The final day of the 2023 Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee on Tuesday, April 11, saw open positions filled by the nominating committee. The rest of the business meeting consisted largely of the reports that are standard at GC meetings. With key agenda items wrapped up on the first day—including the Treasurer’s Report and an announcement of a Human Sexuality Taskforce—little remained to stir controversy.
As the first business item, the nominating committee returned three names, all of which were accepted without comment. Most prominently, John C. Peckham, currently a professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University, will be the newest associate editor of the Adventist Review. Peckham, who received his PhD from Andrews University, has published widely, including books released by academic evangelical publishers. His 2015 book The Love of God: A Canonical Model was released by InterVarsity Press and went on to receive the IVP Readers’ Choice Award.
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“Congrats [John Peckham] on your appointment to Associate Editor,” tweeted Anthony Bosman, an assistant professor of mathematics at Andrews University.
“An amazing scholar,” added Michael Nixon, Vice President for University Culture and Inclusion at Andrews. “He will be missed!”
Peckham is filling a vacancy created by the departure of Gerald A. Klingbeil, a longtime member of the Review editorial staff. According to Ted Wilson, Klingbeil, who is originally from Germany, “has left to work in the Inter-European Division territory.”
Recent months have been a time of transition for the Review. Justin Kim, the former editor of the young adult Sabbath school guide and a GYC cofounder, began his tenure as Review editor at the beginning of the year. Another associate editor, Sikhululekile Daco, was added as well, replacing Lael Caesar, who retired in 2022.
The addition of Peckham may address concerns about the scholarship experience of the remade staff. Previously, the executive editor, Bill Knott, and both associate editors held doctoral degrees from universities outside the Adventist system
The other two positions filled by the nominating committee were for the GC Education Department associate director and Euro-Asia Division treasurer. Sócrates Quispe will replace John Wesley Taylor V, who was elected president of Andrews University, in the education department. Oleg V. Voronyuk will move from associate treasurer to treasurer for Euro-Asia.
Erton Köhler, GC executive secretary, also gave the first official report for Mission Refocus. Introduced at the 2022 Annual Council, the initiative aims to reach parts of the world where the Adventist Church has a smaller footprint. In the first part of 2023, the church looked at missionaries who serve outside their home territories and began to “reorganize 70% of them to send them to the frontline work,” Köhler said.
The GC has also begun an “adoption process,” where divisions, attached unions, and GC institutions are encouraged to choose an under-reached place or people group to give increased attention. While many of the locations have been “adopted” already, Köhler said, Pakistan is an example of one still waiting.
Erton Köhler presents on April 11. Photo by Enno Mueller / AME (CC BY 4.0).
“We don’t have an exact place that you need to go or to adopt,” Köhler told the assembled church leaders. “We are just trying to raise a culture of worldwide mission. Everybody is supporting everybody, because our global mission is a responsibility for each one of us.”
“Global Disciple-Making Evangelism”
An initiative to get every church entity and local church to launch a simultaneous evangelistic strategy in 2024 received the most time for open discussion. The topic also showed the challenges church leaders face in actually implementing projects at the local level.
“My concern, Elder Wilson, is that when I attend the Spring Meetings and Annual Council, I hear about fantastic proposals,” said Orville Parchment, retired assistant to the president. “[But] I don’t hear them in my local church. . . . How can we effectively get the local churches excited about these programs that we are sharing here?”
“Well, you’ve asked the $64,000 question,” Wilson responded. “We’ve been asking that for a long time. . . . You are absolutely right. We vote many things on a world-level basis, and local churches don’t hear about it. We do have the internet now, which has leveled the playing field somewhat, but we need to work with our conference administrations.”
An AI-Generated Avatar Takes the Stage and Randy Robinson Is Retiring
Tuesday’s meeting, which powered through four hours with minimal official breaks, also featured reports from the North American and South Pacific divisions. Part of the NAD’s report was delivered in a video, narrated by a clean-cut man speaking in a slight monotone. The delivery sounded slightly robotic—and that’s because it was, as a slide identified “Mark Blythe” as an “AI Assistant to the President.” Increasingly powerful artificial intelligence tools raise interesting questions for church entities. Does using AI to narrate a report make what is already often dry seem even more detached? Or is it a smart, money-saving deployment of technology?
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After the NAD’s report, Ted Wilson also announced that Randy Robinson, the NAD treasurer since 2018, is retiring. The information does not appear to have been reported publicly before. “I told him he’s not old enough to retire,” Wilson joked, adding that the search for a replacement has already begun. Robinson was elected to serve for the 2022–25 term at last year’s GC Session.
The full division reports, along with all the reports for both days of the Spring Meeting, can be found on the GC Executive Committee website.
A Dour Closing Word
Like most Ted Wilson-led meetings, Tuesday closed with a reading from Ellen White, this time “A Warning Rejected” from The Great Controversy. Wilson then added his own extemporaneous thoughts.
“My fellow leaders, we are facing the biggest challenge we have ever faced, and that is this Word is being turned on its head,” Wilson said, raising a full-size opened Bible. “I do not have any profound prophetic understanding. But I want to tell you [that] I am becoming more and more convinced that the omega of the final days will be connected in some way with the absolute denigration of God’s authority through his Word.”
While he did not share specifics of what he meant, the previous day’s meeting featured the introduction of a Human Sexuality Taskforce that will be seeking to educate church members about what Wilson termed “aberrant theological views” regarding human sexuality. That initiative appears to be in response to a German conference backing a pastor who came out publicly as bisexual.
Tuesday’s meeting rolled through the second half of the agenda with few hiccups and no combative discussions. But it is evident that 2023 will see more conflicts within the church about how to interpret scripture. “I am urging all of us to go back to the Word,” Wilson said. For the church’s LGBTQ members and allies, the perceived meaning of that Word—and how upper leadership tries to exert influence over the local church—will be of consequence.
Alex Aamodt is the managing digital editor of Spectrum.
Title image: Delegates listening to a report during the 2023 Spring Meeting on April 11, 2023 at the General Conference, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. Photo by Enno Mueller / AME (CC BY 4.0).
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