Springtime at the Mall of Adventism

Dark clouds squeezed out big fat raindrops for the opening of Spring Meeting at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists headquarters. Division officers from around the world and newly appointed Executive Committee members were gathered to assess the numbers crunched from tithe and year-end giving, dividends on investments, and the fluctuations of global currencies. In good years, when there is a surplus over budget projections, additional appropriations are often divvied up between the divisions. But not this year.

Somber financial news in 2015 topped the agenda, In the treasurer’s report, Juan Prestol-Puesan told the gathered leaders that the strength of US currency had cost the GC $19.4 million in exchange rates on money coming in from around the world. The General Conference operates in U.S. dollars, but 53 percent of its income originates in other currencies. Additionally, the $12.6 million spent on the General Conference Session in San Antonio, a drop in income on investments, an appropriations increase of $2 million, made 2015 a very expensive year for the General Conference. While the “operating expense cap” was not exceeded, it was at 98.04%, the highest it has been since 2005, when it was at 98.62%. The expense cap is the requirement for the General Conference to keep operating expenses capped at 2.0 percent of gross world tithe. Net assets for the church dropped by $19 million.

The total income basis for that cap in 2015 was US $2,360,398.471, making the 2% cap US$47,207,969. The General Conference spent $46,282,191, or 98.04% of the cap, leaving $1,304,408.

Prestol’s report also included cautionary projections for the future, given that the North American Division is moving out of the General Conference building. Losing the rent from NAD will take over $1 million/annually out of the 2017 General Conference budget and beyond, plus the empty space will have to be rehabbed for other use, Prestol said.

There have been several rehabilitation projects recently in the General Conference facilities. The colonial style living room furniture in the lobby has been replaced with round leather couches centered in the recently installed art exhibit telling the story of salvation from creation to the second coming. Reproductions of familiar illustrations from the iconic Bible Story books by Arthur Maxwell line the walls making me think of Friday evening worships from my childhood.

Other recent rehabilitation projects have included the creation of a Visitor’s Center, new production facilities for Hope Channel, and a remodel of the White Estate offices. The sprawling building serves somewhat as a Mall of Adventism housing multiple institutions in addition to the General Conference officers on level three. ADRA and the Review also have their niches.

Previous tenants that have moved out of the building include Griggs University, a distance learning institution that is now part of Andrews University.

The exciting news that President Ted Wilson had to share concerned the upcoming May evangelistic series in Rwanda where he will be one of the speakers, and at which he is anticipating 100,000 baptisms. Total Member Involvement, his major initiative for the next five years, will be the key to this effort in Rwanda where there will be some 3,000 different evangelistic sites. Local pastors and members will be part of the speaking team, as will Nancy Wilson, wife of President Wilson. The local pastors have committed to spending even more time with new members after the series so they remain a part of the congregations they join, too.

Next on the agenda was a report by the Department of Women’s Ministries from the Advisory session recently held with all the various Division Women’s Ministry leaders. Heather Dawn Small, the director of the GC Women’s Ministries Department, presented the resolution, drafted with her peers in the divisions, calling for equality and justice for women. “Resolved, we request that women and men in leadership positions be treated equally in work load, compensation and responsibilities.” President Wilson took a vote of the Committee to simply receive the report.

Larry Evans presented a new initiative for Special Needs Ministries that will include work with the deaf, the blind, physically and mentally challenged individuals as well as orphans. He talked about the need to begin with the language we use in describing such ministry. It is not ministry to or for such individuals, he stressed, but ministry with them. And the ministry will address the needs of caregivers for such people, too.

Transitions in leadership were marked at the meeting. Brad Thorpe, the president of the Hope Channel for the past 23 years, gave his final report on the state of the denomination’s broadcasting organization. While he will remain at the General Conference as a field secretary, Derrek Morris has been chosen the new president of Hope Channel. Thorpe presented Morris with a model satellite as a symbol of Hope Channel as a global pulpit. With 43 television channels, 6 more channels in development, and 11 audio channels, Hope is the largest Christian denomination broadcasting service Thorpe said.

