After an exciting Annual Council weekend filled with door-to-door evangelism and sobering statistical reports, the 2016 annual council of the General Conference turned its focus on more serious matters: Money.
Church treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesán was first up with the annual Treasurer’s Report. Though he outlined his presentation around six items, one challenge presented itself above the others: the devaluation of foreign currencies compared to the US dollar. Prestol-Puesán described the situation as “a bump in the road” that nevertheless needed to be dealt with.
Because of the problems in other nations (Prestol-Puesán specifically cited Brazil & Mexico upon questioning by Dr. Neil Nedley), the GC loses millions of dollars every time it converts tithe from local currency into US Dollars. Prestol-Puesán noted some good news that this situation is not permanent and that essentially the US financial situation is in a holding pattern until after the November US Presidential election (regardless of whether he or she is successful).
In order to deal with this new economic reality, one of the first proposed (and successfully voted) items was to freeze the increase in the GC’s working capital fund at 45% until 2020 annual council where it would be re-evaluated. He noted that should the economic situation change, this action could be revised in order to avoid tying the hands of those dealing with the budget.
GC Undertreasurer Ray Wahlen, gave more background on the problem as well as described the solutions. The problem, he said, is actually because of the blessing of the growth of the church outside of North America. As the percentage of the tithe coming from the North American Division has decreased, the strong dollar has caused this problem. From a membership or even spiritual perspective, however this is a good problem as God is blessing.
One solution the church will be implementing is to guarantee appropriations to the various regions of the church in the local currency of those divisions. These solutions will ensure the church finds ways to accommodate God’s work in the world while dealing with the budget realities of the balance sheet.
Following the reports, those present voted through the various recommendations. Next up, General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS) described not just how it ensures no money is being lost but also how its employees are participating in lay ministries as part of the GC initiative of Total Member Involvement.
The policy agenda took up the next portion of the morning. Various suggestions were proposed to the working policy of the GC of varying interest and importance. One of the most interesting was changing terminology from “both genders” to “males and females” to deal with the current political climate of gender fluidity.
The modification of the term “both genders” led, following a few division reports, to the new documentary produced by Coming Out Ministries titled “Journey Interrupted” which will be shown twice on Monday for those present. It was introduced by Lake Union Conference President, Don Livesay, who noted that though the gay lifestyle has washed over the culture in many of our nations, this film can be a resources to deal with the challenges of the LGBT lifestyle and activism. An interesting note is that before Elder Livesay presented the film, GC President Elder Ted Wilson gave a special endorsement demonstrating he sees the issue of homosexuality as one of the greatest struggles the church must face.
The morning closed with more encouraging reports such as the 2017 Book of the year “Story of Hope” an Ellen White great controversy-style compilation and a preview of Tell the World, where the church working with local divisions has created a film series on the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
The morning was busy and some of the presentations were challenging, but in spite of the difficulties the work continues to go forward.
Jason Miller just received his Law degree from C.U.A. and resides in Michigan.