Annual Council Highlights

A review of those actions that have special interest for pastors.

Leo R. Van Dolson, Ph.D., is an associate editor of the Adventist Review and of MINISTRY magazine.

Among the actions taken at the 1979 Annual Council, the following should be of special interest to Adventist pastors:

North American Division Relationship to General Conference: The 1978 Annual Council requested the General Conference to explore the advisability of re structuring the relationship between the North American Division and the General Conference, possibly creating a separate division organization. It was voted at the 1979 Annual Council to retain in general the "unique relationship" that presently and historically unites the General Conference and the North American Division. An ad hoc commit tee was to be appointed to study changes in the present relationship that would allow greater flexibility, responsibility, and accountability in the administration of the work in North America while not 18 destroying the advantages of the present arrangement.

Gambling and Chance Issues: A nine-page report on gambling and chance issues was adopted. It begins by defining gambling, then suggests that because of questions regarding such items as lottery raffles to support local charitable and philanthropic activities, chain letters of various kinds, bingo games, and con tests involving elements of chance, a statement is needed in the Adventist Church that will define these activities as gambling. Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy instruction is also outlined in this report.

Use of Denominational Pictures: Re quests for reproductions of paintings or original artwork shall be referred from now on to the audio-visual branch of the Adventist Media Center.

Day of Fasting and Prayer 1980: Sabbath, April 12, 1980, was designated as a Day of Fasting and Prayer in behalf of the General Conference session. Members are urged to pray for divine guidance for the activities of the session, and especially for an infilling of the Holy Spirit for a speedy finishing of the gospel commission to all the world.

Church Membership: That section of the Church Manual that deals with a minister's instruction of candidates prior to baptism was amended as follows:* "A minister should not present any candidate for baptism and church membership until he can satisfy the church by public examination that the candidate has been well instructed and is ready to take such a step. In churches where frequent baptisms might reduce the significance of a public examination, an alternative plan should be observed. The minister's work is not completed until he has thoroughly instructed the candidates, and they are familiar with and committed to all fundamental beliefs and related practices of the church and are prepared to assume the responsibilities of church member ship."

A portion of the section entitled "Membership on a Spiritual Basis" in the Church Manual was amended to read as follows: "The serious, solemn obligations of church membership should be impressed on everyone who applies for admittance to the church. All should be faithfully taught what it means to be come a member of the body of Christ. Only those giving evidence of having experienced the new birth, and who are enjoying a spiritual experience with the Lord Jesus, are prepared for acceptance into church membership. Thorough instruction in the fundamental teachings and related practices of the church should be given to every candidate for church membership before he is baptized and received into church fellow ship. It is due to each person seeking admittance to the church that he be in formed of the principles for which the church stands."

The Church Board and Evangelism: The section of the Church Manual dealing with the church board and its meetings was revised to make the planning and fostering of evangelism a specific function of the church board. This is to be its chief concern. The revised statement adds, "When the board devotes its first interests and highest energies to every-member evangelism, most church problems are alleviated or prevented. A strong, positive influence is felt in the spiritual life and growth of the member ship." The first item on the agenda of each church board meeting is to relate directly to the evangelization of the missionary territory of the church. In addition, once each quarter, the entire church board meeting can well be devoted to plans for evangelism. The church board should present no other business to interfere with planning for evangelism. Should other business be too time-consuming, the board may appoint subcommittees to care for specific areas of church business such as finance or church building projects. Such sub committees will then make recommendations to the church board. In this way the resources of the board are conserved for its primary task—evangelism.

Reasons for Which Members Should Be Disciplined: This section of the Church Manual was amended to read as follows: "7) the use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages, 8) the use of tobacco, 9) the misuse of or trafficking in narcotics or other drugs."

Local Church Education Secretary: It was voted to develop a new local church office to be known as "church education secretary." Where a Home and School Association already functions, the church education secretary shall be a member of its executive committee and carry out his or her duties in cooperation with the association. The church education secretary should be a member of the local church board and the school board.

1985 General Conference Location: It was voted to reconsider the location for the 1985 General Conference session, which had been scheduled for New Or leans, Louisiana, and to appoint a small committee to assess the possibility of holding the fifty-forth General Conference session outside North America, considering Manila as a possible site.

