Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day 5 and 6

Each year the report from NAD Education is both inspiring, and sobering.  Inspiring, because some great things are happening in our schools and in the lives of our students.  Sobering, because the statistics continue to demonstrate a drop in both the number of schools, and, overall enrollment. True not only in the k-12 level, but, the impact is being felt on the Collegiate level.  Only one college in North America had an enrollment increase this year:  Union.

A couple of slides illustrate the challenges:

Despite the down-turn, SDA education continues to be viewed as a very important part of SDA mission, and in fact, in some of the data shared yesterday regarding mission, many believe that nothing is more important than the education part of the church.

Monday's worship was given by Elder Ted Wilson, who, in making his final devotional point, presented his "driveway sealing" clothes that he has used for years for the dirty job of maintenance on his driveway.  The picture doesn't do justice to how ripped and filthy the garments were.

He then took out another outfit, given to him from the church in India.  It was a beautiful embroidered silk outfit.  Illustrating how the righteousness of Jesus covers our sins, Elder Wilson placed the beautiful garment in front of the old one.  The "new" beautiful one, as Ellen White observed, does not have "a single thread of self" in it.

Elder Honore, the President of North Eastern Conference, was the devotional speaker Friday night. An outstanding sermon on "the Rock" taken from Moses in the Wilderness journey and the experience of water from the rock.

The business sessions on  Sunday and Monday have proven to be very interesting.  Some of you may recall an historic meeting conducted over a year ago at Dulles Airport where administrators from all over North America convened for the purpose of reviewing NAD initiatives and to review whether the time has come to consider re-organization.  I think many were unsure whether anything substantive would emerge from that meeting where the consensus was to review options, and the means by which the mission of the church could be advanced, more efficiently.  The goal is to build the Kingdom with less expense and less duplication of administrative oversite.  Since the Dulles Meeting, a committee comprised of pastors, lay people, and administrators have been meeting and the report was shared Monday in the form of a significant 40 page book, filled with analysis and various options which would potentially result in significant cost savings to the denomination. 

 A number of delegates addressed the issue from the microphone and some of those speeches were shared by those who believe that One, any modification to organizational structures would possibly harm the mission rather than enhance it, and Two, particularly from the mid-west where consolidation has happened on both union and local levels, the belief seems to be consolidation  serves to embitter the constituency, and does not enhance the mission.

However, when it was time for the delegates to vote on 13 specific considerations regarding further study of re-organization, every option was supported by a majority of delegates.  The vote simply means "please continue to give study to this." Some of the ideas are quite radical: a "union of churches" where the union level disappears, to consolidation of smaller conferences.

Why was there such wide support for giving further study? Because in the words of Elder Jackson, "We either become pro-active, and give study to becoming "leaner and more efficient" OR . . . given time . . .  and perhaps not a lot of time, this will become a crisis that like a bomb is dropped on us."  I agree.  The reason is that there are very clear 'data points' - and some were presented yesterday - that illustrate the increasing decline of tithe support across the NAD.  While NAD largely has gains in tithe, there is significant 'erosion' in value of those dollars in the sense of keeping pace with inflation, and, the number of members actually contributing. As the WW II generation passes away, and the baby boomers retire, the 'trend' of tithe support is not promising.  A few pictures that reflect some of the realities.

On another topic: The slide below illustrates the proposed NAD 2016 Budget and it gives you a little glimpse of the areas that NAD funds.

Nominee for SAU President . . . Finally, for those of you actually reviewing this Blog, I suggested that I would pass on, if I could, the name of the individual being "nominated" to succeed Dr. Gordon Bietz at Southern, upon his retirement next Spring.  The Search Committee, reporting last night in a tele-conference SAU Board meeting, resulted in the  Board voting to continue to "explore" the name of Dr. John McVey presently serving as President of Walla Walla University.  The next step in this process is that Dr. McVey will be invited to visit SAU and engage with various interest groups; students, staff, etc.

Today - Tuesday - we are hearing reports from Christian Record Braille, Pacific Press, both in its report and in voting its new quinquennium board, has absorbed most of the morning session.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New Resource for Media and the Public Announced

In light of the huge media interest in SDA's generated by the candidacy of Ben Carson for President, the SDA Church in North America (NAD) has wisely put together a web-resource, whoaretheadventists.org. I reviewed the site this morning and it seems very well done.  It provides a quick/easy to read review of SDA statistics and highlights our mission in the context of 150 years of ministry in addressing the needs of the world with the invitation to live a life of health, wholeness and truth within the context of the Gospel.

