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The Business of Revival: A Report from Annual Council

There was no tent for this revival meeting. Officially called Annual Council, it took place at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But there were plenty of prayers and calls to stand for Jesus as the executive committee of the denomination met for its annual business meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland this week.

Newly elected president Ted N.C. Wilson fashioned the session to jumpstart the revival and reformation that he is calling for during his administration.

Monday morning deliberations began with two hours of devotion and prayer that concluded with the reading of a five-page document titled “God’s Promised Gift: An Urgent Appeal for Revival, Reformation, Discipleship, and Evangelism.” The delegates lined up at the microphones to affirm the findings of the document and make suggested changes. Wilson’s call for a vote was to ask those who agreed to kneel in prayer.

With that vote, the representatives committed themselves to personally set aside time daily for prayer and study of God’s word as well as encouraging prayer and Bible study in the churches.

We appeal to each church member to unite with church leaders and millions of other Seventh-day Adventists seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at 7:00 each morning or evening, seven days a week. This is an urgent call to circle the globe with earnest intercession. This is a call to total commitment to Jesus and to experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit that our Lord is longing to give now.

Then it was time to move on to other agendas—and there were several. First, there were finances to consider.

Budget Approved

Delegates voted to approve a $104.5 million budget for 2011. Appropriations to each of the church’s 13 world regions will increase by 4 percent.

Treasurer Robert Lemon reported that tithe returned by members in North America is up 1 percent as of August 2010 compared to the same time last year. However, that increase is negligible when the exchange rate between Canadian and United States dollars is considered, Lemon said. Currency fluctuations similarly affect mission offerings from North America.

The consent agenda with all the calendar items of meetings and days of prayer for the coming year passed on a voice vote, just as the budget had passed.

The one item to be pulled from the Policy Agenda for discussion concerned the union of churches, a fairly new organizational structure created to deal with unusual circumstances of geography or national politics in a region. Expressing concern that there might be a rush to use the structure inappropriately, Elder Wilson noted the item on the agenda required that an area wishing to use the mechanism be required to consult with the General Conference before doing so. “This structure is not something that we are encouraging,” President Wilson said. “We want to avoid the rush to become a union of churches. We believe in the structures that we already have,” he said. The item passed.

Personnel Changes

The Nominating Committee kept busy working on names for all the positions required to be reviewed following a General Conference session. The 40-page report from the committee came to the floor on Tuesday. Before the vote was called a delegate requested that the names be read of candidates being recommended to a post for the first time. A short briefing followed before the voice vote to accept all the names.

In addition, several key positions changed, some with announcements of retirements:

At the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Charles Sandefur departs and Andrews University Professor Rudolph Maier takes the president’s spot.

At the Archives, Bert Haloviak retires and historian David Trim moves into the position of archivist.

At the Biblical Research Institute, Angel Rodriguez’s pending retirement in 2011 will create a spot for Artur Stele who will serve as an associate until Rodriquez’ departure.

At Ministry magazine, Editor Nikolaus Satelmajer retires from office, and pastor, author, speaker Derek Morris takes up the editorial duties.

At the Review, Roy Adams’ retirement opens the door for Andrews University Professor Lael Caesar as an associate editor.

Educational Transfer

Delegates approved the proposed move of Griggs University, the distance-learning provider for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to become a part of Andrews University. The Andrews Board of Trustees now must add their approval, Presently located in the General Conference building with the General Conference Executive Committee serving as its Board, Griggs’ operations would become an entity of Andrews in Berrien Springs, Michigan. The vote by the delegates in Silver Spring included $1 million in General Conference funds to be invested in curriculum development over the next four years.

Creation of a Mission Board

A major rearrangement of the administrative responsibilities for mission workers and plans at the General Conference was voted. Church officials approved a Mission Board that will centralize three areas of outreach: mission personnel processing, mission strategy and funding, and mission communication. Previously, numerous mission entities handled those emphases, each soliciting donations and overseeing mission work, often unknowingly in competition with one another. President Wilson will chair the mission board.

Testimony and Prayer Close the Session

With work completed a day and a half early, the final hour of Annual Council was spent in a testimony and prayer session led by Jerry and Janet Page from the Ministerial Department.

A delegate from Brazil, who is just learning English, said it took courage to speak. He was praying for the gift of language. Then prayer was said for him.

William Johnsson stood to speak of his meetings with leaders of Islam and to pray for the people of Islam. And he asked for prayer to break up the stones in our hearts, for God to change us, and make us a loving people.

A delegate from Europe thanked the Lord for these refreshing days. He prayed for leadership to convey God’s compassion and love in welcoming all people. He prayed for the challenges that face the church in Europe.

President Wilson then thanked God for all the godly leaders of the past. He expressed gratitude for Elder Jan Paulsen, his predecessor, and for Paulsen’s presence at the meeting. He spoke of other past presidents including his father who he said is wasting away and can only whisper. “I hold his hand and we sing together when I visit,” Wilson said, pausing as emotion caught his voice.

Elder Paulsen thanked God for his undying love for his family. He told of the strength that he received when members told him that they prayed for him by name. “We’re meant to give each other hope, strength, encouragement.”

Paul Ratsara praised God that, “while we are doing the business of the church we are also talking about personal salvation. I pray that I will be more intentional about Bible study and prayer.”

Gordon Retzer told of his recent near-death experience, and testified that he knew what people thought about when they are dying because he had experienced that. And it was simply the cross, and knowing that nothing can separate us from the great gift of God’s love.

As the hour drew to a close, Wilson asked the president of the Chilean Union to pray, noting the wondrous story of rescue that was occurring as the miners were being pulled up from the collapsed mine in Chile.

After the prayer, Elder Wilson started singing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” and the delegates became a choir. With prayers and song the meeting ended in a gentle spirit. Delegates went on their way expressing gratitude for the opportunity to share with each other.

Business completed, revival begun.

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