Pentecostals Elect Officers, Reject Divorce Barrier to Ordination

Delegates to the 51st General Council of the Assemblies of God on Wednesday re-elected their top two officers, found a new international missions director, and affirmed that “preconversion divorce” is not a barrier to ordination.

The three-million-member AG, one of the most conservative denominations in the U.S., rejected a measure that would amend the church’s By-Laws to prohibit giving ministerial credentials to individuals who were divorced prior to conversion.

Much of the debate surrounded a theological understanding of sin and forgiveness.

Supporters of the ban argued that the Bible clearly states a pastor or minister should be the “husband of one wife” and that this historical position of the AG must remain.

However, opponents said while sin is sin, grace follows when one converts to Christ.

“Preconversion sin is exactly that: preconversion sin,” one Texas pastor said. “And for us to hold men and women accountable for this covenant – most unsaved people who are divorced and remarried have no concept of the spiritual covenant (of marriage) that we prize so much.”

In a secret ballot vote, the resolution was defeated with 1992 opposed and 713 in support of the move.

Serving the Church Since 1993

Thomas E. Trask, who was re-elected to his fourth four-year term as General Superintendent – the highest serving position of the denomination, said a bright future lay ahead for the AG.

“We have endeavored to live these 49 years of ministry with one single desire and that is to do the will of the Lord,” Trask, accompanied by his wife Shirley, told the Council after the election results were announced, according to an AG press release. “The finest days of the Assemblies of God are yet before us.

“I pledge to you that we will be a church of multiplication, a church of Pentecost, a church of the supernatural, a church that loves people and wants to touch people and minister to people, to be a people of compassion,” Trask said.

There are currently four top positions in the AG, and officers are re-elected or challenged unless they choose to resign. Trask began his service in 1993 with all four top executive officers were first elected.

According to an AG press release, Trask was elected on the first ballot distributed to pastors and church delegates. Of the 2,134 ballots cast, he received more than the two-thirds needed for re-election.

Ordained in 1958, Trask served the AG in multi-faceted ways. From 1988 until his election as general superintendent, he also served as the Fellowship’s general treasurer. He also spent more than 40 years in the ministry, including 25 years as a pastor. He also served in various leadership roles with the Michigan District, including district superintendent. Trask is also the incumbent chairman of the World AG Fellowship and Pentecostal World Fellowship.

General Treasurer Re-elected

In addition to Trask, another top executive, James K. Bridges, was re-elected as the A/G General treasurer. Bridges was the only candidates to receive the necessary votes to be on the ballot, so the Council said “yes” when votes were cast.

Bridges, like Trask, began his service to the church since 1993 when the top executive positions were first formed. Prior to serving as treasurer, Bridges worked as a superintendent of the North Texas District. Bridges was also the vice president of academic affairs at Southwestern College of the Assemblies of God – now known as Southwestern Assemblies of God University – from 1968 to 1971, and he has served as chairman of the university’s board of regents since 1985.

“For 12 years, you’ve given us the privilege of serving in this capacity, and we accept your call for this next term,” Bridges told the General Council on Wednesday, accompanied by his wife Joyce. “We will strive to see that we keep our name and our financial operation above reproach and to that end we commit ourselves to the Lord and to you.”

Meanwhile, the denomination chose a new executive director of the Assemblies of God U.S. mission, Arkansas District Superintendent L. Alton Garrison, because the incumbent chose to retire.

On the third electoral ballot, Garrison received more than two-thirds of the 2,340 votes cast – enough for an election. Garrison, accompanied by his wife Johanna, thanked the Council for its vote of confidence and said he was committed to seeing continued growth in U.S. Missions efforts.

“Until everybody has had an adequate witness of the saving power of Jesus Christ,” he said, “and until we have confronted everyone in the United States with a chance to get saved and as long as people are just growing churches through biological and transfer growth, we still have a task to do.”

Garrison will now be coordinating the ministries of six departments: Church Planting; Chaplaincy Ministries; Teen Challenge International, USA; Chi Alpha Campus Ministries; Intercultural Ministries; and U.S. Mission America Placement Service (MAPS). Altogether, there are 900 missionaries, 400 chaplains, and 5,000 other related field personnel serving in those departments.

Other Business

In other business, the Council also approved a number of other resolutions. The following are the list of resolutions that passed Wednesday, as provided by the AG news service:

• Resolution 2, naming Samuel P. Molina an honorary general presbyter. He has served as a general presbyter for 23 years, and has spent more than 40 years with the AG: 15 years in pastoral ministry and 25 years as secretary-treasurer of the Gulf Latin American District Council.

• Resolution 3, naming L. Jack Moore an honorary general presbyter. He has served as a general presbyter for more than 26 years. He pastored for 22 years, and has served 20 years as an executive officer for the Southern Missouri District Council.

• Resolution 4, Commitment to World Evangelism. The resolution will create a “response mechanism” indicating a minister’s commitment to evangelism. It also calls for a study to examine how to encourage ministers to become more involved in evangelism, including procedures for ministers who don’t comply with the Fellowship’s expectations. The study will be presented to the General Presbytery next year.

• Resolution 6, creating a Second Korean District Council.

• Resolution 7, dissolving the Portuguese District Council.

• Resolution 8, increasing monthly financial support for the national headquarters.

• Resolution 9, repealing a 2001 Council action that created a National Placement Service. The national program was designed to help churches find qualified ministers, but a committee appointed by the Executive Presbytery reported that the National Placement Service approach could be problematic and inconsistent with the Fellowship’s methods of placing ministers in pastoral roles. Instead, Resolution 9 calls for the creation of leadership training material and other resources that can help churches improve their searches for ministers.

• Resolution 10, adding a statement on Voluntary Cooperation and Commitment to the Fellowship into the AG By-laws.

• Resolution 11, calling for mandatory screening of all ministerial applicants.

• Resolution 12, adding a new prerogative to the AG Constitution. The new statement declares that one of the Fellowship’s prerogatives is “to respond to human need with ministries of compassion.”

• Resolution 16, naming Robert L. Nazarenus an honorary general presbyter. He has served in ministry roles for over 40 years, including 17 years as superintendent of the Nebraska District Council and 20 years as a general presbyter.

• Resolution 17, naming Robert D. Ross an honorary general presbyter. His ministry service includes 18 years as an executive officer for the Montana District, and three years in an executive role for the Wisconsin-Northern Michigan District.

• Resolution 18, calling on individual pastors and leaders to pray for one individual worker at the AG headquarters every day for the next year.