Check out the site and pass it on to others! Today's agenda at Y.E.M. (Year End Meetings) includes a "parade of reports" from Refugee Ministries, Education, and continued updates from the NAD Nominating Committee. Following the GC Session last July, and the election of the three NAD Executive Officers, (President, Secretary, Treasurer), an additional 40 individuals/positions are reviewed and recommended to the delegates for election.  The nominating committee has now convened three times; quite a bit more than five years ago when I served on the same committee.  At that time, our entire report was completed in one single three hour block.

One of the differences would be that over the 1st five year term of Elder Jackson, changes in personnel are recommended and are not unusual in consideration of how many positions are offices that require being voted.

I have just received word that the SAU (Southern Adventist University) Presidential Search Committee is prepared to offer/nominate to the SAU Board the name of an individual to succeed Dr. Gordon Bietz.  The Board (of which I'm a member) has been invited to convene and join in a tele-conference meeting tomorrow night.  I believe I know who the individual is that the committee is nominating.  It is 'rumored' to be one of the present serving Executive Administrators currently serving at SAU.

I will share this information following our conference tomorrow night via this blog.  Grace and Blessings in Him! 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Year End Meetings, Days One and Two

Coming to the Washington D.C. area for Year End Meetings allows opportunity for me to visit a little of my family who are still left in this area. I had a chance to visit with my Mother and nephew who live outside Richmond, VA and I spent a little time singing old hymns with my Mom, something we both enjoyed!

Each year Year End Meetings adopts a theme, and this year's is "The Great Collaboration," focusing on the wonderful plan of God to partner with humans for the purpose of building the Kingdom.

The Thursday afternoon agenda included some analysis of current NAD employees/pastors who, according to present 'stats,' one-half of all NAD pastors, meaning over 2,000, are eligible for retirement within the next 10 years.  That is important for a couple of reasons:  One, the work force is of course aging, and, tending to work longer than in the past, and second, we're facing the possibility of having "too few" eligible, trained workers to enter pastoral ministry in the coming decade.

The NAD leadership suggested that one initiative is to continue to identify  and hire more women who presently make up no more than around 2% of the pastoral work force in North America.  The NAD is putting additional resources into incentivizing and promoting the hiring of qualified women and hope to double the present number (just over 100) in the next five years.

Friday included a number of interesting reports including  that of Dr. Les Pollard,(below left) President of Oakwood University's who highlighted the schools "StandUp" program which represents a comprehensive health and lifestyle strategy that embraces all facets of University life.  Students at Oakwood are required to participate on some level with the initiatives which includes health screening, programs to assist in managing factors which impact health risk,  particularly in the African American Community (diabetes, etc.,).  The plan has gotten major media exposure and is a one-of-a-kind comprehensive/campus wide effort to champion the SDA Health Message for students, faculty, and the greater Huntsville Community.  The picture below is one student given testimony of the positive impact of the program for her personally.

Another fascinating report was presented by Chris Holland, Speaker/Director of It Is Written Canada, who told of the mission and outreach of the Canadian Union to reach the unreached Indian people groups of the newest Canadian Province, Nunavut

 Formerly part of the N.W. Territories of  Canada, Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada,  and most of the Canadian Arctic.  It's huge territory makes it the 5th largest country/ geographic area in the world,  as well as the 2nd largest in North America (after Greenland).

Only 25,000 people call this stark and vast land 'home' and many of them are completely untouched by the Gospel.  The picture below left,  is of Chris Holland and Sean Boonstra, of It Is Written "America" and a citizen of Canada, speaking with a recent convert in one of the towns in the province.  The plan of the Canadian Union is to focus resources, including Bibles and materials translated into the native language, and perhaps sponsor a  'church plant' in one of the major towns.

The picture below right, is of a group who traveled all the way from Alberta, Canada, and are from the Mamawi Atosketan Native School, in Ponoka, Alberta.  The school has an enrollment of over 200 students in grades K thru 12, and serves the population of four Indian tribes.  The students are of course almost completely non-SDA, but stories of baptisms, lives being changed, and the impact on the greater population of native Indians who face huge challenges socially etc., was amazing.  If interested in knowing more, here is the schools web-site.  http://www.mamawiatosketan.ca

One of the great highlights of these meetings is the Sabbath worship, and today was no exception. The brother and sister violinists are from here in the community and were absolutely incredible!
The next picture is of my friends Andrew and Sheila LaPierre (Andrew with the beard, and just a "little" part of Sheila's face beside him) who once worked for Georgia Cumberland Conference, and who I had the privilege of marrying about five years ago.  Sheila is from the Manchester, KY area and has recently accepted a position with the NAD.

