total rule and reign. Nothing less can bring to a complete end all evil, including the sin of racism.
  4. Biblical revelation informs and forms those who are members incorporated into the Body of Christ as to how to participate in our Triune God’s own work of reconciliation and redemption in this present evil age—even as we wait in hope for our ultimate reconciliation, redemption, and the renewal of all things in heaven and earth upon Jesus’ personal and bodily return.  We have been given a mission and message of reconciliation to actively share (2 Cor. 5).

My synopsis from Dr. Deddo’s helpful points are:

  • I am thrilled that our shared theological foundation—in what is called “Incarnational Trinitarian Theology” (ITT)—is for all people groups, for all ages, in all cultures. We rest and hope in the God revealed through Jesus. He is our solid rock!
  • Racism is evil. Treating any people group with prejudice, discrimination, and judging them as inferior is against the nature and intent of the Triune God. We are not to view any person from a “worldly view.” Rather, we are to see all people under the spilled blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16). Jesus died for people of all races; he values people of all races, and no race is to look down on or feel superior to any other race; the same is true for all ethnicities. In Christ, there is no slave, no barbarian, no Scythian, no Gentile, and no Jew. We are all equal in him.
  • Racism will not fully be eradicated until Jesus returns and makes all things new. However, as the church of Jesus Christ we participate with him by the power of the Spirit to demonstrate love and respect to all peoples, and to be peacemakers advocating for equal treatment for all in the systems around us. As a church, we are called to be a light on the hill.

As part of our effort toward greater corporate health, we are forming an Advisory Council of minority leaders who will work with North American Superintendent Mike Rasmussen to inform him and the other Regional Directors as to ways we can more faithfully demonstrate our true unity in Jesus Christ.

As we move forward in our journey toward healthy church, we must make certain that our interracial relationships are healthy. Black lives and Black voices matter in GCI because our denominational story is incomplete without them. Hispanic lives and voices matter. All minority voices must continue to have a greater contribution within our denominational journey with Jesus. We will have more to share once the council is formed.

Please pray for the Lord’s leading in this new initiative and that wonderful fruit will be produced.

In Christ,
Greg Williams

 

Update from our Members Affected by Hurricane Laura

Following the wake of Hurricane Laura, our Southeastern USA Regional Director, Anthony Mullins, and US Superintendent, Michael Rasmussen reached out to members of GCI congregations who were in the path of the storm. Their updates are below.

Your prayers are much appreciated.

I’ve talked to all but one of our church members, and all are okay. My sister and I suffered no home damage My sister experienced a section of fence damage due to downed tree limbs. We lost electricity for a few days. We had a generator that saved our food and powered an air conditioner/fan and lights. Sunday, August 30, news reports listed 18 deaths from storm-related causes. One half were caused by the improper use of generators. A family of five was among the nine. I believe that all the other deaths were due to trees falling on houses. Today, (Monday, August 31) we are under a heat advisory [105 degrees in some areas] from 9 am to 8 pm which adds to the misery for those without electricity.

The two church families in the Lake Charles area suffered only carport damage. I’ve not been able to contact the church member who lives across the lake in Sulphur. Her home phone does nothing when dialed and her cell goes to voice mail.

We all feel blessed that the storm was not as destructive as had been predicted.

Richard Young
Facilitator – Lake Charles, Louisiana


James Scales, our Facilitator for the Beaumont, Texas church is fine and staying with his daughter due to power outages.

All the members are safe and did not sustain major damage from the storm, but some are still without power.

Your prayers are appreciated.

Louis Stambaugh
Treasurer – Beaumont, Texas

GCI Burundi Building Progress

 

Warm greetings from GCI Burundi in Jesus’ name and hope this report finds you well!

The future construction site.

GCI Burundi Church members, in general, are doing well. Like other countries, Burundi also has affected by COVID -19. The Burundi government announced 250 cases and some sanitary measures have been taken, but the church activities continue.

As we recognized that many members around the world are not gathering together, on March 26, all congregations of GCI Burundi took a time of fasting to seek God’s protection of our GCI Family members around the world and to ask God to inspire researchers as they look for getting medicine for COVID-19. We also began rethinking how our congregation could take extra precautions while meeting.

Due to added safety measures, we have begun to plan various construction projects, including restrooms, a baptismal, a new pastor’s office, and finishing paving the inside of the church hall. Please join us in praying for a successful construction process and completion.

