13 October 2021 | Policy amendments, reports from the department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, ADRA, Hope Channel International and a doubling down on church senior leadership’s message on church identity and mission characterized the Oct. 12, 2021 third business session of the Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Oh, and get ready to hear the clang, clang, clang of the trolley, because delegates are being asked to meet in St. Louis, Missouri, United States for the 2022 General Conference (GC) session. 

To watch today’s entire session, click here: https://vimeo.com/629283034

Other highlights included: 

  • Omar Grieve, speaker for Spanish language ministry “La Voz de la Esperanza” treated sleepy GC Executive Committee members to a morning devotional titled “Wake Up, It’s Time!” before the business meeting.
  • GC Executive Secretary Erton Carlos Köhler gave “An Earnest Appeal to Engage with Our Spiritual Identity, ” which included statements like:
      • “We need to find ways to reconnect with many of our church members and help them understand the beauty of Bible truth and God’s Word’s relevance for our time. And help them to be protected from what Eugene Peterson describes as the “new contemporary trinity” that replaces the Trinity of God, namely, “my holy feelings, my holy desires, and my holy needs.”
    • On The 3 Bs of Church Business:
    • “[There] are three priorities imported from the business world, which have started to seduce us.  The three Bs are Budgets, Buildings, and Bodies. We start measuring our progress by our finances, our assets, and our membership growth. All of these things are important, and we need them to keep our organization going. But they are not the essence of our church. Our church is based on its message and mission; all the rest is dependent on them.”
    • “We can’t let ourselves be consumed by these three Bs. If we don’t spend time discussing our beliefs, our theology, and our spiritual challenges — if we don’t find ways to modify some trends, we may end up thriving in our business but lacking in our identity. We may end up being a strong organization but a weak church.”

Amen to Amending

  • 200 policy items were up for amendment in this meeting, but one in particular about College and University Boards (FE 20 10) received intense comments from Assistant to the president of the GC Mike Ryan, former Assistant Director of the Biblical Research Institute and former President of Ann’s House of Nuts Ed Zinke, GC Director of Archives, Statistics and Research David Trim, GC Director of Education Lisa Beardsley-Hardy and Andrews University President Andrea Luxton. Should’ve known something was up when GC Undersecretary Hensley Mooroven started discussion of the policy item with fun and games, and the handing out of gifts. Ruh roh!
    •  Ryan, Zinke, Trim and Page all HEAVILY stressed the importance of having the Union president, or some other higher-up who is in complete alignment with the General Conference, be in control of the school’s board. Zinke said, “There is a tendency of schools to drift apart from the church’s moorings.”
    • Page implied the drift might be due to issues of accreditation, possibly referencing the creation/evolution controversy that happened at La Sierra University. He wanted the Union president/board chair to vet and handpick all board members.
    • Trim called for alignment of schools with the “mission, identity and values” of the church. Keeping in mind an Oct. 9, 2021 tweet from Ted Wilson:“Adultery, fornication, and LGBTQIA+ are in direct opposition to God’s law and heavenly plan for human sexuality. We must make a conscious choice, even though unpopular, to speak up for Bible truth and not simply go along with societal trends,” the future of groups like Haven at Andrews University and Prism at La Sierra University, may be uncertain.
    • Beardsly-Hardy smilingly pointed out that most, if not all, boards already have General Conference-approved leaders on them, and that the Education department initiated this policy amendment in the first place.
    • Luxton pushed back (but gently!) against the implications that universities are not loyal to the church. She pointed out the hard work and loyalty of educators should also be recognized.

Looking Good About Doing Good

  • Reports from the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Adventist World Radio (AWR) and Hope Channel followed. Back when regional leaders from around the world flew in to attend Annual Council, these reports offered a welcome chance for leaders to shamelessly catch up on email from their seats in the GC auditorium, while more social ones talked in hallways and the very boldest squeezed in some Silver Spring shopping. But some interesting things did happen:
  • PARL shared their own thought-provoking list:
    1. Can there be mental health without the freedom of the mind?
    2. Can there be moral health without a free conscience guided by truth and ultimate good, as indicated in God’s revelation in Scripture?
    3. Can there be emotional health without freedom from fear, freedom from being harmed and hurt, freedom from being traumatized?
    4. Can there be spiritual health in the midst of coercion, manipulation and threat?
    5. Can there be social health without freedom from being discriminated against, freedom from being criminalized because one believes differently?
    6. Can there be justice if the center for moral valuation, human conscience, is stifled?
    7. Can there be righteousness if human conscience and free will are suppressed, stifled or not allowed to operate?
      • Jennifer Woods was introduced as the new associate director of PARL. In this role, she “advocates for the religious interests” of Adventists in Washington D.C.
    • ADRA gave its report and then had some bylaws amended by the Executive Committee. Of note: The creation of a committee to oversee compensation — prompting us to wonder, “Did they need one?” and “Why didn’t they have one before?”
    • AWR was next with its report. Interesting AWR factoid: When it comes to decisions about AWR (truly an international ministry which broadcasts on almost every continent in more than 30 languages), only GC Executive Committee members that are United States citizens can vote.
      • The AWR Executive Committee of the Board was dissolved. Apparently, there was an “inner inner circle” that could meet to decide AWR matters, due to problems with meeting in person. But with the advent of new technology like Zoom and Skype, such things are no longer an obstacle.
      • AWR vice presidents with specific titles were removed. Now everyone is just a Vice President, ostensibly so that people can just be assigned to a task as needed, but also possibly paving the way for “restructuring.”
      • Hope Channel International also presented its report.
    • The 61st GC session, which has been postponed for two years, is making a return! Organizers are planning on holding it in St. Louis, Missouri. Delegates, bring plenty of dough — apparently it costs USD $27/meal. For more information visit https://session.adventist.org/ .

 

The business meetings will continue until Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, and can be viewed at:
https://gc.adventist.org/live/2021-annual-council/

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(Photo: Andrews University President Andrea Luxton talks about Adventist universities in the third Annual Council business meeting on Oct. 12, 2021. Photo via screenshot of Annual Council 2021.)