Church of God Organization & Structure

We feel that God has organized the people of the church. It is God who places each person in the church as it pleases him. It is God's Spirit who calls and gifts each believer. It is the Holy Spirit who works in and among believers to set the agenda for the church's mission and ministry. But the work of mission, the tasks of education, and the business chores all should be done in a responsible way so as to be effective and not bring the church's purpose and ethics into question. Thus, we organize the work.

The local congregation is the basic organization of the church. The congregation contacts and calls its pastor. The congregation establishes its own organizational pattern with a set of bylaws. The congregation is not strictly controlled by any person or organization outside its own membership. In fact, the state and national organizations derive their strength from local churches and the support they choose to give.

Most congregations of the Church of God recognize, however, that an independent approach is not the best way to accomplish our regional, national, and international ministries. The independent approach is neither sound theology nor a healthy attitude. Understanding this, local churches commonly form interdependent partnerships with regional, national, and international ministries.

Regional organizations are primarily geographically oriented and depend on contributions from local churches and interested individuals to sustain their cooperative work. Their purpose is to enhance the work of congregations by sponsoring and coordinating efforts such as ministers meetings, youth conventions, camp meetings, and a variety of camps targeted to diverse age groups. Many regional organizations are guided by a general assembly composed of ministers and lay representatives.

Minister's credentials and congregational recognition are provided through assemblies in states, provinces, or districts. The Congregational Ministries Team of Church of God Ministries coordinates state and regional credentials procedures for ministers and congregations.

In recent years, state and regional organizations have been the catalyst for planting new congregations. Many regional organizations are led by a regional pastor and overseer. This individual has no ecclesiastical authority other than that which personal ministry and influence bring.

Church of God Ministries coordinates the work of the Church of God in the United States and collaborates with appropriate ministry bodies within Canada. Other countries—such as Kenya, Argentina, and Japan—have formed similar organizational structures to facilitate their joint ministry efforts. Again, these offices are organized to serve congregations and facilitate the national and world involvement of local groups. We know that many tasks can be done only as we unite in prayer, planning, and sacrificial giving.

Church of God Ministries has no ecclesiastical authority over congregations or district organizations. The men and women who serve within this structure and administer the work of the church, however, are persons who have lived exemplary lives and have earned the loving respect of ministers and laypersons. They are viewed as ministry partners and servant leaders who have been called to resource and equip local congregations in their efforts to extend God's kingdom. Thus, their opinions are valued and their guidance is often sought wherever the work of the movement is being done.

The General Assembly of the Church of God meets in conjunction with the North American Convention, which convenes each June in Anderson, Indiana. All ordained ministers are eligible to vote when attending the Assembly. Many laypersons qualify as voting members on the basis of offices they hold or assignments they have in connection with North American organizations within the Church of God. In addition, based on size, the local church may send one or more voting lay representatives to the Assembly.

The General Assembly establishes policies for the cooperative work of the Church of God. It ratifies key executives, including four college presidents and the dean of the movement's seminary, as well as the general director and the three team directors of Church of God Ministries. It also adopts a budget which supports the movement's united mission and ministries facilitated through Church of God Ministries.

The Assembly makes major decisions that have a dynamic influence on the mission and ministry of the Church of God. Yet even the Assembly derives its strength from the confidence and allegiance voluntarily given by congregations and pastors. Its adopted resolutions are not binding on congregations, and it speaks for local churches only when those fellowships choose to sustain the voice of the Assembly. We are aware that in a culture where the top gives instructions to the bottom, this concept seems unusual. Nonetheless, there is a dynamic and creative atmosphere in the organizational structure that invigorates. Such an approach encourages prayer for guidance by the Holy Spirit and patience in working with one another toward building consensus.

The North American Convention is often identified by its former titles, Anderson Camp Meeting or the International Convention. The convention has traditionally been a central force serving to help unify the fellowship and work of the total movement. It includes evangelistic meetings, services of worship, and scores of conferences and workshops.

North American Institutions of Higher Education

Anderson University is a four-year liberal arts college whose stated purpose is to train Christians for ministry in many professions. It is located in Anderson, Indiana. The graduate School of Theology is a part of the university.

Mid-America Christian University has focused primarily on the training of workers for the church in the Bible college tradition. It is located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Warner Pacific College is a four-year liberal arts college located in Portland, Oregon. Its purpose is to train persons for leadership in the church and for ministry in other professions, particularly in the northwestern United States.

Warner University is a four-year liberal arts university located in Lake Wales, Florida. It endeavors to create a curriculum and community that integrates and models Christian faith, scholarship, and servanthood.

Other Significant Organizations and Affiliated Agencies

The Board of Pensions encourages ministers and congregations to mutual involvement in a program that ensures retirement income for participating ministers and other church employees. It also provides a tax-deferred supplemental retirement program.

The National Association of the Church of God has long coordinated ministries of African-American congregations in the United States. Two of several meetings sponsored by the National Association are West Middlesex Camp Meeting in Pennsylvania each August and the National Inspirational Youth Convention each December.

The Hispanic Council of the Church of God (Concilio) exists to plan and advance the work of the Church of God among Spanish-speaking people in the United States.

The American Indian Council assumed responsibility for ministry to Native Americans in the 1990s.

Christian Women Connection has been a strong force in raising the missions consciousness of the total church, has challenged women to personal growth and stewardship, and has sponsored the annual Christ's Birthday Offering with wonderful success. In recent years, WCG has expanded its programs to meet the needs of women for friendship and opportunities for service.

CHURCHMEN of the Church of God encourages local men's fellowships, prayer and Bible study groups, and seeks to enlist men in active programs of evangelism and service such as Habitat for Humanity and Promise Keepers.

Information on this page is excerpted from Oral and Laura Withrow, Meet Us at the Cross (Anderson, IN: Warner
Press,1999), 17–19, 22–24.

Top of Page