The growth of administrators within Adventism has outpaced the growth of pastors and membership in recent years, according to studies done by the Adventist Office of Statistics, Archives, and Research. In his report to the General Conference Executive Committee on global trends, Archivist David Trim said the number of pastors increased by 85%, while the number of administrators grew by 300% since 1988. He suggested that examining the balance between administrators and pastor/evangelist workers might help us to see greater growth in the numbers of accessions.
Increasing the number of pastors might also help the church address the rate of retention. Currently, we lose approximately 40% of those who are baptized. Membership now stands at 23,967,592. Since 1965, 37,592,451 people have become members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of those, 15,132,555 have chosen to leave.
In the global trends report, the number of accessions per pastor in each division was reviewed as well as the number per congregation. Tithe rates in each division were tallied, also, which may inform the conversation later in the week about tithe parity. The North American Division has the highest tithe per capita at $856, and the highest tithe per congregation at $235,546. The Divisions with the next highest tithe per capita are the European Divisions: the Inter-European Division (EUD) at $774 and the Trans-European Division (TED) at $728.
Parity was the most contentious issue on Sunday. And the item that sparked the afternoon debate was seemingly a small one. General Conference President Ted Wilson told the Committee that the North American Division had requested not only tithe parity, but policy parity, to be treated like the other divisions in other matters as well. Accordingly, a vote was taken to amend the GC Constitution and Bylaws so that the North American Division Secretary and Treasurer would no longer also hold the titles of Associate Secretary of the General Conference and Associate Treasurer of the General Conference.
Later, when it was proposed to remove the provision that allows conference presidents in the Division where Annual Council meetings are held to officially attend Annual Council with voice (but not vote), the discussion grew lengthy. It began with Wilson telling how in years past, some Annual Council meetings had been held in other Divisions. In evaluating the cost of moving the meeting to other places, the finance people estimate that it costs $700,000 to $1 million more to hold the meeting at some place other than the General Conference building in Silver Spring. Going forward that just would not be possible, he said. But the debate was not about the money, because conference presidents pay their own way to Annual Council.
The timing of the proposal raised questions in the minds of some. Was this the right time to be sending this message to the North American Division? Elder Wilson pointed out that conference presidents, like any church member, were welcome to attend Annual Council meetings. That did not seem to mollify people. Neither did his suggestion that the North American Division had requested this item. NAD Executive Secretary Alex Bryant clarified that this particular item had not been part of their request. It had not occurred to NAD that this item would be included.
Geoscience Research Director James Gibson asked what the vote was really about. What is the issue behind this discussion? “What is the difference between having the policy in place or not having the policy in place? Really, the fundamental issue is whether the conference presidents should have voice.” When a request was made to table the motion, it also quickly became apparent that not all members had the voting cards needed to take a vote by that method. Finally, members of the Committee were asked to stand and raise their hands on the motion to table the action which succeeded 152 yeas to 116 nos.
Votes on reorganization of several areas of the world church that followed were done by voice. The Ethiopia Union Mission was reorganized into the East Ethiopia Union Mission and the West Ethiopia Union Mission. The Belize Union of Churches Mission status was changed to Belize Union Mission. The Southeast Asia Union Mission was split into three separate territories. The China Union Mission was detached from the North Asia Pacific Division and attached to the General Conference.
Finally, to end the day, a new voting system was tested for possible use at the 2020 General Conference Session. It was referred to as a hybrid system since it combined paper ballots with barcodes to speed the counting. The first trial run was delayed when the counting machine jammed because of a misfolded ballot, but eventually the test votes were tallied, and Undersecretary Moorooven concluded that more practice was needed. By then it was 6:30 p.m. Resolution of voting issues, as well as parity, will await another day.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
Image: Leon B. Brown, President, Nevada-Utah Conference, North American Division (NAD), speaks from the floor during the Annual Council 2019 in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States of America. Photo by Brent Hardinge / GC Communication, courtesy of the Adventist News Network on Flickr.
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