The official news service of the Inter-European Division
January 25, 2017 | Bern, Switzerland. | C. Cozzi, CD-EUDNews.
The 2016 Annual Council of the Inter-European Region (EUD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Adventists) was held in Portugal, at Hotel Salgados Palace in Albufeira (Algarve), from November 3-8, 2016.
The leaders and church members representing the countries and institutions of this region have come together to deal with essential matters related to the mission, strategy and development of the Adventist Church in the countries comprising the EUD. This is always an important moment for business, exchange of ideas, along with experiences and fellowship.
This year, one of the main points under discussion was the document ‘Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation’, voted by the Seventh-day Adventist World Church Annual Council on the 11th of October 2016.
This vote was taken regarding the issues of compliance and, in particular, gender equality, even though the vote only made indirect reference to it.
The EUD President, Mario Brito, introduced the discussion by emphasizing the fact that at the EUD, the leaders at all levels of the Church structure were committed to work in full harmony with Church policy and have a fruitful dialog with the World Church.
“Our Church is currently working in more than two hundred countries – representing a great variety of cultures, languages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds – being constantly confronted with new challenges and opportunities,” said Brito.
“We need, more than ever before, to come together, in prayer, asking for God’s guidance to clearly understand what the fundamental pillars of our faith are – in full harmony with the inspired Word of God, our identity and mission.
We need leaders, at all levels of our church governance, who are well-equipped to take the most appropriate decisions, according to the context in which they are, without, however, going against the core values of our faith and Church Policy. We need to carefully work on establishing the basis for an open dialog and attentive listening process as the basis for any fruitful reconciliation process.
We are hopeful that the second part of the document ‘Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation’ – dealing with cases of non-compliance – will take into account the principles mentioned above,” concluded the President.
The introductory words of the President were followed by an open and very constructive discussion on how can we keep the Church and its leaders united and motivated for the accomplishment of the Gospel commission, in spite of diversity. That is, in order to be efficient and have adequate responses to some specific challenges, we need to find specific solutions. To think differently is not to be seen as a threat to unity, especially when the main reason of such thoughts is to prevent any form of discrimination or intolerance.
“In my perception, the exchange was very brotherly and has taken place in a good atmosphere,” said Martin Knoll, Seventh-Day Adventist Nordrhein-Westfalen president. “All comments expressed the big concern that this document in its effect and signal does not contribute to the unity of the World Church, but if anything was destined to create polarization, it is, respectfully, misunderstood,” explained Knoll.
“The circumstances and the setting in which this ‘reconciliation paper’ was drafted really concern me,” expressed Werner Dulliger, president of the South German Union of Adventists.
While a move for reconciliation, as the principal goal, is always to be appreciated when it is done at eye level between equal partners, this paper seems to be a prelude to coercive measures to be expected in phase two (Annual Council on 2017).
“The point that really concerns me is a shift in responsibility for initiating the process. According to Adventist policy up until now, it is the higher organization that decides whether to start this process or not. In the new procedure, the GC can directly initiate the process when policies of a worldwide nature are involved, overriding the organizational level that is normally responsible for the field. In my regard, this tendency to centralization and concentration of power is the real dangerous issue behind this paper and the second one to come in 2017,” concluded Dulliger.
A great number of leaders attending the EUD Annual Council expressed how much they longed for a fruitful dialog held in accordance with the very enlightening and helpful leadership principles, as presented by Dr. Gordon Bietz during his Friday lecture on Leadership.
“Personally I do hope that the good intentions of the small majority of the GC Annual Council members who meet in Silver Spring - i.e. to preserve the unity within the Adventist church - will not end up reverting to the opposite,” concludes Knoll.
“The leadership of the church want to maintain a unity that seems not to exist anymore and there is the danger, if this process is not modified, to see a situation that can lead to a split of the church,” said Paolo Benini, EUD Sabbath School and Personal Ministry director.
“I think we all were concerned about the GC document on unity and the debate that followed its approval. First of all, because we felt that there was a misunderstanding on our willingness to be obedient to democratic process and world church policies,” said Giuseppe Cupertino, Italian Union Executive Secretary of Adventists.
“We are facing a great challenge and we feel that the GC is missing the real issue. In our Unions, the women’s ordination position is not coming from a leadership refusal of policy compliance. We are not enforcing our point of view nor are we experiencing a lack of commitment to Biblical truth. We are not imposing, as church leaders and administrators, that option on our fields. On the contrary, after our fields witnessed many sisters’ vocation in pastoral ministry, they went on recognizing that high calling, through democratic process held in Union Session, and voted to go that way. Afterwards, they called us to respect their will and bring to thd GC Session the request for liberty in this decision.
So the issue is: ‘How do you solve the conflict where two democratic elected Sessions vote two motions that are in opposition to one another? Is the call for unity sufficient to go over this gap?’
Unity in fact cannot be a goal in itself, but a side effect of a joint strategy in which every part of the body recognizes itself,” concluded Cupertino.
After a very open and animated discussion, the EUD Executive accepted a motion to authorize the EUD Administrative Committee to appoint a work-group to formulate a statement reflecting the concerns of the Executive Committee members regarding the second part of the document “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation", planned to be voted in 2017. The text that will be produced by this commission will be presented at the EUD Mid-Year meeting in May, to be discussed and voted.