\This final picture is of our worship speaker, which is traditionally Elder Dan Jackson.  His sermon, in keeping with this years theme was "The Grand Collaboration."  His sermon began with the illustration depicted in the famous picture behind him.  It is called "The Helping Hand," painted in the late 19th century by a French artist, and it depicts a little girl, with her hands on the enormous oars of a fisherman's rowboat. To the right of her is likely her grandfather,  with a kindly smile on his face, is actually the one giving the strength and power to the oar, though the little girl is doing her small part. 

The spiritual application to we who serve in ministry is clear:  our small part, and God's great strength gives success to our endeavors!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Family Stuff

Will be on my way to Maryland and NAD Year End meetings this Wednesday. Before leaving, thought I'd - with pride - post a picture of my son Christopher  - the taller of the two boys - who had the rare privilege last week of assisting in the "Laying of the Wreath" Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Together with his classmates from Highland Academy, they are on their Junior Class American History trip and as class president, he got to join in the honor.  He was thrilled to do so, and, appropriately, took it very seriously!

While in Southern California  and Loma Linda two weeks ago for "Medical/Dental" recruiting, I enjoyed having lunch with my friend, Pastor Injong "John" Moon, who once pastored here in KTC at the Louisville Korean Church.  John is pictured here with his son Samuel.

While flying to California, I had a connection in Houston, and while waiting for my next flight, I met this gentleman, also flying into the L.A. area. He is a WWII vet, and a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, who comprised a African American Bomber and Fighter squadron and performed with great courage and skill during a time when the armed forces were segregated.  This man was a mechanic with the airmen and I thanked him for his service to our country.

Speaking of patriotism, this intimidating bird was present at a sporting event I attended last Sunday.  I would have gotten my picture with him but he's a little menacing up close!

When your kids become adults, you all the more appreciate those family times together. This is "our gang" taking a  Sabbath hike at Bledsoe Creek.


Those who know me best, know I really love American history.  A couple of weeks ago I convinced Malinda to join me in a tour of the Sam Davis plantation just outside Nashville. Sam Davis was the courageous Confederate "operative" (he disdained the label 'spy') who was captured by the Union and rather than reveal the names of those who were his comrades he chose death. "I would rather die a 1000 deaths than betray a friend!" were his reported last words when offered freedom from the gallows. He is buried behind his boyhood home within the beauty of acres of cotton fields and the humble sad little slave cottages near the mansion.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Final Day of Business

First, sorry . . . I have no more pictures!  Just a lot of words.

Today, Friday, represented the last day of official session business, and, as true for most of the week's sessions, it was interesting!  I attended the Atlanta GC Session in 2010 as a delegate, but, for some reason, perhaps owing to the drama of the women's ordination issue, this one has proved more engaging in terms of the 'business' side of things. This session also seemed to have a longer list of revisions to the fundamental beliefs and to the Church Manual then in Atlanta.

Yesterday, it was shared that the last of the Nominating Committees work was over, but, indeed, that was not the case as today, the committee had to return to work - briefly - and present an officer in the Japan area of the world field for the delegates voted support.  That passed easily.

More interesting, at least to me, was the return today of a number of items that had been sent back to committee for consideration to be revised, AFTER, they had been presented to the delegates earlier in the week.  The delegates had been waiting for this as most were aware that a number of items had, as per delegate vote, been returned to committee for further review.

So . .  how does that take place and why?

The process on the floor - for delegate review - is that revisions to the Church Manual are crafted by the GC's Revisions committee, the proposed wording changes are brought "to the floor," and, the delegates can approve the revision, OR, vote to return it to the committee for further work. If voted to return to committee for revision/review, that work must be accomplished before the last of GC business session ends -  today.  When returned to committee, the committee must convene,  and its members give consideration to whatever  expressed concern or opinion was expressed/ suggested. It can be something as simply as one word, OR, a significant change in the intent and meaning of the original proposal.

Importantly:  No item can be returned to committee without the vote by simple majority of delegates on the floor . . .
(by the way, did I mention that on Sunday, it was proposed by one delegate that NOTHING would be passed except by 2/3rd majority vote?  THANKFULLY that motion DID NOT pass, and had it . . . there may have been many issues that could not have been addressed as on many items brought to the delegates,  there is not a 2/3 majority.  Back to the process of revising issues brought by the committee to the delegates . . . 

