Principles of Administration

Principles of Administration—No. 6

Part six of our continued looking at the principles used in church administration.

By J. L. McELHANY, President of the General Conference

The conference president is the presiding officer at all committee sessions. He needs the help and guidance of the com­mittee. If the conference is a large one and it is expensive for the committee to come together for frequent meetings, doubtless the president will at times have to act himself in certain matters, where otherwise he would not.

But if he is a wise leader, he will keep in touch with his associates in the work and with the leaders of the organization above him. He should not neglect or ignore the committee which has been elected to carry the responsi­bilities of the work with him.

Committee sessions should not be a place for visiting or for free-for-all discussions. The discussions should be held to the business in hand. Parliamentary rules should be followed to a certain extent, but we should not be such strict parliamentarians that we destroy the spirit of Christian fellowship and godly coun­sel. We should rather seek to make sure we are being led by the Spirit of God. Committee meetings should be conducted in the same spirit as the prayer meeting. The committee is doing business for the Lord. The presence of the Holy Spirit should be sought for and ' manifested. A spirit of lightness and frivol­ity should not be present.

Before coming up to the time for a com­mittee session, the president and his secretary should have an agenda prepared and all in­formation assembled that will be needed in considering the propositions in hand. Before bringing the various items to a vote, time should be allowed for full discussion of each topic so that the members can vote under­standingly. After a committee has taken ac­tion on the items considered, the chairman should not pocket veto them. It is his respon­sibility faithfully to carry out the committee actions. The committee itself is elected by the same constituency that elected the chair­man, and therefore has a responsibility to that constituency. All committee actions should be carefully recorded. If they are not recorded, confusion will result. I once attended a com­mittee meeting in which the case of a worker was under consideration. The chairman re­cited a long list of instances in which the committee had taken actions in the case of this worker. I asked to see the minutes, and found that in not a single instance was an action recorded in that case. If any such actions had been taken, there was a failure to record them.

The question has been asked, Does the local conference committee have a right to hold a committee meeting without the presence and approval of the union president? A balanced consideration of this question requires a two-fold answer. First, we may say that a local conference committee does have a right to hold a meeting without the approval or presence of the union president. A union president who denies this right is outside his own au­thority, and if he attempts to force this view on the local conference presidents, he is not building for strength in his field. If he is a largehearted and wise counselor, the local committee in his field will want him to attend their sessions; but if his presence is a matter of compulsion, his counsel will probably be re­sented instead of welcomed.

Secondly, we may say that one good reason for local committees' inviting the union president to their sessions is in order to secure united action among all the local conferences in the union. If there is to be a spirit of cooperation between the local and union conferences, the union president should help to bring this about. The local presidents are sometimes men of limited experience. If they are wise, they will realize their need of seasoned and experienced counsel, and will welcome the presence and help of their union leader. Such arrangements are usually worked out in a spirit of mutual confidence and good will, rather than by arbitrary order or forced de­cree. In general, we believe that a union president should attend a local committee meet­ing when his presence will be a help and a blessing.

General Conference officers and workers are always ready to give helpful counsel to those seeking it. However, the General Conference recognizes that the union conference is the next higher organization above the local con­ference, and that therefore the local confer­ences should go to the union conference for advice and direction in the conduct of their work. The General Conference recognizes this principle by refusing to pass on a call for a worker from one field to another, unless that call has been endorsed by the union confer­ence.

An Expanding World-Wide Work

You are meeting here today in the General Conference Committee room. This is the counsel chamber for the world=wide work of this cause. It is impossible for any one man to comprehend the vast magnitude of this work as it has spread out to all parts of the world. Those of us who work here have to struggle ourselves to keep abreast of its de­velopments. I might have brought here for your information some of our old Year Books that recorded our organization in years gone by. At one time the General Conference Com­mittee was composed of three men—quite a contrast to the General Conference Committee of this present day which numbers around two hundred.

