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Reviewing the Review: GC Bulletins Edition

General Conference Bulletins 1-8

June 25-July 8: Well, gentle reader, I’ve read every word—the magazine info, business meeting reports, online church manual minutes and Ted Wilson’s inaugural sermon. What follows is a sample of what I found interesting, illuminating, funny, sad, pompous, moving, and comforting. I’ll end with a bit of humor and a paragraph from Nathan Brown’s blog on Adventist Today along and two reactions to his essay, Self-contained, Self-sufficient and Self-centered. Those sentiments go a long way toward summarizing my intellectual and emotional reactions to what I experienced during my self-appointed assignment, i.e., to post this review of the proceedings.

Note: the following excerpts are verbatim accounts; however, they do not always appear as they were originally transcribed. Paragraphs in quotes are from Ted Wilson’s inaugural sermon.

Signs of Christ’s coming are increasing in frequency and intensity every day. Destructive events in nature, the great confusion of world politics, the pervasive and compromising activities of ecumenism, the dramatic increase and influence of spiritualism, the deterioration of world economies, the disintegration of societal and family values, the disbelief in the absolute authority of God’s Holy Word and the ten commandments, rampant crime and moral decay, wars and rumors of war, on and on. All point unmistakably to the climax of earth’s history and the Lord’s return to take us on the final journey home to heaven.

Wilson began his church career as a pastor in 1974 in the church’s Greater New York Conference. He served as an assistant director and then director of Metropolitan Ministries there from 1976 to 1981. He went on to serve in the church’s then Africa-Indian Ocean Division, based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, until 1990. There he served as a departmental director and later as executive secretary, the second highest officer.

Photo: Gerry Chudleigh/ANN

Following his post in West Africa, he served at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, as an associate secretary for two years before accepting the position of president of the church’s Euro-Asia Division in Moscow, Russia, from 1992 to 1996. Wilson then came back to the United States to serve as president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Hagerstown, Maryland, until his election as a General Conference vice president in 2000.

An ordained minister, Wilson holds a doctorate degree in religious education from New York University, a master of divinity degree from Andrews University and a master of science degree in public health from Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health.

But that which the Lord in His mercy has given to us in clear language to be taken as fact simply because He said so must not be shrouded in skepticism. Don’t go backwards to misinterpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis or other areas of Scripture as allegorical or merely symbolic. As just this week we have once again affirmed in an overwhelming manner, the Seventh-day Adventist Church both teaches and believes in the biblical record of creation which took place recently; in six literal, consecutive, contiguous 24 hour days. The Seventh-day Adventist Church will never change its stand or belief in that foundational doctrine. If God did not create this world in six literal days and then blessed the Sabbath day, why are we worshipping Him today on this seventh-day Sabbath as SEVENTH-DAY Adventists? To misunderstand or to misinterpret this doctrine is to deny God’s Word and to deny the very purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist movement as the remnant church of God called to proclaim the three angels’ messages with Holy Spirit power.

The church triples in membership, from 5 million to 15 million. In Africa the increase is fivefold, to more than 5 million. The North American Division shrinks to only about 5 percent of world membership…The General Conference sessions change as the church changes. No longer are they dominated by the North American Division. They become livelier, more difficult to handle, more difficult to predict…But two constants remain: mission and unity. These quinquennial convocations do not go the way of the World Council of Churches, with demonstrations and power struggles. Adventists remain one in hope, one in mission. William G. Johnsson.

The observance of the Sabbath is not only a sign of His creatorship in the beginning but will be THE sign of God’s people in the last days in contrast to those with the mark of the beast representing an attempt to keep holy a day which God has not set apart as holy…The third angel [of Revelation] announces that “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand” he or she will be tormented or destroyed with fire and brimstone. If you worship the beast and his image you are rejecting THE one sign God has proclaimed as His test of allegiance…the seventh-day Sabbath.

RAY ROENNFELDT: I’m concerned just a little that we are adding a lot of material from Ellen White. Now, I highly value Ellen White as a guide for the church. But we are people of the Book. . .

Let us read the Spirit of Prophecy, follow the Spirit of Prophecy and share the Spirit of Prophecy. There are so many wonderful books to share including the one book Ellen White indicated she wished distributed more than any other, ”The Great Controversy.” Thank the Lord for the religious freedom in this and other countries that allows us to share truth. The Spirit of Prophecy is one of the identifying marks of God’s last-day people and is just as applicable today as ever before because it was given to us by heaven itself. As God’s faithful remnant, may we never make of none effect the precious light given us in the writings of Ellen G. White.

