At the General Conference building in Silver Spring this week, various “pre-meeting” committee sessions are taking place before the official Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee begins on October 11, 2018 in Battle Creek, Michigan. More than 60 members of the General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO) Committee met on Thursday and split down the middle on a vote concerning the latest compliance document that has been drafted by the General Conference Administration. The vote to approve the document and place it on the Annual Council Agenda was 32 yes, 30 no, with 2 abstaining.
The near even split of the committee was similar to the vote last year when a heated discussion took place about proposed disciplinary actions for non-compliant entities. That document was being discussed while the committee members were traveling together to New England. It came to Annual Council on the split vote and elicited heated debate because of its 14 page length and last minute release. The debate ended with it being referred back to the Unity Committee. In July 2018, a new much shorter document was widely released that includes some of the previous elements, such as shaming the presidents whose entities are deemed to be out of compliance. But, according to several of the participants, the conversation in GCDO was less animated this year. People just seemed tired of the topic.
“Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” is the title of this year’s document. It outlines a procedure for reporting conferences or unions as being out of compliance to the next highest level in the church organization with the General Conference Executive Committee being the final stop. The document’s one remaining punishment for being out of compliance remains the reprimanding/shaming of a union conference president before his vote is allowed to be cast at the meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee. It also references compliance committees to handle the punishment of the entities.
Before introducing the document on Thursday, President Ted Wilson implored committee members to support the proposal. Several people then presented and explained the document using PowerPoint. Mike Ryan, assistant to the president, gave a general introduction, Legal Counsel Karnik Doukmetzian explained relevant Bylaws and Legal issues, Archivist David Trim reviewed the survey taken earlier in the year, and Undersecretary Hensley Moorooven made comments on the purpose of working policy and then read the document. After more than an hour of discussion, the vote was to proceed with this latest version, although it still did not get any more traction than last year’s version. In informal discussion as people were breaking for lunch some suggested that the close vote meant that the whole matter should just be dropped.
The compliance review committees that are mentioned in the voted document were not discussed separately, since they have already been created by a different committee — the Administrative Committee (ADCOM) that is charged with the daily operations of the General Conference. It has been suggested that if this compliance document is not approved at Annual Council then the compliance committees will not be convened. However, they have already been activated by ADCOM before this policy document has been approved. ADCOM is also the committee that released this document in July, approving it to be sent to GCDO.
In other conversations earlier in the week about the possible consequences of approving this document, the suggestion has been circulated that the North American Division — whose two unions are targeted as being out of compliance regarding the ordination of women — might alter the amount of tithe that it passes along to the General Conference. Currently, North America gives about three times as much of its tithe to the General Conference as other Divisions who only pass along 2% of tithe. It was estimated that should this happen, it would “cost” the General Conference approximately $50 million annually. Some seemed to think in the big scheme of things, the General Conference could “afford” this loss.
What the General Conference Executive Committee thinks of the document, the compliance committees, and the consequences of voting this whole process awaits the meeting in Battle Creek. It is scheduled on the agenda to be discussed on Sunday, October 14.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
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