Stormy Weather: Annual Council Diary, October 8

Dark clouds rolled into Silver Spring overnight and raindrops fell on members of the General Conference Executive Committee Sunday as they gathered for the first business session of Annual Council. Inside the mood was somber as well as GT Ng, secretary of the General Conference, presented his secretary’s report on “Adventism 911” detailing seven crises in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

  1. The Marion Rebellion of 1865 when Iowa Conference President B. F. Snook and Secretary W. H. Brinkeroff were not re-elected as expected. “There is a time of appointment and a time of disappointment,” Dr Ng said. These men carried on a campaign of criticism. Several churches broke up. They took one third of the members with them. “But the church moved on.”

  2. The Canright Defection of 1887 is still affecting us today, he said, because of the book that Canright wrote, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, which is still in print. He was the church’s leading evangelist and worked as a minister for 22 years. He accused Ellen and James White of autocratic behavior and left. “But the church moved on. Membership 10 years later had increased by 100%.”

  3. The 1888 Theological Crisis broke Ellen G. White’s heart and affected her personally. It pitted G.I. Butler, president, and Uriah Smith, secretary, on one side, and on the other side, A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner, the two young editors of Signs of the Times, in a theological disagreement at the 1888 General Conference Session. EGW sided with Waggoner and Jones. She was deeply disappointed in the way the GC Session turned out. While she spoke almost 20 times, she was spurned by the leaders and her testimony ignored. This is one of the reasons the church shipped her out to Australia. She was told to go and she went. “And the church moved on.”

  4. The 1901 Organizational Crisis. Mrs. White had declared that the GC leadership was no longer the voice of God, it had become a strange fire. This is when she first used the term “kingly power” regarding the concentration of power in the hands of a few people. Then, at the 1901 General Conference Session, the union conference structure was proposed and accepted; the GC Committee was expanded to include the world field, departments were established, and independent organizations were brought under the control of the GC. “The church moved on.”

  5. The Kellogg Crisis of 1907 involved Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who was a genius, said Ng. Kellogg wrote The Living Temple which was declared heresy for its pantheism. In 1907, he was disfellowshipped. In a seven-hour interview, Kellogg boldly declared, “I don’t see anything ahead of the SDA denomination but complete wreckage.” Adventism seemed certain to split down the middle. Two hundred ministers, teachers, and medical workers left the Church. “But the church moved on.”

  6. The Conradi Defection of 1932. Ludwig R. Conradi was president of the European Division. Under his leadership, there was great membership growth. He pioneered the work in Egypt, Turkey, and Palestine; broke new grounds in African countries such as Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, as well as in South America in Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. But in 1922, he was not re-elected, and it was a fateful disappointment to him. He felt he was ousted unfairly. In 1932, at the age of 76, he turned in his ministerial credentials. “The church moved on.”

  1. The Ford Crisis. Des Ford was an Australian scholar of the first degree with two PhDs. He was head of the South Pacific Division’s Biblical Research Institute. When he gave a talk critical of the church’s stand on the sanctuary doctrine and the Investigative Judgment, the General Conference stepped in. He was given six months to write a paper stating his position. Then, 114 people convened at Glacier View to review what he had written. The Sanctuary Review Committee concluded that he had undercut the church and his ministerial credentials were revoked. Over 180 ministers left the church. “But the church moved on.”

In conclusion, Dr. Ng repeated the quote that those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it. Musicians came to the platform and sang “Remind Me, Dear Lord” and the audience was invited to join in as a prayer: “Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own Son; I’m not worthy of the scars in his hand. Yet he chose the road to Calv’ry to die in my stead; Why He loved me, I can’t understand. Roll back the curtain of mem’ry now and then; show me where you brought me from and where I could have been. Remember, I’m human and humans forget, so remind me, remind me, dear Lord.”

But Dr. Ng was not yet finished. He had six reminders to add:

  1. Remind us who we are and what we are about.

  2. Remind us that you are on the throne.

  3. Remind us that rebellion has no future.

  4. Remind us that the church is far from perfect.

  5. Remind us that distraction does not pay.

  6. Remind us dear Lord, that the church shall continue.

He concluded with a motion to accept the report. President Ted Wilson, who was chairing the session, said he felt like he had been to a revival meeting. “GT led us to think deeply. The book that GT was quoting from was the book you received yesterday, Last Day Events. It is one of my favorites, a compilation. Tonight, I want you to look at Chapter 4, God’s Last Day Church. You have the book. There is no excuse. Read it tonight.”

