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After Annual Council

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace

It was the warm baritone voice of General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson singing. The 300 members of the Executive Committee joined in and the a capella choir brought the final session of the 2010 Annual Council to a close with a beautiful peace-filled moment.

And peace was much needed. Major changes had been made in the plans and personnel of the General Conference. And everyone seemed to be experiencing some level of discomfort. Even newly elected leaders Homer W. Trecartin (Associate Secretary) and Jerry Page (Ministerial Secretary) spoke of the shock to their system their new positions had created. The pain of those who had not been returned to office in the July election was plain to see in their faces. And more change had been written into the script for this Annual Council session.

Gone was the strategic plan of Reach Up, Reach Out, Reach Across that had been announced a year previously. In its place was Revival and Reformation, rewriting Fundamental Belief #6.

Just the day before this prayer and testimony session in the GC Chapel, there had been adroit maneuvering to force an abrupt change in the leadership of the Adventist Development and Relief Association, or to put it another way: Charles Sandefur was fired. President Wilson, a newly elected member to the ADRA Board, told the constituted group (in which only 2 of 13 lay members were in attendance) that he could not support Sandefur because agency morale and finances were depressed. Sandefur was never given a chance to respond to the charges, nor was the ADRA management team. The Board wrestled with Wilson’s comments for three and a half hours. In the end, Wilson proposed a new name for president—Rudi Maier, professor of international development at Andrews University—and his election was voted. There was no search committee or process involving the Board. Maier was called directly from the meeting, immediately agreed to the position, and was in Silver Spring the following Monday to begin the transition. News releases reported that Sandefur’s work ended the day of the Board vote.

This was really the third change that Wilson had forced at ADRA. In July, when Wilson announced the assignments for the general vice presidents who chair the boards of General Conference institutions, he removed both Lowell Cooper and Pardon Mwansa as board chair and vice chair of ADRA, positions they had held for ten and five years.

What is the significance of these changes and the manner in which they were made? What role will ADRA play in the Wilson administration? What role will Wilson play on other boards? In the news release about the change in leadership, Wilson praised Sandefur “for his untiring promotion of ADRA” and said that ADRA will continue to play an integral role in the mission of the church. But how do international relief efforts figure in the Revival and Reformation that is underway?

Revival and Reformation were modeled at Annual Council in the prayer and testimony sessions. Also a new committee had been created to propose ways to bring about the revival. Their work produced 12 major initiatives, including “777” Seventh-day Adventists praying seven days a week at 7 (am or pm) for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence. Worldwide days of prayer and fasting were named for 2011 and a technology subcommittee was created to develop a support system and community for the initiatives.

My thoughts were mixed as I left Silver Spring. I was struck by the beauty and sincerity of the prayer session. If the Revival and Reformation can light a fire in Adventist spirituality, it will be a blessed thing.

President Wilson has moved swiftly to put his vision into practice, taking on multiple assignments himself. He now chairs the newly created Mission Board, the board of the Geoscience Research Institute, and (interim chair) Oakwood University, in addition to his presidential duties. He has stumbled with some of the things that he has put into motion. When the Adventist Health people objected to his idea of distributing copies of the Great Controversy to every household in the zip codes surrounding the General Conference building, he gracefully backed down—for now.

What really concerned me, however, was the sense that the focus of the church is shifting away from reaching out in service to reaching in with judgment. Rather than being concerned about serving the needs of the world, we are focusing on each other with a critical eye. To use the words of Pastor Ryan Bell, there seems to be more concern about being right than about doing right. And that is worrisome. Judgment is not our job. We are to be known by our love for one another. It is only love that breathes revival into our souls.

My love for the church has never been greater– nor has my fear of administrative micromanaging. I guess it is time to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face. And, perhaps, the things of earth—including all things bureaucratic–will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.


Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum: The Journal of the Adventist Forum.

This editorial appears in the current issue of Spectrum. Click here to subscribe to read and support more articles like this.

[Photo: Gerry Chudleigh/ANN]

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