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General Conference-Day 9: The Final Day-I Am Proud to Be an SDA

Today is the final day of General Conference.  Now that the business sessions are completely over, the focus for the weekend is on fellowship and worship.

The highlight today for me-and I suspect, most people-is “The Parade of Nations.” That is when a representative of each of the 215 or so countries where we have a Seventh-day Adventist presence, comes across the stage in their native custom.

At the Parade of Nations in Atlanta in 2010, the Southern Union was asked to provide the representative for North America. The Southern Union, in turn, asked the South Central Conference have the honor of providing the representative. We asked one of our delegates, Mrs. Queen Robinson, who was then Principal of F.H. Jenkins SDA School in Nashville and now, the Associate Superintendent of Education, to be the representative for the North American Division. She walked across the stage carrying the United States flag. I still remember how the place erupted when the announcer said “The United States of America!”

What is special about The Parade of Nations for me is that it shows the worldwide nature of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Secretary of the General Conference, Dr. G T Ng, told us in his report that the United Nations recognize 237 countries in the world. Of those 237 countries, there is a Seventh-day Adventist work in 215 of them.

Lately, you will hear and read a lot of criticism about the Seventh-day Adventist Church-most of which comes from Seventh-day Adventists.  Some of that criticism is justified. There are a number of things that we need to do better. One of the sobering and humbling things of which I remind myself, about myself, is that in addition to all of the […]

July 11th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 8: The Day After

Day 8 seemed anti-climatic after the long day of addressing the issue of Women’s Ordination. Additionally, the Nominating Committee has all but finished its work and has made its final major report.  Additionally, only a few loose ends remain for this morning’s business session.

The final loose end, that remained from the Women’s Ordination vote on Wednesday, was for me to telephone the ladies that we have on our Pastoral staff, to make sure that they were all right.

Behind the business that needed to be transacted on that day are real people. Even if you disagree with Women’s Ordination; even if you disapprove of women Pastors, it is probably not really difficult to understand that Wednesday was difficult for them. Though it was certainly not intended that way, Wednesday’s vote was a lot closer to home for our female Pastors.

In some ways, it is kind of like Constituency Meeting for those of us who are in office. I have had the honor of being elected or re-elected in 5 constituency meetings. Please believe me when I tell you that constituency meetings are not very much fun.

I chuckle now thinking back at all the people who say to those of us who are the subject of votes at constituency meetings (and I can chuckle now, because I have had my final constituency meeting in South Central where I am standing for elected office) “If you are not re-elected, don’t take it personally.” And-in theory, there is a lot of truth in that.

At a constituency meeting, the people are free to ask you to serve or not serve. And when the constituents decide to make a change that involves you, first of all, they have every right to […]

July 10th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 7: God Has Spoken-Let the Church Say Amen

As everyone is aware by now, on yesterday, the General Conference delegated voted 1,381-977 not to pass the proposal that would have allowed the 13 divisions to decide whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry.

All day long, the delegates asked for the presence of God in the Alamo Dome and for Him to have His way in the process. One of the hard lessons that I have learned in my life is that you cannot pray for God to have His way and then rebel when things do not go your way.

The process was fair. The vote was clear. Ellen White is very clear on the fact that God has invested major authority in the vote of the delegates at a General Conference session-there is no higher authority on this earth. I am very clear on the responsibility that comes with being a part of God’s world church. You do not get to ignore the things that you do not like.

There is a song that we sing sometimes at the end of church service on Sabbath:

Let the church say Amen
Let the church say Amen
God has spoken
Let the church say Amen

I consider yesterday’s vote as God speaking to His church-even though that vote went differently that I wished for it to go. I shall comply with that vote and I shall ask South Central to comply as well.

I have seen some criticism of the General Conference leadership relative to its decision to have the delegates decide as to whether women should be ordained as Pastor. It was felt by some that the General Conference leadership should have decided.

Ironically, had the General Conference leadership actually done that, then, they would have been criticized for being arbitrary […]

July 9th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 6: This is the Day

Instead of sharing with you what happened yesterday, I am simply going to say a few words about today: Today is the day that the delegates of the General Conference are going to vote as to whether the 13 world divisions of our church will be granted the ability to decide whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry.

I went to bed a little earlier last night and I got up a little earlier this morning for the purpose of spending a little extra time with the Lord. I do not say that for the purpose of sounding pious. The simple fact is that if there was ever a day that God’s people needed to pray, it is today.

Today, the entire church-and the entire world, to some degree; I read an article about this in The Washington Post –in watching to see what we are going to do-and more importantly-how we are going to do it.

