By Carl Stagner
The world is hungry. Starving, in fact. Decades of devolution into trite programs and a focus on religious rituals have often offered only gristle in lieu of hearty spiritual meat. Regardless of cultural background, people today are craving convictions that lead to meaningful action. They’re searching for answers amid a smorgasbord of platitudes and pretense. But at the forefront of change is the Church of God movement, revitalized by a bright new day of reclaiming what hell has stolen and changing the world by making Jesus the subject. Such theology really isn’t new; it’s New Testament, and it’s leading Church of God ministers and ministries to lock arms with like-minded brothers and sisters in spite of what name may be over the door of the church they attend. A new book edited by Barry Callen celebrates the multitude of faith groups connected by their Wesleyan roots which, through their distinct voices united under Christ, are living out common-held truths and transforming society.
Take for instance, CHOG TraffickLight. Before the fight against human trafficking was ever on the radar of most faith groups, the Church of God was on the scene. Since then, numerous denominations and agencies have followed suit. The Declaration of Freedom, drafted in December 2013, is the Wesleyan Holiness Connection’s treatise on this great issue of our time. Faith groups which trace their roots back to Wesley are now some of the greatest champions of freedom from modern slavery the world has ever seen. Such groups include the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, the Brethren in Christ, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, Grace Communion International, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Salvation Army, the United Methodist Church, and the Wesleyan Church. In addition to the Declaration of Freedom, Callen’s new book, titled The Holy River of God, includes valuable resources for engaging a post-Christian culture, such as the Holiness Manifesto, a call to full acceptance of women in ministry, and a conversation on gracefully engaging the LGBT debate.
Churches coming out of the Wesleyan holiness tradition are confronting the hot-button issues of our time because of the values they hold. From the beginning, the Church of God has carried the banner of unity and holiness, and as we live out such values, we recognize the power of working together. To the holiness movement, we have contributed the inextricable link between unity and holiness. Other churches of Wesleyan descent have made unique contributions, as well, and The Holy River of God chronicles those contributions from the perspective of leaders in each tribe. The book also offers a history of the Wesleyan Holiness Connection and tells the stories of associated ministry partners, such as the Junia Project and the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy—a group led by MaryAnn Hawkins, who now serves as the dean of Anderson School of Theology and Christian Ministry.
Purchase a copy of The Holy River of God on Amazon.com or through Aldersgate Press. Available in soft-cover or e-book format.