John Stumbo Video Blog No. 72

July 12, 2019

12:27

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John summarizes the four commitments he made to the Alliance family during his Friday morning address at Council 2019, setting the tone for substantive conversations to come.

Transcript

Happy July, Alliance family! Council was a rich and joyful experience. It deepened my appreciation for The Alliance even further. We prayed, we laughed, we worshiped, we ate, we responded to the Word of God, we got to know each other better, we learned, we conducted business, we held elections, we were challenged and enlarged—and we worshiped some more. We did the things that any healthy church family would do.

Thank you again to everyone who came. I know that great effort is often required to get there, but I know that we’re all the better for it.

And for those who couldn’t physically be in Orlando but joined us online, thank you for your engagement as well. We had 67,000 views and received good testimonies that the Council messages were well received from the online audience.

Regardless of your Council involvement, you’re probably aware that we’ve entered a discussion of some significant issues. I’m very pleased that our rewritten Statement on Sexuality was adopted without debate. In a positive tone, it reinforces our commitment to the biblical view of sexual intimacy being God’s gift for one man and woman within the context of the marriage covenant.

The introduction of the first wave of significant funding changes was also well received. And now we’re beginning to rewrite our Sanctity of Life and Divorce and Remarriage Statements. We’re taking a fresh look at our Statement of Faith and our policies regarding men and women in ministry. Such discussions make many people nervous. I get that. I’m one of them! But, with the Board of Directors I believe it’s time to have these conversations.

With this as the backdrop, in my Friday morning Council address I made four commitments to The Alliance. None of them were necessarily new, but I feel they are timely. And in a more succinct manner, I’m presenting these four commitments to us again today, broadening the audience and believing that they set the tone for the substantive conversations to come. So, here we go:

Commitment number one—I have been listening and I will continue to listen to the Lord and to you, the Alliance family.

For six years now I’ve been traveling, operating under the leadership philosophy that a desk is a poor place from which to lead a denomination.

As I’ve traveled as your president, I’ve now spoken over a thousand times in all kinds of places. I’m seeking to influence, to speak into the family, to minister God’s Word! But I’ve been doing a lot more than just speaking. I’ve been listening. Thousands of meetings and conversations, from board rooms to living rooms to fellowship halls, from long walks to pool-side patios to urban parking lots—often over meals: Korean barbecue, Chinese Dim Sum, Pittsburgh sandwiches complete with French fries tucked inside, Penn State ice cream, Hmong potlucks, all-church pancake breakfasts, Cape Cod lobster, college cafeterias, Low-Country Boil, Puerto Rican rice and beans—with all that extra good stuff. I can multitask! I can eat and listen at the same time.

As I listen, I’m growing in my understanding of the beauty and complexity of this Alliance family. We worship in 37 languages in our U.S. Alliance churches. And there are far more cultures than there are languages. I’m fascinated by the complex beauty, the vast variety of this family.

I’ve offended at times. I’ve influenced at times. But all the while I’ve been listening, and I’ve concluded many things about this family. Here is a partial list.

    • I’ve concluded that we’re serious when we say that we love Jesus. Christ is loved in The Alliance.
  • We long to fulfill His mission. It’s part of our DNA—we yearn to bring all of Jesus to all the world!
  • We hold highly the Scripture. With all that is happening in our culture, I know that this is an area of concern for some. I know that no church is immune from cultural influence, but at this moment in time I’m confident that your Alliance family holds Scripture highly. I listen to the men and women at Resonate, our new official workers’ orientation. I listen. And I’m not hearing a movement to undermine The Alliance nor our commitment to the authority of the Word. I watch from a distance our licensing, consecration, and ordination councils. I hear of your decisions. You’re taking seriously the Word of God—you’re doing your job. This thing called The Christian and Missionary Alliance honors this Word, and we’re not going to stop doing that.
  • Next, as I’ve listened, I’ve discovered we differ on a few key interpretations of this text that we view so highly. In these differences, I’m hearing nothing that’s foundational to the faith, nothing that’s core to theology, nothing worthy of dividing over by any means. And, neither is this anything new. The Alliance has a 13-decade history of holding differing views in healthy tension.
  • On some issues, we haven’t fully figured out how to disagree well. We want to—we want to learn to disagree in a healthy manner. We want to be people who rise above the foaming-mouthed insanity of social media blather, spreading like rabies in our society. We want to be a people who demonstrate to the world a style of healthy conflict of which Washington seems incapable, but the cross made possible.

We long to love differently, to lead differently, to disagree differently than is modeled by current culture. We desire to be the Church Jesus prayed for in John 17!

Second commitment—I have been and will continue to be transparent with you. I try to not live with any secrets.

I acknowledge that my thinking and soul are in constant development. Occasionally as a leader, I must wait for the right time to present an idea I’m considering. Restraint is a necessary leadership quality.

But you have my commitment to ongoing transparency. I seek to never deceive or pretend, I’ll make every effort to be straightforward, I’ll be forthcoming. You are watching some of this progression month-by-month on these video blogs. I’m renewing my commitment to lead in this manner.