The selection of Rick McEdward to replace Homer Trecartin as president of the Middle East and North Africa Union was also announced as the Division presidents gave their reports on the Mission to the Cities initiative in their territories. Trecartin recently requested to return to the United States for personal health issues. He and McEdward are exchanging positions, because Trecartin was chosen to replace McEdward as director of the church’s Global Mission Centers for World Religions.

During the constituency session for Christian Records Services for the Blind, Diane Thurber was introduced and praised as the new president of the organization. To balance the budget of the organization since she began her work there on Oct. 1, she has trimmed the workforce from 60 down to 15. The other significant item on the constituency agenda was a vote to turn the ownership of the organization over to the North American Division.

This is the fifth such transition of a General Conference institution. Several years ago, Andrews University took over Griggs University, the church’s long-time distance learning entity. The church’s Media Center and its broadcast programs programs were handed over to the North American Division. Last year Oakwood University and the printing operations of the Review and Herald Publishing Association were also passed to the North America Division.

Constituency sessions for such organizations often fill out the agenda for these meetings, since the constituency of General Conference organizations are essentially composed of this Executive Committee plus some additional members pertinent to the institution.

This year, there was no attempt to hold the constituency meeting of Loma Linda University in Silver Spring as had been done in the past with Skype bringing together people in two places. This year, the church leaders involved in the LLU constituency were scheduled on Wednesday afternoon flights to California to be at the LLU meeting on Thursday.

That meant that the Spring Meeting in Silver Spring ended promptly at noon with a reading from Christ Object Lessons on “The One Talent”. “Let a living faith run like threads of gold through the performance of even the smallest duties,” President Wilson repeated. “Thus through the right use of our talents, we may link ourselves by a golden chain to the higher world. This is true sanctification; for sanctification consists in the cheerful performance of daily duties in perfect obedience to the will of God.”

The stormy weather had past by the time the meetings were over. Sun shone on the tulips and azaleas as the executive committee members exited.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7414

Thank you for the report. While it is sobering to realize the financial constraints, one wonders at the value of spending so much (such as over $12 million) for the illusion of representation decision making at the General Conference.

Our last major restructure was in 1901. Well before the computer, internet and modern communication options. Well before we were over a million, let alone over 19 million members now.

I think the time has come to seriously flatten our organization. Realistically - how effective can a GC departmental director be in trying to be all things to all Divisions? Wouldn’t we be better off divulging more decision-making to the Divisions. All we need is a coordinating committee at GC level with ONE representative per Division located there.

In this day and age of modern communication - we could save well over the estimated losses tabled in the article by simply downsizing, restructuring and adapting to the technology of the 21st century.

I hear the rhetoric about evangelism. If we are serious - then we would minimize the administration structure and actually get more legs out in the field permanently. A fly in and fly out evangelism model - regardless of the projected numbers - is not Christ’s method. His was an incarnational ministry, the Ted White model is not.

C. Fowler wondered if the Ted White was a slip or intentional:

The Ted White statement is intentional. If you read or listen to anything that Ted does - there are ALWAYS more Ellen White quotes than Scriptural quotes. Always. Hence the name.

I am a firm believer in Ellen White. But she would be horrified with the way our GC president uses her in preference to the Bible. She herself said that she was the lesser light to lead to the greater light. That is not how it appears in Ted White’s approach.


One would think that “total member involvement” would be more attainable if a large portion of the GC’s bloated $46,282,191 in operating expenses was spent, instead, empowering the involvement of rank and file members of local congregations. With all due respect, Ted really should put the money where his mouth is. To me, that would be true leadership.


Ted White. Is this a Freudian slip? Or an intentional observation, which is a good one.


The Ted White statement is intentional. If you read or listen to anything that Ted does - there are ALWAYS more Ellen White quotes than Scriptural quotes. Always. Hence the name.

I am a firm believer in Ellen White. But she would be horrified with the way our GC president uses her in preference to the Bible. She herself said that she was the lesser light to lead to the greater light. That is not how it appears in Ted White’s approach.



Only 1 post allowed on this main page.

