Exodus 12:16 ~ "And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you no manner of work shall be done in them save that which every man must eat that only may be done of you"
As a special guest of the Bishop Robert R. Sanders during the 16th Annual Holy Convocation of the Illinois Third Jurisdiction Church Of God in Christ, General Board Member and Bishop Of Western Michigan Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, Bishop Nathaniel Wells delivered a dynamically tactful, powerful, profound and challenging message which, in part, regarded the Church Of God In Christ Inc., what it has accepted, and the direction in which the church is headed as it pertains to its most holy annual gathering of saints called the Holy Convocation.
|The Rt. Rev. Bishop N. Wells|
General Board Member
In a message entitled, "We Must Keep The Covenant Of The Fathers" Bishop Wells not only delivered a solid and biblically profound exegesis of the Covenant that God established with Abraham and his seed, and ultimately with all believers through Jesus Christ, but he also took time to examine the covenental styled relationship which was delivered to the Church Of God In Christ Inc.by it's founder, the late Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, encouraging us not to forget what has been set before us as a church and what we are to do with it.
Some COGIC History
"As the Chief Apostle, he (Bishop C.H. Mason) immediately dedicated twenty days, November 25th through December 14th annually as a meeting time for all the followers to fellowship with each other and to transact all ecclesiastical and secular affairs pertinent to the growth of the National Organization. This segment of the year was chosen because the majority of the communicants of the church lived in farming districts of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. By this time of the year, they had sufficient provisions and financial resources from the harvesting of their crops, to enable them to attend and support a national meeting" [1973 Official COGIC Manual Reprinted 1991]
Under the original application of the vision of the church, Convocation was to be held at least annually in Memphis, TN. under certain dates and times as specified in the prior statement. This time was dedicated to the Lord and the people were dedicated to the Lord's use. In part, as the statement notes, there was a consideration given to the constituency and makeup of the members of the church in general as to the ultimate location and time of the Convocation. So there was an element of meeting the "natural" need of the people, but there was a greater element of obeying and following the will of God for our church on a corporate basis and level.
The concept was that there would be a specific place date and time dedicated to the Lord's service according to the concept of "Holy Convocation" found within scripture and the basis of that Convocation was the requirement of the Lord upon HIS people.
Having an estimated economic value exceeding $36 million, the Church Of God In Christ National Holy Convocation is scheduled to be held in St. Louis, MO. for the foreseeable future. Dates of the Convocation have been changed to accommodate the requirements and needs of the convention center housing the event, with very little consideration given to the requirements of God and or written church policy on the matter. The Holy Convocation is now a mere representative form of the history of the Church Of God In Christ Inc. and there may or may not be a requirement to be literally faithful to what once was established according to the direction of God and undertaken by the willingness of the people who followed the mission of the church.
While these change may appear innocuous, reasonable and even more progressive for a number or reasons, including finances and accommodations; the fact is that we are yet challenged by the Bishop Wells' words to remember that the Church Of God In Christ was not solely built on either finances, accommodations, nor amenities, but also instituted by the spiritual direction of it's Founder, Bishop Charles H. Mason, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and the sincere desire to seek, do and perform the will of the Lord. Bishop Mason taught that the Saints were to dedicate their actions to God by what HE (God) inspired them to do through earnest prayer, fasting and seeking HIM.
Holy Convocation vs. Convention. Is There A Difference?
|2007 COGIC Holy Convocation Memphis Tn.|
Fed Ex Forum
Some will take the position that, arguments like this have no weight in the modern era of doing things. That in order to progress, draw larger crowds and modernize, we simply must do certain things better than we have done in times past. The interpretation is that things that look good and that are more convenient, and that draw larger crowds, fanfare and attention are "better". But is that really the case?
