During the sixth and final day of the North American Division Year-End Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, the meeting moved into executive session to review policy edits and vote. NAD president G. Alexander Bryant reminded the group that these motions and votes can only take place during the year-end meetings.
Elden Ramirez, serving in his official capacity as NAD undersecretary before he leaves to join Lake Union Conference as secretary, presented the consent agenda, which included calendars of meetings and church offerings through 2023, and a change requested by the Guam-Micronesia Mission that would help clarify that not everyone holding teaching credentials would serve as a delegate at large, but rather specify under article VI section “c” those who will serve as delegates in that category. These changes were passed with a 99 percent vote.
Policy agenda came next, including department name changes, and review of the L Policy, which covers credentials and ordinations. L Policy changes included updated vernacular and processes, adjusting wording for clarity, merging two sections, bringing wording into harmony with the General Conference working policy, stating a time frame for a candidate to be granted commission (four years), and adding a deadline for application for financial assistance for seminary graduates (three years).
The motion to accept these changes passed with a simple majority of 54 percent, causing several attendees to express concern that not everyone understood what was being voted. Additionally, others pointed out, a vote so close to being down the middle was concerning. Bryant asked that all concerns be sent to the secretariat for submission to the committee for review. Further amendments and motions will be presented during the 2022 year-end meeting.
Review of Y policy meant simply approving the removal of a part of the plan that doesn’t exist anymore and passed with a 93 percent vote.
Official guidelines for Sabbaticals were presented, based on those already in existence from the GC, and simply meant for ease of adoption for the few conferences that do not already have their own. This, too, passed with a 93 percent vote.
Financial Policy Review
Moving into the financial policy portion of the executive committee session, Randy Robinson, NAD treasurer, presented.
Working capital changes were recommended based on a new calculation, and changes to the policy were made accordingly. Concerns shared centered on preservation of funds limiting what conferences are able to do to further the mission of the church. Robinson urged each conference to determine what they are able to do at a local level while still maintaining their ministry.
“We are trying to be careful with God’s money,” Robinson said, “but we also recognize conferences need to be able to deploy funds for mission work.”
This adjustment passed with an 83 percent vote.
A follow-up motion came next to accept policy adjustments made to accurately reflect GC auditing standards. The motion passed with a 92 percent vote.
Following this was an adjustment to liability requirements, the most significant being that the minimum general liability coverage each organization must obtain has increased from $3M to $5M, based on risk assessments and actual losses. Related to this, and included in the same motion, was changing the language regarding cyber liability insurance from “may obtain” to “must obtain.”
Comments were focused on the obvious increase in financial burden such requirements create. The motion still passed with a 97 percent vote.
Next was an amendment to the language discussing clarification of the very specific use of tithe within the church. There were no comments or questions, and the amendments were approved through a 91 percent vote.
Finance committee agenda addressed remuneration policies as well as policy-driven assessments and allocations for institutions, and special assistance variance, as recommended by the treasurers’ council. The latter passed with a 95 percent vote, but remuneration policy spurred greater discussion.
The first action requested was to increase remuneration in the United States by 5.4 percent, effective July 1, 2022; and in Canada by 2 percent, effective August 1, 2022. Many attendees expressed concern regarding the large jump in one year, creating a significant increase in expense, particularly daunting on the tail of decreased church attendance and possibly lower tithing due to the pandemic. One individual asked if the increase could be spread out over two or more years.
Robinson explained that these numbers were based on the most current CPI (Consumer Price Index).
“This is not a raise for employees, we’re just keeping up with inflation,” he explained. Robinson also added that the intention is for organizations to increase remuneration by “up to 5.4 percent,” and that local organizations can evaluate relative to their ability to pay and how they manage their resources. He agreed to update the policy language to include the words “up to” for auditing purposes.
Further concern was expressed over the ability of organizations to choose which percentage to use, stressing that it may create “disparity in wages” between geographical areas, making recruiting employees difficult for some. Others pointed out that they are still working to catch up from previous increases and this change simply adds difficulty to that process.
Despite these concerns, several attendees shared their support of the adjustment, stating that they wanted to do what they could to take care of their people, and felt their employees deserved a pay increase.
“We recognize this is not an easy discussion,” Bryant conceded. “It’s difficult to balance the needs of the employees with the realities of the organization.”
The motion was accepted with an 88 percent vote.
A follow-up motion to also offer the 5.4 percent COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase to retirees passed with a 94 percent vote.
A final motion was made to accept adjustments to the working policy for remuneration for seminarians, mileage changes (Canada only), and pension factors to assist in figuring retirement benefits. This passed with a 98 percent vote.