What is NOT allowed by GC rules, is revising the document/proposal offered by committee from the floor, or, even making any meaningful "new agenda item" decision from the floor via a motion. 

 I think with wisdom, the GC rules demand that ANY  revisions, or, almost any motion that is something other than a parliamentary procedure issue, MUST be returned to committee.  This prevents 'blocks' of individuals, or single individuals for that matter, proposing some "new initiative" or striking down an old one, directly from the floor without the issue being vetted by the respective committees.

Without this 'safe guard" the potential for extremely problematic and not carefully thought out issues being voted into policy would be the reality.

So . . .  a number of issues were presented to the delegates in todays session that had been 'returned to committee' earlier in the week.  8 issues to be exact!

I'll comment on only two. Several were very minor, but these two, perhaps were more significant.

One has to do with the 'right' or 'process' of a church or organization to appeal to the "next higher level" of organization when the unhappy entity (an organization like a church NOT an individual) feels that their concern, or issue, was not properly addressed by the local field, generally meaning a local conference, or, perhaps a "governing board." This proposed 'new wording' on an already existing policy, was being returned to the floor for a final vote, and this time, as before, was STILL significantly debated, for probably, two hours?  

The parts of this that came up for vigorous debate included, "why can an individual appeal all the way up to the GC, but this wording limits an 'organization' such as a church, to appeal ONLY to the next level in the ecclesiastical structure, and it can never go to the Division or GC UNLESS, those organizations, in successive ascending order, would agree to hear the issue being appealed?" In other words, if the Union Conference replied to an appeal, that they WILL NOT hear the appealed decision of say, a local conference?  Then, that concludes the matter.

What I just wrote may not even make sense to you, but in my view, having been in administration for almost 14 years now in two organizations, I've never seen even ONE church attempt to 'appeal' an issue to the next level of ecclesiastical authority, meaning the Union Conference. IN fact, I never saw ANY church desire to appeal anything even to the local conference (that's not to say that we have not had congregation/church issues that needed to be brought to Executive Committee)!

Some concerns expressed today included, IF you opened up the appeal process too broadly, the GC could be flooded with frivolous appeals .  Again, not seeing how that's possible as an "appeal" from a  church, a school, an institution, that feels it's issues were not handled appropriately by the local organization, with this policy,  as in the past, can "appeal"  ONLY one level up, IF, that next level agrees to hear the appeal.  GC reps., had already expressed that they are NOT inundated with appeals.

Not sure why this was so widely debated though I suspect that in the world field, this is perhaps more common than in the U.S., and, it has certainly happened here in the States possibly with media ministries, publishing houses, and occasionally, even local congregations. 

I learned many things this week, including . . . "Hot topic" issues, as reflected a number of times this week, issues when individuals/delegats feel their 'rights' are being marginalized or ignored . .  when that feels like its happening?   GREAT debate usually follows!

The 2nd item that I'll mention, which was voted on right before we closed the morning session today before lunch, was, quite frankly, a surprising but welcome outcome.  In a previous post, on the 2nd day of business (last Sunday), I mentioned an item that was being presented for revision that would have deleted the "male exclusivity" language and used more "gender neutral" wording,  in the context of recognizing BOTH men AND women pastors.

Here's the beginning of the old statement "When MEN have given evidence of a call to ministry . . .  (then it goes on).  Thats the old wording.  The NEW wording was proposed, Sunday, to include men and women, recognizing of course that both genders are pastoring, and, we were reminded this week, that in China in particular, women pastors are extremely common, and, possibly with no exception, every Division has women serving in some pastoral capacity, some divisions of course, with more women than others.

Well, in my first post, I mentioned that this 'inclusive' wording was voted down, meaning, to be sent back to committee, after one delegate commented that it was not biblical. I am assuming that his concern was that women should not be authorized to perform pastoral duties?  I don't know as he did not give detail only mentioning "not supported by Scripture." 

After this delegates brief expressed concern on Sunday, the wording was voted to be sent back to committee,  by, I thought,  a rather surprising majority vote, but, it "was what it was."

 I fully expected that today, as this issue was returned to the delegates from committee, with really no revision to the original revised, "gender inclusive" language submission on Sunday, (which is often the result of the committees review; they feel that their original work needs no revision, so, they decide to return the 'proposal' again, the 2nd time, with no changes or, perhaps some small clarifying word change). My concern was we were going to have another contentious debate over this wording today . .  but . .  that's not what happened.

