This week, two important pieces of information were mailed to local churches. The first of those relates to church reporting for the Yearbook. (You can read more about that here.) The second relates to an upcoming vote at General Conference regarding a proposed change to our General Conference Statement of Belief. There are two pieces included in this mailing: a letter (which is partially reproduced below) and a page of frequently asked questions (which can be downloaded in full at the bottom of this entry). Those with questions regarding either communication are welcomed to contact us.
During the 2016 General Conference sessions in Houghton, NY, an amendment to the SDB Statement of Belief was passed as a first reading. The passing of this amendment, as first reading, prompts a vote by churches at this year’s General Conference meetings. This needs to be done before the amendment can be ratified.
The amendment to be voted on proposes an addition under Article III. Mankind, as a new subsection entitled, “Marriage and the Family”. The addition is in bold, in italics, and underlined (including Scripture references):
We believe that mankind was created in the image of God and is therefore the noblest work of creation. We believe that human beings have moral responsibility and are created to enjoy both divine and human fellowship as children of God.
Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 8:3-9; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:44-48; 1 John 1:3; John 1:12
―Marriage and the Family
We believe that God ordained and organized the family, comprised of people related by marriage, birth, or adoption, as a fundamental building block for society. We believe that the Divinely instituted union of marriage is solely between one man and one woman.
Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:21-25, Mark 10:6-9, Colossians 3:18-21, I Timothy 5:8, Hebrews 13:4
A recommendation of this kind (a vote by churches) cannot be amended or modified in any way. This means your vote will need to be cast as a “yes” (in favor of the proposed revision as worded), or a “no” (in opposition of the proposed revision as worded). At the same time, the recommendation which passed allows for churches to give their rationale for their vote.
The recommendation which led to this suggested amendment was itself caused by Conference action which requested the Standing Committee on Faith and Order to recommend a statement of this kind. The language of this amendment, which was passed on the Conference floor after discussion, is the same language suggested by Faith and Order.
Each member church is entitled to a number of votes based on the formula that grants them delegates to the annual General Conference sessions: “two delegates for each member church, as a church, and one additional delegate for each ten members of the church or fraction of ten members.” (This can be found in the General Conference Bylaws under Article IV. Delegates to General Conference)
The General Conference office will allocate your number of votes based on the statistics your church submits when we seek your annual yearbook information (normally late winter/early spring). A member church which has not submitted their local church membership statistics will only be entitled to the minimum number of votes, which are three.
Each member church will be entitled to cast all of their votes, regardless of how many delegates are physically present at the 2017 General Conference sessions in Azusa, CA. The church’s designated delegation chairperson will cast the votes when called upon by the President during a scheduled business session.
According to the bylaws and past practice, each member church has the following options for the vote in 2017:
- It may cast a unanimous (“block”) vote either “yes” or “no,” or it may divide its vote in whatever way the member church instructs (equal to the church’s total entitled votes).
- It may send its delegates with instructions about how to vote or it may send its delegates uninstructed, allowing them to caucus at Conference to decide how the church’s votes are best cast.
- In the event that your church will not have delegates at General Conference next year, you may mail your church’s vote to the General Conference office, or you may authorize, in writing, a delegate from another member church to cast your church’s vote.
PLEASE NOTE: IF you choose to mail your church’s vote to the General Conference Office, please be sure that it is postmarked by July 5, 2017 to be sure that we receive it in time.
Matters which come to churches requiring a vote by church are, by definition, important to the group life of Seventh Day Baptists. For this reason, we hope that you will take this matter seriously in your local church as your prayerfully discuss this proposed amendment. If you feel you need further information or guidance, please feel free to contact myself, John Pethtel, or Nick Kersten, and we will try to aid you and answer any questions you may have. In an effort to jump start your conversations, we have included a single sheet with some answers to what we expect will be the most frequently asked questions.