Annual Council Report

A review of the 1991 Annual Council meeting in Perth, Australia.

J. David Newman is the editor of Ministry.

The 1991 Annual Council meeting in Perth, Australia, was dominated by commissions two reporting and two new ones being established. In addition, those attending the council heard encouraging news concerning the success of Global Mission.

During the past year, Global Mission has helped penetrate new areas and establish churches where none previously existed. We still have 2,300 population segments (groups of 1 million) that have not been penetrated. The council listened to exciting reports about what God is accomplishing in the Union of Sovereign States (the former U.S.S.R.). This newest division of the church was re named the Euro-Asia Division.

The first major item that the council tackled concerned the eight recommendations of the Commission on Governance that reorganized the internal workings of the General Conference. The recommendations as voted are indicated by italics.

1. That there be fewer and, in most cases, smaller standing committees, but that both the authority and accountability of these committees be increased. This led to reducing the number of standing committees from 85 to 22. The commission reported that "too many committees are simply rubber-stamping the decisions of other committees" and that "many committee decisions must pass through several committees (some times as many as six or seven) before recommendations are implemented."

As a result committees were often poorly attended, as members knew they could always intercept the recommendation somewhere else. Some General Conference personnel sat on more than 50 standing committees. They spent the main part of their week in committees.

2. That the general vice presidents be given administrative responsibility by the General Conference president to assure the effective operation of as signed General Conference departments and services. Currently 37 persons re port directly to the General Conference president. This being more than he can adequately supervise, he is delegating some of his authority to the vice presidents so that departments can make major decisions without having to wait for direct presidential approval.

3. That all departments/services have clearly defined authority to accomplish their missions. This means departments will have more control over their budgets. Departments will be given a fixed sum, and they will decide how much goes to each person for travel and other expenses.

4. That responsibility for specified in-house operations and support services be consolidated under an in-house operations manager responsible to a general vice president who shall be chairman of an In-house Operations Committee. This item provoked more debate than any of the other items. The General Conference treasurers objected to this In-house Operations Committee coming under a General Conference vice president. One of the treasurers proposed an amendment that would place the committee under the General Conference treasurer.

A vigorous but kind debate followed. This item had been introduced with the statement that the issue was not a "turf battle," but it soon become obvious from the discussion that it did concern power. The commission had felt that too much power gravitated toward the Treasury Department, and that Treasury should not both manage and account for its functions.

Some of the areas that Treasury man aged had budgets that no one held those areas accountable for. Treasury had be come the largest department at the General Conference and at many other church levels.

Our dedicated Christian treasurers give invaluable service to the church, but I have talked to scores of individuals on conference, union, division, and General Conference levels who feel that money now controls the church, and many treasurers see themselves as controllers of this money rather than custodians.

After many speeches, with some of the treasurers predicting dire consequences for the church if the amendment was not passed, a vote was taken. The amendment failed by a vote of 152 to 61, while the original motion passed by a vote of 180 to 26.

5. That the General Conference Executive Committee meet at least quarterly and at the call of the chair and focus primarily on worldwide mission, goals and plans, budgets, and the formation of the general church policy. The General Conference Committee comprises 365 persons who never meet as a total group. Since a majority of the members are from outside the General Conference, they cannot at tend weekly meetings. Even at an Annual Council all the members do not meet, mainly because of finances. Therefore, the General Conference Committee holds the distinction of being a committee that never meets with all its members present.

As a result, weekly meetings are of ten limited to voting such items as currency exchange rates, overseas travel for headquarters staff, transfers between divisions, etc. At times the chairman had difficulty getting a quorum of 15. Most of the routine items have now been delegated to the new Administrative Committee or other committees.

6. That the Administrative Commit tee (General Conference Officer Group) shall have delegated authority given to it by the General Conference Executive Committee. The council voted clear lines of authority and responsibility for the Administrative Committee. This is the first time in the church's history that the officer group have had their power clearly defined.

7. That a clearly defined strategic planning budgeting process that is mission-driven be established. This action, if implemented, would mark a mile stone for the church. Over the years the church has become finance-driven rather than mission-driven. It first examines its finances, then decides what can be done. When hard times come, the item often cut from the budget first (at least at conference levels) is evangelism.

The commission now recommends a process in which the church begins with mission, develops its plans, then seeks the resources to accomplish the mission. A faith factor must be involved. When the church concentrates only on what it possesses, not much faith is required. The church does not need to become irresponsible, but we must recognize that the church is more than a business enterprise and more than just budgets and plans. The church is to be used to save lost men and women. It is to reach out to the unentered parts of the world using programs like Global Mission to take the gospel to everyone.

