Name: Nelson Fernandez Jr.
City, State: Greenville, South Carolina
I once heard that the movement to bring change to our church would have to be a “grassroots movement”- that would work its way through the system. That is a half-truth. While a grassroots emphasis is important, any lasting change will also necessarily have to involve a top-down process for follow through. Besides, churches and pastors may drag their feet, so it is up to Conference, Union, and Division leaders to build in areas where they too can bring about change. Division administrators must see this issue primarily as their issue also. Here are some ideas to move integration forward:
1. Consider a pilot city initiative, whereby each Union would chose a major metropolitan area with a high concentration of both Regional and State conference churches could be merged to form an independent entity.
What if each union were to choose a major metropolitan area (e.g. New York, Washington D.C., Miami) where there are many Regional and State conference churches and have those cities be pilot cities to build a microcosm of what can be done as a whole? For a set time (2-4 years?), the churches in that area could be administered by the Division, Union or a joint coalition between the comprising conferences. Afterward, all cities can talk about what worked and how a broader expanse to this idea could work. I have more technical details on how this could work, but I’ll just throw this out for now.
2. Consider funding an incentive whereby local churches could qualify more evangelism funds if their evangelism plan is done jointly with a Regional/State conference mix.
3. Consider sponsoring small scale ministers retreats (overseen either by the Division or the Unions) once every few years in Unions that have the State-Regional conference mix.
4. Consider sponsoring joint evangelistic events once a year in a different Union that has the State-Regional conference mix.
Here I am offering baby steps toward change. Of course, the drastic approach would be to establish a joint integration committee comprising various delegates from Regional/State conferences, Unions and Division officials which will meet regularly for 1-2 years to brainstorm how an entirely new administrative organizational structure could look like and how it could feasibly operate and propose a 5-10 year integration plan. This isn't too far fetched because it’s been done before (see: "http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/february/black-and-white-pentecostals-mend-assemblies-of-god-upcag.html", although, to be fair, our church did not completely split like in this example; we simply formed separate administrative units within the same organization).