The Rest of the Story: Annual Council Diary, October 10 & 11

With President Ted Wilson’s latest retribution document sent back to committee on Monday, General Conference Executive Committee members breathed a sigh of relief. The tension in the air evaporated. Who would have ever guessed that they would be personally targeted for actions voted by constituencies?

Tuesday the topic of the day was “Nurture and Retention,” and over three hours was devoted to the issue, the most it has been given in all the years that I have attended Annual Council. The sobering statistic that in the last 52 years, the church has lost 14 million members was made by David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, in his presentation of data on losses over the years. “We look at these charts and are horrified, but we do need to be realistic so that we can put it right,” he said. “Every millimeter on that screen represents a soul that Jesus died to save.”

And this year, a strategic plan was detailed to address the losses. Notable among the recommendations made was the call for comprehensive and practical training in conflict resolution.

“Won’t it be nice for the church to be known as a peace-making church, to be looked to for peace,” said Anthony Kent as he noted that conflict in some form is very high on the list of why people leave the church. Returning to the story of the prodigal son which had been reviewed earlier, he asked, “What happens in our churches when a member leaves? Do we say, ‘Thank goodness that troublemaker has gone?’”

He answered his question by suggesting that we need to be peace makers, not conflict avoiders. Thus, the need for conflict resolution, so each church can be a place where peace can be made and when that brother comes home, all can participate in the celebration.

Mark Finley explained the Dropout Cycle that begins with discomfort when a person is not socially integrated and begins saying this is not my church. It is followed by discouragement and then defensiveness. “Sure, I work on Sabbath, but doesn’t God expect us to care for our families?” Next, come cries for help that need to be responded to immediately. There is a waiting period that goes on for about six weeks, he noted, and then old habits kick in. He urged a quick response when discouragement is evident. “If you love ‘em, they are going to come back,” he predicted.

“Solutions need to be something that church members will use,” he said. A small book on discipling was distributed along with a mentor’s guide.

The importance of listening in conflict resolution was highlighted by L. Ann Hamel, a psychologist who heads the International Employee Support Program at Andrews University where she focuses on mental health care for missionaries. “Conflict is inevitable with human beings,” she said. “we have to learn how to manage it in such a way to draw us together.”

She told stories of missionaries with whom she had worked to solve conflicts and also the heartbreaking conflict in her own life with her own children. Having someone listen to the story of the wounded person was a key component for healing in each of her stories.

“Jesus has a strategy,” she reminded the audience. “Love is that strategy. ‘If you love one another.’ We need to rethink church. It is not baptizing people into beliefs. It is baptizing them into a family.”

The love of Jesus was the point of Wayne Blakely’s testimony that he gave during the worship hour on Wednesday morning. Blakely, a leader in Coming Out Ministries, asked the audience if they had shared God’s love. “Can you put your arms around someone who has a different sin from you?”

“Because of the years of wrong choices that I made,” he said, “it is often difficult for me. I’ve been told that there are people watching me, waiting for me to fall. Well, I’ve fallen. But I got back up. Don’t invalidate my testimony. Jesus doesn’t. If you won’t provide me with grace, you are invalidating the word of God.”

He recommended inviting people home to dinner. “Be Jesus to them. Show them love and compassion. Remember that you are not Holy Spirit, Junior. It is not up to you to bring conviction.”

The highlight of the day on Wednesday was a short silent film shared by the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research of 1930s footage shot in China by Ellen White’s grandsons who went there as missionaries, including the first missionary baptism photographs.

Packing up to go home, I had to stop by the Fed Ex shipping store. The accumulation of reports, brochures, Bible lesson studies, sermons, and books was more than my extra suitcase could handle. Here’s a list of the books that I received.

The Books of Annual Council

1. Last Day Events, by Ellen G. White – a compilation that Ted Wilson says is one of his current favorites. Quotes from it were sprinkled throughout GT Ng’s Secretary’s Report.

