Day 3 of the 2016 General Conference Annual Council Business Meetings as Reported by Kat Taylor
Mission for the Youth
As Tuesday’s meetings got underway, there was a feeling in the room of much anticipation and even anxiety. I watched as well before 6 am people started coming into the auditorium to claim seats, we had been told there would be an overflowing crowd.
Waiting for the battle
Elder Mark Finley gave a beautiful morning worship on the topic of the Sanctuary, and his appeal was that we remember, not forget, why Jesus is there.
Morning session was, for the most part, about missions, including an open mic discussion, engaging our youth. There were some wonderful suggestions and examples from around the world of ways to do just that.
The suggestion of stronger family ministry programs that engage families to do things together drew applause. How can we expect our youth to be engaged and connected to the church, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus when their parents are not giving them that example. This would be hypocrisy.
Elder Wilson added to the discussion when he suggested that we need to “inoculate” our youth by getting them involved in mission work from a very early age. Could this work? Would having our youth help in mission work, even on the smallest of scales, help them feel like they belong? Like they are wanted, needed, and loved? I think it would.
And the Elephant Awaits
Before breaking for lunch, the announcement was made that unlike every other day, no one would be allowed to stay in the auditorium during lunch. As people were sent out, set up began. Delegates with voting rights were, as much as possible, set in specific sections, and guests, spouses, and visitors in the back. As well, every delegate was required to scan their badge to pick up a ballot. Tension was high.
Wilson made his opening statements and reminded all in attendance that the vote being taken was not about woman’s ordination (WO), but about unity in the church. He stated that the WO vote had been decided by the church at the 2015 GC session in San Antionio, and that the purpose of this vote was to accept or reject a document outlining a plan to address unions and conferences that are out of compliance with GC policy.
Elder Mike Ryan reiterated what Wilson had stated and continued with, “I know there are a lot of people here today that would like to discuss the consequences, there aren’t any, because nothing has been chosen.”
Elder Lemon, the chair for the session, also called for those comments coming from people that do not have voting rights to be held until those who do have a right to vote, the delegates, had been able to speak. This did not happen.
There was immediately a massive line of people wanting to speak on the issue, almost all of whom were in opposition to the document in question.
The “highlights” of the discussions included comments like adding a section that required the GC to meet and listen to the conferences or unions that are not in compliance and to hear why these entities won’t abide by policy. One speaker referred to the changes that had been previous made to soften to the tone of the document as “lipstick” that would make it look nice. Some even remarked the General Conference’s (GC) attempting to bring compliance is like the Roman Catholic church’s hierarchy system. The transitory nature of policy was also commented on, in which one delegate brought up that at one time the Chair of the session now being held would have been out of compliance with GC policy for not having a beard.
There were several calls by non-voting attendees not to vote on the issue. This was justified by saying that the recent movements and documents released by the GC had been done too hastily. It was claimed that the unity document in question was not Biblically based and that it quoted the Spirit of Prophecy incorrectly and out of context.
There were also many calls to remove the mentioning of the Fundamental Beliefs from the document. This stance was justified by the idea that a violation of GC Working Policy should not be equivalent to violation of doctrine as expressed by the Fundamental Beliefs.
What I found interesting was the large outcry from speakers (at least 6 of them) that were very upset at press for leaking information from the closed door executive meetings. One person even went so far as to call Spectrum out by name for it. Over and over again they reiterated the fact that these leaked, and “incorrect papers,” caused far more harm than good. The damages claimed included: (1) causing millennials all over the North American Division (NAD) to question the church, and (2) in addition, it was stated that there was even a petition calling people to withhold tithe from the GC if the the unity document was passed at Annual Council.
In regards to the leaked unity document, the big question in this is who, as a member of the executive committee, would want to leak information to a press outlet that is often very critical of the GC? Why would a leader of our church do this? What did they think they would gain? Was it to cause so much dissension that this wouldn’t pass?
It wasn’t until the end of the discussions that most of the comments in favor of the document were voiced. Calls to support it and allow the Church to deal with the variety of non-compliance issues were made. One young delagate stated that she welcomes this as “refreshing and pastoral.” Those speakers who supported this document continued to remind everyone that the issue is compliance, not ordination…though the WO issue would surely be one of the first tests.
In the end, all the attempts to stop the passing of the Unity and Compliance document failed. By a vote of 169 for and 122 against, it passed. There was no booing, no clapping and no gasps.
Despite the controversy, there was still a sweet, sweet Spirit in the room. Moving forward, there is still a great deal of work that must be done before the the church in restoring denominational unity in regards to the ordination question, including finishing the unity document (or creating another one) to address the consequences of non-compliance. This, according to the document that passed, will be done for the 2017 GCAC.