On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee met and voted on policy, amended bylaws of the NAD corporation, and voted on a revised statement from the writing committee, which, according to the document’s preamble, “addresses issues specific to the NAD, and contextualizes the [General Conference’s] ‘One Humanity’ document into the North American setting.” The date for this special meeting had been chosen by the same governing body through a vote on Feb. 25, 2021, after the postponement of the 2021 General Conference Session.
The session began with a devotional thought given by Roy Ice, speaker/director of Faith for Today media ministry. His biblical message was based on an illustration found in John 15 that Jesus used to describe the necessity of staying connected to God — Jesus as the true vine and His followers as the branch.
“Jesus tells us that if we do not remain in Him, we are like a branch that’s thrown away and withers — such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned,” Ice said, leaving the committee members with several thought questions. “As [we] look down the agenda, we should ask: ‘How much do we need the Spirit of Christ in every single discussion item we have today? Is it possible today that God wants to come into places and surprise us? Is it possible today that by having this deep, rich, solid connection with the Spirit of Christ today, that God will bear much fruit?’ ”
During his opening remarks, G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president, welcomed new members of the Executive Committee who joined through recent elections in their respective territories: Carlos Craig, president of the Southwestern Union; Stephen Brooks, executive secretary of the Southwestern Union; Charles Tapp, president of the Potomac Conference; and Tim Bailey, president of the Mountain View Conference.
Bryant then re-emphasized the division’s strategic focus for the quinquennium, “Together in Mission.”
“The theme ‘Together in Mission’ is designed to place a strategic focus on working together across all organizational lines, across conferences, unions, and local churches, and our other institutional entities such as higher ed, our schools — all our entities,” Bryant said.
“How can we better work together, network together, collaborate together, to have a greater impact for God in the North American Division territory,” Bryant continued. “We are stronger together than apart, and we can find ways to leverage the strengths and assets that we have — and believe [that] the Lord can exponentially impact our division territory for His glory.”
Reducing Size of the Executive Committee
Elden Ramirez, NAD undersecretary, presented one policy amendment for the Executive Committee’s consideration, which focused on reducing the size of the committee. Associate directors of NAD departments — 18 in total — will no longer be members of the governing body.
“This comes as a response to a request made by several committee members who requested that administration looks at the size of the committee, particularly to the number of members who are NAD denominational employees,” Ramirez shared.
Further, the young adult delegation will comprise one designated young adult from each union to serve a five-year term. A separate process is also being developed to provide an opportunity for additional young adults to participate in the Executive Committee meetings as guests.
“This will give the young adults more opportunities to interact with their church leaders outside of Executive Committee meetings on a more consistent basis,” Ramirez said.
The word agency was also removed from the policy, as it is no longer applicable to the division’s governance.
NAD Corporation Members
Members of the NAD Executive Committee are also members of the North American Division Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists. The corporation handles business transactions on matters including banking, land and property ownership, and retirement, according to Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the NAD.
The committee amended two of the corporation’s bylaws regarding notification of meetings and the size of the board of directors. Leaders also voted on new members for the board of directors.
Notice of regular and specially called meetings of the corporation will only be given via email or first-class mail, removing notification through a special edition of an Adventist Review print edition. In addition, its board of directors will have at least nine but no more than 12 members. The officers of the corporation’s board of directors are G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president, who will serve as chair; Kyoshin Ahn, NAD executive secretary, who will serve as secretary; and Randy Robinson, NAD treasurer, who will serve as treasurer.
Additional elected members of the NAD corporation are Debbie Jackson, lay member; Judy Glass, NAD undertreasurer; Gary Thurber, president of the Mid-America Union; Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University; Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union; Elden Ramirez, NAD undersecretary; Jerry Lutz, president of the Chesapeake Conference; John Freedman, president of the North Pacific Union; and Stephen Brooks, executive secretary of the Southwestern Union. Six of the 12 were carried over from the previous board of directors.
Report from the Writing Committee
For the final agenda item of the business meeting, the Executive Committee read the revised response document, “God’s Call to Live in Healing and Harmony” (formerly titled “A Call to Live in Harmony with God and Others”), before voting to approve it. More than 20 NAD Executive Committee members spoke during the discussion time. The motion to accept the document, and add a preamble and glossary of terms, passed with a vote of 159 to 41.
Bryant offered his thoughts after the vote, before he closed the meeting with prayer. “Often with statements like this, if it doesn’t make us feel a little bit uncomfortable, we probably are not getting at the heart of the issue,” he said. “I believe by God’s grace He has called us here. I don’t believe we’re the most diverse denomination in this country by accident. God is calling the Seventh-day Adventist Church to lead at this time with these issues — and to show that the gospel that we believe in, the God that we proclaim, and the three angels’ messages that we have are relevant to this time.”
He added his appreciation, saying, “Thank you for your heart. Thank you for the sacrifice of yourself and your comments — each and every one of you — because we’re one family. We may not all see things the same way. But we’re still one family. And I pray that God helps us to show how to love each other in a way that will arrest the world and the communities that we live in.”
Kimberly Luste Maran contributed to this report.