October 13, 2019 Annual Council Report (Sunday Evening Business Session)

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October 13, 2019 Annual Council Report (Sunday Evening Business Session)

Photo: General Conference Executive Committee Meeting 2019 Agenda Cover Image

Editorial Note: The Compass Magazine will be providing summary reports of the Fall General Conference Executive Committee meeting, also known Annual Council, October 11-16, 2019. The theme of this year’s Annual Council is “Faithfulness in Christian Lifestyle.” Click here to access the full agenda. Click here to access the livestream for the event. Previously recorded sessions can be accessed here.

Session presided by Geoffrey G Mbwana, General Conference Vice President

Selected items discussed and voted on:

 

  1. Betina Krause to become Associate Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department of the GC. The vote carried. The tithe parity requires downsizing of the General Conference, thus the position she is leaving will not be filled.

 

  1. The following two paragraphs of the CONSTITUTION OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS to be deleted given the parity vote:

 

“ARTICLE IV—GENERAL CONFERENCE UNDERSECRETARY AND ASSOCIATE SECRETARIES Sec. 2. The secretary of the North American Division, by virtue of election to that responsibility, shall also be an associate secretary of the General Conference.”

 

“ARTICLE V—GENERAL CONFERENCE UNDERTREASURER AND ASSOCIATE TREASURERS Sec. 2. The treasurer of the North American Division, by virtue of election to that responsibility, shall also be an associate treasurer of the General Conference.”

 

The vote carried.

 

  1. The following paragraph to be deleted:

 

GENERAL CONFERENCE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE – CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS AMENDMENT – 2. Section 7. “Local conference/mission/field presidents shall be invited to attend Annual Council meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee when it is held within the territory of their division. Unless an executive session, which consists of members only, is called, such invitees shall be extended the privilege of participation in all discussions of the meetings, but without vote.”

Selected Comments:

Ted Wilson. For the past eleven years this provision has only benefitted one division. We do not anticipate future annual council meetings outside of the GC building for financial reasons (it would cost 700,000 to 1,000,000 more). By way of logic, division year-end meetings should invite local pastors to attend their meeting with voice but no vote, executive committees of the Unions should invite local church elders to attend with voice but no vote, and local conference executive meetings should invite every member to attend the committee with voice but no vote. Division presidents unanimously voted to delete Art. 13, section 7. Anyone can attend the annual council, but without voice and vote.

Dan Jackson, NAD President, said he voted in favor of this, though he is not sure it is the best proposition for the well-being of the church in the long run if conference presidents around the world are pushed away from meaningful participation.

Kern Tobias, Caribbean Union Conference, asked what the procedure for someone is who wishes to attend the annual council.

Ted Wilson. In response to Dan Jackson noted that this recommendation does not diminish the conference presidents’ role in the administration of the church, however, there is no provision allowing conference presidents to be integral to activities at the GC level; they are represented by union presidents. In response to Tobias he indicated that as long as there is available space and the observer pays her/his own expenses, all are welcome to attend.

Leon Brown, President of Nevada-Utah, conference spoke on behalf of presidents around the world, stating that the conference president is the last connection to the membership. He indicated that he understands the rationale, but expressed concerned that if this action passes, it is a signal to the NAD that they are not wanted and pleaded with the voters to consider how this decision impacts the NAD.

Randy Roberts, Senior Pastor at Loma Linda University Church, stated that he understands the desire for equal vote and opportunity across divisions, yet expressed concern about the “subtle subtext” that the central reality of the church is not really the church members, that they don’t really matter. “A local congregant connects deeply with his or her local conference president as a means of representation in the larger body of the church,” said Robrts.

Kwasi Ansah-Adu, Quebec Conference President, indicated that he considers this a fair action.

Unidentified Speaker, agreed with the rationale but expressed concern about the message this would send to the NAD, who has been very supportive of the world church. He suggested that this may not be the right time.

Unidentified Speaker, indicated that, since the language is inclusive and the meetings may take place in another division in the future, the implication is world-wide and is not directed specifically towards the NAD.