HOMER TRECARTIN: Mr. Chairman, it has to do with use of tithe. On page 114, line 31, there is an addition clarifying that there are some exceptions spelled out in General Conference Working Policy. It’s talking about the use of tithe.

Homer Trecartin, undersecretary of the General Conference. Photo: Robert East/ANN

I don’t know what barriers you are facing today. I don’t know what barriers you think the church is facing today. Whatever they are, God has a way through.

HOMER TRECARTIN: Whereas I thoroughly sympathize with our brother from Norway for bringing the point, and it could be simply inserted, I think we need the proper counsel of the Church Manual Committee on this matter, since the text recommended came from the New International Version. We have some folk in my conference who have broken off because they do not want the NIV quoted in Adventist literature. We will seek to give them guidance; but for all these reasons we do well to respect the process that has been established and not to depart from it for now.

During the business sessions of this General Conference, you have been pleading for revival and reformation, for the Holy Spirit and the latter rain. Brothers and sisters, it is time…the Lord is coming soon! He wants to use His remnant church in a most powerful way.

ARMANDO MIRANDA: “Music is one of the highest arts. Good music not only gives us pleasure but elevates our minds and cultivates our finest qualities. God often has used spiritual songs to touch the hearts of sinners and lead to repentance. On the contrary, debased music breaks down morality and draws us away from our relationship with God.” Mr. Chairman, I move the recommendation.

Armando Miranda, general vice president of the General Conference. Photo: Robert East/ANN

Go forward, not backward! Use Christ-centered, Bible-based worship and music practices in church services. While we understand that worship services and cultures vary throughout the world, don’t go backwards into confusing pagan settings where music and worship become so focused on emotion and experience that you lose the central focus on the Word of God.

JEROEN TUINSTRA: I believe the text at hand, as we have it here, is too much open for abuse. In the development of this General Conference session, in which we have taken statements on sexual abuse of children and the abuse in general of women and children, I believe the text at hand is too much open. The text here leaves it open for child marriages and marriages that are forced. I believe this is an open church, not a closed church. We’re creating an atmosphere in which we close our Church Manual to people. I would like to move an amendment that will read as follows: “Marriage, thus instituted by God, is a monogamous, loving relationship between two mutually consenting adults.” [The amendment failed to pass.]

Jeroen Tuinstra, director of Youth Ministries for the Netherlands Union. Photo: Robert East/ANN

Historical-Biblical method of understanding scripture, allowing the Bible to interpret itself; line upon line, precept upon precept. However, one of the most sinister attacks against the Bible is from those who believe in the Historical-Critical method of explaining the Bible. This unbiblical approach of “higher criticism” is a deadly enemy of our theology and mission. This approach puts a scholar or individual above the plain approach of the scriptures and gives inappropriate license to decide what he or she perceives as truth based on the resources and education of the critic.

In order that enemies of the Church may not gain access to our pulpits, no one should be allowed to speak to any congregation unless he/she presents a current denominational credential or license. It is recognized, however, that there are times when congregations may be addressed by government officials or civic leaders; but all unauthorized persons should be excluded from the pulpit. (See p. XX.)

The cloud held back the Egyptians while the Israelites went forward in faith across the Red Sea. Can you imagine the excitement of more than a million people walking down into the sea on a dry road? Imagine the thrill as children saw fish swimming as if in an aquarium?

RACHELLE CHAPMAN: I would like to say that I understand the difficulty and why more major changes haven’t been made to the manual. But some of the more sensitive issues haven’t been adjusted. The sections I’m referring to are on youth, dress, music, recreation, and entertainment. I believe that what is contained in those sections is based on sound biblical principles. But I think some of the specific examples have become culturally irrelevant. . . I also question the validity of us voting on chapters as a whole. . . Is it valid for us to vote on whole chapters if we are not permitted to question anything other than the highlighted sections?

Rachelle Chapman lay delegate from the South Pacific Division. Photo: Robert East/ANN.

Just as the Bible is not outdated or irrelevant, neither is the testimony of God’s end-time messenger. God used Ellen G White as a humble servant to provide inspired insight about Scripture, prophecy, health, education, relationships, mission, families, and so many more topics.

PARDON K. MWANSA: Before it is seconded, I see a point of order is being raised. I would like to encourage the delegates to ask yourselves, before you raise a point of order, “Is it a point of order, or is it something that really is a discussion item?” In other words, I’m expecting that something has happened that should interrupt the meeting. That would be a point of order that would help us do the business of the Lord. Much of what is being raised as points of order is in fact discussion. I appreciate your help on that.

