The day began in earnest by reviewing proposed modifications about The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. As changes began to be discussed in earnest, Gerard Damsteegt (Andrews University) noted a distinction between a licensed versus an ordained minister; and Neil Nedley (Weimar) built on this comment by observing that by deleting the term “minister” it would effectively preclude the vote on Wednesday. The question centered on whether there should be one term or two. Angel Rodriguez (GC), former BRI director, urged delegates to save the debate about women’s ordination for Wednesday. Altogether, of the approximately 30 proposed revisions concerning the Church Manual, by the end of the morning only one was not referred back to the committee for review. Cecil Perry (TED) gave one of the more memorable comments of the morning when he stated that “It is clear that coming events shadow our discussion today. Wednesday is in the room.” When the afternoon session resumed at 2 pm with Artur Stele (GC) resumed the business session by quipping: “Do not worry about tomorrow, I mean Wednesday [the day reserved for the discussion on women's ordination], for Wednesday will take care of itself.” In the end it appears that proposed changes to The Church Manual were getting bogged down in debate over women’s ordination. It seems that it will be very difficult to get through the General Conference agenda this week at the current pace.
Later on in the afternoon the nominating committee brought a report. The big news was the composition and quantity of the general vice-presidents. Elder Wilson made the case that the church should reduce the number of VPs from 9 to 6 (a return to the number that the denomination had back in 1990). The nominating committee brought 6 names to the floor: Ella Simmons (United States), Geoffrey Mbwana (Tanzania), Artur Stele (Russia), Guillermo Biagi (Argentina), Abner De Los Santos (Mexico), and Thomas Lemon (United States). Right away delegates noticed that two incumbents were missing: Delbert Baker (United States) and Pardon Mwansa (Zambia). Immediately, within the context of polarization over women’s ordination, the question centered about whether they were removed because of their position on women’s ordination. Conversely, the argument was made that Simmons and Lemon, who have gone on record in the past as being in favor of women’s ordination, may be perceived as representing a minority position within the top leadership circle of the denomination. The day ended without an official vote on the names, and those with grievances were given an opportunity to consult with the leaders of the nominating committee. The second matter of a reduction in the quantity of general VPs was taken different ways. Some delegates saw it as a helpful streamlining of leadership; others perceived it as a method of consolidation and control.
The greatest amount of drama was reserved for the matter of the electronic voting devices. Technology gurus working for the General Conference appear to be quite baffled about why the devices are not working. I was told of a recent test the night before when the devices worked flawlessly so it appears that there must be some tampering, but how? Of course this opens the door for all kinds of speculation ranging from some kind of blocking device to groups of delegates choosing not to vote. An appeal to count the vote by divisions, which would help to rule out the latter possibility was not explored despite an earnest appeal by a delegate. It appears that the frustration was building for everyone based upon the simple fact that church leaders were unable to make this technology work! Ted Wilson announced that if the variance was greater than 51 votes that the steering committee would recommend a vote to scrap the devices altogether in favor of traditional voting cards (with the caveat that for sensitive votes a secret ballot would be made available). The vote passed and gizmos gathered. We’re back to the tried and true method of voting cards.