Annual Council Diary Day 3: The Five Ws

By a vote of 185 to 124, the Executive Committee of the General Conference approved the document “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” on Sunday, October 14 in Battle Creek, Michigan. The vote came after nearly two hours of presentations about the document and then three hours of discussion with 71 people going to the microphones to share their views. Forty spoke against the motion, 27 spoke in favor, and three left it open as to which position should be taken.

That’s the who, what, when, and where of the big vote at Annual Council, but not the why. Why stories are the hardest ones to write, and this one is particularly so.

Why did the vote go the way that it did when a plurality of voices spoke against it? Was it because of political maneuvering ahead of the vote, arm-twisting as one person told me? Another said he thought the floor discussion was superfluous. They could have voted five minutes after the meeting started and the result would have been same. People came ready to vote. He felt like Elder Wilson knew he had the vote from the beginning and pointed to Wilson’s exceedingly calm demeanor as evidence.

Did it make a difference that there had been considerable discussion in the media and at churches around the world? Did the materials in the Executive Committee Newsletter change anyone’s mind? Or, did the two-hour presentation that preceded the discussion seal the deal?

The meeting began with ethereal music. Stephanie Dawn, a blind woman, sang about Isaiah 50: Lift Up Your Eyes and See. Wilson read Psalm 133 about the blessed unity of the people of God. And, of course, a quote from Ellen White as he began his explanation of the issue at hand. He continued, saying:

“The document that will be presented is not Wilson’s document. It came from the Annual Council floor of last year. There were many suggestions made, ideas, including that there ought to be other aspects of the work to be looked at. Out of that came the idea of compliance committees. Why should we be focusing on Women’s Ordination when 81% of church entities are out of compliance with GCAS. So, it came from the floor itself and from you. The document is your document. You can turn it down, you can vote for it. It is in your hands. The understanding that we need to have as a group is that whatever decision is made today, we will work with that. That is the crux of the matter of why we have come to this point. Although, the subject of Women’s Ordination is what has driven much of the anxiety and tension, it is not the issue of today. Our attempt to bring a document to you is our attempt to follow up on what we have agreed to do to work together.

We would not be bringing this to you, but it was discussed last year and referred back….The disciplinary approach is of the mildest order. There is one feature in there that is already in the bylaws. I would hope as we go into this, I don’t want you to think that we are pushing you or manipulating you in any way. I hope that we will actually come to a vote to accept or reject the document. I hope that there will not be attempts to refer this back or table the motion. I think we need to move forward one way or another with the mission of the church. It is time to focus our attention in a more complete way on the mission of the church.”

Following Wilson’s speech, Archivist David Trim took the podium to give his report on the survey of union conference presidents that had been done, its high response rate, and its insistence that consequences needed to come to those who disregarded the GC Session vote of San Antonio. Then General Conference Counsel Karnik Doukmetzian added the legal advice that had been sought from three law firms about the following questions:

“Can the Executive Committee remove both regular and ex-officio members of the Executive Committee for cause? If yes, by what percentage vote margin? Does the power to remove also include the power to discipline in other ways? Do the bylaws authorize the Executive Committee to impose additional sanctions such as loss of voice or vote? Can the Executive Committee establish disciplinary penalties and procedures to impose on its members that the Constitution or Bylaws do not specifically authorize or provide for?”

The answers to these questions started with a yes, the Executive Committee can remove a member for cause by a two-thirds vote. However, taking away voice and vote are not mentioned in the Bylaws, so to do so would require wording be placed into the General Conference documents before it could be done. Did the delegates register that qualification, or was the initial yes all they heard? Next, he said it appears that the bylaws would allow removal of an officer belonging to a constituent group that flaunts church-wide policies. But, “An officer or member of the Executive Committee whose constituency disregards a General Conference determination despite the officer’s best efforts to ensure compliance or to lead an appeal process while ensuring compliance, regardless of the officer’s personal beliefs, would not likely meet the prerequisites of removal for cause according to Article XIII Section 1c. It is hard enough making sense of legal documents when they are in writing in front of you, keeping track of all the clarifications when listening to them can be difficult. Did this impact the delegates?