2. Madison: God’s Beautiful Farm:The E.A. Sutherland Story, by Ira Gish and Harry Christman – special edition sponsored by ASI on its 70th anniversary with forward by Robert H. Pierson

3. An Appeal for Self-Supporting Laborers to Enter Unworked Fields: A Call to Finish the Work, An E.G. White compilation

4. Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, by Clifford Goldstein, his latest. He told me this is the one that he worked the longest and hardest on to be sure that he got it right.

5. Narrative Meaning & Truth: Fulfilling the Mission in Relativistic Contexts, edited by Bruce A. Bauer and Kleber Goncalves with chapters by David Trim, John Stackhouse, Jr., Abigail Doukhan, Stanley Paterson, Kathleen Beagles, Jonathan Beagles, Bruce Bauer, Felix Cortes, Kleber Goncalves, Zane Yi, Gary Krause, and Sam Never. This is the one that I packed in my carry-on bag to read on the plane one the way home.

6. Altogether Wonderful: Exploring Intergenerational Worship, by Karen Holford

7. Ministry to the Cities, by Ellen G. White

8. New York City: A Symbol, compiled by John Luppens

9. It’s Time: Voices from the Front Lines of Urban Mission, by Bettina Krause

10. Adventist Churches That Make a Difference, by May-Ellen and Gaspar Colon

11. What does Holy Qur’an say about the Descent of Isa al-Masih? Dr. Babar Shah

12. Discipleship Handbook (with Mentor’s Guide) by The Training Center Church Committee of the Michigan Conference

13. The Missing Power by Dr. Paulo Macena. I haven’t looked inside this one yet. I found the cover photo of a dove on fire very disturbing.

14. We Are All Seventh-day Adventists: An Introduction to the Adventist Identity System (with the creation grid system) no author listed – picture book.

Yes, we are all Seventh-day Adventists. It was good to spend time together, to pray and discuss our concerns and our joys, and to sing “We Have this Hope.”

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

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Wayne Blakely of coming Out Ministry [representing LGTIO’s]
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship representation [which has several thousand members] was conspicuously absent from being able to make a presentation of their findings

ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the Church Fathers NOT WANTING to Listen to more than one voice.
Listen to ONLY what makes them FEEL GOOD.
Continue rejecting the children of many Fathers and Mothers – Parents – in the SDA Church.


To learn to do conflict resolution well and in very healthy ways is essential for our church. For members and leaders. Not just for in church contexts but so we can have much healthier lives and relationships. I have yearned to learn how to do this throughout my life and yearned to see it do well in church.

Interestingly, this has been featured as something we must learn to do in the church the day after conflict in the church has been handled really poorly. This is not just for reducing people leaving the church, but also for all people in administration right to the top level!

Regarding people leaving the church and us wanting to reclaim them, I question whether that is a healthy response. It sounds like control to me. Do we think that people should stay around all their lives? That belonging in the adventist church is what they should be doing? That it is best for them?

People belong in groups for a number of reasons. Sometimes the belonging is for a reason, a season and a time of their lives. It meets their needs and they have something to contribute. But then life moves on. They mature or change in their needs and belief systems. There are other groups and places of belonging that are more appropriate to them for the time and stage in their life. For some people, having a lifetime belonging is good and important, for others it isn’t.

I for one don’t want people thinking that I should be reclaimed and followed up, with an expectation that I should be going back to church, any particular church or the denomination as a whole. If friendliness and friendship is being used to get me back, then I will be very suspicious because that is using and abusing something that is inherently beautiful on its own and for its own sake. If it is being used as a methodology to get me then it isn’t authentic but just a tool for an ulterior motive.

To grow out of any group is a healthy thing. To stay with a group because that is what is where our needs are is a healthy thing. However, adventism has this notion that something is wrong and defective if a person doesn’t need or want to stay forever and the person who moves on is pathologised as being defective, wrong, a failure or a backslider.

