How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1; NIV 2011)
In 2006 the ICOC Cooperation Proposal was published and ratified by the majority of ICOC congregations worldwide with great positive effect. The adoption of the Cooperation Proposal:
- produced stability and cohesion within our worldwide fellowship;
- affirmed the support for and cooperative relationship between the ICOC and HOPEww;
- approved the continuing support for DisciplesToday.org and a global communication imperative;
- encouraged the formation and strengthening of mission societies and witnessed the amount of global missions’ support increase by almost 30% (i.e., from approx. $US 7 M in 2005 to $US 9 M in 2016);
- increased cooperation within Regional Families of churches and identification of those congregations needing strengthening and encouragement, and;
- provided a platform for the submission, evaluation and the ratification of global proposals.
Within the text of the Cooperation Proposal was the understanding that further development would most certainly be necessary:
“The arrangement within this proposal is what seems best for now, but we understand that we are a work in progress who will be led by God to make adjustments as we proceed and learn.” (p. 4)
Of course, these benefits are not simply the result of a document’s creation, but a testimony to the hard work and dedication of many sacrificial brothers and sisters from around the world and to the power of God demonstrated through answered prayers and a divine spirit of unity. Thanks to all who have helped in the implementation of this proposal!
Since the adoption of the Cooperation Proposal in 2006, an annual Spring Meeting has been organized and typically involved the meetings of the four core Global Service Teams of Elders, Evangelists, Teachers, and Women’s Ministers. These Service Teams would spend time in both separate and collaborative meetings, and sometimes involved the additional meetings of other Global Service Teams or at least representation by their respective chairmen (i.e., Communications, Youth & Family, Singles, Campus, HOPEww, and Administration). Some of the important functions fulfilled by these Spring Meetings included the vetting and preparation of global proposals for the upcoming Delegates meetings, planning committees for scheduled conferences like the annual Delegates Meetings and International Leadership Conferences (ILCs), task force formation for special issues like communication needs, missions’ effectiveness, and conflict resolution situations, and the sharing of news and updates about the work of the ministry from around the world. Two years ago, the ICOC 3.0 discussion began at the 2017 Spring Meeting in Dallas and the underlying theme of the ICOC 3.0 structure proposal was to form a global executive (i.e., decision-making) team together with an advisory/overseeing board (i.e., the formation of an organizational level above the regional families of churches). The 2017 Delegates Congress (Chicago) witnessed highly interactive and healthy discussion that resulted in an alternative approach dubbed “ICOC 2.1” being proposed and a Task Force created for its development.
The ICOC 2.1 Upgrade Proposal focused on further empowering the cooperative efforts of the regional families of churches through the greater utilization of the Regional Family Chairmen as a collaborative body—prior to this proposal, this group had only met once or twice and never developed an identity of its own. At the 2018 Delegates Meeting in Panama, other decisions made by the delegates regarding finances and conflict resolution also demonstrated the widespread desire for greater regional development as opposed to creating more encompassing global constructs. The formation of the global Missions Cooperation Task Force was intended to create synergy between the existing Missions Societies and facilitate the sharing of best practices between them, as well as help assess the equity in the current gathering, organization and distribution of resources—both human and financial. It would therefore appear that at this moment in areas of global cooperation, our attention will be centered on the needs of regional strengthening and development, and these resonates with the majority decision to implement the ICOC 2.1 Structure Proposal.
The first step of developing this proposal was to affirm what had been working well (many of those benefits are listed in the opening paragraph) while also pinpointing areas of cooperation that need improvement or revision. Some of the notable areas of our current practice that needed further consideration and evaluation were:
- the steady decline in the number of relevant global “proposals” being brought before the delegates;
- the underutilization of the Regional Family Chairmen as a source of synergy and a platform for sharing best practices in church building and mission effectiveness;
- the difference in funding levels between the various Mission Societies and their respective missions projects;
- the correlation of the mandates of the various Global Service Teams with the needs of the Regional Families of churches;
- broader involvement and representation in the planning process and selection of both themes and speakers at the annual Delegates Meetings and ILCs.
The stated objective of ICOC 2.1 is “to direct and focus delegates to action on items of importance (church health, growth, unity, etc.) to produce action and change.” The mechanism in this approach is to broaden the basis of influence rather than heighten our organizational structure. Integral to the implementation of the ICOC 2.1 proposal is the formation of the Catalyst Team, the cessation of the Evangelists Service Team and an increased facilitation of the Regional Family Chairmen as a collaborative body and greater Delegate involvement. Whereas the former Evangelists Service Team was limited to Continental representation, the Spring Meeting will now include all of the Regional Family Chairmen and their corresponding women’s leaders so that every Regional Family of Churches will have direct representation. The work of the Catalyst Team is to provide vision, focus and direction for the Regional Family Chairmen and to the Delegates. To facilitate this “catalytic” role, the Catalyst Team will include two elders, one teacher, two women’s ministry leaders, a representative from the Missions Cooperation Task Force, as well as seven representatives from the Regional Family Chairmen. Working together with the ICOC 2.1 Task Force while still in Panama, the Regional Family Chairmen met together and decided that until the next Delegates Meeting in 2019, the Regional Family Chairmen would be granted transitional authority to amend the proposed ICOC 2.1 process so that implementation could proceed as smoothly as possible. These practical decisions included:
- selecting the Transition Team;
- adjusting the composition of the Catalyst Team by increasing the number of women from one to two;
- restricting the initial Catalyst Team evangelists to currently active Regional Family Chairmen for the sake of continuity;
- review these modifications during the next twelve months and ratify the changes at the 2019 Delegates Meeting in San Diego.
