Looking at the agendas for the premeetings that began at the General Conference World Headquarters on Thursday, October 4, it would seem that church leaders would be exhausted before the official Annual Council sessions even begins. The schedule has stretched through Sunday and is full of committee meetings, division advisory sessions, and agency board meetings from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm.
On Friday, the official first day of Annual Council, there was a Leadership Education and Development Conference that featured special presentations, skits, case studies, and breakout discussion groups.
The importance of following policy was highlighted in a couple of skits that used the mythical “Antarctic Field” and employees with names such as I.M. Frozen and I.C. Cash to tell the story of a field president wanting to invest in gold rather than following prudent investment policies. In “You Are Fired,” the second skit, an elder who is leading out in a special initiative to raise $20 million is caught fabricating stories to induce giving and then is fired. Case studies included a story about XYZ Adventist University, whose president felt that national accreditation was enough. and balked at having the Adventist Accrediting Association review his campus. “If you were the chairman of the university board, what would you do?” participants were asked in the discussion period that followed.
Lowell Cooper, GC Vice President, made a presentation on church leadership fundamentals. He gave seven principles of SDA Governance:
1. Representative/constituency-based system
2. Authority rooted in God, and distributed throughout
3. Authority of groups—the committee system
4. Shared administration, not a presidential system
5. Unity of entities based on mission, purpose, belief and commitment to collaborative decision-making
6. Integrity of each entity is recognized
7. Interdependence—each part of something larger, do not act without reference to the whole
“Trust,” he said, “is possibly the most important trait in the leadership of voluntary organizations.”
He concluded saying that the church organization is strong and fragile. “Any leader, with determination, can weaken the structure. Any leader, with determination, can help to keep it strong.”
Delegates then received their 3-ring binders filled with the materials for the upcoming days.The four agendas begin with examination of the mission statement of the SDA Church, include an amendment to the tithe policy, and amendments to the ordination service for deaconesses as outlined in the church manual. Membership and baptism statistics are divided between the Global North and Global South for comparison. There are recommendations for renaming and reorganizations of the work in various parts of the world including China.
How the session will respond to the votes by two North American Unions to ordain women is not immediately evident in the materials distributed thus far.
However, the proposed revision of the statement on “Seventh-day Adventist Response to Same-Sex Unions, if voted, would conclude:
“We hold that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation are loved by God. We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse. Still, God’s Word that transcends time and culture does not permit a homosexual lifestyle. The Bible’s opposition to same-sex unions/marriage is anchored in God’s plan at creation for marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:20-24), in divine legislation (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and in Jesus’ explicit confirmation of a permanent monogamous, and heterosexual marriage relationship (Matt. 19:4-6).”
The reason given for revising the statement is that “an increasing number of nations are not only debating the topic of same-sex unions but some have already passed various legislation, thus making it a world issue.”
President Ted N.C. Wilson will preach on Sabbath. Sunday morning the business sessions begin.