Annual Council Diary: Unintended Consequences

What began last week as a costume drama in the Adventist Historic Village Great Tent came to a close at noon on Wednesday in the Kellogg Arena of Battle Creek. The 2018 Annual Council Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee will go down in history for the affirmative vote to create consequences for being “non-compliant” with church policies and votes. One of the unintended consequences of that vote occurred before the item even came to the floor. In North America, where in the run-up to the meeting there was lively discussion about “non-compliance,” a misunderstanding occurred between the General Conference, the North American Division, and the Oregon Conference. In 2017, $30 million in anonymous tithe was paid to the General Conference. According to Working Policy, the proper way for the General Conference to handle such tithe would be to receive it and send it back to the territory from whence it originated, in this case Oregon. However, in 2007, the General Conference had received an anonymous tithe of such magnitude (over $100 million) that a variance was created and voted by the Executive Committee of the General Conference for extraordinary tithe. On Sunday morning, when Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesan reviewed the usual financial reports, he spent extra time explaining the most recent extraordinary tithe, including distributing a separate financial report on it. In 2007, he explained, when a family sold an international business and wanted to pay tithe on the proceeds, the conference, union, division, and General Conference together discussed what should be done and concluded that since the business being sold was international and since the money would overwhelm a local conference, the best way to handle this situation was to create a variance to regular tithe policy, where money starts at the local conference and is shared up. This extraordinary tithe would be shared down from the General Conference with the worldwide church divisions based on approval of specific projects. Because tithe is tithe (not donor-directed contributions), divisions were invited to propose “gospel-sharing” projects for the money rather than just putting it into ongoing operational accounts. After all, this was extraordinary money received on a one-time basis. There was no interest in creating a situation where pastors were hired one year but then would not be able to be paid on an ongoing basis. And, since, the family that gave the extraordinary tithe in 2007 indicated that there would be future payments based on sales of various parts of the business, when the General Conference received the 2017 payment, it simply concluded it should be handled with the same variance. However, since 2007, many if not all of the various people who had handled the first tithe payment were no longer around. Conference, union, and division presidents and treasurers had changed. The new people were not familiar with the details of the 2007 variance, and thought that the General Conference was “out of compliance” with the way it handled the money. The Oregon Conference Executive Committee wrote an open letter to the General Conference questioning what had taken place. Prestol-Puesan’s explanation of the situation helped to soothe the waters, but one of the responses from the floor was that if the General Conference could vote a variance to policy for the use of tithe money, surely some kind of variance could be approved for local areas wanting equal treatment for all of their pastors in the sharing of the Gospel. The Extraordinary Tithe Financial Report distributed to the Executive Committee details intriguing information about how the denomination used this extraordinary resource. Because this was a one-time event, the General Conference stipulated that the money be used for projects rather than recurring expenses, and because it was tithe, projects were expected to be about sharing the gospel. Media projects were particular favorites. In the initial distribution of funds that took place in 2008, the Hope Channel received $1.1 million. Adventist World Radio got $4.5 million. There were distributions to each of the Divisions. The East-Central Africa Division received $3.5 million. Euro-Africa Division received $6 million. (At that time, the Middle East-North African Union was part of the Division. It has since been attached to the General Conference. Money to support the Israel field has been a particular emphasis of this fund.) Three point eight million went to the Euro-Asia Division where Bible translation was a project. For the Inter-American Division $4 million was initially appropriated in 2008, with new allocations made in 2015 for servers and a satellite contract. To the North American Division went $3.5 million. Additionally, the Oregon Conference received $500,000, and the Carolina Conference received $500,000 for the Share Him evangelism project. Northern Asia Pacific Division received $5 million to be used in China which had just become open to religion, and $700,000 for Japan. To reach people in the 10/40 window $3.79 million was spent on a worldwide system of satellites. The General Conference itself also received money that it used for a variety of projects such as $2.4 million to create “My Bible Guides,” the new Sabbath School curriculum for children, and $1.3 million for a Youth Department web initiative. But perhaps the most interesting line item is the one for “CRS Terminations and Legal” at $314,824.50. Terminations are a one-time expense, but it is hard to see how they qualify as “gospel-sharing.” Prestol-Puesan’s presentation cleared the air on Sunday, demonstrating the power of transparency and openness. Later, the North Pacific Union Conference President, of which Oregon is a part, personally apologized to Prestol-Puesan for the misunderstanding created by the Oregon Conference letter. The conversation surrounding compliance and non-compliance continued, however, in presentations from the General Conference auditor that indicated non-compliance is up 2% over last year to 83% of all entities. And later in a special item on the agenda regarding transparency and openness. Since the terms of reference for the newly created Compliance Committees were not discussed at Annual Council, many questions remain. When will they be activated? What will trigger review by the committees? And if the committees are meant to be the last word, what will be the object of their review, the initial incident of being out of compliance or the way other entities have or have not handled this non-compliance? As the conversation swirling about these committees continues, it seems the door has been opened for more unintended consequences in the future. Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum. Image: SpectrumMagazine.org 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 http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9120

Money makes the rules. Just look what thirty pieces of silver did.