I am not going to share my position on this issue with you this morning. For one thing, I do not think my position is much of a mystery. More to the point, my position is not very important.

I know what I want. But far more important that what I want, is what God wants. And ultimately, what I want is for God to direct His church today to do whatever it is that He wants.

I am fasting and praying-and I am asking as many of you as are able to do the same-that God will indisputably demonstrate today that He is the One Who is in control of His church.

My predecessor and mentor, Elder Benjamin Browne, used to say all the time, “I want God to be President of […]

July 8th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 5: Lamentation Vs. Speculation

Day 5 dealt primarily with 2 things:

The fundamental beliefs of our church, and,
The elected leaders of our church, specifically, the Vice Presidents, the Associate Secretaries and the Departmental Directors of the General Conference

It was made clear to the delegates at the beginning of the discussion on fundamental beliefs that no changes in the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were being contemplated. The changes were more editorial in nature, dealing with the fact that certain words had different meanings now than when they were first inserted in our fundamental beliefs.

One example was the common use of the term ”man” as a generic word for the human race. It is more common now to use words that are more gender-neutral, such as “human beings.”

We shall begin our blog tomorrow by mentioning the fundamental belief that caused the most discussion-Fundamental Belief Number 6, which dealt with creation occurring in 6 days that consisted of 24 hours each, with the 7th day being a rest day.

While that may not seem as though it is something that would cause a lot of debate, it did. Tomorrow, we shall briefly discuss why I believe that it did and what that means for our church in the future.

The action that sparked the most debate-especially among African-American Seventh-day Adventists-was the recommendation of the Nominating Committee on the General Conference Vice-Presidents. Going into the General Conference session, there were 9 General Conference Presidents.

Four of the incumbent Vice Presidents retired. It is probably safe to assume that, to the extent people thought about it at all, that there was an expectation that the Vice-Presidents who retired would all be replaced.

Instead, the number of Vice-Presidents was reduced from 9 to 6. Of the 5 […]

July 7th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 4: I Still Believe in the Captain

I had an experience when I first came to work in the conference office that reminded me of the challenges that we shall face in this General Conference session over the next 3-4 days. I have used it as a sermon illustration dozens of times, so some of you reading this will quickly recognize it.

I was flying to California for a meeting. I was excited-for one thing; it was my very first major trip in my new job.  Second, I have always liked visiting California.

This particular time, the weather was just terrible flying out of Nashville-it was raining cats and dogs (I have always wondered: Where we do we get some of the expressions that we use? For example, I just said, “It was raining cats and dogs.” Where did that come from? Cats and dogs have never fallen from the sky. Here is another one: “The whole 9 yards;” we use that to describe completeness. But why 9 yards, why not 10 yards, or 8? When I ask my wife those kinds of questions, she patiently looks at me-we have been married for 37 years; she is used to it-and says,   “Everything does not have to be logical.” Anyway…)

The fact that the weather was bad did not deter me. I got on the plane and settled in for the 4 hour flight to Phoenix, Arizona and from there, we would go to Los Angeles.

We were not in the air very long before the plane nosedived; I mean, it just dropped-not a good sign. A few minutes later, it happened again-an even worse sign.

Now, I am not at all afraid of flying. The alternative to flying for me is driving. I ran into one of […]

July 6th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 3: The Sabbath

Sabbath at the General Conference session is special. There is no business to address on Sabbath, so the main item is Sabbath School and Divine Worship service with 50,000-70,000 fellow believers. It is quite something to behold.

Mrs. Edmond and I walked the mile from our hotel to the Alamo Dome. She carried her shoes with the high heels and walked in her low heels-as did some of the other ladies. It is an interesting phenomenon with which you ladies are familiar: Wear one pair of shoes to walk in and carry another pair, essentially, to sit in church (as soon as church was over, my wife changed back into her walking shoes). Usually, I do not understand those kinds of things, but I actually get this one-I could not walk a mile in 90 degree heat and 3-4 inch heels, either.

The day began with Sabbath School. There was a concert that included Lyndon Carriger, the husband of Pastor Tina Carriger, our Seminary intern, whom the Lord used to do a beautiful number.

The three individuals who led the Sabbath School lesson study were introduced by the person who served as the editor of the Sabbath School lesson for the quarter. They did a fine job as well.

By tradition, the sermon on the first Sabbath of GC is given by the incumbent General Conference Secretary.

