The General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (GC), as is practice, sends a representative from the each of the Church’s top offices – presidential, secretariat, and treasury – to the Year-end Meetings of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions. This year, the representatives, Juan Prestol-Puesan, GC treasurer; Ella Simmons, general vice president; John Thomas, associate secretary; attended and participated in the North American Division’s 2019 Year-end Meeting. In addition, Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, GC education director, also attended the business sessions.
On Sunday, November 3, Simmons and Thomas presented the General Conference’s strategic plan, “I Will Go” for the Church’s next quinquennium – 2020 through 2025. The executive committee also voted to accept the “Resolution of the Bible” statement that will be presented to delegates of the 2020 General Conference Session in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“You, all of you seated here, are the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Those of us who are at the General Conference are here to serve you. You are the Church,” said Simmons before the presentation.
Gordon Pifher, NAD vice president for media ministries, shared a video report on the division’s seven media ministries — Breath of Life, Faith for Today, It is Written, Jesus 101, La Voz La Esperanza, Life Talk Radio, and Voice of Prophecy.
“One of the best gifts that the North American Division has is the gift of Adventist Media Ministries,” said Pifher. “The dollars we put in are multiplied again and again by dollars they receive to provide some of the best resources we have to share the good news and the promises of Jesus’ soon return.”
At the conclusion of the report, Mark Galvez, a student delegate from Southern Adventist University, advocated for sponsorships of young adult-produced podcasts.
“Students from my campus and other campuses are giving of their own money, not from a source of many funds, but from passion and empty pockets,” said Galvez. “They are relevant voices of the church as well. I can guarantee you that many of my friends are not asking, ‘Where do the dead go after they die?’ Or many deep theological questions. We're asking questions about depression, anxiety, and ‘Why my brother died of an overdose?’”
“I think it's important for the youth to see young adults who are hosting podcasts to give them a voice in Spanish or in any other language,” continued Galvez. “Our target audience isn't secular it’s unchurched. If the North American Division can exemplify to the rest of world that we give to our youth and young people, then we can [help the church] move forward.”
The comment generated support from the executive committee, including the president of the division.
“When you think about our media ministries, generally speaking the individuals who initiated those ministries, they were individuals who had a dream and a passion,” said Daniel R. Jackson, NAD president. “My challenge to you and your colleagues is to produce then submit and to keep doing it, and if no one is listening, start your own.”
“That was a tremendous contribution to our meeting. We will do our best to direct and support where we can,” continued Jackson as he thanked Galvez for sharing.
A motion was presented — and subsequently passed — by Deborrah Jackson, NAD member of the General Conference Executive Committee, to allow the young adult delegates to draft a proposal on how the division can best support their endeavors.
NAD Institution Reports
Three NAD institution reports were given, starting with Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press Publishing Association, who presented a report on the publishing house that put a different spin on Adventists as “People of the Book.”
“When we say that, we usually mean the Bible, but I want to expand that to talk about benefits of reading,” said Galusha.
He highlighted a number of statistics on the benefits of reading, including how six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, and how adults who read 30 minutes a week report feeling 20 percent more satisfied with their lives than those who don’t read as much a week.
“I invite you to find a selection of faith-building books at your Adventist Book Center, take time to go and read, and then share a book with a friend,” said Galusha at the conclusion of his report.
Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University, shared how the school is diversifying its revenue streams, expanding services that will be offered to the city of Huntsville, Alabama by students, and reaching new demographics. This year alone, the university applied for and received its first prime contract from the U.S. government; started construction on its Farm-to-Table Eatery that is expected to open in January 2020; and partnered with the Southeastern Conference for an evangelistic campaign in 16 Hispanic congregations in Florida that yielded 50 baptisms and the enrollment of 27 new students.
Following Pollard, Brad Forbes, president of AdventSource, introduced two resources that will be available for local churches in the new year. “Beyond Greeting: Establishing Guest Services in Your Church” is a kit that will help church greeters effectively welcome and connect visitors.
“In a society where more and more people have never been inside a church building, we want to make sure that when they take the step of stepping inside your church that we have a plan to make sure they are not ignored and [end up] never coming back,” said Forbes.
