The Latest Updates Index Search Home
The 2000 Toronto SessionThis is a very brief overview of a few of the highpoints of our 57th General Conference Session, held on June 29-July 8 at the SkyDome and Metro Toronto Center, in Toronto, Canada.
Although balloons were dropped from the ceiling, sculptures, postage stamps, and paintings were unveiled; clowns, puppets, and pantomines were outside "acquainting non-Adventists with our message," and a host of glorious statistics were trumpeted,—a number of very serious actions were, at the request of leadership, dutifully taken by the delegates to the Toronto Session.
Here are the most significant of them:
• Two of every ten Annual Councils can henceforth change certain parts of the Church Manual, without later Session approval.
• Church members can more easily be eliminated, since the term, "disfellowship," has been changed to "remove from membership."
• Worldlings can more easily be brought into the church, since baptism is, in many cases, no longer necessary.
• Divorce and remarriage standards have been seriously diluted.
SOME STATISTICS—Here are some of the statistics from the Toronto Session:
SESSION COSTS—It is estimated that the church paid $20 million to hold the Toronto Session, and pay the expenses of the delegates. The estimated 80,000 visitors paid at least $30 million while there.
POSTAGE STAMP—In preparation for the largest number of people ever to crowd into Toronto, the nation of Canada printed a commemorative stamp, which was unveiled on the first evening (Thursday, June 29) and put on sale the next day in the exhibit hall.
On the stamp was the sun breaking through the clouds over the Rocky Mountains with a gold-embossed Adventist Church logo in the background. The stamps sold in large quantities.
SCULPTURE—Thinking that sculpture would heighten the glory of the place, the General Conference commissioned a sculptor to produce ten full-size figures of people, supposedly watching the return of Christ. It must have cost a lot, for Victor Issa, 45, of Loveland, Colorado, spent the last two years making the set of ten full-size figures.
NEW CHURCH SYMBOL—A new denominational logo was also unveiled at the Session. An open Bible has a vertical cross sticking out of it, from which three feathers arise. (The logo on each issue of the Toronto GC Bulletins is somewhat different: six feathers rising above an open Bible in shape suggesting a flame.)
NEW PAINTING—Darrel Tank, an Adventist artist, was asked to produce a new painting, expressly symbolizing Christ blessing those in attendance at the Toronto Session. The painting, about 36 inches wide by 12 inches high, portrays the Toronto skyline, with Christ just above it with His hands outstretched. The most intriguing part of the painting is the fact that both hands are portrayed with the fingers in the papal blessing position. This is the thumb and first two fingers extended, and the fourth and fifth fingers folded in.
The pope has used this "blessing hand" for centuries, in a hypnotic weaving back and forth motion, to impart the spirit to his followers.
The slightly curved thumb and two finger pattern reaches down from ancient paganism, from whence Catholicism obtained it. In the mystery religions, three slightly curved lines stood for the 666.
OUTSIDE THE CONVENTION CENTER—Various groups were outside the convention center, handing out attack literature against the Holy Spirit, about Houteff’s Shepherd’s Rod prophecies about the destruction of Adventists, or similar things.
THE SKYDOME AND CONVENTION CENTER—The convention center (Metro Toronto Center) is almost entirely underground, and is about a city block from the SkyDome. The SkyDome, which normally houses baseball and football games, was filled with chairs, with a large podium area in the middle, plus five levels of seats encircling the center. New records were set for attendance. Daily attendance at the SkyDome alone has been estimated at between 60-62,000. Most of the SkyDome was filled each day, with the exception of the highest (fifth) level. But few wanted to be up there, since there were too many echoes there to hear anything.
THE CAFETERIA—Vege-meat, carrots, and green beans were the main dish for both lunch and supper. Each meal was $7.50. Yet, by the end of the Session, the Convention Center Cafeteria had lost over $100,000. Somehow, they had underrated their expenses.
Outside the convention buildings were food stands with soft drinks and "vege-dogs" for $2.00, plus beef hot dogs for $1.50. Adventists were purchasing from them all.
THE EXCHANGE RATE—The rate of exchange was $1.00 U.S. to $1.40 Canadian. So anyone with U.S. money in their pocket paid about a third more for everything. In addition, everything purchased, from food to housing, required an immense 15% sales tax! Fortunately, everyone was told they could get a refund on the 15% tax when they left the country. More on that later.
THE MUSIC—The music generally bordered on the wild. If you were there, you probably wished you had stayed at home. But occasionally something nice was sung or played. On the first Friday evening (June 30), 75-year-old Del Delker sang for the audience. The faithful wished that her type of singing was still in vogue in our church.
