George Cope is president
of Zion Bible Institute, a historic Bible learning center with deep
roots in the 20th-century Pentecostal movement. Zion recently joined
the ranks of Assemblies of God colleges and universities. Ken Horn,
managing editor, spoke with Cope about Zions ministry.
Evangel: Many in the Assemblies
of God are unfamiliar with Zion Bible Institute. Would you tell us about
the schools history?
Zion was founded in 1924 by Christine Gibson, a missionary in South
America who came to the United States for health reasons. She was led
of the Holy Spirit to the Providence, R.I., area. She envisioned a school
to train pastors, missionaries and evangelists who would reach America
and the world. Zion started as a very small school, but this past semester
we had 457 students, including 85 international students from 35 countries.
Evangel: What led to Zions
recent affiliation with the Assemblies?
Cope: Zion was independent
until two years ago, though 85-90 percent of our graduates came into
the Assemblies of God. In 1985, Dr. Benjamin Crandall, an Assemblies
of God minister and Zion graduate, became Zions fourth president.
He took a week each summer to fast and pray for direction for the next
year. In 1997, after extended prayer, Dr. Crandall recommended to the
board of trustees that Zion should come into a fellowship and recommended
that it be the Assemblies of God. They gave the school completely to
the Assemblies of God in 1998. We have a great relationship with Valley
Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania. We are sister schools and we
are in a wonderful working relationship.
Evangel: What brought you to
Zion Bible Institute?
Cope: My grandfather and
father were led to the Lord by a Zion graduate in 1941. Ive been
a pastor for 26 years. About three years ago my wife and I sensed God
was leading us to further education. I wanted to teach in overseas Bible
schools. Little did I know that a year and a half later I would be selected
as Zions fifth president. The miracle is that I was once a dyslexic
student. I failed the first six grades of school. My teachers recommended
I be placed in a school for the mentally retarded. I have become a living
witness that God never calls believers to a task that He doesnt
equip them for. [A future issue of the Evangel will include President
Evangel: To what do you attribute
Zions spiritual atmosphere?
Cope: We talk of Zion as
a family. Our chapels are an hour and fifteen minutes each day, and
students enjoy participating in extended praise and worship as well
as the preaching of the Word. We always give an open invitation to come
to the altar. There is an ongoing expression of the gifts of the Spirit.
We pray for the sick. We have Communion. Our students understand that
we do one thing here: We train pastors, missionaries and evangelists.
Evangel: Describe some of your
Cope: Ministry involvement
is required. Every weekend students must be in at least two church services
teaching Sunday school, working with youth groups, and participating
in street ministry, prison ministry, and other outreaches. We partner
with 49 local churches that involve students personally.
Evangel: Where have Zion graduates
Cope: Graduates serve as
missionaries in 77 countries. We have graduates in every state serving
in local churches. All 68 graduates this year had a place of ministry.
We particularly want to use Zion to help plant churches in the Northeast,
the most unreached part of America. We have 60 million people from Boston
to Washington, D.C., and Providence is almost in the middle of that.
Evangel: Is there anything else
you would like to say?
Cope: Zion is fully accredited
with the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, but we only offer
one degree. Zion, 76 years later, is doing what it was founded to do
training and equipping pastors, missionaries and evangelists.
We have made a commitment that Zion will never change its focus. I thank
the Assemblies of God for welcoming this school. We have received nothing
but love and support and the absolute affirmation that we are wanted