Belonging in a church community or any group can be for a variety of reasons. Adventism often likes to pat itself on the back that people don’t leave because of the beliefs - we like to think no one would disagree with us because we are so right. Yet there are many valid ways to believe, and other spiritualities that have validity. Our belief package works for many people but it isn’t what works for everyone. We struggle to understand the nature of belief. Our obsession with thinking and believing ‘our way’ keeps us from exploring the nature of thinking healthfully and the nature of belief systems. It also keeps us from realising that belonging in many groups is multi-faceted. I may enjoy being in our church community for many reasons and even though I don’t believe the adventist package doesn’t mean I’m inauthentic or wrong for belonging, at least to a degree. My belonging needs have bigger priorities than agreeing with certain theological propositions. My value system around belonging has more important elements than that. There is no one group that I completely belonging in or identify with regarding everything.


wow…receiving 14 books at once must be an amazing feeling…bonnie sounds like she has a great job…

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I sat through all six and half hours of GC Annual Council’s 2017 deliberations and vote, in the comfort of my own home. I also watched live online the various reports. The sensible way forward, as I see it, is as follows:

  1. The current GC president should be made GC evangelist/strategist for the Cities, and a new president (chairperson - male or female) appointed, also known as chair of the General Conference (GC) Advisory Ministry (GCAM).
  2. GC should become an advisory and supportive ministry to the World Church. Scrap GCAS (General Conference Auditing Services - since it doesn’t work - 83% non-compliance of entities with no way of enforcing compliance proves the point). It’s all about trust. Each organizational entity will have their own professional auditing mechanism.
  3. GC sessions should be essentially a celebration of Missions and the world wide Adventist family values, lifestyle, hope and fellowship, thereby doing away with church politics.
  4. All policy books should be replaced by advisory guidelines for various entities of the World Field with each Field deciding what will work best for their local situation.
  5. GC would have a legal arm to take care of properties and other such legal matters.
  6. All annual councils will reflect above mentioned items.
  7. 7th day Adventism will have three ongoing goals until Jesus comes:
    a) To love God supremely
    b) To love one another authentically
    c) To love the lost passionately

If we continue to do what we have been doing, we will get more of what we have been getting. The list is too long to mention, and the picture is not very pretty to behold. There is far too much pain and the loss is atrocioulsy too heavy.


Wayne Blakely of Coming Out Ministries, is to be lauded and applauded for his overcoming of extreme promiscuity, substance abuse and alcoholism so as to finally present himself as a “ cured “ gay man.

Most Adventist youth who are gay, are not “ sluts “ or substance abusers—merely nice kids, who seek, like their straight peers, a wholesome monogamous, romantic relationship, and a companion to grow old with.

So they find it hard to identify with a licentious, lecherous, lascivious libertine who once was a male prostitute, now suddenly in sexual decline, declaring himself “cured” .

Regrettably, Wayne’s “ cure “ only occurred after decades of “sowing his wild oats” and as he was entering his “ viagra years “.

So how much of his “cure “ is the inevitable sexual decline that comes with advancing age, aided and abetted by his prior alcoholism which disrupts hormonal cycles ??

While he no longer overtly advocates “change therapy “— the ability to change one’s sexual orientation ( which every major scientific / medical / psychological / psychiatric group denounces as fraudulent ) that continues to be the subtle subtext of his presentations.

Coming Out Ministries is paraded around the planet at tithe payer expense, and regrettably is the ONLY LGBT component which gets the GC’s ear.

All other Adventist gays, lesbians, and transgenders
are demeaned, dismissed, disparaged, denounced, demonized, and discriminated against!

No wonder there is an enormous exodus of these LGBT offspring from our denomination.

In contrast, the world wide UNITED METHODIST CHURCH has just completed their WAY FORWARD Conference in Berlin, Germany

THE WAY FORWARD is an outreach to Methodism’s LGBT children and seeks to increase INCLUSIVITY of this group in the church, rather than expelling them in an egregious EXODUS.

My latest input on this Berlin Conference is that even the African members on this Methodist committee were hopeful of being inclusive of LGBTs in their regions, if not imminently.

