by Bjorn Karlman  |  15 October 2020  |

Wednesday morning marked the last day of what has been a truly unusual, exclusively online Annual Council, that ran at a remarkable pace with fewer technical disasters than in-person gatherings of the past. There is reason to hope future Annual Councils capitalize on these efficiencies and save on air travel expenditures members are paying for.

  • The last day started off with a morning devotional from Raul Esperante, geologist and paleontologist at the Geoscience Research Institute, defending the idea of a literal, catastrophic flood. Esperante explained the natural record by saying the flood “likely led to the fossilization of organisms and the extinction of many species of plants and animals.”
  • The Geoscience Research Institute gets a lot of love from General Conference (GC) president Ted Wilson, who has helped lead the charge against scientists in the Adventist educational system that have encouraged conversation about alternatives to a literalist approach to the creation account and other stories in the book of Genesis.
  • “Remember to encourage those who are in supporting ministries. Sometimes there are those that are very independent of the church and carry on their own activities,” said Wilson, speaking during one of multiple Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) promotional sections scattered across Annual Council this year. He contrasted these overly independent upstarts with ASI entities that he described as being “very supportive of the mission” of the denomination.
  • Wilson called ASI “a lay organization that works hand-in-glove with the Church,” stressing official ties with the denominational structure. The goal is “working together to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages and Christ’s soon coming,” said the GC president.
  • With that we segued to a report from what’s called the “Three Angels’ Messages Committee,” chaired by one of Wilson’s assistants, Mike Ryan, and GC General VP Artur Stele. The report and subsequent comments took up most of the remainder of the morning’s programming.
  • Early in the report, which consisted of both live and pre-recorded segments, Mike Ryan spoke to his view of Adventist sharing of the Three Angels’ Messages in Revelation 14, saying, “I think the church needs to approach this as a positive opportunity rather than something we enter into hesitantly.”
  • Dr. Angel Manuel Rodriguez, director of the Biblical Research Institute, chimed in with an approximately 30-minute devotional, delivered sermon-style from a church lectern, encouraging Adventists to get on with the sharing of the Three Angels’ Messages.
  • Mark Finley spoke about his experience “on some of the great platforms of the world,” saying that sharing of the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14 “grips the audience.” He said there is something unique about the message people have not heard before.
  • Finley has prepared 13 messages, called “Three Cosmic Messages,” for Hope Channel. The target audience is two-fold: Adventists “who may not have fully grasped these messages,” as well as non-Adventists seeking “purpose, identity and meaning.”
  • “We are now recruiting writers, illustrators, artists, designers from around the world to be able to present this (Three Angels’) message in a way that is very appealing,” said Sam Neves, Associate Director for GC Communication. He presented a vision of a million Adventists sharing the Three Angels’ Messages in their own voice and on their own platforms within the next few years. Resources for sharing on personal platforms are here.
  • David Trim, director of Statistics, Archives and Research for the denomination, spoke appreciatively of efforts to teach the Three Angels’ Messages to children. He said not enough was being done to teach this specific message on Adventist university campuses outside religion classes. He challenged Adventist universities to find ways to more thoroughly integrate the theme of the Three Angels’ Messages in a way that is more central to university curricula.
  • There was an avalanche of comments about the urgency of the Three Angels’ Messages and the need to share them.
  • Gerald Klingbeil, associate director of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, spoke to efforts of the publications to emphasise the Three Angels’ Messages. He stressed the messages were not at all new. As an interesting aside, he admitted the financial implications of COVID meant the October edition of Adventist World would only be digital—no print magazine.
  • North American Division President G. Alexander Bryant closed the section out with a prayer for God to “give us a sense of urgency like we’ve never had before,” referring to Adventists as the “Noahs of our day” in sharing the Three Angels’ Messages.
  • Next we were back to the Consent Agenda. The resignation of South Pacific Division secretary, Lionel Smith, was recorded. A number of other items, mostly calendars, meetings and committee appointments, were quickly overviewed by Hensley Moorooven, Undersecretary of the General Conference.
  • Moorooven also alerted everyone to the existence of which holds all the Annual Council presentations for those who have nothing to watch on upcoming Saturday nights and have never heard of Netflix.
  • The undersecretary said that on April 13 there will be a one-day Spring Meeting ahead of next summer’s General Conference Session.
  • Yet more ASI promo material followed, along with a pitch for more Adventists to join.
  • Toward the end of the final Annual Council session, Wilson reported there were 324 on the Annual Council zoom session, noting the number was considerably larger than the crowd that stayed for the final moments of in-person Annual Council sessions. He did not check how many of the 324 supposed participants were actually present at their screens.
  • We got a book recommendation from Wilson, who encouraged everyone to read the compilation of Ellen White writings titled “Christian Service.”
  • A series of five passages from the book were read aloud by pre-appointed readers. One particularly pointed passage was from a September 2, 1890 Review and Herald article by Ellen White. It described professed believers not engaged in Christian service that “hang on the skirts of Zion, having petty jealousies, envyings, disappointments and remorse.” It sounded a lot like the roller coaster of emotions in the run-up to a denominational election.
  • A reminder of the “I Will Go” mission theme of the Church and then a prayer session ended Annual Council 2020.

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