GCI Update

President’s Video – The Backstory of Saint Nick

Dr. Greg Williams asks listeners to take a new look at the story of Saint Nick and how he set as an example to us all by sharing Christ’s love; reminding us that is exactly what Christmas is all about.

Program Transcript


The Backstory of Saint Nick
GCI President Update | December 2021

Sitting in my mother’s living room on a quiet Christmas morning, I began paging through a book of Christmas devotionals. To my surprise, these stories were written by Hank Hanegraaff, a Christian author known as “The Bible Answer Man,” and a close friend and ally to GCI.

Let me read the opening to the story from The Heart of Christmas… (Book in hand) Can Santa Claus Be Saved?

Believe it or not, even Santa can be saved! Far from being a dangerous fairy tale, Santa Claus in reality is an Anglicized form of the Dutch name Sinter Klaas, which in turn is a reference to Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop from the fourth century. According to tradition, Saint Nick not only lavished gifts on needy children, but also  valiantly supported the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. While the word Trinity­­–like incarnation–is not found in Scripture, it aptly codifies what God has condescended to reveal to us about His nature and being.

Santa Claus – St Nicholas – was a good Christian man who served others and believed in the Father, Son and Spirit. Makes you think differently about some of the songs we sing and how we parallel them to what we know – or should I say, who we know? Who Christmas is really about.

For example:

In the Lyrics – Santa Claus is coming to town they almost get it right…

He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice,                                             

It’s not two lists, naughty and nice. It’s one list. Unlike Santa who’s checking behavior – naughty or nice – Jesus opens up THE BOOK OF LIFE or THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE, which is the record of humanity saved by Jesus. God didn’t send Jesus to check on our behavior; God so loves the world he sent his only Son to save and include humanity (this is what Hank Hanegraaff referred to as “The Incarnation”).

Back to the lyrics…

He sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake                                   

This isn’t to check-up on us, this is to let us know he is always with us. He is always loving us.

The Psalmist asks the important question, WHERE CAN I GO FROM YOUR SPIRIT?

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:7-12

The Apostle Paul amplifies this same concept in his letter to the Romans when he says that nothing can separate us from the Love of Jesus. We are absolutely secure in the presence of the Spirit and enveloped in the love of Jesus.

Back to the song…

He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake

Certainly, he wants us to be nice over naughty, and good over bad. Why? So we can fully experience his peace and joy and hope and love. Something we can’t experience on our own, or by focusing on our behavior.

WE CAN ONLY DO THIS WITH CHRIST IN US. It’s his goodness and righteousness that transforms us.

Maybe a new look at Saint Nick isn’t a bad idea. Especially if we think about Bishop Saint Nicholas who provided for the needy and stood firm for the amazing Triune God at the Christianity-shaping council of Nicea. May we follow his good example. At the same time, may we stay focused on what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about the Father sending his beloved son Jesus. The Spirit overshadowing Mary for what is known as the immaculate conception. And Jesus taking on flesh and blood; the divine becoming human for the purpose of saving fallen humanity.

All in all, Christmas is the story of the incredible Triune God showing love to his created sons and daughters, to sweep us up into his life and love. Christmas is a time of hope, of joy, of peace, and of love.

Church, please realize that you are already on God’s “good list,” and not only does he see you when you’re sleeping and awake, he saturates you with his unending love 24/7! That’s who he is.

Rejoice and celebrate in the divine love of Christmas. A very happy and merry Christmas from me and Susan, and all of your friends at the Home Office.

Dr. Greg Williams asks listeners to take a new look at the story of Saint Nick and how he set as an example to us all by sharing Christ’s love; reminding us that is exactly what Christmas is all about.

Transitions in Leadership

We are happy to announce some leadership transitions in Grace Communion International. Our good friend Joseph Tkach has stepped down as board Chair after many years of service. We thank Dr. Tkach and his wife Tammy for decades of service to the church, in leading with loving care, and for focusing our understanding on relationships with one another in the Incarnation.

In his early years of serving as both Board Chair and President, Dr. Tkach was inspired to see the need to change the Board of Directors from being an advisory council to become a governing board for the sake of accountability and to enable responsible transitions.

In recent years Dr. Tkach directed the revision of our church bylaws to grant the Board the governing responsibility to maintain fiduciary control, provide doctrinal oversight, and appoint and monitor the Chair and the President, now separate positions. Among other responsibilities, the Chair leads the Board of Directors in quarterly meetings, and the President leads the management team to fulfill the mission of the church.

As we recall, in 2018, Dr. Greg Williams was appointed by the Board to the role of President, replacing Dr. Tkach in that position.

Dr. Randy Bloom appointed Chair of the Board of Directors

Dr. Bloom has served on the Board for two years, and as a church elder for 45 years. He was a church pastor for eleven years before serving as District Superintendent from 1999 through 2006, then he worked in the Development arm of Church Administration from 2007 through 2013. He completed his fulltime service as Regional Director until his retirement from fulltime employment in 2020. Randy’s former role, GCI Vice-Chair,  was appointed to Tommie Grant, who was chosen by the board. We welcome their leadership and commitment to Christ and to GCI as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Grace Communion International (GCI). Click here to read the GCI Board bios.

