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South Central’s President’s Statement on Gay Marriage

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus:Happy Sabbath.Please allow me to share the following:On yesterday, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that legalized gay marriage in the United States.As President of the South Central Conference, it is important that I make the following things clear:

As Seventh-day Adventists, we are committed to following the Word of God, which teaches that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman. As such, though we respect the rule of law, gay marriages are not to be performed in the churches of the South Central Conference.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we are also committed to the belief that that ALL human beings are created in the image of God and are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We claim gays as our brothers and sisters in Christ and as precious souls for whom Christ died. While we shall not compromise our position on homosexuality, neither shall we shrink from our responsibility to treat gay men and women in the manner in which Christ would treat them.

May the same Holy Spirit that blessed and refreshed us during Camp Meeting rest on your worship today.

June 27th, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Riots – “Again?”

Many years ago, I was in my office in the home in Memphis where we lived at the time. I was gathering my things prior to leaving for a speaking engagement. I was the guest speaker for a Week of Prayer, back in the days when Week of Prayer was a regular occurrence in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Most churches used to have two Weeks of Prayer per year-a spring Week of Prayer and a Fall Week of Prayer. You would invite a guest speaker, and he would preach every night for a week.

I used to enjoy having them when I pastored churches and being invited to be a guest speaker for them. Back in those days, churches did not put their guest speakers in hotels as much as they do today. Doing a Week of Prayer meant spending a week with the host Pastor. I still have fond memories of those days; for example, literally collapsing on the floor in delirious laughter at 2:00 a.m. early one Sabbath morning. Dr. William T. Cox was my guest speaker; he is President of the Allegheny West Conference today. However, back then, we were two struggling young preachers, telling each other ministerial “war stories”.

We were both still young enough so that we could function the next day, which was Sabbath. Those were the days. Anyway…

I was leaving to go preach for a Week of Prayer. My daughter, who was about six years old then, wandered into my office. “Daddy,” she said.  “What are you preaching tonight?” I gave her the name of the sermon. It was one I frequently used  during Weeks of Prayer in those days-too frequently, apparently-because when I gave her the title of the sermon, […]

May 7th, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|1 Comment

The Other Side of the Cheese: My Response to Dr. Dwight Nelson’s Sermon on Ending “Ethnically Separate Conferences”

This article was supposed to be about the other side of the Young Adult Ministries Initiative. Part One dealt with our responsibility to our young adults-those things we want to put in place to bring our young adults into full partnership with those of us who are older, as we all seek to fulfill the gospel commission. Part Two was to be about those things that we shall ask from our young adults. This Young Adult Initiative cannot be one-sided. It cannot just be about what the church can do for young adults. But it must also be about what the Lord asks young adults-and everyone else-to do for His church.

To finish the work that God has given to us will take all of us and we shall need our young adults to be a part of that in ways that we have not invited them to be involved in the past.

I shall get back to that soon. But today I want to respond to a very important issue that has been raised of late. It began with a sermon a few weeks ago by Dr. Dwight Nelson, the long-time Senior Pastor of he Pioneer Memorial SDA Church on the campus of Andrews University. He preached a sermon on ending what he called “ethnically separate conferences.”  Whether he intended it to be taken that way or not, it was interpreted as being a call to end regional conferences-a stance that Dr. Nelson (and others, such as Dr. Jan Paulsen, when he was President of the General Conference) has taken previously.

That was followed by a forum on the campus of Andrews University that addressed the issue of our current structure, where we have what are called […]

March 23rd, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|7 Comments

Why I Did Not “Just Say No” To Surge

This blog entry was posted as a PDF,

Click Here To View “Why I Did Not ‘Just Say No’ To Surge”

February 17th, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

Young Adults: We Need You-This is Your Church, Too-Part I

Last month, the Executive Committee of our conference voted to ask Pastor Lola Moore, Pastor, Panama City/Greenwood, Florida, to serve as the Director of our newly formed Young Adult Ministries Department.

Few, if any conferences in North America have a stand-alone Young Adult Ministries Department. It is the cornerstone of our Young Adult Initiative. Along with the initiatives that are a part of our theme for 2015-2016, Moving: From Fellowship to Membership to Discipleship, the Young Adult Initiative is the highest priority for me in the 19 or so months that are left to me in this office.

Our Young Adult Initiative seeks to fundamentally change the way we operate in the South Central Conference by intentionally involving young adults (a group that we are defining as being between 18 and 40) in both how we operate our churches, our conference and in ministry.

We haven’t-I haven’t, been intentional about doing that and that needs to change, and it needs to change now; in fact, things have already begun to change, beginning with the historic and precedent-setting step and staffing a full-time Young Adult Ministries Department.

