Speaking to a packed auditorium at General Conference headquarters during Sabbath morning worship of the 2012 Annual Council, President Ted N. C. Wilson implored world church leaders to focus their evangelism efforts on health ministry, while also urging them to help the denomination remain united during difficult times.
Wilson called for the congregation to consider the health and unity messages as “two important inter-related burdens of Christ and burdens of mine, and I hope yours.”
He quoted from the book of Matthew, as well as the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White, to state that medical missionary work and health reform are an “integral part of mission to the cities,” and that there is a “great need for selfless unity in Christ” to proclaim the Three Angel’s messages.
His sermon – “Never doubt, God is in control” – came on opening weekend of Annual Council, where hundreds of world church leaders, union presidents, lay delegates and others converged at headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, to hold several days of Executive Committee business sessions.
The renewed focus on health ministry, to launch in metropolitan New York beginning in 2013, is a major effort to evangelize in mostly large communities.
“In every city, Seventh-day Adventists should minister to people not only from their local churches, but also from such centers of influence such as health clinics, vegetarian restaurants, reading rooms, counseling centers, and community service centers,” Wilson said.
That work, he said, will require the involvement of lay membership as well as an organized effort by established denominational ministries such as Adventist Community Services, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Adventist World Radio, Hope Channel and Adventist Book Centers.
The evangelistic outreach is expected to reach 650 of the world’s largest cities by 2015.
Wilson’s message relied heavily on Matthew 14 – feeding of the multitude – to make his point about unity – a word he voiced dozens of times in reference to an uncomfortable position the church finds itself in due to differing opinions on the role of women clergy.
While Wilson has said the world church must abide by current General Conference policy, two union constituency sessions in North America have authorized to ordain women as ministers, having rejected the principle of joint decision-making on a matter that normally would be decided at a world church general business meeting, which is held every five years. The world church is currently engaged in a study of the practice of ordination, and a report will be delivered in 2014.
The Annual Council this week has the authority to respond to the actions of the two unions, which Wilson has previously stated are a threat to the church’s orginazational integrity.
Wilson in his sermon, which was broadcast on Hope Channel, repeatedly acknowledged that it is critical for the church to remain united.
“It is the word of the living God that is to decide all controversies,” Wilson said, quoting from Ellen White’s 1888 Materials. “It is when men mingle their own human smartness with God’s words of truth in giving sharp thrusts to those who are in controversy with them, that they show that they have not a sacred reverence for God’s inspired word.”
He added: “I speak to myself as well as to all others, that in whatever discussions take place, let us always say things in a Christ-like spirit and with respect allowing the Word of God to decide all controversies.”
He concluded the sermon by asking the congregation of 700 attendees to hold hands for prayer and sing the hymn, “We Have this Hope.”
—Click HERE to see a transcript of Elder Wilson’s sermon
—To see more pictures of Annual Council, see the ANN Flickr account
This article originally appeared on Adventist News Network.