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Annual Council Diary—Wednesday


A woman preached to the Annual Council session on Wednesday. Galina Stele, the first woman to earn a Doctorate of Ministerial Studies at Andrews University in 1996 gave the devotional for the morning.

In the parade of projects across the General Conference auditorium stage that followed two particularly caught my attention because they had to do with children.

Most striking was presentation by Bob Kyte of Adventist Risk Management. A sharp graphic video spat out facts about child abuse—one quarter of all girls are abused. The average age for an abused child is 9. More than 95% of allegations prove true. The acts affect victims throughout life. It ended simply by saying, “Stop Child Abuse.”

The is Adventist Risk Management’s ministry to stop child abuse around the world. “This is an area of great concern,” Kyte said, “forty million children will be abused this year—36% of girls, 29% of boys. One in seven children will be bullied or will be a bully.”

The program is a grassroots digital campaign that ARM helped to launch, but it is a partnership that is growing every day with other entities like the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program at La Sierra University, and Christian Record Services. Kyte came to solicit support. “Use your voice, use your life, use your influence to make a positive difference,” he said.

TPK, a program for pastor’s kids, sponsored by the Ministerial Association was the second children’s program. Jerry and Janet Page introduced this effort, saying that it was for children of all ages and is already underway in several divisions.

Anti-bullying could have been a great lead-in for discussion of the church’s statements on homosexuality, but that was not the focus of the conversation. Instead, same-sex marriage and the problems of legislation were driving factors. General Vice President Pardon Mwansa chairs the committee that has been established to consider these issues. “The intention and purpose of bringing these {existing} statements is to update them with appropriate information and improve on our position.”

No change in the church’s position on homosexuality was being proposed, only tweaking of the statements. So the discussion that followed was strictly an editorial one with consideration of commas and brackets for clarification. Once the editing was done, Executive Committee member Ed Zinke noted that there are several reasons for the statements, such as legally clarifying the church’s position. If you allow something to take place in your institution, it can be difficult down the line, he suggested. “I think that we need to be aware that in our schools we have teachers who are teaching that it is okay to be homosexual and this will make it difficult. I realize this is not the time or place, but it is an important issue to address.”

A committee member from the United Kingdom did tell of the dilemma they recently faced when one of their teachers left for break as a brother and came back as a sister. “We have never encountered anything like this and we need some help.”

Session Chair Ben Schoun, who is also the vice chair of the committee on homosexuality, responded that eventually the committee will bring forth suggestions on this since the Church Manual does not have much to say about it. “We will be working on that.”

An history quiz served as an introduction to the fact that 2013 will be the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church in Battle Creek, Michigan. Special celebrations are being planned for May 18, as a day of prayer, remembrance and recommitment to mission.

Another special day is being planned for April 5, 2014, which is being envisioned as World Visitor’s Day at Adventist churches. The Strategic Planning Committee hopes to attract 10 million people worldwide. Graphics and a website are in the works. The idea is to coordinate with what some churches do now in terms of an annual visitor’s day and thereby have an even greater impact.

Data-driven strategic planning is the reason that the church is putting significant work into gathering information about various populations in the church. Coordinated through the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, there are global surveys underway of church members, pastors, institutional employees, and college teachers; as well as on tithing practices, and why ex-Adventists leave the church.

Given that the GC Executive Committee serves as the constituency for several organizations, there were a few annual meetings that were part of Wednesday’s agenda. Brad Thorpe reported on the rapid international growth of the Hope Channel which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year.

The channel operates in five locations in mainland China and expects to add four more next year. In Indonesia, which has the second largest Hope production center, there is a full-time station broadcasting in Bahasa. In the Ukraine, the center just received a ten-year license from the government.

“TV everywhere is their goal,” however you watch—via computer, phone, ipad, television. He compared their progress to the Trinity Broadcasting Network that could boast, after 39 years, of having 18 channels in 7 languages. In just nine years,

Hope has 13 channels, and is soon to add 4 more for a total of 17 channels, in 7 fulltime languages, and 16 part-time languages. “Thanks for your help with our rapid expansion,” he said.

Annual Council ended on Wednesday, but I have yet to share the information about church finances that was presented on Tuesday morning. The afternoon discussion took over my report for that day. So I will have one more report tomorrow with reflections on the meetings added to the number crunching.

Photo: Adventist News Network, Edwin Manuel Garcia

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