From: Joseph Tkach...
Sent: Thursday, 18 December 2008 6:48 AM
To: [a variety of apparatchiks]
Cc: 'Mike Feazell'
Subject: RE: Status of Denominational Name Change
Greetings again today!
Since sending the email updating you about the survey, Mike suggested to me that I share with you, my original email to all U.S. pastors:
Greetings from Glendora!
It is always such a great joy to see all of you at our annual district conferences, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you and your work in Christ. My only regret is that there is never enough time to interact with everyone as much I would like.
One of the common questions we discussed and that I’m frequently asked is, “When will we change our denominational name?”
I want to answer that question and also seek your assistance.
First, let me rehearse the background to the question of changing our denominational name.
1. Some people have an immediate negative reaction to the name “Worldwide Church of God” because of our past. Changing our name signals clearly that a change has taken place. It also strengthens our witness to God’s grace and his intervention in our fellowship.
2. “Church of God” conveys association with any one of a number of sectarian groups that have long used that name, such as the Churches of God, Anderson, Indiana, and many others. Some of these churches are Pentecostal, and most are fundamentalist.
3. When considering a name for our denomination, we need to consider the future as well as the past. Choosing a name for a church is a spiritual matter, but it has important practical implications. The name becomes the church’s public trademark, and helps people form a concept of who we are. What we call ourselves also has business and legal implications.
4. Our name should not misrepresent what the church is. Older members will remember that our church has been known as Worldwide Church of God only since 1968. Before then, we were known as the Radio Church of God. This made sense at the time, as the church had pioneered religious radio broadcasting. In the thirties, forties and maybe even the fifties, a name that included the word “radio” sounded dynamic and modern. But by the ’60s, it had begun to sound quaint and out-of-date. Membership was growing, and congregations were established around the world. We needed a name that described what our church had become. So “Worldwide” was chosen, and it has served us well. But today, the name “Worldwide Church of God” name carries the baggage of our pre-transformational reputation and culture and therefore misrepresents who and what we are as a denomination.
Since the beginning of our doctrinal transformation ministers and members alike have been raising the question of changing the name of the denomination. Because our doctrinal foundation, mission focus and church structure have undergone major changes, many have and continue to express their feeling that we need a name that better represents who the church is today and where it is going in the future.
As you know, in the September 2005 issue of WCG Today, members in the United States were invited to submit possible new church names to their pastors. District superintendents collected the suggested names and forwarded them to Glendora. Members, national leaders and mission developers from all over the world were also invited to participate in the process.
Our name search team, which was appointed by the WCG Board of Directors and was composed of a number of leading men and women from various departments at headquarters, examined the names submitted and made recommendations to the Board and to the Advisory Council of Elders.
After a reviewing all the submitted names and discussing the viable ones at length, the search team isolated key terms that reflect the church’s values and mission as a denomination while avoiding key terms that are normally associated with other denominations as well as those that are already in use by other organizations.
The name search team presented their findings and recommendations to a combined meeting of the Board and the Advisory Council of Elders on Dec. 20, 2005. After all factors and criteria were considered, the Board and the Council settled on the name “Grace Communion International” as best representing who and what our church is today and where it is going in the future.
The rationale was published in the February 6, 2006, issue of WCG Today:
Grace: Grace lies at the heart of our values and mission as a transformed church. The gospel is the message of God’s grace to humanity revealed in Jesus Christ. And it is by God’s grace that we were led out of our former legalism and biblical misinterpretation. If we must choose one word to best describe our fellowship in terms of our spiritual journey and our ongoing mission and goals, it would have to be the word grace.
Communion: The terms church, community, communion, assembly, conference and fellowship can all refer to a group of congregations belonging to a single denomination. Of these terms, communion includes the concept of spiritual unity and positive relationships in the love of the Father, the grace and peace of Jesus Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit. It is a biblical word, and one that resonates on several levels with our experience of transformation and new life in Christ, who shares with us his own communion with the Father and the Spirit.
The terms "community, fellowship and church" are less likely to be approved by the trademark office, in the current opinion of counsel.
International: We are an international, multicultural church. We value and respect one another, existing not as a single, national church in any given country, but as a unified body of believers who span the globe, sharing a common history and journey of faith.
(As a reminder, the name “Grace International Fellowship,” which I originally raised for consideration at our worldwide pastors conference in the summer of 2005, we found to be in use by another organization. That made it unavailable to us and meant that even variations of it could subject us to legal challenges.)
The approved name, “Grace Communion International,” was met with mixed reactions when it was first announced in early 2006. Although a majority of members expressed their support for the new name, we decided to put the name change on hold to allow more time to see whether a greater comfort level might develop among members did not.
As time has passed, the consensus in favor of the name “Grace Communion International” has continued to grow. Although we cannot expect 100 percent agreement on any name, it does seem that there is a growing majority of ministers and members who favor a change to this name.
We are a church that God has changed radically from what we once were to what we are today. Our change to a new name that accurately describes what God has done with us would be consistent with that transformation.
As you know, most of our congregations have already taken on local names, demonstrating the value in putting before the public a name other than our current denominational moniker. A new denominational name would underscore the rationale used by our local churches in allowing our name to reflect who our Father has made us through the Spirit to be in Jesus Christ.
Grace Communion International describes our spiritual journey together, celebrates our new life in Christ, and communicates our Trinitarian/Incarnational theology.
Any change, even a positive and accepted one, can generate a level of uncertainty and distress. That means your personal support as a pastor would be crucial to helping your congregation through the transition of a name change.
As a reminder, we are speaking about the change of the name of the denomination only. Each local church, and each international church, will still be able to choose its own name that may or may not be the same as our denominational name (or even keep the name "Worldwide Church of God"). Some North American congregations might wish to change their name to "Grace
Communion" (we anticipate obtaining the legal trademark to this shortened version of the name as well), or some variant, but they do not have to adopt our denominational name as their local church name.
Here is where I’d like to ask for your help. In order to gain a sense of whether now is finally the time for us to change our denomination name to "Grace Communion International", I am asking each pastor to do these three things:
1) explain the need for the change
2) explain the meaning of the new name
3) survey the response by asking your congregation for a show of hands as to whether they are supportive of this name change now. Please reply to this email with the results of a show of hands (e.g. 75% in favor, 25% opposed, or vice versa) along with the name of your congregation(s). While the email address bears my name, it is a temporary address for the purpose of this survey.
Thanks for your help in this and your continued faithful service in the gospel.
In Jesus’ love,
AW response: dear Joe, ditching the baggage is a great idea, so why not start with the hierarchic leadership which has no mandate! Your resignation and the creation of representative structures (elected board, conference structure etc.) would mark a genuine change, unlike your present window dressing proposal.)