GCI Update

Equipping the Saints

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Let’s begin this Update letter with a scriptural passage.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT)

The various church offices are a gift that Jesus himself, through the work of the Spirit, gave to the church. Note what the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible says about church leadership:

As the apostles, prophets, and evangelists were special and extraordinary ministers, so “pastors and teachers” are the ordinary stated ministers of a particular flock, including, probably, the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. Evangelists were itinerant preachers like our missionaries, as Philip the deacon (Acts 21:8); as contrasted with stationary “pastors and teachers” (2 Timothy 4:5). [Typically] The evangelist founded the Church; the teacher built it up in the faith already received. The “pastor” had the outward rule and guidance of the Church. The bishop had regional oversight with a group of churches.

This is a general explanation of church polity, an overview of the offices and operations of the church. (GCI uses the title regional director rather than bishop.) Our specific purpose for this article is found in verse 12. The primary responsibility of all church leadership is “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” This equipping is careful preparation for the followers of Christ to recognize and understand how they fit and how they participate with Jesus through the community of the church.

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Devotional—How Language Puts God in a Box

Language is subject to cultural influence, and if you’ve ever studied the origins of words, you know how culture and technology have changed our language. If we would’ve told our grandparents thirty or more years ago that we would “google” the weather forecast, they wouldn’t have known what we were talking about. Culture also affects the language we use in Christianity, which shapes our experience and perception of God.

Many Christians only talk about God using masculine terms or father metaphors, as if this is the only acceptable symbol or picture of God, rather than a reflection of the ancient patriarchal culture of the biblical writers. But Scripture provides us with a diversity of images: masculine, feminine, and non-gendered images.

Deuteronomy 32:18: “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” [Rock and Laboring Mother]

Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” [Light]

Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” [Mother]

When we exclusively use male-gendered metaphors for God, it’s easy to assume God exists as a gendered being. But John 4:24 tells us “God is Spirit,” and spirit doesn’t have a gender.

Consider biblical examples where Jesus disrupts gender norms, especially in his actions toward women and children. Jesus came to break down the cultural norms of his day that boxed God into the patriarchal system that marginalized non-Jews, women, and children. By expanding the language we use to think about God, we can grow into the awe and mystery of being in relationship with our Father/Mother God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Light of Life and lover of our souls, expand our hearts’ ability to see your love and care in new and meaningful ways. Amen.

By Nan Kuhlman
Monrovia, CA, US




Note: In GCI, we normally call God “Father” because that is the way Jesus taught us to pray, and the name by which he told us to baptize. Some people misunderstand, and think that the term indicates God’s gender, but it does not. God has roles similar to a human father, similar to a mother, similar to a shepherd, and similar to a king, but God cannot be equated with any of those terms. We continue to use the terminology Jesus gave us and seek to help people understand what the term does and does not mean.

Celebrate Debby Bailey

Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re grateful for all the women in this fellowship. We mark this day by remembering when GCI officially recognized the gifts and calling of women as elders in 2007. We can celebrate this, while also acknowledging the struggle women have faced and at times, still face because bias and resistance toward women in leadership has not yet been fully rooted out and healed.

To honor this day, we celebrate Debby Bailey and what she represents as the first woman ordained as an elder in GCI. We asked her to share her story.

August will make 21 years I have served in a pastoral role. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this being part of my journey. A friend had a dream in which she saw me standing in front of the congregation as pastor. I didn’t know any females in that role in our denomination. Yet, as crazy as it sounded, something resonated within me. Five years later, our congregation worked with our regional director to form a pastoral team, which included me, to lead the church. The Holy Spirit had been preparing me.

Both the congregation and I struggled with the role. A female pastor was new ground. I kept asking myself if a woman should be a pastor and then pondered whether God would open the door if it was wrong. I didn’t give a sermon for a year, until I had to as part of a preaching class led by my regional support. Unfortunately, after that sermon, a couple left the church. The wife, a friend, said she didn’t believe a woman should be preaching. Our advisory council then recommended that I shouldn’t be on the speaking schedule.

After three years, the church assessed if the  pastoral team was how we would continue. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to take a stand. I would only be considered for the pastoral team if I could function fully like the other team members—which included speaking. The congregation accepted this decision.

Over the years, I have experienced hurt and disappointment but also a lot of joy. There were many days I wanted to walk away, but every time God stepped in and made it clear I was to stay. I had the privilege of being the first female ordained as an elder in GCI. I was commissioned by Regional Director Rick Shallenberger as lead pastor in 2021. Serving as a pastor has been the most difficult, exciting, and rewarding experience of my life. Now I can’t imagine pastoring not being part of my journey.

