Findings of the report were presented at a special meeting attended by the General Presbyters, members of the Assembly Standing Committees (BDP, F&S, and Administrative), the Tomlinson Center Board, and the International Offices staff.
Before releasing the report, General Overseer Randall E. Howard noted the findings would propel a process that would include acting on options suggested from the consulting firm as well as the input received from the membership of the church.
ARKS suggested the Keith Street campus, a 6.3-acre office complex which includes the International Offices, the Communications building and the White Wing Publishing House, should be sold for a fair market value. Church operations should then relocate to a new International Offices complex built on the former Tomlinson College campus on Lee Highway.
ARKS suggested the former Tomlinson College campus, a 94-acre-lot, should be redeveloped for more functionality, including the new International Offices complex, new and repaired Tomlinson College buildings used for leadership development in the new Tomlinson Center, and income-generating rental housing which could include senior citizen housing and apartments.
“Options for Tomlinson Center are wide and include development of a college on the campus to considering strategic partnerships with other accredited colleges,” Howard added.
ARKS suggested the approximately 200 acres Fields of the Wood biblical-theme park near Murphy, N.C., be closed and developed or sold to alleviate a current $100,000-a-year budget deficit, which does not currently include repairs and restoration.
Vision 2020, presented during the 96th International Assembly this past July, stresses three core values of the Church, including prayer, the harvest and leadership development.
During his annual report to the Assembly, Howard said, “The General Presbyters and Administrative Committee felt it would be highly beneficial to hire outside expertise to do a comprehensive study and analysis of our properties and the best uses for these. This is a part, a small component of our Vision and Strategic Planning process going on now.”
“We are grateful to our friends from ARKS for their detailed analysis of our assets,” Howard said. “Their findings are only recommendations that must be discerned over the next few years. We invite prayer and input from all levels of the field through this phase of decision-making.”
The report is part of a future vision and not the result of any type of “crisis” situation, Howard added, but a strategy for growth and avoiding future economic challenges.
“We are not in a moment of crisis,” he said. “The financial status of the International Offices has remained solid even in the midst of economic downturn, only due to our faithful churches, leaders and members, as well as conservative investment policies.
In June, Raleigh, N.C.-based ARKS, Inc. was commissioned to evaluate the denomination’s three main campuses — the International Offices office complex on Keith Street in Cleveland, the former Tomlinson College campus in Cleveland, and the Fields of the Wood.
The report summarizes its commission by stating, “Today, with a renewed commitment to the enhancement and expansion of leadership training, and the financial pressures facing every level of the church in every country it serves, COGOP has recognized the potential for more effective utilization of its Cleveland assets.”
After months of reviewing documents, interviewing staff, inspecting buildings, factoring in external influences and analyzing alternate actions, the group presented recommendations to COGOP leadership during the October meeting.
“Options for the Fields of the Wood include everything from sale, to finding ways to make it self-sustaining through offerings or profit endeavors,” Howard added.
“We do want to guarantee in the discernment process that we aim to maintain and augment our heritage in the Shearer School House where the Spirit fell before 1900, the First Assembly House, and other locations, as well as historical writings, film, video, and other materials that would secure our heritage in years to come.”
Howard also explained the history of the Church of God of Prophecy extends far beyond Fields of the Wood.
“We believe our heritage is far wider than only the Fields of the Wood property and therefore our commitment to heritage includes dedication to secure, preserve, and promote our history and heritage in its varied forms.”
After the presentation, ARKS representatives answered questions from those in attendance on how they arrived at their findings and recommendations.
Bishop Howard once again explained the recommendations are the first step in taking action, a process that will include plenty of time for membership interaction.
“This information is not going to be kept from anyone,” he said. “We want every member of this church to know that they have a voice to express on this subject.”
In the year leading up to the 2012 International Assembly, convening in Louisville, Ky., Howard said members can express their thoughts to his office, members of the Administrative Committee, and their local/state/regional/national leadership. A special e-mail address, Vision2020@cogop.org is also available for members.
The executive summary of the ARKS report, which includes a variety of additional suggestions for each property, is available to leadership and members on the Church’s web site, www.cogop.org.