As we have written previously, local churches should now be considering their votes on the changes to the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference’s Statement of Belief. At this point, we have advertised the vote for several months (including in the Sabbath Recorder), and have confirmation that every one of our member churches have received information on this upcoming vote through a certified mailing from the United States Postal Service. If your local congregation hasn’t voted, the mailing information is available in the post below, and you are encouraged to ask your local leadership about how you will cast your votes as a congregation. If your church has already voted, please be prepared to send the results either to the Center in advance or prepare your delegate chair to cast the votes for your congregation at General Conference.
Churches who cannot send delegates to General Conference this year are invited to mail or email their results and responses to the General Conference. Emails can be directed to Executive Director Rob Appel (firstname.lastname@example.org). Mail must be postmarked by July 5, 2017 to insure arrival at the Center before the General Conference sessions begin. Questions may also be directed to the Executive Director, John Pethtel (email@example.com), or Nick Kersten (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.