THE EXHIBITION BOOTHS—Each exhibition booth cost a minium of $150 (depending on how wide it was), and there were lots of them. At one sat Samuele Bacchiocchi, from Andrews University. Not far distant was a group of wild singers with high-power amplifiers. None other than one of the Adventist Book Centers was paying them to sit there and torment the people.
Since people could not even hear him when he spoke, Bacchiocchi got tired of the racket—and went over to their microphone, intending to holler into it for them to get out! But the ABC was quick-acting, and cut the electricity to the mike.
Utterly disgusted, Bacchiocchi somehow got hold of another mike and shouted at them to get out and take their junk with them. He said he paid several hundred dollars for the booth he had, and he had a right to talk to people at it.
Some passers-by applauded him while others said what he was doing was not in good taste.
PRESS COVERAGE—Although the church press was there in full force, constantly churning out more press reports and news releases on events, yet, for the most part, the public press tended to ignore the convention entirely. Of course, if something bad had happened, that would have been reported; but, for some reason, nothing there seemed newsworthy enough.
THE GC BULLETINS—Oddly enough, the ten special Session GC Bulletins, which the Review has issued for decades, previously arrived in one’s mailbox within half a week at the most after the date of publication. But this year, the GC Bulletins have been extremely slow in being mailed out. Bulletin #10 (dated Friday, July 8) has not yet arrived.
VISITING DIGNITARIES—As usual, there was a number of visiting dignitaries from the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Each one was warmly introduced as "Father," "Reverend," etc.
But Mel Lastman, Mayor of Toronto, was introduced as "His Worship" (although that term was not included in the GC Bulletins or its net equivalent, the Session 2000 News). He came on the stage during the closing ceremony, just before President Paulsen’s final speech. Lastman commended the church for its outstanding behavior throughout the week, and concluded his speech with the point that perhaps the Jesus we were waiting for had already returned and was in our hearts.
Those who attended the Toronto Session tell of having seen several prominent Catholics, Protestant, and Orthodox church leaders who were introduced to the audience by Bert Beverly Beach, generally followed by a speech by each one to the delegates.
On June 29, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Hillary Weston addressed the delegation.
As already mentioned, that same evening, Mel Lastman, the mayor of Toronto spoke to the delegation. He also spoke to them again on the last night of the Session (July 8).
On July 3, Albina Guarmieri, member of the Canadian Parliament, spoke to the delegates, on behalf of Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of Canada.
On July 4, Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Federation of Protestant Churches, spoke to the delegates.
Not mentioned in the GC Bulletins, but noted in the Session 2000 News, was one Canadian senator and three high-placed churchmen:
That same day three religious leaders also spoke to the delegates.
Each year, the General Conference gives a large donation to the American Bible Society.
Another featured speaker was a bishop, introduced as "Right R__."
Not mentioned in the Session 2000 News, but briefly noted in the GC Bulletins, were three others introduced by B. B. Beach on July 6.
The first was a prominent Catholic bishop, Monsignor John A. Radano, "an old friend with whom we’ve been in contact for many years, who attended the session in Utrecht five years ago, representing the Roman Catholic Church" (GC Bulletin #8, p. 25).
The second was an important Protestant staff member of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Donna Geernaert "who represents the Faith and Order Plenary Commission. She is one of the top theologians in the world," Beach said (ibid.).
The third was a Lutheran Church woman, "representing the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Telmor Sartison" (ibid.).
On Saturday night, July 8, at the last meeting of the Session, Mayor Lastman of Toronto returned to thank the Adventists for coming, and asked that they would return soon. The Adventist Session had brought more spending people to town for a week than anything else in Toronto’s history.
Let us now turn our attention to the meetings in the SkyDome.
OVERVIEW OF THE BUSINESS MEETINGS—In an earlier analysis of General Conference Sessions (Captive Sessions [WM–114-116]), we noted that not many hours of the ten days are devoted to actual Session business. Yet that is the reason the church paid $20 million to hold the Toronto Session!
As we view the daily business meetings at Toronto, we find that, following the morning sermon, a significant portion at the beginning of the morning and afternoon business meetings are occupied with nomination reports which include extolling the one just elected. This is frequently followed by a lengthy preplanned speech by someone about some topic ("The Future of Adventism" by George Knight, "The 20/40 Window" by T. G. Ng, the American Bible Society, etc.). For example, the Monday afternoon meeting (GC Bulletin #7, pp. 20-23, 26-31) was just about nominations to be accepted by the delegates (none are ever rejected), followed by comments by various leaders on the platform about the importance of soul-winning in tropical areas of the world.
All this reduces the actual amount of time for the delegates to transact actual business. But most of the business consists of a mind-boggling whirl of tiny item changes in the Church Manual,—including a few big ones.
