The Rocky Mountain Conference meets every five years in Constituency Session. The latest meeting was held in Denver on July 23, 2017.
Many departments presented reports which were approved by vote. All nominees submitted by the Nominating Committee were elected, including the re-election of the Conference officers, as were members of all committees, with the exception of one candidate who declined the nomination. All suggested changes by the Constitution and By-laws were approved, with the exception of one, having to do with the K-12 Board.
In other words, it was a normal, rather boring Constituency Session, with periods of inspiration and an opportunity to see friends from other parts of the Rocky Mountain Conference. RMC is one of the largest in the NAD in land area, with just over 18,000 members.
The last business of the day dealt with an effort, by me, to reverse an action taken by the Conference Executive Committee, which had voted in December of 2016 to affirm the response of the Mid-America Union statement regarding the GC Unity Document. The Union statement objects to the General Conference implementing the decisions of the world church.
When I read of the Executive Committee action, I sent an email to Elder Barnett, our Conference President, protesting the stand taken against the GC by our Conference. I met with him, at his request. He brought with him Eric Nelson, the Administrative Vice President, and he requested that our head Pastor attend the meeting. That would be the first of three closed meetings I had with Conference Administration, each lasting about 1 1/2 hours.
At the Town Hall Meeting held in March, I requested that I be allowed to send to each Constituency Delegate, by email, a letter stating my concerns. Elder Barnett agreed, but it was to be sent by the Conference, so that the only email addresses I would have would be of those Delegates who responded to my letter. The email was to include a letter written by Elder Barnett, stating his position.
That never happened. On June 8, I was informed that the letter would NOT be sent by email, but would be included in the Constituency information packet mailed to each delegate. When the packet was sent out, it contained the printed entire 10th chapter of William Johnson's Book, Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio, and a twenty-one page missive by George Knight, entitled, The Role of Union Conferences in Relation to Higher Authorities. And, my redacted, two page letter, with my contact information removed. And no letter stating Elder Barnett's position.
You can read my letter here.
What I proposed, was that we take a vote at Constituency on whether we indeed either affirm or deny affirmation to the response of the Mid-America Union Committee to the "Unity" Document. Thus the vote by the RMC Executive Committee would either be established as the desire of the Constituency of the RMC, or rejected by the highest authority in the RMC. Elder Barnett requested that I send him a copy of the motion I would make, and I did so.
“While the entities involved continue to dialogue regarding the Unity Document, I move that the we, the Constituency Delegates affirm the Unity Document approved by Annual Council. This motion includes our support for the implementation by the General Conference of all actions voted in full Session by Delegates from the World Field.”
The letter I wrote was included in the Constituency packet. I had spent five hours meeting with Conference Administration, at their request, and they had asked for a copy of my motion. What do you suppose my expectation was?
The issue of interest was saved for the last item of the agenda, which is normal, but it was preceded by approximately ten minutes of support for the Union position by Elder Alex Bryant, who serves as the executive secretary of the North American Division and associate secretary of the General Conference. Then, Elder Thurber (MAUC) and Elder Barnett (RMC) spoke for approximately ten minutes, also in support of the Union position.
Long before the introductory remarks by Elder Barnett were concluded, a delegate had gone to one of the microphones, and patiently stood there. He was, of course, the first delegate recognized by the Chair. First, he addressed the issue for some time. Then he made the following motion: "Move that we take no action on the Unity Document or RMC’s response to it." Now, the rule was announced that each speaker could only speak for two minutes, enforced by a running clock on the screen. After considerable discussion, the vote was taken, and the motion passed by a vote of 256 Yes votes to 109 No votes. We were served haystacks and sent home.
Opportunity to show support for the World Church lost.
And a huge step backward from genuine unity.
It is unwise to participate in such meetings by yourself; I should have taken a trusted member with me to serve as a witness to each meeting. Otherwise, when memories falter concerning five hours of discussion, disagreements about who said what leave you with two against one, and no resolution. Although, I can prove my claims about circulating the letter via email, by emails from the Administration.
Godly people who wish to take a stand on one side of a controversy must get smart and unite. The Boulder, Colorado Church, the headquarters of the One Project, spoke as one person, and most if not all of their Delegates spoke. Indeed, one delegate announced that he "was speaking on behalf of the 'Boulder Delegation'." It must have been true, no one objected. Those who agree don't need to sit together as a group during a meeting, but we all carry phones and can text advice to a group about what hasn't been said that needs to be said.
Godly people who support the World Church must unite and network across the Conference. When you serve on a Nominating Committee, you do not know the majority of the people proposed for nomination. You must depend on the recommendation of other people on the Committee, and you don't know if they would like to see the GC become utterly useless, at least where it serves their agenda.
And, since most churches do not have the unity of purpose that allows one person to speak for the entire church, it is just as important to unite and network within the local church. We must not allow the other side to select our delegates, we must not allow the Conference to choose our Pastors. The other side is already doing so, and they will win battle after battle if we permit it. Unfortunately, it is time to reserve our trust.
Most speakers, myself included, did not adequately speak to the motion. I should have taken the opportunity to read my proposed motion (as in, "This is what my fellow delegate doesn't want you to discuss ...") and then challenged the delegates to vote whether they supported the GC, or the rebellious Unions and Conferences.
Elder Alex Bryant was there in the place of Elder Dan Jackson, whom we were told, would have been there had he not been suffering an attack of shingles. Here was an associate secretary of the General Conference, telling us that what the Division was asking from the GC was forbearance! That's what the GC has been doing now for years! I looked up forbearance in the dictionary, and this is what I found:
1. Good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence
2. A delay in enforcing rights, claims or privileges; refraining from acting
Our Church is in the midst of a crisis of governance, and an associate secretary of the General Conference is making a case for forbearance! Just thought you'd like to know.
A High Note
The Delegates overwhelmingly voted that the RMC fully fund the Campion LE Program, led by Joe Martin. It is a fitting affirmation of the vision, faith, and work of one man. The Conference took away the full funding from this most worthy evangelistic and youth training program many years ago, when Gary Thurber was our Conference President, now the President of the MAUC, and sitting on the platform of this Session. Joe has maintained the program, and raised his own funds. At the last Constituency Session, five years ago, I moved that we fully fund the program, and the motion was defeated. Five years later, at least 95% of the delegates voted to fund the program.
It took five years! We will have another Constituency Session five years from now ...
Ben Trujillo is an elder at Campion Seventh-day Adventist Church.