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President’s Blog

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Ministering to Our Children, Youth and Young Adults-The Time Is Now! -Part II

Last time, we began our discussion on what is our theme for our conference this year: The Time is Now! This theme centers around one of the two imperatives for our conference (I shall talk about that other imperative once we finish our discussion on this one). Aside from the fact that ministering to our own children, young people and young adults is the right thing to do, it is also something that we have to do, if we are going to survive as a conference. When I was a little boy growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, my church school principal said something to us when I was in second grade that I have never forgotten. I have repeated variations of it many times-especially in these past few years: “What you are to be, you are now becoming.” In other words, the type of churches and conference that we shall be in the future-if the Lord does not come first-we are deciding that now-by the things we are (and are not doing) today. If we are not ministering to, training and making disciples of our children now, then in the future, when we need ministers, church leaders and disciples in our churches and in our conference, those ministers, church leaders and disciples are not going to suddenly and magically appear-the preparation for what kind of church and conference we shall be tomorrow happens (or does not happen) today. The reason why I am so passionate about this is because I am a product of this process. I was blessed to grow up in this church. I was blessed to have Christian parents who believed that this was God’s church. They were not blind to its [...]

Ministering to Children, Youth and Young Adults-“The Time is Now”-Part I

In this final blog for 2015, I would like to thank God and the workers and constituents of the South Central Conference for all of the good things that have happened this past year. We just had our final Executive Committee meeting for the year a few days ago. The Treasurer reported to us things that indicated that the Lord has blessed us.  Through the first 10 months, we have a 6% tithe gain, an operating gain and we were able to grow our reserves by about $300,000 so far this year. We were blessed to vote a preliminary budget for 2016 (the final budget gets approved in March, after all of the 2015 figures are in) that allows us to all of the things that we felt we needed to do.  We are hoping to hit 1,000 plus baptisms again and while our church school enrollment is a little down this year, it is significantly up for the past 5 years-which runs counter to the trend in the North American Division. It would be very misleading of me to say that there are no challenges; the truth is, I have not slept particularly well the past two nights thinking about some of our challenges. But the Lord is good and greatly to be praised. As the calendar turns towards 2016, I would like to share with you one of the challenges we are asking the Lord to help us to focus our energies for the upcoming year-ministering to children, youth and young adults. I was privileged to come to the conference office 25 years ago to serve as the Youth Director. We had not yet moved into the office that we now occupy. I [...]

Presidential Blog: A Grand Opportunity

It all started when Donald Trump, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, said that his denomination (Presbyterian) was “middle of the road,” but “the Seventh-day Adventists (the denomination of Dr. Ben Carson, another leading candidate)?  I don’t know,” he said. From that remark, sprang a discussion, “Who are Seventh-day Adventists?” All kinds of media: U.S. Today, The Washington Post, etc. My former colleague in Youth Ministry, Dr. G. Alexander Bryant, the Executive Secretary of the North American Division, was given a last minute invitation to appear on Glen Beck’s radio program to answer the question, “Who are Seventh-day Adventists?,” and the Lord used him in that setting in a mighty way.   The candidacy of Dr. Carson has brought unprecedented attention and publicity to our church. I saw this first hand when I was at the grocery store in my neighborhood and the cashier asked me was I “going to support your friend, Ben Carson.” I was asked virtually the same thing after I spoke in one of our churches a few Sabbaths ago. Like most things in life, there are both opportunities in and potential problems with the candidacy of Dr. Carson for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Whether Dr. Carson’s candidacy is an opportunity or a problem for the Seventh-day Adventist Church depends largely on we Seventh-day Adventists. Here are two ways that I think we can cause Dr. Carson’s candidacy to be a problem: If we focus on Dr. Carson’s political views: Carson’s political views are just that-his political views. In this country, he has the right to believe whatever he wants to believe. He is a Republican candidate for President; not the Adventist candidate for [...]

South Central Young Adults Delegates to General Conference Featured On the Cover of Southern Tidings

Southern Tidings recently featured the first-time delegates to the recent General Conference session in San Antonio. In particular, the emphasis was on young adult delegates. The two young adult delegates from South Central were Elder Debleaire Snell, Senior Pastor, Huntsville First Church, and Dr. Temika Simmons, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Delta State University. The other delegates from our conference were Elder Kennedy C. Luckett, Senior Pastor, Louisville Magazine Street, Dr. James McGriff, a Doctor of Anesthesiology, from the Huntsville Oakwood University SDA Church, along with Elder D.C. Edmond, President, South Central Conference. Generally speaking, delegates are chosen by unions and represent a particular division. Accordingly, the aforementioned five individuals were delegates from the North American Division, as selected by the Southern Union. There were approximately 2,500 total delegates, approximately 250 of which were from the North American Division. Southern Union-the largest union in the North American Division, having surpassed Pacific Union approximately 15 years ago-had 41 delegates. In addition to the five individuals from South Central that were selected by the Southern Union, Dr. Leslie Pollard, President, Oakwood University and Dr. Carlton P. Byrd, Senior Pastor, Oakwood/Speaker/Director for Breath of Life, were chosen as delegates by other entities. It is also the practice of the Southern Union to send the members of their Executive Committee to the General Conference as special guests. Mrs. Aubrey Shoemaker, Layperson, Morristown, Tennessee and Mrs. Sandra Hawkins, Layperson, Montgomery Bethany, attended General Conference attended in that capacity. Lastly, Elder Auldwin T. Humphrey, Executive Secretary, South Central, and Mrs. Merkita Mosley, Treasurer, attended as special guests as well. The process of delegate selection in the Southern Union begins with the submission of a suggested list of delegates from around the Southern [...]

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 [...]

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, [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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. [...]