Believe me, I "think" it is much more convenient to find a place that can house all Convocation needs under one roof and one that has accommodating amenities too. I "think" it's more convenient to find a place with lush and luxurious hotel rooms at a good price and rate. I "think" it's more convenient to find a place that has a variety of restaurants, willing and eager to serve the crowds and open their doors happily and not out of reluctance. BUT at that point I digress, because I am reminded that the Convocation of the Saints IS NOT mine, not about me, neither does my "comfort" have anything to do with the "service" to the Lord!
|2011 COGIC Holy Convocation|
The America Center
One of the most peculiar understandings regarding Holy Convocation is that it does not belong to any one of us, yet it is for all of us. The Convocation of the Saints belongs to God and what belongs to God has nothing to do with our comfort level, modernism or desire to be "progressive" in our thinking and associations. This is the first distinction...what the church should be and do is beyond a materially progressive appearance, motivation or ethic. The TRUE church is a spiritual entity and one that is only satisfied finding it's place and meaning in spiritual things inspired by God no matter how naturally uncomfortable they may be.
This thought and concept is contrary to all the dogma that we hear from most modern leaders and teachers...In the modern church world Christ has come to make us all happy and to give us all the material possessions that we want and need. He has come to make us larger and fatter than we've ever been before...While I've followed the latter path physically, (ooh boy!) the problem is that we seem to have been duped by more than a few concepts demanding that we "modernize" our appearance and presentation in order to be more appealing and accommodating to men and more of a "mainstream" part of American and world religion. This effort is one devoid of the calling of God to a "called out" group of people in this world.
Convocation Unto The Lord
What Bishop Wells profoundly pointed out, without leveling criticism at any one particular COGIC leader, was that within Bishop Mason's vision for the church, there was Holy Convocation for the Saints not a church convention. The words "Convocation" (Heb: miqra) meaning public meeting or assembly of called out ones was preceded by the word "Holy" (Heb: qodesh) meaning that it was to be consecrated, dedicated or hollowed to the Lord. Bishop Wells pointed out that even the place which was dedicated for the use and purpose of God was to be (qodesh) or holy...So not only the people were to be called out and dedicated to and for the service of God, but the place was to be specific and dedicated to the Lord's use.
On the other hand, "Convention" neither has nor does it embrace any such requirement to seek spiritual guidance. A convention is a time and place that people like, pick or choose, based on their own criteria of potentially many different things such as location, pricing, accommodations, amenities, personal comforts, ease of access, and potential kick-backs or benefits that may be received in response to doing business.
In other words a "Convocation" is a spiritual transaction with a spiritual mandate, and is directly passed down from the "fathers" of the Church Of God In Christ to its modern followers. Whereas a Convention is a natural transaction made to address a purely natural standard of success and has no lasting inheritance or value beyond what is seen.
Shocking & Offensive!?
With this understanding of the difference between Convocation and Convention, I believe that it is yet another challenge to all Church Of God In Christ members and leaders to renew themselves in the foundational roots of the church and reexamine their position on this issue. The issue is simply this, Holy Convocation is part of COGIC inheritance, whereas, convention is not. We can move and change a convention as it suits our needs. We do that will other conventions within the church. A Holy Convocation of the Saints is directed by God and is HIS to move or not move. We must discern the implications of treating our national Holy Convocation as a convention and what it really means, (among many other issues within the church) moving forward.
Now, before one gets angry and upset thinking that my ideas and concepts are so old world and not essential to the current conversation within COGIC, let me name a few things that we don't argue as it pertains to the church:
1- We Don't Argue The Name Of The Church
Given in 1897, (and there is nothing in this church more old than that) we find that the modern church has accepted and continues to accept the name without modification, exclusion or amendment. We have even vehemently fought other organizations that have departed from this church and wanted to continue to use the name. The fact is that our very name, also given by the founder of the Church Of God In Christ, is proudly displayed, chattered about, tweeted and buzzed all over the world. This is how it came to be:
"Subsequently, in 1897, while seeking a scriptural name that would distinguish this church from others of similar title, the name "Church Of God In Christ" was revealed to Bishop Mason while he was walking along a certain street in Little Rock, Ark. The following scripture supported his revelation: 1 Thess. 2:14 ~ "For ye brethern became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus for ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen even as they have of the Jews." All the bretheren unanimously agreed to the name Church Of God In Christ" [1973 Official COGIC Manual Reprinted 1991]
God gave it and those that heard it, believed it according to the word and moved forward in it and over 114 years later we are yet building churches with this name attached. So for one to argue that the modern Church Of God In Christ should change or update the Holy Convocation simply because more modern "venues" are available, is a ridiculous notion. Contrast this to the fact that more modern names are available also, but most of the believers within the church are confident that the inspiration for the name itself is of God. However we should be reminded that the name was given by the same leader who also instituted Holy Convocation.
