NAD 2019 Year-End Meetings, Monday Business Meeting

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NAD 2019 Year-End Meetings, Monday Business Meeting

North American Delegates Receive Reports at Year-End Meetings. [Photo credit: Adventist Review]

November 4 Business Session

An issue addressed on Monday at the NADYEM19 was one of clarification and education in regards to the election of a division’s president, secretary, and treasurer. Karnik Doukmetzian, CG General Council, explained the representative model of our church, wherein local churches form the constituencies of local conferences, local conferences form the constituencies of unions, and unions form the constituency of the General Conference. The constituencies’ delegates represent that body to a higher level of organization. NAD’s delegation to the General Conference is made up of 208 individuals representing the division’s 6% membership within the world church. 10% of the 208 (21 delegates) caucus and recommend names for the division president, secretary, and treasurer, which are accepted or rejected by the ±350 GC nominating committee and subsequently taken to the GC floor for voting. The three division leaders are elected by the General Conference in session every five years.

 

The treasurer’s report included some tithe data, such as a 1.08% YTD tithe loss with 2 out of 9 Unions having an increase and Lake Union leading with 2.33%. The net tithe income is $2,208,808 below the current budget. The projection for 2019 is breaking even or close. An attendee asked what amount of money will remain in the NAD after achieving tithe parity and the answer was ± $20,000,000.

 

Much of the conversation took place around the treasury’s recommendation (based on the union treasurers’ recommendation) to increase the pastoral base salary by up to 1.6% (to be implemented July 1, 2020). A few attendees spoke in favor of the motion, for the following reasons:

 

  • Current salaries do not meet the needs of some workers living in high-cost areas; a 5% increased would be ideal.
  • Some pastors lost ±$500/month due to tax changes last year.
  • Pastors’ salaries should be also based on how many churches they have.
  • The salary should favor the pastors over the administrators (in response to which another attendee indicated that the disparity between field workers and administrators is fitting, given the administrators’ weight of responsibility).
  • Vandeon Griffin, Associated Director for Youth/Young Adults Ministries, noted that qualified young adults graduating from our institutions are discouraged by the fact that denominational salaries are “not even commensurate with lower-level entry jobs working for corporate America. I would hope that we consider that, if we want to keep them around, we do need to make the necessary adjustments.” He also suggested that the tithe is partly affected by the work of our pastors.

 

Most of the comments were against the motion, for the following reasons:

  • Strong conferences could help the weaker ones rather than allowing pay raise indiscriminately.
  • For conferences that have been struggling with meeting the payroll, this increase would require cutting staff and/or programming, or tapping into reserves, which would add significant strain.
  • Previous recommendations include the word “may,” making it optional. Randy Robertson and Dan Jackson clarified that the motion allows for an increase of “up to,” which gives room for differences.
  • We need to think in terms of teamwork and not move ahead while other conferences struggle. Some felt that it would be helpful to know how many conferences would actually be able to make the raise.
  • Raising salaries when the membership is struggling would send them the wrong message, particularly when lay members do not receive the education benefits or pay increases that church workers do.
  • The 2.9% raise voted last year was already difficult to budget by some conferences.
  • Dan Linrud (Oregon Conference President) offered some contextual aspects of the work in NAD and suggested that instead of increasing the current salaries we should consider funding future workers and motivate the financial support of the coming tithe-giving generations:

    All … actions must be made in context… A majority of our conferences are trying to navigate the 2019 tithe deficit… the US employment and economic indicators are slowing, while economists project another recession is likely…. US tax requirements have changed, impacting members’ previous tithe giving patterns. Global Adventist conversations have impacted tithe income flow. While our beloved war-generation expanded this church into the world-class institution that it is, sadly, over the next decade, many will be going to their rest in Jesus and their giving will cease. In that same time, a majority of boomer generation will retire from full employment, moving to lower incomes effecting their tithe contributions. We still have much work to do to better engage our millennial, GenZ, and future generations, in valuing and financially supporting the ministries and organizations of the church as it exists…And still I believe that the percent of tithe downloaded the 2% from the GC is not the golden egg; our young people are. In all of this context, adequate remuneration to supporting existing employees must be balanced by strategic financial action. … Base salary continuity is crucial across all of our entities…. There are other ways to relate to costs within areas such as cost of living adjustments…. I just want to appeal to Luke 10… the text said we need more harvesters, we don’t need to pay harvesters more.

  • Alvin Kibble, NAD Vice President, stated that he has never received a raise in his 50 years of working for the church.

    The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not give raises, it gives cost-of-living adjustments. There is a big difference. There is no net gain with a cost of living adjustments, it just means that you’re closing the gap between your income and your overhead. I have been on a campaign for better than twenty years to try to help us understand the dilemma that we are facing right now, with the war generation, and the swing generation, and now the baby boomers. That’s not rocket science. And we will face a challenge down the road very quickly as my generation, as those before me, are going to sleep. Beyond that, though, there is the dilemma of trying to balance the income … and do it equitably. And we can’t do it by holding back the cost of living increase, because even there… it’s at the bottom of it. The better approach, if we’re trying to be equitable, is to restudy the ‘sinking fund’ [which] was designed to help those conferences that were strapped…. If you’re going to make a sacrifice, let’s do it across the board in a way in which it helps those that are really struggling to come up a little bit, while it takes some down from those who are stronger. … All I’m suggesting is a study… because every year we have this debate.

Sharon Mabena, Associate Treasurer of the NAD, suggested that merging some organizations could be financially effective “so that we can continue to hire people that are qualified and can continue to serve the church.” Jackson affirmed her intervention.

An amendment to bring the proposed percentage down to 1% was defeated and the original motion of approving a 1.6% base salary increase passed.

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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.