Following nearly six hours of discussion and debate during their Annual Council, the General Conference Executive Committee voted on Oct. 9 to send a document entitled “Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence in Church Governance: Phase II” back to the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee for further review.

An introductory report was given by Thomas Lemon, GC general vice president, and chair of the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee. Lemon was charged with facilitating follow-up to the voted 2016 Unity in Mission document. “We took the process that you voted last year as a pastoral mandate, an opportunity to engage with people all around the world,” Lemon explained.

Throughout the year, invitations to meet and dialogue came from the North American Division (NAD), Trans-European Division (TED), Inter-European Division (EUD), and South Pacific Division (SPD). Lemon met with the first three, while scheduling conflicts kept him from meeting with SPD.

Lemon said while there are compliance issues, he saw “no sign of rebellion” in his interactions with the entities he engaged with. “Unity and the commitment to the message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is as strong as I have ever seen.”

Lemon also introduced the Phase II document, emphasizing that it [was given to] the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee, was then discussed by the Administrative Committee of the General Conference (ADCOM), and was finally referred to General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO) before coming to the Annual Council Executive Committee.

Related: Thomas Lemon Publishes “Toward an Understanding of Unity”

Comments from the floor

The 14-page document was read aloud by Hensley Moorooven, GC associate secretary. The committee members and invitees then addressed comments to the chair from various microphones on the floor.

Comments were diverse and varied in their perspectives on the material in the proposed document. Both Church leaders and lay committee members from around the world spoke openly, and at times passionately, in favor or in opposition to the document.

Some urged the committee to approve the document and move forward, while others supported referring the document back to a committee for further refinement. Those supporting referral raised questions about the constitutionality of certain segments of the document. Still others asked for refined language in the Phase II document.

One thing was clear. Despite strong convictions on both sides of the matter, no one suggested a split within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I want to give this body some assurance,” said Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division. “We have absolutely no intention to split the Adventist church and to start our own church in North America. We will not split from this church. We are committed to the work of this church both in North America and around the world.”

Votes and Actions

The major vote of the day resulted from a motion to refer the document to the General Conference Constitution and By-laws Committee. The motion suggested potential conflicts between the document and provisions within the GC Constitution and By-laws. The action was subsequently amended to refer the document back to the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee, and was voted on by secret ballot, carrying 184 to 114.

A version of this story first appeared on Oct. 9 on the Adventist Review and Adventist News Network websites.