The Transition Team completed its work last December and following a majority decision by the Regional Family Chairmen, the Catalyst Team was tasked with selecting its own coordinator and chose AT Arneson. (Note: the designation of “coordinator” has been suggested so as not to be confused with the “chairmen” roles of other Service Teams and Regional Church Family leadership). Since January, the Catalyst Team has been working together with the RFCs to develop the agenda/program for the Spring Meeting where the proper strategies can also be discussed for planning the 2019 ILC and mechanisms set in place for increased Delegate participation and feedback. The ICOC 2.1 model recognizes the Regional Family Chairmen (RFC) as the first stage of our global fellowship’s policy makers and developers, and the role of the delegates to review, revise and finalize those proposals (i.e., affirm or reject). Prior to the 2019 Spring Meeting, the Catalyst Team has had five 90-minute conference calls. Most of the agenda of these calls was spent in the formation of Task Forces and planning for the upcoming Spring Meeting. The Catalyst Team committed itself to honestly, humility and a listening stance in their service to the Regional Family of Churches.
In overview, here is a list of the pertinent actionable items that have been discussed and agreed upon by the Catalyst Team during these calls:
- Global statistics should continue to be collected and made available by the Spring Meeting;
- Following the model implemented by previous Service Teams, the Catalyst Team will organize Task Forces that will initially be made up of the Regional Family Chairmen and Regional Women’s Representative (in some cases, the wife of the RFC, but not necessarily), and members of the Elders, Teachers, and Women’s Global Service Teams as well as members of some of the already operation Global Service Teams. Although, Catalyst Team members will act as liaisons between these Task Forces and the Catalyst Team, the chairpersons will be selected internally by the Task Forces.
- The two Catalyst Team women’s representatives will liaise with the appropriate women’s groups to develop the mechanism for forming the Women’s Service Team—previously it had been made up primarily of wives of the Elders and Evangelists, as well as female Teachers and the wives of male Teachers.
- An email will be sent out to the Regional Family Chairmen for input regarding the formation of the Task Forces with introductory blurbs describing each of them, and then another invitation will be sent out requesting the RFCs choices for participation. (It was noted that the women involved will also choose their Task Force participation—i.e., involvement with the Women’s Task Force is not assumed).
- Considering the healthy practice of some Regional Families of Churches having a women’s representative who is not the spouse of the RFC, we will suggest the use the terminology of “Regional Family Chairman” and “Women’s Chair/Coordinator”—to be affirmed at Spring Meeting.
- Send a follow-up email to the Regional Family Chairmen inviting them to serve on a Task Force at least up until the Delegates meeting in the autumn whereupon the system may be slightly revised again after receiving more input from the Delegates.
- Review and possibly drop the 3.0 and 2.1 nomenclature depending on the RFCs approval.
- Spend time the first morning (Tuesday) defining terminology and role descriptions (i.e., suggestion to rename the “Missions Cooperation Task Force” as the “Mission Society Development Team”).
- Theme for Spring Meetings will be “To Live is Christ” coming out of Philippians. The RFCs and Core Service Teams will be asked to send speaker suggestions and lesson titles to CT Coordinator (AT Arneson).
- Andy Fleming will prepare executive summaries of these conversations to be sent to the Regional Family Chairmen and the Regional Family Women Chairs/Coordinators, with an initial comprehensive update to be given at the 2019 Spring Meeting.
Finally, there remained some components of the ICOC 2.1 implementation that required further discussion and decision at the Spring Meeting since they were new developments or emphases:
- The ICOC 2.1 proposal stated the first “three” delegates of any Regional Family of Churches needs to be one man, one woman, and one next generation leader.
- The mandates of Global Service Teams should be understood, modified (if needed), and ratified by the Delegates. (These mandates were to be reviewed and their direction affirmed (or rejected) by the Regional Family Chairmen).
- The planning for future ILCs will focus primarily on Church Health and Growth, Region Building and Ministry Training.
- Ultimately, the prime objective of the Global Service Teams is to facilitate the formation and development of Continental and/or Regional Service Teams. This direction resonates with the establishment of the Regional Family Chairmen as a “global” group and paves the way for all “global” groups to be made up of representatives of active Regional (or Continental) Service Teams. Considering the diversity of languages, cultural contexts (not to mention the monumental expense involved in making “global” meetings take place), this step will refine regional agendas to more accurately match regional needs, and thereby emphasize our unity and diversity globally without becoming trapped by absolute conformity. This regionalization process opens the door for much more involvement and helps develop the role of Regional Family Chairmen to be facilitators of Regional development.