The new wording, again, striking out the old language of "when men give evidence of their calling . . ." was being proposed/changed to "when PASTORS give evidence of their calling .   . ." and, then the rest of the policy changes the word  "ministers" to "pastors."  I suspect the changed wording had some tie to eliminating 'pastoral male exclusivity' language, again, something not all delegates supported.  Back to what happened . . . 

When it was brought to the floor today to be considered the second time . . . it not only passed, but, maybe only a dozen or so"no" ballots were waved in the air as I could see?  Maybe 1900 yes, votes, and maybe, maybe, a dozen or so Nos? . . .  In other words, a 99% supportive vote?  I turned to Elder Don Livesay, president of Lake Union,  and his wife, who were seated beside me and said, "That was unbelievable!"  What happened between Sunday and today?

The only difference in the vote was that it was, today, unlike Sunday,  moved and then given support, by the delegates, to IMMEDIATELY present the item for voting by rather than allow for debate.  No one had a chance to get to the mic. But that was what the delegates seemed to desire. Did that in turn, make the difference? ( I can't imagine almost ANYONE wanted to return to the drama of the speech making on this  issue again today, but, there are some interesting delegates here for sure!)

Were the delegates weary of fighting the "women" in pastoral ministry issue?

Did God simply perform a miracle that avoided the possibly of a very divisive and lengthy debate on the floor  - again - between the delegates over the issue of recognizing women in pastoral ministry?

I don't know.  I do believe, with welcome relief probably on the part of maybe all?  The item was simply voted  as returned by the committee, by an enormous majority, and perhaps, if nothing else, while the ordination issue on Wednesday did not pass, for most of the days' debate, extremely passionate speeches were given sometimes with great emotion, and almost entirely from men, advocating for women to be affirmed in ministry. Did that "soften" some of those most opposed to women serving pastorally?  I really don't know . . .

Again, I just think God, wonderfully, got us past this so that the Sabbath could be welcomed in without another long day of contention over this issue. So, we are coming to the end of the 60th GC Session.  60 sessions, in the past 150 years.  What to make of it? Only time and history will tell.

Thanks for tuning in to my posts . . . while not a LOT of people have read them, I know several of you have expressed appreciation for these personal reviews.

This is my final post as I must return to Nashville before heading out on another week of meetings with the Southern Union.  Appreciate the prayers of many this week; I believe God has been present in a real and meaningful way, these past ten days, in San Antonio.

Gods' church, meeting in world wide session IS amazing, and, I hope my little blogs help you feel as if you were a part of it .  . . . and perhaps you heard?  an 18 million dollar event? But perhaps, every five years, for the purpose of bringing the world church together and hopefully building some sense of mission and unity, money well spent.

God lead and hopefully, w'ere ALL home in the kingdom very soon,  and there will be no more GC constituencies!  (the 2020 event is planned for a return to Indianapolis - instead, may it be in the Kingdom of God!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day Six

I could possibly have entitled this post, "on the sixth day there was light!" All who have been following the GC Session, and even the months/years leading up to it, have anticipated the debate and decision on the proposal to allow the 13 World Divisions to make their own decisions, within their respective divisions, as to whether to authorize the ordination of women to pastoral ministry.  This would be a change of 'terms' which is called "commissioning." Some see the change 'in terms' from commissioning to ordination, to be very significant, on BOTH sides of the issue!

Certainly, with this post,  a full day after the debate and vote, anyone who had any interest in the outcome already knows the conclusion and result of yesterday's epic vote.
A few personal observations from the 'for what they're worth' category.

From the opening "bell" Wednesday, not surprisingly, there was obviously a sharp divide, as evidenced in the parade of speakers to the microphone, between the opinions of most delegates representing North America, Europe, and Australia- Asia, and  the South American/ African Continent/Inter-American areas. The former world division delegates, mostly, who spoke at the mic supported the motion; the latter, did not.

Before the day began, Chairman Elder Mike Ryan with help from others, shared with all delegates the summary documents of the  General Conference Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC).  The three positions that resulted from the TOSC study which involved over 100 individuals form an international body of scholars, were as follows:

One Position:  Biblical authority headship denies women the right/authority to be 'set apart' for ministry.

Second Postion: Biblical authority allows/encourages women to be 'set apart' for ministry.

Third Position: The Bible recognizes the 'male headship' role of men but does not deny women the right to also be 'set apart.'  ( a position that says both of the above have merit, but position one does not negate the above position two).