There was a special prayer of dedication for the three General Conference officers, given by one of the General Conference Vice-Presidents. The VP’s were the platform participants for Divine Worship. There are 9 General Conference Vice-Presidents. That may sound like a lot to some people, but this is a world church and the 9 Vice Presidents are each assigned to different areas of […]

July 5th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

General Conference-Day 2: The Re-Election of the President

Day 2 began with the reports of the General Conference Secretary and the Treasurer. The Secretary’s name is Dr. G.T. Ng; in the few meetings that we have had together, he is most often referred to as “G.T.”-for reasons that are pretty obvious to me-no one can pronounce his name!

I remember when the General Conference had their Spring Council in Huntsville a few years ago, at the Oakwood University Church. For the Sabbath service, I was asked to give the welcome and then to introduce one of the many special guests that were present that day. I was supposed to introduce Dr. Ng, which was a challenge, since I had never met Dr. Ng and had no idea how to pronounce his name.

The person in charge of the program had mercy on me and switched my assignment and asked me to introduce the North American Division President, Elder Dan Jackson; his name, I could pronounce!

Dr. Ng (pronounced “ing”) gave a very interesting report, one that informed us of both the blessings and the challenges of being a part of a highly diverse church. At the end of 2014, there were nearly 18.5 million people in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Last year-and for each of the last 10 years, I million people were baptized into God’s church.

Most of that growth came outside of North America-specifically in Africa and in Latin America. The membership in those two areas compromises roughly 70% of the church, while North America is down to down to 7%. By way of comparison, in 1960, North America comprised approximately40% of the Seventh-day Adventist Church-the same percentage that Africa has today.

Diversity is a wonderful thing but it brings challenges. It means making changes because […]

July 4th, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

First Thoughts From the General Conference Session-Day 1

In our last blog, we shared some final thoughts before the General Conference. If you have not read it, I hope that you take a few minutes and read our call to prayer. We are asking everyone to pray daily for the General Conference and especially for the discussion on Wednesday-the vote on the issue of Women’s Ordination.

Whatever your position on this issue, all of us want the will of the Lord to be done. We also want to be able to address this issue-and every issue at this General Conference-in a manner that is pleasing to God and in a way that will bring glory to His Name.  

Therefore, in South Central, we have issued a call to prayer each day of the General Conference and a day of fasting and prayer for next Wednesday.

Mrs. Edmond and I arrived for the General Conference session on yesterday. To my delight, Mrs. Edmond arrived without the 9 million pairs of shoes that she brought to the GC session in Atlanta five years ago- she brought only half as many as she brought to Atlanta. That is still three times as many as I brought-but still, that’s progress!

It is probably just as well that she left a lot of her high heels at home. One of the differences between Atlanta and San Antonio is the transportation system for the delegates.

Five years ago, there was a superlative shuttle system that ran between the hotels and the Georgia Dome-the site of the 2011 GC session.  With the exception of the final day of GC, just about any time of day-up until about 11:00 p.m., there was always a shuttle bus between the hotels and the dome. Not only […]

July 3rd, 2015|Categories: 10 Day GC, President's Blog|0 Comments

Final Thoughts before the General Conference Session – A Call to Prayer

In a few days some 2,500 delegates, plus another 60,000-70,000 Seventh-day Adventist from around the world, will gather in San Antonio, Texas, for what is called General Conference, or in Adventist parlance “GC.”

Five years ago, when the General Conference session was in Atlanta, my late mother, Mrs. Marcelle Edmond, suggested that I do a daily blog from the session and share some news and notes with those of you who are unable to attend. I took her suggestion.  It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it.

My mother passed away several months after the GC session in Atlanta.  Even though she will not be able to read it, I am following her counsel and doing a daily blog from General Conference–beginning this Friday morning. I hope that you will enjoy it.

Even more than that, I hope that what will happen in San Antonio will strengthen the mission of the church and hasten the day when Jesus comes, and I can see my parents once again.

Before GC begins on this coming Thursday, I would like to share the following information and thoughts:

1. Some of Our Members Who Operate Restaurants in Our Conference, Will Provide Meal Services during the GC. The Owners of Jamaica Way in Nashville, TN, and Mangos in Huntsville, AL, are collaborating in San Antonio.

While it is not my practice to endorse businesses or products, I do believe that we should try to be very intentional about supporting businesses that are operated by Seventh-day Adventists as often as we possibly can. As a conference office, we have used the services of these businesses on several occasions, and we wanted to make you aware of their services in San Antonio.

An information picture/link is provided […]

July 1st, 2015|Categories: President's Blog|0 Comments