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12 October 2017 | Silver Springs, USA  [Victor Hulbert] Unity in Mission can mean many things.  For the delegates at the Seventh-day Adventist World Church Annual Council on Monday, 9 October, it meant six-hours of perusing, discussing and finally referring back a 14-page document to the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee.  

PlatformThe document, Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence in Church Governance: Phase II, sought to initiate standard procedures for maintaining church unity in matters involving non-compliance. Areas addressed included Fundamental Beliefs and voted actions or working policies of the church.  The document outlined suggested ways for encouraging compliance, but was sent back for review, partly due to concerns that some of the recommendations conflicted with the World Church constitution, but also due to a concern that this was not the right route for encouraging unity.

Thomas Muller at mikeThomas Muller, Danish Union president, notes that the dialouge process is not yet completed. There was impassioned debate, much of it based around strongly held beliefs fed by conscience, a study of God’s Word, and reason – often related to the specific cultural/spiritual setting of where various delegates live and witness.  For a full report of the debate see the Adventist News Network Report.

With concerns for understanding within a European context, Raafat Kamal, president of the Trans-European Region, together with other speakers, noted that the TED and its constituent Unions had been engaged in dialogue with each other and with the GC following procedures voted at the 2016 Annual Council.  They had been listened to, however “we waited for feedback, but that feedback never came.”  This made it hard for him to support any further action, particularly anything that could be seen as disciplinary, when the full procedures from last year had not yet been followed through.

Kamal also spoke about the European mindset, particularly among the younger generation, and encouraged that we need to handle things with a softer touch.

Support for that approach came from a variety of speakers, including Bob Folkenberg who oversees a unique church structure in China and noted that “our whole church is based on trust.” 

Building that trust was something equally emphasised by Tom Lemon, chair of the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee.  He said that he took the process as a pastoral mandate to engage with people in various places of the world.  He spoke from the heart when he said that the two days he spent within the TED was “a blessed experience.”  He noted the prayer, the concern, and the transparency of the dialogue.  He said, “People bared their souls.  I got back to being a pastor again.”

The dialogue debunked some myths for him.  There is a small community of people who see any Union that takes a strongly positive view on the empowerment and equality of women in ministry as ‘rebellious’.  What was very clear to Lemon was that he did not see an iota of rebellion anywhere.  

Auditorium fullWith a sprinkle of ‘amen’s’ across the auditorium, he stated, “As I listened and I heard, there was not one person that gave any hint of being in rebellion.”  He added, “Rebellion is an attitude before it is an action.  I want to allay that fear!”

What he did see was mission, not just in the TED, but in the other Divisions that also are struggling with positively empowering women in ministry within the context of their environment and culture.  He met with Inter-European Division leaders during the joint Pan-European Youth Congress and could not help but be impressed by the sense of mission held by the 4,000 young people present.

“We are children of God and we are in this together,” Lemon stated, noting that “the unity and commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church is as strong as it has ever been. During my visits I heard an understanding of mission and a commitment to mission that would warm your heart.  Unity in mission is very, very strong.”

“This is important,” Kamal notes.  “This debate which also includes the role of women in leadership is really a distraction from our main mission – and that mission is happening all around us.”

During Annual Council week the Trans-European Division effectively demonstrated this by sharing on social media a mission video that highlights a small selection of mission ‘happenings’ over the past few months.  These include the impact day witness at the Pan-European Youth Congress, a pastor who works with vulnerable families, Latvian Adventists who used the Riga marathon as an opportunity to prominently tell people, ‘Don’t follow me, follow Jesus,’ and the way publishing houses and media centres across Europe are providing materials that help share the Adventist Message during the European focus on Reformation 500, climaxing this October.

As the video camera rolls across the historic ‘3 angels’ sculpture on the side of the TED office, viewers are introduced to the passion, vibrancy, and enthusiasm for mission that can still be found in one of the most secularised parts of the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cljKwQVbdQ&t=63s

“This, for us, is unity in mission,” Kamal states.  “Yes, we may have ongoing, positive discussions on various areas of policy, but this video shares where my heart is.”

Come November, and prior to its Year End Meetings, the TED is hosting a two-day conference on nurture and retention, aimed at improving mission and growth.  The prayer is that such a conference will equally help enhance mission across the varied cultures and languages that make up the 22 countries and 87,000 members of the Trans-European Division. [tedNEWS]


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojkovic, associate editor
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tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division.




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