Today’s business meeting discussion was dominated by an examination of the Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Before the business of the day transpired, Elder Wilson appealed to the delegates to follow parliamentary procedure and addressed the issue of voting. He pleaded with delegates not to use the Point of Order as a means to hold up the proceedings. It seemed that his appeal was heeded. The outlook on the floor seemed much less contentious than during Sunday’s meeting.
There was a general spirit of cooperation among the delegates that I had not seen the day before. We covered much more and progressed much faster through the agenda than many expected. Many of the agenda items were voted on unanimously.
I also noticed a little more calmness from the church body today. After seeing tempers flare on Sunday, it was nice to see a little more repositioning. Today’s proceedings went by with fewer than 10 points of order as opposed to Sunday’s excessive use of them. On Sunday delegates at times acted more like politicians using the filibuster than Christians concerned about following the correct procedures. Today was much different and much more respectful when dealing with different opinions.
A Balance of Viewpoints
If there was one belief we were going to have arguments on, it was likely to be Fundamental Belief number 6 dealing with creation. There were three areas of concern for a number of delegates who spoke to the issue. Objection was raised to the phrase “a recent six-day creation” due to the fact that the Bible doesn’t explicitly address the issue. A second area of alarm for some was that God created the earth in “six literal days” while for others it was the “unit of time that we call a week today.”
It is not surprising that there was a lot of support for amending these statements, and there could have been a fierce debate had not the Review Committee decided to take the input back and present their conclusions to the church body before the week is over. It was nice to know that everyone’s concerns were heard and in the end everyone was all right with the outcome. I suspect that when the statement is brought back for consideration there will be a huge discussion.
A Search for Clarity
The Review Committee also recommended changes to Fundamental Belief number 18 dealing with the gift of prophecy. The edits were an attempt to avoid giving the impression that Ellen White and the Bible are equivalent sources of truth. This has been an area that many churches in the world field have struggled to convey in missionary outreach. Many countries also have difficulty translating the term “source” without giving the impression that her writings are like the Bible.
There was a motion to refer this back to the committee to add a few more words, but it was denied, and after more discussion the Fundamental Belief was adopted as originally recommended. It was encouraging to see the church’s desire to avoid confusion and seek to clarify to make it easier for others to share our unique message.
An Affirmation of Leadership
During the afternoon the General Conference Nominating Committee came in to give their report. It was a large report that covered the names of associate secretaries, members of the Auditing Service, the Auditing Service board members, division presidents, and general vice presidents.
The meeting on Sunday was adjourned before the committee could return with their report on the GVPs, so today everyone was eagerly waiting for the news. They presented the same list of names. There was some discussion to see if the nominating committee was allowed to make a reduction in the number of GVPs according to the bylaws and constitution of the church, and it was determined that they did. The motion eventually passed.
When the list of division presidents was presented, one delegate made a motion to refer the names back. The Nominating Committee felt they had addressed the issue in their session prior to the discussion with the delegates and so moved to nominate the same list of names. The overwhelming majority accepted the motion, and it was carried.
When the vice presidents (each division president is a vice president of the General Conference) walked on stage, many people showed their support through a standing ovation. It was a clear affirmation on the part of the delegates that God was at work in the day’s proceedings.
A Spirit of Cooperation
The desire of the church to be straightforward in its beliefs, the willingness to make concessions for other countries, the readiness to adapt language to avoid cultural misunderstandings were all clearly and visibly demonstrated in today’s business session. Though there were at times differences of opinions, the church was at least working together.
(Photo by Daniel McGrath: GC Session attendees outside the Alamodome)