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The Final Pitches: Annual Council Diary, Day Six


It was the last day of Annual Council. General Conference Vice President Lowell Cooper was pitching a document on governing board autonomy, independence, and accountability in colleges and universities. He said the original version of the document had been circulated to the administrations and board chairs of the various Adventist colleges and universities. Recommendations from that group had been used to revise the document that was being presented. As usual the chair of the meeting asked if there were any comments. And this time, surprisingly, there were. I say that because at this year’s meeting, which has been very cordial, there has been little discussion. Many seemingly major items were passed with no comment whatsoever.

However, on this item, several people went to the microphone and expressed support of the document, beginning with Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union where La Sierra University has been caught between the regional accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Adventist Accrediting Association about board independence. He expressed appreciation for the fine work done on the document.

Others from the international community noted that the document needs to be able to serve the global education community with a real mosaic of competing interests. It is a very fine line to balance, and this document holds the balance well, one division president said.

Ed Zinke, a lay representative from the North American Division, however, requested that the word “beliefs” be added to the document, saying that members expect institutions to do more than have an Adventist ethos – they expect beliefs to be taught.

Chair Pardon Mwansa suggested that Zinke move to amend the motion if he wanted the document edited. Zinke did.

There were more comments supporting the document as written, and one in support of the amendment before the vote.  And then as quickly as a third strike, the amendment was defeated. The document was approved.

The rest of the final inning of the committee meeting played out uneventfully. The model constitution and bylaw documents were quickly passed.

Changes to these documents had been explained the night before and committee members were given the homework assignment of reviewing them before the vote.  The major changes, Cooper had told the committee, were to arrange all the model constitutions for unions, unions of churches, and conferences in a standard way so that it would be easier to find information.

Bold text in the model constitutions represents material that has been voted by the General Conference Executive Committee and is thus required to be in every constitution. When the Executive Committee votes changes, each union at its next constituency meeting must also approve those changes.  Such votes can now pass on a simple majority, rather than requiring a two-thirds vote. However, any changes to the unbolded material that the union constituency might approve would still require a two-thirds vote.

Another addition to the constitutions included wording to allow the divisions to call a union constituency meeting if the union did not call one in a timely manner, or to call a special constituency session. With a new phrase added, the documents also now say that it is the duty of union officers to carry out not only the plans voted by their constituency, but also “to carry forward the work according to plans, policies, and programs voted by the division’s executive committee.”

A final agenda item saw the deacons and deaconesses of the local church placed under the direction of the Ministry Department that already serves the local pastors.

And with that the work of the Executive Committee was done for 2013. Ballgame over.

Just wait till next year, though, when those fundamental belief documents will need to actually be discussed, and whatever motion the Theology of Ordination Study Committee proposes, will come to the floor. That promises to be quite the event.

Image: Adventist News Network

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