What’s Next? The New Agenda and the New Team

As the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio came to a close, re-elected President Ted N. C. Wilson began to speak of what he envisions for the next five years. His three stated goals are: (1) Emphasizing Christ and His righteousness, (2) faithfulness, and (3) involvement of every church member in evangelism and witness. What activities will be initiated to fulfill the goals remains to be seen, but there were some early clues.

Five years ago, a question from a delegate about the lack of a theology of ordination, sparked the formation of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) and the intensive debate about women’s ordination. Another action in 2010 requesting that the statement Affirming Creation be integrated into the Fundamental Beliefs set up a five year process of review and revision of the Fundamental Beliefs.

On July 9 in San Antonio, Northern Asia-Pacific Division Ministerial Secretary David Ripley made a recommendation to the General Conference Steering Committee that the Seventh-day Adventist Church address its lack of a unified biblical hermeneutic. On the last day of the Session, General Conference Undersecretary Myron Iseminger reported back from the Steering Committee, promising that in concert with the Biblical Research Institute, the issue would be addressed. But Iseminger did not provide specifics. Will a large committee such as TOSC be established to review that topic? The question and the response ignore the fact that a document on Methods of Bible Study was approved and voted by the General Conference Executive Committee at the Annual Council Session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 12, 1986. It was that statement that guided the study of the theology of ordination during the past quinquennium.

Another action taken during the business sessions at San Antonio involved the program known as “Revived by His Word,” which set up a daily Bible reading program over the past five years. A motion was approved to now shift to daily reading of the Spirit of Prophecy. Organizers will be outlining daily readings from several books by Ellen G. White over the next five years.

Is faithfulness to Ellen White what the administration envisions for its second goal? Elder Wilson’s first post-San Antonio sermon will be at Elmshaven, Ellen White’s home in California, where this weekend there will be a conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of her death. In his Sabbath sermon at San Antonio, Wilson never mentioned Bible reading without adding the phrase “and the Spirit of Prophecy.”

I expect significant emphasis on how we read both the Bible and Ellen White in the next five years.

Will the goal of faithfulness also include addressing the large number of people leaving through the back door of the church? Other than the acknowledgement of membership losses in the Secretariat report, there were no clues about what might be proposed to solve that problem.

The New Team Significant changes were made to the president’s team of vice presidents in San Antonio. Through the debate on Women’s Ordination, Wilson leaned heavily on what is referred to as the General Conference and Division Officers Committee. This is the group that the TOSC materials were referred to and that came up with the wording of the question that was voted—first at Annual Council and then by the delegates in San Antonio. It is made up of the general vice presidents of the General Conference plus the three officers of each of the divisions. Retirements from this group prompted numerous changes, and Elder Wilson initiated further changes as he discussed with the Nominating Committee the names to be put forward for election. For instance, while there were nine general vice presidents during the last five years, going forward there will only be six.

The delegates were not particularly happy with this change. Twice they returned the list of six names for vice presidents to the Nominating Committee for reconsideration. The Committee stuck to its original recommendation and made no changes in the list of six names brought to the delegates for approval: Guillermo Biaggi, originally from the South American Division; Thomas Lemon from North America; Abner De Los Santos from the Inter American Division; Geoffrey Mbwana from the East Central Africa Division; Ella Simmons of North America; and Artur Stele of the Euro-Asian Division.

During the comments before the vote for acceptance of this list, a delegate lamented that it would no longer be possible for an African American to ascend to the presidency from this new field of officers. Delbert Baker, the African American vice president during the 2010-2015 term, was not returned to office. Some people have commented to me that the African American community seems to have lost some of its clout within the General Conference. I would suggest that all North Americans have lost out. In the last five years, there were seven North Americans among the top 12 officers of the church. Now the number of officers has been reduced to nine, and there are only three North Americans. Americans have gone from having over half of the positions to holding only a third. The selection of new vice presidents appears to have been made along geographical lines rather than idealogical ones as some had predicted.

Another retirement that was not noted, because the position is not an elected one, is that of assistant to the president. Orville Parchment has held that position for several presidents, but he is retiring. I have heard that his replacement is from South America, further solidifying the increased power of that region. Moving into another position of assistant to the president is Lowell Cooper, who retired as a vice president, but has taken this new spot. It has been suggested that he will continue to chair the Board of Loma Linda University in his new position.

Within the Division officers group, there has been significant turnover with six new presidents, seven new secretaries, and two new treasurers. This new team of General Conference and Division Officers will have its first extended meetings together in October in the lead up to Annual Council. It is then that we will be given the first glimpse of how this group will relate to each other and to the nineteen million members who are the church.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6972

"Wilson never mentioned Bible reading without adding the phrase “and the Spirit of Prophecy.”

So much for Sola Scriptura.

SDAs have really got to stop using that phrase. It’s getting embarrassing.


