Delegates to the ninth regular quinquennial Mid-America Union Constituency Session gathered on Sunday, Sept. 12, in the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska for the purpose of receiving reports, celebrating mission achievements and voting church business.
The one-day session, themed Yes, Lord! brought delegates together in person—represented over 64,000 members in six conferences—to review and discuss the progress of mission in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the heartland of Mid-America from 2016-2021.
Due to health considerations, attendance was limited to delegates only which allowed for appropriate social distancing. Masks and hand sanitizers were also provided.
The afternoon began with musical praise presented by Union College students. Elder G. Alexander Bryant, president of the North American Division, shared a devotional thought based on the verses in John chapter 14 that record Jesus’ words: “Let not your heart be troubled.” Bryant reminded delegates that all our troubles on this earth are temporary, and joy comes from knowing that there is room for everyone in God’s house when Jesus wins the war against evil.
Fervent prayers were also offered for the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit.
When the business session opened, a quorum was established with 290 registered delegates present. Voting was conducted by voice when appropriate and also through electronic handheld devices.
MAUC’s Religious Liberty counsellor Darrel Huenergardt and lay member and attorney Loretta Collins served as co-parliamentarians. NAD treasurer Randy Robinson and NAD vice president of administration Kyoshin Ahn were on hand to assist if needed with proceedings, as was Elder Thomas Lemon, a vice president of the General Conference.
Delegates voted to approve the minutes and receive previously shared written and video reports from MAUC administration and departments. These reports (available online and in the September issue of OUTLOOK magazine) focused on ministry initiatives during the past quinquennium and summarized membership numbers and finances.
The most recent MAUC audit report from 2016-2019 was presented by JoJean Birth on behalf of the General Conference Auditing Services. After the vote to accept the report, a motion was made and passed with generous support to express appreciation to Troy Peoples and the MAUC treasury team for their diligent work over the past quinquennium.
Dr. Vinita Sauder, president of Union College, also shared a report. Union College is celebrating 130 years of operation, and the highlights of Sauder’s report focused on their strong mentorship program and spiritual growth on campus.
Elder Bryant, who chaired the 27-member Nominating Committee, led that group in conducting a thorough review of incumbent evaluations before presenting recommendations to the delegates.The delegates voted by a wide margin to elect Gary Thurber to continue serving as president and Hubert J. Morel Jr., to continue serving as vice president of administration. An invitation is being extended to David VandeVere to serve as vice president of finance for the coming quinquennium.
Delegates also voted by strong majorities to elect the following officers and departmental directors to a five-year term: Communication, Brenda Dickerson; Education, LouAnn Howard; Human Resources, Raylene Jones; Multi-Language/Hispanic/Disabilities, Roberto Correa; Women’s Ministries, Nancy Buxton. The positions of director for the Church Ministries Department and director for the Ministerial Department (both currently vacant) were referred to the MAUC Executive Committee.
More agenda items
The Constitution and Bylaws Committee brought a number of recommendations to delegates. Most were minor word changes, but an important addition to the bylaws was voted in allowing future virtual attendance for Constituency Sessions and Executive Committee meetings.
Following a lively discussion, delegates also approved a proposed change to the union’s Constitution and Bylaws regarding the number of individuals serving on the Executive Committee, raising the number from 35 to 38.
At the direction of the Mid-America Union Conference Executive Committee from a vote taken in November 2018 and reaffirmed in April 2021, the agenda for this session included a discussion of pastoral credentialing for both men and women pastors serving in Mid-America territory. The MAUC Executive Committee first voted “to support the ordination of women in pastoral ministry” on March 8, 2012, but no subsequent action was taken during the past nine years.
After a review of the history of this topic presented by Elder Thurber, a recommendation was brought before delegates that included a series of “Whereas” statements explaining the reasoning for the current recommendation (see notes below).
Thurber explained that if the recommendation was approved it would be entirely up to a local conference as to whether they ask the Union Executive Committee to approve an ordained or commissioned credential for their female pastors to carry. He also clearly stated that because of the vote from the General Conference on this matter, the female pastor’s ordination credential would not be recognized by the world church, but would only be valid in Mid-America territory or any other conference in the NAD that has chosen to ordain its women pastors.
As with any large gathering of members, there were differences of opinion among delegates. An orderly process allowed delegates to voice their comments at microphones placed on the floor, and the discussion proceeded respectfully.
Following the hour-long discussion, 82 percent of delegates voted in favor of the following recommendation: The Mid-America Union recognizes the right and responsibility of each local conference to prepare and recommend names for ordination, and will consider all recommended persons for ordination as submitted by the respective local conference Executive Committees.
In his remarks following the vote, Thurber thanked delegates for their participation and expressed appreciation for the gracious spirit in which the discussion took place. “I hope we will keep our arms around each other and when we go from this place, we will send a message to our churches that the Mid-America Union Conference is Seventh-day Adventist to its very core and loves the world church and is thankful to be a part of it,” Thurber said.
Thurber also stated that he is grateful for each female pastor in the Mid-America Union. “I hope more than anything today they know how important they are to our mission and that their pastoral leadership is vital to our territory,” he added.
*To view reports go to midamericaadventist.org/2021.
Mid-America Union Conference Executive Committee action taken April 22, 2021:
Voted: Whereas the Mid-America Union Conference Executive Committee (MAUCEC) voted on March 8, 2012, to look with favor on the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, and,
Whereas approximately 2/3 of the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee determined that such ordinations are not a biblical issue but rather one of policy, and,
Whereas the MAUCEC affirms the Seventh-day Adventist beliefs that speak of the value and priesthood of all believers, and,
Whereas the MAUCEC affirms that the Holy Spirit is the final arbiter of His own gifts and calling, and,
Whereas the MAUCEC believes that God ordains those whom He calls and that our part is to affirm that ordination, and,
Whereas the MAUCEC wishes to respect the gifting and calling of both men and women for gospel ministry as identified by the fruit of their ministry, and,
Whereas the General Conference and its divisions were established to support and serve union conferences, and union conferences to support and serve local conferences, and local conferences to support and serve local churches, and local churches to support and facilitate the work of ministry by its members,
The Mid-America Union recognizes the right and responsibility of each local conference to prepare and recommend names for ordination, and will consider all recommended persons for ordination as submitted by the respective local conference Executive Committees.