Yours Faithfully,
Dr. Eugene Sibomana
Burundi National Director & Carama, Burundi Pastor

GCIgnite 2020

Screenshot of GCIgnite participants
Content Session 2

The 2020 GCIgnite all-virtual gathering was a success, giving young adults a chance to grow and fellowship despite the postponement of this year’s denominational celebration.

Screenshot of GCIgnite participants
Breakout Session 1

With participants from around the globe, including Australia, Fiji, the Philippines, South Africa, the United States, and more. The event focused on spiritual formation and practice as key components of knowing yourself to lead yourself.

Screenshot of GCIgnite participants
Breakout Session 2

Beginning the week with welcome activities and fellowship, participants then delved into sessions led by speakers Dishon Mills and Michelle Fleming on the main themes. Breakout sessions facilitated discussions about applications of spiritual formation and practice in both their home churches and personal lives. The week concluded with a live worship session led by four amazing young adults and included a prayer session that covered the many challenges we’ve collectively faced this year.

Screenshot of GCIgnite participants
Worship Session

We are grateful for all the hard work and prayers from the GCNext Team and individuals in the home office over the past few months that made GCIgnite possible.

The 2020 GCIgnite gathering provided a great opportunity for participants to connect, grow and worship, and we’re looking forward to next year’s in-person event that will coincide with the Denominational Celebration!

 

Written by: The GCNext Team

On the Importance (and Blessing) of Public Worship

Acts 2:42 (ESV) “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Though this verse speaks to a specific moment in the history of the church (the days immediately following the birth of the church in Jerusalem), it describes the basic content of the church’s public assemblies—a content that endures to this day: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper) and prayers.

Being unable to assemble during the pandemic has reminded me of the great importance (and blessing) of our times together in public assembly as the body of Christ. Something we can still take part in, albeit virtually, through our church services online. (I am grateful to those who worked so hard to make this resource available, it has been a lifeline!)

Robin Parry, in Worshipping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship, states (referencing the writing of Susan Wood, emphasis added):

Taking part in Christian worship is essential for Christian spiritual formation. We may not pay conscious attention to all the individual elements of the faith that we sing or act out in worship, but we are immersed in the practice of communal devotion to God. We internalize the shape of the faith through the sights, sounds, smells, tastes of the whole experience. Liturgy… creates an environment that, when we indwell it, shapes our vision, relations, and knowledge of God in Christian ways. The knowledge of God we gain in worship is not the knowledge that one can learn from a book but the participatory knowledge that comes from being involved in a relationship.

Because we worship a relational God—the Holy Trinity—our worship is communal. By God’s design, it involves assembling together—Sunday-by-Sunday, season-by-season through the course of the Christian year. In our assemblies, through the liturgy of worship, we reenact the story of the gospel—the story of Jesus, our story. So important. Such a blessing!

Prayer: Lord God, we are grateful for your church; grateful we are part of it—members of Christ’s body. Lord, you created us and created the church so that we might share in your life and your love. We do that sharing together, and through that life together we are transformed. Lord, we pray for those who due to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to assemble with us. May we reach out to them so that they know they are part of us, and we a part of them. Help us to assemble faithfully, safely, with joy, reverence, and awe, for our sakes, and for the sake of the world that you love. Amen

Ted Johnston

 

Ted Johnston
Instructor, Grace Communion Seminary
Retired GCI Regional Pastor and Publications Editor

 

 

 

What Does Your Hope Avenue Look Like Right Now?

We want to hear from you!

What does your Hope avenue look like right now?

Please comment below.


If you need a refresher on the three avenues, please click on the image below to view and download the full Team-Based – Pastor-Led infographic, or scroll down to the bulleted summary.

team based pastor led infographic showing the interconnectedness of the three avenues: hope, faith, and love, with the pastor in the center, leading the team, and the Holy Spirit Guiding the church

  • Hope avenue (worship)—the Sunday worship service—intentional preparation, inclusive gathering, inspirational worship.
  • Faith avenue (discipleship)—discipling people in the faith—small groups, discipleship classes, Bible studies, missionary activities and events.
  • Love avenue (witness)—mission and outreach—identifying a target community, building relationships, missional events.

 

Meet Hazel Tabin

Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Hazel Tabin, GCNext Leader in Los Angeles, CA. To read her full profile, click the image below.

September Prayer Guide

Click the image below for a