Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday's Meeting

I talked with my wife a few minutes ago and shared that today's agenda focused, almost entirely, on two items: the NAD budget, and, the proposal to increase funding for NAD retirement. The first issue, the NAD budget, occupied hours of discussion which normally would not be the case, except, this year, a recent General Conference action returns around 1.5 million dollars back to the NAD - tithe funds.  This prospect of "available money"  generated a lot of discussion from the floor exploring the possibility of those funds being returned, in some form, to local conferences. That sounds great on the surface; however, it was argued that should some form of returning those funds to the local conferences take place, it would negatively impact,  if not conclude,  the NAD mission/vision strategy which focuses on a number of areas of ministry going forward.  In the end, the voted actions of the delegates defeated initiatives to give further study or open the door to doing anything different with these monies other than to support the NAD recommendation to use the funds for furthering division ministry initiatives, as well, as for the first time in many years, balance the NAD budget which has been in a deficit position for some time.

The second issue which took more time than I anticipated, was in response to the NAD's recommendation to increase by around 1.5 %, overall, funding of the NAD retirement plan for those who are receiving the defined benefit provision. The case was made quite clearly that unless this action was taken, that a deficit/shortfall for NAD retirement funds was certain. This has come about as the result of several factors not the least of which is the failure of retirement investments to yield the expected rate of return needed to fund retirement.

Before this item came up for a vote, the NAD officers huddled with Union administrators and agreed that the NAD would absorb, each year, until 2024, which is when these extra monies would no longer be needed, to contribute annually, around 2.5 million dollars. This was welcome news in that it would reduce the amount the 58 local NAD conferences will have to absorb in order to ensure that retirement remains solvent.  Following this announcement, the recommendation passed by a wide margin.

As the day concluded, I had opportunity to tour, for the first time, the Hope TV studios, which were newly opened two years ago. The studio is a beautiful state of the art facility, that, as I toured it with the Hope TV Director, Brad Thorp, will continue to expand its footprint in the U.S., with entry into the cable TV market.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, two items will be debated at length, I am sure.  One, is the recommendation to support a 1.5% cost of living increase for next year, and second,  a review and likely newly voted action on womens ordination.  Last years action, we were told at the opening session, did not hold up under legal review. The conflict arose in that NAD policy cannot deviate from voted GC policy. However, this does not, according to many, prevent the Unions, and apparently even local conferences, from voting their own positions on womens ordination. Most are aware that both the Pacific Union and the Columbia Union have voted to support women's ordination, and one local conference, the SouthEastern California Conference, has voted to endorse and provide for women's ordination to the Gospel Ministry.

I won't have the ability to report all of tomorow's actions as  I will not be present for what will likely prove to be an all day discussion; I need to return to Nashville before the days business will conclude.

Hope you have found the reports to be of interest . . .


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

After lunch, most of the afternoon has been absorbed with presentations representing four major areas of NAD emphasis. Right after the education segment, I noticed that the  security department of the car rental company that I have rented my auto thru, were trying to contact me, so, I have left late in the proceedings to attend to this; apparently, there is a misunderstanding on the length of my rental.  The rental company thought I was returning this car on Friday! Sean Boonstra is just now presenting an initiative on plans for evangelism in Indianapolis; Sean, you may recall, is the former director/speaker for It Is Written and now serves the NAD in the area of evangelism. A couple of added insights . . .

Dr. Jackson has commented on the overall health of Adventist Media ministries with the exception of Voice of Prophecy which is facing some significant financial pressures.

After this mornings lengthy floor debate over Super Storm Sandy, ADRA, etc., we have learned that over lunch, the NAD has appropriated $500,000 from their reserves for immediate assistance to the N.E. corridor affected by the storm.  Additionally, they are designating a special Sabbath offering in two weeks, to further assist. I have mixed feelings on this issue that absorbed most of the morning and resulted in this sizable financial decision . ..  while I am sure it will help those affected by this tragedy, I wonder if such appropriations will be, or should be, solely the result of the impact of a line-up of impassioned speeches . .  speeches that were not given when the tornado's devastated Joplin, MO, or, the flood waters nearly swept away metro Nashville, or as oft the case, hurricanes that slammed the S.E. coastline. If our determination of what we do, and how much we do, is to be determined by the speeches made at Year End Meeting that, in timing, coincide with a terrible natural disaster, then, I would hope that all future  natural catastrophe's would happen around Year End Meetings and then be followed by impassioned advocates willing to address the  post-storm needs at the microphone.

Year End Meetings, First Day of Business

I have been in the Washington D.C. area since last week, anticipating attendance at NAD events and meetings prior to  the annual NAD Year End Meetings (YEM) which officially launched last Friday afternoon. The pre-meetings are add-ons  and are offered to provide information  to delegates as well as to highlight various ministries including Adventist Risk Management, a unique 'Diversity Celebration' on Friday, and Philanthropic Ministries. I'm likely leaving a few out.  These sessions preceed the NAD Year End Meeting business session which began this morning in earnest, and continues through next Tuesday. Other ministries, such as Religous Liberty and the Adventist Review, host luncheons for delegates, and during these luncheons give reports and highlight their respective areas of ministry.

Due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy, Wednesdays pre-event meetings were cancelled. After my own flight was cancelled and re-scheduled twice, I did get to Baltimore Thursday after visiting the day before with my mother and sister who live near Richmond, VA. A note on Sabbath before a report on today's meeting . . .

Sabbath here, as always, is a real quality  event with the focus this time around on 'ordinary people doing extraordinary things.' The choir from Southwestern Adventist University provided worship music and Elder Dan Jackson, NAD President, preached on the biblical theme of how leaven was used in Scripture.  It often served biblically as a symbol of influence and change, sometimes for evil, and sometimes for good. His summary point and conclusion as I understood it, was the call to treat each other, even when we differ, with dignity, love, and respect.  A good message to consider as the business agenda launches.

This mornings (Sunday) session had gone quite smoothly, after worship, opening with the President's Report, and, as the President's Report was being moved and seconded for acceptance, numerous individuals began to line up at the session microphone, the line growing after being inspired by the first delegate to the mike.  The speeches from the floor were in response to Elder Dan Jackson's final President's report comment;  a brief one,  focused on the role of ADRA and it's absence to serve and minister to the needs in North America.  This became a  point of impassioned discussion particularly on the part of leadership from New York and New Jersey who were impacted by 'Sandy' and who confessed that the SDA Church's ability to meaningfully provide help in this disaster is far from adequate.  This opened up a bigger discussion which revolved around the lack of a coordinated Division agency to help in catastrophic disasters throughout North America.

The most recent discussion at the mic, interestingly, is whether offerings given this week to 'ADRA' to help the victims of Sandy - and  which we all now know, provides no disaster help in North America - would actually be given in relief of Sandy victims.   My guess is from this discussion there will be a renewed resolve to address organizational support from the division when disasters take place. There will also be renewed study to the role ADRA should play, if any, in North America and whether the time has come for some NAD structural support, outside of what has been present in the past,  for areas affected by disaster

I'll write another update later today after the afternoon session.