Then he asked for the obligatory first and second on the motion to approve, followed by the usual, “Are there any comments or questions?” Thomas Muller, president of the Danish Union Conference went to the microphone. “I’m puzzled about this being in the Secretary’s Report,” he said. “This seems to be sort of a warm up for Monday afternoon. If it is an introduction to Monday afternoon, I found some of the comparisons inappropriate. 911 conveys very strong words. While I acknowledge there is an issue in front of us, it is not a theological question out on the far right, or people wanting to be elected inappropriately.”

Dr. Ng responded that the report was on trends in the church. He said the report was conceived a year ago, but just now delivered.

Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference, also went to the microphone. “In all due respect and speaking in love, the material presented was a sermon. I don’t think it should be recorded as a report. It should be accepted as a presentation, but not as a report.”

Elder Wilson responded, “this will be recorded as a report. The Secretary can say anything he wants to say. I thank God for the Secretary.” A smattering of applause broke out. Then Wilson proceeded to the vote asking for it to be received with yes, and opposed by no. While the yeses carried the day, there were a good number of no votes, too. Wilson said there was a lot of truth in what had been said, and that we have nothing to fear from the future.

After reports on the SDA Encyclopedia and Geoscience Research Institute, it was time to break for lunch. Walking outside, the rain had stopped, but there was plenty of humidity making it feel as sticky outside as the atmosphere inside.

Afternoon presentations included several division reports on Mission to the Cities: Blasio Rugeris, president of the East Central Africa Division, described the 250,000 Total Member Involvement (TMI) baptisms that had taken place following the evangelistic efforts in Nairobi. Rafat Kamil, president of the Trans-European Division used maps to show how plans had been made to inform church planting in London. Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, talked about Houston and the work done there following Hurricane Harvey. He said the Division has set a goal of 1,000 churches to be planted before the next General Conference Session.

Dr. Peter Landless, director of the GC Health Department Ministries, introduced Dr. Kenneth Pargament of Bowling Green State University who has developed a program to address pornography addiction. He gave statistics on porn use, saying that 1 in 3 Christian men look at porn and that 33 percent of pastors look at porn. Gateway to Wholeness, the program that he has developed, is an online program to help people move beyond the guilt and shame associated with porn addiction and go forward to reach future goals. He expressed his appreciation to Seventh-day Adventists for their support in the development of the program.

The policy agenda scheduled for the afternoon had many items to consider, but first Undersecretary Myron Iseminger gave an overview of the history of the GC Working Policy—complete with pop quizzes. Then he proceeded item by item through the proposed changes. There were several in connection with ministerial training. The additions of university faculty to the International Board of Ministerial and Theological Education (IBMTE), as well as to Division BMTEs were approved. But the items that described ministerial training policy were pulled for further review. One of the items had changed the wording from “The general plan is that young people take the full Master of Divinity curriculum” to “The general plan is that candidates pursue advanced theological or religious education;” a change that raised great concern by Seminary representatives and pastors in the audience. Further consideration will be given to this item.

Likewise there was concern expressed about the proposed change to the General Conference Executive Committee Constitution and Bylaws Amendment. In Article XIII, Sec. 1.c. a phrase was being added to the section on who the Executive Committee shall have the power to elect or remove. Currently, the committee can remove for cause those in “elected or appointed positions.” It was being proposed that additionally the phrase for cause would also apply for removal “from membership on the General Conference Executive Committee” for: “1) incompetence; 2) persistent failure to cooperate with duly constituted authority in substantive matters and with relevant employment and denominational policies; 3) actions which may be the subject of discipline under the SDA Church Manual, 4) failure to maintain regular standing as a member of the SDA Church; 5) theft or embezzlement; or 6) conviction of or guilty plea for a crime.” When this item was introduced, Lowell Cooper, retired vice president of the General Conference and an Executive Committee member, went to the microphone and requested that the item be postponed until after the discussion on Monday afternoon, given its relationship to what would be considered on Monday. The item was pulled.

The rest of the policy items were approved. Just before proceedings were coming to a close for the day, Elder David Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference, went to the microphone and respectfully requested that the item that will be considered on Monday afternoon be sent to members via email this evening, so they would have a chance to review the wording before tomorrow’s meeting. Elder Wilson responded that the item would be distributed tomorrow afternoon at the start of the session.

This “secret” item was alluded to several times during the day. Committee members were told that they would need to scan their badges to get into the session when it would be considered. They were instructed to come early to be sure to get a seat before 1:20 p.m., when the general public would be allowed to enter. An overflow room has been designated for the anticipated large crowd. Live streaming of the event has also been added.

