CATHY PAYNE: I would like to invite each of you to gather in groups of two or three to pray, inviting Jesus and the Holy Spirit to come into these meetings. [Prayer.]
ARTUR STELE: We will hear a short report about the handbook for deacons and deaconesses. After that, we will return to the
Church Manual agenda. Then we hope to have a report from the Nominating Committee. After the report, we will deal with some issues and then return to the Church Manual agenda.
We invite Jerry Page and Jonas Arrais to present the handbooks for deacons and deaconesses.
We have wonderful deacons and deaconesses in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, about 700,000 of them, although that’s only an estimate. And we love the work they do. We’d like to see them fully empowered by the Holy Spirit in every way. And so Ministerial was given the responsibility of training, equipping, and getting resources for deacons and deaconesses about two years ago.
So we’ve given that responsibility in Ministerial to Jonas Arrais. He’s the
Elder’s Digest editor and also an associate secretary of the Ministerial Association.
JONAS ARRAIS: In 2013 the GC Annual Council took the vote to put the deacons and deaconesses under the care of the Ministerial Association.
OK. Let’s try again.
Since 2013 the Ministerial Association has been involved in preparing resources to train deacons and deaconesses in our local church. We have created a Web site to provide some of those resources: www.eldersdigest.org. You can download many seminar presentations, PowerPoints, and so forth.
We have prepared this first-ever
Deacon’s and Deaconess’s Handbook in church history. This material is available on our Web site and in the Adventist Book Centers (ABCs). Right now we have only an English version, but we will be providing to the divisions the opportunity to make the translations.
In partnership with Safeliz, we have prepared a kind of Bible for deacons and deaconesses. In this Bible you can find this handbook inside, in English, in Spanish, and in French. You can find this resource also in the ABCs and in the Safeliz booth.
ARTUR STELE: We now go back to the
Church Manual Committee report.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: The first item is to recommend a change of just one word in the
Church Manual related to discipline. There are two forms of discipline in the church: censure and removing the name of a member from the book of the church.
“No church should vote to discipline” instead of “remove.” The right word is “discipline,” because “remove” is one of the ways to apply discipline. The statement would be: “No church should vote to discipline a member under circumstances that deprive the member of these rights.”
And then it says, “Written notice must be given at least two weeks before the meeting and include the reasons for the disciplinary hearing.”
I move that we change the word “remove” to “discipline.”
ARTUR STELE: It is seconded. [Motion was voted.]
HARALD WOLLAN: The next three items deal with the same issue regarding when members decide to withdraw their membership. In order to safeguard individual rights, we are dealing with this in three separate pages in the document.
Item 407 outlines the procedure that is to be followed for removing names. The church has no right to maintain a person on its records if that person wants his/her name removed.
Item 407 reads, from line 19, “The church recognizes the right of the individual to withdraw membership. Letters of resignation should be presented to the board, where the resignation will be recorded with the effective date according to the resignation letter. Efforts should be made to restore the individual to the church family.”
Then following on, item 408 describes it, starting from line 13: “When a member requests in writing to be removed from church membership, the church board must act on the request. Efforts should be made to restore the individual to the church family.”
The same issue is dealt with in item 409, but in a slightly different way. And I think we need to read the whole sentence, starting from line 9: “The clerk has no authority to add names to or remove names from the membership record without a vote of the church, which must always vote to add or remove a name, except in the case of the death of a member, or when a member requests in writing to be removed from membership.”
Line 15: “When a member submits a written request to the church board to be removed from membership, the clerk will record the action of the board.”
I move these three items.
ARTUR STELE: It is seconded. Ronald Rasmussen.
RONALD RASMUSSEN: On page 98, line 20, the word “should” can be interpreted as being optional. The rest of the language on pages 99 and 100 dealing with this makes it imperative that once a letter is submitted, the church board must act on the request and that the clerk will record the action.
I would like to have the word “should” removed and “shall” inserted on line 20.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: He is right. We need to change that to “shall be moved.”
ARTUR STELE: If the body agrees by common consent, we can deal with this as a grammatical issue. [The change was approved.]
LARRY BOGGESS: Why was “out of Christian consideration” left out of the document?
ARMANDO MIRANDA: What page?
LARRY BOGGESS: Page 98, line 16.
HARALD WOLLAN: I don’t think we discussed why it was removed. But if it softens the word, I think there’s no problem. There’s no contradiction with that. What we are dealing with actually is the individual’s right. And if you want to add the word “out of Christian consideration,” I don’t see a problem, because it’s not a big change.
LARRY BOGGESS: I understand that. I appreciate the way it’s rewritten.
I would move that we include that sentence in the new document.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: We can just proceed by common consensus.
HARALD WOLLAN: The speaker actually addresses an issue that is important, because he wants us to avoid public discussion on the issue, and that is very significant. But that does not take away responsibility from the church to do anything in its power to try to win the person back.
ARTUR STELE: I accept the motion.
Is there a second to the motion? Yes, there is.
Are there any remarks, observations, in regard to the motion? There are many.
SAMUEL DAVIS: In removing that sentence, we’re removing a fundamental issue of privacy. We need to respect the individual’s privacy.
ARTUR STELE: Barry Oliver.
BARRY OLIVER: I am just affirming that the wording here is that the motion is to be amended.
ARTUR STELE: Yes.
MICHAEL HAMILTON: With regard to the authority of the board and the authority of the church, is the intent of this amendment to suggest that the board would have the final authority in the event of a request for the removal of membership by the member?
ARMANDO MIRANDA: On line 11 of item 409, talking about the clerk having no authority to add names or remove names, it says, “Except in the case of the death of a member, or when a member requests in writing to be removed from the membership.”
