Editors’ Note: As part of the Adventist Church’s administrative structure, constituencies of the 13 divisions; 102 unions; and 566 conferences, missions, and fields that comprise our global church hold regular officer elections. They may vote incumbent officers back into office or elect new officers to succeed individuals currently serving in various leadership positions. Juan R. Prestol, undertreasurer of the General Conference, reflects on the challenges and the strengths of this process.
lections test leaders as well as constituents. Expressions of approval, disapproval, happiness, unhappiness, affirmation,or lack of support become a mark in the “report card” of leaders’ service, and evoke a fair amount of skepticism or indifference on the part of the members. Having been exposed to a number of elections at constituency sessions at all levels of the Adventist Church and representing the church throughout a number of years—as elector, candidate, observer, and adviser—I offer these:
1. I Accept the Church as It Is.
I have not always accepted the realities of the play and counterplay of interests, personalities, and issues made evident in most constituency sessions, but I have come to recognize them as expressions of the community of believers. Even when I am in disagreement with the position of most, my acceptance is an expression of my personal conviction that Jesus is the Lord of the church and that the Holy Spirit is active in guiding and keeping the believers in the faith.
I do not find myself alone in this conviction, because I believe in most constituency sessions the majority of participants seek to do the will of God and approach issues with a deep sense of responsibility and good will. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” (Acts 15:28, NKJV) is indeed comforting to me as a leader and a participant in constituency sessions and affirms the available guidance of the Lord in our decision-making process.
2. My Place Is Secure.
I rest both my personal and my professional life on His enabling invitation to service, trust that God has a place for my uniqueness, and accept that nothing will happen to me during an electoral process that God is not able to use to fulfill His purpose for my life. My place, whatever and wherever it is, is secure in Him.
Because no one else can take my place here or in heaven, the result is that I am not in competition with any other individual for a position or a job; but rather, I look up to Him for the fulfillment of His plan for my life. As a leader, if I hold myself accountable to God and to others, I can face the challenge with confidence and depend on Him when I am where He wants me to be, and not where I want to be.
3. Forgiveness and Grace Must Prevail.
Christ’s death makes it possible for us to live in an atmosphere of grace, and our elections at constituency sessions ought to be evidence of that. Grace is more than forgiveness; it is a forgiving attitude, a benign disposition of God toward human well-being, which should not be denied during proceedings of an electoral process. Rather, it should be made evident in solicitous care for the welfare of the individuals affected by session changes.
Even when changes need to be implemented, I should seek to minimize their painful side and place myself in a graceful attitude that will allow healing to begin immediately. In the end, I seek to leave assignments without regrets and remember them as evidences of divine guidance and the fulfillment of His promises in my life.
Tolerance and understanding of issues and personalities are the work of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day—at the end of it all—we are children of the same Father and must walk as brothers and sisters who serve the same Lord. The “winning” side must minimize celebrating victory, and the “losing” side must find its place in service and unity.
Living with these convictions is not necessarily comfortable or easy. But I take solace in the fact that elections will not last forever, and Jesus will soon take us home to live with Him in heaven.
Juan R. Prestol is undertreasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist world church.