International Offices Expansion Debt Retired

Cleveland, TN—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.

An expansion of headquarters was authorized by the General Assembly of 2000 to construct the Leadership and Communications and Discipleship and Education buildings. Action to pay off that original indebtedness was accelerated at a Leadership Summit last September when state and regional leaders committed to an aggressive campaign to retire the debt that remained.

According to General Overseer Timothy Hill, release from this obligation now frees up resources for church planting, discipleship training and other ministries of the Church of God around the globe.

The journey of the current site of the International Offices began in the mid-1960s when the Church of God purchased approximately 20 acres on what was then remote real estate in northern Cleveland, Tennessee. There was a need for a modern, new headquarters to serve a global membership of what was then around 500,000. Between 1966-1968, a four-story structure was built and dedicated on May 22, 1968, under the leadership of then General Overseer Charles W. Conn.

The contemporary edifice served the Church of God efficiently until membership grew to over 6 million in the late 1990s. The four-story, 60,000 square-foot headquarters had long become unable to accommodate ministries that had evolved, and others that were birthed during the 30-year period of exponential growth. Buildings had been purchased or leased for ministry space in nearly a dozen locations around Cleveland. The need and desire to bring departments together on one campus was long overdue and would offer a more efficient way to conduct ministry.

In 2000, following an extensive needs study, a proposal was brought to the 68th General Assembly in St. Louis to expand the footprint of headquarters by doubling the existing ministry space, adding two new buildings to form an International Offices campus. An original request of $6 million was raised to $10 million by a vote of the General Council and confirmed at the General Assembly. The funds were designated for the new construction, as well as a renovation of the current headquarters.

An official groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion took place on September 25, 2001, led by General Overseer R. Lamar Vest and attended by church, city and state officials. Excavation of the site began, followed by just over two years of construction on the two new buildings nearly identical in architecture. Once completed, crews moved immediately on an interior and exterior renovation of the original headquarters to mirror the new buildings. The entire project culminated in a formal dedication, ribbon-cutting and open house almost four years to the day on September 27, 2005.

Hill led the April 18 ceremony, assisted by members of the Executive Committee. First Assistant General Overseer Raymond Culpepper offered a welcome, followed by scripture and prayer from Second Assistant Tony Stewart. Third Assistant David Ramirez offered a prayer of dedication, while Secretary General Gary Lewis dismissed with a closing prayer. Raymond Hodge, director of business and records for the Church of God, offered remarks on the debt retirement process and Mayor Kevin Brooks presented a certificate of commendation from the city of Cleveland declaring April 18, 2023 as Church of God International Offices “Note Burning Day.”

Participating in the note burning ceremony were (L-R), J. David Stephens, Mark Williams, John Childers, M. Thomas Propes, R. Lamar West, Tim Hill, Raymond Culpepper, Wallace Sibley, Gary Lewis, David Griffis, Tony Stewart, and David Ramirez (click photo to enlarge)

Participating in the actual note burning were members of the Executive Committee and the Advisory Council, former members of the Executive Committee who served since the expansion took place. Immediately prior a formal resolution, adopted by the Executive Committee, was read and stated in part, “whereas construction indebtedness on the expansion stood at $7.3 million in April 2014 and had been reduced to just under $2 million by September 2022, with monthly obligations toward the debt of just under $63,000, prompting an effort by Church leaders to eliminate this financial burden.”

“Now therefore be it resolved that state and regional administrative bishops, pastors, ministries, and other church leaders answered the call and eradicated the debt; and”

“Be it further resolved that the International Executive Committee offers great gratitude and thanks to all who participated toward creating a new avenue of blessing; and”

“Be it finally resolved that the thousands of dollars now released for future ministry be blessed and anointed toward reaching the Harvest in these last days. To God be the glory!”

“We give God the praise for this unprecedented campaign of partnership from visionaries, led by administrative bishops,” Hill stated. “The Executive Committee thanks everyone for their commitment in digging deep to help realize this victorious day.”

—Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications

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