8. That an ongoing process of inservice education and evaluation be developed and implemented by the General Conference administration to better qualify the staff and to measure the contribution to mission of all headquarters programs, committees, and personnel. The church seldom evaluates its products and programs. Many times departments are not sure if what they are doing is really helpful at the local church level. People sometimes report that many of the services are not helpful. Now a system will be put in place to separate fact from fiction.

South Africa

The Commission on the Church in South Africa made its final report, recommending that the two unions--one White and one Black--be united by December 31, 1991, and that all the conferences be reorganized along geographical lines rather than ethnic ones by the end of 1993. The presidents of both unions gave strong support to these proposals. The delegates made a number of speeches lamenting the divisions that had arisen in South Africa. Some wondered if there were any parallels with North America. Others said that the circumstances in North America were entirely different, and no comparisons should be made with South Africa. Whether this is true or not, North America will become the only division in the world where some conferences are organized on ethnic rather than geographical boundaries.

The delegates unanimously voted the commission's recommendations. One of the biggest concerns is how to pay for the merger. Currently Black pastors receive one fourth the wages of their White counterparts, while on the union level there has been wage parity for some time. The Annual Council voted a special exception to the 1992 Annual Sacrifice Offering. It will be capped at $2.4 million and all moneys in excess of that will go to help the combined work in South Africa.

Commission on World Church Organization

The Annual Council voted a commission, similar to the Governance Com mission, that will study the total world church organization. It would evaluate such details as the relationship of all entities to the constitution, bylaws, policies, and Church Manual. It would evaluate the relationship between the General Conference and its divisions and the role, function, and representation of the General Conference Commit tee. It would evaluate the function of the General Conference, division, union, and local conference departments.

It would not evaluate the need for unions.

Survey Commission

The Annual Council also set up a World Survey Commission to study the life of the church. This commission will examine the church's spiritual life: how we are saved, assurance of salvation, the imminence of Jesus' return, the Sabbath, Creation and the Flood, the sanctuary, and the great controversy world view.

It will look at family life, personal Bible study, impact of church on individual life, stewardship, the Spirit of Prophecy. It will examine all areas of evangelism, including its effectiveness and attrition rates.

It will pay attention to leadership and administration, the role of institutions, ministerial services, finance, etc. It will look at church life and nurture, worship services, Sabbath school, education, children, youth, women and church life, marriage and divorce, church discipline, tithe, etc.

This commission's task is so awe some that it has not set a deadline for reporting. The Annual Council appointed 37 members. Of the 37 members, two of them are women. In addition, divisions will appoint two representatives each.

The Annual Council also adopted a statement regarding the Adventist church's role in the world and in the prophetic time line. It dealt strongly with the many dissident movements dividing the church. In particular Elder Folkenberg reported that John Osborn (noted for his opposition to the "celebration" churches) has been disfellowshipped in the Florida Conference. A little more than a year ago the Florida Conference disbanded the Rolling Hills company. The Pacific Union has also revoked Ralph Larson's honorary ministerial credentials.

These are some of the highlights from a very interesting Annual Council.


Note: The General Conference Ministerial Association is in the process of developing a statement on the professional and personal ethics of a Seventh-day Adventist minister. Given below is a preliminary, tentative draft. Church administrators, pastors, and readers are invited to send their opinions on this statement to the editor.

I recognize that ordination to the gospel ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not for the purpose of bestowing special privilege or power, but rather a call to a life of devotion and service to God, His church, and the world. I affirm that my personal life and professional
activities shall be rooted in the Word of God and subject to the Lordship of Christ. I am completely committed to the 27 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I am dedicated to the maintenance of high standards of professional conduct and competence in the ministry. I mean to build relationships based on the principles expressed in Christ's life and teachings.

I shall, by the grace of God, apply these standards in my life so as to:

1. Maintain a meaningful devotional life for me and my family.

2. Practice healthful living.

3. Manage church and personal finances with integrity.

4. Commit myself to continuing professional growth.

5. Give full time and attention to the ministry as my only vocation.

6. Perceive my family as a primary part of my ministry.

7. Initiate and maintain meaningful interprofessional relationships.

8. Respect the personhood of every individual, without bias or prejudice.

9. Relate to those of the opposite sex without trespassing borders of propriety.

10. Practice strictest confidentiality.

11. Love those to whom I minister and commit myself to their spiritual growth

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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J. David Newman is the editor of Ministry.

December 1991

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Alden Thompson, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1990, 332 pages, $15.95, hardcover.

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