Q: A document about church unity was voted during 2016 Annual Council. What exactly is this document, and what will happen now that it was approved by Annual Council? — Sherrie, U.S.
A: Sherrie, much thought, prayer, and consultation went into producing the “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” document. This document is the work of many dedicated individuals and committees here at the General Conference and has the support of many church leaders around the world.
The purpose of this document is to identify a kind, Christian, biblical procedure to follow if an entity of our world church family decides not to follow what our representative process has decided by a vote at a General Conference Session or actions and policies voted by the General Conference Executive Committee. General Conference Working Policy are voted agreements by the worldwide representative Executive Committee of how we will operate as a global family of believers.
The “Unity in Mission” document voted by the Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee outlines steps to be taken in a two-stage process with entities that are not following these voted decisions of the world church. In brief, the steps to be taken include:
1. Listen and pray.
2. Consultation with a wider group.
3. Write pastoral letters if after six months of following steps one and two the matter still is not resolved.
4. Listen and pray again.
If the matter is still unresolved, the executive committee of the next higher organization, or in matters involving the Fundamental Beliefs or voted actions and policies of a worldwide nature, the General Conference will become involved.
The General Conference Administrative Committee will recommend to the 2017 Annual Council procedural steps to be followed for resolution of the conflict.
The document also states that “… even though the full process has not yet been fully identified and approved, entities are authorized to implement the process where there are matters of non-adherence regarding biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the church and provide a report through the division, or in the case of a General Conference institution through the General Conference Administrative Committee, at the next Annual Council.”
For more details, I encourage you to read the entire three-page document here.