I know I’ve raised our corporate blood pressure by raising these topics of conversation. I understand and personally share the angst. But it helped me to understand that launches of new ministries, changes of names, changes of structure, and reevaluations of what we’re doing have been part of our storyline for a very long time. At Council I presented a timeline that reveals that The Alliance is an organization with a well-established culture of change. Let me display that again. <Timeline onscreen>

I start the timeline in the late ’50s and ’60s where The Alliance Weekly became The Alliance Witness. And Jaffrey School then, what’s today the Alliance Theological Seminary, was launched. LUMO, the Ladies United Missionary Organization, became WOMPF, the Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship, and we launched our first LIFE Conference.

Later that same decade, the Statement of Faith was adopted in Columbus, Ohio, and [in] Vancouver, BC, two years later was ratified. Orchard Foundation and Shell Point Retirement Community, Alliance Youth Corps, were all launched during that era.

In the ’70s there was the change from Missionary Training Institute—a name that had been carried on for decades—to Nyack College. CAMA was born. The National Office moved to Nyack, New York, out of New York City; the C&MA admitted that we were a denomination. The launch of the Alliance World Fellowship. The first time we wrote a Statement on Divorce and Remarriage. And the beginning of Alliance Development Fund.

In the ’80s is when we began what is today marketplace ministries, originally IFAP. Two more statements—Statement on Abortion, Statement on Women in Ministry. The General Fund under which we’d operated for a very long time became the Great Commission Fund in ’83. Another Statement on Human Sexuality. The Alliance Witness now gets another name change to the Alliance Life. and after only 15 years in Nyack, the National Office is moved to Colorado Springs.

Another name change for our women’s movement in the ’90s as they became Alliance Women in Missions and Prayer. Scripture references were finally added to the Statement of Faith. Our Mission Statement was recrafted and some significant discussion about elder authority and male-only eldership in the late ’90s.

Not as much to report from the 2000s when CAMA becomes its own subsidiary. But then the changes again in the 2010s when what was originally Alliance Youth Corps eventually becomes Envision. IFAP becomes marketplace, Nyack opens in Manhattan, Alliance Women becomes Great Commission Women, and the Orchard Foundation and Alliance Development Fund become one entity called the Orchard Alliance, and CAMA reintegrates with the C&MA. And then just this year, one more time, the Alliance Women are being called the Alliance Women, and we’ve rewritten the Statement on Sexuality.

I ran through that quickly, and we could have gone back further, but this 70-year span sufficiently makes my point: Organizations that stay fresh keep taking a new look at what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re describing it. We can do this while staying true to our beliefs, our message, and our mission.

For the change conversation before us now, we’ll offer webinar opportunities for interaction. I have offered to district superintendents that those of us on the national leadership level are available to come to every district in the next 20 months to engage you in these conversations.

Personally, some districts are saying, “Come to our pastoral clusters.” For others, it will be at a district conference. Others will find other options. Just know that we are committed to give a bunch of our time in the next couple of years to being available in your regions to have real conversations about the changes that are under discussion.

All of this is part of my effort to lead with transparency. It’s every bit as much your denomination, your church family, as it is mine. And I want you to feel like you are fully aware of the issues before us.

Third. I commit to continue to make mistakes. I have made plenty of them, and I’m going to make more. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but it relates to my desire to engage the entire Alliance family . . . all languages, all cultures within the U.S. Alliance.

Each culture has its own set of norms, which I don’t always get right: What do you wear? Where do you sit? How do you lead? When do you speak? When don’t you? How do you influence? How do you disagree? How is that word interpreted in your language?

I won’t ever get it fully right, but I’m going to keep leaning into every culture I can. If we don’t want to make mistakes, just stay home and shut the door, and we can think we’re perfect. But get out into the community, especially a cross-cultural community, and you’ll realize that it gets a little clunky. I want to engage with people who aren’t like me, who disagree with me, who come alive differently than I do. If you commit with me to doing this, you’ll make mistakes just like I do. But better to be clumsy in a cross-cultural situation than smug in isolation.

I’m making mistakes in these cross-cultural encounters, but trust is growing—and there is no growth in any organization or family without trust.

My fourth commitment is that I will keep challenging us. Using the metaphor from Acts 13 that I presented at Council . . . I’m in Perga, but I’m not buying the ticket to get on the ship and go home. I have my hiking boots; I’m heading inland; I’m heading upward—the highlands of Galatia await.

Beyond was the theme for Council, and it’s also a message for the broader Alliance family—long after Council. You see, any advancement of the gospel has a subplot of beyond written into the storyline. Any advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus in our lives or through our ministries has a bridge of beyond written into the lyrics. Leaders like me must issue challenges.

As we launch into these challenges, my fear is that we will lose missional momentum. We must not. In fact, if we do this well, we’ll gain more momentum. Our axe will be sharpened for even greater effectiveness in the years and decades to come.

It’s a good journey to Galatia. Join me.

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