One can understand why the delegates were only too glad, later in the Session, to agree to henceforth let the General Conference and Annual Council do a lot of the future revising of the Church Manual. But that decision, of course, tips the balance. By so doing, Session delegates lost more of their authority—and over something dear to all of them: control of their home churches.
THE DISCUSSION ABOUT BOOKS AND THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY—During the business meeting on Sunday morning, July 2, before the Church Manual changes began being discussed, discussion was made of the need to produce some kind of recommendation of the Spirit of Prophecy to our people. This brought some discussion (GC Bulletin #4, pp. 26-29), during which several points were brought out:
First, more than once it was noted that there is an urgent need to provide information on the internet which will counterbalance the attacks against Ellen White on certain web sites.
Regarding this matter, as you may know, we have Spirit of Prophecy defense material on our sdadefend.com web site. But discussion was made that there existed a strong need for a web site with a name directly bearing on this point.
Upon learning this, we here at Mission Evangelism, immediately set to work producing such a web site. It will be our fourth one, and will contain a variety of defense and recommendatory material about Ellen White and the Spirit of Prophecy. More about this in a later mailing.
Second, a delegate from African Indian Ocean Division asked that the book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, be reprinted. This request was not printed in Bulletin #4. This book, written by A. L. White (not by F. D. Nichol, as printed as the book’s author; I know, because A. L. White personally told me in the late 1950s), has been out of print for years. The closest equivalent is the material we have prepared in various tracts and books. We will be placing that material on our new internet site.
Third, a Nigerian delegate said this:
As you may know, we, here at Mission Evangelism, have been trying to provide low-cost books to our people overseas for several years. We are just now in the midst of a large mailing of five different title books to each of nearly 200 people overseas. More on this in our next mailing.
"OFFICIAL STATEMENT": NO LONGER HAND OUT BOOKS—On July 4, an official statement was released, under the headline, "Official Statement about Religious Liberty, Evangelism, and Proselytism Released," which included this:
Beach issued that statement, to placate his friends at the World Council of Churches. We keep limiting ourselves, in order to please the Catholics and Protestants.
"Well, now," someone will say, "isn’t that a good idea; we should not bribe people with money to join the church!"
My friend, we never give people money to join the church. "What, then, do we give them?"
The answer is books. We offer them books, books, books, if they will keep coming to our evangelistic meetings. This includes Bibles, Desire of Ages, Bible Readings, Great Controversys, and other worthwhile missionary books.
But now, Beach wants all this stopped! Of course, if the Adventists stop spreading their books around, this will please the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, all the Catholic bishops, and all the other friends Beach has carefully nurtured.
At the end of this two-page "official statement," a return was made to this declaration that we must no longer give doctrinal—and any—books to people in an effort to interest them in our beliefs:
Do you realize that this is a prohibition against handing out missionary books in any kind of missionary outreach? For shame, for shame. What are we coming to, when, to appease the people at Geneva (the World Council of Churches), we are willing to stop distributing missionary literature!
The General Conference gives a large donation to the American Bible Society every year. Instead of giving that $85,000 to the American Bible Society to help pay their office help, would it not be better if the General Conference bought $85,000 worth of Bibles from the American Bible Society and distributed them to our churches throughout the world field, to be offered to those attending our evangelistic efforts for the entire series?
Regarding this matter of "material enticements," what about the crazy clown acts which we are teaching our young people to use, to entice worldlings to join with us?
OFFICIAL STATEMENT CALLS ON US TO AVOID OFFENDING TERMS—But there is more. You will recall that crucial decision agreement made a year or so ago at Geneva, by which Adventist Church leaders agreed to no longer publicly make an issue of the Bible Sabbath.
Bert Beverly Beach, our representative to World Council of Churches meetings since 1967, declares that our denomination must not use terms "offending other religious communities."
What is being referred to here? What kind of words would we use that might "offend" the WCC and the Catholics? Words like "Bible Sabbath," "change of the Sabbath," "conditional immortality," "no eternal hellfire," "obedience to the Ten Commandments," and "the change by Rome of the Sabbath to Sunday." What other words would bother the ecumenical crowd? words quoted from Daniel 7 and Revelation 12 through 17.
Are we to stop the sharing of our faith, in order to please men who trample on God’s holy law, and call it something evil that needs to be destroyed?
Later, near the end of the article, there is a return to this point, and once again Beach’s point is quoted:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON PROSELYTISM—As if that is not enough, Beach carried the matter a step further in "his official statement." He made a sideways comment, that our people are not to "proselytize."
In his statement, Beach tried to placate his friends at Geneva and Rome with a halfway assent to their concerns.
The word, "proselytize," occurs when a Christian group gains adherents from another Christian group. The Protestants have decided that they should not make converts of one another’s church members; but, instead, they should only bring non-Christians into their churches.
