The last day of the 2017 Annual Council was filled with inspiration. It truly brought this year’s meetings to an end in a positive and uplifting way.
Elder Wilson’s introduction to the morning worship set the tone for the day. He informed the delegates that Wayne Blakely, the speaker from Coming Out Ministries, was uniquely positioned to help the church understand the power that God’s Word possesses. Blakely, who lived a homosexual lifestyle until 8 years ago, has surrendered his life to Jesus, and is walking day by day in His light. Blakely’s testimony is featured in-depth in the documentary Journey Interrupted, which was shown to the delegates at Annual Council last year.
Blakely noted that we (as a church) have allowed disunity to creep into our ranks to the extent that we can no longer identify with those who disagree with us anymore; this is a time, not for division, but for unity. Blakely discussed how the church has repeatedly stated that homosexuality is a sin, and yet for many years has never presented a way out. As a result of this lack of engagement on the issue of homosexuality, Blakely grew up feeling like a freak who was not part of his church family.
Addressing the current political trend towards same-sex marriage, Blakely clearly points out that the Bible never sanctioned marriage between two members of the same sex. God is the same as He has always been, and His Word has not changed. Blakely pleaded with delegates to not give into the lies of Satan, but to stand firm on God’s Word and to claim His promises. He reminded us that Jesus will never abandon us, even when we fall; however, we must choose to get back up, and not allow our feelings to trip us up.
It took 40 years of prayer on the part of Blakely’s parents before he turned his life over to God. This doesn’t mean that things are now easy, and it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make mistakes. However, regardless of these things, he is redeemed. Blakely stated that he will forever have to live with the consequences of his past actions, but that the cross is now his focus.
As morning worship ended, Elder Wilson encouraged everyone to pray for Coming Out Ministries, and to reach out to them as a resource in the times we are living in. Hope Channel followed with testimonies of how their ministry and programming is changing lives around the world.
While the report that ADRA presented was encouraging, detailing the many people they have been able to assist, it was emphasized that there is a great deal that still needs to be done. Jonathan Duffy (ADRA President) pointed out that there remains a huge need in Myanmar due to the recent refugee crisis in which 750,000 have fled the country. Of those, approximately 40,000 are pregnant women fleeing into Bangladesh, which does not have adequate medical facilities. Over the last year, ADRA has responded to 105 disasters in South America, Africa, and Asia, and has helped 15.5 million people worldwide.
Following the ADRA report, Adventist Review wowed delegates with their updated media platform, which includes the website, ARtv, and, of course, the Adventist Review magazine. They previewed visually stunning documentaries and programs that are designed to engage the viewer and draw attention to God.
Adventist Mission also unveiled their updated website, which includes daily mission stories, short video clips, resources for Sabbath messages, and children’s stories. The website is set up to allow searches for stories based on a particular country, world church division, or topic.
Of course, we can’t forget about the Ellen G. White Estate. They unveiled an updated app for both iOS and Android, with downloads available for Mac and Windows 8 computers. The new app is more user-friendly and has added a language option, even allowing the user to use a split screen for multiple languages.
Over the last year, the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) has been working with Adventist Review, Ministry magazine, and the GC Sabbath School department to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with inspiring articles and resources.
We were also inspired by the Literature Evangelism and Public Campus Ministries departments as they shared what young Adventists are doing around the world. In 2016, 19,293 students sold almost $37 million dollars of literature. While this is an impressive feat, the fact that there are close to 20 million Adventists worldwide shows that there is still much work to be done by all members.
Around the world, young adults are reaching out to their fellow students while attending public colleges and universities. For some of these students who are attending schools in non-Christian countries, they are risking their lives as they share the love of Jesus. How can we not praise God for these men and women who are willing to pay the ultimate price in order to help ensure that Jesus is made known throughout the world?
“Inspirational” is the word I would use to describe the day. It was wonderful to see the passion from church leaders as they shared reports and testimonies from their various ministries. It was also bittersweet to say goodbye to my brothers and sisters from around the world, most of whom I will not see again for a year.
Despite the many differences of opinion still present, Annual Council carries with it a sense of family that cannot be found anywhere else. I love my church, and as I write this, my prayer is for God to use this next year to draw us all closer to Him.