By then it was 3:45 p.m., there were no presentations on the Compliance Committees themselves and their terms of reference. There was nothing said about what would happen if the document was voted or defeated. The floor was simply opened for discussion after a decision that speeches would be limited to two minutes. Speakers came to the mics with their speeches in hand trying to make the most of it, but they barely had enough time to say whether they spoke in support of the document or against it. Although people said the structure and culture of the church would be changed by the document, the immediate consequences were not addressed. Other than Randy Roberts, no one challenged the administration on their actions, facts, concepts, or explanations. Only NAD Treasurer Tom Evans questioned in any way what would happen if the document was approved.

In the first two hours of comments, those against the document dominated with 31 speeches, a significant proportion being from North America. Six union presidents spoke, the three division officers, two conference presidents, the president of Andrews University, and the dean of the Seminary. But the tone of the conversation changed in the last hour; many people from Africa found their voices, and rose to speak in favor of the document. Of those who went to the mic in the last hour, 15 spoke for the document and nine against. The last speakers were GC officials who gave rallying cries that echoed the two hours of presentation that had preceded the floor discussion.

And so with the voting of the document, a whole new list of W questions emerge. When will the Compliance Committees be convened? Before the week is out? Before next year? Perhaps the biggest question is, what will the North American Division do at its Year-end Meeting the first week in November? In the past, there have been motions made to cut the amount of tithe that the NAD passes on to the GC down to the 2% level of all the other divisions. That could be a $50 million loss to the General Conference operating budget.

Who knows what, when, where, and why comes next?

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image: SpectrumMagazine.org

Further Reading:

Responses from Church Entities and Timeline of Key Events, Annual Council 2017 to Present

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9113
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i think the one delegate, one vote system in place now needs to be changed to something that is more regionally representative and equitable…but until that time comes, i think NAD should cut the amount of tithe it forwards to the GC…unfortunately, money is the only voice we have left…

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Let me add another W question:
Was Wilson just re-elected for a 3rd term?
It looks like! With the compliments of the African leaders.

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This the NAD can do today if they want, can’t they?
I hear good things coming from the NAD, now I want to see real action taking place.

I don’t understand why the NAD is sending 1% more to the GC than the other Divisions. This is absurd and has to change immediately - in my opinion, of course.

By the way, why is the GC pulling so much money from the Divisions anyway? Does the Church have access to information regarding what is done with the money? Full transparency?

We know that the GC has money invested in the Wall Street scheme. How much is it? Is it tithe money? Isn’t it money that should/could be invested in some kind of evangelism or mission project? Is there any Adventist, or “good friend,” receiving commission from those investments?

Ah, if we only could have an answer to questions like these…

Wouldn’t “payments” of 1% from each Division be enough to run the GC? (While it exists, because I believe the GC should be completely dissolved. No need for it since it does not benefit anyone but itself! No benefit for local churches at all).

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Wilson opened his speech with the remark:

“The document to be presented is not Wilson’s document.”

Wilson seems to have successfuliy surrounded himself with a cadre of sycophants. They are either fawning followers, or just maybe, some feel vulnerable to losing their jobs if they are not obsequious .

So the compliance committee formulation was group think by Wilson and his henchmen.

The bottom line is that a small oligarchy, cleverly crafted and exploited by Wilson, now runs the GC.

We have to hand it to him.

His “exceedingly calm demeanor” during the proceedings acclaimed that his masterly political manoeverings
had already assured the outcome.

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And how much the GC spends in litigation to silence people like Merikay Silver, David Dennis and Walter McGill.