TOSC clearly agreed, that the Scripture CAN be interpreted to support ANY one of the three positions above! Despite the opinions of others that Scripture clearly supports their position, the 'summary' conclusions of TOSC ended with "no consensus," though, I am told, the majority on the TOSC committee were open/favorable to ordaining women.  In order to be a "consensus" it was determined that 75% would have to agree on one of the positions,  and that did not happen.

I felt it important that nothing in the TOSC documents made the ordination of women a biblical command OR a sin. Nothing in the TOSC document equated it with a salvation issue as some have suggested; nothing in the TOSC document linked ordination with leading to endorsement of homosexuality or its practice.  In other words, nothing shared with the delegates suggested that it deserves the level of anger/division that has arisen from the debate, on either side of it.  At least that's my view . . .

In the end, the long day of debate concluded with a vote that gave about a 58 to 42 percentage "no' vote to the motion. I was not the only one predicting, before GC session ever began, that the motion would not pass. What was surprising is that the vote was closer than I, and some others, had thought it would be. North America is now, only "number 7" in size of the 13 world divisions, and while it may have, up until ten years ago, been one of the major players in terms of size, that will never again be the case! Africa and Inter America will lead the world church in the foreseeable future, in terms of size, and delegate votes at GC session.

In the end, I have mixed feelings on the outcome.  Despite Elder Wilson's valuable and expected plea at days end to "unite" to "press together" as EG White use to advocate, many on the loosing side were as disappointed as those who in defeating the issue, were elated.

I fear had the measure passed, the division in the church would have deepened, and perhaps it will despite the need to "move on."  I predict the issue will not 'go away.' Interestingly, I learned through the debate on Wednesday that while some viewed this prospect of ordination as a "liberal act of apostasy," some on the 'pro' side strongly see it as raw, almost evil prejudice against women serving in ministry.

I don't think its either of those things, but I do agree with probably the majority of good faithful church members. They are weary of the debate, do not join EITHER side in attempting to magnify the importance of this, and are probably sick of individuals waging warfare on this topic.

After the vote was over, the NAD had a meeting with all of its delegates for the purpose of affirming the divisions support for women in ministry. I personally think that this issue has served to distract and divide and harm, but I also respect that many good people, have strong convictions on either side of the issue, convictions that I do not feel "as strongly" about as they do.  It was a long day, and my own prayer was, at days end, God's will be done on this matter.  I believe it was, but I'm not thinking the issue is . .  over?

Some pics from yesterday . . .

The final vote as it appeared on the screen to delegates

Elder Dave Weigly, President of Columbia Union, marking his ballot, with the assistance of a friend to help steady his "X."

Elder Lloyd Schomburg, and behind him, Randy Robinson, and in front of them, speaking to Lloyd, Dr. David Smith, Sr. Pastor Collegedale Church.

The entrance and "approach" to the Alamodome that all the delegates and attendees take as they near the auditorium.

I'm told this tree is over a 100 years old.   A "Live Oak" that  grows in the South West and South East. We used to have these beautiful trees in South Georgia when we lived and pastored there.

I will probably post one more time as I am leaving the session after the Friday business session.  God bless and lead his Church!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Day Four

Before I forget . . . a "big" story out of San Antonio?  The "inescapable hike" to get to the Dome! Perhaps a few like Elder Wilson can avoid "the walk," as he deservedly gets a security escort and a ride from his hotel right to VIP entrance to the dome, but nearly everyone else, must walk the nearly one mile - one way -  and in many cases more, from wherever you park, or, where you're staying to the Dome (site of the meetings). One mile there, one mile back, and if you're not missing anything . . . 3 times a day!  Six miles a day, IF, you don't do any other walking!  Its really been stressful for the elderly, etc., and a big disappointment to many.  It is unfortunate, but it is what it is.

The days are so busy here that the events are starting to become a bit of a blur. What happened of interest and when? Sunday's business session was interesting in that at one point, the GC "manual revisions' committee" (that's not it's technical name but that's the purpose they serve), proposed a change in language that simply struck out the word "men" when referring to licensed ministers, and was proposing language "men and women."  It seemed to be a 'no brainer' must needed change as it has no relationship to ordination, and, simply acknowledges what has existed for many, many years , ie. there are women serving as pastors around the globe, both in this country and in many other countries.

A couple of comments were made at the mic; one from Elder Dan Jackson simply reminding delegates that the wording change was not linked to ordination but was simply correcting male exclusive policy language.  Doug Bachelor came to the mic, made a brief speech adding the words, "not in harmony with Scripture," and, the revised language did not pass.  It would seem clear to me that there is a "push"  - by some - to disenfranchise women from serving in pastoral roles based on the conviction that it is not biblical. There are a number of divisive issues that will arise from such a movement in my view, including the reality that women, in small numbers, have always served pastorally almost from the very start of the denominations history.

