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General Council Orlando

AG’s 53rd biennial gathering to feature changes

By Kara Chase

This year’s biennial General Council includes several changes from recent national gatherings of the Assemblies of God, but planners believe the changes will enhance the overall event and the renewed emphasis on strengthening the family.

The Assemblies of God is heading back to the Sunshine State for the 53rd General Council, Aug. 3-7 in Orlando. The Fellowship last gathered in Orlando a decade ago for the 48th General Council.

For the first time since the 2001 General Council in Kansas City, Mo., all events will be held in a single venue, the Orange County Convention Center North/South Hall. In years past, youth and adults have held separate services in different venues. This year combined youth-adult services on Thursday and Friday nights have been planned to strengthen the unity of the Fellowship.

“There’s just been too much segmentation in the church,” General Superintendent George O. Wood says. “Can’t we demonstrate something better in the body of Christ? To model what it is to have a community that is embracive of ages and cultures and attitudes.”

Anticipation for the biennial event is high, especially among the AG Executive Leadership Team. Five of the six executive leaders (all except World Missions Executive Director L. John Bueno) began their current positions during or since the last General Council in 2007.

“I’m looking forward, as general superintendent, to setting forth the leadership initiatives we’ve taken these last two years and the agenda the Lord’s put on our hearts for the future,” Wood says.

General Council registration begins Monday, Aug. 3, and the event-filled week swings into full gear that evening with the “Influence: Leadership in High Definition” conference. The two-day seminar features Mark Batterson, Keith Craft, Reggie Joiner, Beth Moore and Ed Young Jr. Pastors and lay leaders alike are invited to attend.

The Orland09 National Youth Convention also gets under way Aug. 3, with an evening service highlighted by speaker Mark Vega, pastor of Ignite Life Center in Gainesville, Fla., and worship led by Jeff Deyo.

Wood will share the keynote message at the first adult service on Aug. 4. He says the sermon will be one of encouragement to ministers and laity.

Herbert Cooper, senior pastor of People’s Church in Oklahoma City, and Dick Brogden, who serves the people of Sudan, will speak at the combined youth-adult evening services on Thursday and Friday. National Youth Ministries Director Jay Mooney will minister at Wednesday night’s youth service. A speaker from the Middle East, whom Wood believes will “electrify the Council,” will lead Thursday morning’s Communion service.

History will be made in the business sessions, as the 53rd General Council will be the first in which an ordained woman and ordained pastor under 40 years of age are elected as executive presbyters.

Also up for election this year are the positions of general superintendent, general secretary, general treasurer and executive director of U.S. Missions. Elections will begin during the Wednesday morning business session.

Business meetings start with devotions. Sarah Krage, pastor of King of Love University Church on the Eastern Michigan University campus, and Jacqueline Toro, pastor of Bethesda Pentecostal Tabernacle in Brooklyn, N.Y., will lead morning devotions on Wednesday and Friday. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of The Purpose-Driven Life, will speak at the Friday morning session.

As in 2007, live video and audio streaming of all General Council plenary services and business sessions will be available online at The Council Today newspaper will again provide daily coverage of the biennial conference in print and online. Friday’s news will be reported online only. As an added feature to the 2009 Council Today print version, each day attendees will be eligible to win one of three day passes provided by Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios.

The two winners of the $30,000 General Superintendent’s Scholarships, as well as the eight winners of the $5,000 Riggs Scholarships, will be introduced at General Council on Thursday night. These first-time scholarships are sponsored by AGTrust, an initiative the General Superintendent’s office launched in 2008.

The 2009 Kids Council offers several options for parents, including morning, afternoon and evening sessions. For the first time, a fully staffed early childhood area will be available during evening services. The child assistance will be free, but availability is limited on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also new to Kids Council this year is the Late Nite Party, which coincides with various General Council receptions Wednesday night, giving parents the option to meet with friends while their children enjoy kid-friendly entertainment.

A highlight of the Orland09 National Youth Convention will be a three-day community outreach. Ambassadors in Mission is partnering with the Southeastern Spanish District to participate in an outreach by Hispanic Orlando churches using door-to-door grocery distribution, children’s ministry, neighborhood evangelism and MEGA Sports Camps.

A World Missions Journey Around the World — The Eurasia Experience returns to Council on Wednesday and Thursday. The interactive missions tour made its Council debut as a Fine Arts Festival exhibit in 2007, but this year adults also will have the opportunity to experience a busy Eurasian marketplace. The Wednesday night tours coincide with the adult night off, allowing time for attendees to participate.

Multiple luncheons and receptions will give attendees the opportunity to learn more about AG ministries and to interact with friends. A memorial breakfast service on Thursday will honor ministers, missionaries and evangelists who have died since the 2007 Council.

The exhibit hall will feature hundreds of booths and exhibits. Open Tuesday through Friday, the hall allows attendees to learn about a wide variety of ministry resources and educational options.

For the first time, as an increased measure of security, registration badges will be required for admittance into all General Council facilities, including the evening services, exhibit hall and Fine Arts presentation rooms. Youth and nonvoting attendees will be able to register for $10 for the week.

Because Orlando is a popular vacation destination, many General Council attendees will include additional vacation time into their trip. Local attractions are offering reduced ticket prices on the General Council Web site. For ticket information or to learn more about the 53rd General Council, visit

KARA CHASE is assistant editor of AG News and The Council Today. She is preparing to spend a year as a missionary associate to Bangkok, Thailand.

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