GENERAL CONFERENCE CORPORATION OF SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS v. McGILL

United States Court of Appeals,Sixth Circuit.
GENERAL CONFERENCE CORPORATION OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS and General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, an Unincorporated Association, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Walter McGILL, d/b/a Creation 7th Day Adventist Church et al., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 09-5723.
Decided: August 10, 2010

In December 1994, Dennis was dismissed from his position as director of the General Conference Auditing service and his ministerial credentials were revoked for conduct unbecoming an ordained minister of the Adventist Church.

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2001-10-04/resolution-of-employment-lawsuit-against-adventist-church/

Morris Venden got a pass, though, didn’t he?

But he wasn’t an ordained auditor…with evidence…

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In point of fact, you did hand it to him.

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it wouldn’t be compliments of NAD leaders, that’s for sure…the only NAD leader i noticed speaking in favour of the document at AC2018 was kwasi ansah-adu, president of the quebec conference in canada (canadian union president, mark johnson, spoke against the document)…

i’m tending to agree more and more with john brunt, that AC2018 has shown us that NAD needs to rethink its relationship with the GC…world church affiliation is a good thing, but not when that affiliation prevents implementing approaches in our areas that are deemed to be beneficial…

our GC is now at a point where it will discipline policy non-compliance as thoroughly as doctrinal non-compliance, as if delegate votes are on par with the words of inspired prophets…however we got to this point, this is manifestly wrong…it cannot be supported in good conscience…

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Based on reports I’ve heard from the members of the Board of Directors of the Quebec conference, he did so not as any representative of the Quebec constituency, who were not consulted and are of course woefully unaware that any of this is occurring. For the record, the Quebec conference does employ at least one woman pastor.

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yes, pastor esther paul-emile is likely commissioned, rather than ordained…i’m sure we would have heard about it if she were ordained…

Now that the world church, through the GC, has voted to alienate and punish the NAD’s constituents and leaders, it’s absolutely time for the NAD be treated equally in terms of money given to the GC. End the generous giving. Let the rest of the world pay for itself. Decisions have consequences. (I quit giving “tithe” years ago and have been bewildered to see that tithe giving continues to increase in North America.)

Let the Great Advent Inquisition (aka the Wilson Inquisition) begin. Can someone please tell me how to report out-of-compliance individuals? If we’re going to have the Inquisition Committees, I think we should find them some work to do.

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There are bodies buried across the SDA landscape. An extortion scheme (do you have a better word?) has just been voted in. (I know no one likes to see the word “Adventist” anywhere near the word “criminality.”)

The GC polices itself. You heard it from Ted Wilson’s mouth last Sunday. The fox guards the henhouse. It can draw up fiat policy variances for itself just like the Fed prints fiat money out of thin air.

Is there any reason to think things have changed since Walter Rea wrote Pirates of Privilege about the Davenport Scandal and got his ministerial license revoked and his sustentation yanked?

Of course, he could get his sustentation back if he’d COMPLY with one little condition: ax the book, which he did. This is how the SDA church rolls.

Pirates of Privilege reveals the nearly unbelievable details of this sordid chapter in the history of Adventism, but was never published.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, when it fired Rea, took away his retirement benefits.

Church leaders would like the world to believe the reason for his firing was his exposure of Ellen White’s massive plagiarism, but we know now that it was as much for his exposure of SDA corruption as it was for his treatment of Ellen White.

He was 60 years of age when his employment with the Church was terminated, and by then he had given many decades of service to the Church.

Rea took the Church to court and won back his retirement benefits, but he was forced to agree not to publish Pirates of Privilege to secure that income.

Thus, in a very real sense, every penny of retirement benefits Rea has received from the Church in the decades since represents “hush money” paid out to silence the story of Adventist corruption and its scandalous squandering of the Church’s money.

Most of the millions of dollars lost by Adventist leaders in the Davenport Scandal came to the Church in the form of tithe money sacrificially given to the Church by Adventist believers who were struggling to get from one paycheck to another.

