By Carl Stagner
Anyone who has done even the most rudimentary research into the early days of the Church of God movement knows we have a fascinating history. We love to laud the honorable aspects of our past, but we acknowledge our missteps and failures, as well. Learning from yesterday—the good and the bad—helps us lean forward into the future God has planned for us together. In Barry Callen’s new book, Leaning Forward!, God’s unchanging involvement in the lives of his people is the thread that connects our heritage to who we are today. As a comprehensive history and reference guide to every resolution since the General Assembly’s humble beginnings in 1917, Leaning Forward! provides a panorama of the Church of God unlike we’ve ever seen.
Callen’s new book is more than a list of all the resolutions of the General Assembly. That’s been done before, though an updated list was certainly needed. Leaning Forward! is a reflective journey into the origins and growth of the General Assembly, offering not only facts, but perspective on the particular structures and functions of the whole. “Christians are wiser together than they are as separated, isolated individuals or congregations,” Barry reflects about the book. “The General Assembly is the most representative voice of the movement. Its speaking deserves to be heard by everyone in the movement. Several of its pivotal resolutions speak pointedly to vital issues now. This book becomes a resource of contemporary wisdom for all of us.”
When asked why he decide to publish the book at this particular time in the life of the Church of God, Barry says, “The General Assembly had just reached its centennial, having been established formally in 1917. So much of its collected wisdom over the generations was virtually unknown by most people in the church, and even sometimes forgotten by assembly members who participated in key resolutions. We must not forget our accumulated wisdom as we proceed into the future!”
The book is organized by topic and includes an index designed for any pastor, board member, or lay person to quickly find any resolution passed by the General Assembly on any subject in any year. Having been released after this year’s General Assembly in Orlando, Florida, the book is the most up-to-date resource available, and include names and pictures of General Assembly and Church of God Ministries leadership over the past few decades.
As Barry Callen was researching, compiling, and preparing to write Leaning Forward!, he was reminded of some especially unique but compelling characteristics of the Church of God we so dearly cherish. “Church of God people are very reluctant to accept centralized authority in church life,” he notes. “The General Assembly is not authoritative, in the sense that it can control the lives and beliefs of individual congregations. Even so, we are stronger together, and our wisdom is enriched by the Spirit’s giving of gifts to a wide range of believers who have guided the life and thinking as the General Assembly.”
Purchase a copy of Leaning Forward! General Assembly of the Church of God in the United States and Canada at Amazon.com.