Tuesday, June 07, 2005

An overdue apology

In thinking about my posts relating my childhood experience in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), I realize I have been unusually harsh with the organization. My beef has been with some people, not the Church of God, and I want to apologize for mischaracterizing it in a way that impugned other members of the CoG. Clearly, we cannot judge a whole organization by the actions of a few. There can be wide variations in any organizations, and I know for a fact the harsh criticisms of legalism I've presented are not endemic to the CoG organization (or even Pentacostal Fundamentalism for that matter).

The CoG has an interesting history, one that has a physical history dating back to the late 1800s, and was probably inspired by a 100 years of Pentecostal fervor in Tennessee dating back to the Cane Ridge Revival. The church was started by eight members who left a variety of churches. Rather than keeping hope of reforming their old churches, they created the CoG to start anew.

For much of the early part of the 20th century, the CoG served the American South in an ecumenical fashion much like the Third Wave churches of today. The CoG was modern by the standards of the day, constantly releasing new hymns during each national convention, and they considered their theology to be both Evangelical and Pentecostal. However charismatic they became (and there were scores of events over the years), they have always remained central to their primary goal of evangelism. Today, its name is carried by over 6,000 U.S. churches and its national headquarters also hosts Lee College, a 4-year institution probably best known for its choir.

I have personally known some very extraordinary men in the CoG, particuarly my father and his mentor, Don Price, who years ago founded the Valley Cathedral in Phoenix. My mentor, Jack Moraine, served under Price and later worked at a CoG church before eventually becoming a Vineyard pastor.

My uncle, Jeff, whom I've revered for his love and compassion (and playful sense of humor) since I was a young boy, is a youth pastor at CoG of Kimberly, Ala., a church of which my late great-grandmother was a charter member. My father, under the prayerful guidance of my grandmother, came to the Lord during a revival meeting there in the late 50s. It was the home of my mother's mother, who great up in the CoG in North Carolina on the back of mule wagon while her father preached the gospel to miners every Sunday -- the one day each week he wasn't in those mines himself.

All of this work of God has led to my own bedrock faith. I owe my foundation to the work of CoG and I do not want to condemn the blessing that God has given. My apologies to any CoG readers for any ill will you might have taken from my previous words.

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