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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Metro New York Adventist Forum chapter and a celebration is being held September 8, 2018.

If Boston was the first Adventist Forum chapter to organize, New York was not far behind, so this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Metro New York Chapter and a celebration is being held September 8, 2018.

Initially, the key movers were Rick Meyer and Gail Kendall who had been involved in the moves towards founding the Boston Forum before they moved to New York as students at Columbia Law School. They brought the new concept of a forum chapter with them and shared it with other students and graduates that they met at the New York Center, an Adventist evangelistic outpost in Manhattan. Encouraged by their new friends, Rick and Gail launched what they initially called the New York Forum in the Fall of 1968. Meetings were held on some Sabbath afternoons in Earl Hall, the Religious Center at Columbia University.

Towards the end of the forum chapter’s first academic year Rick was asked by an Earl Hall official why their group was the only Christian group on campus not using St. Paul’s Chapel, a magnificent Romanesque structure with a famous five-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ. This suggestion came at a pertinent time, for Adventist authorities had recently put the New York Center on the market, having decided that it was a failure as an evangelistic center. Rick responded by forming what was originally named the Adventist Community at Columbia, which, beginning in September 1969, sponsored weekly Sabbath morning worship services in the Chapel. The Community was associated with the Forum chapter, which continued its quarterly meetings on Sabbath afternoons. The Sabbath morning meetings were designed in typical Adventist style with two segments: the first was a Sabbath School-styled study of a biblical book that the group had agreed upon, held in the crypt of the chapel; after that, for the second segment, attendees went upstairs to the sanctuary for their worship service. In this way the NY Forum became unique, the only chapter whose primary focus was weekly Sabbath worship and to use a university chapel.

The Chapel and its organ helped draw Adventist graduate students from New York City’s music conservatories also. These included Lonietta Thompson Cornwall, whose playing of the Aeolian-Skinner organ in the chapel was a highlight for many attendees. For others it was the high quality speakers that led out in discussions of significant issues.

The administrators of St. Paul’s Chapel took an interest in the group as one of the most faithful and well-attended student groups. Each semester they would provide a list of new Columbia students who had put their religion down as ‘SDA.’ Thus, a younger generation of students started joining the group.

Since the Community was meeting weekly, some suggested that it become an official church. The Greater New York Conference showed no interest in it as a church or branch Sabbath School. Flailing around for a solution, the group turned to Neal Wilson, then the Vice-President of the General Conference for North America who visited the Community for a Sabbath, and engaged in a long discussion with the members. He eventually urged the Community to remain independent as a group but friendly toward the church, representing it unofficially on campus.

In retrospect, this was the best possible result, for it gave the Community complete freedom to do what it felt it needed to do, and the acknowledged friendly relationship with the church opened the way for it to invite Adventist scholars and other speakers of interest to speak at its services.

Unexpected Tensions and Reshaping

It was about this time that two unexpected personal issues emerged that troubled the community. Disputes over racism and homosexuality split the congregation and some of the key founding members left, raising the question of the viability of the community. But no. Others proved equally determined to support the community. Much to my surprise, I was elected president of what at that time was known as “The Triumvirate” or “The Governing Body.” We dropped the distinction between Community and Forum meetings and, because a majority of our membership was no longer made up of Columbia University personnel, we changed our official name to The Metro New York Adventist Forum.

We worshipped at St. Paul’s Chapel for over 30 years, until the university upped the rent to $500 per week, a sum that was clearly beyond our ability to pay. Ed Samuel, our architect member, persuaded us that St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on W. 126 St. was the right choice for a new home, and it became our meeting place about 1999.

Conclusion

While I lived in New York for 44 years, 40 of them as Forum President, my community was the Forum and my closest friends were there. I often mused in wonder about the quality of the people who were members over the years. The Forum community proved a huge blessing to me personally, and I thank all the members who helped provide that blessing over many years.

Ronald Lawson’s PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia, is in both sociology and history. He taught at the City University of New York for 38 years. He now lives in Asheville, NC, where he initiated the formation of the Asheville Adventist Forum in 2016. He is making his many published articles on Adventism available on his website, www.RonaldLawson.net.

Image courtesy of the Metro NY Adventist Forum website.

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This week the North German Union and South German Union presidents issued a joint statement in response to the General Conference’s latest documents and creation of five compliance committees.

Editor’s Note: This week the North German Union and South German Union presidents issued a joint statement in response to the General Conference’s latest documents and creation of five compliance committees. The response from the German Unions originally appeared on the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany’s website. An English translation follows:

Statement by the Presidents of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany on the Documents of the Unity Oversight Committee of the General Conference

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (ADCOM) voted and published on Tuesday, July 17, two documents1 recommended by the Unity Oversight Committee that will be submitted to the Executive Committee in October 2018 for acceptance.

The documents describe a church legal process for Unions, associations and/or their leaders who are not in conformity with our rules or beliefs.

In addition, we learned from an unofficial source (Spectrum magazine) that at the same time a whole system of so-called "Compliance Committees" had been set up, to which the ADCOM (GC Administrative Committee) gave far-reaching authorizations. Each of these "Compliance Committees" is staffed by about a dozen people, almost all of whom are church employees.

As regards the documents and the establishment of the “Compliance Committees,” we respond as follows:

0. Fundamentals

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide church, the foundation of which are the local churches. In order to lead a universal Church, we have therefore given ourselves a representative system to guide the Church as an organization and as a community of believers. In the recent initiative of the world church leadership, we see a threatening development towards a hierarchical church structure, which we will resolutely oppose.

1. Our Understanding of the Church

The Church is based on the call of Jesus to human beings: "Come and follow me" (Mark 2:15, 10:21, John 1:43, 12:26). Thus, every person is encouraged to enter into a personal relationship with God.

The ‘yes’ of people to God is a free decision and first describes a relationship of trust between two persons: God and the individual.

Every believer lives by his faith, a life that is equally committed to freedom and commitment, maturity and solidarity, self-determination and responsibility for others.

Where people profess and follow God together, they form a church, a church based on biblical principles and values. Communal life is organized by persons, spiritual gifts, and teaching (Acts 6, Ephesians 4, 1 Timothy 3, 2 Timothy 1:13-14). Structures are important to the well-being of a community. They have a serving character and give orientation.

Nevertheless:

  • The central understanding of the Church as the Body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12) and as an organization is that we are united by faith in Jesus. That means:
  • Faith: In the church as an organization, each individual always lives first "by faith", i.e., from his personal knowledge, which God gives him and from his free and independent decision of conscience, which he meets before God. If structures oppose the conscience, the whole community must work to find ways to develop them, as the New Testament confirms: Acts 15; Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 10.
  • Jesus: He is the foundation (1 Corinthians 3), the cornerstone (1 Peter 2), who carries everything and holds it together. The community is a dynamic, living building and not static.

2. Unity in the Church

The unity of the church is accomplished and guaranteed by Jesus alone. (John 17:20-23)

The quality of this unity is unmistakable: "As you, Father, are in me and I in you, so shall they be in us..."

Unity, therefore, is first an undeserved gift, founded solely in God, and thus stands before any human effort. For many reasons, there is no complete correspondence between this unity of God and a concrete ecclesiastical framework. Nor will it be realized in this world, even within our church.

With Jesus, unity and love, trust and freedom, are considered together, and only then does God, the Redeemer, become known. As the Seventh-day Adventist church, we can confidently follow this path of unity in diversity.

In our responsibility to our churches in Germany, we are guided by this understanding of the church and on unity, because that is the essence of the church.

Conclusion

  • The documents and the work of the Compliance Committees mark a change of direction in the basic understanding of church leadership: In place of trust, tolerance, respect, conflict resolution and dialogue in controversy, pressure, control, surveillance and the stigmatization of individuals occur. This significantly increases the undercurrents of schism within the church and turns the effort/prayer for unity into the opposite.
  • The documents and work of the Compliance Committees foster a spirit of mistrust, criticism, assessment, and judgment. This is contrary to the spirit of the gospel.
  • The public stigmatization of people is unacceptable because it damages their dignity. We expressly distance ourselves from this.
  • The existing rules in our church are sufficient to intervene in cases of problems or conflicts. The existing instruments and procedures give us a lot of room to maneuver.

For this reason, we decidedly reject the documents presented by the World Church leadership and the establishment of the “Compliance Committees,” because it does not meet our understanding of church, and how to lead a church.

As part of our mandate as members of the GC Executive Committee, we will work to ensure that the proposed regulations in these documents are rejected.

Werner Dullinger, President, South German Union
Johannes Naether, President, North German Union

Notes:

1. “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” and “Terms of Reference for Compliance Committees.”

