And So It Begins: Annual Council Diary I

(system) #1

Annual Council Diary I

Every five years the Seventh-day Adventist church holds a General Conference session to elect officers, vote changes in the policies and practices of the church, and review beliefs and mission statements. The Annual Council session of the General Conference Executive Committee that vets all items for that meeting opened Thursday evening. Speculation about how the issue of women’s ordination will be handled has been swirling about since the completion of the Theology of Ordination Study Commission ended in a three-way divide over the issue.

Finally, today the agenda for the Annual Council session was distributed both in electronic and paper form. The work of endless committees combing over details of beliefs, manuals, and motions was complete. Delegates who preferred a hard copy received a notebook with 268 pages of material.

It is a fascinating document to page through and get a sense of what is to come. Speculation about the Tuesday session on women’s ordination has been circulating through the hallways. Should there be a vote at Annual Council on the subject, or should the report from the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) simply be received and passed on to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio? Or, should a motion at Annual Council be crafted to frame how the topic is discussed in San Antonio? The General Conference officers and division presidents spent a day debating that topic.

Section 120 of the General Agenda outlines a 14-step process for consideration of the issue. First, there will be an introduction and brief history. That will be followed by a prayer session. Next will come a review of the work of TOSC. The consensus statement on ordination in general voted by TOSC will be presented. There will be a discussion and vote to receive and endorse the Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination. That will be followed by a prayer session. The TOSC committee reports will be given. The three statements on the way forward will be presented. Then there will be a prayer session. The General Conference and Division Officers recommendation to Annual Council will be explained and moved for acceptance, followed by discussion and voting on the motion. That will be followed by a prayer session.

If the number of prayers is any indication, the officers are worried about this one. No other section of the agenda stops so frequently for prayer. Of course, there will be prayer at other times, but the outline for moving through the Fundamental Beliefs and the Church Manual, both of which have multiple items to consider do not list breaks on every other line for prayer.

Once delegates received their agendas and their electronic voting devices, it was time for consideration of the Adventist health message and “Life to the Full”. Dr. David R. Williams, the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Sociology at Harvard University addressed the delegates on the unique opportunities for ministry that exist because of non-communicable diseases. He described the challenges that come from living in a culture that encourages and rewards unhealthy behaviors. And he talked about the social inequalities in health. “In virtually every country, your social and economic standing says a lot about how long and how well you live,” he said. He talked about the risk factors for adult depression that are embedded in adverse childhood experiences. Given the prevalence of early adversity, he suggested that Adventist Health Ministries must find a way to provide parenting education and enhance the skills and support of parents. Quoting Ellen White, he also called for churches to establish various industries so that poor families can find employment.

Fred Hardinge, the associate health ministries director of the General Conference, then shared data on the health experience of Seventh-day Adventists from the two major studies that have been done with church members. He summarized the findings that show Adventists have better physical and mental quality of life than others. While the vegetarian diet has clear and important effects on reducing risk of chronic disease, other factors for the better quality of life include Sabbath keeping, and religious coping assisting with the reduction of stress.

In the third presentation of the evening, Peter Landless asked the audience “Are you fit to lead?” and challenged them to get beyond the information-behavior disconnect. The problem, Landless said, “is not knowing about healthy lifestyle. It's following through on the good one knows. “

As the meeting drew to a close, General Conference President Ted Wilson brought British Union Conference president Ian Sweeney to the microphone. Sweeney lost 34 kilos (75 lbs) in the last year. " Sweeney told the audience that he turned to the Lord to help him when he realized that he could not in good conscience share a health book with a neighbor, because he was personally not living a healthful life. “The Lord gave me victory over running. He gave me bicycles."

Mark Finley brought the meeting to a close with a call to a healthier life. “Tonight have you heard the spirit calling you to diet, to exercise?” he asked. The power for lifestyle change comes from Jesus, he said.

With prayer the first meeting came to a conclusion. Friday’s session will include case studies in pastoral leadership.

Photos courtesy Ansel Oliver / ANN

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(George Tichy) #2

While reading your report it also called my attention, the number of prayer sessions. It looks good, but are people going to pray for their own positions to prevail, or are they going to pray to better understand/feel God’s will?

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

what is the purpose of repeated pray? To change God or man? I think the later. Making prayer a pressure point is unseemly. During the Second World War a senior senator visited the eighth air force in England. A Low level General was most ingratiating. Finally the senator twisted the one star on the general’s shoulder and said: I came over here to pluck stars not plant them. Each time they knee for prayer, the top most thought will be, how save is my job. Tom Z

(Elaine Nelson) #4

Multiple prayer session cannot but remind us of Elijah’s retort to the priests of Baal praying for rain: “Call out with a loud voice for he may be occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

Such lengthy prayers seem to infer that God does not hear us and that we must constantly beg his Spirit to come aid us in making decisions. Then will the vote be credited to the Holy Spirit regardless of the people’s choice?

(George Tichy) #5

If in order to make their minds those people still depend of so much last-minute prayer at the time of the meeting, this is a clear demonstration (confession) that they are not qualified to do the job.

The major problem I see is the hypocritical attitude. They will be fighting among themselves, but they don’t want to take responsibility for THEIR decisions and acts. “Oh, no, no, it’s not me, it’s the Spirit that is making me act (vote) this way.”

Those guys need to man up and accept responsibility for what THEY will be doing.