In this case the suggestion is that it’s final. If we consider that we need to take this to the church in a business session to be discussed, we consider it not a problem, because we’re going to expose the person who is requesting in writing to be removed, and generally those who are requesting to be removed are not required to be exposed to the public scrutiny.
MICHAEL HAMILTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: So the idea is that it is final with the church board.
BHAJU RAM SHRESTHA: What about the members who leave our church but don’t request us to be removed? Can we remove the member even if they don’t request it?
HARALD WOLLAN: That is not the issue we are discussing. But to answer your question, we have no right to just remove the name. Proper procedure is written in the
Church Manual on how to deal with missing members.
RONALD OLIVER: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to speak against the amendment. It would seem to me that it would cause confusion.
HARALD WOLLAN: I don’t think there is any conflict here. The issue will be dealt with in the church board. On the church board you have the elders and deacons who are responsible for the visitation program of the church. And in the visitation program, in the retention program, of the church, it is necessary for the visitation. But what they’re dealing with is the individual’s right to determine whether he or she wants to be a member of the church. And we, as a church, we have no legal right to maintain the membership of a member who does not want to be a member.
JERILYN BURTCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It looks like we have an inconsistency on page 98. It just says that the member’s letter of resignation will simply be recorded, and on page 100 it says the clerk will record the action of the board. So would the board need to take an action or not?
HARALD WOLLAN: When an individual resigns, it is the date of the letter of the resignation that has to be on the response. The reason it is written like this is simply because the same day as the letter is received, it’s not necessarily possible for the church to meet as a church board. So the church board will record the date of which the resignation letter was received.
RAYMOND HARTWELL: I’m noticing on page 99 a little bit of an inconsistency.
I read: “The clerk has no authority to remove names from or add names to the membership record, except by vote of the church.” But we should carefully consider the wording here, because a clerk cannot add a name or remove it unless there is a vote by the church.
RABSON NKOKO: How will the church know that a member has been removed? It will be good to indicate in the provision how the church will know when an individual has been removed.
HARALD WOLLAN: The intention is that we do not have a public debate on the issue. The church has full right to know when a member is withdrawing his or her membership. So for the sake of caring for the member who doesn’t want to retain membership, the church needs to know, but it’s no public debate.
And when we are talking about the church clerk cannot remove a person from membership, it is actually on item 408, as it’s referred to here. Lines 12 and 13: “The clerk has no authority to remove names from or add names to the membership record except by vote of the church.”
Then we need to include the next sentence, and probably by just saying, “However, when a member requests” and so on. I think then it is covered.
ENOCK CHIFAMBA: Won’t this amendment make the board the final authority on removal of members? If we go to page 98, the canceled section reads “Letters of resignation should be presented to the board, which will forward them to a business meeting. Out of Christian consideration for the individual involved, action shall be taken without public discussion.”
If that is included, then the church is aware, and the person is not embarrassed, because there’s no public discussion.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: We received from one of the divisions the request to change this because of the right of the individual to request to be withdrawn from the church, and we consider that need to be protected. Even if you don’t discuss it in public, it’s going to be something that will arise, the question mark.
And there are other ways to inform the church and not to have a business meeting of the church, just to take the letter of resignation of this member and finally approve it without any discussion.
If you brought this letter of resignation to the business meeting, you would expose the person. And perhaps some people would just inquire, “Why is this person resigning?” We need to regard the right of the people not to be discussed in public.
We are bringing this recommendation because of the request of one of the divisions.
ARTUR STELE: I will ask our secretary to read it.
ALEXANDER BRYANT: Page 98: “Removing Members at Their Request——Great care should be exercised in dealing with members who request to be removed from membership.” Skipping down to line 16: “Out of Christian consideration for the individuals involved, actions shall be taken without public discussion. The church recognizes the right of the individual to withdraw membership. Letters of resignation should be presented to the board, where the resignation will be recorded with the effective date according to the resignation letter. Efforts should be made to restore the individual to the church family.”
ARTUR STELE: It is time to vote on the amendment. [The amendment was voted.]
We have a number of speakers to the main motion.
MICHAEL HAMILTON: I feel that the element of prepastoral care is missing from this recommendation. Sometimes members are aggrieved and impulsively request that their names be taken from the church books. And if we allow their names to be taken without adequate pastoral care, I feel that we are doing an injustice to them. I feel we should allow time for pastors and other members and leaders in the church to counsel with them before their names are taken from the church books.
HARALD WOLLAN: The issue of pastoral care is actually covered in one of the last items that we are dealing with.
We are talking about nurture and retention, and what we are bringing in to you is a major addition based on the decisions that were taken following the nurture and retention summit. That part always has to proceed, but we still need to maintain the individual’s right to determine where his or her membership is to be held. We have no right to tell members that they cannot withdraw their membership at the time that they so desire.
STOY PROCTOR: On both of these issues we’ve given consideration to pastoral care, and we want to try to encourage members to stay in the church.
HARALD WOLLAN: The document states that “efforts should be made to restore the individual to church family.” And of course they are welcome to attend church even though they don’t have their membership there.
BOYCE MKHIZE: The issue of membership is not a private matter. You are a member, and your acceptance into membership becomes a public issue. The considerations say that the broader body of the church will be interfering with your individual rights in considering the letter of resignation. Therefore, it does not resonate with the very character of membership as we have come to know it.
When you sign up for membership in the church, the church votes to accept you into its membership. While we recognize the right of a member to resign, I think it is important that the church, which is the body that accepts the member into fellowship, should be the one finally that is notified of that particular resignation, even if we respect the right of that individual.
Of course, when we refrain from discussing the issues surrounding the resignation, it is out of respect and decorum to that particular member. That right should be protected.