By Debbie Bailey
Pastor, Pikeville, KY, US

Read a Gospel Reverb Excerpt

In this podcast episode, our host, Anthony Mullins, speaks with Mandy Smith. Mandy is the pastor of St. Lucia Uniting Church in Australia.

The following excerpt is from their discussion of Matthew 28:1-10, and it’s a fitting subject for International Women’s Day.

Listen to the full episode and read the full transcript here.

Anthony: I sometimes hear people say, Mandy, that the disciples abandoned Jesus at his death. And there was abandonment, of course, but I also see the women going to him and being the evangelists, if you will, sharing this great message. Tell us about it.

Mandy: I know a lot of women who feel called to proclaim the good news are very encouraged by this passage, especially if they’re in contexts that don’t affirm them in their calling.

I’m really hesitant to say because I always want to be welcoming to my brothers. … and I don’t want to perpetuate all of the brokenness between men and women.

And at the same time, I think it is really good to share [that] it is really painful to feel that calling and to not always be given an opportunity to share it.

… But every single time somebody has not received me or has not treated me in the way that Christ would treat me or has not recognized what God is doing in me—and I’ve had some really painful experiences—every single time, it has been an invitation for me to talk to the Lord again and to say, who are you again? What are we doing here again? Who do you say I am again?

And for anyone who’s marginalized—which is not just along gender lines, but the many different ways people are marginalized—it can be a really empowering experience if it becomes an opportunity for us to say once more, who are you [God] again? Who am I again?

… it’s often those who have been on the margins, for whom the system has not been functioning anyway, who actually have real leadership to offer in [a crisis]. And that’s how I see this passage. These women were not given much of anything really in the system. And so, when the status quo falls apart, they have something that enables them to press through.

So how do we listen to the voices who are saying, you know what? Before you were aware that the system was falling apart, it wasn’t serving me anyway, and I’ve had to function within the system according to the kingdom. How can we invite those people to be leading, as these women had the opportunity to, when Jesus was dying and coming back to life?

Get to Know Rose Hamrick, CFO

In the January 11 Update issue, Greg Williams announced that Rose Hamrick was joining the home office staff as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and we provided her professional bio for readers. Now, to help you get to know Rose even more, we asked her a series of fun and personal questions.

Rose with her sisters and brothers

Describe the moment when you knew you would say yes to this position as CFO?

When I consulted with the Holy Spirit. Almost immediately when I began to pray about it, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Yes, this is why the answer was ‘no’ before and ‘not yet’ at other times, for such a time as this. This is what I was preparing you for.” I had another career opportunity to move to Charlotte next door to the home office with another company 7 years prior.

Rose’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons

What have you sacrificed to take this role?

Seeing my family each day, particularly my grandchildren.

You’ve been working at the Home Office for a couple of months now. What’s been the biggest surprise?

How much joy and laughter are in the hallways and throughout the office each day.

Was there a key moment when you realized God had given you a gift for business management and finance?

When I was asked to serve as CFO of GCI. Seriously, it’s been a gradual process and realization throughout the years in my career, in my service in the church and the community and in my family. I naturally gravitated to all things having to do with business or finance and always asked to serve in the capacity of one, the other or both.

Family dinner

How would your family members describe you?

I decided to ask my family. These are their responses: you love the Lord, are God-fearing and kind, patient and honest, always smiling and positive, genuinely love helping everyone, spiritually grounded, empathetic toward others and always available to listen, loving and faithful.

Name one of your favorite books—and you can’t say the Bible.

I have two: They Walked with God by Max Lucado and Faith Walk by Rose M. Hamrick. It’s not one of my favorites because I wrote it, but because God inspired it, and it highlighted his power and provision.

Rose’s daughter

If you’ve had a particularly trying day, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?

Sit quietly and meditate.

What’s the best thing about being a grandmother?

Spending time with and watching my three grandsons’ growth, development, and personalities.




Prepare for Palm Sunday

Occasionally, we want to share a congregation’s best practices. May this spark some ideas as you plan for Palm Sunday.

Our local church has appreciated the beauty of intentionally keeping Jesus “the center of the center” through the use of liturgy, expressed in different creative ways.

In our desire for members to be more participative in our worship celebration, we have explored ways where we can encourage their participation, most especially in the special celebrations based on the Christian worship (liturgical) calendar. Last year, we encouraged our members to bring palm branches to church and explained that we will be commemorating the “Triumphal Entry of Jesus” to Jerusalem, commonly referred to as Palm Sunday.

As the worship ministry leader, I coordinated in advance with the music ministry as to the choice of songs. For example, the song by Paul Baloche, Hosanna, includes these lyrics: “You are the God who saves us, Worthy of all our praises.” The song selections were in keeping with the flow of the worship celebration, in sync with the theme of Palm Sunday.

Our children’s ministry leader, Sis Auey Parcasio, also prepared a short skit presentation. The children portrayed the Palm Sunday story with their costumes and dialogues from the Gospel text in Luke 19:28-40 aligned with the Revised Common Lectionary.

The worship hall was set up with decorations of palm leaves, lights, and video clips. A tapestry, beautifully placed on the floor, added to the experience of the congregants. After the worship celebration, each person received a blessing and took their palm leaves home as a reminder of the Savior-King Jesus.

Indeed, we recognize that purposeful preparations for a meaningful, Jesus-centered worship celebration are very important. The use of liturgy has helped us position the gospel story of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all throughout the year. We look forward to encountering Jesus more in our Sunday worship celebrations as we continue to journey through the rhythms of the worship calendar.

By Justine Paolo Parcasio
Associate Pastor, Baguio, Philippines

Meet Diana Mayhew

“I have learned what the Holy Spirit’s voice sounds like within my being and know that listening to it (even when—and especially when—it’s very hard) is the only thing that brings God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.” –Diana Mayhew

Check out this month’s GCI profile to get to know Diana Mayhew, Member and Donor Services Representative.

To read her full profile, click the image below. #WeAreGCI


Ordination of Cielo & Peter Dela Cruz

Join us in congratulating Attorney Cielo and Peter Ben Dela Cruz on their ordination as elders!

On December 18, Pastor Audie Santibanez officiated the ordination of Cielo. That same day, Peter Ben was ordained and installed as senior pastor of GCI Metro East Manila (MEM) by Mario Natividad. Mario, who has served as senior pastor for many years, has passed the baton and will be serving in an advisory role. We’re very grateful to Mario for his faithful service and for equipping and empowering the next generation.

Read the interview below to get to know Cielo and Peter.

Did you grow up in GCI?
Yes, Peter’s parents met in GCI while attending Manila church. Cielo’s mother also attended the Manila church when she was single. After marriage, she raised her children in GCI even though her husband was a Catholic.

How long have you been part of GCI MEM?
Cielo since 2012, and Peter since 2015

How long have you been married?
7 years

Do you have any children?
Our daughter, Tanya Samantha, is 6 years old.

Do you work in the community in addition to pastoring the church?
Peter is a Computer Science graduate and works as a software engineer. Cielo is a full-time homemaker and works part-time as a lawyer.

Additionally, we try to involve ourselves in our village association projects, and we have a small-scale project called “MakeItCount.” Due to the pandemic, we see more people suffering, and our family decided we can do something, even if it’s small scale. Since 2021, we aim to cook and give out free food packs to at least 30 unhoused people once a week.Who has mentored you?
Pastor Gil and Carol Llaneza and Pastor Audie and Rachel Santibanez have been a mentor to Cielo. Pastor Andrew Teng, Russell and Teena Meimban, and Pastor Aron Tolentino have mentored Peter.

Engagement of Tabin and Raduban

Join us in congratulating Hazel and Dids! We share in the joy of both families.

Hazel Tabin (from Pasadena, CA, US) and Dids Raduban (from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines) are excited to share their engagement that took place in Baguio City, Philippines on January 13, 2023! A wedding date has not been set as they are currently working on Dids’ fiancè visa. Join them in praying that the process will go smoothly so they can finally be together permanently after being in a long-distance relationship.

Angie and Saddie Tabin (pastor and associate pastor of Pasedena, CA, US), along with Jina and Ezra Raduban (pastor and elder of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, PH), celebrate this momentous event and are eager to see what God has in store for Hazel and Dids!

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!

Volunteer at the Denominational Celebration

Are you considering volunteering, but you have questions?

Check out our Q&A.

Q: The conference is 3+ days. Will I be expected to serve the entire time? Every session? What’s my time commitment?
A: Each shift or session is 2.5 hours or less. We ask that you choose and serve for one shift. Of course, you can choose more than one shift.

Q: Do I have to create my own lessons / curriculum?
A: No. We will provide a lesson and activity with all supplies for your session.

Q: How many other adults will I be with?
A: Depending on the age group, you will be with at least two other volunteers during your shift.

Q: Can I request which age group I help with? If I’d rather serve with teens, can I request that?
A: Absolutely. On the sign up, you will see that the shifts are organized by grade/age and times. You can pick any open slot.

Do you have additional questions or want to volunteer? Please send an email to home.office@gci.org 

The GCI Swag Store Is Now Open

GCI Gear is Here!

We are excited to announce that GCI clothing and accessories are now available as part of our Denominational Celebration! Represent our fellowship and reflect your personal style. Shop now, by clicking on the image below.

We chose the vendor for our on-demand store based on their high-quality and ethically sourced items, as well as their ability to ship internationally. However, please note that the shipping costs are per item. You can get detailed shipping information here.