(Elaine Nelson) #6

Unlike U.S. Congress where individual votes are listed, these voters are always secret. If Congress, bad as it is today, still must print their votes on bills, why are these delegates so secretive? They should “man up” and be counted (or “women up”). Stand by your votes or don’t vote!

The way our congressmen vote, allows us to know how or not to vote for them; with electronic voting, members cannot know the position their representatives take, making it difficult when they are appointed. Very undemocratic.


Gal 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Apparently with much prayer this can change.

(George Tichy) #8

But Elaine… identifying everyone’s vote could have “grave consequences”…
First, we would know who is who. Seconds, it would eliminate any room for “involuntary electronic mistakes”…

(ZywVal) #9

Oh seriously - praying often is now a point of critique because it is done by people who do not share certain viewpoints? You can not really be judging the leaders of the church by what you think is the secret motive of their prayers, can you?

(George Tichy) #10

I am not judging anyone’s motives. I am saying that it’s time to stop the theatre of hiding behind prayer to justify one’s personal choices and decisions. This has always been an hypocritical approach. It’s usually a way to ask God to bless one’s own already made decision, and make this one idea to prevail.

I haven’t heard of people actually praying asking God for an action to make sure that “veritas vincit”…

(jeremy) #11

i think the insertion of multiple prayer points, while considering women’s ordination, is a good idea…to me, they seem intelligently designed to prevent the build-up of tension and reckless emotion as a controversial topic is being considered…i think they probably are the result of both mark finley’s and ted wilson’s input…that is, they are the brainchild of pro-wo and anti-wo people who really want to do the right thing…

(Ann) #12

Jeremy, I heartily concur with your assessment. Leaders aren’t particularly concerned about the outcome of the vote (I’m convinced a sizable majority in the GC auditorium this week favor a division-by-division variance), but they are concerned about the unity of the church. If those who are vehemently opposed to any kind of women’s ordination are going to accept the decision of the body to move forward, they have to be able to trust that things were done in a fair and open manner, and that the whole process was bathed in prayer. Can’t we be patient just a little bit longer? After all, prayer keeps us all in conversation with each other and with God, and reminds us of our need to submit to His sovereignty. It’s good for all of us!

(Bille) #13

Either you have not been following the charade of WO for the past 50 plus years, or you have not been even noting the use of prayer as a manipulative tool… including even one vote that was called for by asking all in favor of the motion to kneel in prayer… or you have not noticed the changing attitude of Ted Wilson towards the TOSC committee over the past few years… or you do not understand the whole process of manipulation (a euphemism for mind control, brain washing, programming, and other such power/control tactics)… or you have totally forgotten Christ’s injunction against excessive public prayers… or perhaps you have forgotten Ellen’s description of prayer as being for the purpose of changing ourselves… not for the purpose of changing God’s will… and also not for the purpose of controlling the decisions of others…

Or maybe it is so simple as that you approve of prayers like the little boy who included in his evening prayers… “and please Dear God, make Philadelphia be the capital of Pennsylvania”… and who, when Mom asked why-ever he prayed that, he replied, “Because that’s what I put on my test paper today.”

(George Tichy) #14

I am sure people who are waiting for 40 years, and praying vehemently about the WO issue, can “be patient just a little bit longer,” and do some more praying to “bathe the process” and to “keep us all in conversation with each other”…

At what cost? For what reason? Besides, I would be interested in learning how many of those people are going to change their position as result of those prayer brakes.

Façades certainly work well not only in Hollywood…


(Carolyn Parsons) #15

I am reminded of an issue with the North Pacific Union Conference headquarters. They had purchased land in Ridgefield Washington and had applied for permits to build the new headquarters. They fought the city for quite a long time. Since my parents go to a church nearby where some headquarter staff and leaders had already moved, each time I went to visit and we went to church they were asking for prayers for the process with getting permits. One of the times I leaned over to my mom and said “have they considered the possibility that God has been telling them not to build at that location and they don’t like the answer?”

(Tihomir Odorcic) #16

I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole Tuesday session will be closed for public and Bonnie will simply bump at the locked door. For such occasions there is always a higher reason to make them secret. Transparency hasn’t been an Adventist virtue. Just remember the last Bible and Science Conference in Utah.

(George Tichy) #17

If that happens, and if the participants agree to such an immoral practice, I will have to call it the “meeting of the Poli-Burros” - but we have to wait.
They probably know better now, that it all will make it to Spectrum anyway, even if they “shut the door” on the public.


(Ann) #18

I’ve been waiting for 35 of those 40 years, too. I was deeply disappointed at the “not yet” we received the last time GC Session voted on this issue. But looking back, we have been steadily splitting the difference and getting closer to this moment when at long last each division can move forward and ordain women to ministry with the world church’s blessing.

Like you, I don’t feel like being patient anymore. This day is long overdue. I agree that nobody is probably going to change their mind as a result of the prayer breaks–unless the Lord intervenes and tells them to stop kicking at the goads–but I agree with Elder Finley that the people who don’t get their way will be better able to submit to the decision reached by the body, if they feel the process was fair, transparent, and open to the Spirit’s leading.

(George Tichy) #19

I have been waiting for 64 of those 40 years… :slight_smile:

(Ann) #20

Bonnie will not be locked out. It is an open meeting and even if there is an overflow, her place is secure in the Press area of the auditorium.