Unidentified Speaker, offered some historical background of this statement. During the 1980s Elder Folkenberg asked a committee to study the constitutional bylaws of the General Conference. Before that, union presidents around the world, although members of the committee, were never invited to come to the committee, while all the NAD union and conference presidents were members of the committee. When it was determined to regularly invite all the union presidents, the committee decided it was too much, so the painful decision was made to exclude the NAD conference presidents from the committee in order to make room for the union presidents from around the world to participate regularly. Section 7 was a compromise, and while taking away the vote of conference presidents, it allowed voice for any conference presidents of the division in which the committee would meet. He suggested that this is a regrettable action and if in the future the committee will meet in another division it will affect the conference presidents in that division. He asked to make an amendment but counsel suggested it was not appropriate.

GT Ng stated that we are reading too much into this and that the request came from the NAD. This is not about diminishing a conference or organization, but a request from the NAD for policy parity following the tithe parity.

Alex Bryant, secretary of NAD, clarified that, while NAD did ask for Article IV Sec. 2 and Article V Sec.2 (see points 2 and 3 above) to be deleted along with other policy changes, this specific request did not come from NAD. Instead, when asked specifically about it, they indicated it was not part of their request, because the time is right and because it does not refer specifically to the NAD and would affect other conference presidents around the world.

Hensley Moorooven, Secretary of Constitution and Bylaws and Secretary of the Policy Review Development Committee, affirmed Bryant’s clarification, indicating that the reason why this is brought to the table is simply that there is no longer a need for it.

Stephan Sigg, German-Swiss Conference President, indicated that he understands the rationale, but asked if the executive committee has ever decided to hold the annual council solely in North-America and raised the question if that vote should not be taken before voting on deleting the paragraph based on the idea that annual council will not be held in other divisions.

Ted Wilson replied stating that no decision has been officially made to hold the annual council only in North America, but the lack of money will require it along with revisions to dramatically cut the cost. “If you truly want parity, which is what the NAD has been asking … there is no way that the General Conference, with its diminished financial footprint, is going to be holding very many annual councils outside of this building. We will not have the money for that,” said Wilson. He also reiterated that at the General Conference meetings, the union conference represents the church, not the conference presidents.

Jim Gibson, Director of the Geoscience Research Institute, asked what the difference is between having this policy in place or not. Is it a matter of having an official invitation, or is it a matter of having a voice or not? Is the fundamental issue the voice?

Karnik Doukmetzian, General Conference General Counsel, clarified that the issue is about the voice and reiterated that, if passed, this motion will still have to be voted on the floor of the General Conference session.

Juan Prestol-Puesan, General Conference Treasurer, expressed his regret about the interpretation of this motion and stated that the intention of the GC is not to silence anyone, but to be fair to other divisions, whose conference presidents, if choosing to attend on their own, would not have a voice.

A motion was presented to table this item, but the chair went on with voting on the original motion. Thomas Muller, Danish Union President, called a Point of Order, stating that a motion to either table the discussion or to table it for tomorrow was called and it should supersede the original motion. The chair confirmed and asked for a vote on tabling the motion by raise of hands. While the votes were being counted, Ted Wilson interrupted the count to clarify once again that by tabling this item they would be taking it off the table indefinitely. The vote to table the motion was retaken by raising of hands and it carried with 152 who voted yes versus 116 who voted no.

 

  1. The Belize Union of Churches Mission became Belize Union Mission in light of its recent growth (421,088 population and 46,105 Adventists, with a membership to population ration of 1:9). It will be organized into North Belize Mission, Central Belize Mission, and Southwest Belize Mission. A special prayer of dedication was offered.

 

  1. The Ethiopian Union will be divided into East Ethiopia Union Mission, with headquarters in Addis Ababa, and West Ethiopian Union Mission with headquarters in Nekemte, in light of its membership growth from 122,000 in 2011 to 205,00 in 2019, (with an average of 10,000 baptisms annually) and tithe growth by 154%. The country’s division into two linguistic and religious groups (Orthodox and Islam) will be served better by two unions. A prayer of dedication was offered.

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.