Pardon Mwansa, general vice-president of the General Conference. Photo: Robert East/ANN

Stay away from non-biblical spiritual disciplines or methods of spiritual formation that are rooted in mysticism such as contemplative prayer, centering prayer, and the emerging church movement in which they are promoted. Look WITHIN the Seventh-day Adventist Church to humble pastors, evangelists, Biblical scholars, leaders, and departmental directors who can provide evangelistic methods and programs that are based on solid Biblical principles and “The Great Controversy Theme”.

“Those who indulge the habit of racing through an exciting story are simply crippling their mental strength, and disqualifying their minds for vigorous thought and research.”—CT 135. Along with other evil results from the habit of reading fiction, we are told that “it unfits the soul to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny” and “creates a distaste for life’s practical duties.”—CT 383.

When we, in all humility, lean completely on the everlasting arms of our Lord, He will work through us in a mighty way to give the final message of mercy to a dying world.

After consultation with the General Conference and division officers, it was recommended that the General Conference accept this extraordinary tithe for the worldwide work of the church. This extraordinary tithe received by the General Conference totaled more than $106 million…Guidelines were developed for the use of these funds. More than 85 percent has been allocated to various initiatives and projects, many of which target the 10/40 window area and will be used over a five- to seven-year period for spreading the gospel. The unallocated remainder will be assigned after evaluating the long-term viability of these initiatives and projects.

Photo: Josef Kissinger/ANN

There has been a major shift in recent years toward more project giving, which has helped stimulate interest in missions and has been a great blessing in many areas. Various ministries and groups have taken on projects and have thus helped to strengthen the work. We praise the Lord for this! However, one of the drawbacks of excessive reliance on project giving is that attention spans can often be short. When there is greater need or more promotion in another area, most of the support is shifted to the new area, often leaving the local organization (if there is one) to carry on the project or outreach without sufficient resources. Sometimes all the progress that has been made is lost. The need for a strong mission-offering program that can sustain major long-term initiatives is doubly important as we focus on the 10/40 
window area. GC treasurer Robert E. Lemon.

Members of God’s remnant church, God is telling us as we come to the end of time, “Go Forward.” Go Forward in lifting up Christ and proclaiming God’s grace; Go forward in presenting the three angels’ messages; Go forward in pleading for revival and reformation; Go forward in following the Bible as it reads; Go forward in reading and adhering to the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy; Go forward in proclaiming to the world the good news of salvation and the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.

Following the 2000 General Conference session, most divisions began to look carefully at their church membership books. The resulting audits, which continue to this time, have greatly enhanced the credibility of our current world membership totals. At the same time, however, the diminishing of our church rolls through the auditing process has had a negative impact on our quinquennial growth rate as well as on our accession-to-loss ratios. Although our membership grew from 13,936,932 at the end of 2004 to 16,307,880 by the end of 2009, the resulting growth rate of 3.19 percent is the lowest within the 50-year period we have surveyed. Archives and Statistics Director Bert Haloviak.

Our success in finishing this work depends on our submissiveness to the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The elective side of General Conference sessions is their most interesting part. All other business comes to a halt when representatives from the Nominating Committee appear on the platform with the latest slate of recommendations of new leaders. Those selected by the committee appear before the assembly to be introduced as their names are read. Nothing, or almost nothing, is said concerning those who vanish from the limelight. The session returns to its business. I think we can do better. I think I ought to do better.

So, on behalf of all of us, delegates and visitors at the fifty-ninth General Conference session, let me say a word to anyone who right now is feeling a bit down—or way down—as a result of the elective process. We love you; we appreciate you. Thank you! William G. Johnsson.

Of note:

A few months ago I stood in the midst of a group of Adventists in the Dutch city of Delft. Five years ago we had no functioning church in this thoroughly secular city. Today, there is a thriving congregation of some 150 members. Why? Because a small group of Adventists chose this place to establish the “Alivio Foundation”—an organization that helps unwed teenage mothers among the Antillean immigrant community…For me, this phenomenal story represents a truth I’ve seen borne out many times: our response to the “stranger among us” is an unfailing litmus test for the health of our community. William G. Johnson


Paul and Martha Mawela, a South African pastor and his wife, went to retire in an unentered area. Still full of zeal, they put up a tent to do evangelism, but hardly anybody came. They realized that they needed a change 
in strategy.