###

The original statement in German is included below (it is also available on the German Church’s website here):

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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In this week’s news round-up, Atlantic Union College has completed its final program, Ghanaian pastor mourns five family members who perished in fire, Nigerian Adventists seek Sabbath recognition for voting and school exams, LLUH retools its public health PhD, and Jamaican Church develops youth membership programs.

In this week’s news round-up, Atlantic Union College has completed its final program, Ghanaian pastor mourns five family members who perished in fire, Nigerian Adventists seek Sabbath recognition for voting and school exams, LLUH retools its public health PhD, and Jamaican Church develops youth membership programs.

Atlantic Union College Closure Completed. Six months after announcing its plans to close, Atlantic Union College has completed its final program, marking the end of the 136-year-old college. AUC lost its degree-granting ability on June 30 when its five-year conditional approval for that authority from the state expired, according to the Department of Higher Education. Since then, Atlantic Union has been closing out its remaining certificate programs via a teach-out under the oversight of the Office of Private Occupational School Education in the state’s Division of Professional Licensure. Many students transferred to other institutions, including Andrews University. In addition, Ednor Davison, the communications director for the Atlantic Union Conference, which oversees the college, said the Atlantic Union Conference has been helping former employees at the college find new jobs elsewhere within the Seventh-day Adventist higher education network. Some have already secured new positions although she said not all laid-off staff have found new employment. Church and college leaders also have not made a decision regarding the college’s 135-acre campus. Davison said the Union is “in contact with several individuals and organizations that have expressed an interest in the facilities.” Orlando Pacheco, the town administrator for Lancaster, said the town is not among those that have been in talks with the college’s owners. From Telegram, “Closing Atlantic Union College wraps up final academic programs.

Ghana Pastor Buries His Family Who Perished in Their Home. The Dansoman District pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Ato Kessie, lost five members of his immediate family in last week’s fire at their residence. Kessie said he has been shattered by the death of his wife, three-week-old baby, four-year-old son, mother-in-law, and niece. From GhanaWeb, “'I’m empty' – SDA pastor breaks silence.

Nigerian SDA Church Seeks Sabbath Recognition for Voting and School Exams. Seventh-day Adventist Church, owners of Babcock and Clifford Universities, has alleged a disenfranchisement of 270,000 of its members during elections in Nigeria. This has happened due to the continued conduct of elections on Saturdays which is their day of worship. Speaking at a press conference, Freeman Dariya, President of the Northern Nigeria Union Conference of the Church in Abuja, stated that it was against the letters of the Bible and the religious liberty as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to conduct mandatory university entrance examinations on Saturdays. He said that many Adventist children had been deprived of admission into various universities by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for fixing the entrance examinations on Saturdays. He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission to adopt measures that would enable the members to vote during elections. Pastor Dariye was flanked at the briefing by some pastors and other church workers. He said, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a major Christian denomination with a significant presence in Nigeria.” From Vanguard, “2019 elections: SDA Church alleges disenfranchisement of over 250,000 members.

LLU Retools Public Health PhD, Emphasizing Plant-based Nutrition. Loma Linda University will become the first Southern California school to offer a doctoral program in plant-based nutrition when it launches its new PhD program this fall. The program will align with accreditation requirements set forth by the Council on Education for Public Health and will supplant the school’s existing Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program. Students will focus on several areas of study including nutritional epidemiology, the impact of dietary choices on the environment, the effects of plant-based nutrition on disease prevention, and community nutrition. Students will also engage in clinical trials to determine the long-term effects of plant-based foods, particularly nuts and soy, on overall health. “The refocused curriculum and degree offering are part of the school’s new strategic direction,” program director Sujatha Rajaram, PhD said. From VegNews, “California university to offer PhD program in plant-based nutrition.”

Jamaican Church Develops Youth Mentorship Clubs to Inspire Christian Lifestyle. Some 35 adolescents were inducted into mentorship clubs at the Tent City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica. The clubs, known as the Girls of Eloquence, Morals, and Standards (GEMS) and Brothers of Eloquence Morals, and Standards (BEAMS), seek to inspire young girls and boys to attain a higher level of spiritual, emotional, and moral standard and to be the best they can be in their Christian walk. Howard Grant, pastor of the Tent City SDA Church, commended the women's and men's ministries departments of the church for spearheading the initiative and underscored the timeliness of the launch of the program. "In an age where so many young people are being initiated in various activities such as gangs and secret societies, it is fundamental that the Seventh-day Adventist Church come up with this program so that we can keep the young people in the Church and at the same time prepare them for leadership in the Church," he said. Lorraine Vernal, Family, Women, Children and Adolescent Ministries Director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, urged the youths to be a beacon of light in their communities. "You are called upon to shine your light, and if you are going to talk about Jesus, you can't follow somebody who you do not know. You have to know Jesus for yourself," she said. From The Jamaica Gleaner, “Adventist Church Launches Mentorship Clubs.

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Redlands, California.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Lo que comenzó como un único Comité de Supervisión de la Unidad en la Conferencia General se ha convertido en una red de cinco comités de revisión de cumplimiento cada uno con un tema diferente para supervisar. Los comités de revisión de cumplimiento se han creado para 1) políticas principales; 2) Creación / Orígenes; 3) Homosexualidad; 4) creencias distintivas; y 5) Ordenación.

Lo que comenzó como un único Comité de Supervisión de la Unidad en la Conferencia General se ha convertido en una red de cinco comités de revisión de cumplimiento cada uno con un tema diferente para supervisar. Los Comités de Revisión de Cumplimiento se han creado para 1) Políticas Básicas de la Conferencia General; 2) Doctrinas, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas para las Organizaciones E Instituciones de la Iglesia Enseñanza de la Creación / Orígenes; 3) Doctrinas, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas con respecto a la homosexualidad; 4) Creencias distintivas de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día; y 5) Doctrinas, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas con respecto a los Problemas de la Ordenación.

Los términos de referencia de los comités se votaron en julio en una reunión del Comité Administrativo de la Asociación General (ADCOM) al mismo tiempo que se aprobó el documento “Respeto y práctica de la sesión de la Conferencia General y las acciones 1 del Comité Ejecutivo de la Conferencia General”. colocado en la agenda del Concilio Anual en octubre. En agosto, ADCOM especificó los temas para los cinco comités que crearon y luego los llenó con los nombres de más de 40 empleados de GC que servirán en los comités. Si bien hay un par de laicos incluidos en los comités, no se incluyen pastores ni funcionarios de otros niveles de la iglesia, como presidentes de sindicatos o conferencias.

En las encuestas y conversaciones que el CG ha tenido el año pasado, se discutieron documentos y procedimientos. Pero esta nueva capa completa de comités de supervisión simplemente ha sido creada por ADCOM, sin revisión de entidades fuera de la Conferencia General. Y los comités se han establecido antes de que se haya aprobado el documento que sería la columna vertebral del trabajo de los comités.

Cada uno de los comités recibió ocho términos de referencia y poder de actuación similares. Los comités son para:

  1. Ser comprensivamente conocedor y aceptar como autoritario las creencias, políticas, declaraciones y lineamientos de la Conferencia General de los Adventistas del Séptimo Día oficialmente votados que guardan relación con el comité de asignación.
  2. Desarrolle y recomiende a los Lineamientos del Comité Ejecutivo de la Asociación General (GCC) que describan explícitamente la conducta y el comportamiento de los empleados de la denominación, así como también de las personas que representan a la Iglesia en relación con el comité de asignación.
  3. Examinar las entidades que no cumplen con los requisitos identificadas y recomendadas por el Comité Administrativo (ADCOM) de una conferencia y / o unión y / o división y / o Conferencia General.
  4. Asesorar y servir como un recurso para la (s) unidad (es) de organización que abordan problemas de incumplimiento.
  5. Periódicamente recibir informes de progreso del ADCOM de una conferencia y / o sindicato y / o división y / o Conferencia General desarrollando e implementando planes de cumplimiento e informes periódicos y planes a través del Comité Administrativo de la Conferencia General (ADCOM) y la Conferencia General y Oficiales de la División ( GCDO) y el Comité Ejecutivo de la Asociación General (GCC).
  6. El resumen del ejercicio, y con divisiones, trabaja con asuntos de incumplimiento específicos del comité pertinente que son principalmente el deber administrativo de los sindicatos.
  7. Después de evaluar los resultados de la implementación del documento “Consideraciones y prácticas de la sesión de la Conferencia General y las acciones del Comité Ejecutivo de la Asociación General”, recomendar al GCC a través de ADCOM y GCDO, el plan de cumplimiento votado de la (s) unidad (es) no o después de mucha oración y consideración, recomiende al GCC a través de ADCOM y GCDO, las consecuencias identificadas en el documento mencionado anteriormente.
  8. Procesar apelaciones recibidas de unidades no conformes que no concuerdan con las recomendaciones del Comité Administrativo apropiado.

