Harmonizing the documents of the General Conference Working Policy was the major task of the GC Executive Committee on October 12, and not just the words. In a masterful presentation that summarized over 100 pages of documents, Undersecretary Hensley Moorooven also showed the committee how the internal numbering system worked. Items numbered by fives indicate sections that already exist within policy. Items with odd numbering — 11, 13, 17, 19 — indicate new items. Revision of the six different kinds of model constitutions in the Working Policy was the primary point of discussion. In presenting the changes, Moorooven shared more numbers: the number of union conferences (63), union missions (68), union of churches with conference status (11), union of churches with union status (5), conferences (419), and local missions (219). Add in the 13 divisions and you have the total number of structural elements in the church organization.
The major proposal on the table for all those model constitutions was to allow for electronic participation in regular and specially called constituency meetings when requested by the executive committee, and if permitted by local law in that geographic location, if all persons are able to hear and participate at the same time.
Discussion of the item during this Zoom meeting demonstrated one of the challenges of electronic participation. Chair Thomas Lemon asked if anyone wanted to speak to the motion. Seeing no indication of a response, he kept going. Later after other items were presented, it became clear that some people had wished to address the motion, but had not been able to get through to the officials at the church headquarters where the electricity had gone out for a few minutes. When Lowell Cooper, a recently retired vice president of the General Conference and an expert on the Working Policy, finally was unmuted, he said that over the past thirty years the General Conference has taken more and more authority over the Division and Union Committees that has shown a diminished trust in them. “It is unhealthful and unhelpful,” he said.
Moorooven replied that executive committees of each organizational unit do have to direct how to carry out the measures. But he also said that he had taken note of Cooper’s concern and that the Working Policy committee would address it.
Earl Knight wanted to know when this policy would be effective. Immediately was the answer. GC Attorney Karnik Doukmetzian added, however, that the items would first have to be voted into the documents of each organizational unit.
Also presented was a change in documents to reflect the vote of the Executive Committee in July to move the Public Campus Ministries program into the Youth Department and out of Chaplaincy Ministry. Nana Nimako registered his disaffection with the change saying that he thought the Department was already suffering because of the decision. In further explanation for the change, it was pointed out that the Chaplaincy Department trains individuals for accreditation as chaplains, rather than dealing directly with people in need. The PCM program fits better within the structure of the Youth Department.
One remuneration item that was also addressed, stipulated that the difference between the salary for a division president and a pastor should not be more than 25%.
All of these policy items were voted as a block with one vote that was overwhelmingly positive: 194 yes; 18 no. And that concluded items that will be voted with the Election Buddy system for this Annual Council. Over the next two days, members will simply be asked to affirm various items.
The next item elicited lively discussion. In a moving video presentation, Gary Krause told the story of his visit to Chad in 2003 where he found the church thriving despite the dire poverty of the region. Mission offerings, he said, help the church grow in places that we’d never visit or know about. He said they are like a river flowing around the world, and he urged church leaders to promote regular and systematic giving with the many materials that have been prepared by Adventist Mission. Given the decline in world mission offerings described in the treasurer’s report earlier in the week, it was an important message.
Randy Robinson expressed concern because the next generation does not tend to give to one big open bucket appeals, they want details. He suggested that we need to do a better job of telling the story of need. Delbert Baker added that we also need to include in those stories the blessing that comes from giving. Offerings are two-sided blessings, he said. Mark Finley said he was deeply moved by Krause’s presentation and he challenged the Executive Committee to lead by example and each year select a special project that they support with their funds. To provide more clarity and transparency about mission offerings, Norbert Zens suggested that a detailed report be compiled and shared regularly like the recently introduced tithe report.
The final report of the morning concerned the upcoming General Conference Session that is scheduled for May 20-25 in Indianapolis. George Egwakhe, Sheri Clemmer, and Silvia Sicalo gave detailed information about the three different versions of the plan for seating of delegates and committees within the Lucas Oil Stadium, that they have drafted given COVID restrictions that include seating people six feet apart. The stadium is only allowed to use 13% of its total capacity. That is why only the 2,713 delegates will be allowed in business meetings; there will be no public attendance. However, the event will be live-streamed.
Travel and public health conditions will be reviewed by the General Conference and Division Officers after the first of the year, the committee was told. That concluded the business for the day.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
Image credit: Video still.
Further Reading on the 2020 Annual Council:
#LEAD20 Conference Focuses On “I Will Go” Strategic Plan — October 6 Report
Addressing the Financial and Other Headaches of COVID — October 8 Report
Family Worship at Annual Council 2020 — October 10 Report
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