Today, this couple and their team take care of 794 orphans, giving them one meal per day at seven different locations. They also support 90 child-led families in which orphans, some 
as young as 12 years old, take care of their siblings. At three different centers 78 elderly people are also fed daily; they are given spiritual food as well. Caregivers go out into the community daily, and people are also taught crafts and skills so that they can earn their own money. A tent is pitched, food is cooked, and the community is taught about tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.

The church has grown so much that a larger church will soon be built on land donated by the chief of the area.


Between November 1, 2008, and September 19, 2009, I engaged all the union conferences within the territory in a series of seven strategic dialogues called “Facing the Issues.” The union conferences were grouped according to language and geographical location, and each program was comprised of inspirational music and frank dialogues.

Participants at each setting represented an intergenerational group of members that included children (aged 8 to 14), young people (aged 15 to 30), and adults (aged 31 and older). The objectives of “Facing the Issues” were to:

  • Provide members of local churches with an opportunity to share their vision with respect to the decision-making process of the church at the highest level within the division;
  • Provide a forum for members to offer feedback about current programs, activities, and initiatives;
  • Provide a forum for officers and departmental directors of the IAD to clarify, where necessary, the shared vision of the division;
  • Provide an opportunity for dialogue on the strategic issues of the division with a view to deepen ideas or redefine the strategic emphases within the division;
  • Promote networking and team spirit, which are essential outgrowths of unity, one of the strategic values of the division.

President Bruno Vertallier reports on the work of the Adventist Church in the Euro-Africa Division


Women’s Ministries has initiated adult literacy programs in a number of places in different parts of India. Over the past five years 1,003 centers received the benefit of adult literacy education, which has benefited more than 22,000 women.

Women’s Ministries also assists in training women to support themselves in microbusinesses: weaving, basket-making, making pottery, growing livestock, selling fruit and vegetables. More than 650 families have benefited from this service.

Women’s Ministries initiated and conducted 2,408 evangelistic meetings during the quinquennium. As a result, 18,624 people accepted the Adventist message through the efforts of women in the church.

President John Rathinaraj reports on the Adventist Church’s work in the Southern Asia Division.

In conclusion:

Readers, what I have tried to do is give you a sense of the dynamic interplay of ideas and concerns in words other than mine. What is missing here are the sights and sounds, pageantry and dynamism of a world church in General Conference. I wasn’t there, and I hope that those of you who were will add a comment or two to set the record straight and/or share your experience with the rest of us.

Crowd applauds after Jonathan Musvosvi of the SID division finishes his sermon entitled “Living by Grace as Disciples and Disciplemakers.” Photo: Josef Kissinger/ANN

A bit of humor:

When time became an issue, the following comments were recorded after the Chair attempted to end an extended discussion prior to a pro forma vote approving the Associate Directors of the General Conference.

Gideon Chimaeze Nwaogwugwu: I am a little surprised that many of the people who have spoken against the motion are members of the Executive Committee. This church has operated on a system whereby an Executive Committee represents the entire church. If this gathering has lost confidence in the Executive Committee, we are in trouble.

Richard Osborn: I’ve often thought that in terms of the processes, we take more time to choose an elementary school teacher than we do the top leadership of the church.

In the words of three other onlookers:

Nathan Brown: Even our efforts to reach out evangelistically and practically became about [producing] evidence of our faithfulness, finishing our mission, so we are proved worthy and Jesus will return to take us to heaven. In this attitude, the souls of this world are merely cannon fodder in our war with the devil to salvage some to join us and affirm our rightness and faithfulness. The self-centeredness of this is as subtle as it is astounding.

ivanmirchev comments: I’m not an american and dont think to come live there. The live is not only a money. I can only smile when the progressive adventists are associated with the communists. As a bulgarian who know the mentality of the communist very well I find the american conservative adventism more close to the authoritarian communism.

I’m not progressive but I was offended by the sermon of Ted Wilson, it was as shooting with submachine gun. Very aggressive. The chair was used for beating the enemies. I didn’t see any vision (a image for the future church). I saw a “sweet” memories from the past.

To go back in the past with the beliefs is OK, but not for some 20-30 years but for 2000 years.

Doctorf comments: I have been in administrative meetings where “new leadership” is discussed and chosen. However, looking at the outcomes I am quite certain that despite our prayers to God for “guidance” these prayers either bounced off the ceiling or were unheard by the power brokers that vote on such matters. Many times the political die is cast before a prayer for guidance is ever spoken. I suspect that the choosing of a GC President, (or a Pope for that matter), although necessary, is a well orchestrated event, deeply political, motivated by many interests and does not represent a proceeding that involves “Gods guidance.”

Top-right image cropped from a photo by Robert East/ANN.

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