Bishop Ellis: GUF growing from strength to strength
One year since their last gathering, Global United Fellowship’s (GUF) membership has grown and numbers are at just over 1,400 churches, fellowships, ministries and Christian-owned businesses in 42 countries, according to Presiding Bishop Neil C. Ellis during his state of the fellowship address on Tuesday at the sixth version of “The Gathering” – an increase from 1,112 churches and ministries in 40 countries.
Ellis also noted the elevation of two GUF founding members in Bahamian bishops Deanza Cunningham and Helen McPhee.
Cunningham, for the past three years, led the Bahamas Province as provincial bishop, and has been elevated to the office of metropolitan bishop for the newly launched North Atlantic Ocean Deanery (NAOD), consisting of The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti and the Cayman Islands.
His elevation left a vacancy in the leadership of the Bahamas Province which will be filled by Bishop Helen McPhee, senior pastor of the Agape Baptist Church.
Both appointments take effect on Monday, July 15.
“[Cunningham] has provided focused, steady and integritous leadership to the Bahamas Province. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will provide the same kind of committed leadership, this time on a higher level,” said Ellis during his opening address at the Atlantis resort.
As for McPhee’s elevation, he said that should send a strong message.
“McPhee is the first Bahamian female cleric to be duly consecrated a bishop in the Lord’s church. She will also continue to provide leadership for the Central Bahamas district until a new district leader is appointed.”
Cunningham and McPhee’s elevations were just two of a number of appointments announced.
As GUF gears up for its sixth anniversary in October, the presiding bishop said the fellowship was healthy and hopeful and continuing to grow from strength to strength as they advance their mandate to unite the Body of Christ; equip Christian believers; enhance marriages and families; resurrect the dying discipline of prayer; and build real, authentic and meaningful relationships.
“Anything connected to God is constantly growing. And anything that’s constantly growing is constantly changing. What a glorious 12 months it has been for our fellowship,” he said. “Our reach is extending, our influence is growing and our impact is becoming stronger and stronger every year.”
He said they had welcomed Antigua and Barbuda, the Cayman Islands, Cuba and St. Lucia into the fold since his report last year. And that there were now 14 member churches in Cuba.
“I am so grateful that the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is now being preached in communist Cuba,” said the presiding bishop.
Cuba is represented at “The Gathering” by Bishop Earlin Pupo Deiz, Mt. Sinai Holy Church of Cuba, president. Ellis noted that plans were being finalized for the first Global Gathering in Cuba, November 5-7.
He also reported that GUF has a strong presence in the Dominican Republic, with almost 30 member churches, and that the GUF Clinic in the Dominican Republic is open five days per week and sees between 75 to 150 people per month. The medical clinic, he said, was also being used as a distribution center for personal hygiene items, diapers and first aid kits among other things for residents in the area.
The presiding bishop informed the membership of the official launch of the Spanish Caribbean Province consisting of the 40 member churches in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, for which Bishop Eddie Rivero would serve as the new provincial bishop. Rivero also had oversight of the GUF Spanish Headquarters facility in the Dominican Republic, which will also serve as home to leadership seminars, Bible studies, classes for at-risk youth, job skills training for young adults and short-term housing for missionaries.
Ellis said GUF now has 32 member churches in Haiti and that Bishop Jean Jean was the new provincial bishop for Haiti. He also announced 160 member churches in South Africa, and that their obligation to strengthen their work in the region had increased.
GUF also has a presence in six countries in Central America – Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize.
As he spoke to their growth, Ellis reminded the members to always remain vigilant and cognizant, as the “enemy of God”, he said, was not happy about their aggressive growth.
“You need to be aware that the forces of evil are at work to cause dissension among us to divide, separate and fragment us.”
He urged them to arm themselves for the conflict, anchor themselves and to stay on the wall.
“While we expect this from the outside, let us be reminded that the enemy is subtle and will use anyone who is available – even if you’re on the inside. Be careful, my brothers and sisters, not to avail yourselves as tools of the enemy to cause dissension among the brethren.”
Ellis said GUF is not only global in the scope of their membership, but global in their mission to the nations of the world.
“In our continuing efforts to fulfill the great commission of Christ, to go and make disciples in all nations, we are now in our fifth year with a strategic partnership with Compassion International Ministries.”
In February, 15 pastors participated in an official, all-expense-paid Compassion International familiarization tour to Ecuador.
“They had a chance to see first-hand the operation of Compassion in that country. Together with Compassion, our work is transforming children, families, churches and communities through the power of God’s love, and our impact is being multiplied. As a Fellowship, over the past four years, we have sponsored and helped to pull out of poverty a little more than 3,000 children.”
He said over the course of the year, the fellowship had been engaged in extensive social development and medical outreach programming providing free medical supplies and services to needy communities in these countries.
A key pillar and foundational principle of the GUF mandate is to always be a resourceful and dependable engine of support for their body of churches and their pastoral leadership.
Ellis said too many congregations were losing their churches or in danger of losing their property, and little or nothing is positively being done about it. To that end, he said the Church Repositioning Opportunity Fund (CPOF) – a partnership of clergy and financial experts committed to assisting local churches in the creation of healthy financial profiles – seeks to fill that gap, and assist in saving churches, and be a blessing to the kingdom.
With education a key focus on the agenda and the fellowship serious about empowering religious leaders, Ellis said it was their mission to take the concept of transformation beyond just theory, for it to become active in their lives, churches, families and communities as they focused in on the healthy church.
The plenary sessions, he said, were filled with information and resources to make sure participants left this conference with the knowledge and tools to expound on the themes and trends they developed over the past two years. Workshops and seminars, he said, were designed to educate, liberate and get them engaged in the transformative work of the kingdom.
“We are serious about our commitment to build this fellowship into a culturally distinct and globally influential religious reformation that wields influence in every emerging trend and issue that affects God’s people,” he said.
Ellis said “The Gathering” – the first to be held outside the United States – was prayerfully and meticulously designed to be yet another transformative week. And for them to use the gathering to get to know God and each other better as they examined what a healthy church is during its annual conference.
“Unite. Fellowship. After all, this is who we are. But at the end of it all, it is my prayer that whatever you do, God alone would be glorified.”
Ellis also revealed that it cost just over a half-million dollars to host “The Gathering”. With registration and other pledges from pastors, Ellis said they came into this year’s conference with a total of $328,500 representing 59 percent of the budget, leaving them with a balance of $244,500.
But he told them that he was leaving it in the Lord’s hands.
“We’ve heard it said time and time again, and today I echo it’s truth, the Lord will provide.”
“The Gathering”, which got underway on Monday with an executive council meeting, concludes on Friday.
Ellis announced the seventh gathering in 2020 will be held at the Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.