The second point that this raises is the issue of renunciation. Renunciation, when a member resigns, simply means that the church loses jurisdiction over that member, in terms of whatever action and/or control it may otherwise exercise on the member. Therefore, in certain circumstances, you might find that the member resigns to avoid discipline being meted out. And the amendment, unfortunately, does not take us to those kind of circumstances and how to deal with the issues pertaining to that resignation as a measure to avert discipline.
Third, the amendment also does not talk to us about what the implications would be in terms of that member wishing to rejoin the church, retracting their previous resignation.
The next area talks about reinstating those previously removed, but does not address this particular aspect. Therefore, that gap will still exist.
DAVID TRIM: The intention here seems to be to achieve clarity and consistency, but there is still a little bit of inconsistency on what happens with a resignation. It’s stated most clearly on page 100 (which is an amendment to page 80), where it says very clearly, “The clerk has no authority to add or to remove names . . . except in the case of the death of a member, or when a member requests in writing to be removed from membership.”
But if we go back to page 99, it actually says the clerk has no authority to remove names or add names to the membership record except by the vote of the church. And then there’s a separate sentence about the church board must act on a request.
So the problem is, there’s still a little bit of inconsistency between the amendment to pages 54 and 55 and to page 80.
And so I think the danger is that some churches are going to look at it and say, “Oh, the church clerk has to record the action of the board, but then it also needs to go to a vote of the church membership to remove the name from the roll, because that’s what it says.”
And so I would just suggest a minor emendation, which could perhaps be done by common consent, which is to page 99, line 13, to change the full stop after “church” to a comma and add “except.” And then that would achieve complete clarity between the two sections. And perhaps one would could also add the cross-reference, “See page 80.” But, at any rate, if the “except” is added there, it would avoid any possibility of confusion.
So I would move that we adopt that as an amendment.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: Mr. Chairman, David is right. And Harald just mentioned a few moments ago that we can just add a special sentence there in order to be consistent.
ARTUR STELE: So there is a motion. Now, I need to ask the body, Should we make the adjustment by common consent, or would you prefer to move it back for the committee to work on it? [It was accepted by common consent.]
MXOLISI SOKUPA: What is the procedure for an individual who wishes to come back into membership after a resignation? I feel that those matters need to be dealt with also.
LUIS TAVARES: I agree with the decision of having the adjustment in which a member should——we should add something like “unless a member” as according to the decision of sharing the information with the church. But it’s OK if we don’t have to vote on this decision, because it actually helps the church. It will help with the matter of having people preaching in the pulpit while avoiding God’s blessing of the church.
PEDRO POZOS: I didn’t know a member could resign. I mean, they leave all the time. So, to me, if a member wants to resign, he or she means business, and that change should be made immediately. And this is why, if for some reason this member who does not want to be part of the family anymore goes out and does something that puts the church reputation in jeopardy or creates some sort of a lawsuit, then we’re liable. So, yes, efforts should be made to maybe bring him or her back, not abandon him or her, but that change——I do think that has to be effective immediately.
ONALENNA BALAPI: I have a little challenge with a member leaving the church without the consensus of the whole body of the family of the church. I wish the committee had also considered the fact that some of the members are actually church workers.
Now, when it comes to an issue of discipline and this person is a worker, the person can actually get away with the situation simply by resigning and, therefore, when he or she has resigned, no action can be taken against that person, even though he or she is a church worker. I think it’s wisdom that the whole church be involved in the resignation of its member, just as well as it was involved in the entrance of this person into his membership.
LAWRENCE TANABOSE: I agree that amendments should be made, but there are other statements that we have overlooked. For example, on page 101 it still maintains the notion that a person of the other SDA church may come back into the membership of the church. I read, beginning on line 20: “The church where the person is requesting reinstatement must seek information from the former church about the reason for which the person was removed from membership.”
Now, if we are going to maintain that statement in there, I cannot see how can we correlate that with the amendment that we are suggesting, because the other church will be requesting the reasons the person wants his or her name to be removed.
So I’m suggesting that the
Church Manual Committee actually take the whole issue of requesting release and reinstatement and look at it carefully, so that we can come to one consensus statement.
HARALD WOLLAN: This issue is about the person coming to church. If we consider a person who has requested to be deleted from membership, that information should be given to the new church. If there is additional information, that also should be shared with the church so they know that the person they are accepting into church membership actually is in regular standing or going to be in regular standing.
[The main motion was approved.]
We are now dealing with reinstating those previously removed from membership. So if a person is removed from membership for discipline, the church should, where possible, maintain contact with the individual and manifest the spirit of friendship and love, endeavoring and so on. Those people previously removed may be received again into membership when confessing of wrongs committed is made, evidence is . . . and so on.
We are deleting the “period assigned by the church in a business meeting” because a church can assign a period only when dealing with discipline in the form of censure. When discipline is in the form of removing from membership, there is no time attached to it.
LARRY BOGGESS: I am in full support of this document. However, I do have a question that has come into a play via risk management. When a person has been disciplined because of child abuse, there is a process that they are recommending that such individuals go back through. And I don’t see that in this document, and I’m wondering if that needs to be studied.
ARTUR STELE: We’ll interrupt now our discussions because the chair and the secretary of the Nominating Committee are ready to give us a report.
HOMER TRECARTIN: The Nominating Committee has gone through many names, but we’re still contacting people. So this is a partial report. We actually have three groups of names that we will be voting on. Dr. Leslie Pollard will share the names.
LESLIE POLLARD: For the position of undertreasurer, the Nominating Committee is recommending Mr. Ray Wahlen as undertreasurer of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
JULIE KEYMER: As requested previously, it would be helpful that when we hear from the Nominating Committee they inform us if the person is an incumbent or a new person to the post.
ARTUR STELE: Dr. Pollard, can you give some more information on the name?
LESLIE POLLARD: Mr. Ray Wahlen had served previously as associate treasurer of the General Conference.
[The motion was seconded and voted.]
