By Scott Morrison
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Annual Church of God gatherings typically involve members of the faith movement getting together — in some fashion.
Church of God believers from across the nation and world have flocked to Anderson for the past 130 years, but this week’s event dubbed “Global Gathering” has a newer international focus.
Global Gathering will serve as the 2013 North American Convention of the Church of God. Delegates from over 60 countries and roughly 2,000 believers are gathering today through June 25 to experience fellowship and community and focus on issues of reconciliation, world hunger, and clean water.
Ronald Duncan, general director of Church of God Ministries, hopes that the convention in conjunction with local churches will pack 250,000 meals to fight world hunger as well as raise $100,000 to bring clean water to areas of the world without it.
“These issues impact not only the city but also the world,” Duncan said. “We are trying to address the world needs and also celebrate what has been done in the past and can be done in the future.”
In addition to those goals, Global Gathering will offer more daily worship services than the usual North American Conference and host 10 speakers from the U.S. and around the world. Most will be streamed online through www.chog.org
Arnetta Bailey, executive director of Christian Women Connection, is among the major speakers and will deliver a talk titled “Experiencing the Power of the Holy Spirit.”
“I am amazed and honored to be chosen to speak in the company of men and women from the Church of God around the world,” Bailey said. “It is a truly humbling experience.”
Today’s Church of God conventions have their roots in what were known as camp meetings throughout the early and mid-20th century. Those meetings drew thousands of people to Anderson to share in community and faith in a camp atmosphere.
“In earlier years people took the camp time as vacations, but of course the world has changed and today a young person in Nebraska does not dream of traveling to Anderson, Indiana, for vacation,” said Pastor Jim Lyon of Madison Park Church of God in Anderson.
Lyon is general director designate for the Church of God. He is expected to replace Duncan once ratified by the General Assembly on June 26.
Convention format to return in 2014
As the world changed, so did the camp meetings. Waning numbers and an increasingly electronic world have forced the Church of God to utilize television and online broadcasts to reach a wider audience. Groups in Europe and Asia also convene regionally over the same days to share in the community and worship.
While the North American Conference is annually planned by the North American branches of the Church of God, as its name suggests, this year’s event is the product of international collaboration.
Lyon is particularly hopeful about the global planning that went into this year’s event and the potential it has for the Church. “I am very excited about the international focus, because I think the future of the Church hinges on the global church,” he said. “This is not just for the Church of God. It is for anyone who is interested in the world; to see these people from all over the world and hear their voices is astonishing.” The Church of God may be in a unique position to grow and develop in this ever-changing world, even if it has not yet capitalized on that potential. “One of the strengths of the Church of God is that it is relatively unstructured compared to other similar organizations, and so it has the capacity to (easily) adapt to a changing world without changing its core beliefs. There will never be a substitute for face-to-face meetings.”
Next year, the Church of God will return to the annual North American Conference format.
In the past, attendees have discussed whether to make changes in the annual gathering including moving to different sites around the country. However, in 2012, a study committee recommended that the convention continue to be held in Anderson while expanding website streaming capabilities each year.
Plans for next year's convention will be squarely on the table in the fall, as leadership changes, with the potential to alter or add to the current format. "Many people in the Church see the changing of the guard (with Duncan retiring)," Lyon said.
Watch online Many of the Church of God "Global Gathering" worship services and meetings will be streamed online. For information, go to www.chog.org/gg-media Worship services will be held Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Kardatzke Wellness Center on the anderson University campus. For a complete schedule of daily events, go to www.chog.org/daily-schedule-events Today's opening event will be at 2 p.m. at Kardatzke Wellness Center. The session will offer "Standing Together: Being the Body of Christ in a Changing World" with Timothy Clarke of Columbus, Ohio.