Annual Council Diary Day 1: The Historic Adventist Village and its People

A Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Conference always kicks off the Annual Council Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee. Each year the subject changes. This year, in Battle Creek, Adventist history was the topic du jour, and the charm of the program was that it included tours, services, and seminars, all done in small groups. For each time block during the day, there were multiple options: bus tours of Battle Creek, walking tours of the Oak Hill Cemetery, communion services, and multiple presentations in the buildings of the Historic Adventist Village. Choosing a presentation at one time could mean missing something else that you really wanted to hear. Luckily some of the main presentations are being repeated, giving one a second chance to hear significant material on Sabbath afternoon. To begin the day, I picked Elder Ted N.C. Wilson’s presentation on “Fearless in God’s Name!” It took place in the “Great Tent” pitched in the middle of the Historic Adventist Village. My fears of freezing while sitting outdoors in 47-degree temperatures were for naught. Space heaters kept the tent reasonably warm. In Wilson’s presentation on church leadership, the 1901 General Conference Session featured significantly. Creation of the union conferences was one of the major accomplishments of 1901, and that changed the structure of the General Conference, he said, noting that each union president became an ex officio member of the General Conference Executive Committee. Continuing he added, “The General Conference Executive Committee’s authority was increased, and the union conferences were given some operational autonomy, although the unions were subordinate to the General Conference Executive Committee — the body that created them.” He concluded by saying, “So today we have returned to Battle Creek, not to turn the clock back 100 years — no, not at all! We have returned to this historic place to remember that we have a ‘past with a future,’ and in looking back we will be encouraged to move forward, knowing that God is at the helm.” My favorite presentation of the day was given by Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review. In “Publish a Little Paper” he told stories about the first four editors of the Adventist Review and their passion for social justice. James White and his fiery editorials about the Fugitive Slave Act. White wrote that SDAs should resist this “evil law.” His editorials sounded a lot like the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Knott said, so he was not surprised when he learned that the two men had lived within 300 yards of each other in Rochester, New York and probably used the same printer for the small papers that each edited. Uriah Smith’s fierce criticism of the US government for its corruption and failure to enforce racial equality. John Nevins Andrews and his creation of the SDA Benevolent Association, the precursor to ADRA. Alonzo T. Jones, the fighter for righteousness by faith who understood grace and what it meant to fall in love with Jesus. Knott read from a Jones sermon that helped him to personally rediscover grace. Riveting stories all. But Knott began his lecture by saying that there is, “Something profoundly unfair about what we are doing here today. Every time a storyteller decides to tell a story, that story leaves out another story.” He also noted that “At times like these, we chose certain kinds of people to tell their stories — men. In a movement that owes its existence to a woman, we tell stories of people of one gender, one race, in one country.” He disparaged the "great man theory" of history, saying as though you could distill history down to just the actions of one gender. “The majority of persons belonging to this church now, and in the past have not been men, or from this area.” He paid tribute to the women who listened to all that dictation of the Review editors, the persons of color who ran the presses. And amid all the great stories that filled the day, that acknowledgement of church members touched my heart, made the poignant singing of early Advent hymns at the evening program more sweet. The day ended with the ringing of the bell that had been rescued from the fire that burned down the Review and Herald Publishing House in 1902. The bell that had been rung at the end of the 1901 General Conference Session in Battle Creek. Leaving one to wonder for whom or what the bell tolls today. Further Reading: Responses from Church Entities and Timeline of Key Events, Annual Council 2017 to Present Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum. Image: We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I listened to the Friday night hymn program twice. It was wonderful to hear the bell toll seven times at the end. James Nix provided fascinating stories as backgrounds for each hymn. Uplifting.


this is interesting…if the unions really are subordinate to GCEXCOM it means they aren’t autonomous, and they don’t have final responsibility and jurisdiction in the area of ordination…


I appreciate this report. It’s good that the Battle at the Creek is not the only purpose of this gathering. Maybe the influence of Bill Knott, who gives great sermons, and other presenters will be a force for good leading up to the business at hand.

I also would like to see supporting documentation to show that unions are subordinate to the GC EXCOMM, as Jeremy also mentioned.


You see? Wilson started to touch that (bearded) elephant in the room, as preparation for the launching of his assault against the Unions.


No one has yet noted that, if I am not wrong, the business sessions of Annual Council will take place in the Kellogg Arena. Is this an acted prophesy of great conflict like that between Kellogg and the GC?


Some historians of the period like Barry Oliver or George Knight or indeed Gil Valentine ought to pronounce upon the accuracy of that statement.


Interesting and a bit contrived as it may appear (“historical theme park” AKA: Battle Creek Annual Council), I am relieved to recall Providence, of which scripture is replete.

Providence is not informed by clever songbooks, period fashion nor the invoking of deliberately selected sound bites to shore up occasionally wobbly logic and sometimes threadbare theology.

Providence is the outworking of applied divinity and divine intention/purpose/reality in the past, the future and the here and now.

Battle Creek is not to be bypassed. It is simply one more opportunity for the Holy Spirit to refine and offer rebirth to God’s church wherever He may find it, and find it willing still.

If the GC and the Adventist’s are listening, ready and willing, God will make great use. We are at a turning point. A place of purpose and of good use. He will chose His leaders and those to follow. His gospel is our battle plan, at Battle Creek and far beyond.

I’am listening to be called as one to follow Him. To comply as only He compels.

