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Annual Council Diary—Sunday


No, today was not the day. For those wondering when Annual Council 2012 will turn its attention to a discussion of Women’s Ordination, the answer is that a debate on the topic of women’s ordination is not technically included on the agenda. However, it looks like Tuesday afternoon will be the time when a statement will be brought to the floor regarding a response to the two North American Union constituencies that voted to proceed with the ordination without regard to gender. The statement is not included in the delegate notebook. In the agenda, it says that a handout will be distributed when the item comes before the delegates.

At the close of the session today, Artur Stele, chairman of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, did give a brief report in answer to questions that he is receiving about the committee and its work. “How can we be sure that the process will be fair and transparent?” is one question. The second concerns the General Conference President. Stele has received questions from people who wonder if it will be possible for the committee to come to a conclusion different from the position of Ted Wilson.

Stele declared that the committee would be fair and transparent in its work, saying that the terms of reference for the committee helped to build in fairness. He said that the list of committee members would be published as soon as all the divisions give their recommendations for members. Regarding the terms of reference, he noted that the membership of the committee will include people from every division, young, old, lay, scholars, pastors, administrators, men, and women covering the spectrum of views on the issue. The committee’s assignment is to develop an Adventist theology of ordination, but it also has been charged with studying the issue of women’s ordination. Rather than returning with a single recommendation to the Executive Committee, the committee has been asked to provide a consensus report. In the case that the committee does not come to a consensus on women’s ordination, then the assignment is for the committee to suggest solutions. When the study is complete, all of the data will be submitted to the Executive Committee.

Regarding the views of the General Conference President, Stele said that in Elder Wilson’s comments on the issue, he has taken the position that has been voted by the General Conference. It is his job to uphold that position. His only desire is for the church to come together on this topic. Whatever the church decides he will support. He will not micromanage the committee, Stele promised.

Perhaps it is because the issue of women’s ordination is such a hot topic right now, that upon entering the General Conference auditorium today I was struck by the overwhelming majority of men in the room. It was such a contrast to Sabbath when families had been there, too. So, I started counting the number of women present.

There were maybe 20 to 25 in an audience of 300 or so people.

Division reports on the Reach Up, Reach Out, Reach Over campaign filled the morning.  Representing the North American Division, Dr. Jose H. Cortes, president of the New Jersey Conference, gave an enthusiastic account of the efforts to start new small groups and plant churches in the cities of New Jersey where there are currently no Adventist churches.  Cortes began the effort by stopping whenever he went through a city that had no Adventist church and praying for the city. In a meeting with the pastors, he got them praying, too. Now congregations vie for specific cities to send teams to. There is a team of young people involved giving Bible studies at Princeton and Rutgers universities. “Young people are not the future of our church,” Cortes said, “they are the present of the church.” The goal is to plant 80 churches. Fourteen have already been started.

In the afternoon, it was time for reports from Secretariat. As usual, General Conference Secretary G.T. Ng got everyone laughing first, and then he presented his report that showed the dramatic changes in the membership of the church over the past fifty years from the Global North to the Global South.

In 1960, the baptisms in the Global North represented 31 percent and in the Global South 69 percent of world baptisms respectively. By 2010, baptisms in the Global South increased three fold to an extraordinary 96.2 percent of all baptisms that year. 

In conclusion he said that the “Adventist Global South now represents about 92.5 percent of world membership and the gap between the North and South is widening. A reverse missionary movement has taken root. Mission is now from everywhere to everywhere. There is a greater degree of indigenization in terms of liturgy and understanding of the Scriptures. As to resources, the Global North contributes about 56.4 percent of world tithe with just 8.5 percent of world membership. However, the Global South is catching up in recent years in tithes and offerings, rapidly approaching the same level of giving as the North. . . Never has the missional task been more pressing, or the need for meaningful partnership between North and South been more urgent.”

Adventist Membership Software is the newest responsibility of the Secretariat. Andrew Oey Kuntaraf now heads that operation which spent the past year researching software to recommend to the entire church. After consulting with several software providers and divisions which have developed software, Kuntaraf and his team recommended the software developed in the South American Division called ACMS.

Archivist David Trim concluded the Secretariat report with numbers about the membership of the church in comparison with the general population. The church continues to grow at a greater rate than the overall population, in spite of the fact that the trend in Adventist growth has slowed over the past twenty years.

His report concluded with charts on the growth of membership in the 10/40 window that has been the object of much concerted effort in recent years. All the Division and Union presidents within the 10/40 window were brought to the platform as the statistics were read about the general population in specific countries along with the number of Adventists. There were about a dozen countries in which the official Adventist population was listed as 0, even though there are some Adventists known to be in those places. However, so as not to attract persecution of those people, the number of members is not listed. Mark Finley offered prayer for the leaders of these areas. And at the close of the meeting, the delegates went off to designated areas for continued prayer sessions.

As I walked out, I saw my new friend from Sabbath again. I learned that while he may look something like the actor Danny Glover, his last name is really Gordon. 

Photo: Adventist News Network, Edwin Manuel Garcia.

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