LESLIE POLLARD: We will present the names of the associate treasurers as a block. These three names are already serving in the General Conference in these positions. They are being recommended for continuation.
Mr. Timothy Aka, Mr. George Egwakhe, and Mrs. Daisy Orion. I move it.
ARTUR STELE: It has been moved and seconded.
RAYMOND HARTWELL: The electronic devices have been working since Friday, and I ask that we vote by electronic devices so that we can have anonymous and secret-ballot voting.
ARTUR STELE: Unfortunately, the system is not working yet. We will try to do our best as soon as we can.
Those supporting the motion, please raise your cards.
Those who are against, the same sign. It is carried.
LESLIE POLLARD: The following recommendations are in the area of the Secretariat, and the positions are for the associate secretaries. They are continuing in their present positions. The names recommended by the Nominating Committee for associate secretary: Mr. Gary Krause, Mrs. Karen Porter, Mr. John Thomas.
And I move these nominations.
ARTUR STELE: There is a second. You know these people. They have already been working in these positions. [Motion was voted.]
HOMER TRECARTIN: We are very blessed by this dedicated group of people.
We wish you God’s blessing, and we hope that the Lord will use you for His honor and glory.
ARTUR STELE: We are returning to the issue that was already presented. We are now going to Emmanuel Mwale.
EMMANUEL MWALE: While appreciating the fact that we are saying the time frame given to a person who was been removed before they could be reinstated should be sufficient, we still have a challenge. So the issue of leaving the time frame with respect to a person has been proved to the discretion of the church causes a challenge here.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: It is the right of each church to determine the appropriate time in order to receive again those that were removed from the church. Each case is different. So we cannot just establish a rule for all of the churches everywhere, because they are the ones who are dealing with the situation, and they know exactly each person that is involved in the disciplinary action. By removing the person or by censure, the church needs to determine, but we consider it not appropriate to establish for the world church exactly the same.
WEBSTER CHABE: How do we handle a person who resigns, then wants to come back? Do we rebaptize them? Do we accept them by profession of faith? What do we do? I think it’s important that when we are talking about reinstatement, we consider that matter.
DEPPINGTON PAPU: The explanation given is a little bit confusing, because the recommendation is that the period must be sufficient. But who determines that the period is sufficient? Because the original read that the church in a business meeting will assign the period. So if the church cannot assign the period, who will determine that the period is sufficient?
HARALD WOLLAN: You cannot, in advance, determine whether a period is sufficient. Whether a period is sufficient is proved by the life of the individual and whether there is a conversion or not. Who determines it? Of course, it is the church. But what we are saying is that this determination comes after. You cannot prophesy how long a person is going to behave in such a manner that he or she cannot be a member.
We are not dealing with a prophetic issue when it comes to censure. What we are doing with censure is that if an individual has done something that bring reproach to the church, we say, “We give you a certain time to improve. If you do not within this time frame actually conform to the rules and regulations and the norm of the church, then we might need to take another action.”
DEPPINGTON PAPU: The fear is that sufficient time may be given, may even be shorter than the one given for censure. And we need to protect the church and the member. Because a church may determine that maybe after 10 years, that’s sufficient time. And the member may think maybe after three weeks, that’s sufficient time.
HARALD WOLLAN: I trust the common sense of the church.
ARTUR STELE: We are ready to vote on the main motion. [Motion was voted.]
BOYCE MKHIZE: I have a challenge with this proposition, because I wonder about its theological soundness. There are two things that come out here. First of all, we employ the issue of time and use time as if it is a measure demonstrating the reformation of character, and that can never be a measure. Time, duration, can never be a measure.
Our yardstick for determining the extent to which a member has reformed or not is incorrect in the first place.
Second, we employ a dangerous legal phraseology when we say membership have been resolved beyond reasonable doubt.
The standard of proof when you talk about beyond reasonable doubt means there must be no other doubt that exists in your mind about that particular individual. And none of us sitting in the church business meeting or church board can vouch for the conduct of a member beyond a reasonable doubt.
I think this particular clause is a clause that really requires further study by the
Church Manual Committee for a reconsideration and review of this particular aspect, especially the issue of time that is being introduced or that is being said here, because that can never be a measure for determining reformation of character or the change.
If somebody has fallen today and that person wants to come to Jesus the very next month, who are we as a church to stand in his or her way?
ARTUR STELE: It was not a point of order, and also the item was already taken care of. But I want to respect that you tried to come at the time, but somehow it didn’t work out.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: We have a section on nurture and retention, but it’s important also to take this kind of recommendation. We already voted, but there is a time we are going to discuss that issue that you mentioned.
HARALD WOLLAN: Number 411. The issue we are dealing with here is to include on page 122 in the
Church Manual the same wording as we have on page 73. That is why we, on lines 14 and 15, are adding “ordained/commissioned” instead of just “ordained.” So the section will read “Who May Conduct the Communion Service——The communion service is to be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or an ordained elder. Deacons or deaconesses are not permitted to conduct the service.”
I move this.
ARTUR STELE: It is moved and seconded.
MARIO VELOSO: According to your advice, we should not consider anything that belongs to Wednesday’s agenda, and we would probably do better waiting for that time. We already referred one item to clarify the matter of ministers and pastors. So I would like to move to table this one until the proper time.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: We already have the word “commission” in the
Church Manual. It’s part of the current manual that we voted and accepted in 2010. This recommendation is only to be in harmony with what we have in page 73 of the current manual.
ARTUR STELE: The item that has been raised is really an item that we are not bringing to the floor. It has not been changed. It was already there.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: On page 73 it says, “Conducting Church Services—— . . . Communion services must always be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or local elder.” So we are not bringing this as a new inclusion for the
Church Manual. It’s just, as I mentioned, to be in harmony with something that we already have in the Church Manual.