God bless Providence. Thank God for the Battle Creeks he provides.


well, george knight has definitely concluded that unions were created as autonomous entities in order to prevent the exercise of kingly power by the GC, which i think would have to include GCEXCOM…but gerry chudleigh has pointed out that the GC has fought back and used the mechanism of model constitutions to gradually reclaim its power since 1901…

TW is obviously operating under the concept that the GC has supreme power and authority in everything…an understanding of authority in our church, and where it resides, is what AC2018 should find a way to clarify…if the unions are the final authority in matters of ordination, then Indianapolis 1990, Utrecht 1995 and San Antonio 2015 were illegitimate…but if the GC is the final authority in everything, including ordination, as TW seems to believe, then PUC and CUC, and much of europe, are in rebellion…i think it really is as simple as that…


Well stated…it does come down to this.


To those who are keen in human behavior, these specific words of TW “the unions were subordinate to the …the body that created them” offer a glimpse of his mental frame and the prognosis of how he might relate to resolving the unity crisis in the church.

A child is never raised to be subordinate to his parents but to achieve autonomy and still be part of the family. The 10 commandments state “Honor thy father and mother…” without stipulating to be “be subordinate to thy father and mother.” The same applies to our church organization where each level was assigned specific duties autonomous from the GC.

So what do you expect when a child fails to be raised as autonomous but to be subordinate instead? They grow up into adulthood and perceive to be in a world of subordination. And what if that child becomes president of an organization steep in hierarchy? He would expect everyone to be his subordinate, of course. No amount of cajoling would stop his world view other than removing him out of office. Would TW fit this assumption?

Even our good friend Jeremy seems to agree. Not all officers are “under the concept that the GC has supreme power and authority in everything…” Why? I would suggest only those who were unable to negotiate childhood developmental milestones successfully.

My point? TW will keep on steam rolling until he gets his way, censored or be removed from office. He lacks the ability to reframe his understanding of events.


Elmer I believe has just pointed out that childhood and on to manhood can, in some
persons, be just One Continuous Line.


Which is to say that some people never grow up. In my own time on the therapists couch I learned that our growth to maturity becomes stunted at the point in time of our emotional injury. I’m wondering about when that occurred in the lives of our heirarchy.


Ted never got the message of the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. He is about to have ratified his own four housemen. He is creating his own Investigative Judgment. Pity a man without a clue of the Gospel.


. . . and, there is a quiet house with porches, on a quiet street corner, high overlooking Galilee-like Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey, MI that would have been even colder than the Historic Adventist Village last week. That was the house that the woman, Grandma Ellen, did not return to, after a decade in the former penal colony of Australia, just before the 1901 GC meeting.

William Miller’s farm and house in New England were rescued from the public domain, and he wasn’t even an SDA. But the perfect retirement house for Grandma Ellen, I was told by an Adventist Village representative, would be too far away and too expensive to maintain ?
. . . and, coincidentally, memorialize a historical Adventist truth still too hard to swallow ?


Are you related to EGW and was she your grandmother?

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Barry Oliver, the former South Pacific Division President and missiologist wrote his doctoral dissertation on church organization in the period under discussion. (A former next door neighbour).

He also authored the chapter about church organization in the newly launched book commemorating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the General Conference.

The book contains the presentation made at Battle Creek in 2013 at the Spring Council of the GC.

George Knight of course was Barry Oliver’s dissertation supervisor when he wrote it in the 1980’s.

The late Dr Andrew Mustard, a lecturer of mine at Newbold College, wrote his dissertation on the early years of Adventist church organization. Oliver wrote part two.

I mentioned Gil Valentine because Gil is the author of the recent biography of WW Prescott who was especially influential in Adventist circles round the turn of the nineteenth century. Gil has studied the history of the Adventist movement in depth from the 1890’s to the early years of the twentieth century. He too had Geo Knight as his doctoral dissertation supervisor.



I don’t follow you in believing that the General Conference has no role in debate regarding ordination.

The General Confetence has established the standards and vows taken with regard to church membership. These things are then operated in the local church context.

Likewise the General Conference has established the selection criteria for individuals who may be ordained by the unions at the request of the Conference.

Unions are not free to establish their own selection criteria. This Adventists enjoy a system where the various spheres of church organization operate together to carry forward their joint responsibilities.

As Jon Paulien said in such enlightening terms last eeekend, both responses to the Ordination vote at Sam Antonio (yes or no to Divisions making decisions regarding the potential ordination of women in their territories) were bound to cause disquiet and disunity. Hence the vote was wrong headed.

This Jon Paulien concluded that if the current compliance policy is voted Adventist leaders should apply the Gamaliel Principle to the situation. If it is of God it will assist in creating unity. If not, it will not. But if on the other hand it is voted down then Adventists must be prepared to look again at the whole way we affirm, bless and consecrate those who they authorise to be representative leaders of the Adventist flock. According to Jon Paulien this may well involve the adoption of a model such as the Norwegian Union of Churches has adopted.

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peter, the legitimacy of the GC’s selection criteria only holds if unions don’t have final responsibility with respect to ordination…this is the question we’re discussing…before we can make progress in determining whether PUC and CUC are in rebellion, we need to know if they’re acting out of bounds with respect to their authority…

one thing is certain: either the GC or PUC and CUC are acting out of bounds with respect to their authority…unless the issue of who has the final authority with respect to ordination is settled, we can’t know whether the GC or PUC and CUC are in the wrong…what george knight and gerry chudleigh seem to be saying is that it’s the GC that’s in the wrong, and that it’s the GC that needs to be subjected to a compliance review committee, or publicly reprimanded and shamed…


Have you read the working policy? There is no “need to know.” GC is certainly coveting that which does not belong to their jurisdiction. Remember the 10th commandment? The only legitimate resolution is to change the working policy and then to implement the policy.