So, this will be deleted by the WebEd’s, but I agree with your assessemnt of Ted White.


Just repost as an Edit to your original post. And it will be saved, as well as our VOTE for your Edit.

If we are losing money exchanging foreign currency for US Dollars, would it make more sense to leave the currency “over there” and just authorize dispursement of monies through the Divisions or the Unions?
Perhaps make investments of foreign monies through the Divisions or Unions?
They could be designated GC monies.
Then on the GC treasury accounts, the totals of GC monies in other places could be acknowledged.

Edit 4/17-- Carrol – If the Church will NOT recognize that there are GLs, surely you didnt expect them to recognize that there are Transgenders!!
President Wilson and those in the room did NOT even recognize that the Women had presented a report.
Just told the secretary to note that they turned in a piece of paper with letters printed on it.

Foster [edit 4/16], you will notice there was NO RESPONSE to the Women’s Ministries report EITHER!
President Wilson just had the secretary of the group note that it was received. And THAT was IT! It probably ended up in File #13 and in the Dempsy Dumpster by now.


Re: your article "Springtime at the Mall of Adventism"
Most “malls” that survive today need to be updated and made cost-effective.

These ideas are being passed on from a former employee who worked in the General Conference not so long ago. This person was specific in saying that much money could be saved if at least half of these suggestions could be implemented. I have arranged some of these ideas into broader categories.
How to Cut Administrative Expenses- From a Former Employee Who Actually Worked At
The General Conference (presented before, but largely ignored)
• Telecommute
Technology effectively reduces distance, so there is no need to require administrative people or specialists to be physically located together. Employees who work from home or in month-to-month temporary facilities reduce or eliminate the high cost of office space, as well as the demand for support services. In many cases, employees with the opportunity to telecommute will take less salary due to the freedom and lack of commuting costs.
• Sublease Office
If you have excess space in this building that will not be used for a year or more, investigate subleasing. As a landlord, the GC can continue to control the premises and the activities performed in the space, and you’ll have extra income to offset the expense of your own facilities.
• Eliminate Un-needed Memberships/Alliances
Review all your social, fraternal, and business affiliations to ensure they are necessary and contribute regularly to the profitable operation of the church. Eliminate those which do not. Too much cronyism and nepotism when expenses/tasks are outsourced.
• Cut Travel Costs
Where possible, eliminate travel, replacing the trips with phone calls, emails, and video meetings. If you must fly, plan ahead to avoid the high costs of a “sudden” trip. Increase the scrutiny of your expense accounts to send a clear message to GC staff that costs are important.
• Eliminate Paper
Managing paper is time-consuming and expensive. Sorting, filing, and finding files requires secretarial/clerical time and space. Purchase a scanner and digitize all important papers and keep them in well-organized electronic files to save space and administrative costs. GC books and records are critical to an efficient continued operation, so it is important to maintain and secure copies of the electronic files within your facility and in a remote location. It should go without saying that files need to be backed up every day, especially any files regarding identification, financial records, or contact information.
• Share Secretarial/Marketing Expenses
Identify products or services which complement our denominational messages. Then, contact the company that provides the products and negotiate a mutual marketing arrangement. This strategy expands your marketing effort without incurring the expense that would normally be associated with adding new salesmen or advertising.
• Maintain IT Equipment In-House
IT repair and maintenance is a significant cost in operations, consider hiring a specialist and bring the repair in-house. You will have better, regularly maintained equipment that may allow you to avoid expensive replacements until later.
• Use Airline Miles for Travel, Hotels, and Autos
Since GC employees fly regularly, target a single airline with a good travel rewards program for company use. Also sign up for one of the best small business credit cards, and as the points or miles build up, use the awards for company business.
• Monitor Tools and Supplies
Initiate a consumables policy – keep office supplies in a secure area, available only through a designated employee. If you have a plant where hand tools or other pricy consumables are used, initiate a similar policy. Assign tools to individuals with the requirement that they are personally responsible for the cost of the tool if it’s lost or missing.
• Leverage the Internet
Everyone involved in the purchase of materials or supplies should have greater expertise and access to the Internet and know how to search the data for specific items. Establish a maximum cost per item with a policy that requires anyone purchasing items in excess of that value to use the Internet to identify potential suppliers and the lowest cost.