If you were to sit here with us week after week you would realize more fully the work the General Conference Committee is called upon to do. It may be a call urgently request­ing us to hasten a doctor off to a mission hos­pital in Africa, where the need is great. Or it may be an even more urgent call for someone to head up a school in India or South America. We turn from that to hear a re­port on the situation facing our believers in Rumania. Next, we consider a cable to our leaders in China. In this way the world passes constantly in review before us, and day by day we are reminded that this is indeed a world movement.

We want you to know something about how the General Conference carries on its work. We want you to become thoroughly acquainted with the people who work in this office, and with their methods of work. We feel that one great advantage of having our seminary, lo­cated here is that we may become acquainted with you and you with us. So we welcome the students of the Theological Seminary into our midst.

The Divisional Organization

As mentioned in past lectures, we have the world field divided into divisions. These are sections of the General Conference. The offi­cers and departmental secretaries of the divi­sions are elected by the General Conference in session. In order to make clear that phase of the work, I shall quote somewhat at length from the "Working Policy of the General Conference," which in published form is com­bined with the constitution and bylaws of the General Conference. Under the general head­ing "Administrative Policies," we have these words:

"As the growth of the advent movement of the prophecy has led to the extension of the General Conference organization into the entire world, it is recognized that,

"1. As the Scriptures represent the church of Christ as one body, all the parts members one of another, so our Constitution, adopted by the repre­sentatives of the world-wide sisterhood of churches, seeks to express the unity and oneness of all our organizations that make up the world General Conference, which represents the one undivided remnant church of God."

"2. I shall pass by the second section and read the third.

"3   The General Conference is not something apart from the churches and conferences and union organ­izations, but is the sum of all these, the uniting of all the parts for unity and cooperation in doing the work which Christ instituted His church to accom­plish. The administrative authority of the General Conference is therefore the authority of the entire church joining together by this form of organization for the doing Of the gospel work and the maintaining of the unity of faith in all the world.

"4   As the churches unite in the local conference (or mission) for mutual help and cooperation in serv­ice, so the conferences grouped together unite in the union conference or union mission. In like manner the unions (and detached fields) in all the world are united together in the General Conference organiza­tion. For the more efficient administration of the world-wide work, the unions and the detached fields in great continental or geographical sections are set apart by the constitutional provision as divisions of the General Conference."

It is well for all clearly to understand this arrangement. That is why I am taking the time to read this.

"5   The larger and more extensive the work of these great divisions, and the less dependent any may become upon help from other divisions in the way of men or means, the greater the necessity of holding closely •together in mutual counsel and fellow­ship. It is ever to be held in mind that as the church of Christ is one and undivided, so each divi­sion is a part of the General Conference. In the church of Christ, which is His body, there can be no such thing as one part or member independent of the whole.

"6   As the divisions seek to cooperate with one another by keeping in close contact with the General office, carrying out the general policies agreed upon in council, so within the division all the organiza­tions, union or detached, should seek to maintain unity of action by keeping in close contact and counsel with the division office, carrying out policies agreed upon in divisional councils and executive committee actions."

Then follows a description of the divisional office, somewhat in detail.

"7   The general duties and relationships in the divisional office and field are as follows:

"a. The president of the division is the executive , officer placed in general administrative oversight of all activities in the division. As vice-president ,of the General Conference he is an officer of the General Conference, responsible to that body for administra­tion of the work in harmony with general policies, while being guided by the decisions of the executive committee of the division, of which he is chairman. It is his duty to stand as counselor to the officers' of unions or detached missions, as well as to those in charge of divisional departments or institutions."

I shall now read the section entitled "Re­lationship Between Organizations."

"I. The distinction between the union conference and the union• mission is generally to be regarded as follows : [This has to do with our mission field admin­istration, and I think all our workers ought to under­stand that distinction or difference. But when I get out into these mission divisions I find just a little variation in the administrative procedure.] The un­ion conference is composed of conferences mainly self-supporting and with membership and resources enabling the union to carry forward its work strongly as a supporting union conference in a division. The

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By J. L. McELHANY, President of the General Conference

August 1938

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