The North American Division Year-end Meetings began on the afternoon of November 1, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. with the usual humor and camaraderie that the NAD Officers display, but Dan Jackson’s President’s Report contained uncharacteristic bluntness and contagious energy.
The meeting began with comments from President Jackson and Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant about the number of individuals who have expressed interest in this year’s meetings. So many people are coming to Sunday’s business session to hear the NAD’s discussion on the Annual Council compliance document vote that a special overflow room has been set up so they don’t violate any fire codes in the main meeting room (which can hold a maximum of 401 people).
Jackson opened the business session with a reminder to delegates to speak from the heart, but to also treat those who disagree with dignity and respect. This is a meeting of family, he said. “There are times when family is happy and united, and there are times when there are dysfunctions and family is not happy. This does not preclude talking about it...I know that this family is hurting...your role and mine is number one to not add to the hurt, and number two to be the agents of Jesus’ healing to one another.”
He continued saying, “It is my great desire that when we walk through the doors going outward on Tuesday night that we will walk out praising God, and that we will walk out into the mission field."
After these opening remarks, Alex Bryant got down to business, reading the mission statement, announcing that 232 delegates are registered in attendance (fulfilling the quorum), and officially calling the 2018 business sessions to order. After the body accepted the meeting agenda, Jackson stood to deliver his President’s Report.
The theme of the year-end meetings is “Working Together with Jesus,” which draws from 1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we are co-workers in God’s service...” When you accept Jesus as your savior, you become a minister of the gospel, said Jackson. We are all ministers of the Good News, who can bring hope, healing, and wholeness to the whole world.
Throughout his report, Jackson reiterated several times that each division is a steward of its own territory — it is a responsibility and a privilege that no one else has. "God calls us who live in North America to be the stewards of our territory. He didn't call Africa to steward North America and he didn't call North America to steward Africa. We've been given the specific responsibility of our own territories."
He then took the audience on a journey of the NAD’s path over the last 10 years of mission work within its field, from 2011 through the vision for 2020. He touched on the NAD gaining the Guam-Micronesia Mission as part of its territory (2012), Oakwood University becoming an NAD institution (2014), and the NAD receiving governance of Christian Record Services (which provides services to the blind) from the General Conference (2016).
“If anyone tells me women don’t know how to do business, I have two words for them: Diane Thurber,” said Jackson, highlighting the President of Christian Record Services who took it from bankruptcy to thriving in just two years.
“Where do we go from here?” Jackson asked the delegates. He then listed the strengths of the NAD: A GREAT God, excellent human resources, great facilities, active laity, capable youth, and generous constituencies. He said the NAD does not have “one penny of indebtedness” for its new building, and that they are currently running 8% ahead of expected tithe for this year.
But there are challenges, too, he admitted. These include failure to place mission as the top priority, a disenchantment potential for all age groups, the inability to financially fuel mission, potential of decreasing funds, and pluralism inside and outside the church.
He told the story of an 87-year-old woman who recently contacted him, saying she doesn’t recognize her church anymore after the events at Annual Council. She lives in an Adventist retirement facility and everyone her age is expressing the same concern, she said. It’s not just young people who are disenchanted with the way things are, Jackson emphasized, though young people are struggling, too.
He shared that an executive committee member approached him at Annual Council. With tears in his eyes, the individual told him that his 17-year-old daughter, Emma, had texted him Sunday night after the vote to say she was leaving the church. The father asked Jackson to please contact his daughter, which he did.
The church needs all of us right now, Jackson told the audience. “Please don’t go.”
On mission initiatives, Jackson highlighted the many goals of the NAD. Church Plant 1,000 has the goal of 1,000 new congregations within five years. The NAD is currently in its third year of the project and has planted 560 churches. Thousands of evangelistic campaigns have also been conducted, resulting in hundreds of baptisms. But the “number one soul-building and soul-winning outreach in the NAD is our system of education,” he said. Jackson also praised God for the 60 Adventist hospitals in the NAD.
The need for more money to fuel these projects was a central point, which could set the stage for a discussion on creating tithe parity with other divisions. The NAD currently gives more tithe to the GC than other divisions do to help fund mission in other parts of the world.
Throughout his presentation, Jackson repeated the phrase, “we will not be deterred!” several times, focusing on the dedication and specific mission of the NAD for its own territory. “We will not be deterred. We will not be discouraged into doing nothing. We will not be defeated by the forces of hell, because we’re on God’s team, and I’ve read the end of the book and I know how it ends. This is God’s church, this is God’s territory.”
Speaking specifically to the NAD’s dedication to women pastors, Jackson said, “I want to always be associated with this reality: that God pours out his spirit on women as well as on men...To all who like it and to all who don't like it: we will not be deterred. We do not care what action, we do not care what body, we do not care. We have a mandate from God to encourage women to serve as pastors.”
"We are not doing anything contrary to the General Conference,” he continued. “As a matter of fact, we never have.” He said to anyone who thinks otherwise, he’s happy to highlight the parts of the Working Policy they need to read.
He mentioned an article he had read recently that stated the Annual Council decision meant no women were allowed to be pastors. “Hooey!” he cried. “Hooey!...To be really honest, I'm getting really tired of the baloney that comes through our fake news outlets.”
Jackson closed his report by saying, “We have one North Star in the NAD, his name is Jesus, and we serve him. We will not stop, we will not be deterred.”
As he sat down to exuberant applause, Alex Bryant thanked Jackson and said he doesn’t think he’s ever heard the words “hooey” and “baloney” used from the pulpit before. “They’re appropriate words,” Jackson replied. Bryant then called for a motion to accept the President’s Report. Several affirmatives were given and the report was received unanimously by the body.
The vision Jackson laid out is one of unity in diversity, rather than uniformity, one where the NAD focuses first on the needs within its own territory. How that is accomplished in the future will unfold in the coming days. Will the NAD decide to keep more tithe at home? What will come out of Sunday’s discussion about recent happenings at Annual Council? One thing is clear: all eyes are on the NAD.
WATCH the live stream of Day 1 of the NAD Year-end Meetings here:
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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