On September 30, 2018, about 600 delegates met at the Lodi Fairmont church for the 2018 constituency session of the Northern California Conference.
The large church filled quickly as the NCC constituency meeting began. I stood at the back of the church with others who had not found a seat soon enough and now there were none left.
We heard the wonderful testimonial of a member of the Concord International Church in which a small group had come together there to pray intentionally for the neighborhood around their church and for “the Lord of the harvest to send workers.” They’ve since experienced exponential growth and many from the neighborhood around the church.
My happy excitement for this was soon dulled as the voting began and there seemed to be a small group voting “no” on everything, even things that seemed beneficial to all. Why would this be happening? Are these the people that want to see our youth director Eddie Heinrich replaced and are showing discontent in this manner? I simply couldn’t understand if this behavior was linked in that way.
As the morning continued on, a few delegates began the process of bringing attention to the fact that five items were submitted to the conference to be included in the agenda and needed to be added. Kathleen Nixon began this process at the point of order microphone by stating that this constituted a point of order violation. Marc Woodson clarified that the executive committee of the conference evaluates whether all items for the agenda are beneficial to the conference as a whole.
These items we soon learned included expecting SDA colleges and universities to report to the constituency when a breach of doctrine has occurred in the institution. One even went as far as expecting students to be screened and not allowed into the institution if they aren’t in agreement with our doctrine. Thankfully one delegate pointed out that the constituency does not sit on the boards of higher education institutions and doesn’t know how each problem area is decided. We are not privy to that information and it wouldn’t be appropriate to bring it to this group.
The first of the possible agenda items in question dealt with a pastor within our conference that allegedly baptized a person whose sexual practices are in question. As the discussion went on I was horrified that something of this nature was paraded out in this venue. This is a personnel issue and a large constituency meeting is not the place to throw out this information. Such a large number of people, and even those that thought they clearly understood the situation, are not privy to personnel information, nor should we be. Quite frankly, I wished my ears had not been tainted. I’m grateful every day that I don’t sit in a position where I have to have those difficult discussions and make difficult decisions in personnel issues.
Over and over I see that when we take up the sword to fight the Lord’s battles, we are entering the devil’s territory where he blinds us from the fact that the sword should be the Sword of the Spirit and used only to fight our personal battles within the heart. This was the problem with the crusades (and we know how that turned out), and as the “Christian” church focused on the terrible scourge of pagans in the far off lands, the devil was able to turn their eyes from getting to know their loving Savior and sharing that love with their neighbor.
The verses in Proverbs 6 flashed in my mind as I stood in the meeting. God has called speaking false witness and sowing discord among the brethren abominations. When we speak what we do not understand completely and in a place that is inappropriate to bring a positive change, we are doing the abominable before God. I understand this so well because I’m just as guilty and maybe more than anyone else; my extrovert self often speaks when I should be quiet. I often pray for wisdom to know when to hold my tongue and that I will speak only blessings and not curses. I want others to know me for my love. I want others to know my church for its love.
Ephesians 4:29 reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” I heard words of edification at the beginning of our constituency meeting, both from the member of the Concord International church and from Elder Ricardo Graham. I was edified by those words. I want that to be what our church meetings, our lives, our existence as a body of Christ are all about. God will fight for His church; let’s trust that to His all-powerful hands and be about the business of spreading His love to those within our sphere of influence.
Susan Parker Fleming is an educational specialist for South Sutter Charter School, a homeschooling charter located in seven counties of the Sacramento region of California.
Image courtesy of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.