Before the secretary’s report delivered to the North American Division (NAD) Year-end Meeting on November 1, 2020, Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, delivered greetings to the division’s executive committee in person.
While Wilson typically travels to the annual business meetings of all of the denomination’s 13 global divisions, travel bans issued in response to COVID-19 forced him to attend the 2020 meetings virtually, making his personal presence at the NAD’s Year-end Meeting (YEM) noteworthy.
“We’re living in a very unusual time. All across this country, many have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have died. We want to extend our sympathy and Christian love to families who have lost loved ones, all across this globe,” said Wilson. “But we do realize that not even the COVID-19 pandemic is going to stop the proclamation of the everlasting gospel and the three angels’ messages of our Lord and Savior because Jesus is coming soon.”
The denomination’s president also remarked on the YEM vespers program held on October 30, praising the numerous ways members and churches have continued to carry its mission despite challenges presented by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“I want to commend the North American Division for its efforts to bring about a sense of urgency with a beautiful evangelistic outreach. It was a real blessing to see God moving in so many different areas, even within these restrictions and public health protocols,” Wilson said. “I am grateful for what God is doing in the North American Division. What a blessing that you have given a special emphasis to evangelism.”
Wilson also applauded NAD leadership for working in conjunction with the General Conference to carry out the strategic plan called “I Will Go” for the 2020-2025 quinquennium.
“This is a personal charge, total member involvement, everyone doing something for Jesus,” said Wilson. “All of us, regardless of where you’re from, what department you work in, what church you attend, what region you’re in … we can all participate in God's request to go for Him.”
Wilson also encouraged leaders to spread the word of the church’s annual 10 Days of Prayer initiative, which is set to take place January 6-16, 2021.
General Conference Session
Another presentation was made by a representative of the General Conference regarding the GC Session, which was initially scheduled for July 2020 and was rescheduled to take place in May 2021 as a result of restrictions set to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“There are still challenges with holding the meetings in May 2021,” Thomas Lemon, a General Conference general vice president, said. “Some divisions will have challenges sending their delegates to the United States [if travel bans to the U.S. are still in effect].”
The current bylaws of the General Conference allow for the session to be rescheduled up to two years from its original date, which would allow the meetings to take place in 2022. However, Lemon underscored how that is the less ideal option.
“No one wants that, and no one is working toward that,” Lemon said.
There are other challenges related to delegates’ ability to make it to Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, for the meetings. In order to enact electronic participation in business sessions, there must be an amendment to the bylaws of the denomination’s constitution. Such change requires a vote of two-thirds of the delegates in person. There are 905 delegates, 205 delegates from the North American Division, not including delegates from the General Conference, located within the division’s territory and would not need to travel from outside the United States. The 205 delegates also include members from Canada who would face challenges with mobility across national borders.
Representatives from the denomination’s 13 division will meet virtually on January 6, 2021, to discuss the realities of planning the session. Their recommendations will be sent to the president's council of the General Conference, which will meet the following day to make more concrete decisions regarding the May meetings.
Bylaws and Board of Directors
On November 1 and 2, the NAD executive committee participated in official business dealings of Christian Record Services for the Blind (CRS) and the Pacific Press Publishing Association (PPPA), respectively.
“The North American Division is a member of a number of entities. During this Year-end Meeting, we will be conducting meetings that are required by the bylaws of each of those organizations,” Karnik Doukmetizan, general counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said. “Members include the NAD executive committee members, board of directors of Christian Record Services, and the three officers of CRS.”
The YEM transitioned to a “regular member meeting” of CRS to make adjustments to the ministry’s bylaws and vote on newly recommended nominees to serve on its board of directors. The following day the executive committee members convened the constituency meeting of the Pacific Press Publishing Association delegates, composed of the NAD executive committee and the organizations' board of directors and officers.
Similar actions were taken for both organizations. Bylaws were adjusted to move constituency meetings of both entities to take place every five years during NAD Year-end Meetings, rather than to align with General Conference in Session. The transition reflects voted action during the previous quinquennium to move CRS's operations and the Pacific Press institutions from the General Conference to the purview of the North American Division.
Foundational Theology and Reports
On November 1, Ángel Manuel Rodriguez, retired director of the Biblical Research Institute of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivered a sermon on the three angels’ messages found in the biblical book of Revelation, which reflects a foundational theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“This message is about the gospel,” said Rodriguez. “Go to your unions, encourage every church member to share the gospel, allow the love of the cross to transform them. Ask teachers to present the lamb of the cross to their students. Everything we talk about has to be touched by the cross. Go and make every one of our buildings a place where the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world. Let everything we do be in kindness and love.”
Executive committee members also heard the following departmental reports: Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, Education Department, Health Ministries, Multilingual Ministries, Native Ministries, Hope for Humanity, Adventist-Laymen Services and Industries, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, Women’s Ministries, Adventist Learning Community, Literature Ministries, and Family Ministries.
The Pulse of the Nation
G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president, concluded the November 1 business session by reflecting on the United States’ election day on Tuesday, November 3, and how the results may have an effect on the nation.
“From everything I’ve seen and read — no matter what happens, who wins, who’s in control — this country is going to be divided right down the middle. There’s going to be an angry group of people on one side or the other, no matter who wins. God has called us, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to minister in this climate,” said Bryant.
“I believe God has given us our mission for this time and moment despite what’s happening around us. May the Lord help us stay focused on what the real hope, encouragement, peace, joy that Christ offers in a time of mayhem and chaos,” continued Bryant. “May he help us be the solution and answers to our communities, cities, and villages to give people hope where a lot of people are feeling hopeless.”