"Emphasize Uniqueness," says Church President
f there ever was a time when people hunger for something better-for hope, for assurance, and for the voice that says: 'Behold, I make all things new'-it is today," urged General Conference president Jan Paulsen in opening the 2005 Annual Council session in Silver Spring, Maryland, on October 7. "The Second Coming of Christ is very good news indeed; a unique event to be believed and preached."
Paulsen addressed nearly 300 delegates and other attendees in a Friday evening sermon designed to introduce the theme for this year's Annual Council-"Journey of Hope." Focusing on the Matthew 16 narrative of Jesus' conversation with His disciples about His identity, the president highlighted the uniqueness of Jesus' role as Savior and Lord, and the necessity of believers' committing themselves to His special claims.
"For the 'business' in which you and I are engaged, it is critically important just simply to follow the Leader-the Lord-as faithfully and loyally as you know how," Paulsen told the administrators, departmental leaders, laypersons, and pastors gathered for the six-day event. "In the ministry and service of the Lord and the church, don't spend too much time looking at the 'landscape' or measuring the political winds that are blowing."
Paulsen urged that embracing the unique claims of Jesus also implies embracing the unique claims of the church founded on His truth.
"There are many things about the faith of the community to which you and I belong, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, that are unique," the president added. "But it is God who has taken us to where we are. He has given us our uniqueness of doctrines and values."
The president also challenged the Annual Council attendees to be increasingly bold in proclaiming unique Adventist truths.
"It bothers me and it troubles me, if I may say so without creating some kind of paranoia, that the uniqueness of our faith is often shied away from in preaching, teaching, and writing," Paulsen noted. "There is nothing wrong with what is being said from the pulpit; it is biblical, it should be preached; it has its day.
"But what about that which is not said-that which is somewhat special to our faith identity? Are we embarrassed by or unsure of affirming and confessing the unique? But that is what God has given to us, and that is where faith leads us."
As the first gathering of the General Conference Executive Committee since the July world session of the church in St. Louis, Missouri, this Annual Council will help to establish major directions for the 14,000,000-member organization during the new quinquennium. In addition to considering policy revisions, hearing membership and financial reports, and discussing new mission initiatives, the Council is also expected to fill many of the church's editorial roles and leadership positions in several General Conference departments and ministries.