We want to pause our series on “ The State of the Conference” to briefly address two issues: The end of an era, relative to our Adventist Book Center (ABC), and the beginning of an era, relative to a new Pope.

We have already spent a lot of time addressing the whys and wherefores of the closing of our ABC; we shall not re-open that discussion. Today, I want to give a farewell salute to our ABC Manager, Theron Thomas.

The single most difficult issue that any Conference President has to address, at least for me, is when a worker leaves the employ of a conference for reasons other than by their choice. Usually, the conference is being forced to react to a decision that the worker has made that is in violation of the policies of the conference.

However, that is not the case with Brother Thomas. He was brought onto a ship that was already sinking (a fact that he was told prior to his accepting the position). He worked very hard to save the ABC. Moreover, he was always pleasant and easygoing, despite being under tremendous pressure. Even after he was told that the ABC would close and that his job would end, he never changed his attitude or his work ethic.

There are two sayings that people have told me that have stuck with me. The first one came from a Pastor who did a Week of Prayer in my church school when I was a little boy, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. I have long since forgotten the name of the Pastor, but I have never forgotten what he said: “You are what you are, under pressure.” In other words, how we deal with the adversity that comes from the outside tells something about who we are on the inside.

Then, our former Conference President, Elder Benjamin Browne, told me something when I was privileged to work with him that I have remembered as well: Maturity is revealed when you don’t get what you want.

Observing the fine way that Brother Thomas has handled the great pressure of the last few months and the maturity that he demonstrated when he did not get what he, or the rest of us, wanted (that being, the ABC being able to remain open) has told me a lot about the kind of person Brother Thomas is and the kind of spiritual and emotional maturity that he possesses.

Intellectually, the decision to close the ABC was not very difficult. All one had to do was to look at what is happening in ABC’s across the country and to look at the bottom of line of our ABC. The financial position of our ABC made the decision to close it fairly easy. The character of person running our ABC, made that decision very hard. I know that the Lord will take care of Brother and Sister Thomas. They are going to be all right. But please remember them in your prayers.

The second noteworthy issue was the recent election of the head of the Catholic Church. For the first time in about 600 years, the Pope resigned. Like many of you, I was intrigued by the process that led to the selection of the new Pope.

The main thing that fascinated me was the enormous, world-wide attention that the election of the head of the Catholic Church elicited among non-Catholics. Other than the President of the United States, I do not believe that the election of anybody, anywhere, for anything, commanded anywhere near the attention that the election of the Pope.

I remember watching what looked to be the equivalent to our delegate registration process for our constituency meeting. All of the Cardinals marched in one by one, stepped up to some sort of podium and gave their names and then said something (I did not know what they were saying-they were saying it in Latin).

But NBC interrupted their daytime programming to televise something that no one could understand, in a language that no one uses, about the very beginning of the process to elect a religious leader of a church that the majority of the country does not attend. This was not the actual election of the Pope; that would not take place for a few days. This was merely a kind of voter registration process. But it was nationally televised. Amazing!

Can you imagine any other church getting that kind of attention? The new Pope was on the cover of Time Magazine; and USA Today ran a special commemorative issue.

I am not at all saying that all of this attention is bad or unwarranted. I am saying that it is astounding. 3ABN is not televising delegate registration at a General Conference session to Adventists. A secular network televised the Catholic equivalent to the nation. Amazing.

Mrs. Edmond and I were blessed to be part of a study tour of the 7 Churches of Revelation this past summer. It was one of greatest experiences of my life. On our way to Turkey, where the tour began, we stopped in Rome, Italy. We arranged to visit Vatican City, where the Pope lives. It was a fascinating experience, beginning with two Americans who knew absolutely no Italian, taking a city bus across town and thinking that, somehow, they (my wife and I) would be able to figure out when and where to get off the bus (we did, but only because a nice Italian lady figured two things that were rather obvious about my wife and I: One that we were probably not from around there and Two, we didn’t know where we going, and pointed us in the right direction. Getting back from the Vatican was another story).

One of my enduring memories of our Vatican tour was coming out of the Vatican at the end of it, and seeing people, many of them no doubt-non-Catholics, like Mrs. Edmond and me, lined up for blocks, in the hot, summer sun,waiting to pay money to get inside the Vatican. Amazing! I wonder how many of us would wait outside of our church, for hours, in the sun, to pay money, to get inside of our church.

The Catholic Church has a power that no other church has, at least no other church in the Western world. Though our Catholic brethren do not seem to wield that power in the same manner that they once did, looking at the world attention that the election of Pope received, it is not hard to imagine them having that kind of power once more. And the Book of Revelation is pretty clear about what will happen then.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we need not be afraid of what will happen when that happens. We only need to be afraid that we become careless and fail to prepare for what we know the Bible has said will happen.

As for the immediate future of this blog, we shall pick up next week with “Next E” in our 7 E’s; “Equipping Our Workers”.