Este sistema de revisión / judicial recién creado dentro del adventismo comenzó con el documento sobre “Consideración y práctica de la sesión de la Conferencia General y las acciones del Comité Ejecutivo de la Asociación General” que describe un sistema de amonestaciones públicas a los funcionarios de las entidades no consideradas de cumplimiento con acciones de GC Si bien inicialmente se espera que las organizaciones autoanotifiquen los problemas de incumplimiento, si no lo hacen, se convierte en responsabilidad de la próxima organización superior y pasa rápidamente a los Comités de Verificación de Cumplimiento de la Asociación General que pueden hacer recomendaciones disciplinarias. Este es también el comité que escucha cualquier apelación.

Con este nuevo sistema de comité de revisión, la Conferencia General se encarga de ser el cuerpo legislativo que establece las reglas y el cuerpo judicial que determina si las unidades administrativas de la iglesia y los empleados de la iglesia están “en cumplimiento”. Con una acción radical, saca todo el poder a la parte superior de la organización, cambiando así la naturaleza democrática actual de la organización de la iglesia, ignorando las políticas y los procedimientos ya establecidos.

Cuando el documento sobre “Respeto y práctica de la sesión de la Conferencia General y las acciones del Comité Ejecutivo de la Asociación General” se publicó en el sitio web oficial de la iglesia en julio, todos los comentaristas de la propuesta se opusieron a la acción. La primera persona en comentar dijo:

Este documento tiene una suposición inicial que debe ser verificada. El documento asume que nuestra iglesia tiene una estructura piramidal y jerárquica. Esta suposición está en abierta contradicción con la historia y el fundamento de nuestra iglesia. Aún más, esta fue la razón, los fundadores de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día se opusieron a organizar una denominación, como se puede verificar en cualquier libro de historia denominacional. Nuestra iglesia tiene un sistema representativo de gobierno. Para respetar ese principio, el único cuerpo que tiene la autoridad de votar un documento como este es la Sesión de la Conferencia General, no los funcionarios de la Conferencia General.

Si se acepta este documento, estamos aceptando una estructura jerárquica piramidal de facto. Llamo a los líderes a reconsiderar este procedimiento porque las consecuencias serán tan peligrosas para la iglesia.

La segunda persona en comentar escribió:

Los representantes en el consejo anual están allí para representar a sus miembros constituyentes, no a sus propias opiniones. Castigar a los líderes que hablan por sus constituyentes es un ataque directo a la estructura ascendente de nuestra iglesia [sic] y es un movimiento hacia la autoridad de arriba hacia abajo. Este documento es obra del hombre, no de Dios. Está en contra de los principios [sic] de las Escrituras y es el producto de aquellos que buscan el poder y el control. ¿Qué recomendaron los apóstoles cuando los gentiles tenían diferencias en el libro de los Hechos? ¿Cuándo Dios forzó alguna vez la conciencia de alguien? No entregaré mi conciencia a ningún edicto papal, ya sea en Roma o en Silver Spring.

En otros sitios web, los escritores han criticado el método propuesto para avergonzar a los funcionarios de las organizaciones que no cumplen y el uso de votos de mayoría simple para disciplinar a las entidades en lugar de un voto de dos tercios que es habitual para los temas controvertidos.

En octubre, el documento propuesto estará en la agenda del Consejo Anual del Comité Ejecutivo de la Conferencia General para su consideración, pero la estructura del comité ya ha sido aprobada. Las reuniones anuales del Consejo del Comité Ejecutivo de la Conferencia General en los últimos dos años han visto propuestas de los líderes de la Conferencia General para algún tipo de acción disciplinaria. Cada una de esas propuestas fue enviada a un comité, solo para ser reemplazada por algo nuevo y significativamente diferente. Esta creación de un sistema de comité de revisión antes de que se haya considerado el nuevo documento es una medida que aparentemente elude al propio Comité Ejecutivo de la Conferencia General. Ya sea que el documento sea aprobado o no, los comités de revisión están en su lugar y pueden comenzar a interpretar las políticas de la iglesia con o sin el documento que se ha propuesto. Y los empleados de las denominaciones, así como las instituciones pueden ser blanco de los comités.

Las personas nombradas para servir en los cinco comités son:

1. Comité de Verificación de Cumplimiento de la Conferencia General con las Políticas Principales de la Conferencia General
J. Raymond Wahlen, II, presidente
Daisy JF Orion, secretario
Guillermo E. Biaggi
Claude J. Richli
Dos miembros adicionales que se nombrarán
Invitados: Paul H Douglas, GCAS Asociado de la región bajo review
Asesor legal: Josue Pierre
Ex Officio: Ted NC Wilson, GT Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

2. Comité de Revisión del Cumplimiento del CG con Doctrina, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas para Organizaciones e Instituciones de la Iglesia Creación de Enseñanza / Orígenes
Artur A. Stele, presidente
James L. Gibson, secretario
Kwabena Donkor
Chantal Klingiel
Ronald Nalin
Suzanne Phillips
Karen J. Porter
Michael L. Ryan
Timothy G. Standish
John H. Thomas
Randall W. Younker
Asesor legal: Jennifer Woods
Ex-Officio: Ted NC Wilson, GT Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

3. Comité de Revisión del Cumplimiento del CG con Doctrina, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas para Organizaciones E Instituciones de la Iglesia en Materia de Homosexualidad
Artur A. Stele, presidente
Elias Brazil de Souza, secretaria
Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy
Gary T. Blanchard
Peter N. Landless
Ekkehardt F.R. Mueller
Neil Nedley
Elaine Oliver
Willie Oliver
Kathryn Proffitt
Gerson P. Santos
Lori T. Yingling
Asesor legal: Thomas E. Wetmore
Ex officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

4. Comité de Revisión de Cumplimiento de la Conferencia General con las Creencias Distintivas de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día para Organizaciones e Instituciones de la Iglesia
Elías Brasil de Souza, presidente
Clinton L. Wahlen, secretaria
Raquel Arrais
Mark A. Finley
Pavel Goia
Hensley M. Moorooven
Jerry N. Página
Heather-Dawn Pequeña
Ella S. Simmons
Brad Thorp
Alberto R. Timm
Asesor Legal: Todd R. McFarland
Ex-Officio: Ted NC Wilson, GT Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

5. Comité de Verificación de Cumplimiento de la Conferencia General con Doctrinas, Políticas, Declaraciones y Pautas para Organizaciones E Instituciones de la Iglesia en Asuntos de Ordenación
Guillermo E. Biaggi, presidente
Hensley M. Moorooven, secretario
Abner De los Santos
Mark A. Finley
Frank M. Hasel
Janet Página
Jerry N. Page
Michael L. Ryan
Galina Stele
Asesor legal: Karnik Doukmetzian
Ex-Officio: Ted NC Wilson, GT Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

Bonnie Dwyer es editora de Spectrum. Traducido al español por Kim Green.

Crédito de la imagen: ANN

Te invitamos a unirte a nuestra comunidad a través de la conversación comentando a continuación. Le pedimos que participe en un discurso cortés y respetuoso. Puede ver nuestra política completa de comentarios haciendo clic aquí.

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What began as a single Unity Oversight Committee at the General Conference has blossomed into a network of five compliance review committees each with a different topic to oversee. Compliance Review Committees have been created for 1) Core Policies; 2) Creation/Origins; 3) Homosexuality; 4) Distinctive Beliefs; and 5) Ordination.

What began as a single Unity Oversight Committee at the General Conference has blossomed into a network of five compliance review committees each with a different topic to oversee. Compliance Review Committees have been created for 1) General Conference Core Policies; 2) Doctrines, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Teaching Creation/Origins; 3) Doctrines, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines Regarding Homosexuality; 4) Distinctive Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; and 5) Doctrines, Policies, Statements and Guidelines Regarding Issues of Ordination.

The committees’ terms of reference were voted in July at a meeting of the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) at the same time that the document “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” was approved to be placed on the agenda for Annual Council in October. In August, ADCOM specified the topics for the five committees that they created and then populated them with the names of over 40 GC employees who will serve on the committees. While a couple of lay people are included on the committees, no pastors, or officials from other levels of the church such as union or conference presidents are included.

In the surveys and conversations that the GC has held in the past year, documents and procedures have been discussed. But this entire new layer of oversight committees has simply been created by ADCOM, without review from entities outside of the General Conference. And the committees have been established before the document that would be the backbone of the committees’ work has been approved.

Each of the committees was given eight similar terms of reference and power to act. The committees are to:

  1. Be comprehensively knowledgeable and accept as authoritative the existing officially voted beliefs, policies, statements, and guidelines of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists germane to the committee of assignment.
  2. Develop and recommend to the General Conference Executive Committee (GCC) Guidelines that explicitly describe the conduct and behavior of denominational employees as well as any individuals representing the Church germane to the committee of assignment.
  3. Examine non-compliant entities as identified and recommended by the Administrative Committee (ADCOM) of a conference and/or union and/or division and/or General Conference.
  4. Advise and serve as a resource for the organization unit(s) addressing issues of non-compliance.
  5. Periodically receive progress reports from the ADCOM of a conference and/or union and/or division and/or General Conference developing and implementing compliance plans and periodically report plans and progress through the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) and General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO) and the General Conference Executive Committee (GCC).
  6. Exercise overview, and with divisions, work with germane-committee-specific non-compliance issues that primarily are the administrative duty of unions.
  7. After evaluating the results of the implementation of the document “Regard for and Practices of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions”, recommend to the GCC through the ADCOM and GCDO, the voted compliance plan of the non-compliant unit(s) or after much prayer and consideration, recommend to the GCC through the ADCOM, and GCDO, consequences identified in the document named above.
  8. Process appeals received from non-compliant unit(s) which do not agree with the recommendations of the appropriate Administrative Committee.

This newly created review/judicial system within Adventism began with the document on “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” that outlines a system of public reprimands to be meted out on the officers of entities not deemed in compliance with GC actions. While initially organizations are expected to self-report issues of non-compliance, if they do not do so, it becomes the responsibility of the next higher organization and quickly moves to the General Conference Compliance Review Committees which may make discipline recommendations. This is also the committee that hears any appeals.

With this new review committee system, the General Conference tasks itself with being both the legislative body that makes the rules and the judicial body that determines whether church administrative units and church employees are “in compliance.” With one sweeping action, it pulls all power to the top of the organization, thereby changing the current democratic nature of the church organization, ignoring the policies and procedures already in place.

When the document on “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” was released on the official church website in July, all of the commenters to the proposal were opposed to the action. The first person to comment said:

This document has an initial assumption that needs to be verified. The document assumes that our church has a pyramidal, hierarchical structure. This assumption is in an open contradiction with the history and foundation of our church. Even more, this was the reason, the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church were so opposed to organize a denomination, as you can verify in any denominational history book. Our church has a representative system of governing. To respect that principle the only corps that have the authority to vote a document like this is the General Conference Session, not the officials of the General Conference.

If this document is accepted, we are accepting a pyramidal hierarchical structure de facto. I call to the leaders to reconsider this procedure because the consequences will be so dangerous for the church.

The second person to comment wrote:

Representatives at the annual council are there to represent their constituent members, not their own opinions. Punishing leaders who speak for their constituents is a direct attack on our churches[sic] bottom-up structure and is a move to top down authority. This document is man’s doing, not God’s. It is against the principals[sic] of Scripture and is the product of those who seek power and control. What did the Apostles recommend when the Gentiles had differences in the book of Acts? When did God ever force the conscience of anyone? I will not surrender my conscience to any Papal edict, whether it is in Rome or Silver Spring.

On other websites, writers have criticized the proposed method for shaming officers of non-compliant organizations and its use of simple majority votes for disciplining entities rather than a two-thirds vote that is usual for controversial issues.

In October, the proposed document will be on the Annual Council agenda of the General Conference Executive Committee for consideration, but the committee structure is already voted into place. Annual Council meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee for the past two years have seen proposals from the General Conference leadership for some kind of disciplinary action. Each of those proposals were sent back to committee, only to be replaced by something new and significantly different. This creation of a review committee system before the new document has been considered is a move that seemingly circumvents the General Conference Executive Committee itself. Whether or not the document is approved, the review committees are in place and can begin interpreting church policies with or without the document that has been proposed. And denominational employees as well as institutions can be targeted by the committees.

The individuals named to serve on the five committees are:

1. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with General Conference Core Policies
J. Raymond Wahlen, II, chair
Daisy J. F. Orion, secretary
Guillermo E. Biaggi
Claude J. Richli
Two additional members to be named
Invitees: Paul H Douglas, GCAS Associate from region under review
Legal Advisor: Josue Pierre
Ex Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

2. GC Compliance Review Committee with Doctrine, Policies, Statements & Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Teaching Creation/Origins
Artur A. Stele, chair
James L. Gibson, secretary
Kwabena Donkor
Chantal Klingiel
Ronald Nalin
Suzanne Phillips
Karen J. Porter
Michael L. Ryan
Timothy G. Standish
John H. Thomas
Randall W. Younker
Legal Advisor: Jennifer Woods
Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

3. GC Compliance Review Committee with Doctrine, Policies, Statements and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Regarding Homosexuality
Artur A. Stele, chair
Elias Brazil de Souza, secretary
Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy
Gary T. Blanchard
Peter N. Landless
Ekkehardt F.R. Mueller
Neil Nedley
Elaine Oliver
Willie Oliver
Kathryn Proffitt
Gerson P. Santos
Lori T. Yingling
Legal Advisor: Thomas E. Wetmore
Ex Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

4. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with the Distinctive Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for Church Organizations and Institutions
Elias Brasil de Souza, chair
Clinton L. Wahlen, secretary
Raquel Arrais
Mark A. Finley
Pavel Goia
Hensley M. Moorooven
Jerry N. Page
Heather-Dawn Small
Ella S. Simmons
Brad Thorp
Alberto R. Timm
Legal Advisor: Todd R. McFarland
Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

5. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with Doctrines, Policies, Statements and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Regarding Issues of Ordination
Guillermo E. Biaggi, chair
Hensley M. Moorooven, secretary
Abner De los Santos
Mark A. Finley
Frank M. Hasel
Janet Page
Jerry N. Page
Michael L. Ryan
Galina Stele
Legal Advisor: Karnik Doukmetzian
Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image credit: ANN

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Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual mission trip for high-school teenagers, Ultimate Workout, recently finished its 28th generation in Bolivia. A total of 167 teens and adults served at four locations in the Entre Ríos area from July 18-30. Every day, volunteer teams spread out to four different sites, each almost an hour away.

Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual mission trip for high-school teenagers, Ultimate Workout, recently finished its 28th generation in Bolivia. A total of 167 teens and adults served at four locations in the Entre Ríos area from July 18-30. Every day, volunteer teams spread out to four different sites, each almost an hour away.

In Entre Ríos, volunteers laid block and excavated for new buildings at the Entre Ríos Adventist School. They also conducted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) children’s program at the Belen Seventh-day Adventist Church.

At the Río Blanco Seventh-day Adventist Church, volunteers painted, constructed a property retaining wall, facilitated VBS for local children, and participated in community outreach. In Manco Copak, volunteers led VBS and conducted community outreach. Throughout the trip, the medical team rotated through each site, providing health screenings, dental care, and reading glasses to over 550 patients.

Beyond daily service projects, teens were challenged to pursue a deeper connection to God. Pastor Brandon Westgate was tasked with the spiritual leadership of almost 100 teenagers. “Leading a trip with that many teens is energizing for me,” says Westgate. “I can see the talents and passion they possess, and it is fun for me to help them discover how to channel that.”

Adult staff also helped create an environment of mentorship and spiritual growth. Dina Ramirez has been on three Ultimate Workout trips and has a passion for working with teenagers. “I want to see them grow spiritually and be a mentor,” says Ramirez. “I saw them grow spiritually through the course of the trip when they would read their Bibles, even when it wasn’t worship time.”

Participants pointed to the final Thursday evening as the spiritual climax of the trip. “Pastor Brandon made an altar call for baptism and teens started going forward,” recalls lead trip organizer, International Volunteer Manager, Rebekah Shephard. “We were done with worship at that point. But we didn’t stop. Our music leader continued to play music and for another 45 minutes we just sang as people came forward, supported the ones who had made their decisions or sat with each other singing. I stood in the back thinking to myself, ‘This is why I do Ultimate Workout. We were successful — people met Jesus.’”

In all, 18 youth were baptized, and it was clear teens were taking ownership of their faith. “People were recognizing this was their belief and not anyone else’s,” explains teen Elyssa Proulx, a three-time Ultimate Workout veteran. “Being away from home, being in a new environment, you’re making your own decisions. Instead of being influenced by others, you’re deciding things for yourself.”

As the volunteers left Bolivia, they found they had not only impacted those they served, but were changed themselves. “This year I saw how God orchestrates the best things for us even before we know we need them,” says Shephard. “Even though this trip is all about the teens, it continues to impact me each and every year.”  

“I would highly recommend teens go on an Ultimate Workout mission trip, because it’s an experience like none other,” says Ramirez. “They grow closer to God, experience the joy of serving others, and have bonding experiences that create life-long friendships.”

Ultimate Workout is an annual mission trip designed for high school teenagers. More than 3,800 volunteers have participated since 1990. Each project allows teenagers to experience construction service, community outreach, and spiritual engagement.

This article was written by Dustin Comm and originally appeared on the Maranatha Volunteers International website. Image courtesy of Maranatha.

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In 2009, the Adventist Church launched enditnow, a global initiative to raise awareness and advocate for the end of domestic violence, which has been documented as a major issue within the Church. enditnow seeks to increase personal awareness, responsibility, and involvement to effectively help end violence in every family and community. August 25 is designated as enditnow Emphasis Day 2018.

Abuse. The statistics are startling. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 billion children, aged 2–17 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year. Likewise, a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control showed that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical abuse by an intimate partner throughout the course of their relationship. One cannot turn a blind eye to the abuse so prevalent in society, even in the Church.  

In 2009, the Adventist Church launched enditnow, a global initiative to raise awareness and advocate for the end of violence around the world. According to the official website for the initiative, “enditnow is the most important stand the Church has ever taken regarding violence against men, women and children. It is a call to action for all Adventists and supporters to stand up and put into practice those principles we hold true. Domestic violence has been documented as a major issue within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Incidences of abuse follow trends documented in non-Adventist populations. This is why enditnow seeks to increase personal awareness, responsibility, and involvement to effectively help end violence in every family and community.” 

One way the Church has created awareness is by designating an annual Sabbath, the fourth Sabbath in August, as enditnow Emphasis Day. The Women’s Ministries Department (GCWM) at the denomination’s headquarters in the U.S. state of Maryland, facilitates the campaign.  

Raquel Arrais, associate director for GCWM, explains why an annual Sabbath is necessary. “There are so many people suffering silently thinking the Adventist Church doesn't care. But the Church does care. Observing enditnow Emphasis Day is one tangible way our congregations globally can help to raise awareness in the community, showing that we serve a God of justice and a God of love.”  

Arrais continues, “Our purpose also is to create a church environment where all can address this issue in a safe way. The #MeToo movement has become a platform or a forum where many survivors of sexual abuse have the opportunity to bring to the surface the trauma they have experienced. In many ways, this is a venue to break the silence about this very sensitive issue.”

And while there is still much to do, Heather-Dawn Small, GCWM director, says she has seen a change in the attitude of many members who are now willing to talk about abuse and seek solutions.   

“GCWM has focused on this since 2002 and there is hardly a church where the topic is not known. The issue of abuse is a social issue we, the Church, cannot ignore. It goes against the essence of who God is – God is love (1 John 4:8),” she says. “To show the world God’s love, we must deal with these social issues of abuse, poverty, illiteracy, etc.”  

This year’s theme focuses on Words That Wound: The Trauma of Emotional Abuse. You will find a variety of resources available for planning an enditnow Day by visiting women.adventist.org/enditnow-day or enditnow.org

This article was written by Beth Thomas and originally appeared on Adventist News Network.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

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In this week’s news round-up, Adventist and other Christian churches suffer from Chinese government suppression, an Adventist choral group in Zimbabwe is recording a new album, and Adventist schools in Washington and West Virginia are sued for abuse and sexual assault of students.

In this week’s news round-up, Adventist and other Christian churches suffer from Chinese government suppression, an Adventist choral group in Zimbabwe is recording a new album, and Adventist schools in Washington and West Virginia are sued for abuse and sexual assault of students.

Adventist and Other Christian Churches Suffer from Chinese Government Suppression. In March, about a dozen Chinese police officers and local officials suddenly showed up at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Nanyang and made the frightened congregants disperse. They ordered that the cross, a painting of the Last Supper and Bible verse calligraphy be taken down. And they demanded that all services stop until each person along with the church itself was registered with the government, said the shopkeeper, Guo, who gave his last name only from fear of retribution. The 62-year-old Chinese shopkeeper had waited nearly his entire adult life to see his dream of building a church come true — a brick house with a sunny courtyard and spacious hall with room for 200 believers. Under President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

The crackdown on Christianity is part of a broader push by Xi to "Sinicize" all the nation's religions by infusing them with "Chinese characteristics" such as loyalty to the Communist Party. Over the last several months, local governments across the country have shut down hundreds of private Christian "house churches." A statement last week from 47 in Beijing alone said they had faced "unprecedented" harassment since February. A dozen Chinese Protestants interviewed by the Associated Press described gatherings that were raided, interrogations, and surveillance. One pastor said hundreds of his congregants were questioned individually about their faith. Like Guo, the majority requested that their names be partly or fully withheld because they feared punishment from authorities. From Beaumont Enterprise, “Christian heartland opens window into fight for China's soul.”

Zimbabwe Seventh-day Adventist Choral Group Spreads Gospel through Song. The Gospel Ensemble (TGE), a Zimbabwe Seventh-day Adventist choral group, plans to spread the word of God to all the corners of the world. The Chitungwiza-based 40-member group music director Simbarashe Masamha said, “While many choose to sing to entertain people in different tunes and styles, our group sings Christ in songs and not songs in Christ…We are looking forward to the soon returning of Christ, and the DVD album [being recorded] seeks to alert the world that it is high time we all live in Christ.” From The Sunday Mail, “The Gospel Ensemble readies new album.”

Washington State SDA School Sued for Jailed Former Principal’s Child Sex Crimes. A King County civil lawsuit claims leaders for Mountain View Christian School near Sequim, Washington, withheld knowledge that a former teacher convicted of sex crimes was known to be inappropriately touching other students. Davis Law Group of Seattle seeks an unspecified monetary amount in damages from the Western Washington Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists that oversees the school with a trial, tentatively starting October 1, in King County Superior Court. The law firm represents parents of a then 10-year-old Sequim girl victimized by her former teacher/principal Doug Allison at the Sequim-area school in the 2015-16 school year. Court documents state the law group and family allege the school and the church corporation “failed to prevent the ongoing and preventable molestation of (the minor).” Allison and his wife Judy Allison were hired to work at Mountain View Christian School in August 2013 where he served as principal and taught grades 4-8. Court documents claim church corporation and school leaders did not investigate Allison’s past in California despite at least one existing abuse allegation in California prior to his hiring nor did they act after parents complained during his employment in the Sequim parochial school for allegedly hugging students inappropriately several months prior to his arrest. Allison was sentenced in September 2016 to 26-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation and two counts of first-degree child rape for crimes against two students in the school. He is currently serving his sentence in Airway Heights Corrections Center west of Spokane. Heidi Baumgartner, communication director for the Washington Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said she cannot comment on pending litigation. From Sequim Gazette, “Family sues church over sex crimes at Christian school near Sequim.”

Many SDA Entities Sued After Abuse Occurred at Shuttered Miracle Meadows School. Three cases have been filed against Miracle Meadows School in Salem, West Virginia, even though the school is permanently closed. The suits allege bodily injury, invasion of privacy, and false imprisonment. Seventh-day Adventist Church-North American Division Inc., Advent Home Learning Center Inc., Blodel Senior, E.A. Sutherland Education Association Inc., Adventist Laymen's Services & Industries, Outpost Centers International, Columbia Union Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, Inc., Mountain View Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, Miracle Meadows School, Susan Gayle Clark, Timothy Arrington, the Layman Foundation, ASI Missions Inc., and Kingsley Whitsett were all named defendants in the suit. F.F. and L.F., as parents of Z.F., C.J. and K.W., also allege the defendants committed education malpractice and other wrongful acts upon many minor children while the youngsters were students at the school, according to three cases filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. The plaintiffs allege their children suffered significant abuse at the hands of the defendants as well as other children who were enrolled there. The defendants, the suit says, owed a legal duty to the plaintiffs to care for them and to not be negligent, but they repeatedly breached their duty of care.

The plaintiffs say the defendants failed to inform parents of the incidents of child abuse and neglect as well as failing to inform the appropriate authorities. The defendants also negligently failed to ensure that its employees had proper and adequate training and experience to protect the students from harm, according to the suits. The plaintiffs, the suits say, suffered serious emotional distress because of the defendants' actions. The plaintiffs also say the defendants were aware of the child abuse and mistreatment as far back as December 2000. Susan Gayle Clark, founder and director of Miracle Meadows, was sentenced to jail time and probation in 2016. From West Virginia Record, “Three cases allege abuse by Christian boarding school.”

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Redlands, California.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Sabbath at the NSD Mission Congress was a day jam-packed with programs, presentations, preaching and pageantry. Hundreds of extra seats were added to the 4,000-seat hall, and still the back was filled with rows of people standing after all the chairs were taken.

The Northern Asia-Pacific Division's International Mission Congress 2018 in Seoul, South Korea, closed its three-and-a-half days with a bang on Sabbath, August 11. 

Sabbath at the Mission Congress was a day jam-packed with programs, presentations, preaching, and pageantry. Hundreds of extra seats were added to the 4,000-seat hall, and still the back was filled with rows of people standing after all the chairs were taken.

This high Sabbath ended the congress, and followed the previous two-and-a-half days of special programming. (See my first and second reports.)

As thousands of people from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, China, the US, and many other countries streamed into the Korea International Exhibition & Convention Center outside Seoul, South Korea, they were greeted with bows and smiles from volunteers wearing yellow sashes. 

They were offered printed programs for the day (in multiple languages) and bottled water. (Attendees of the whole three-day conference had already been given gifts of bags, umbrellas, water bottles, and more, branded with the logo of the Mission Conference.)

The program began at 8:30 a.m. with a Sabbath School program, introduced with congregational singing, led by the praise team and multiple choirs, and with help from the state-of-the-art sound system.

Jim Howard leads lesson study

Jim Howard, associate director at the General Conference for Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, led the lesson study. As it was impractical to divide into smaller study groups, as is typical in Adventist churches, Howard simply spoke from the front about this week’s lesson, which examined the ministry of Peter and the controversial conversion of Gentiles in the book of Acts. 

Report on Korean Union Conference

Next we heard a report from the Korean Union Conference, a vibrant part of the world church, with health facilities, schools, universities, language institutes, and many churches. Korea sends many missionaries into surrounding countries and around the world. 

A new project is the creation of a special account for each baby dedicated in the Adventist church in Korea. A sum of money is put into this missionary account by the church, which parents can add to over the years. When the child is a student and old enough, he will have money that can be used for participation in various missionary programs. 

A special prayer was offered for the church in Korea, including a prayer for students who are fighting in the courts for the right to take certain board exams on a day other than Saturday.

Banner in the main hall

Church workers ready to enter North Korea

One of the most interesting reports of the day came next, giving us an insight into North Korea.

The Demilitarized Zone, marking the border with North Korea, is only 23.6 kilometers from the Kintex Convention Center. Korean Union Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director Lee ByungJu reported that “North Korea is very near to us, but still not open to the gospel.” He said that the Korean Union Conference has been saving 1% of its tithes for the North Korean Mission. “We have been wishing and praying for reunification,” he said. 

Twenty-four pastors have been trained as missionaries to be ready to enter North Korea. “Any time North Korea opens its doors they will be ready to work as missionaries,” Lee said. Thirty laypeople have also been trained, and 47 literature evangelists are ready to go. Medical workers are getting ready, and youth are being trained to work in North Korea as well. A special mission project works for any refugees from North Korea, offering help and accommodation in Seoul, if they need it.

“The most important thing is to get more interest in this program,” Lee said. “We need to be more passionate and feel sympathy for these people — not only in Korea, but all of the nations and churches in our division need to pray for this mission.”

Nine people then ascended to the stage, and were introduced as people who escaped from North Korea, and are now members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They are also ready to go back to North Korea if the doors open to help spread the gospel.

The nine defectors from North Korea

With the help of actors, a story was briefly told and dramatized about an Adventist believer in North Korea. (This story was also told to me by a Korean pastor, so I have added some of his details here.) When the Korean War began, most pastors and church leaders fled to the south. Some believers who were left were killed. This woman was only a new believer, and was not killed, but was moved to another place. There she witnessed to the people around her. So the authorities moved her to another place. Again, she witnessed to her neighbors. This was their mistake. They kept moving her, and in this way she was able to spread the Adventist message to people in many different places. (Later many of these people were killed or died in a famine in the 1990s.)

One day a friend came to tell her that her house was going to be searched the following day. So she buried her Bible under a telephone pole in the front yard. No sooner had she finished covering the Bible than some men with shovels appeared and said they were from the government and were required to move the telephone pole. She was terrified that they would find her Bible. But before they could begin work, a giant cloud appeared and it began to rain. The men said: “We cannot work today,” and they promised to return the following day. 

This gave the woman time to dig up her Bible and bury it in her back yard instead.

When she was later able to dig it out of the earth, the beginning of Genesis and end of Revelation had gotten wet. She tried every night to dry the pages, but eventually had to concede that they were ruined and couldn’t be saved. So finally she took out those few pages and burned them. She put the ashes into cold water and she and her children drank them. Her son said: “Now we should not be hungry anymore.”

Later the woman was able to defect from North Korea. But that Bible was still incredibly important to her. She had risked her life for that Bible. 

To the marvel of the audience, the actual Bible of the woman in North Korea was held up. 

The Bible from North Korea

“We want to return this Bible to North Korea,” Korean Union President Kim SiYoung said. “We are anxiously waiting for the time when the gospel can reach the North Korean territory...We need to be wise and plan in a specific way, and this requires huge financial aid. That is why this is not only work for the conference. This is a work that needs to be done at the division level, and at the General Conference level. We need prayer and support from all over the world. This is the last territory our three angels’ message needs to enter. So on behalf of our 20,000 church members, we want to hand this Bible to General Conference President Ted Wilson. Please take this Bible and pray for our mission — specifically for the North Korean mission work.”

And at this, the Bible was handed to Ted Wilson, with people craning it to see it more closely. 

Wilson said that he accepted the Bible with great humility and a heart touched by the faithfulness of God’s people for the word of God. He asked everyone to stand as he prayed for God’s work to go forward on the Korean peninsula.

Testimony from Mongolia

After a seven-member choir called the Descendents of Christ from Mongolia sang, a video presentation told the story of a woman in Mongolia who had been abused by her husband and divorced, but then found a wonderful and supportive community in the Adventist church. She told her friends and relatives, and they told their friends and relatives. “I could not sit, and do nothing — I wanted to share,” she said. Through her, a whole host of people were eventually baptized. After the video presentation, the woman herself appeared on the stage and spoke briefly.

Japanese double quartet

One of my favorite pieces of music from the whole mission congress was a double barbershop quartet of Japanese men singing a medley of gospel songs, including “Down by the Riverside.” 

Testimony from SOS Missionary Group

Jang So Hee, a teen, broke down during her testimony about leaving the Presbyterian church to become an Adventist because of the SOS Missionary Group — Korean teens who are trained to do evangelism with their peers. She met some teens with SOS on the street, and they invited her to church. She was impressed by the deep connection Adventists have with the Bible. After she was baptized, Jang So Hee also became an SOS missionary and began sharing with her friends and family. But when she talked about how she is trying to reach her mother, her voice broke and she had to stop and compose herself. The thousands of people listening were completely behind her.

Divine Worship service

Sabbath School ended and transitioned immediately into the Divine Worship service. NSD Ministerial Secretary Ron Clouzet welcome everyone and asked us to practice saying “Worthy, worthy is the lamb that was slain,” in all of our own native languages, together.

“Praise to the Lord the Almighty,” the opening hymn, was accompanied by piano and organ.

I noticed a drone flying around the large hall, probably taking video footage. That is something I have never seen before!

The Korea Ladies Choir and Gracia Choir together sang “Softly and Tenderly.”

During the offering, to the sounds of a cellist playing, people put Korean won, American dollars, euros, Japanese yen and more into the baskets handed around the cavernous hall.

NSD Secretary Yutake Inada introduced General Conference President Ted Wilson as the main speaker of the day. Two children wearing traditional Korean dress presented Wilson and his wife Nancy with flower bouquets.  

“What a wonderful thing it is that we are an international church,” Wilson began. He mentioned many of the different ministries represented at the mission congress, including the medical missionaries, the translators for the deaf, the GAiN conference, and the children’s ministry. He also remarked about a food carving ministry, which has a booth here, and was displaying a watermelon with a carving of Ted Wilson on its front.

Ted Wilson in a watermelon

The Ted Wilson on the watermelon is clean shaven, but the Ted Wilson speaking this Sabbath has a beard. 

Let me explain that my beard is because we are going to have our Annual Council this year in Battle Creek, Michigan, Wilson said. “It’s where our church has its formative beginning. We are going to look back in order to move forward....We have nothing to fear for the future unless we forget where God has led. So some of us will dress in costumes that look like the the 19th century, and some of us will have beards.”

Wilson went on to speak about mission and successes the church is having around the world in spreading the gospel.

Lunch and early afternoon activities

Immediately following the church service, thousands of people poured into the adjacent hall for a buffet lunch. The organization was exemplary. Meal tickets were scanned and people were directed to an area where six different lines took diners past long tables holding plates, chopsticks, spoons, and large platters of Korean vegetarian food, beginning with rice and ending with seaweed — with many choices in between. 

Lunch

When those lines started getting long, people were directed to the other side of the hall, where six more lines began.

Hundreds of round tables, each seating 10 people, filled the hall. At the edges, workers helped you to scrape your plates and leave your chopsticks and spoons in clearly labelled containers.

After sustenance, some people went to a baptism right outside the convention center. Others attended testimonies in seminar rooms. Some went to a special lecture by Mark Finley about evangelism in their own churches. Many strolled among the booths. I met some very friendly people, including Paul Park at the Compass booth, a ministry aimed at young people, and Mayette Kim, a Filipino girl married to a Korean man, at a church booth.