Pirates of Privilege shows Adventist leaders operating as if they do not believe there is a Heaven to win or a Hell to shun, much less than in the Church’s own special teachings about the Sabbath, the Investigative Judgment, or the divine inspiration of Ellen White.

Whether her writings were inspired by God or not, these leaders repeatedly disregarded her specific counsels in regard to both the handling of the tithe monies and of the Church’s investment practices in general.

http://www.bible.ca/7-pirates-of-privilege.htm


(Facsimile of Book at above link.)

The thing about the Davenport Scandal is that it involved many levels of the church. How many people are still around who were involved in that, and how many similar shenanigans have happened since then?

How many Division, Union and Conference people are already over a barrel, out of the starting gate?

There’s got to be a reason Ted Wilson is feeling so serene.

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The NAD should cut the amount of tithe it forwards to the GC and use that extra $50 million to strengthen our schools. Hundreds of schools in the NAD have closed. The ones remaining should be given some help. If we do not strengthen our schools in the NAD, NAD Seventh-day Adventists will eventually become as ignorant as the Seventh-day Adventists living in the Third World.

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Or grandad, who left the Aus Div in 1951 for similar reasons.

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Really? Have you never been to a city counsel meeting. The number of speakers on one side or the other is usually something to do with organized speeches than what the population of voters thinks.

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I would agree with reducing the GC tithe to 2% and making it retroactive to the date of the San Antonio vote. Agree with Phillip Brantley that the schools would be a good beneficiary of some of the funds.

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hi George, I’m not sure where is best to insert this little gem into the broader conversation, but here it is anyway…for all those who may not have ever laid eyes on this little sucker… No automatic alt text available.

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Oops—I’m Cassie. :slight_smile:

Hey, @GeorgeTichy —answer the phone!

Well, Lincoln, regarding EGW Ordination certificates, I could post you a bunch of links (e.g. White Estate) but I’m done with trying to sort out Adventist history.

I think it’s impossibly tangled, complicated greatly with dissimulation.

You could say I’m retired, and that’s very tired, indeed. :sleeping:

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Yes, there are six ordination credentials for Ellen White from the General Conference. Thanks for posting this.

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Numerous people have noticed and remarked about the pattern of pro / con speeches at the Sunday discussion on the compliance committees. I believe this was a deliberate strategy laid out by those who are in charge of running the meeting - primarily Ted Wilson. I have seen him use this strategy before.

I was a delegate at the Review and Herald constituency meeting when it was voted to close the institution. The push was coming from the “same old gang” as were in charge on Sunday. It was the exact same pattern. There were lots of speeches at the beginning of the discussion to keep the Review open in Hagerstown. One might have even gotten their hopes up. Then we had lunch. An email message went out to all the GC delegates in the building that had not been in the morning session asking them to come because we were going to vote after lunch. When we reconvened there was the speech by TW that we are running out of time but we don’t want to cut off discussion. As discussion moved forward, the tone decidedly moved towards the close the Review opinion. Then at the very end several influential leaders from the GC got up and pushed to close the Review. This is the exact same strategy in evidence on Sunday.

Further, at the Review and Herald closure meeting there was a manipulation of the list of speakers by Ted Wilson himself. One would think that the speakers were called up to the mic in the order in which they “got in line” and had their credentials scanned. This was not the case at the Review committee and it make me wonder if this happened Sunday. Someone who was watching the same screen TW was seeing when he called people up to the mic told me that he was choosing the order in which to have them speak. He was - in essence - “cherry-picking” the list to manipulate it to the strategy he and his team had determined would be the most effective.

Several have commented about how relaxed he seemed - even when some very plain words - and accusations? - were being hurled in his direction. I’m sure he knew he had the vote in the bag. I’m just sure he had been through the list of members at the meeting and was pretty confident of how each one would vote. (I would have!) Someone, earlier, questioned why we even had the discussion. The outcome was a foregone conclusion and TW knew he had the votes going in to the meeting. I doubt that any votes were changed by the debate.

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