Monday, November 3, 2014

Day Three

For Sabbath,  in addition to visiting some places important to my childhood, I went with my daughter to the "New Hope" SDA Church in Fulton, MD. My daughter works for the NAD in the Human Resources Dept., and often attends New Hope. The Church has a great  Lead- pastor  (Mike Speegle) who,  in agreement with my daughters opinon, I find to be a very thought-provoking speaker.

The music is in the 'praise' style and while I have no objection to that, I would enjoy it more if the volume was turned down a bit! The church is also located near a small 'oasis' of farm land; a rare commodity in metro-Baltimore/D.C. and my daughter enjoys the drive to and from Church.

New Hope has two worships, with an average attendance of around 700 each Sabbath. Of course in this area, there are many church 'choices' and the congregation seems to have found a great niche to meet the interests of what appear to be many Gen X and 'millennials.'  It offers a great variety of ministries which are mostly community focused and that too seems to be a draw for many. Below is a great picture of the back of someones head, and in the distance, the praise team!

Most of Sunday's session of Year End Meetings (YEM), in fact all except about the last 90 minutes, was spent on 'refining' the NAD recommendation that is to be forwarded to the NAD delegates regarding women's ordination. Though the support of the NAD leadership at YEM's was  a foregone conclusion, the wording of the statement was greatly debated with A LOT of time spent on toning down the verbiage which, in the estimation of some, was demanding support for women's ordination position, rather than encouraging GC delegates to 'consider' it.

The Chairman of the GC TOSC Committee (Theology Ordination Study Committee) Dr. Stele, gave a lot of interesting information on  the results of the GC Annual Council's reaction to the GC TOSC report. Note that the GC report is separate from the NAD report, as well as the other 13 World Division reports, some of which, we were told, were as long as 600 pages, and some much more brief.  In the end, the GC report formed "no concensus" and when pressed to define "consensus", Dr. Stele replied 90%?

Some believe that 90% was way too high for a very diverse International Group to ever form a "consensus," and that the intention was not to allow for consensus. That's some of the 'rumbling' I heard from some sitting near by. Dr. Stele did lead us to believe that even the GC report was affirming toward the role of women serving the church in ministry and I wonder how women could serve the church . .  but not be affirmed or placed in "leadership?"

 This is, for some, a volatile and 'politically-packed' issue, but for most in the NAD, and many other divisions, the issue
is about  the mission of the church and women in leadership, and that ordination is simply a "human" way of publicly identifying those who God, and the church recognizes, are invested in serving God's Church. For others,  in the extreme, it's viewed almost as apostasy to consider it, all though,those voices don't seem to be present at YEM.

If you have some interest in the GC TOSC origins/ etc., here's a link:

In the end, here is the  NAD statement that was voted: Notice the first sentence which met the desires of some that individual responsibility and prerogative to vote as one pleases was honored.

And the result?  Here they are . . . . the picture below suggests around a 90% vote
of support for the statement.

The voting at YEM is done electronically with a small hand-held device. At the 2015 GC session, they will be using the same kind of system for delegate voting. It is very fast, allowing for instant responses. It is completely confidential and gives immediate public 'on the screen' results.

Much of todays session (Monday), until just before lunch, was focused on Young Adult initiatives with a number of reports on some experiments and successes throughout the division.  Steve Case, President of 'Piece of the Pie' Ministries, gave a report, and like many of the speakers, challenged us
with the epidemic of "lost" young adults who are, or will, leave the church.  Here are a couple of slides which illustrate some of the issues: Notice 'why' some young adults stay, and the main questions addressed by a recent symposium/study group who are offering some options for addressing the problems.

Finally, Steve Case gave a very visual illustration of the choices churches face in terms of retaining young adults.  One "choice" is to fill the pews with "Church Man Charlies" which are 'cheap, easy to move and control, and can 'look and act' the way we want.  Steve presented "Church Man Charlie" as one option . . .OR . . .  we can learn to love, involve, and understand how to reach and affirm and build the young adult population in our churches . . . a much more difficult if obviously vital initiative to prioritize.

Notice in the picture that Church Man Charlie DID get a few moments to preside over the meeting (just before Elder Jackson unceremonisouly tossed him over his shoulder)!

The morning has ended with the Finance Report and I am inspired by the desire of the NAD to invest in putting as many dollars as reasonably possible into doing ministry in the Division. Across many fronts, including Youth/Young Adults/ Women's Ministries and encouraging  and incentivizing conferences to hire female pastors, the leadership is attempting to becoming meaningfully engaged in the big picture issues which challenge the denomination in the U.S. and Canada.

I will share more with you later regarding the "Presbyterian Church" report that was given this afternoon.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Maryland Year-End Meetings

I have been in Maryland since late Thursday, attending NAD Year-
end meetings.  Below are a few pictures, some of them personal, and a couple from the presentations. The most interesting information shared Friday, at least for me, was Alex Bryant's report. Alex is the NAD Executive Secretary and shares a statistical report each year.  As usual, his findings are both encouraging and sobering . . .

Among other points which caught my attention in his report is that last year, while the Division did grow, we lost nearly 30,000 members to death, missing,  or apostasy.  Many of that number have simply dropped out and no longer attend church by their own choice.

Here are a couple of slides that I took pictures of, the first one illustrates the results of a survey of missing members which asked, "What Happened After you stopped Attending?" Notice that four out of ten replied "no one contacted me."

The report on membership was long and I believe I can get a copy of the slides, so, I'll save more of its findings for another time.  This second slide reflects the high number of short-term volunteers and missionaries that are from hospitals or universities/colleges.  By far, as the slide illustrates, Southern puts the greatest number of volunteers into the world field.  

Friday included a stirring report on the NAD's commitment to increase the number of women serving as pastors in the Division; an initiative made possible by the Division investing money into encouraging local conferences to hire more qualified females. There was also an inspiring "visioning" report by Elder Jackson which focused on the centrality of Jesus to everything we believe and do, a summation of the results of the major evangelistic thrust into New York City last year, and as reflected above, a review of the scope of volunteer mission service of NAD church members to the world field.

On Sunday we will review the NAD's initiative to move it's headquarters and separate from the GC in terms of it's historic and unique organizational tie, as well as it's physical tie (the NAD is housed in the same building as the GC). As Elder Jackson reminded us, the 'separation' is not theological,  and is not an act of apostasy (as a few eccentrics have suggested) but  instead represents a continued move towards operating in the same complimentary but independent status from the GC as that which defines the Division/GC relationship for all of the other 12 world divisions. The GC/NAD relationships has always been a source of some blessings, and I sense, some 'tensions' as well as perhaps reflected in the old adage, "Too many cooks can ruin the soup!"

Some of you may know that I grew up in this area of Maryland; about six or seven miles west of the GC/NAD headquarters building. This afternoon I had opportunity to take my daughter on a "memory" nostalgia trip around urban Metro Montgomery County and while I have no immediate family in the area, many of my closest relatives once lived here and in many cases, are buried in the area.  The little Methodist Chapel just off a busy city street and pictured below is the resting 'place' for my oldest brother, who died in infancy, in 1951. While there is no longer a marker that marks the spot, an old family picture reminded me that his grave is just in front of the black light pole near the spot of what was once a great tree, now removed, but the base of it still visible.  Ellen White reminds us that angels mark the places that human eyes cannot see and minds no longer even remember.

My father was not a Christian, and again, a few of you may know that. Regrettably, he died suddenly due to poor health habits, when he was 48 years old. My daughter never met him and in fact neither my wife nor any of my kids met him.  Despite his challenges, I would be delighted to see him in the Kingdom, and for now, this is his resting place not far from the house I grew up in and just outside the city where I worked in law enforcement.

I stopped by the City of Rockville police headquarters fora moment to get a picture of one of the patrol cars I used to drive, though mine was not nearly as "cool" as this one! Moments after I snapped the picture, the officer driving the car came out to resume his patrol duties. I asked if I could take his picture and he politely but adamantly said, "Oh no.  no. " I told my daughter that I wasnt' sure why he objected, even after I told him I was a former Rockville City officer, and that I was pretty sure I had the legal right to take his picture whether he wanted me to or not, but . .  wisely . .  I was NOT going to test my "constitutional rights" theory with him.

I'll try to post again tomorrow night.  Blessings,