Well, they have a point here. Since they all essentially believe the same thing, the Protestants might as well not try to gain converts from one another. But Seventh-day Adventists have distinct Bible teachings, not held by the other churches. We have a message that all the world needs, including other Protestants!
By the way, before concluding this section, why is Beach’s statement headlined as an "Official Statement"? Did the delegates approve it? We are not told that they did, and we find no evidence in the Toronto papers that they did. How then can a statement by Bert Beverly Beach be elevated to the status of an "Official Statement"? It can be done, by force of precedent. Beach has been arranging special deals with the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, Rome, and various Protestant leaders for decades. He is something of a legend at General Conference headquarters—this man who can fluently speak over half a dozen European languages and is on first-name friendship with high-placed churchmen of over two dozen denominations.
Bert Beach, the man who dared to spend church money on a gold medal which he gave Pope Paul VI in 1977, has earned the respect and friendship of other church leaders by the compromising positions he has promised those men that he would arrange back at world headquarters. And, back at world headquarters, no one dares oppose him.
It is remarkable how things fit together when you stop to consider the overall situation. The anti-proselyting edict was issued on Tuesday, July 4. On Monday afternoon, July 3, the delegates were told that the denomination was going to focus its evangelistic thrust on the "20/40 window," by which is meant the Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist peoples stretching from North Africa to Indonesia. Yet, doing so, will fully satisfy the concerns of our Ecumenical friends that we not evangelize Protestant or Catholic Christians! Why must our leaders feel that they must reduce worldwide evangelization, in order to satisfy separated brethren who they are now reunited with, at Geneva and Rome?
CHURCH MANUAL DISCUSSION BEGINS—On Sunday morning, July 2, the Church Manual revision agenda items began.
Have you noticed that, at Sessions, some big thing is frequently pushed? In 1980, it was the Statement of Beliefs (a complete rewriting, courtesy of Andrews University). In 1995, it was church governance (about 80 changes). This year it is over 90 changes in the Church Manual. Although many dealt with minor points, the sheer number tended to mask the fact that some were very important.
CHURCH MANUAL CAN HENCEFORTH BE CHANGED BY ANNUAL COUNCIL—The most important and sweeping change was that editing and changes in much of the Church Manual can henceforth be done by committees outside General Conference Sessions! And that is a big change!
Did you sense the smooth way that was worded? A lot of "explanatory and illustrative material" and "routine editorial tasks" done by others, so "the attention of delegates to a GC Session" will not be given to such matters.
You might wonder what is left for future Sessions to do? That is a good question. They can still nominate a number of highest-level officers (although not as many as earlier, due to changes in 1995).
Here is more on this very significant proposed Church Manual change:
"203-00Ga Church Manual: Proposed Format Change." It sounds innocent enough, but this was the time bomb at the Session. Why? Because this change in the Church Manual will permit the North American Division (South Pacific and any other liberal divisions) to make changes in the Church Manual at Annual Councils!
Delegates came to the Toronto Session, wondering whether the Women’s Ordination issue was going to be raised again. But they were told by one of the speakers at the podium that it definitely was not on the agenda.
Yet that was not actually true. Women’s ordination was on the agenda, but hidden in "203-00Ga."
203-00Ga called for this change to be made:
Previously, the Church Manual could only be changed by Session enactment. Henceforth, portions of it can be changed by an Annual Council. We specifically learned this spring that the proposed addition of notes was intended to enable the North American Division to add liberal content to its edition of the Church Manual, content which would never be approved by Session delegates.
—But, reading the actual amendment, quoted above, the changes are not limited to North America. There is nothing in the wording to indicate it will only affect a single division.
The following official summary statement of the above amendment was released by church leaders near the end of the Session:
What was voted in is exactly what we predicted this spring in Checkpoints. The Church Manual will henceforth be split in two. The main sections can only be changed by the Session, but the notes sections can be changed at the first Annual Council, immediately following the Session. (In this way, because changes will be voted in over four and a half years before the next Session, subsequent Session delegates are less likely to be aroused to take action against the changes.)
The wording is carefully made: The General Conference Executive Committee (which is the Annual Council members) may discuss changes to the notes section at any Annual Council, but the changes may only be approved at the "final Annual Council meeting of the quinquennium," which would be the Annual Council immediately after each five-year Session. We will quote it again:
THE "0" AND "5" ANNUAL COUNCILS—According to the above amendment, each annual (October) council held in years ending in "0" or "5" will have the authority to make changes in the Church Manual. Plans for this were laid years ago.
The 1995 Utrecht delegates approved an agenda item which, henceforth, gave the liberal North American Division much greater voting power a majority of the time. Here is how it works:
1 - Wherever the Annual Council is held, the host Division is entitled to send all its conference and mission presidents as voting members to the Council.
