It was mainly quiet on the floor today as delegates reviewed proposed changes to Fundamental Beliefs 1, 6, 8, and 24. It took most of the morning to get through them, but the discussion remained cordial and progressed smoothly despite speculation to the contrary. Of the many motions the delegates pored through, there were four significant ones from the Fundamental Beliefs and the Church Manual and a few others regarding nominations.
Motion 1: To accept the revised statement of Fundamental Belief number 1.
The proposed changes to our belief on the Holy Scriptures were not extensive. There were several word replacements to help clarify what we mean by final and authoritative revelation of God’s will. Since the word “final” has a chronological connotation, it was replaced with “supreme.”
The main discussion, however, revolved around the first sentence and the use of the Greek word anthropos. The previously reference to “holy men (anthropos) of God…” was changed to “The inspired authors…” The Committee gave the rational for the gender-inclusive language by citing other passages in the book of 1 Peter that also use the same word gender inclusively. Many brought up the fact that all authors of the Bible were men. Others alluded to how the text focuses on the holy men who spoke or, more accurately, prophesied. It was a battle of the theologians, and in the end the motion was accepted as proposed with the gender-inclusive language.
Motion 2: To accept the revised statement of Fundamental Belief number 6.
The discussion about our belief on the creation account began with an introduction from Dr. Angel Rodriguez, Bill Knott, and Elder Wilson explaining the purpose for the revisions. During Atlanta’s GC session five years ago, the church expressed its wish to avoid the use of ambiguous language, reaffirm our belief in the historical credibility of Genesis 1, and avoid any room for an evolutionary reading of the passage—theistic or otherwise.
After Elder Wilson gave a strong endorsement for the proposed changes, there was some discussion centering on the fact that adding the word “recent” does not help to clarify but has the opposite effect, making it ambiguous and extra-biblical. Many were expecting an intense discussion and debate over this, but the church body moved to accept the revised wording, including the word “recent,” with very few dissenting. The motion was carried.
Motion 3: To accept the proposed amendments to the Youth Ministry section of the Church Manual.
The revisions to the Youth Ministry section were extensive, but delegates progressed quickly through them. One notable addition was the formation of a Public Campus Ministry (PCM) department. The church believes they have a mission to reach out to the millions of public university students all over the world. PCM has been operating under the Youth Ministry department since 2014, and now the Church Manual will incorporate this long-neglected ministry. In addition, a Public Campus Ministry position has been added to the list of local church board officers.
Many edits and corrections were mentioned, and it was the desire of the Committee to work on them before presenting their final draft back to the delegates for final approval.
Motion 4: To accept the revised duties of the church board in the Church Manual.
The proposed change to the “Church Board and Its Meetings” section of the Manual demonstrates a new chapter in the evangelistic strategy of the Adventist Church. The focus is now squarely on discipleship by making the chief concern of the church board to have an “active discipleship plan in place which includes both the spiritual nurture of the church and the work of planning and fostering evangelism.”
The list of responsibilities of the church board has also been edited to make discipleship the number 1 priority. There was some concern that evangelism has moved down the list from number 2 to number 3, and it was expressed that this may make it more difficult for pastors to get their members active in evangelism. But the church recognizes that the best way to close the back door is to disciple its members. Perhaps we need more time to learn that discipleship is evangelism.
More Motions: To accept the reports of the Nominating Committee.
The discussion on the Church Manual was interrupted by a report from the nominating committee. They presented a large list of names to fill positions such as Publishing Director, Associate Treasurer, Education Associate Directors, etc. In total there were over 23 names presented and not a single one was referred back to the Committee. When it was time to vote, the delegates acted in unison, providing one of many unanimous votes during the day.
It was a quiet day for the most part. The church acted together to accomplish the tasks on the agenda. Many expressed that it may have been the quiet before the storm that tomorrow is almost certain to bring.
(Photo by Adelina Alexe: Alicia and Isabel wearing traditional dresses from the province of Jalisco, Mexico.)