Ministerial Training: It was voted to provide an off-campus seminary field quarter for instruction in the courses of Personal and Public Evangelism and Pastoral Ministries and Church Policy as a ninth quarter following the eighth quarter the student is resident at the seminary. It need not be taken during the quarter immediately following the eighth quarter in residence but should be completed during the first calendar year thereafter. The M.Div. degree will not be granted until this field-quarter requirement is fulfilled. This quarter will be under the direction of the seminary professor of evangelism, who will ad minister the program through teacher-supervisors trained and certified by the seminary, no more than ten students being permitted to work under one supervisor.

Each union or local conference has been requested to provide for the field schools as needed in order to accommodate the students who are sponsored within the union and who will be working within its boundaries. Someone other than the evangelist conducting the public evangelistic campaign will be appointed to serve as supervisor of the field school.

Entering and exiting from the seminary will hereafter be limited to two annual entering points (the beginning of the summer and the fall terms) and two annual exiting points (the end of the spring and summer terms).

New Policy for Bible Instructor Intern ships: In order to stimulate interest in the training and employment of Bible instructors, an internship plan was set up for qualified Bible instructors who have completed a four-year college training program specifically designed for Bible instructors. The intern shall be appointed for a 12-month period of field service. If judged to have done success ful work during that period, the intern shall be appointed for a second period of 12-month field service.

North American Division Retirement Plan: A detailed revision of the retirement plan was adopted. Employees are eligible to earn extra service credit from the first month in which they attain the age of 20 until the first of the month in which they attain the age of 68, up to a maximum of 40 years. In order to be eligible for retirement benefits, an employee who retires from active service after January 1, 1981, must have begun denominational service before attaining age 55 and must earn ten full years of service credit before attaining the normal retirement age of 65. Employees who terminate their denominational service prior to January 1, 1981, must have 15 full years of service credit to be eligible.

The normal retirement age is 65. An employee who retires on his normal retirement date shall be entitled to receive retirement benefits in a monthly amount starting on the first day of the month in which he attains the age of 65.

An employee who has attained age 62 and has earned at least 35 years of service credit may retire at any time prior to his normal retirement date, and there upon shall be entitled to receive a retirement benefit in a monthly amount starting on the first day of the month following the date of his actual retirement from employment, or the first day of the month he attains the age of 62, if he is not in denominational service at that time.

The retirement benefits of employees who meet the requirements for eligibility are based on a monthly rate that is the product of the employee's benefit rate factor multiplied by his years of service credit (not in excess of 40), multiplied by the wage factor in effect as of the date of each payment.

Ingathering Objectives: 1. To visit every home, leaving the Ingathering magazine. 2. To have prayer with as many people as possible. 3. To encourage Bible study by enrolling people in a Bible correspondence course. 4. To open doors for personal Bible studies in future visits. 5. To give every person an opportunity to support our worldwide mission work.

Ingathering Information to Civic Officials: In the United States a standard approach to local officials by local pas tors and others representing the church should follow these guidelines: 1. the filing of Ingathering information with local city officials may include name, address, and telephone number of the local Seventh-day Adventist church, the local church pastor, the local lay person in charge of Ingathering, and the church official who supervises Ingathering in the State. 2. A copy of the identification carried by volunteer workers in the In gathering program, along with the pro posed dates of the crusade, a copy of the material to be left for the persons contacted, and a statement of the purposes and objectives of Ingathering.

The filing of the above information should not be misconstrued as a request for a permit license, but as a desire on the part of the Seventh-day Adventist church to cooperate with civil authorities in harmony with the principles laid down by the United States Supreme Court in Cantwell v. Connecticut. Because the activities concerning Ingathering even in small, remote areas may seriously affect the Ingathering program in all of the United States, neither the local pastor nor the local or union conference officials are authorized to go beyond filing the above information with the city government.


Annual Council actions on Church Manual items are not final but are recommendations that will be acted on at the next General Conference session



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Leo R. Van Dolson, Ph.D., is an associate editor of the Adventist Review and of MINISTRY magazine.

February 1980

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