Failure to Launch
Major updates as Adventism gears up for the 2019 Fall Annual Council
Failure to Launch
Spectrum Magazine released an article this week gearing up for this year’s Annual Council. Do you remember Compliance Committees? They took the Adventist world by storm last year as the General Conference (GC) took steps to address non-compliant entities within the denomination. Turns out, however, these committees could soon be a thing of the past. Last week, the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) voted to kill them off and bring that action before the Annual Council in October.
In case that wasn’t controversial enough...
The GC has also decided to revisit the topic of abortion. Although the church issued official guidelines in 1992, it has never taken an official position. After two years of study and multiple drafts, the Biblical Research Institute Bioethics Committee (BRI) has developed a new statement. The 15th revision of the BRI document was distributed August 9 to a small committee of health care representatives, but the committee heavily criticized the document, arguing it does little to address concerns regarding family dynamics, clinical judgment, and ethical principles for decision-making. Instead, it mainly consists of references to scripture and arguments from a solely theological perspective. Along with the current guidelines, this newly-formed BRI statement is now helping to inform a newly-formed ADCOM working group with the intent to prepare an official statement draft for the upcoming Annual Council. The collective of 26 members (23% of whom are women) from at least 17 countries includes theologians, medical practitioners, clinicians, healthcare administrators, and Church administrators. The age demographics of the group were not published.
I give tithe parity a... 1 out of 10.
Tithe parity is the last big-ticket item to be addressed that we know of. Each division passes a certain percentage of its tithe to the world church, a.k.a the GC. Some divisions contribute more than others to the world church budget and tithe parity is focused on equalizing tithe contribution across the board for all divisions. The North American Division (NAD) is seeking to reduce its portion of tithe given to the GC, eventually making it equal to other divisions. At 2018’s NAD year-end meetings, the division voted to reduce the amount of tithe given to the world church. While most of the world divisions have historically given around 2%, the NAD was giving 8% back in 2012. Since then it has been reducing its tithe contribution, giving 6.35% in 2018. The GC gives final approval over tithe distribution to the world church, so although NAD and GC officials have met, they have not reached a clear conclusion to present to the Executive Committee.
Word on the street is…
Compliance Committees were already a controversial subject in Adventism. Both sides of the aisle seem to be in agreement that the committees, having no actual authority to discipline non-compliant entities, were not the best way to address the compliance issues. Regarding abortion, many Adventists think our official guidelines are perfect as they are - favoring life, but extending grace and acknowledging individual conscience (i.e. not prohibiting choice). Others are celebrating the move to craft an official statement, as they believe the current guidelines do not denounce abortion clearly enough and allow too much room for interpretation for those wishing to justify abortion. Lastly, regarding tithe parity, many in the NAD are thrilled to have more money staying local within the division (to clarify, it’s going to local churches and conferences, not all to the NAD budget), but others are conflicted because they feel a strong responsibility to support the world church financially. There are also many Adventists who are frustrated by the entire process, as they feel like they have no say in where their tithe contributions actually end up.
A Baptismal Extravaganza: Close to 800 Baptized in Cameroon
Big league baptism
A two-week evangelistic series held at 1,200 locations around the Central-South Cameroon Adventist Conference culminated in the baptism of almost 800 people. Of this number, 265 were baptized by about 40 pastors at a massive ceremony held on the campus of Yaounde Adventist College at the end of the evangelistic campaign on Sabbath, August 10. This was a major event in the city, complete with added security and disruption in traffic patterns. The evangelistic campaign included more than just sermons and musical numbers, with community service and outreach as key events on the agenda. At the ceremony at the Yaounde campus, Roger Vincent Same, director of personal ministries and evangelism for the West-Central Africa Division, presided over the donation of 100 canes to the blind, school supplies for 100 orphans, and food for 26 impoverished families. The goal was to meet not just spiritual, but physical needs as well. Both the Adventist Review and the West African Division website provided glowing reports of this successful endeavor.
Dakota Conference removes NAD and GC policy references from their constitution
If I don’t talk about you, do you really exist?
In June, the delegates of the Dakota Conference voted to remove any wording which indicates the conference policies will be in harmony with the NAD working policy and the GC doctrinal guidelines. Instead, their wording states: “This conference shall pursue the mission of the church as stated in the 28 fundamental beliefs.” Other members in the conference have reacted strongly, accusing the conference of exercising “kingly power” - a phrase coined by Ellen White in reference to overstepping GC leaders in her time. The conference president responded via newsletter that the goal is to give Dakota conference members more of a voice. He countered the accusations by implying the GC has too much authority and the greatest and loudest voice in Adventism finds its voice at the local conference level.
Contributors: Ryan Becker, Andrew Carroll, Sean Maycock
Editors: Ryan Becker, Kevin Christenson, Jill Evans