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How many Conferences would ever say that they would be overwhelmed by some major tithe? Has anyone ever heard such a “complaint” from any Conference? This is ludicrous!

Next time I suggest to keep the tithe follow the established path, and if the Conferences feels “overwhelmed,” they can always ask for help from the GC to get rid of the money, shipping it upstairs. I bet the GC will always be more than happy to “rescue” the poor, suffering Conferences dealing with such a huge difficulty. No need for “variance.” :wink:

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In honor of the inauguration of the SDA GC-ordained Compliance Committees,
on the first Sabbath of their future. . . whatever that may be:

"OH ! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO !

"You’ll be on your way up !
You’ll be seeing great sights !
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

"You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

"Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

"I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

"You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

"You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

"And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

"You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin !
Do you dare to stay out ? Do you dare to go in ?
How much can you lose ? How much can you win ?

"And IF you go in, should you turn left or right . . .
or right-and-three-quarters ? Or, maybe, not quite ?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind ?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

"You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

“The Waiting Place . . .”

~ excerpt from,
Oh ! The Places You’ll Go !,
by Dr. Seuss,
published 1 year before his death at age 87

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I just found a nice way to help Spectrum. Did everyone know this?

AmazonSmile:

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Spectrum /Adventist Forum every time you shop on Amazon, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same selection and prices as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from over one million organizations to support, and Spectrum is one of them! Click this link to be taken directly to smile.amazon.com in support of our organization, and to find out more about the AmazonSmile program. You can also find us on smile.amazon.com by searching “Association of Adventist Forum.”
=-=-=-=-=-

Already used it with my own Amazon.com account.

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Thank you, @GeorgeTichy! We appreciate the support!

-WebEd

Welcome. Actually I hope every Spectrumite who buys on amazon will make this arrangement. It’s the same amazon account, nothing changes, just Spectrum will smile with every purchase made.

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Heaven, where God reigns, must be really far off because in spite of this episode stinking to high heavens, God has not had a whiff of it yet.

If the GC can make a variance for themselves, why can’t they give variance to others? Greed?

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The most astute / apt / analytical. observation from the entire AC18 proceedings was the following :

IF THE GC COULD VOTE A VARIANCE POLICY FOR,THE USE OF TITHE MONEY
SURELY SOME KIND OF VARIANCE COULD BE APPROVED FOR LOCAL AREAS WANTING EQUAL TREATMENT FOR THEIR WOMEN PASTORS.

What a rational, reasonable ,realistic solution to the schism splitting the church.

If a variance is facilely employéd in one area, why not in another ?

However, rational and reasonable are not words in the vocabulary of the GC oligarchy .

Good leadership could resolve, this issue in a heartbeat.

But it will/ be allowed to fester, foment and froth until it putrefies the entire church politic.

This will.be the unintended consequence of the mulish, mutinous misogyny that the headship hierarchy wants to inflict on the world body, the acquiescing patriarchal group and the unwilling egalitarian group alike !

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So much for “compliance”! When it is convenient, the GC just changes policy.

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George, perhaps you are not acquainted with the ‘odd-ball’ way the different percentages are moved up the ‘food chain’. yeah, at the local conference and union level, the y to y comparisons would be screwed up, but a small footnote would fix that! the rub comes that the union, gc, local college monies, and the retirement plan ‘contribution’ come in the year FOLLOWING as they are based on the prior year’s tithe. this argument falls flat though as, again, if a conference has a very bad year following a really good one, the problem remains the same. It was a little easier when they made the percentages track with the increase or decrease in tithe…

To be sure! That was prophesied!! But I don’t see anywhere in Scripture about $100 mil going into GC Treasury. Sorry.

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It’s about variance. Take a look in Matthew 28:21-35, and James 5:21-35. The latter text complements the former, and … voilá!!!
Both will explain in detail why variance by the GC is actually OK.
What else do you need in order to believe??? :roll_eyes:

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George, I think you and your wife should come to my place after church this Sabbath, and we will look a little more deeply into those extraordinary verses you’ve outlined!!

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…and you don’t believe this is not the intention all along?! Try Nazi Germany through the 30’s for an answer!!

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figures I can’t find a way to use it here on amazon.jp…

@GeorgeTichy there might be a typo on thetexts in James.

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We can do that, but I wonder if there is any need to go through those verses again. They are crystal clear, anyone can understand the message, right?
The GC is safe with the $100 mil in their pocket… :wink:

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Maybe because the Japanese people don’t smile that much… LOL
Bad for Spectrum.

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Just double checked in my Bible. No, no typo. Used as intended.

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