ARTUR STELE: Would it be OK with you, Dr. Veloso, if we go without having a motion on it, since we are really not bringing it as a new item?
MARIO VELOSO: Brother Chairman, since it is open to the floor, it is for new consideration of the item. And since it is related to an item that we have referred for Wednesday, the proper way to proceed would be, to my understanding, to wait until that time.
And the other item, on the word “pastor,” that we already referred to the committee for consideration, should be in harmony with the other one, so we must wait for what is going to come at the proper time with the other item.
ARTUR STELE: OK. Thank you very much. Unfortunately, I cannot accept the motion since it will be actually out of order, since the word “pastor” is not for discussion. The motion is on wording beyond the word “pastor.”
MARIO VELOSO: Anyway, then you leave us only the possibility to vote this down.
ARTUR STELE: Well, we will see if the body wants to vote it down. It will be the privilege of the body.
I see here several speakers, microphone, Emmanuel Mwale.
ARTUR STELE: We are stopping the discussion now, since we will be addressing the issue of the voting.
TED N. C. WILSON: Let me explain to you that it has been our intention that this system would work efficiently. It would have made our work much easier. And yet for certain reasons, some of which include additional Wi-Fi signals in this auditorium and other related activities, the system has not worked. It has worked for large, major corporations that need to make multimillion-dollar, perhaps even billion-dollar, decisions. It had been our full intention that this should be a system that would work.
Unfortunately up to this time, it has not performed to the point where we have confidence.
Before the testing of the electronic device, let us bow our heads for a word of prayer.
ROBERT LEMON: [Prayer.]
KARNIK DOUKMETZIAN: [The voting device was tested, and failed. Because the electronic device to count the secret votes did not work, it was voted to use the paper secret ballots for sensitive issues and voting cards when appropriate.]
LOUIS TORRES: What does the current
Church Manual say about church services, especially the communion service?
ARMANDO MIRANDA: On page 73 of the
Church Manual it says, “Under the pastor, or in the absence of the pastor, an elder is responsible for the services of the church and must either conduct them or arrange for someone to do so. Communion services must always be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or local elder.” So according to the Church Manual, it’s clear who may conduct communions and other functions of the local church.
LOUIS TORRES: What we have practiced is that a local church elder is permitted to hold communions in the absence of a pastor. An unordained pastor serving in the North American Division necessarily needs to be ordained as a local elder in order to perform the functions of the communion service, marriage, etc. If the person were not a locally ordained elder, then he or she could not perform the functions of communion or the sacraments.
HARALD WOLLAN: A local elder can still perform. And that is what this sentence says: “Communion services must always be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or local elder.”
LOUIS TORRES: It has removed the “ordained local elder”?
HARALD WOLLAN: No. You cannot be a functioning elder without being ordained.
It does say that the person has to be a local ordained elder. That means that an elder can be ordained in another church, but when he/she moved and has membership in a new church, he’s/she’s still ordained if he/she is elected as an elder in that church.
LOUIS TORRES: So the person needs to be a local ordained elder to perform communion?
HARALD WOLLAN: Yes.
LOUIS TORRES: That’s why I’m saying that what you’re suggesting contradicts that, and there needs to be harmony, because if the commission position is not a locally ordained elder, then those two need to be brought together in harmony.
HARALD WOLLAN: There’s no disharmony, because either you are ordained or commissioned. But if there is no ordained commissioned pastors available, then a local ordained elder can perform the ordinance.
LOUIS TORRES: So a commissioned person without being ordained can do the function? Is what you’re saying?
HARALD WOLLAN: That’s what this is saying, yes.
LOUIS TORRES: That’s why I think it should be referred back so it can be studied and a recommendation brought.
JAY GALLIMORE: I think there was evidently some kind of mistake on page 73 five years ago. I understand the committee trying to reconcile it. But I’ve never understood that you can have a commissioned minister, who is unordained as a local elder, conduct a communion service. Otherwise you have a commissioned minister who can, by the manual, oversee a communion without the benefit of being ordained locally.
DOUG BATCHELOR: In light of the fact that later this week we’re going to be receiving some detailed reports that follow a two-year study on the theology of ordination, and since this change in the manual is reflecting those issues, and in light of the fact that earlier today we sent back a recommendation regarding the words “pastor” and “minister,” and since this item also involves the word “ordination,” and it’s also dealing with the sacred functions of the communion service, I’d like to return to the suggestion that we either table this motion or ask the
Church Manual Committee to at least postpone it until those definitions are given.
I move that we table this until following the presentations on Wednesday.
ARTUR STELE: We have already turned down a motion like that.
DOUG BATCHELOR: Can I ask under what conditions you would accept a motion to table this?
ARTUR STELE: If you would like to reconsider something that is suggested as a change, then we could really vote on returning it.
THOMAS MUELLER: The wording already includes “ordained elders.” Ordained elders includes both male and female. So the wording already includes the possibility of female ordained elders to perform the communion service. On Wednesday we’re not rolling back on female pastors. We’re not rolling back on female elders.
JEROEN TUINSTRA: We’re not rolling back women pastors. They need to be able to conduct these services in church. Even commissioned male pastors need to be able to do these things in church.
DAVID TRIM: If this is voted down, all it will mean is that there is no prohibition on deaconesses conducting the communion service.
At the moment, the sense of the whole of the
Church Manual is quite clear. A commissioned pastor, whether male or female, can celebrate the rites of the church only if they are also an ordained elder. A local ordained elder being commissioned gives them no right to do something in light of being commissioned. Voting this down won’t change the right of a commissioned pastor who is an ordained elder to celebrate communion. What it would vote down is the attempt to make it clear that deaconesses, like deacons, are not to officiate at the celebration of communion.
ARTUR STELE: We will interrupt our discussion, and then after another report from the Nominating Committee will be given, we can move on to continue this item.