2 - Three times out of every five years, Annual Councils are automatically held in the United States. The other two are held, on a rotating basis, overseas.
Here is how the pattern works. Using it, you can always know which Annual Councils will be held in Silver Spring and which will be overseas:
Each Annual Council will be held in Silver Spring, Maryland, in the fall (generally October) of every year that ends in 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9.
Annual Council will be held on a rotating basis in an overseas country in the other years (1, 3, 6, and 8).
For example, the 2001 Annual Council was supposed to have been held in Jakarta, Indonesia. (But, a month ago, it was disclosed that it would be held in the United States "for security reasons.")
If time were to last, it would take nearly 30 years for the Annual Council to be held once in each of all twelve world divisions. In that same period of time, it would be held 17 or 18 times in the U.S., which, of course, will keep it well-stacked with NAD liberal delegates.
Although Annual Councils only can enact changes in the Church Manual in years ending in "0" and "5," yet those Annual Councils are always held in the United States and therefore packed with North American committee members.
One such change will be that they will now be able to include the full ordination of women ministers. Another such change concerns disfellowshipping members. More on that below.
NO MORE "DISFELLOWSHIPS"—The news headline on July 2 was: "No Adventist Will Ever Be ‘Disfellowshipped.’ "
Early in the Toronto Session (Sunday afternoon), leadership asked that the term, "disfellowshipping" be changed to "removed from church membership" (GC Bulletin #5, p. 27).
On Monday morning, July 3, the same revised wording was used in the section, "A Church Officer Removed from Church Membership." Even though later "readmitted to church membership, this action does not reinstate the individual to the former office" (GC Bulletin #7, p. 20).
Here is the background on this:
The September 15, 1993 issue of Churchbeat, the weekly newsletter of the Collegedale SDA Church (where Southern University of SDA is located) included an inconspicuous article by Gordon Bietz, Georgia-Cumberland Conference president; here he told of developments at Folkenberg’s governance commission meetings. One sentence let the cat out of the bag:
A copy of that issue of Churchbeat was sent to us, and we published it in a tract that, in October 1993, went across America and overseas (Letter to Our Leaders—We Plead with You: Please Do Not Disfellowship Faithful Adventists [WM–492].)
The reaction was terrific. Although about 80 changes were made in the Church Manual and General Conference Working Policies at Utrecht, the plan to let higher-level entities disfellowship church members was dropped. (Disfellowship Item Removed from 1995 Session Agenda [WM–592, mailed out in February 1995.]
But now, with this radical 2000 Session change, permitting the Annual Council to change the Church Manual, church leadership will be able to go over the heads of local churches—and disfellowship anyone they want.
In order to soften what is coming, the 2000 Session was asked to change the word, "disfellowship," to "remove from membership."
BAPTISM NOT NECESSARY—The change in the Church Manual, regarding receiving members into the church, makes it clear that a person can more easily be accepted on profession of faith instead of being baptized, if he is
I find nothing in a previous edition of the Church Manual, which I have, that permits this. Baptism should represent an acceptance of new teachings and standards, as well as an acceptance of Christ.
A THREE-PRONGED PLAN—In addition to other developments in our church, do you see in the above two Session items, along with the next one, the workings of a three-part campaign?
(1) Leadership wants to hold as many worldlings in the church as possible. This is done through appeasing the liberal demand for women ministers, softening the marriage and divorce requirements for continued membership, and providing wild rock music to our young people at camp meetings and other gatherings.
(2) Leadership wants to be able to bring in as many worldlings off the street as possible. Plans to do this include Celebration churches which emphasize sensation, excitement, band music, and little about doctrine. "Church planting" is the latest form of this. Our young people are being trained to go out on the streets as clowns and mimes to help pull them in.
(3) Leadership wants to be able to more quickly and efficiently get rid of those who object to the radical new-modeling of our denomination. Changing "disfellowship" to "remove from membership," and giving authority to higher-level entities to disfellowship church members greatly help this to be done.
ATTEMPT TO MODIFY "REMNANT"—On Monday morning, July 3, a woman delegate from Germany moved to insert "part of" into the statement, "the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church." After several vigorous protests, the motion was voted down (GC Bulletin #6, p. 26).
DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE INTRODUCED—The Divorce and Remarriage Amendment was brought before the delegates on Monday morning, July 4 (GC Bulletin #8, p. 23).
It was introduced by a speech by Jan Paulsen, in which he stated that a commission had been appointed by the delegates at Utrecht (1995) to study into the matter; and, Paulsen urged the delegates to accept it. Otherwise they would be redoing what the commission has already done.
Mentioning that the recommendations of the commission had already been examined by the Annual Council, Paulsen said:
What he was discussing was only the single part of the many Church Manual revisions, dealing with the Divorce and Remarriage modifications. Nowhere else during the week do we find such an appeal being made about a certain section of the revisions. So, it would appear, the brethren were concerned to get this one pushed through.