The Compass ministry

Mayette Kim and her husband

I also visited the GC’s Global Mission booth, the booth for the ministry for North Korean refugees, Sahmyook Foods, Sahymyoook University (one of the largest Adventist universities in the world, not far from the convention center), a calligraphy ministry, a bicycle ministry, a food carving ministry (after Ted Wilson mentioned his face in a watermelon, I had to see it), the Chinese Union Mission booth, the booth of the Seven Light Deaf Church in Seoul, the Yeosu Sanitarium and Hospital in Korea, and many more. 

Mission Musical

The main afternoon programming began at 3pm with the mission musical “Caleb,” presented by Sulammi. The musical traced the story of Joshua and Caleb, wandering in the wilderness with Moses after leaving Egypt and before reaching the promised land. Caleb was chosen as one of the scouts to spy out the land of Canaan. Only he and Joshua advised that the Hebrews move immediately to take the land — the other scouts reported on the strong people who lived there in fortified cities. Much later, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua permitted him to be one of the first to enter the land. His faith was rewarded. The message was all about courage in the face of adversity, and being willing to go where God leads, no matter what. 

The two women who played Joshua and Caleb both had phenomenal voices. The songs they sang were powerful. 

The choreography was simple, yet strong. 

The words of the musical were broadcast on the large screens in multiple languages, so we could all read along with what was being said.

The performance was memorable — I don’t know when I have seen a musical based on the Bible like this. The staging and music and costumes and lighting were all very professional. The music itself was excellent.

Closing ceremony

Immediately following the musical, the closing ceremony began. 

Red scarves with the NSD mission congress logo (like fans might have at a football match), were handed out to everyone in the hall, and many people were also given little electric lights that could be held aloft when the lights were dimmed. 

A short sermon by NSD President SiYoung Kim followed on from the message of the music. Caleb looked up and instead of seeing the mountain, he saw God, Kim said. We can also conquer Hebron in our mission fields. We must just fix our eyes on God instead of on difficulties. 

Kim spoke in Korean, but the translators in the five different booths at the back of the hall continually translated all of the proceedings into English, Japanese, Mongolian, and Chinese. 

After further testimonies, banners with the names of five big cities in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division were lifted in the back of the hall and carried up to the front, representing mission in these cities. The 604 medical missionaries who have just been commissioned during this mission congress were asked to come to the front. Then the Pioneer Mission Movement missionaries also joined them in the front of the hall, followed by youth from the 1000 Missionary Movement. Continental missionaries and interdivision missionaries were also invited to stand, and finally anyone who has ever served as a missionary. 

Everyone in the hall together sang “We Have This Hope” (Wayne Hooper’s song that has served as the theme song at a number of General Conference sessions since 1962).

In a long prayer, Ted Wilson charged the missionaries to “Go forward in the name of Jesus.”

People held up their red scarves and waved their lights. 

The 2018 NSD International Mission Congress was announced officially closed. A loud boom followed the announcement, smoke machines puffed out clouds, and streamers and confetti rained down from above. 

As everyone began to slowly file out of the hall, a slideshow of images from the last few days at the mission congress played on the big screens. 

This was undoubtedly one of the most high-tech spectacles I have had the privilege to witness. I do think that the technology enhanced the mission, rather than distracted from it, and that the Korean hosts of the NSD Mission Congress are to be congratulated on an inspiring event. There were opportunities for networking and fellowshipping, for learning about different ministries, for being inspired by messages of mission, and for being exhilarated by wonderful music and talented musicians. 

I was disappointed that while there were people of all ages and genders on the platform, there was a disproportionate number of men, and all of the main speakers from the General Conference were older men (mostly American, except GT Ng from Singapore and Gary Krause from Australia). It’s time to hand over the torch!

As Elder Wilson said: “What a wonderful thing it is that we are an international church!”

Alita Byrd is attending GAiN and the Mission Congress in Seoul, South Korea, and reporting for Spectrum. Read her GAiN Day 1 report hereDay 2 report hereDay 3 report here, her first report on the Mission Congress here, and her second report here. Photo credits: Alita Byrd

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Sabbath at the NSD Mission Congress was a day jam-packed with programs, presentations, preaching and pageantry. Hundreds of extra seats were added to the 4,000-seat hall, and still the back was filled with rows of people standing after all the chairs were taken.

The Northern Asia-Pacific Division's International Mission Congress 2018 in Seoul, Korea, closed its three-and-a-half days with a bang on Sabbath, August 11. 

Sabbath at the Mission Congress was a day jam-packed with programs, presentations, preaching and pageantry. Hundreds of extra seats were added to the 4,000-seat hall, and still the back was filled with rows of people standing after all the chairs were taken.

This high Sabbath ended the congress, and followed the previous two-and-a-half days of special programming. (See my first and second reports.)

As thousands of people from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, China, the US, and many other countries streamed into the Korea International Exhibition & Convention Center outside Seoul, Korea, they were greeted with bows and smiles from volunteers wearing yellow sashes. 

They were offered printed programs for the day (in multiple languages) and bottled water. (Attendees of the whole three-day conference had already been given gifts of bags, umbrellas, water bottles, and more, branded with the logo of the Mission Conference.)

The program began at 8:30am with a Sabbath School program, introduced with congregational singing, led by the praise team and multiple choirs, and with help from the state-of-the-art sound system.

Jim Howard leads lesson study

Jim Howard, associate director at the General Conference for Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, led the lesson study. As it was impractical to divide into smaller study groups, as is typical in Adventist churches, Howard simply spoke from the front about this week’s lesson, which examined the ministry of Peter and the controversial conversion of Gentiles in the book of Acts. 

Report on Korean Union Conference

Next we heard a report from the Korean Union Conference, a vibrant part of the world church, with health facilities, schools, universities, language institutes, and many churches. Korea sends many missionaries into surrounding countries and around the world. 

A new project is the creation of a special account for each baby dedicated in the Adventist church in Korea. A sum of money is put into this missionary account by the church, which parents can add to over the years. When the child is a student and old enough, he will have money that can be used for participation in various missionary programs. 

A special prayer was offered for the church in Korea, including a prayer for students who are fighting in the courts for the right to take certain board exams on a day other than Saturday.

Banner in the main hall

Church workers ready to enter North Korea

One of the most interesting reports of the day came next, giving us an insight into North Korea.

The Demilitarized Zone, marking the border with North Korea, is only 23.6 kilometers from the Kintex Convention Center. Korean Union Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director Lee ByungJu reported that “North Korea is very near to us, but still not open to the gospel.” He said that the Korean Union Conference has been saving 1% of its tithes for the North Korean Mission. “We have been wishing and praying for reunification,” he said. 

Twenty-four pastors have been trained as missionaries to be ready to enter North Korea. “Any time North Korea opens its doors they will be ready to work as missionaries,” Lee said. Thirty laypeople have also been trained, and 47 literature evangelists are ready to go. Medical workers are getting ready, and youth are being trained to work in North Korea as well. A special mission project works for any refugees from North Korea, offering help and accommodation in Seoul, if they need it.

“The most important thing is to get more interest in this program,” Lee said. “We need to be more passionate and feel sympathy for these people — not only in Korea, but all of the nations and churches in our division need to pray for this mission.”

Nine people then ascended to the stage, and were introduced as people who escaped from North Korea, and are now members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They are also ready to go back to North Korea if the doors open to help spread the gospel.

The nine defectors from North Korea

With the help of actors, a story was briefly told and dramatized about an Adventist believer in North Korea. (This story was also told to me by a Korean pastor, so I have added some of his details here.) When the Korean War began, most pastors and church leaders fled to the south. Some believers who were left were killed. This woman was only a new believer, and was not killed, but was moved to another place. There she witnessed to the people around her. So the authorities moved her to another place. Again, she witnessed to her neighbors. This was their mistake. They kept moving her, and in this way she was able to spread the Adventist message to people in many different places. (Later many of these people were killed or died in a famine in the 1990s.)

One day a friend came to tell her that her house was going to be searched the following day. So she buried her Bible under a telephone pole in the front yard. No sooner had she finished covering the Bible that some men with shovels appeared and said they were from the government and were required to move the telephone pole. She was terrified that they would find her Bible. But before they could begin work, a giant cloud appeared and it began to rain. The men said: “We cannot work today,” and they promised to return the following day. 

This gave the woman time to dig up her Bible and bury it in her back yard instead.

When she was later able to dig it out of the earth, the beginning of Genesis and end of Revelation had gotten wet. She tried every night to dry the pages, but eventually had to concede that they were ruined and couldn’t be saved. So finally she took out those few pages and burned them. She put the ashes into cold water and she and her children drank them. Her son said: “Now we should not be hungry anymore.”