I will ask Dr. Wilson to chair.
HOMER TRECARTIN: Nominating Committee is ready with another report. We have several sections to it. Dr. Pollard, our secretary, will read that.
LESLIE POLLARD: Brother Chairman, the first section of our report covers the General Conference vice presidents. I will read their names, and then they will be presented to you as a block of persons who will be serving as general vice presidents of the General Conference.
The names are: Dr. Ella Simmons, who comes from NAD; Dr. Artur Stele, from EUD; Dr. Geoffrey Mbwana, from ECD; Dr. Guillermo Biaggi, from SAD; Abner De Los Santos, from IAD; Mr. Thomas Lemon, from NAD.
Brother Chairman, I move that these names as general vice presidents of the General Conference be approved.
TED N. C. WILSON: We will listed to Brother Kibble.
ALVIN KIBBLE: It seems to some of us that the leadership of our church, the protocol of our church, the balance of executive authority in our church, is being restructured before our very eyes.
This reduction that you have presented before us involved the dismissal of two of our most seasoned, valued, and respected vice presidents, Dr. Pardon Mwansa and Dr. Delbert Baker. In view of the retirement of Elder Lowell Cooper, Armando Miranda, Mike Ryan, and Ben Schoun, I would ask what is the rationale for not incorporating them, these two that have been now displaced from the vice president listing that is being presented at this time? With the reduction that we already experienced through retirement, the additional reduction is a great loss of intellectual experience and history.
TED N. C. WILSON: If you have a question, you can certainly speak to the leaders of the Nominating Committee, at which many things were shared and discussed. I ask for your assistance in the direction that we are attempting to go and which the Nominating Committee voted for, and that is to reduce the number of vice presidents.
Let me give you a little rationale. We have reduced the number of institutions that the General Conference is now responsible for, in particular, Oakwood University and Pacific Press Publishing Association. They have been transferred or are in the process of being transferred to the North American Division for further enhancement of the mission of that division. In addition to that, the Review and Herald Publishing Association is connected directly with the General Conference, but now in a much different format.
I explained to the Nominating Committee that we actually could do with fewer vice presidents in terms of the workload.
These individuals you have mentioned are fine people. They are individuals who can serve God’s church, but this is the report that has been brought into the body here for a vote.
We will take any comments about the report in the sense of referring it back or wishing to speak to someone on the Nominating Committee.
MARVIN WRAY: In respect to the privacy of the delegates here and in respect to trying to maintain the integrity of this General Conference session, I move that, on this and all future Nominating Committee reports, we vote by secret ballot.
[It was seconded.]
JAMES MAKINDE: My observation is very direct and to the point. I am wondering exactly what is the point behind us praying and worshipping and doing everything together, and in an assembly as a General Conference session we do not even dare to have the confidence to stand by what we believe?
In the U.S. Congress, every constituency has the right to know where their congressmen stand on issues. But when it comes here, we are very proud of saying one thing publicly and voting another thing privately.
I move that because we are leaders of opinion, because we should be able to stand and be counted for what we believe in or at what we preach, we should be able to be counted. When I vote for something, I want everybody to know that James Makinde voted for something, so that I don’t go on to seven people outside contrary to what I did inside. This is what it should take for a Christian and a child of God, a Seventh-day Adventist.
ANTONIO ANOBILE: I certainly don’t think that every single vote from now on for the Nominating Committee needs to be by secret ballot. And I don’t know whether the chair would allow that if, at the time of a report, it is requested. We need to expedite the process. Not every single report from now on needs to be a secret-ballot vote.
LARRY BOGGESS: I believe that in worship this morning we were asked to pray for the Nominating Committee, and I believe we did. And I believe that the Nominating Committee prayed that God would guide them as they processed their work today. I would hope that we as Christians would believe that our prayers work.
And because of that, I believe that these names have come bathed in prayer, and we should not oppose what God has done. And so for that reason, I oppose secret ballots for Nominating Committee candidates.
GEORGE SIAMUZOKA: I also speak here to oppose the motion.
TARA VINCROSS: I would like to speak in favor of the motion.
I recognize we are a very diverse church, and the way that we vote for political leaders is very different, and therefore we would have different expectations of this process, too. We should be able to allow for persons to be able to vote their conscience privately.
Our hope and our desire as leaders is to make sure that every person has a voice and that no one would be intimidated to vote against their will.
So we want to make sure that every voice has the opportunity to be heard. And that is the intention behind secret ballots.
KENDRA HALOVIAK VALENTINE: My concern and my urging of secret ballots comes from something I saw on the floor of the General Conference when I was a teenager. I was on the floor because I was a family member of GC workers, and I witnessed something that has stayed with me all these years since that General Conference session, I believe it was New Orleans. I witnessed with my own eyes a group of delegates who were told that when their division president raised his card, they were all to vote in unison. And I remember being so shocked as I witnessed that and heartbroken that that’s the way the work of my church would be conducted. And I fear that if we do not take seriously a secret-ballot vote, the decisions——the very important decisions that are made at this General Conference session——will have a similar questioning involved with their outcome. This is my concern.
[A motion to cease discussion was seconded and voted.]
TED N. C. WILSON: We are now back to the motion. I’m going to have the secretary repeat the motion to us at this time.
ALEXANDER BRYANT: The motion reads that we would use a secret ballot for all Nominating Committee reports brought to the floor.
[The motion did not pass.]
TED N. C. WILSON: We are back to the report from the Nominating Committee.
GINA BROWN: I’m asking that the report be referred back to the Nominating Committee based on the fact that I appreciate our church working efficiently and effectively, and I also appreciate the fact that we’re using fewer vice presidents, but I have noted that we’ve displaced several and we’ve added several. So for that reason, I’m asking that the report be referred back to the Committee.
