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hat you do as a leader in the church, do it with love for the Lord and with love for his people, do it with integrity, and keep your heart clean,” Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said in a Sabbath morning message to church leaders gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the movement’s 95th Annual Council.
Paulsen, serving his second full term as world church leader, issued a call for denominational unity, calling a united movement a “shared trust for the sake of Christ and the unity of the church.”
“If the exercise of my freedom causes damage to you, then it was wrong and not in harmony with the will of Christ,” Paulsen said in explaining the words of the apostle Paul, as found in 1 Corinthians. Although Paul’s comments initially concerned food, Paulsen said this was “just the illustration. The real issue is: What should govern the decisions and actions we take? His answer clearly takes us to showing consideration and deferring to others.”
He added, “We are bonded in unity, and we have to trust each other to do right.”
In order to preserve unity, Paulsen said church leaders must resist the temptation to jump into matters beyond their jurisdiction: “The task elsewhere is not the responsibility you were chosen to handle – at least not just now. It is not for me to resolve. Others have been chosen for that role, and the extent to which they succeed or not they will have to answer to the Lord for, just as you and I will for ours.”
He added, “We cannot be fixers of things out there beyond our mandate. I have to trust others who are nearer to the matter and whose responsibility it is to take care of it.”
Although “people write to me about a great variety of things they want me to fix,” Paulsen said, “if there are issues really in need of fixing, it is not going to work for me to try to do it; I have to trust others to do it, as must you. I trust you,” he said to church leaders.
“Mavericks who act independently and by their own wisdom do not make good administrators in this church,” Paulsen declared.
Paulsen said the consistent message of Scripture, the writings of Ellen G. White, and from Adventist history is “that God wants this church to stay united. Let us make no mistake about this.” He admitted, “from time to time issues come up which test our commitment to unity.”
The world church leader also addressed several continuing issues that have sometimes seemed to challenge the global church’s unity.
On the continuing question of the role of women in ministry, Paulsen counseled what may be seen as a middle path: “I encourage young people, men and women, to follow the calling God has placed within them. To deny the calling God may have given them is often at the risk of their own spiritual life. If this is an employment issue which you need to fix in your part of the world, then let’s do that. We are going to need everyone —everyone—to finish our mission, and for God to usher in eternity,” he said.
In his comments, Paulsen also said that continuing controversy over the church’s definition of the nature of Christ will not, “on my watch,” cause a reevaluation by the church.
“I think there is a reason for why we have chosen generous language in describing our position as a church on the nature of Christ. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ (Wholly God and wholly man – no one else matches the “only-begottenness” of that One) leads us to say that,” Paulsen said.
He added, “I have to tell you I just cannot imagine a post-modern person in Europe, a business man in Asia or Latin America, any more than a farmer in Africa will care one iota whether Christ had the nature of man before the fall or after the fall. The realities of the world in which we live have other concerns which occupy us.”
Paulsen said such discussions often focus on the possibility of living a victorious Christian life. However, he added, such victory will not be attained by “settling the precise human nature of Christ; it will be by experiencing the ‘power of His resurrection.’ It will not be by the power of His example; it will be by the ‘power of His resurrection,’ for in that lies the power to live a new life.”
He also urged church leaders to take the pulse of pastors and members in local congregations, calling their input on issues and decisions vital: “If we do not get it right in the local church, it cannot be fixed anywhere else. So, let us listen carefully to what the local pastors say to us as leaders … about the flow of ideas, about diversity and unity, about the needs of our people, what they say to us about standards, and about the use of tithe. Their voice must be heard, or our decisions as leaders will not be safe,” he said.
The Annual Council sessions are expected to continue through Oct. 17 at the world church’s headquarters. In 2008, it’s expected that the Annual Council meeting will be held in Manila, Philippines.
World Church Ordains Two to Gospel Ministry
A crowd of family, friends and ministerial colleagues welcomed two new ordained pastors to the ranks of Seventh-day Adventist ministry October 13, during an ordination service at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Gary D. Krause, (top), director of Adventist Mission, and Gary B. Swanson, associate director of the world church’s Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department, were ordained in a service featuring words of support from their colleagues, and challenges delivered by both Pastor Jan Paulsen, world church president, and Pastor James Cress, world church ministerial secretary.
Krause has 20 years of denominational service, and was also lauded for his efforts in securing the release of Anthony Alexander, a Global Mission pioneer, from captivity in Sri Lanka. Swanson, who has worked at the world headquarters since 1980, is the author of more than 1,200 articles, stories and poems published in 150 Christian periodicals, as well as having authored six books.