Following Paulsen’s extended comment, more were made by various officers who declared that it was a good paper; that, to save expense, it need only be shared with delegates who wanted to see it, that an experienced committee had prepared it, and the General Conference executive committee and the Annual Council had approved it.
The document was then read by an officer, and immediately delegates began speaking from the floor. Delegate after delegate spoke in protest about one aspect or another of the document, until the end of the business meeting (GC Bulletin #8, pp. 23-24).
Amid the many protests, one delegate asked that the entire document be distributed to the delegates so they could personally read the Divorce and Remarriage modifications. The chair reluctantly said that this would take a lot of paper, and that it would be distributed to those who specifically requested a copy.
Frankly, they had to beg to be able to see the complete amended document they were being asked to vote on! The next day, it was given to them.
One of the objections was that the Divorce and Remarriage changes would take the decision out of the hand of the local churches.
TIME LIMITS ON D&R DISCUSSION—That afternoon, after B. B. Beach introduced Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, and WCC leaders, Robert Kloosterhuis (chairman, as he had been that morning) asked that discussion on the Marriage and Divorce modifications be limited to three minutes. Immediately, someone stood up and moved that it be limited to two minutes. The delegates accepted this. After a fair number of comments (pp. 25-26), Kloosterhuis stopped the proceedings and called for another diversionary presentation on missions, to remove from the delegates more of the little business meeting time allotted to them.
TIME-WASTING ADDITIONS—Without even permitting a motion or vote on whether to switch to something else, the little Business Meeting time available during the week was repeatedly filled with extraneous matters.
At one business meeting, an extended presentation on "Training for Maturity and Discipleship" was presented by Carlos Martin (pp. 26-28). Calvin Rock then strode to the podium and said this:
Frankly, this is astounding! With only a relatively few hours in the ten-day Session allocated to business meetings,—the heart of it is used for diversionary presentations on other matters! Although the delegates only had two minutes to discuss divorce and remarriage, about 20 people were given extended time to talk about this and that (pp. 28-31). It all consisted of matters which properly belonged in a seminar, workshop, or the evening meetings. But, no, it was inserted into the Business Meetings. Another example would be the report by the American Bible Society, which was all of the "Eleventh Business Meeting" (GC Bulletin #9, pp. 27-31).
THE DELEGATES DID NOT LIKE THE D&R MODIFICATIONS—The world church is now about 95% "foreign." Although Americans, Europeans, and Australians still control the top jobs at the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland, the reality of church membership is rather different.
This astounding fact especially reveals itself at the five-year Sessions. The great majority of delegates are conservative while those from the Western world are liberal. Although one may have the vote, the other has the power and the ability to sidestep the vote. We have observed trickery in recent Sessions. It happened again this year. More later on how this was done.
Both concerned changes in the Church Manual.
First, there was the Divorce and Remarriage amendment to the Church Manual.
When introduced, floor debate about the matter became extremely heated, as it was perceived by the foreign delegation that the liberals from the Western world wanted to push through something which would tend to weaken the divorce and remarriage rules of the church.
Aggravating the matter was the obvious fact that the same kind of slick, new theology talk was being offered as an excuse for why the changes were needed. To the foreign delegates, it all sounded like the kind of talk they heard in 1995 at Utrecht, when the North American Division uttered similar excuses for wanting to ordain women preachers.
CHURCH LEADERS FORCED TO SUSPEND D&R DISCUSSION—The issue became so heated that church leaders had to suspend the nominating committee, so its members could be present to speak to the issue on the floor of the assembly during most of Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ultimately, the amendment became hopelessly bogged down in debate and committee work, until President Paulsen stepped to the podium and said there had been enough of this, and the delegates needed to move on to other business. It had been debated for two days (Tuesday and Wednesday).
D&R TABLED TILL THE NEXT SESSION—So upset were the delegates about the matter, that they refused to deal with it.
So, with nearly the full house of delegates present, it was voted that the entire document, bearing in mind the concerns of the delegates, be referred to the Church Manual Committee. This effectively tabled it till the following Session.
Why did the reporter say, "barring a reversal"? Had he heard some of the plans. At any rate, the very next paragraph contained an ominous warning by the president of the extremely liberal South Pacific Division:
The following paragraph gave the comment of a North American Division delegate: "I don’t want to live with this another five years."
The vote to send the document back to committee was made that morning. Calvin Rock took over the chair for the afternoon session and tried to bring it back, but the delegates voted once again to send it to committee. This, of course, would effectively kill it for the Session, since it was so late in the week and the delegates had already spent two days on it.
