For several months prior to the opening of this year’s Annual Council, there has been a general concern about the atmosphere and possible ramifications of the upcoming non-compliance disciplinary vote.
However, over Sabbath, there was a sweet spirit and an overall atmosphere of unity. The day began with a wonderful worship message by Dr. Michael Hasel, who presented biblical and historical proof for the story of David and Goliath. He reminded us that the Bible has been the bestselling book since 1455, when it was published, and that the Bible is constituted in history, and is not simply a collection of stories to be picked over and caricatured into vegetable shaped characters.
Using the story of David and his lineage, Hasel poignantly reminded the delegates that if David is marginalized into a mythical character, the rest of the Bible loses its meaning. There would be no Jerusalem, no Solomon, and no more Seed—nor would there be 895 mentions of David between the books of Ruth and Revelation.
Following Michael Hasel’s worship, Dr. David Trim shared statistical research on church growth, retention, and loss. While there was good news to report regarding ongoing increases in church membership, inaccurate reporting of retention remains an ongoing issue. Dr. Trim pointed out that there is often a desire for statistics to reflect positively on the church, and this desire has caused some to either under-report, not report, or misreport losses.
While there was much to be thankful for with church growth worldwide, the 10/40 window, comprised of 69 countries and including up to 40% of the world’s population, remains a daunting task. For every 10,000 people in the 10/40 window, there are an average of 10 Seventh-day Adventists (some regions have far less).
However, the atmosphere of Annual Council changed with Dr. G. T. Ng’s report.
Dr. Ng presented a review of historical apostasies and crises throughout the history of the Adventist church. While his report contained reminders of Adventist history and the trials that we as a church have faced in the past, there were also impassioned pleas given to not go down the wrong path. Ng shared quote after quote from the writings of Mrs. White, many of which are found in the book Last Day Events which was given out on Sabbath. His comments were greeted with a hearty amen and the vigorous nodding of heads.
From outward appearances, Ng’s report was a huge success—until Elder Wilson called for a motion to accept the report. Instead of the easy acceptance that was expected, Denmark’s Union President took the floor to mark his opposition to the report, and declared that Ng was building up for the discussion tomorrow—going so far as to call the report inappropriate. He was joined by Ricardo Graham of the Pacific Union Conference, who asked for it to be noted that this was a presentation, not a report.
Elder Wilson stood by Dr. Ng’s report, and reminded delegates that the Secretary may present the report that he deems fit. Wilson also challenged everyone to read chapter 4 of Last Day Events before attending the meeting on Monday.
From this point forward, there was a marked difference in the atmosphere.
Those who has been smiling and happy now bore serious faces marked with stress and worry. There were now more “meetings” being held in the halls to talk, plan, and strategize for Monday afternoon. Retired church officers were seen “working the crowd” as they walked through the halls and at lunch.
Prior to being dismissed for lunch, and after returning, it was stressed that there would be limitations on entering the auditorium for the afternoon session. Executive committee members, spouses, and invited attendees would be required to scan and show their badge to enter. Guests would be allowed as space permitted, and an overflow room would be set up.
The disruption arising from these incidents took the focus from the rest of the afternoon’s business. It took the focus away from Dr. Landless and the resources being provided to help those struggling with pornography addiction—not a subject many want to discuss, though it is a significant issue in the church today.
As I reflect on today’s meeting, I am saddened by what I have seen. This is my church and my family. I am watching my family be torn apart by what is tantamount to infidelity. It is only when we keep our eyes solely on our spouse (Jesus), and stop looking around for something better, that there is safety from the attacks of the evil one.
It is my heartfelt prayer that we will be able to stand united as family, even when we may not see eye to eye. I pray that God will be glorified and that love will prevail.