With that, it was time to sing another early Advent hymn to close the business day. When we left the building, the skies had cleared but more rain is predicted for Monday.

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image Credit: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8297
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“A threat to our process is as serious as a threat to our doctrine. Our process determines our structure and legitimizes it.”

There is “power over” and there is “service to.” If Christ alone is Lord… Chuck

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We’re heartened someone can be so convicted with his conscience to stand up to TW.

We are not puzzled. This maneuver is referred to as “gaslighting” a grand scheme to manipulate the environment. Happens all the time and should be expected in grand meetings, including circus.

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We can infer from Ng’s sermonizing that the entrenched racism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that resulted in an organizational split between the white conferences and the regional conferences does not constitute a crisis that is noteworthy or remarkable. The anti-Trinitarianism that predominated among Seventh-day Adventists for half a century and is surging once again because of opposition to women’s ordination does not constitute a crisis that Ng finds lamentable. The rebuke of the Church by the civil authorities regarding the Church’s treatment of women employees does not constitute a crisis that offers lessons for us today. One would think that Seventh-day Adventists chopping off the heads of other Seventh-day Adventists in Rwanda is a crisis, but somehow this crisis does not make at least a fleeting appearance in Ng’s mind. What about the crisis that resulted from Seventh-day Adventist leaders who paid homage to Adolf Hitler? Of course, he fails to mention the most significant crisis in the history of the Church, which is the acute pain we experienced upon the realization that the century-long belief that Ellen White’s writings are infallible and original is not true. Thank you for your sermon, Elder Ng, but you are not anywhere close to being the student of history that you pretend to be.

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First of all, one can repeat a similar history of and say the same thing about the Roman Catholic Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Better yet, consider this: the Jews were the ones to whom Jesus Christ cried his heart out, but they gave Him up to be crucified and continued in triumph, saying as it were, “distraction does not pay.”

In truth, winning the battle in no wise means anything. The question is, and always will be, “What things are right?” Didn’t Cain kill Abel and what did God allow? Nearly two thousand years of life for the descendants of he who had revoked the ministerial credentials of his own brother. Should Cain not have asked, “What things are right? What truth is there in the voice of one who cries in the wilderness? Where is the way of life?”

Secondly, the anticipation around Monday afternoon, reminds me strongly of a proverb and a parable. SDA are a mere 18 million in a world of seven BILLION people. Is not the fight over WO a storm in a teacup? And this:

He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. AND Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Mat. 13:18-23

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to me, these incidents indicate TW is poised to flex some serious executive muscle later today…nothing is going to turn him aside…PUC and CUC are in for a scorching, while dan jackson watches silently and helplessly from the sidelines…

i hope ricardo graham and david weigley came prepared, because annual council is clearly TW’s turf…

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Yes, Phil, the GC–the “highest authority on earth”–took on three branches of the U.S. government in its attempt to maintain gender apartheid, and lost. Badly. Ng didn’t see that as a crisis. But the church moved on. Nor did he see the following actions as emergencies:

(1) The Davenport affair - In the late 1970s and early 1980s, various union and conference boards and even GC leaders invested, collectively, millions of dollars in a southern California builder named Davenport who promised to provide outlandish returns of up to 50% interest. The pyramid scheme collapsed, the investments evaporated, and the GC promised to discipline leaders who erred, but in the end promises simply were not kept; those who mishandled tithe money kept their jobs or were transferred to do more of the same elsewhere…and the primary voice who warned against the investments was fired (see below). But the Church moved on.

(2) The Harris Pine Mills fiasco - In the 1980s, the GC and North Pacific Union bankrupted the Harris Pine Mills that for decades had supported thousands of academy students and filled the church’s coffers with money. The Church was later found to have lost millions of dollars in a fully solvent business that its inept decision-makers were utterly clueless about. But the Church moved on.

(3) The termination of literature evangelism - The Church shockingly axed the literature evangelism program in the early 1990s and invested millions of dollars of tithe money instead in a video series that it boasted would soon be placed in millions of American homes. The video series never appeared in one single home, the millions spent by the church on the doomed project simply vanished, and literature evangelism ceased to bring in millions of dollars in tithes and offerings from converts to our faith. But the Church moved on.

(4) The orchestrated firing of GC accountant David Dennis - Robert Folkenberg, the GC President, and other leaders became angered in the 1990s when Dennis complained of the church wasting millions of dollars on the Davenport affair and millions more on frivolous lawsuits. After he uncovered Folkenberg’s ploy to hide funds for spousal travel within the Chesapeake Conference’s Worthy Student Fund, they fired him on trumped up charges of molesting an underage woman–charges based on her “recovered memories”–and spent close to $7 million delaying his court case until he could no longer finance his lawsuit, knowing full well that their actions would never be held up in court. But the Church moved on.

