President’s Blog

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 […]

By |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
Innovation
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 […]

By |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 […]

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

News and Notes-Part II

Last time, we talked about reprising what I called “my former life, as the Youth Director.” I mentioned how much I loved being Youth Director; to be the Youth Director of the South Central Conference in those days might have been the best job in the Adventist Church.

We have a very gifted and dedicated Youth Director now-Elder Vandeon Griffin-and he loves being Youth Director-just as I did. But it is so much harder now-so many more distractions, so many more things to take young people (and older people’s) attention away from the things of God.  I had it much easier than he does. But working with people is still a wonderful job.  As I said, I loved it-I truly did.

Anyway, I shared with you last time that in my former life, I did a monthly newsletter and in it was a section called “News and Notes from Over.” In it, we talked about things that were happening around the conference and around the church. We said that in this one column, we wanted to do that once more.

Last time, we talked about two things: Camp Meeting and an initiative for 2015 from the conference office: An emphasis on the visiting the smaller churches to mid-sized churches in our conference:

Here is a tentative list of the smaller churches that I am planning to visit in 2015:

Alabama:

Anniston/Gadsen
Athens Trinity
Birmingham International
Harvest
Decatur
Dothan
Eutaw
Fultondale
Harvest
Hurtsboro
New Market
Sylacauga
Tuskegee
Florida:

Panama City
Kentucky:

Campbellsville
Louisville NL
Owensboro
Paducah
Radcliffe

 

Mississippi:

Batesville
Belzoni
Brookhaven
Laurel
McComb
Moss Point
Tupelo
Vicksburg

 

Tennessee:

Decherd/Fayetteville
East Cleveland
Jackson
Kingsport
Nashville New Life
North Cheatham County
South Nashville

 

(Where two churches are listed together it means that I am planning to visit the district and shall ask the Pastor to suggest which of the two churches he would like for me to visit. I also plan to visit the following large churches: Huntsville Oakwood University, Memphis Breath […]

By |September 10th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

News and Notes from All Over – I

I began my service in the conference office as the Director of Youth Ministries back in 1990.  Back in those days, I was one of the youngest people in the conference office-that is hard for me to imagine now.

When I came to the conference office, we were in the process of moving from the old building to the building where we are now. The old conference office was considerably smaller than the building the Lord has blessed us to have now.

Here is how small the old conference office was: In the few months I worked in that building before the new building was completed, not only did I not have my own office-I did not have my own desk. 

There was just enough room to accommodate the staff that they had prior to my being elected as Youth Director. But my predecessor in the Youth Department, Elder Joseph McCoy, also served as Conference Secretary, so when the constituency voted to divide his responsibilities, that meant adding another person to the staff.

But there was no office space to accommodate anyone else in the old building. Elder McCoy was kind enough to allow me to share his desk-he worked on one side of it and I worked on the other. It is interesting and amazing to look back and see how far the Lord has brought our conference.

While I was Youth Director, I began the practice of sending a monthly newsletter to the Pastors and the Youth Leaders of our conference. At the end of the newsletter, there was a section called “News and Notes from All Over”, where I shared various things that were going on around the conference and other places.

I want to reprise those days […]

By |August 20th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

Thank God for a Good Year – The Conclusion

In the first two parts of this series, we looked back at the year 2013.  I shared with you that I recognized the unusual nature of reviewing the previous year nearly halfway through the current year.

But this is an outgrowth of our April Executive Committee meeting, where we reviewed the finances of the previous year (which we do each year at the first Executive Committee of each year).

We shared with you the ten goals for the conference for 2013 that were shared with the Executive Committee at our first meeting for 2013. We shared with you each of those goals and the fact, that by God’s grace, nine of those goals were reached.

In this final installment, I would like to talk about the goals for 2014, and in that discussion, we shall talk a little bit about the goal that we did not reach.  

I believe that it is very important that goals are set: By individuals, organizations, churches, corporation, etc. When I was a young Pastor, Elder C.E. Dudley, who was the President of our conference in those days, used to tell us “Some people aim at nothing-and hit it” (something I have repeated to our workers 1,000 times)-everybody needs to set goals.

I shared the goals for our conference that I am asking the Lord to help us achieve in 2014, with our Executive Committee a few months ago. Please allow me to share them now with you:

(1)  1,000 baptisms, with a retention rate of at least 70%. We have been blessed in this conference with unprecedented baptisms these past several years, for which we thank God. We have set a baptismal goal each year, and the Lord has blessed with the consistent reaching […]

By |June 4th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|1 Comment

Thank God For A Good Year-Part II

If you are just “tuning in,” it may seem a bit strange to be reviewing 2013, when nearly six months of 2014 have already passed. But we shared with you that in our last Executive Committee meeting-which was a few weeks ago-a part of what we did was to review the final financial numbers for 2013.  Additionally, since that is the first of the quarterly meetings of the Executive Committee for the year, we also shared our goals for the conference for 2014. This series is about some of what was shared with the Executive Committee.

Last time, we shared with you the goals that we shared with the Executive Committee for 2013. These goals were shared at our first meeting in 2013. At each subsequent meeting and at our monthly office staff meetings, we share the progress that the Lord has given us towards those goals.