A bigger problem? They are serving in many places - presently - and doing a great job advancing the Kingdom.  To argue that serving in THAT role is not biblical seems to be a fight that some are willing to wage.

A short story.  It was in the 1970's that my home church in Maryland was assigned a female pastor. That was a long time ago, and I remember, though a teenager, that her being a woman was not a popular choice for the small congregation.  She was, as I recall, very educated, and though I didn't know her personally very well, a highly qualified and very  nice person, but, some in the congregation I believe, determined to make her job hard . ..  and they did . . . and she eventually left, bitter and wounded by the experience.  No one objected back then that her work was 'unbiblical' it was simply she shouldn't be doing a man's job, and if, and I'm sure she did, do something that was not agreeable, some were willing to "pounce." Perhaps she was set up to fail from the start on the part of conference folk who wanted her to succeed.  I don't know . . .  a sad memory from long ago.

I'm not sure what Jesus would make of all of this 'women in ministry' debate, but I resonate with what a couple of devotional speakers have said here in San Antonio.  Let's stop getting "side tracked" in issues that are harming us more than helping us fulfill the commission of the church. I continue to be of the opinion that "ordination" is not as important as some want to make it out to be.  The Bible doesn't use the word but does recognize "being set aside for serving Christ." What is important, in my estimation,  is serving God, fulfilling the mission of His Church, and I think that means women are and should be invested in leadership to make that happen.  I think that's God's plan.  Thanks for asking!

Ok.  A few more observations than some pics.

Yesterday was a 'breath of fresh air' in terms of spirit and atmosphere.  Elder Wilson made a very good appeal at the start for "a spirit of Christlikeness and "patience" to characterize the meetings. At the Sunday session, there was unquestionably tension and a very heated 'assault' by one prominent person from the microphone on the perceived mismanagement of the Session chairman on the issue I referenced above with Doug Bachelor's speech and then a motion to "return the women inclusive wording" to the committee.  It was obvious tensions were rising, so, yesterday was much better and I think Elder Wilson helped set the tone.

At one point, I believe it is the same delegate who five years ago from Europe proposed recognition of same-sex marriages, THIS time around?  Proposed language that would recognize "faithful church members" who choose to live together outside of marriage?  That got an almost unanimous "voted down."

Much of yesterday's session was spent in reviewing proposed wording changes in the 28 fundamental believes. There was NOTHING proposed that would in any way even remotely change the substance of doctrine, but wording changes, particularly in the area of the role of Ellen White and the prophetic gift, literal creation, and even a change that would indicate our beliefs arise from "the Christ as revealed in Scripture" rather than the old wording, "Christ AND Scripture" drew  lengthy, and possibly unnecessary debates.

By the way . . . as always the case.  The same 10 to 12 people continually come to the microphone. There are probably 2200 delegates present, but, the same 10 to 12 seem self-designated to address every issue?

The Session wisely elected a two minute 'cap' on delegate speeches and many times, again with appreciation as evidenced by the strong vote,  a couple of individuals will come to the mic and "question on motion" meaning a vote to cease debate, and actually vote.  Every time that's happened a huge majority vote to stop debate and vote.

The day ended yesterday with the election of Division Presidents and, after being returned to committee, the  re-affirmation of the election of six GC Vice-Presidents.  Of no small level of 'angst' on the part of some, before this session?  There were 9 GC vice-presidents. They've reduced that to six, meaning three learned only in arriving here, they no longer have a job.

Some scenes from yesterday . . .

"Present and Accounted for!" I wanted to prove that on one day I wore my jacket. Imagine what its like: it's 94 degrees outside, but when you come into the Dome, the AC works great! It drops to maybe 68 degrees?  Brrrr.  

Dr. Gordon Bietz and beside him, Dr. David Smith, Sr. Pastor of the Collegedale Church.

The newly elected, in most cases, re-elected, World Division Presidents and some with their spouses. Dan Jackson , in the middle of the pic with his wife Donna, was re-elected with very strong support from the NAD leadership.