(5) The resignation of GC president Robert Folkenberg - The president’s many years of unethical and allegedly illegal financial schemes finally caught up to him in 1999, when he, his lawyer, the GC, and the Inter-American Division were taken to court for fraud. But the Church moved on.

Apparently, as the “highest authority on earth,” the GC is immune to emergencies of its own making. We are supposed to trust its leaders and their decisions–and they insist we are in “rebellion” when we disagree with their policies!

Does anyone expect these examples to be brought up by a brave soul at this afternoon’s discussion of GC policies?

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From the website “Intelligent Adventist:”

What options does the General Conference Executive Committee have?

  1. [It] can pass a measure that enacts “painful measures” that include the loss of a seat at the GC executive meetings and perhaps loss of employment in the denomination. This measure will be severely tested and may or may not pass at the Annual Council.

  2. It could defer its decision and give another “period of Grace” to the Unions or go to the additional steps voted in the last statement at the previous Annual Council.

  3. It could defer its decision while it considers the legal ramifications of a direct confrontation with the unions.

  4. It could pass a decision but suspend the enactment until a period down the road.

  5. It could propose that the unions in question invalidate the ordinations conducted so far and schedule theological exchanges in the Global South so that Global North theologians can interact with the Global South and explain or teach their reasons for why women’s ordination should be passed on the basis of mission or equality in Galatians.

  6. It could reschedule a vote in 2020 but ask the Pacific union senior leadership to resign their positions.

  7. It could pass an amendment to the policy and recognize the ordination of women on the basis of mission in select areas. [It is difficult to see the Annual Council take a position against a recent Session decision].

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The faithful martyrs were burned at the stake, but we still remember them today.

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Wow, that’s quite a list!

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A sermon used as a veiled threat! Disgusting!

So the institution moved on repeatedly after dissent? How about the institution being historically so blind and ensconced in its own tradition and self importance, that it can’t even listen to critique, conduct honest self examination, make space for divergence of views and practice, and allow for change, all while not realizing that true Christian freedom and unity encompasses all of this. Instead, it has a history of demonizing dissenters, calling them rebels, and patting itself on the back for its “biblical purity.” They wouldn’t know what happened at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, if it bit them on the nose!

This president and his administration not only drive this dysfunctional, fundamentalist quest for uniformity; he and others are symptomatic of it. It is part of the DNA of this church. The whole idea of being open to revelation and truth is nonsense. A detailed creed based on 28 fundamental beliefs, a Talmudic abusing of supposed prophetic writings, and a total disregard for the spirit and truth of the gospel, is what has fueled and continues to fuel this organization from the top down. It is no different than any other authoritarian, calcified, religious institution.

Let’s hope and pray that people who understand and practice the freedom, equality, love, acceptance, and unified diversity, that are the bedrock of the gospel of Jesus, and that are so evident in Paul’s letters, make their voices heard.
Healthy change can only happen from the bottom up. With this type of leadership in place, that’s obvious!

Thanks…

Frank

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I am 100% certain of several things. No doubt at all. When GT Ng, secretary of the General Conference used repetition of the phrase, “but the church moved on” he was issuing a hard edged and stern warning directly from Ted Wilson.

Roger Cox has a “hard edged and stern warning directly (to) Ted Wilson.”

I wrote you three times Ted. You understood what I wrote. I told you so plainly a 5 year old can understand my words of love. The message was crystal clear.

My brother Ted. You are in direct violation of the Decalogue. The consequence of Ted rejecting my words of love are hard. No, so harsh I cannot describe the consequences clearly enough.

The words direct violation of the Decalogue are not lightly spoken. I wrote an article that I submitted for publication. In essence, from the Decalogue, Respect is Mandatory.

I know of no General Conference anything. I know of no pastor of anything that can withstand my direct accusation that is easily understood and 100% accurate.

Ted Wilson, a wise man in your position will resign. Will you? Or is your Fundamentalism so strong in your mind that it has become irrational?

Ted, “But the church moved on.” are words that are correct. Ng said it prophetically. Unfortunately, when you directed those words, you didn’t grasp fully the meaning. Ted, the church will move on without YOU Ted.

Those are not idle words Ted. I am speaking directly to you Ted. You doubt? I laugh. I shake my head. Ted, you will understand someday … and very soon.

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