Here are those 2013 goals (a line drawn through indicates that the Lord helped us to reach said goals):

1,000 Baptisms
4% Tithe Gain
Operations Gain
Discover Retention’s Percentage
Pastoral Evaluations
Continue reduction of percentage of budget going to salary/expenses without layoffs
Complete Oakwood Academy Building Project
Adequately house E. E. Rogers School in Jackson, Mississippi
Sell Camp Ground
Increase Church School Enrollment

Last time, we shared a brief summary of the first four goals, with the exception of the one goal that we did not reach-a tithe gain of 4%. We shall address that in our final article in this series.

Here is a brief summary of Goals 6-10:

Goal 6: Continued Reduction of the Percentage of the Budget That Goes to Salary and Benefits, Without Laying Anyone Off! At least some of you have heard me say this many times:

Relative to our needs, we do not have enough workers!

If we […]

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

Thank the Lord for A Good Year – Part I

At our April 13, 2014 Executive Committee meeting, we examined the final financial numbers for the year, 2013. With the receipt of that information, we were able to close the book on 2013 and do a final comparison of the goals that we set for our conference last year and the progress that the Lord blessed to make towards accomplishing those goals.

Below are the goals that we shared with the Executive Committee one year ago. The ones with lines drawn through them are the ones that the Lord enabled us to reach last year:

1,000 Baptisms
4% Tithe Gain
Operations Gain
Discover Retention’s Percentage
Pastoral Evaluations
Continue reduction of percentage of budget going to salary/expenses without layoffs
Complete Oakwood Academy Building Project
Adequately house E. E. Rogers School in Jackson, Mississippi
Sell Camp Ground
Increase Church School Enrollment

As you can see, thanks to our workers, our people and our God, every goal was reached except for one.

Here is a brief summary of each goal:

(1)  1,000 Baptisms: For the fourth year in a row, the Lord blessed us to go over the 1,000 mark in baptisms. The Lord gave us 1,139 baptisms.

As far back as we could check, there had not been a time in South Central where we had baptized over 1,000 individuals for three consecutive years-the Lord has blessed our conference to do that for four consecutive years. Here are the churches and Pastors whom God used to lead the way:

Dr. Carlton Byrd/Elders Julius/Williams/Wilson, Oakwood University-120
Elder Debleaire Snell/ Elders Hill/Greene, Huntsville First-92
Elder James Owens, Memphis Longview-87
Elder Harold Goodloe, Mobile Emmanuel-77
Elder Willie Black, Nashville New Life-63
Pastor Shawn Moss, Memphis Bethany-42
Elder Fred Batten, Memphis Word of Life-39
Pastor Michael Lewis, Selma/Thomasville-32
Elder Kennedy Luckett, Louisville Magazine Street-28 & Elder Dorian Melo, Multicultural Director/Crossville/Boaz/Gadsen/Oakwood Spanish-28
Elder W.C. Scales, Bessemer/Eutaw/Brent-27

In addition […]

By |April 28th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

The Election of Dr. Sandra Roberts As the First Elected Female Conference President – The Conclusion

Last week, we ended with a question: Can we say that someone who has every other qualification, e.g., the experience, the education, etc., that we normally would like to see in a conference president be denied solely because she is a woman?

That question is a” hot potato”-believe me. But it is something that we in the Seventh-day Adventist Church have to settle. And we simply cannot settle it, without talking about it. And we cannot talk about this issue, without talking to people on both sides of the issue-and talking to each other-even when we disagree, in a civil and Christ-like manner, one that honors that God we all serve.

I said last time that I would give my answer to that question. I do not pretend that my answer is some divinely inspired answer to a discussion that, in some way or the other, has been going on in our church for decades.

The late Elder C.E. Dudley, who was the President of South Central for thirty-one years, and who I believe was gifted by God to be one of the greatest administrators in the history of our church, had a saying (actually, he had many sayings-I wish someone had written a book about them) “Where you stand, depends on where you sit.”

I think what he meant was that one’s position on a particular issue (except for issues where the Lord has directed us to take a particular position) is often shaped by where we are serving at a particular time; in other words, often times, our position that we take is often shaped by the position that we have.

I have the privilege of being the President of South Central Conference.  One of my major responsibilities […]

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments

The Election of Dr. Sandra Roberts As The First Female Conference President – Part II

Last time–which was two months ago-we talked about the General Conference’s position relative to the election of Dr. Sandra Roberts as the President of the Southeastern California Conference–the first elected female President of our conference in the history of our church (Mrs. Phyllis Lee Ware–then, Ms. Phyllis Lee –served as the Interim President of Central States approximately 20 years ago. Mrs. Ware current serves as the Treasurer for the Office of Regional Ministries and now resides in our conference).

We used the words of the author, Steven Covey, last time: In order to be understood, seek to understand. We said that while one might not always agree with a particular decision, it would seem good to at least to try to understand it.

We began by looking at the position of the General Conference President, Dr. Ted Wilson.  His position was that the General Conference would not recognize Southeastern California’s election of Dr. Roberts, because the world church does not recognize the ordination of women. By policy, conference presidents must be ordained.

We said that, whatever one may think of Dr. Wilson’s non-recognition of Southeastern California election of Dr. Roberts, his position was understandable; yea, it is the only position that he could take. The world church does not recognize the ordination of women as pastors. By policy, all conference presidents have to be ordained pastors. Therefore, it would be the position of the General Conference that Dr. Roberts-or, any other unordained person–male or female–could not be a conference president.

We said last time that Dr. Wilson’s position is perfectly understandable. Dr. Wilson is the President of the General Conference. He has to uphold the policies of the General Conference, as long as those policies do not violate “Thus […]

By |February 7th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments