It’s been my privilege to visit many parts of the world, and visit our world family. And I have to tell you that I love God’s people and His church everywhere. From Los Angeles to Quebec City; from Calcutta to Singapore; from Tokyo to Sydney; Moscow to Jakarta; Nairobi to London; Berlin to Buenos Aires; Mexico City to Leigos; and Lusaka to Cairo.
We have precious church members everywhere. And I love them, and I hope you do too. I just want to also state, these are a few brief comments before we get into our item, that we are committed. I am committed to staying together as a world family. God’s church, we know, will be united in the end of time. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that very plainly. As we proclaim the Three Angels’ messages, we will be united in that beautiful expression. We are to be part of Total Member Involvment, and of course the mission outreach given to us from heaven itself.
As we proclaim that wonderful Advent message, our only rule of faith is the Bible. Make no mistake about that. It is our foundation—foundation of belief and practice—and from it, we obtain our Fundamental Beliefs which are voted on by the World Church at a General Conference Session. But the Bible is our rule of faith. The Spirit of Prophecy is also a heavenly-inspired guide of instruction for us as a church and for us individually. We place strong trust in its directions for the church.
Now, policies are actions by this very body, which are the regulations based upon foundations and principles of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Make no mistake about it, we do not say the working policy is equal with the Word. The Word is primary. The policies are what we all agree to abide by through a very interrelated representative church structure, which is ultimately implemented by abiding in the power of the Holy Spirit, because truly the Holy Spirit is what keeps us united, and good will that we all agree that we will work together using the policies we have voted. Actions by the Executive Committee, this very group here, and the General Conference session, are agreements that we collectively take to guide our worldwide activities and structure as we accomplish the mission entrusted to us by heaven, to evangelize the world.
Now, we have policies and general agreements because God is a God of order. If you go back in history, in the Seventh-day Adventist church, you will find that we progressed from a perspective of not wanting any kind of organized order, to a process of a collective approach to how we approach order. And of course one beautiful text that is so familiar to all of us: 1 Corinthians chapter 14, verse 40, Paul tells us under inspiration, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” So that’s one of the reasons why we have policies.
Another beautiful text which I think is connected with this so that it doesn’t appear that it’s legalistic and it’s just harsh is that beautiful section in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, which I love to preach on, and I’m sure many of you do as well. Towards the end of the chapter, verses 18 and 19:
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Policies and procedures help us to stay together and to reconcile us to each other. Now the actions of the General Conference Session itself—as we’ve been talking primarily about this body, the Executive Committee of the General Conference—but the General Conference in Session constitutes the highest authority we have, as representatives from around the world assemble and they make decisions for the whole family. We don’t have the beauty of the urim and the thummim that the Israelites had, that was worn on the breastplate of the high priest, one lighting up, and the other clouding over when a question was asked, and we don’t have a living prophet with us. So the Holy Spirit guides us in decisions that are made and it’s privilege to trust the leading of God when we are all assembled.
Now I want to humbly share a very short citation from the Spirit of Prophecy that kind of gives us an example regarding how we relate to the Annual Council, but especially to the General Conference in Session, and how it is that we can be reconciled to each other when we have differing opinions. And I offer this humbly to you. It’s quite profound, and it’s worth your looking at in much greater detail and reading in a more specific way. It’s Testimonies, Volume 9, the last in the series and pages 260 and 261. And again I say, you should read it for yourselves; you should look at the context. Beginning with a particular section and word here, it says,
When, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.
At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I have said that I could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God. But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority (9T 260).
This particular citation is worthy of your investigation and review in terms of how we relate to General Conference Sessions and of course our own body. At times there are disagreements and frustrations, and how is it that we should deal with those? Well, we are told, basically, that we are to humble ourselves before the Lord and each other, and that means all of us. That includes me, and that we are to work for reconciliation and the greater good of Christ’s body. The policies which the body have voted already contain very specific instructions as to how to keep us together.
I would actually invite you to study the policies. Unfortunately, I think many are not acquainted with the policies, and they have come about over many years with a lot of thought and important input from this body. So there are areas in the policy that already treat how we are to stay together; however, as we face the future, there are potential challenges that may create deviations from the path we have agreed on. The need is for reconcilation and redemption to keep us together in humility of spirit under God’s direct guidance.
And as I close, I just want to share with you that what will be presented to you, in a moment or so, are ways which can help us maintain our unity and mission and provide for a redemptive process in working together under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I earnestly appeal to you, to all members of the Executive Committee of the General Conference, to support and vote in favor of the proposal that will be placed before us in just a few moments. This proposal has been carefully worked on by various writing groups and, may I say, it has been overwhelmingly voted on, in a positive sense, by the General Conference and the Division Officer group.
We are committed to being redemptive. We’re committed to being part of a redemptive process, to keep us together as a world family. I humbly ask for your support of this proposal.