TED N. C. WILSON: I’m going to rule that if you have a particular reason that you wish to speak to the leadership of the Nominating Committee, you can do that, Gina. We will wait until that takes place.
If there’s anyone else on that list who has a question that they would like to pose to the Nominating Committee leadership, I would invite you to come backstage and to speak to the leadership of the Nominating Committee.
We’re going to call Artur Stele to continue with
Church Manual activity.
ARTUR STELE: Now we are back to our beloved
DANIEL STOJANOVIC: From my understanding, by definition “commissioned minister” is always ordained as church elder. The commissioned minister will exist even after the discussion on ordination, because we have already have male and female commissioned ministers.
We can vote right now without waiting for the discussion of ordination. This question has nothing to do with the discussion of ordination of women.
A commissioned minister has to be ordained. If not, that person is not a commissioned minister, according to our
ARTUR STELE: Jay Gallimore.
JAY GALLIMORE: I do not believe that this is a Wednesday issue. Commissioned ministers can be either male or female. The issue is whether you can have a commissioned minister who is unordained as a local elder acting or overseeing the sacred service of communion, and all we’re asking is for that language to be cleared up. Therefore, I move to refer this back to the
Church Manual Committee to clarify that language for us.
ARTUR STELE: [The motion was seconded.]
Now we are speaking to this referral. [After some discussion, the referral was voted down.]
ARTUR STELE: We are back to the main motion, and we have at microphone 5 Clinton Wahlen.
CLINTON WAHLEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to go back to page 7 of the Rules of Order on subsidiary motions. I don’t see a reason that the motion to table should be disallowed. I think there is a connection with the discussion that’s later to come. But even if there weren’t, there’s no language here that indicates to me that a reason needs to be given, except that we would like to look at it at a later time. So I’m wondering if I could make that motion to table this item until Wednesday.
ARTUR STELE: We just now had a motion on referrals. That’s why I think it’s in the same line and the body has already expressed, and you cannot reconsider the motion to table.
CLINTON WAHLEN: My suggestion would be that since, really, the problematic word is “commissioned,” I would like to move that we amend this motion to strike the word “commissioned.”
ARMANDO MIRANDA: If we are consistent with the current
Church Manual, it seems to me that we are not doing anything out of order. Because the problem is that some people are just trying to see here something related to the discussion that will come on Wednesday. The “commission” is part of the current Church Manual. It was approved, and it’s not only women who are commissioned, but men too. So we need to be careful not to try to see things that are not really there or in the Church Manual. We are currently have the word “commission,” and it’s approved.
ARTUR STELE: An amendment has been moved and seconded. We will now discuss the amendment.
KENNETH VOGEL: This is a point of order: I understand an amendment requires just a modification, and this is what is being presented to us by the
Church Manual Committee. I cannot see how this can be accepted as an amendment.
ARTUR STELE: The parliamentarian has ruled it to be in order.
JOHN BRUNT: This motion is not in order, because we have already been told that to change the
Church Manual as it currently exists takes a process of moving through the committee over a five-year period. And this would be a change in the manual as it already exists, not an amendment to the proposed change to the manual.
ARTUR STELE: The difference is that what we are discussing now is what has been presented to the body. It’s not a new item. If it were a new item, then it would be in order.
We have at microphone 2 Jim Howard.
JIM HOWARD: I think what I need to understand is how to vote on the recommendation to make a change or an amendment. I’ve heard a couple people mention that a commissioned pastor has to be ordained as a local elder. Can you show us that in the
Church Manual? If that’s true, then that settles the issue. It’s not a male/female issue. I’ve had pastoral interns working with me as associates, and I’ve had to make sure that they are ordained as a local elder before they can conduct the communion service.
ARTUR STELE: Thank you. Please.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: On pages 73 and 74 of the current
Church Manual, referring to marriage ceremonies, it says, “In a marriage ceremony the charge, vows, and declaration of marriage are given only by an ordained pastor except in those areas where division committees have approved that selected licensed or commissioned pastors who have been ordained as local elders may perform the ceremony.”
JIM HOWARD: That’s pertaining to marriage, but it’s not saying that commissioned pastors have been ordained elders. If they’re going to conduct a marriage, they have to. But is there somewhere where it suggests that related to the communion services? There doesn’t appear to be any specific suggestion in the communion section that says that commissioned pastors must be ordained as local elders.
ALEXANDER BRYANT: It’s found in policy L-2605. It’s not in the
Church Manual. It is our policy in connection to the requirement for all of the credentials that the Seventh-day Adventist Church issues.
JIM HOWARD: So my recommendation is that it needs to be in the
Church Manual somewhere.
ARMANDO MIRANDA: It’s a good suggestion. If it appears in the policy in regard to commission, then it’s important to include in the
LOWELL COOPER: I would speak against the amendment because it restores dissonance in the
Church Manual with other places where ordained/commissioned pastor language is used. But I think the problem or the question that is lying behind this can be resolved, at least in this particular instance, with a very slight change in language where a communion service could be conducted by an ordained minister or a commissioned minister who is ordained as a local elder, or a local elder.
ARTUR STELE: [The amendment to strike the word “commissioned” was voted down.]
The amendment has failed. We are now back to the main motion.
JULIE KEYMER: I’d like to call the question on the motion. [The previous question was voted.]
ARTUR STELE: We are now ready to vote on the main motion, and I would like to have that motion read again.
HARALD WOLLAN: The main motion says, from item 411, line 13, “Who May Conduct the Communion Service——The communion service is to be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or an ordained elder. Deacons or deaconesses are not permitted to conduct the service.”
The next item deals with church leaders who are not ordained as church elders. It reads: “The leader must either conduct the church service or arrange for someone else to do so. If the church leader is unable to lead out in the business meeting, the conference should be contacted for assistance.”