Here are some thoughts on Randy’s leadership from fellow GCI leaders:

I have worked with Randy in different capacities since 2007. He is adept at asking pertinent questions, listening well, mentoring and coaching to increase capacity and developing opportunities, always following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I look forward to seeing where GCI goes under his capable leadership. -Becky Deuel

It was a privilege to have Randy Bloom as my Regional Director in the Northeast Region. Randy and I worked together in the region for almost six years. In that time, we became good friends so not only was Randy my spiritual leader and helper he was my friend. Randy helped with the formulating of vision for what Jesus wants to do in local areas but gave us the freedom to follow the Spirit at our own pace.

One of the qualities I love about Randy Bloom is he is so down to earth. What you see is what you get, no hidden agendas. If he knows, Randy will tell you and if not he will tell you. I learned a lot from Randy; he helped formulate some of the movement to help us make disciples for Jesus. -Leonard Banks

Grace Communion International Board of Directors
Grace Communion International Board of Directors

The GCI Board Chair also leads the Seminary Board, so Dr. Bloom now takes on that role as well. Dr. Bloom has taught on the GCS faculty for the last eight years. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University and a Doctor of Divinity from Trinity Seminary.

Dr. Michael Morrison Appointed President of GCI Seminary

Another important transition is taking place in the seminary. After seven years as President, Dr. Gary Deddo is retiring at the end of the year. We appreciate his teaching and leadership in the seminary, as well as his instruction in Trinitarian theology at church conferences through the years.

We are happy to welcome Dr. Michael Morrison as the new President of the seminary. Dr. Mike (as he is called by students) is eminently qualified, accomplishing his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Fuller Seminary. He served for 29 years in various editorial positions in Media Services for the church, also working as Executive Aide to the President and to the Director of the Church Administration Department during that time. Dr. Morrison developed courses in New Testament studies for the seminary from its inception, serving as Dean of Faculty for the past 13 years. He has been central to the academic work of accreditation, which continues to be a valuable asset to the seminary. We look forward to his continued leadership.

Here are some thoughts on Michael’s leadership from fellow GCI leaders:

Dr. Mike was really helpful in guiding me and I felt his efforts to ensure that I am able to get the best outcome and experience from my opportunity with GCS. Early in my studies, he made himself available for consultation, from the subjects I could credit to the best track that I could take. I have been blessed by his generous advice and genuine care. -Aron Tolentino

I have had Dr. Mike for several classes and now as a thesis advisor. He is an excellent professor that brings both high challenge and high support which has allowed me to grow both academically and in ministry practice over the years. He is available to his students, cares about their understanding and development, and goes above and beyond to create a setting in which his students can succeed. His leadership truly exemplifies the mission of GCS to equip the saints for pastoral ministry. I celebrate what God is doing in and through Dr. Mike and look forward to where God will lead GCS under his leadership. -Cara Garrity

Grace Communion Seminary Board of Directors
Grace Communion Seminary Board of Directors

 

To watch videos from the Succession Ceremony, click the links below:

2021 GCI and GCS Succession Ceremony

2021 GCI and GCS Succession Ceremony – Welcome and Opening Prayer

2021 GCI and GCS Succession Ceremony – GCS President Commissioning

2021 GCI and GCS Succession Ceremony – GCI Chairman Commissioning

GCI Buzz – The Faith Avenue

Welcome to GCI Buzz, a tool where we recap GCI buzzwords and terminology. This month’s GCI Buzz explains the Faith Avenue and its 3 main components.
Check out the full PDF here:

GCI Prayer Guide – December 2021

“We are united to Christ who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and participate in the risen Humanity of Christ so that we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.” ― T.F. Torrance

Click the image below to download the December Prayer Guide and join us in corporate prayer and communion.

 

Devotional – I Can’t Wait Until the World Changes…

When is the last time you really sat and thought about “change”? Do you want the world to change? Do you want a political, religious, or social ideology to change? Or do you simply wish the restaurant closest to your home would change their menu? It seems we can all sit down and have a serious conversation about the “things” that we wish would “change.” Have we ever considered that when we hold onto what we wish would change, we may be doubting what we as Christians would call “God’s love”? Let me explain.

When Jesus spoke intimately to his disciples, he told them that “apart” from him (severed from him) “we can do nothing” (John 15:5). The context of the passage is speaking of one who is “bearing fruit” through “abiding” in Jesus. What does it mean to bear fruit? Have you ever considered that it may mean we have to change? Change what, you may ask…the answer is everything must change. This brings us to the word “abiding.” What if we used the words “depended on,” or “believes in,” or “intimately relates with and trusts” in place of the word abide? That political or social or ideological reality that is driving us crazy must be experienced in this life as we “abide in Jesus.”

Have we ever considered that change for us as humans means that we must learn something that we don’t already know, accept it, and then apply it in our lives; in other words, we “change”? Or we must accept that what we thought was right may not be right at all. So, we must unlearn while we learn something new. All of this happens as we abide in Jesus.

Let’s take it further. If he stated that we can do nothing unless we abide in him, could it be the ideas about change mentioned above actually cannot happen according to God’s will in our lives unless we relate to, trust, believe, depend on completely, with all our heart and mind, in the abiding relating of Jesus? This may be the case.

So, as we think about the changes we wish to see in others and in the world, let us be reminded that they too, those “other” people, can do nothing unless they are abiding in Jesus. And, we have no control on when the “light bulb” comes on in another’s life. Accepting this reality may be the hardest thing we have to accept and change in this life.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the faith to believe that you are in charge and intimately wanting all to be saved. Even the ones I fear, and I believe to be the enemy. Let your love dwell in me, Holy Spirit, because I accept that if I don’t trust that your will is based in love, I can do nothing.

 

Mark Mounts

 

By Mark Mounts, Pastor