Forbes then introduced the curriculum for the 2020 Vacation Bible School program, “Heroes,” which was produced in partnership with NAD Children’s Ministries. The program will help teach children how to be brave for Jesus. Further, for the first time, the VBS curriculum from AdventSource will be fully available in Spanish.
After the report, Kwasi Ansah-Adu, president of the Quebec Conference, applauded the ministry for it work, but petitioned leaders to develop ways to make resources produced by the Church available in French on a consistent basis. The same sentiment was echoed by Daniel Honore, president of the Northeastern Conference, and Calvin Watkins, president of the Southwest Regional Conference, who specifically spoke about the need to reach the growing West African communities in Texas. Conrad Vine, a lay person from the Michigan Conference said French-printed materials can also be used by missionaries sent by the division to serve in western Africa.
Jackson asked for Ansah-Adu, Honore, and Watkins to meet with Forbes and Tony Anobile, NAD vice president for multilingual ministries, to help facilitate the best and most effective ways of producing needed resources for French-speaking church and community members.
Response to Requests for Action
On Sunday afternoon, the agenda allowed for members of the NAD executive committee to hear how the GC responded to the body’s requests for action regarding two items. The first was a voted document that outlined a process for dealing with non-compliant Church entities. (Click here to read the NAD’s original response to the document.) The second was the division’s request for financial parity to be accomplished in two to three years. (Click here to read an article detailing the parity discussion and action.)
Although not directly stated, implications of the document regarding non-compliant entities were directed toward the two unions within the North American Division that have ordained women to pastoral ministry — a practice that is not of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s governing policies. During the 2018 Year-end Meeting, a writing committee was formed to draft the following response to the document that references non-compliant entities:
- We respectfully request, in light of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and in harmony with the call for unity in the body of Christ in Fundamental Belief No. 14, that the General Conference Executive Committee at its 2019 Annual Council rescind the action approving the document.
- We respectfully request that the 2019 Annual Council revise any policies that enable majority fields to dictate the management of non-doctrinal, non-biblical issues to minority fields (1 Cor 12:26) and create policies that protect the interests of minority fields.
- We respectfully request that an item be placed on the 2020 General Conference Session agenda calling for a statement by the world church that: (1) affirms our shared respect for the richness and variety of the multiple cultures and practices in which we minister; and (2) empowers ministry that is sensitive to the local context (Acts 15; 1 Cor 9:19-23).
NAD president Jackson shared that the officers of the General Conference reviewed the requests and even read the official minutes from the business session where the discussion on the matter was held.
“To the first request, they said, ‘We cannot do that, we will not present that to the body of the 2019 annual council,’” said Jackson. “To the second request they said, ‘This is not practical, and would be hard to manage. We will not take this to the body.’ And to the third request they said, ‘We think we can do that.’”
This launched approximately an hour-long discussion on the matter, which concluded with a motion presented by Neil Biloff, president of the Dakota Conference, to resubmit the first two items back to leaders of the GC in hopes that they will be presented during the 2020 Annual Council. The motion was passed 138 - Yes, 87 - No, and three - Abstain.
Remembering Kirsten Wolcott
The day concluded with a special presentation on behalf of the Guam-Micronesia Mission (GMM). Dan Weber, director of communication for the North American Division, introduced a short film that honored the life of Kirsten Wolcott, a student missionary who was murdered while serving on the island of Yap 10 years ago. Weber shot the majority of the footage for the project that was edited by Nina Vallados-McGill and Rachel Scribner, both producers/editors the NAD contracted with to create the film and a longer version that will be shared in GMM this November.
Following the film, Ken Norton, president of the mission, invited the Wolcott family to the stage and offered a special prayer. Before delegates left the auditorium, Norton invited them to a special evening reception sponsored by GMM.
Click here to watch the entire afternoon business session, including the screening of the short film, that took place on Sunday, Nov. 3
Visit the NAD Flickr page to see photo coverage of day four of the 2019 North American Division Year-end Meeting.