Last week was an interesting week in my life and the life of the Illinois District of the Church of the Nazarene. We had our District Assembly last week and there was one matter of business which was a particularly important decision for our district - the sale of Nazarene Acres, our district campground. The financial insolvency of the campgroud led to the same vote being raised a few years ago. Of course, there are many strong ties to a church campground which has been a part of the life of a district for so long. Many people first began to follow Jesus at that campground and then watched their children and grandchildren do the same. That would be enough to keep any faithful Christian from wanting to severe connections with such a place. So when the vote came before the assembly several years ago, it was decided that the motion would be tabled for a few years to see if a certain number of volunteer hours and a certain amount of money could be raised in order to save the campground. Those years passed and the volunteers hours were raised but the monetary goal was not even close to being fulfilled. As a result, this momentous decision came before the assembly once again this year.
We spent much of Thursday afternoon hearing questions of clarification and then arguments for or against selling the campground. The original motion also underwent two amendments; the second of which was my own. The first amendment called for 25% of the proceeds from the sale of the camp be used as an irrevocable and perpetual trust to provide scholarship money to help kids go to camp. I found this to be a well intentioned amendment since the sale of the campground will probably result in kids having to pay higher fees for camp in the future. However, I found the idea of an irrevocable trust into perpetuity to be an objectionable idea (as did a few others it seemed) since perpetuity is a very long time. Certainly, setting aside money for camp scholarships is an excellent idea now but will camping still be a viable ministry in 50 or 100 years? It very well could be but if at some point it is not then the district would be left with a sizable sum of money which was designated to a specific ministry when that money could be better used elsewhere. So I found myself, much to my own surprise, speaking to the assembly about just that matter. With some help from some others better versed in legal and financial matters than myself, we had a written amendment to the amended motion which called for the District Advisory Board to place 25% of the proceeds in an endowment for camp scholarships while still giving the DAB the power to use that money for other things in the future if they saw fit.
(This point in the process was actually somewhat humurous. As another gentlemen and I were trying to get the amendment into writing, the entire assembly was waiting for us to finish since the presiding General Superintended wanted to have the amendment in hand before the assembly could actually vote on it. After several moments, I hurried to the front with the amendment leading the GS to say something along the lines of "here comes our man now, riding on a white horse to help us". This was not exactly the level of involvement I expected to have in just my second District Assembly. Nonetheless, I was happy to have been able to contribute in, at least what I felt, was a meaningful way to the business of the assembly. I also had the privilege of sharing my report earlier on Thursday as well as offering the benediction after Dr. Spruce's report on Wednesday night. )
Ultimately, the motion to give the District Advisory Board the authority to sell the campground was passed by a substantial majority, though not without significant dissent. There were actually several people sitting near me who were brought to tears by the sale of the campgrounds. Although I recognize the deeps connections that many have to this campground, I consider this decision on the part of the assembly to be an important step in the right direction for our district. In my opinion, it is not just a financial issue. It is a matter of keeping our mission and identity as the Church clearly before us. It is a matter of making something that was once good into a sacred relic of glory days gone by at best and an all out idol at worst. In making this decision, I think that the Illinois District has made a small declaration that it values faithfulness to God over anything else, even if there is sometimes a question as to what that faithfulness might look like as new challenges and opportunities continually arise within the ministry of the Church.