i’m not sure why this is such somber news, unless all gc income is spent in america…after-all, if one south african rand is worth only seven cents in america, seven american cents would be worth one south african rand, if spent in south africa…


Bingo, and KUDOS, johnm, for your insightful observation:
“Our last major restructure was in 1901”

1901 predated automobiles and was in the “horse and buggy era” when travel was interminable, exhausting, and deterring.
Our huge network of interstates did not exist, our airports, planes and cars were unimagined.

But yet we still have the DUPLICATION of conferences and union conferences, set up in that era! Not to mention the DUPLICATION of our Adventist colleges! It made sense to have colleges in every Union conference, when travel by prospective students was onerous and expensive. No longer!

The recent “Panama Papers” prove that thanks to the Internet, one can run sophisticated financial operations from a third world country, so why are we headquartered in Washington DC, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country?

And my attorney cousin, who resides in Montgomery County, Maryland, tells me it is one of the most heavily taxed counties in the nation. Not pleasant for our GC employees!

One hates to make charitable contributions to entities which waste money on administrative costs, rather than diverting the gifts to enhance the real purpose of the charity. In my case, I hesitate to endorse, with my money, an organization that is so abysmal in its discriminations against both women and the LGBT community, while at the same time demonstrating incompetence in it’s administrative management.

What commercial operation/business, set up in 1901, would still be operating in 2016, if it had never re-structured, re-organized, re-located to Mexico??
(Donald Trump, does have some insightful pronouncements after all!)

It is so much easier and more gratifying to domate my gifts to my splendid local congregation who visibly and wisely spend the money, and who are willing to ordain eligible women pastors, and who greet gays and lesbians with love, compassion and inclusion.

Could it be that some of the fall-off in giving is attributable to givers like myself, who have “soured” on the incompetence, discriminations, and lack of inclusiveness of the “mother church”??


True, income got lowered - makes sense with the currency rates. But excuse my ignorance - I am not an MBA - shouldn’t a strong dollar also influence international appropriations? If the dollar rises, you get fewer dollars for each euro coming in. But to give money to Europe would require less dollars as well. What am I missing here?

Am I right in my understanding that nothing was “resolved” at this particular meeting coming from the women’s department? To “receive a report” doesn’t really require a vote. It simply is the polite way of saying “NO” to what has been suggested. Or am I missing something here again?


It seems to me the GC Administration is convinced that Evangelistic thrusts, revival and reformation will go well with the issue of women ordination subdued and neglected; I got shocked to find that there is no response to the ordination decisions that have been made in Union conferences in NAD and European Divisions. Those decisions are a big statement and a deploring of San Antonio as unintelligible.

What is the meaning of the silence of such a GC Annual Council to these women ordination issues? May I suggest that “Women ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church will remain an eternal issue” until it is separated from LGBTQ issues in the minds of the GC administration and in the biblical understandings of the church worldwide.

While “silence may be eloquence” to political issues, it is not to the issue of Women Ordination and policies need not supersede the Bible.

Will the finances of the GC improve while the issue of women ordination remains unresolved? We are yet to see.


Bonnie, I had heard a few weeks ago that there would be a discussion of the church’s relationship to transgenders. Was there nothing? If not, any idea why?

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I wonder how many millions it will take to create a new headquarters for the NAD? I wish they would present their plans and budget to the members of the NAD for approval.

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They are a division of the GC which has no constituents of its own.

All to the Glory of God.


“Losing the rent from NAD will take over $1 million/annually out of the
2017 General Conference budget and beyond, plus the empty space will
have to be rehabbed for other use, Prestol said.”

Guess the GC will just have to name a bunch more Undersecretaries of Something!

Also, why the inflexible SDA international monetary policy?? I’m no expert, but it seems like there should be some discretion, given the volatility of that market!!


I think it would be more accurate to say that our ONLY major restructure was in 1901.