Then, our five person delegation from South Central to the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas this summer has two young adults in it-that is 40% of our total delegation-in 2011, we had none. Already, our three person delegation on the North American Division Executive Committee has one young adult; South Central is one of the few conferences with a young adult as part of its delegation-our representative, Ms. Nikkia Hampton, the Lead Teacher of the Chattanooga Avondale SDA School, is one of the youngest members of the North American Division Executive Committee.

A part of this initiative is to make a commitment […]

January 23rd, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

Response to the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Etc., Cases – “We Have to Talk”

In our staff meeting just before Thanksgiving, I promised that there would be a response from my office on the Michael Brown case. That promise came as a result of a question from some of the young adults on our staff. They believe, as I do, that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a responsibility to get involved not only in preparing men and women for a better life in heaven, but also to do as much as we can to make life the lives of individuals better on earth now. My wife’s illness and the Thanksgiving holidays delayed my response.

Subsequent to that time, a grand jury declined in New York to indict the police officer whose chokehold ended the life of Eric Garner. My colleague, Dr. Daniel Honore, President, Northeastern Conference, wrote a powerful letter to his constituents, asking for the responsible involvement of his Pastors and constituents in addressing what certainly appears at first glance to be an injustice. I affirm his leadership in this area on this issue.

I am not an expert on any of the cases that arrested the attention of our nation of late. One of the things that I have learned in this responsibility is that it is all too easy to judge something or someone from afar, without having all the facts-I have had that happen to me and I know I have been guilty of doing that to others in my life as well.

But there are at least three common and dismaying things that are true of the cases Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin:

All the victims were black

All of victims died at the hands of authority figures who were not black

Each of those responsible for the […]

December 8th, 2014|Categories: Highlights, President's Blog|0 Comments

News and Notes from All Over Church Organization – I

This is a continuation of a series we began a few months ago on what we called “News and Notes;” sort of mini-articles about things that are happening around our conference.

We said that we would share news and notes relative to six areas:

2014 Camp Meeting
2015 Small Church Visitation
Pastoral and Administrative Evaluation
South Central Conference Christian Education
Church Organization

We have reached our final news note-Church Organization. I thought about that this past August, when I had the privilege of being a part of the International Pathfinder Camporee, where nearly 50,000 Pathfinders from around the world came to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

It was one of the most impressive and inspiring things that I have ever witnessed; it made me proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Very few denominations in the world-if any-could do what was done in Oshkosh-to bring that many people from that many different places from around the world for such a good purpose.

The Pathfinders turned that campground in Oshkosh into a little city-indeed, there were almost as many Pathfinders on that campground as there were in the entire city of Oshkosh.  If the Pathfinder Camporee were a city-“Pathfinderville”-would have been one of the larger cities in the state of Wisconsin.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the ingenuity and the innovation of those who came along to prepare the meals. One of my academy classmates, Mrs. Brenda Platt Ashby, of the Mobile Cody Road Church, in the Gulf Coast States Conference, was the cook for her club. She gave me a tour of her “kitchen” (and a sample of the cookies that she baked). They had set her up in a camping setting as though she were a short order cook of a small restaurant.

While […]

November 26th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

News and Notes-III: Innovation and Organization

South Central has traditionally been a conference that has been on the cutting edge, as it relates to innovative ways to do ministry. Perhaps a lot of that has had to do with the kind of innovative people my predecessors in this office were.

I think of the late Elder C.E. Dudley, whose served this conference as president for 31 years, a period of time that allowed him to be the person that hired each of his three successors as young pastoral interns.

Elder Dudley was sort of the Thomas Edison of Conference Presidents. The Holy Spirit inspired him to “invent” things that were copied across the denomination. One legendary story (which was probably true) was the story of a president of another conference who so admired Elder Dudley’s work that at this conference president’s pastor’s meeting, he simply copied material wholesale from Elder Dudley’s pastor’s meeting and distributed to his pastors-he just put his conference’s name on it.

Elder Dudley came up with innovations such as the Infiltration Plan. He also birthed the Supplemental Retirement Plan, which provided employees with additional monies to supplement the rather meager retirement they received.

Elder Dudley was succeeded by Elder Joseph McCoy, another innovative leader. Elder McCoy originated the Regional Conference Plan, which more than doubled (in fact, almost tripled) the maximum amount that workers would get upon retiring.

To do that, on some level required Elder McCoy taking on the denomination. I had just become conference secretary and I remember discussing with Elder McCoy, as the final plans for this new retirement plan were being made, the fact that we both knew that his stand in creating a separate retirement from the denomination would forever close some doors to him, in terms […]

October 9th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments