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.