“A leader, who is not an ordained elder, may not administer a baptism, conduct the Lord’s Supper, perform the marriage ceremony, or preside at business meetings when members are disciplined.”
[Motion was seconded and voted.]
HARALD WOLLAN: The next item deals with deacons. “The Ministerial Association of the conference, in connection with the departments, promotes the training and equipment of deacons. However, the pastor, in conjunction with the elder(s), has the primary responsibility for training the deacons.”
SAMUEL DAVIS: Moved to adjourn. [It was seconded and voted.]
REUBEN ABREO: [Closed the meeting with prayer in French.]
ARTUR A. STELE and TED N. C. WILSON,
G. ALEXANDER BRYANT, Secretary
NILTON D. AMORIM, GARY PATTERSON, and
Sixtieth General Conference Session
July 5, 2015, 2:00 p.m.
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 7, Discipline, pages 64 and 65, Fundamental Rights of the Members, Process of Discipline, to read as follows:
Fundamental Rights of the Members—Members have a fundamental right to prior notification of the disciplinary meeting and the right to be heard in their own defense, introduce evidence, and produce witnesses. No church should vote to
remove discipline a member under circumstances that deprive the member of these rights. Written notice must be given at least two weeks before the meeting and include the reasons for the disciplinary hearing.
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 7, Discipline, page 66, Removing Members at Their Request, Process of Discipline, to read as follows:
Removing Members at Their Request—Great care should be exercised in dealing with members who request to be removed from membership.
Although the Church recognizes the right of members to decide whether to belong to the Church, ample time should be given such members for thought and reflection and every effort made to restore them to a satisfactory experience. Letters of resignation should be presented to the board, which will forward them to a business meeting. Out of Christian consideration for the individuals involved, action shall be taken without public discussion.
The Church recognizes the right of the individual to withdraw membership. Letters of resignation shall be presented to the board, where the resignation will be recorded with the effective date according to the resignation letter. Efforts should be made to restore the individual to the church family.
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 6, Membership, pages 54 and 55, Church Board Cannot Grant Letters, Transferring Members, to read as follows:
Church Board Cannot Grant Letters—A board has no authority to vote letters of transfer or to receive members by letter. The board’s authority is limited to making recommendations to the church. Action on all transfers of membership, favorable or otherwise, must be taken by the church. (See p. 52.) The clerk has no authority to remove names from or add names to the membership record except by vote of the
church. church, except when a member requests in writing to be removed from church membership, the church board must act on the request. Efforts should be made to restore the individual to the church family. When a member dies, the clerk records the date of death in the membership record, and no action by the church is necessary.
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 8, Local Church Officers and Organizations, page 80, No Names Added or Removed Without Vote, Clerk, to read as follows:
No Names Added or Removed Without Vote—The clerk has no authority to add names to or remove names from the membership record without a vote of the church, which must always vote to add or remove a name, except in the case of the death of a
member. member, or when a member requests in writing to be removed from membership. When a member dies, the clerk will record the date of the death in the membership record. (See p. 55.)
When a member submits a written request to the church board to be removed from membership, the clerk will record the action of the board. (See p. 66.)
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 7, Discipline, pages 66 and 67, Process of Discipline, Reinstating Those Previously Removed From Membership, to read as follows:
Reinstating Those Previously Removed From Membership—When persons have been
removed, removed for discipline, the church should, where possible, maintain contact and manifest the spirit of friendship and love, endeavoring to bring them back to the Lord.
Those previously removed may be received again into membership
when the period assigned by the church in a business meeting is concluded, when confession of wrongs committed is made, evidence is given of real repentance and change of life, and the life is consistent with Church standards and it is clear that the member will fully submit to Church order and discipline. Such reinstatement should preferably be in the church from which the member was dismissed. However, when this is not possible, the church where the person is requesting reinstatement must seek information from the former church about the reasons for which the person was removed from membership.
When dealing with perpetrators of sexual abuse, it should be remembered that restoration to membership does not remove all consequences of such a serious violation. While attendance at church activities may be permissible with properly established guidelines, a person convicted or disciplined for sexual abuse should not be placed in a role which could put them in contact with children, youth, and other vulnerable individuals. Neither shall they be given any position which would encourage vulnerable individuals to trust them implicitly.
Because removal from membership is the most serious form of discipline, the period of
time, determined by the church business meeting, time before members may be reinstated should be sufficient to demonstrate that the issues which led to removal from membership have been resolved beyond reasonable doubt. It is expected that readmission to membership will be done in connection with rebaptism.
The inclusion of “commissioned” is done in order to be in harmony with page 73 of the Church Manual, which reads, “Communion services must always be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or local elder.”
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 10, Services and Other Meetings, page 122, Who May Conduct the Communion Service, Communion Service, to read as follows:
Who May Conduct the Communion Service—The communion service is to be conducted by an
ordained ordained/commissioned pastor or an ordained elder. Deacons, although ordained, cannot Deacons or deaconesses are not permitted to conduct the service.
VOTED, To amend the Church Manual, Chapter 8, Local Church Officers and Organizations, pages 75 and 76, Church Leaders, to read as follows:
Occasionally no one possesses the experience and qualifications to serve as an elder. Under such circumstances the church should elect a person to be known as “leader.” In the absence of the pastor or a conference-assigned pastor, the leader is responsible for the services of the church, including business meetings. The leader must either conduct
these the church service or arrange for someone else to do so. If the church leader is unable to lead out in the business meeting, the conference should be contacted for assistance.
A leader, who is not an ordained elder, may not
leader may not preside at any of the church ordinances, administer baptism, conduct the Lord’s Supper, perform the marriage ceremony, or preside at business meetings when members are disciplined. A request should be made to the conference president for an ordained pastor to preside at such meetings.