Most of you know my love for history, so, arriving downtown yesterday at 7am, I took a short walk over to the famous "Alamo." It was too early to get in to see it, but I struck up an enjoyable conversation with the security police who opened the gate for me to look in.  The Alamo is considered one of the most "haunted" places in the U.S., so, the officer was telling me his ghost story while working the midnight shift. Hearing the story, I told him, "I think the Devil was trying to  scare you."  I was serious, but he gave me a big laugh on that point.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sabbath, July 4

A lot has happened since I wrote my first day post. Initial impressions? Amazing that despite as many as 65,000 attendees, the SDA world is very small, particularly if you've worked for the church for a while.

As I was boarding my flight out of Nashville, I saw Debra Jones and her grandaughter getting on the same flight, another friend from Madison Campus who's name I can't remember, and even as I stepped inside the airport, I immediately almost literally bumped into Giselle Kroll and her daughter who were preparing to fly to San Antonio.

And as I parked in the public garage across from the Convention Center in San Antonio upon my arrival?  I hear someone, in the garage, calling my name!  Greg Gerard, principal at GCA. Within minutes, walking the crowded hallways of the Convention Center, I began seeing people I've known over the years, and even some from our own beloved Kentucky-Tenn!

Pastor Mel and Juliet Santos are here. As are Fred Calkins, Dennis and Dorothy Altrogge, and our pastoral delegate, Lloyd and Sheila Schomburg. I have visited the massive convention center once, so far, and here are a few pictures of some of the booths, probably several hundred presenters/booths? A few pictures follow . . .

Colorful Menau Booth

Adra has a large "market place" look to their booth
The Union College rep and behind her a big table with "legos" for future 'some-day' students to enjoy!
A sizable 'theater' within the convention hall for preaching/presentations on behalf of World Mission

 A "replica" of the Wittenburg, Germany Church door and the 95 theses
The news from Friday was the re-election of Elder Ted Wilson as GC President, probably by around a 80 to 85% majority vote? Juan Prestol , former Undertreasurer of the GC, was elected GC Treasurer replacing Bob Lemon who retired, and G. T. Ng  (pronounced "ing") was re-elected as Secretary of the GC.  Speaking of voting?  The electronic voting devices failed to work for the 2nd day in a row, and all of the above voting had to be done by raising a voting card once again.

AT least one delegate challenged the nomination of Elder Wilson asking for the nominating committee to re-consider due to the failure of the voting process to honor the privacy of delegate voting as would have been possible with the electronic devices.  Without them working properly, one wonders what else could have been done?

A number of important items are slated for the business session starting tomorrow thru next week. New proposed language on sexual misconduct/church discipline issues, and, of course, the "big" Women's Ordination debate/vote slated for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the worships both last night and today were, as always the case at GC, outstanding! Mark Finely preached last night, a powerful sermon on continuing to prioritize evangelism, and, the sermon itself ended with a number of baptisms, the result of recent public meetings here in San Antonio. Today's worship was highlighted by Elder Ng who gave another powerful sermon on the "special" calling and work of Adventism, as identified in Daniel/REvelation and ended his stirring appeal with
data on how "big" the church has grown since 1863.

The music today was incredible! A choir from Montemorelos University, another choir from Washington Adventist University, and a full orchestra from throughout the NAD; the singing ended
with the hallelujah chorus, "We Have this Hope," and "Lift up the Trumpet" -  a "goose bump" experience in an auditorium with 50,000 people perhaps in attendance and singing?  Amazing.

A few more pics from today's worship:

Directly behind me, Elder Ralph Watts Jr., and his wife, President of Hawaii Conference, and to his left, Pastor Dwight Nelson, with his wife.

On the delegate floor for worship, beside me Pastor Lloyd and Shelia Schomburg, and to their left, Elder Steve Rose and his wife Doreen.

A little fuzzy, but from Elder Ng's sermon, "I don't search google, My wife knows everything" His point was "what are we SDA's supposed to know and share?"  He preaches with great humor; much appreciated by most!
Another fuzzy pic, but at the bottom, below the railing, is the orchestra, and above them, both the Montemorelos and WAU Choirs.

Pastor Dennis and Dorothy Altrogge got to the lunch line quick after Worship! With probably 10,000 people getting ready to eat, they were wise to get there in haste.

You can't see this well, and I didn't catch her name, but in the Missions report/Sabbath School today, Elder Kraus of GC Missions, told the story of this woman, now around 95, from Australia, who, when she was around 20 years old, went with her husband to the Solomon Islands as Missionaries, braved incredible adventure and dangers, and with no SDA presence on the Islands. Recently, she returned to the Solomons to see 1,000s of SDA's, the result of the humble efforts of her and her husband investing their lives there so many years ago.  A very moving tribute!