Gender Inclusion, Church Finances Mark SECC Fourth Quadrennial Session | Spectrum Magazine

Riverside CA – Questions on the status of Church finances in an abysmal economy and gender-inclusive language provided heated discussion and hearty applause in turn during the Southeastern California Conference Fourth Quadrennial Session on Sunday, October 26. Delegates from constituent churches descended on the La Sierra University Church to have their say in the course the Church will take over the next five years amid troubled times in America. Morning Session - At Jesus' Feet With characteristic Adventist flair, the day's events began as a costumed Jesus character in a half-convincing fake beard and hairpiece shook hands with delegates. As the Jesus character warmed up the crowd, the Azure Hills Children’s Choir took the stage to sing “At Jesus Feet,” also the theme for the session. C. Wesley Knight, Senior Pastor of the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church, led worship with a rousing homily that energized the congregation. Following more musical numbers and prayer, SECC President Gerald Penick called the meeting to order and delivered opening remarks followed by a financial report from conference Treasurer Thomas Staples. Staples’ reports revealed (unsurprisingly) that the current economic crisis has impacted the church. Tithe has declined over the past few years, and the conference has watched assets in stocks and bonds decline as prices tumble on Wall Street. Delegates came to life for the first major vote of the morning on a project proposal to expand and improve Pine Springs Ranch, the SECC camp and retreat center. As soon as President Penick moved to approve the project, delegates streamed to microphones to voice concerns over the cost of the project (as yet undetermined), the date of completion (pending funding), and the method of raising funds. After delegates voted against several amendments to the proposal, Penick and Executive Secretary Sandra Roberts revealed that without approval of the project, Pine Springs Ranch risks being closed in the long term because of continued failure to meet code. After this revelation, delegates overwhelmingly approved the project. During the morning session, conference administrators won reelection by huge majorities: Gerald Penick won reelection as SECC President by 93%; Sandra Roberts was reelected as Executive Secretary by 96% of voters; and Thomas Staples was reelected to the office of Treasurer with a 94% “yes” vote. Vice-presidential nominees also garnered vast margins of support: Rudy Bermudez won reelection as Vice President of Asian / Pacific Ministries by 97%; George King received 94% of the vote to be reelected as VP of Black Ministries; and Alberto Ingleton received 96% to be reelected as VP for Histpanic Ministries. (Note: at the end of the Quadrennial Session, a delegate stood to speak to the delegates stating that democracy demands that there be options for voters. All those elected to office ran unopposed.) A lunch break seemed to provide delegates with extra energy for the afternoon session; vigorous debate characterized the afternoon’s agenda items. Afternoon Session - Heated Discussion Soon after constituents reconvened, a delegate raised question on quorum forcing a head count of those who stayed after lunch. To maintain quorum required 488 members (2/3 of original attendees). The count came back: 491 in attendance. That prompted President Penick to jokingly request that the back doors be locked to maintain quorum. Then debate resumed in earnest. Before asking delegates to vote on changes to language in the SECC Bylaws, Adeny Schmidt (Sub-committee Chair) and Ernest Furness (SECC Ministerial Director) presented the findings of the 65% Committee, so named for the 65% of church members in the Southeastern California Conference who are women. In 2000, SECC became the first conference in Adventism to grant equal ministerial credentials to male and female pastors. The 65% Committee, a sub-committee of the Bylaws Committee, collected numerous data on women’s involvement in ministry in SECC. The results of the committee’s research raise some interesting points for discussion:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

What? Some are back to the old “creation birth order” thing? If that’s true, the delegates should be flying things, swimming things, and creeping things.