2- We Have Failed To Implement A Victims Advocacy Program That Could Potentially Save Millions of Dollars
One of the reasons given for moving the National Holy Convocation from Memphis, TN to STL., MO. was that the church would save over $1 Million annually and that the convention center (Edward D. Jones Dome) in STL would be able to house all COGIC activities.
In what has been utterly amazing to me since 2009 or so when I initially and personally set forth initiatives to address the issue, COGIC policy on dealing with victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Clergy Sexual Misconduct (CSM) has not changed and or improved over the years and has cost this church much more than the Millions of dollars it reports that can be saved by moving the Convocation from one city to another. Within Illinois, we know that CSM caused the demise of at least one complete Jurisdiction splitting it up into Illinois 5th East and 5th West and cost the church over $1.5 Million. In other areas such as Seattle, WS. CSM has cost the church buildings and millions of dollars. I have also taken the time to document such on various podcasts that I have done on the subject in "COGIC, What Has The Church Become?" and "The Sharpton Challenge". I will have an update prepared shortly.
In fact from current reports it would seem that, in absence of the General Assembly, current and modern leadership continues to make highly questionable decisions potentially causing the church to spend and loose much more than the millions of dollars that could have been retained if a victims advocacy plan were implemented. What the church could do is actually seek to heal the victims of abuse, rather than cover the sins of the abusers who have defiled themselves, their congregations, their communities and ultimately the church.
One move in the right direction in this could mean the preservation of countless lives and souls, not to mention the economic and social benefits. Who in their right spiritual mind would oppose such an action??? Simply looking at dollars in and dollars out on actuarial or cash accounting basis was NEVER the measure for the church's success. Somehow COGIC has joined the modern church in allowing cash in/cash out and the number of bodies, to become a measure and standard of success.
3- We Enthusiastically Accept COGIC History
We have many individuals who gladly and eagerly distinguish themselves as COGIC bred and born. The history of COGIC stands out within the black community and the corporate body of the church has made many differences within the community. However, that is a foundation built upon the old landmark of holiness. Although we have some significant challenges in discerning what holiness means within the modern church, I don't think there are too many that would deny that holiness in the life of the believer is an essential part of the work of God within the heart and the ultimate condition of the believer.
Heb. 12:14 ~ "Follow peace with all mean and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."
Once again, this is an "old" tenet, that no good biblical exegete is willing to simply lay down, change or cast aside as some peripheral issue. The Saints still generally hold that a person MUST live right until the end, by the help, mercy and power of the Lord in order to be saved. Giving up in the middle or some other point is not good enough. One's works cannot save them, only their enduring faith.
Once again, all of that is strained by many of the actions we undertake within the modern church in general, but to be true to the foundation demands that one takes an assessment realigning themselves with the truth and ultimately with God.
Does the Holy Convocation need to continue away from Memphis, TN? Maybe it does, but certainly not as an act appealing to the material and sensory perceived notions of what would make the church "look" better or appear better before men.
What I took away from Bishop Wells's message was that we, the current COGIC membership, are in receipt of a legacy from the "fathers" of this church that demands that we come up to and achieve a standard of excellence and service to God much greater than what we have allowed or presented in modern times. This is a high call and the calling of holiness is nothing less than that. The question are, will we hear that call and will we respond to it?
To General Board Member Bishop N. Wells, thank you for stirring up our pure minds by way of remembrance!