He surely can’t think out of the ‘boox’ … :wink:


And we thought that the last four years was a hot tussle! Well it sounds as if it will be a very hot political clash over the next five years. Leadership continued to botch the WO issue by ignoring the TOSC recommendation for gender inclusion in pastoral ordination and going for yet another vote. With the paring down of GC VP positions it seems leadership is setting things up for a showdown of “power” maneuvers and stacking the deck with individuals in lock step with a more fundamentalist mindset, or at least the mindset that is going to disfavor WO for sure. Seems leadership, too, is finding ways to exert kingly power upon the very entities (unions) that were put into place to emasculate such monarchal power centers. Much prayer needed for our denomination.


It has never been true anyway. But, it sure sounds good.


I think I could have spoken clearer on Hermenutics! It is clear that on several topics we are using a different set of rules of interpretation. Will the real SDA Hermenutic please stand up!


I suggest you go back and find Morris Venden’s series on the Pillars of Our Faith, which he presented at PUC shortly after the Ford crisis. In it he makes a good case for Sola Scriptura, and for the fact that Sola Scriptura allows for end time prophets.


This is a good thing, right…

Why should NAD be over-represented at this level? Does the NA Union Conferences need a lot more support from the GC than the UC’s in Africa or China?

Furthermore having few people in the GC from NA will decrease the GC’s influence on the NA UC’s, which is a good thing.



The question as to why the NAD should be over-represented at the officer level is a good one!

Even the pope is choosing cardinals from non-traditional places within his communion such as Tonga, Myannmar and Cape Verde these days, thus diluting the influence of traditional strongholds of the church.

Wikipedia notes the curious fact that Robert H Pierson “presented his final [resignation] speech as President [of the GC] on October 16, 1978, the same day Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected by the Conclave in the Vatican to succeed the late Pope John Paul I.”

I note with interest that Pastor Schultz, new assistant to the GC President is a dual citizen of Australia and a South American country. I’m also sad that we have lost the talent and energy of Lowell Cooper and Delbert Baker.

i believe the 33% shrinkage of the number of general conference vice presidents has to do with a shrinking general conference workload: the review and herald publishing association’s printing interests have closed, and oakwood and the pacific press publishing association have transferred to nad…

as well, with nad out of gc headquarters, there is probably a reduced need for stress management :smirk:

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None of the names posted here really make any difference at where it really matters…the local church level. Will the name changes make much difference in the attendance numbers at church, the money given, the sermons or Sabbath school classes?

I will say that the 3 point general agenda is vague , ambiguous or unrealistic…and I am not hostile to Wilson. The key individual in the SDA denomination is the one who holds the position that Jerry Page currently holds and I am curious as to what he is driving lately…and I don’t mean his personal vehicle.

This lament of the decline of North American influence at the General Conference is comical. Must you always rule? Why not try sitting in the pews with patient silence and listen to someone else preach for a change? Hegemony and Empire have left deep impressions of entitlement on the American heart. I imagine it is not easy to humbly leave the seat of Moses–unless you are Moses himself, of course.


Does sola scriptura mean that one can not quote CS Lewis, AW Tozer, Billy Graham, TD Jakes, Lee Stroebel. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathon Edwards, Morris Venden, AG Maxwell, Dwight Nelson, George Vandeman, Des Ford in sermons?

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As long as they are not made Scripture, I don’t see a problem. The problem with EGW is that SDAs make her writings part of Scripture, at the same level. This is unacceptable.


Wilson picks and chooses just like everyone else. EGW said the GC president shouldn’t try to exercise kingly power. He pretends he doesn’t hear. I fear that it will become even more unbearable.


This seems to be the attitude that prevailed at the vote on Wednesday, although the man or woman in the pew in NAD probably has no idea of the depth of resentment expressed here and reflected in that vote.


That’s not what he meant as you well know…if you say that you are “People of the Bible” you should not have a “prophet” whose writings are regarded as the Bible. Adventism would be a much pared-down version of it’s self if you excised the writings of EGW from it.


Just be sure that you, yourself, are free of arrogance and racism before you speak.


No, EGW’s writings are not made part of scripture by anyone I’ve ever read. They are an additional authoritative source of doctrine and practice for Adventists. Just like the Early Fathers are for Catholics. Sometimes they are give more weight than Scripture, sometimes less.


One case where EGW is given greater weight than Scripture by many I know is in the age of the earth. The Bible itself does not give a figure, and the best estimates from the Bible involve genealogical scholarship. EGW consistently gave the 6,000 year figure, since in her day the time since creation was based on good old Bishop Ussher’s work. Scholarship since then clearly shows that the time since creation must be 8,000 years or somewhat more. When confronted with this new evidence, those who weigh EGW’s statements om the subject heavily, say we must stick to the 6,000 year age. I think this is an improper use of EGW, especially since, by sticking with the 6,000 year age we are saying that EGW trumps the Bible. Of course, those who are most adamant in this regard are KJV only believers.