The Africans were very willing to allow for the western countries to be immediately inclusive of their LGBT members / offspring.

Our Adventist African brethren are woefully denying non-discrimination to our women members, let alone permitting non-discrimination for gays!

So poor Wayne Blakely is a rather lone, isolated voice amidst pervasive, rampant, vicious, venomous, vehement, vitriolic Adventist homophobia, not at all helped by Wayne’s misrepresentation of his supposed “cure “.


so are we to become a congregational organization?

Once I was humiliated by a hitch-hiker I had given a lift. I imagined that he was hungry and offered him some of my peanut butter and jelly fixings. He ate some as I tried to ‘preach’.
Then he told me, “My father used to tell me, ‘Don’t do anything unless your heart’s in it.’”

Intentional, or not, SDAs train the public, visitors, new front-door members, and back-door escapees that ‘7th church’ Adventism is all about ‘doing’, or in SDA corporate-speak, “Mission”. But the 3rd Angel’s Message found in the Revelation of Jesus Christ disagrees. ‘The faith of Jesus’ ( 14:12 ) was that heart-felt, enduring, ‘infatuation’ with His Father in Heaven, that Divine, trusting, ‘hero-worship’ of Jesus toward His Dad, described in Psalm 40:8 KJV :

“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
(‘Law’ being a ‘transcript’ of the Father’s own heart-character, His desire, His will, His motive.)

So at Jacob’s Well, while tired, parched and hungry, Jesus could honestly tell His surprised disciples that it was more satisfying ‘food’, for Him, to be revealing His Father to the Samaritans, than to satisfy mere hunger and thirst:

“In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, ‘Master, eat.’ But he said unto them, ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of.’ Therefore said the disciples one to another, ‘Hath any man brought him ought to eat?’ Jesus saith unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. . . .’”
John 4:31-34 KJV

I can picture Jesus as a kid, talking to other kids, saying,
“My Daddy says. . .”, such and such.
"My Daddy did . . . ", this and that.
"My Daddy is so strong He can lift the whole world ! "
“Don’t you want to see my Daddy ?”

So, of course Daddy would say at river’s side, mountain top, and Temple court :

". . . This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."
Matthew 17:5 KJV

Ellen described the men she hoped to work closely with in the post 1888-era as ‘messengers’ of Jesus. One of those ‘messengers’ – while still maintaining Ellen’s endorsement – in describing the close application of the Laodicean Message from Jesus to the SDA church pointed out that Jesus starts in by saying,
“I know thy works . . . .” ,
and follows with,
". . .be zealous therefore, and repent."
(‘We can repent of our works, can’t we ?’ ‘Couldn’t Jesus have done those works, better ?’)

Of course James says, “Faith without works is dead.” But, unless those ‘works’ are the ‘fruits’ of that Psalm 51 ‘right Spirit’ of ‘Daddy’-Hero-worship – that ‘faith of Jesus’ – motivating our ‘heart’ into action . . . then those works will be merely the ‘roots’ of our own self-worshiping righteousness. Fruits of the Spirit’s righteousness, not our works as the roots of righteousness, is what we want :

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and
their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 54:7 KJV

We get that non-hypocritical ‘righteousness’ of ‘heart’, of motive, by ‘worth-ship’, by ‘beholding’ that righteous, Divine, ‘faith of Jesus’ in His ‘Daddy’. Looking is free. Telling others what we see, freely, without guilt – just like the Samaritan woman who ran eagerly back to her neighbors, broadcasting, ‘Come see a man who told me about all of my adulteries !’ – is obviously a contagious privilege. If ‘Laodicean’ SDAs don’t see it that way, then they are looking at the wrong person(s) – ourself(s).