The liberals were clearly upset. It was Wednesday, July 5, and the divorce and remarriage amendment had been tabled for five years. Something had to be done, and fast, for Friday would be the last Business Meeting. What they needed was somone who lived in a remote corner of the earth to do something daring.
HOW A FEW LIBERALS OVERRULED NEARLY 2,000 DELEGATES—Garry J. Hodgkin is a large man, about 6 foot, five inches, and president of the South New Zealand Conference, part of the extremely liberal, pro-Fordite South Pacific Division. The delegates never heard of him before; they will never forget him in the future.
On Wednesday afternoon, July 5, the decision of whether to adopt the Divorce and Remarriage amendments to the Church Manual had been deferred for another five years, to the 2005 St. Louis (Missouri) Session.
On Thursday afternoon, mingled among the others lined up at the delegate microphone, was Garry J. Hodgkin. When it came his turn to speak, he mentioned simply that the next day he would move the rescinding of the divorce and remarriage amendment referral to committee. The chairman replied with a casual, "Is there a second?" Someone gave it, and that was it. The chair quickly turned to other matters, and few, if any, of the faithful recognized what had happened.
By parliamentary law, because he had made that brief statement on Thursday, he would be in a position to get the tabling motion rescinded the next morning on only a majority rather than a two-thirds vote.
Word passed around to key liberal delegates to be there early the next morning. But overseas delegates, and even their leaders, did not catch the significance of what was planned.
The next day, Friday, was the last working day of the week. Many delegates went to confirm their air tickets for their departure on Sunday, because there were rumors of an Air Canada strike and many were concerned. Others went shopping or were packing. (Some have suspected that the rumor was started to keep the delegates away from the Friday morning business meeting.)
That morning, as soon as the business meeting opened, Hodgkin was the second person to the microphone. He moved to rescind the Wednesday decision to table the Divorce and Remarriage Amendment. Someone else stood up and immediately seconded his motion.
The rescinding was passed with little opposition, for two reasons: First, it all happened so quickly that few understood what was happening. Second, there were only about 150 of the 2,000 delegates present! The rumor had accomplished its work.
Everything proceeded with a lightning speed, which only careful advance planning could have accomplished.
Immediately, Henrik Ingo stood up and moved to adopt the entire marriage and divorce amendment.
Someone immediately seconded it. As soon as the chair, Philip Follett, heard the motion, he confidently said that only a simple majority was needed to pass it (since it had been previously announced). It appears that he had been told what was about to take place.
A couple people had opportunity to speak, before someone moved to cut off all debate, even as another delegate stood at another microphone ready to propose an amendment to it! The motion was immediately seconded, cutting off all discussion.
With only a select number of 150 delegates in the auditorium, the motions passed with little opposition. A document that had been debated for two days and tabled for five years—had suddenly been revived and passed in, what one visitor said, was about 10 minutes.
All the complaints had been ignored, and the marriage and divorce modifications were enacted.
Never underrate the liberals. They are very clever.
Commenting on the enactment of the divorce and remarriage amendment, one church leader made this comment:
Significantly, even the General Conference president became involved. As soon as the marriage and divorce amendment was enacted, Jan Paulsen appealed to the delegates to not discuss the matter any more. —Yet the only reason for discussion would be to repeal the amendment. Paulsen apparently did not want that done.
Yet, if it took only ten minutes to enact it, later in the morning when the delegates arrived back, it would take only ten minutes to rescind the previous vote and table it again.
How do we know that approximately 150 delegates were in the auditorium? Several conservative delegates stood up and counted them. One of them was the arch-conservative, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim. Some liberals later ridiculed that count, declaring that there were probably about 500 there. But Pipim declared that there were only 150 present.
Hodgkin afterward admitted that he consulted with Laurie J. Evans, South Pacific Division president and Athal Tolhurst (another liberal Australian), as to how to draft his motions so they would be properly made. He also said he already had men in place (fellow liberals from Australia and New Zealand) to second both his motions.
STILL NO RECORD OF JULY 6-7 BUSINESS MEETING—We are unable to quote the Thursday, July 6 incident, because it is in GC Bulletin #10 which still has not arrived in the mail.
A week ago, I asked an assistant to phone the Review. They told her to contact her local ABC, because that was the cause of the delay. She did so, and was told they had nothing to do with it.
Although by now, it is too late to wait longer for a copy, I asked her to phone the Review again. This time a different lady answered and cheerily said that it was planned for Bulletin #10 to arrive in everyone’s mailbox by August 15, over two weeks from now (and exactly 40 days after July 6).
The July 5 Business Meeting is the last one in Bulletin #9. In earlier years, the Review prided itself on mailing out the Session Bulletins the next day. There may be a plan in this, for Bulletins #7-9 contains news of non-Business Meeting events on July 6 through 8 (Thursday through Sabbath).