Later the woman was able to defect from North Korea. But that Bible was still incredibly important to her. She had risked her life for that Bible. 

To the marvel of the audience, the actual Bible of the woman in North Korea was held up. 

The Bible from North Korea

“We want to return this Bible to North Korea,” Korean Union President Kim SiYoung said. “We are anxiously waiting for the time when the gospel can reach the North Korean territory. . . We need to be wise and plan in a specific way, and this requires huge financial aid. That is why this is not only work for the conference. This is a work that needs to be done and the division level, and at the General Conference level. We need prayer and support from all over the world. This is the last territory our three angels’ message needs to enter. So on behalf of our 20,000 church members, we want to hand this Bible to General Conference President Ted Wilson. Please take this Bible and pray four our mission — specifically for the North Korean mission work.”

And at this, the Bible was handed to Ted Wilson, with people craning it to see it more closely. 

Wilson said that he accepted the Bible with great humility and a heard touched by the faithfulness of God’s people for the word of God. He asked everyone to stand as he prayed for God’s work to go forward on the Korean peninsula.

Testimony from Mongolia

After a seven-member choir called the Descendents of Christ from Mongolia sang, a video presentation told the story of a woman in Mongolia who had been abused by her husband and divorced, but then found a wonderful and supportive community in the Adventist church. She told her friends and relatives, and they told their friends and relatives. “I could not sit, and do nothing — I wanted to share,” she said. Through her, a whole host of people were eventually baptized. After the video presentation, the woman herself appeared on the stage and spoke briefly.

Japanese double quartet

One of my favorite pieces of music from the whole mission congress was a double barbershop quartet of Japanese men singing a medley of gospel songs, including “Down by the Riverside.” 

Testimony from SOS Missionary Group

Jang So Hee, a teen, broke down during her testimony about leaving the Presbyterian church to become an Adventist because of the SOS Missionary Group — Korean teens who are trained to do evangelism with their peers. She met some teens with SOS on the street, and they invited her to church. She was impressed by the deep connection Adventists have with the Bible. After she was baptized, Jang So Hee also became an SOS missionary and began sharing with her friends and family. But when she talked about how she is trying to reach her mother, her voice broke and she had to stop and compose herself. The thousands of people listening were completely behind her.

Divine Worship service

Sabbath School ended and transitioned immediately into the Divine Worship service. NSD Ministerial Secretary Ron Clouzet welcome everyone and asked us to practice saying “Worthy, worthy is the lamb that was slain,” in all of our own native languages, together.

“Praise to the Lord the Almighty,” the opening hymn, was accompanied by piano and organ.

I noticed a drone flying around the large hall, probably taking video footage. That is something I have never seen before!

The Korea Ladies Choir and Gracia Choir together sang “Softly and Tenderly.”

During the offering, to the sounds of a cellist playing, people put Korean won, American dollars, euros, Japanese yen and more into the baskets handed around the cavernous hall.

NSD Secretary Yutake Inada introduced General Conference President Ted Wilson as the main speaker of the day. Two children wearing traditional Korean dress presented Wilson and his wife Nancy with flower bouquets.  

“What a wonderful thing it is that we are an international church,” Wilson began. He mentioned many of the different ministries represented at the mission congress, including the medical missionaries, the translators for the deaf, the GAiN conference, and the children’s ministry. He also remarked about a  food carving ministry, which has a booth here, and was displaying a watermelon with a carving of Ted Wilson on its front.

Ted Wilson in a watermelon

The Ted Wilson on the watermelon is clean shaven, but the Ted Wilson speaking this Sabbath has a beard. 

Let me explain that my beard is because we are going to have our Annual Council this year in Battle Creek, Michigan, Wilson said. “It’s where our church has its formative beginning. We are going to look back in order to move forward. . . . We have nothing to fear for the future unless we forget where God has led. So some of us will dress in costumes that look like the the 19th century, and some of us will have beards.”

Wilson went on to speak about mission and successes the church is having around the world in spreading the gospel.

Lunch and early afternoon activities

Immediately following the church service, thousands of people poured into the adjacent hall for a buffet lunch. The organization was exemplary. Meal tickets were scanned and people were directed to an area where six different lines took diners past long tables holding plates, chopsticks, spoons, and large platters of Korean vegetarian food, beginning with rice and ending with seaweed — with many choices in between. 

Lunch

When those lines started getting long, people were directed to the other side of the hall, where six more lines began.

Hundreds of round tables, each seating 10 people, filled the hall. At the edges, workers helped you to scrape your plates and leave your chopsticks and spoons in clearly labelled containers.

After sustenance, some people went to a baptism right outside the convention center. Others attended testimonies in seminar rooms. Some went to a special lecture by Mark Finley about evangelism in their own churches. Many strolled among the booths. I met some very friendly people, including Paul Park at the Compass booth, a ministry aimed at young people, and Mayette Kim, a Filipino girl married to a Korean man, at a church booth.

The Compass ministry

Mayette Kim and her husband

I also visited the GC’s Global Mission booth, the booth for the ministry for North Korean refugees, Sahmyook Foods, Sahymyoook University (one of the largest Adventist universities in the world, not far from the convention center), a calligraphy ministry, a bicycle ministry, a food carving ministry (after Ted Wilson mentioned his face in a watermelon, I had to see it), the Chinese Union Mission booth, the booth of the Seven Light Deaf Church in Seoul, the Yeosu Sanitarium and Hospital in Korea, and many more. 

Mission Musical

The main afternoon programming began at 3pm with the mission musical “Caleb,” presented by Sulammi. The musical traced the story of Joshua and Caleb, wondering in the wilderness with Moses after leaving Egypt and before reaching the promised land. Caleb was chosen as one of the scouts to spy out the land of Canaan. Only he and Joshua advised that the Hebrews move immediately to take the land — the other scouts reported on the strong people who lived there in fortified cities. Much later, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua permitted him to be one of the first to enter the land. His faith was rewarded. The message was all about courage in the faith of adversity, and being willing to go where God leads, no matter what. 

The two women who played Joshua and Caleb both had phenomenal voices. The songs they sang were powerful. 

The choreography was simple, yet strong. 

The words of the musical were broadcast on the large screens in multiple languages, so we could all read along with what was being said.

The performance was memorable — I don’t know when I have seen a musical based on the Bible like this. The staging and music and costumes and lighting were all very professional. The music itself was excellent.

Closing ceremony

Immediately following the musical, the closing ceremony began. 

Red scarves with the NSD mission congress logo (like fans might have at a football match), were handed out to everyone in the hall, and many people were also given little electric lights that could be held aloft when the lights were dimmed. 

A short sermon by NSD President SiYoung Kim followed on from the message of the music. Caleb looked up and instead of seeing the mountain, he saw God, Kim said. We can also conquer Hebron in our mission fields. We must just fix our eyes on God instead of on difficulties. 

Kim spoke in Korean, but the translators in the five different booths at the back of the hall continually translated all of the proceedings into English, Japanese, Mongolian, and Chinese. 

After further testimonies, banners with the names of five big cities in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division were lifted in the back of the hall and carried up to the front, representing mission in these cities. The 604 medical missionaries who have just been commission during this mission congress were asked to come to the front. Then the Pioneer Mission Movement missionaries also joined them in the front of the hall, followed by youth from the 1000 Missionary Movement. Continental missionaries and interdivision missionaries were also invited to stand, and finally anyone who has ever served as a missionary. 

Everyone in the hall together sang “We Have This Hope” (Wayne Hooper’s song that has served as the theme song at a number of General Conference sessions since 1962).

In a long prayer, Ted Wilson charged the missionaries to “Go forward in the name of Jesus.”

People held up their red scarves and waved their lights. 

The 2018 NSD International Mission Congress was announced officially closed. A loud boom followed the announcement, smoke machines puffed out clouds, and streamers and confetti rained down from above. 

As everyone began to slowly file out of the hall, a slideshow of images from the last few days at the mission congress played on the big screens. 

This was undoubtedly one of the most high-tech spectacles I have had the privilege to witness. I do think that the technology enhanced the mission, rather than distracted from it, and that the Korean hosts of the NSD Mission Congress are to be congratulated on an inspiring event. There were opportunities for networking and fellowshipping, for learning about different ministries, for being inspired by messages of mission, and for being exhilarated by wonderful music and talented musicians. 

I was disappointed that while there were people of all ages and genders on the platform, there was a disproportionate number of men, and all of the main speakers from the General Conference were older men (mostly American, except GT Ng from Singapore and Gary Krause from Australia). It’s time to hand over the torch!

As Elder Wilson said: “What a wonderful thing it is that we are an international church!”

Photo Credits: Alita Byrd

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