Annual Council 2018 Preview (AC18-1)

Today at 10:30 AM PDT I will be presenting a journalistic overview of the documents being presented at the General Conference (of SDAs) Annual Council in Battle Creek and their history in the larger setting of current issues in the Adventist Church. I thought it would be helpful to put these things in writing as we approach the day of the fateful vote. For those who are not Seventh-day Adventists, you may want to take a on this series regarding the Adventist Church, although it is a fascinating account of how large voluntary groups address difficult issues (see Acts 15 for a similar situation—Pastor Roberts will be preaching on that text at 9 AM and 11:45 AM this morning, also live streamed). I will post a summary of my remarks in twelve parts beginning here. My series on LGBTIQ issues is not over, but I am taking a break to bring this material to you.

Pastor Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church has asked me to perform this task because he was not able to secure a speaker from among those who created the document. He asked me to study all available materials, interview as many key people as I could (for background on condition of anonymity) and report as objectively and fairly as possible. So this is a journalistic report. I will do my best not to color the account with my own opinions, but share the essence of the documents and the larger context that brought them into existence, along with the forces in the church that were driving leadership in this direction. Journalism seems increasingly under threat these days, but it is still useful in educating the public to the issues behind the strident voices in a community. I will share my own views on a penal this afternoon at 3 PM.

I bring a major assumption to the task. First, I personally trust the collective wisdom of SDA Church leadership. I have differences of opinion with many church leaders, but collectively they tend to get things fairly right, even if their processes and motivations are not always understood in the trenches. If you don’t agree with my assumption, you may not like where I will be going, but I take that assumption from knowing all the key players and seeing how they operate behind closed doors. There is one major exception to this compliment, which I will share as we move along.

Much of this presentation will likely be new to most people. As I have interviewed people I have been startled at how badly I myself misread the documents the first couple of times. The original document on regard for and practice of GC actions is here: One reason the document has been widely misread, even by independent media is that it is extremely dense. The intent was a half-page document, but after a long period of working over it, the committee ended up with three pages and nearly every word or phrase was fought over. So each word is probably significant to somebody on the Unity Oversight Committee. Every word and phrase is a potential battleground. So I needed people to walk me through the document and explain its significance. Before that I read selectively, focusing on things that jumper out at me. And I read it through a distorted lens of opinion pouring out from at least five media sources (AR, ANN, Spectrum, Adventist Today, Fulcrum7). After some oral explanation, the document looked very different to me, and I will do my best to explain in this series. The document will be voted up or down on Sunday October 14.

For me the biggest surprise is that no one is really defending the document and its parallel document on the formation of compliance committees. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it is because no one, even on the committee, is excited about this document. It represents a hard-fought compromise. It is not exactly what anyone wanted. Nevertheless, there is a good chance it will pass on October 14. Why? And how did we get to this place? Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “Annual Council 2018 Preview (AC18-1)

  1. Alvin

    It has seemed to me that the General Conference prefers to “study” this subject for one year after another after another, so that they can avoid the messy “harsh” business of actually disciplining conferences and officials who are in rebellion to GC policies and decision, such as in the Pacific Union Conference and the Columbian Union Conference.

  2. Javier Vanegas

    Thank you for taking on this task.
    I really enjoy your writing and the way you explain things in your blogs.
    Looking forward to this series and to getting back to your previous one.

  3. Weiers

    Thank you. I was able to listen to the presentation online, a day after the event. It does present an informative, less calamitous perspective on the document while still expressing a concern about unintended consequences. If accepted, it would allow the Church to imagine alternative responses in case the document is accepted.

    One question that I would have asked if I had followed the live event is to clarify the last sentence of the compliance document. In its current form it states: “As circumstances warrant, this process may be used as a model by other levels of Church organization.” It is on the basis of this statement that I concluded that the intention for the document is to have an impact more widely than on an institutional, committee level and that one may have to deal with it closer to home than the original context in the committee rooms of the General Conference Divisions and the Unions. You suggest that this is not in the document, but it seems a bit ambivalent to me.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Good point, you are making me rethink that. If that happens at the conference level then churches would be in the crosshairs. If it happens at the church level. . . God help us all! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.