All that is primarily missing is the July 6 and 7 Business Meetings.
DELEGATE DISGUST AT WHAT HAD BEEN DONE—Later on Friday, as they learned what had happened, the delegates discussed this sneaky trick at great length. It was obvious that the great majority of delegates—and even most of the spectators—believed the whole thing had been railroaded through. (Ironically, they had the numbers to reverse the vote; but, as conservatives often do, they felt too unsure of themselves to take such a bold move.)
Three delegates who especially protested were Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, from the African Indian Ocean Division, and Louny Morales and Hector Hernandex of the Inter-American Division.
One of these, Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, is a native of Ghana. As some of our readers may know, he had earlier written various protest literature against women’s ordination and similar topics (his book, Searching the Scriptures, in 1995, and three chapters in Prove All Things, in 2000). Frankly, Pipim must be something of a Godly genius. Coming as he does from a third-world nation, he handles the English language excellently and has a powerful mind. In addition, he stands solidly in defense of Bible-Spirit of Prophecy issues. Lastly, something that few others will do, he is not afraid to stand up and openly oppose wrongdoing! We are astounded.
At the present time, Pipim is now working for the Michigan Conference as Director of Public Campus Ministries, but he represented the African Indian Ocean Division at the Session.
He regularly returns to the African Indian Ocean Division to teach religion to their students, conduct ministerial workshops, and speak at various camp meetings. Since 1995, he has represented that division at the Biblical Research Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. What a fine General Conference president he would make!
When asked about what happened at the Toronto Session, Pipim made this comment, which later appeared on a web site:
DON’T COME UP HERE!—One interesting development occurred when, as you might expect, 3ABN decided to send a transmission truck up to Toronto. They contacted the General Conference, in order to coordinate their work with them and be able to hook into SkyDome facilities.
But the brethren told them not to come. They were not wanted. After considering the matter, 3ABN sent a truck up there anyway.
Arriving, they were told to go home. So they went across the street and rented space to set up their truck. By this time, under pressure from some influential people (3ABN has many very wealthy Adventist friends), the brethren relented and let them video some of the proceedings inside.
They had earlier rented a booth in the adjacent Toronto Center, where they handed out thousands of advertisements about their work.
ONE VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE—Expenses to, from, and during the Toronto Session were heavy. An added problem was the exchange rate on money. On all their purchases, everyone had to add 40 cents on the dollar.
Another problem was the very high sales tax. Purchasers were told that they could get a refund on all their sales tax when they left the country. When one individual tried to do so, this is what happened:
At the airport, he learned that he had to return to the duty-free stores in the outer terminal, in order to get the forms. This required talking his way past the customs agents. Arriving at the forms desk, he found they were in French. Very handy for the francophones (French-speaking people), but not so good for anyone else. By this time thoroughly angry, he went to the Air Canada desk and demanded forms in English. Shuffling around through papers, they came up with one. But it turned out that he could only get a refund on his hotel bill (if it was for less than 30 days) and gifts. As for the gifts, the receipts for them must be rubber-stamped by some official located somewhere else. But his bags were already checked in, so he gave up and was thankful to escape to America with some money, though greatly reduced, still in his pocket. Yet, before boarding the plane, he could not resist the temptation to go back into the duty-free store. There he found that no cash refunds are given on the 15% tax on everything at the duty-free shop. "Didn’t you know?" he was told, "That was discontinued a long time ago." So he comforted himself by filling out the refund paper for the hotel bill. He was then told that had to be mailed to the Visitor Rebate Program.
Weary by this time, he want to the Air Canada desk to check in for his flight back to the U.S. Astonished, when asked, "Do you have a passport?" he replied, "I was told I did not need one!"
The icy response was that he could be retained indefinitely if he tried to board the plane without one. Somehow, he managed to get on the plane.
I am not sure that he will be going back to Canada anytime soon.
KEPT OUT OF CANADA—Neither will the Rwandan delegation. Of the 29 official delegates, only seven were granted visas by the Canadian Department of Immigration to enter the country, and those seven did not include the president or secretary.
The president of the Rwanda Union Mission is Amon Rugelinyange; the secretary is Elie N. Mbuguje. The Rwanda Union Mission has 933 churches, 342,664 Adventist church members, out of a population of 8,155,000.
Yet no delegates from there went to the Toronto Session. Since only seven were given visas, it was agreed that they would all stay home. So no one went.
We reduced the print size of this article at the last minute, in order to fit the new material onto page 15. Surely the Advent people everywhere need our prayers—and a whole world needs to be told about obedience to God’s law by faith in Christ.—vf
The following new booklet contains all our past publications on General Conference Sessions. It also includes two tracts which we have not yet released, but which we will do so in the near future (the first and last ones listed).