GC Blog Intro: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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GC Blog Intro: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Five years ago, I was preparing myself for my first General Conference Session. Our family had recently moved from Salt Lake City to Detroit in order to take up duties in the area of international student ministry with CAMPUS. While I spent most of my time during GC in the exhibit hall working two ministry booths, I left with the sense that a significant change had taken place. The words from the newly elected church president, Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, still ring in my ears from his Sabbath morning address: “Go forward.”

But exactly how have we moved forward? Elder Wilson will share with the church a report of activity in God’s church during his presidency. This report will be the central feature of the evening meeting on Thursday, July 2. I’ll be in the audience listening with interest to the myriad ways in which God has led, the challenges we’ve faced as an organization, and Elder Wilson’s firsthand account of the various aspects of church life and mission that he has experienced as he’s crisscrossed the globe as the highest elected official in our denomination.

During the last five years, the church has reorganized its work in the Middle East. In October 2011, the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission (MENA) was organized from a number of territories united by language and religion that were formerly part of other divisions. The church will vote this year on the issue of accepting MENA “into the world sisterhood of unions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church” as an attached field of the General Conference.

Incidentally, I finished my coursework for a BA in Near Eastern Studies two months after the reorganization of the work in the Middle East. I have followed quite closely the developments in MENA since it has come into existence and anticipate the union’s report on the Sabbath evening of July 4. The report will likely be quite guarded due to the sensitivity of the work in many countries within the territory, but I hope to hear some interesting developments.

And I think that we are all looking forward to moving forward, if not simply moving beyond the polemics that our church has been party to throughout the formal discussion of ordination as it relates to gender. I have viewed this discussion primary through the lens of my home division: the North American Division. But how will the discussion develop with the introduction of non-Western voices and church cultures that lean more towards patriarchal structures? My prayer has been that we will not default to our cultural norms, no matter where we have come from, but to the timeless principles of Scripture—and that we will do it in a Christlike way. I look forward to the thoughtful analysis of my friend Dan McGrath as he shares his observations next Wednesday after the business session.

The last five years have been swallowed up into history. Now an ordained minister, I chair the board and business sessions for two congregations. As a result of these duties, I have a much deeper interest in and appreciation for how my church works through its business on a global scale. I’m quite excited to be an observer of this term’s Session, and I look forward to sharing with the readership of The Compass Magazine not only the things that I see and hear, but also the things that I learn about process and protocol. I will be in all of the business sessions and division reports for the first three days of GC. I’d like to invite you to follow along here as I recount the experience of sitting in on the work and worship of the global church. You can keep up with more timely developments or engage me directly on Twitter @beans4breakfast.

I hope you’ll join me in prayer for our church as we enter into a very momentous GC Session.

(Photo: Middle East and North Africa Union booth from the union’s Facebook page)

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Jarod Thomas pastors two churches along the shores of Lake Michigan, where he lives with his wife and two children. He holds a degree in Near Eastern Studies and Arabic Language and is currently pursuing an MA from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. You can catch up with him on Twitter @beans4breakfast.