more than 100 members of the General Conference Executive
Committee gathered at the Adventist World Headquarters for their
annual Spring Meeting, April 19-20, the agenda was anything but
At the Spring Meeting the Executive Committee typically receives
the church's audited financial statements for the previous
calender year. But this year's agenda also included two issues
that sparked high interest among church leaders-- ministerial
credentials for female pastors and health-care salaries.
North American Division president Alfred C. McClure took the
opportunity to assure the Executive Committee -the church's
highest governing body between General Conference Sessions--that
the division would not break ranks with the world church's
decision not to ordain women pastors.
McClure's remarks came in the wake of a March 16 vote by the
Southeastern California Conference Executive Committee to issue
the same ministerial credentials to both male and female pastors
(see the Review's May NAD issue). Some leaders believe the new
credential, called an ordained-commissioned ministerial
credential, clouded the distinction between commissioned
(female) ministers and their ordained (male) colleagues.
McClure acknowledged that he was uncomfortable with SECC's
action because it blurred the perceived difference between the
process of ordaining and commissioning candidates and thus
Pacific Union president Thomas Mostert told church leaders that
the SECC actually voted a 27-page document, most of which
outlines a process for ordination and commissioning. "Many
people in the conference felt that it was time for the
conference to do something for commissioned ministers as
provided for in policy.
"They did take it one step further, in that, because there is
only one functional difference between an ordained and
commissioned minister -commissioned ministers can not ordain
elders and deacons -that maybe they could have one credential
serve both functions," Mostert asserted. "We cautioned them on
that point but they chose to go ahead."
He also said that the issue may be confused because some
churches in the union have performed so-called "ordination"
services for women which are not recognized or supported by the
union or conferences.
Chaij: The SECC vote was courageous.
GC Executive Committee member Selma Chaij, of Takoma Park,
Maryland, commended the SECC for affirming the equality of women
and men in ministry. "I believe the step they have taken is
really courageous," she said.
Jan Paulsen, president of the 11 million member world church
expressed his reservations about the SECC action. "A concern of
mine is that a General Conference session is coming up soon and
I would not want this issue to be slipped in as an active agenda
item again. We have addressed it twice. If the spirit so directs
the church we may address it again in the future."
McClure reiterated that "the church has not recognized an
'ordained-commissioned' ministerial credential such as that
voted in Southeastern California and the NAD officers urge that
no attempts be made to blur the line between ordination and
During the discussions GC president Jan Paulsen made it clear
that the GC maintains its commitment to the actions of the 1990
General Conference Session [not to ordain female pastors], and
the 1995 General Conference 1995 [not to allow divisions to
ordain female pastors for service within their territory].
Paulsen: "The church's position is clear."
In a separate matter, McClure also briefed church leaders on the
controversy over high executive salaries in Adventist
health-care institutions in North America. A surprising sequence
of media revelations and personnel changes last year generated
widespread discussion among church members about the pay scales
(see the April 13 Adventist Review or the Review website
McClure gave a brief history of the health-care work and noted
that the change of remuneration, from a denominational- to
community-based scale, actually began started with nursing
salaries. In order to retain qualified nurses the hospitals
started paying prevailing community rates.
can understand, this led to further complications in that nurses
and other personnel were paid at rates that were, in some cases,
above their supervisors, who were still on denominational scale,
and even the chief administrators." McClure explained. "It was
also difficult to employ those people as well."
"In 1989 a request brought to the General Conference Committee,
which was in essence the North American Division Committee, to
adopt an approach to health-care remuneration that would reflect
McClure admitted that the 1989 action has led to some pay rates
he described as "rather shocking," but maintained that the
health systems have, for the most part, abided by the 1989
guidelines. He also maintained that the leadership of the union
conferences in North America is actively involved in the
administration of the health-care institutions.
Mack Tennyson: Perhaps its my naivete, but I don't
Referring to the Washington Post articles about high salaries
paid at Maryland-based Adventist Health Care, McClure called the
situation "an anomaly." Though he is very uncomfortable with the
situation, "steps are being taken to bring that one back into
line, " he said. McClure affirmed that Adventist HealthCare is
responsible to the church and noted that efforts are being made
to keep remuneration within denominational guidelines.
the 1989 action was taken amid concerns about ascending
liability for the denomination because of its invovlement in
healthcare, he observed that perhaps the pendulum has now swung
too far the other way. "There may some instances where church's
responsibility [and authority] was lost to far- too-great a
degree," he said.
"If an institution is going to be called Adventist the church
needs to have some way of determining what happens in that
institution," McClure concluded.
After McClure's report the GC Executive Committee voted to refer
all health care matters affecting United States-based
denominational health care institutions, excluding Loma Linda
University Medical Center, to the North American Division. This
action was believed necessary because the NAD was not a formal,
separate, entity, when the 1989 vote on remuneration was taken.
For many years after the termination of Adventist Health
Systems/United States, no formal oversight body was designated.
General Conference president Jan Paulsen reported that a
committee is studying the church's remuneration rates around the
world and will present their findings at the 2000 Annual Council
in October. Paulsen underscored his belief that a spirit of
sacrifice must be maintained in the church's remuneration
Tithe Sharing Plan.
Robert Rawson: This is a historic action
The committee approved a historic change in the way the church
funds itself. Heretofore, the church in North America has
provided the bulk of funding for the General Conference budget.
However, church leaders have voted a funding formula which
recognizes that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is truly a
world church and affirms the growth of the church outside North
Under the tithe-sharing plan, all the world divisions will
contribute two percent of tithe for General Conference
operations. The North American Division will contribute an
additional six percent of tithe, continuing a long tradition a
support of mission outside North America. Developed after two
years of dialogue, the plan doubles the contribution of overseas
divisions contributions (from one to two percent), and reduces
the North American Division contribution from 10.72 to eight
percent. The changes will be phased in over five years.
The Adventist Review will carry a major report on the
Tithe Sharing plan in two weeks. The report will also be
available on the Review website at
General Conference undertreasurer Robert Lemon brought good news
to church leaders when he reported that the GC had a $9 million,
or 5.6 percent, increase in net assets from operations in 1999
(from $160 million to $169 million). Tithe in North America
increased approximately 7 percent, or $40.5 million, from $570
million in 1998 to $610 million last year. In the overseas
divisions tithe decreased slightly, from $414.5 million in 1998
to $413 million last year. The principle reason for the decrease
in overseas tithe was due to fluctuations in the value of the
He also reported that GC in-house operations totaled $20,999,68
in 1999, or $5.1 million under the GC's operations expense cap.
A major factor contributing to the surplus is that support staff
wages have been frozen for the past three years and new
employees have been hired at significantly lower wage rates.
Another reason the is sharp increase in tithe in 1999.
He reminded the leaders that increased wages this year along
with increased financial commitments to the GC's new retirement
plan would raise the GC's in-house operating expenses
significantly in 2000.
Carlos Medley is
news and online editor for the
Religion News Service