Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Monday, January 11, 2010

GC Session Delgates do you know any not employed by the church?

I was listening to and then reading some material today about the upcoming General Conference session coming up this year in Atlanta. I wanted to see what the percentage or number of delegates were that were not employees of the denomination. I could not find any numbers from either this or previous conferences. My guess is that it is very very small. The language in the General Conference Constitution at first glance makes it appear much larger than the reality.

Sec. 9. Division administrations shall consult with unions to ensure that the entire division delegation shall be comprised of Seventh-day Adventists in regular standing, at least 50 percent of whom shall be laypersons, pastors, teachers, and nonadministrative employees, of both genders, and representing a range of age groups and nationalities. The majority of the above 50 percent shall be laypersons. Delegate selections from General Conference and division institutions, and those selected under Sec. 8.d. above, shall not be required to satisfy the quota for laity.

Notice in that list only one is truly a layperson. Pastors and teachers and nonadministrative employees are all employees of the denomination. So If I assumed that each of those 4 categories equally made up the 50% of the session delegates that would give us 301 laypersons to 2108 denominational employee delegates. Even of those 2108 employees 1054 would be administrative denominational employees.

Something to consider when you hear that our church has a representative form of governance. Or as I heard to today the church is seeking to give even more delegates to young people. As the ANN second line in their report said:

More than 2,400 voting members expected to gather in Atlanta in 2010; push for younger delegates

Thus it appears the denomination has succeeded in creating a form of government which is functionally set up to serve the churches hierarchy or better said a bureaucracy which serves to continue the bureaucracy. As Ronald Lawson is professor of sociology in the urban studies department at Queens College, the City University of New York. wrote in 1990:

The General Conference’s structure is arranged in geographically based administrative layers, with churches grouped in conferences, the conferences in unions (which comprise several states or a smaller nation) , and the unions in 11 divisions (the North American Division includes the U.S., Canada and Bermuda) These administrative units, together with the medical, educational, publishing and food-processing institutions whose boards they control, employ more than 111,000 people. Tithes are not retained at the congregational level, but are passed up the structure, giving the hierarchy considerable flexibility to redistribute funds from wealthier parts of the world church to newer and poorer segments, and thus to orchestrate expansion. The hierarchy’s control over finances and its voice in the choice of leaders at lower levels also enables it to exercise considerable influence over the whole church. This is so in spite of a system of representation, in which delegates from the constituent bodies choose the committee members who select the officers and department heads at each level. However, constituency meetings, especially those at the higher levels of the organizational pyramid, have proved unlikely to act independently because the system for choosing delegates (who are appointed rather than elected) has ensured that the vast majority hold leadership positions in the church or other church-paid positions.

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