“It is the motive that gives character to our acts, stamping them with ignominy or with high moral worth. Not the great things which every eye sees and every tongue praises does God account most precious. The little duties cheerfully done, the little gifts which make no show, and which to human eyes may appear worthless, often stand highest in His sight. A heart of faith and love ( my note: ‘Gold tried in the fire’ of Laodicean Message ) is dearer to God than the most costly gift. The poor widow gave her living to do the little that she did. She deprived herself of food (my note: Just like Jesus at Jacob’s Well) in order to give those two mites to the cause she loved. And she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her great need. It was this unselfish spirit and childlike faith ( my note: ‘the faith of Jesus’ in 3rd Angel’s Message ) that won the Saviour’s commendation.” {DA 615.3}

‘We would see Jesus.’, who always spoke and did what His ‘Daddy’ spoke and did.
My ‘mission project’ – the hitch hiker – clearly, could not see that ‘faith of Jesus’ in the motivation of my SDA ‘heart’. I acted as his ‘patron’, instead of reflecting ‘My Daddy’ in Heaven.
I blocked his view of ‘Daddy’.

Only by beholding better ‘heroes’ can the SDA church be built, or maintained, as ‘God’s church’ of whom Jesus – ‘God with us’ – is the ‘cornerstone’ and the ‘capstone’.

As the ‘joke’ format goes, ‘You can tell an’ (Laodicean) Adventist . . . ‘but not much’ !

Do any of the free books handed out at the Annual Council describe the real cure for this ‘blind’, ‘naked’, self-sufficient, SDA-baptized, Laodicean Hypocrisy ?

"In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely:
and this is the name wherewith she shall be called,
The LORD our righteousness."
Jeremiah 33:16 KJV

First let’s seek the ‘right Spirit’ – the right ‘motive’ – and ‘mission’ will naturally follow.

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Wayne Blakely isn’t cured, and he knows it. His brain structures and thinking processes remain gay. He stated that he has fallen. We can commend him for his abstinence, but we can’t cure homosexuality any more so than we can cure heterosexuality. There is a very strong biological basis to gender and sexual preferences that neuroscientists, developmental scientists, and endocrinologists are continually shedding more light on.


Re: Baptizing the Devil

I just read the blurb on Amazon: "But if science is so good at finding truth, why does the truth change so often? "

This shows such an utter misunderstanding of science that the book fails on this question alone. Science is not body of truth, it is a systematic method of whittling away false ideas about how the natural world functions. As new experiments eliminate their null hypotheses, the shape of nature becomes more clearly exposed.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” (quote attributed to Michelangelo) is a wonderful metaphor for the work of science. But to complain that science keeps changing truth because it keeps chipping marble off the stone betrays either contempt or ignorance.

Neither one of these would attract me to the book. Where is the SDA book on Divine Creation that is respectful to the scientific disciplines?

The Lord our God requires us to worship HIm with all our heart, soul, and MIND (Mt 22:37). When we show intellectual disrespect, we are not worshiping Him with our minds. God’s truth does not need to be defended in this way.

(PS: There are shoddy scientists and errors are made, sometimes even fraud–such as the “measles vaccine causes autism” debacle. But when the fraudulent results could not be replicated, this finding was questioned until the fraud was uncovered.)


Are our current GC leaders so blind as to not see the vast disconnect between what they preach and do? On one hand they hold on to tired, polarizing and non- biblical church practices such as WO, Male Headship and LGBTs that push these believers out of the church then have the other hand win them back through programs such as “Dropout Cycle.” Which is it, Pastor Finley?


Do you think they have a clue, or have done any rigorous research, on the connection between membership losses and WO alone? University students see it like a Civil Rights issue that was legislated and litigated in the 1960s in the U.S. Students I talk to are aghast that “The Church” is so blind about this.

I wonder when Pastor Finley did his last research for correlation or causation on membership losses?


Regarding the need for conflict-resolution help. There are a good number of lay people and leaders who have been trained in conflict-resolution by Peacemaker Ministries. Thankfully, the Carolina Conference utilizes our services as needed. However, I/we are willing to go to other areas and we also conduct workshops on conflict resolution. I obtained training in this field after a conflict at my church that did not end well. Currently, I work as a full-time mediator in the secular field, but my passion is for the SDA Church and the need for peacemaking in our churches. Please feel free to contact me at