Annual Council Diary II
While the members of the General Conference Executive Committee have gathered to attend to church business at Annual Council, the meetings began with what could best be described as continuing education. Known as the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Conference, this year the sessions were very personal, beginning with the health talks on Thursday evening. Friday’s topic continued that personal slant as speakers, case studies and skits focused on appointments and disappointments.
GC Vice President Pardon Mwansa talked about what happens when “The Nominating Committee Decides to Make a Change.” He examined the Biblical stories of people who were in some way passed over. King David who was told by God that he was not the one who would build the temple. David’s friend Jonathan who said, “you shall be king over Israel and I will be second to you.” John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The point was made repeatedly during the morning that people are elected to be stewards of a position. There have been people in the position before and there will be people in the position after. You do not own your job.
Richard E. McEdward performed a monologue “Me and My Chair” reflecting on the possibility of not being re-elected and stating those inner fears, “What will my colleagues think? What will my family think? What will my tribe think? What will my country think? What will my division think? What will the world think? What will the universe. . . . Yeah, maybe not the universe.”
G T Ng, the secretary of the General Conference and resident humorist, continued the conversation about San Antonio and the songs of the session: 1. “I Shall Not be Moved,” 2. “On the Upward Way,” 3. “Is My Name Written There?” and 4. “Pass Me Not, O Gentile Savior.” The Ellen G. White quote of the day, and there were many, that was printed on the inside back cover of the special bulletin for the conference, came from Desire of Ages, page 182, “God calls a man to do a certain work; and when he has carried it as far as he is qualified to take it, the Lord brings in others, to carry it still farther. But like John’s disciples, many feel that the success of the work depends on the first laborer. Attention is fixed upon the human instead of the divine, jealousy comes, in and the work of God is marred. The one thus unduly honored is tempted to cherish self-confidence. He does not realize his dependence on God. . . The work of God is not to bear the image and superscription of man. From time to time the Lord will bring in different agencies, through whom His purpose can best be accomplished. Happy are they who are willing for self to be humbled, saying with John the Baptist, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
Regarding San Antonio, Ng had advice for his listeners: pack and pray. He said that before election, he takes a box to his office and packs all the personal items that he has there. As he talked the organist began playing “It Is Well with My Soul.” He held up a voting card. You can chose between “I Will Not Be Moved” and “It is Well With My Soul.” Then he invited the brethren to demonstrate their choice by coming down to the front. The aisles filled with men in black suits singing “It Is Well With My Soul.”
To close the morning session, Mark A. Finley, assistant to the president of the General Conference, changed the subject “Toward Unity in the Body of Christ.” What do you do when the theologians of the church are divided? he asked. How does the church work its way through this topic of ordination of women?
He began with the story of the early Adventist church in 1855 debating over whether or not Sabbath was defined by sundown Friday to sundown Saturday or 6pm Friday to 6 pm Saturday. Early Adventists settled doctrinal and administrative issues in three ways, he said. “1. They studied the word of God and asked if God had revealed truth through His word. 2. They were guided by the Gift of Prophecy to confirm the truths they studied in Scripture. 3. They also accepted that in some matters the Bible presented principles and the church had the authority to decide the best course of action to preserve unity and foster mission.
Then he turned to the Book of Acts to examine how issues were handled in the early Christian church such as the choosing of a new apostle, the choosing of deacons, and the conversion of the Gentiles. Again there were three principles: “1. Although the Gentles were not required to be circumcised, they were required to make some dramatic changes in their lives. 2. Both Jews and Gentiles had to submit to the decisions of the Jerusalem Council, which were not easily acceptable for them. 3. Although Jew and Gentile would not have exactly the same practice and there was a recognition of and respect for differences, this did not disrupt the unity of the church.”
Suppose that women’s ordination is passed in San Antonio and you are opposed to it, what will you do? Let’s suppose the opposite. How will you respond? What is it that will save the church today? He asked.
“Unity is not uniformity of action, but deciding together,” he said.
But what if the corporate church gets it wrong? He asked as a preface to telling the story of Paul in prison because he had been following the counsel of the apostles. Acts 23:11 says, “The night following the Lord stood by him, and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness at Rome also.’” “Be of good cheer, Paul, the church got it wrong,” Finley said. “Even if the church makes a mistake, praise God.” Then he asked the audience to join him in reading “Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service of God supreme, will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet.” (The Faith I Live By, p. 64) His closing line was the title of the Lead Conference “Let God be God.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6322