An addition to the Church Manual that emphasizes the importance of including all church members in ministry was voted by the delegates to the 2022 General Conference (GC) Session in St. Louis, Missouri, United States.
Delegates voted overwhelmingly to accept the new paragraphs, which call the church to awareness that the deaf have been defined as a unique culture with their own social behaviors and beliefs. It also calls local church boards to appoint an Adventist Possibility Ministries leader. It adds, “It is imperative for the leader to be compassionate, and to serve with an approach that fosters empowerment and participation.”
Finally, it also calls for local church boards to establish a committee for possibility ministries to encourage members with special needs and to learn how to effectively connect with them. It reads, “It should create witnessing programs, recommend how to make church facilities more accessible, help solve transportation programs, and recommend ways to assist in the discovery of roles or ministries that bring a sense of meaning and fulfillment.” The addition stipulates that the committee is chaired by the possibility ministries leader and that the pastor should serve as an ex officio member.
Comments from the Floor
Several delegates approached the microphones to commend the initiative. North American Division delegate Diane Thurber said that as a long-time advocate for people who are blind through Christian Record Services, she could attest that it is a very important addition to the Church Manual. “Adding this section … will raise awareness and ensure there is representation at the local church.”
Patrick Johnson, from the Trans-European Division, also affirmed the motion, adding that “it’s been a long time coming, and we are happy that this is here.”
Larry Evans, GC leader assigned to Adventist Possibilities Ministries, agreed. “We are very excited about seeing this developed for the world church,” he said. “People, whether they can’t speak, or see, or hear, or walk; whether they are orphans or vulnerable children; whether they are widows or widowers; whether they are caregivers — all of those groups fall within this special ministry.”
GC delegate Jeffrey Jordan, an Adventist pastor who is deaf, used a sign language interpreter to share his thoughts: “There are millions of people who are deaf who are not still represented,” Jordan said. “I am happy to be the representative as a deaf individual here on the floor. We are supporting this motion … to be more inclusive of the deaf, the blind, and all those people who are on the list you have read, and each person that has a possibility that God can use.”
Martin Altink, from the North German Union Conference, approached the microphone visibly moved by Jordan’s words. This is “only a start of something that can be bigger. The world is watching us to see how we treat each other. When we treat each other well, we will grow. Please get involved in this ministry.”
Others also voiced their support, including Paulina Villalon Alvarez, a delegate from the Chile Union Mission who works in education for students with special needs. “I congratulate the church on this motion,” Alvarez said. “At the same time, I think we need to educate our churches regarding this topic. All ministries — ushers, those working with children, everyone — need to be aware of it.”
The motion passed with 99.6 percent of the vote.
Follow the proceedings of the 61st General Conference Session at adventistreview.org.