by Bjorn Karlman  |  13 October 2020  |

To the delight of Adventists straining their eyes to watch the live feed, Annual Council was, once again, only scheduled to last 7:00 am to 11:30 EST today.

Annual Councils sessions of yesteryear featured drawn-out debate, random videos, bizarre finger aerobics on breaks and deliciously unreliable vote counting tech that could magically extend morning and afternoon business sessions, affording church execs quality time to catch up on email and cat videos.

  • The priority this year seems to be cruising through the bare bones of agenda essentials as quickly as possible. Most participants seem happy with the arrangement, keeping discussion to a minimum.
  • The devotional thought today came courtesy of Dr. Felix Cortez-Valles, Andrews University New Testament Professor. “Effective witness wins more than arguments,” said Cortez-Valles, “they win favor.” He added, “The fear that drives us into isolation and suspicion does not come from God.”
  • As the business session opened with General Conference (GC) president Ted Wilson chairing, the first segment was the annual meeting for the International Religious Liberty Association.
  • “Religious liberty is a lifestyle, an attitude toward others,” said Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the denomination. “Embracing religious freedom implies giving up judging, criticizing, criminalizing people,” he added. Diop assured Adventists the denomination “has no representative at the Vatican nor any church headquarters” and that the church does not recognize “the mediation of any creature, spirit, priest, pope, prophet….” As an outreach method, PARL has put together a dossier to introduce people of influence to the Adventist Church. Nelu Burcea, associate PARL director, spoke to ways the entity seeks to represent the Adventist Church at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
  • Jan Paulsen, former GC president and proud Norwegian, suggested the church make religious liberty work with the European Union (EU) a priority as well. Diop responded, saying PARL is engaging in “patient work” of religious liberty within the EU via collaboration with the European divisions of the church.
  • Neil Nedley, president of Weimar Institute, also spoke up (in what amounted to a sermonette of sorts) urging Adventists to share “the advantage of following God’s laws” in religious liberty work. Nedley is a favorite of Wilson’s, who in recent years has spoken glowingly of the independent Weimar to Annual Council delegates.
  • Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) reported on efforts to bring lay people and church leaders together to do outreach.
  • Rowena Moore-Adams, the recently-retired editor of the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, was recognized for serving the General Conference for 50 years. In a heartwarming moment, Moore-Adams and her husband joined the meeting live via Zoom. They were all smiles.
  • Hope Channel presented their report to Annual Council, featuring ways the television ministry was reaching viewers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope Channel is currently broadcasting in 70 languages in more than 200 countries.
  • Michael Kruger, president of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), led the charge with the agency’s report to Annual Council. One of the biggest ADRA achievements recently has been the success in collecting one million signatures for the “Every Child. Everywhere. In School.” campaign.  Also, ADRA has impacted 20 million people suffering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ted Wilson treated viewers to some hair-related humor after the ADRA presentation. He referenced a visual of himself at a younger age with hair in an ADRA video. He notified livestream viewers that being bald took a lot less time.
  • “COVID-19 will not stop the proclamation of the three angels’ message,” said Wilson after promoting the annual Ten Days Of Prayer season scheduled internationally for January 6-16. “Revelation Now,” a Doug Batchelor prophecy series, is also coming up and he seemed especially excited about it.
  • A Public Campus Ministries (PCM) video came next, looking to support Adventist students on public university campuses. The sad reality is the role of PCM director, occupied until recently by Jiwan Moon, has been eliminated due to budget cuts, as mentioned yesterday.
  • Tim Aka, who serves as GC associate treasurer and director of Church investments, spoke to the possibility of a virtual exhibit hall for next summer’s 2021 General Conference Session. The majority of exhibitors have indicated interest in a virtual event. Aka encouraged delegates to consider the digital possibilities of reaching a larger audience than the traditional, in-person event would allow. He painted a picture of reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers, offering more activities and sharing more resources, focused on the outreach theme “I Will Go.”
  • Wilson made the happy announcement that tomorrow’s programming will likely be ending even earlier. Can this get any better?
  • Wilson started to wrap programming up by asking for participants to say happy birthday to David Trim, director of the denomination’s department of Archives, Statistics and Research by using Zoom reaction buttons. “David, drink it in,” said an unusually jovial Wilson.
  • The day ended with a quotation from Ministry of Healing, the virtual singing of the “I Will Go” theme song and an impressively long prayer session.

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