The Church of God Executive Committee was joined by members of the International Executive Council and employees of the International Offices on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, for a ceremonial “note burning,” signifying the retirement of debt on the International Offices.
Two weeks earlier, on April 5, 2023, Secretary General Gary Lewis confirmed the retirement of long-term debt on the International Offices / Headquarters campus with the announcement of the payoff of the buildings that was as high as $1.8 million just last fall.
This is the end of an unpleasant saga in my church’s recent history: the expansion of the International Offices, the over budget construction, and the blowback from our ministers concerning same. I made some comments about this in my 2010 post Crossing the Rainbow Bridge: A Pentecostal Saga:
Fast forward to the year where the left made its last attempt to defeat George W. Bush electorally. (There’s a political angle to the “rainbow bridge” but I’ll skip it.) My own church, which was my employer, had been engaged in a massive expansion of its central offices (with expense following,) and the process was complete. Amidst one of the sappiest responsorial readings I had ever been a part of, the buildings, which surround an expansive prayer garden, were dedicated, and we crossed our own rainbow bridge.
There were prophets amongst us. One of my colleagues proclaimed that Jesus had turned his back on us. We peered out of the lobby of the building where our new office was (and is, for the moment) and saw truth in his words. And there was the matter of payment.
The expanse of Wagner’s musical productions were only matched by the controversy they generated. Their creator had a high view of his operas, but in his time he had detractors. Instead of applause, there were many times when the audience was simply clasping its hands above their heads. Such was also the case with our new Valhalla.
With life faithfully imitating art, it was time for the hero to appear. Somewhere in my preppy education the idea that heroes didn’t come from warm climates bubbled to the top, that only cold, harsh climates could produce such. As a South Floridian, this doesn’t sit well, and my response is here. For once I was right. Not so far from the sunken Spanish gold, where the animals are tame and the people run wild, a hero appeared that would doom Valhalla and many of its inhabitants. It’s taken some time and the process has generated more heat than light, but earlier this year our reorganisation began, I announced that I was taking my leave, and we began the painful process of downsizing that has continued unabated to the present day.
Unfortunately, as was the case in the Ring, the hero’s appearance wasn’t an automatic solution to every problem. The bottom line to our hero’s crusade was that less of the denomination’s cash flow would flow to the centre and more would remain in the field. But, unlike mythology, there are many Valhallas out there, products of a generation whose penchant for grandiosity combined with availability of credit produced a proliferation of economically unsustainable physical plants. (That’s what happens when the church follows the culture rather than the other way around!)
With this burden off of our backs, we can hopefully proceed to move forward and enhance the work that God called us to do.
Sadly our church isn’t the only one to build Valhallas like this one. Just up the road in Knoxville one Catholic Bishop Rick Stika erected a cathedral whose budget was several orders of magnitude larger than ours. The Episcopalians spent north of $40,000,000 to hold on to their properties, that a “social justice” church. The temptation to overdo it on physical plant, one which dates back to the days of Eusebius of Caeserea, is a good reason why “lead us not into temptation” is part of the Lord’s Prayer.