At Sexuality Summit, Adventist Church President Reflects on “Human Brokenness” Speaking to nearly 350 church leaders at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on March 17, 2014, Seventh-day Adventist world church president Ted N. C. Wilson urged them to recognize that “human brokenness” is ubiquitous, dependent on the healing that comes only through the restorative power of Christ.
At Sexuality Summit, Adventist Church President Reflects on “Human Brokenness”
Speaking to nearly 350 church leaders at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on March 17, 2014, Seventh-day Adventist world church president Ted N. C. Wilson urged them to recognize that “human brokenness” is ubiquitous, dependent on the healing that comes only through the restorative power of Christ.
“Let us make it our personal goal, and the goal of this summit, to speak the truth as Jesus spoke the truth—to remember that every word by His disciples should be a word that helps someone else become a disciple of Christ,” Wilson said. “There is a way to speak the truth that leads to life, so let us talk and share and learn from each other in that way,” he said.
The world church leader went on to define the parameters of the summit. Its goals, he said, did not include revising the Adventist Church’s perspective or statements on human brokenness to match “the changeable spirit” of current social trends and values. “Nor have we come to describe that brokenness in any greater way than the Word of God defines every human sin,” Wilson said.
Sin is not a hierarchy of human failings, he said—with some shortcomings “less dangerous or damaging” than others—but an expression of living life out of harmony with God.
He called it both “inconsistent and morally wrong” for the Adventist Church to isolate practicing members of the LGBT community for discipline “while it ignores those engaged in heterosexual premarital sex or adultery. God’s standard for sexual behavior requires that only in the union of one man and one woman in heterosexual marriage can the gift of sexuality appropriately and biblically be enjoyed. Any departure from that standard must be addressed with similar seriousness and a similar attempt to bring about correction, repentance, and restoration.”
A major goal of the summit, Wilson said, is to develop an awareness of how to compassionately steer those living lives out of harmony with God toward “salvation and recovery.”
“We have come here because we are committed as a people to speaking the truth to each other and to the world around us, and because we are committed to learning how to speak that truth as Jesus did,” he said.
Wilson’s keynote relied significantly on Scripture and the writings of church cofounder Ellen G. White to describe Jesus’ approach to sharing truth. “Christ ‘was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love,’ ” Wilson said, reading a passage from Steps to Christ, White’s classic volume about conversion and spiritual rebirth.
The summit included testimonies from former members of the LGBT community who wrestled with brokenness and now describe themselves as “redeemed” from that lifestyle.
“We must listen as they tell us about their struggle and their pain; and we must not let our pride pretend that their mistakes are any worse in the sight of heaven than the ones we ourselves have made,” Wilson said.
—Daily news bulletins from the summit provided by Adventist Review and Adventist News Network (ANN) are available at adventistreview.org and news.adventist.org.
“We Come to God and Then We Go for God”
It’s one of the most important holidays in Europe. Shops are closed, sacred concerts abound, and churches report record visitors during the traditional Easter weekend. Over the past eight years Adventist young adults from all over Germany and Europe have met for fellowship, inspiration, training, and outreach at the city of Mannheim.
The motto of this year’s meeting, held April 17-21, 2014, was “Lift Up Your Heads.” Speakers focused on personal readiness within the context of the final events prior to the return of Jesus Christ. “We come to God and then we go for God,” stressed Doug Batchelor, president of Amazing Facts and one of the main speakers, during the Thursday night opening sermon as he took his audience to the moment of Isaiah’s call to ministry.
The organization of this year’s YiM congress was beset with an unusual amount of difficulties and challenges, reported Baden-Württemberg Conference youth ministries director Marc Engelmann during the opening ceremony. Fire marshals of the town had reduced the holding capacity of the school’s main auditorium from 1,200 to 200. City officials had sent a note indicating a changed cost structure, potentially adding €50,000 to the final bill, just weeks before the event was to begin.
Yet in spite of these challenges, participants were able to enjoy fellowship, workshops, and inspirational music and preaching in a quickly erected tent holding more than 1,500. Carrying to the front of the platform a sack full of “burdens” Engelmann shared, “I am so happy that I can lift up my head and look to Jesus—we wish you this experience in the coming days.”
Challenged by speakers throughout the five-day event, the young adults attending YiM responded strongly: 67 decided for baptism; 58 committed to give a year of service to Jesus; and 12 accepted God’s call to prepare for full-time ministry.
Service to others was another important component of YiM. Young adults shared food and hope with people who were homeless on the streets of Mannheim and visited shut-ins and residents of several retirement homes. Friday saw hundreds of youth involved in missionary outreach.
More than 500 volunteers, roughly a third of all participants, demonstrated commitment. They served everywhere—preparing food, cleaning restrooms and showers, helping as ushers and security personnel, working with the audio and video of the congress, and helping in many other ways. Following the final sermon on Monday morning, they, together with other participants, moved 1,500 chairs back into classrooms and containers, swept 129,000 square feet (12,000 square meters) of classrooms, hallways, auditoriums, and other spaces, and returned the school complex back to its original state—all in two hours.
Joachim Broegaard, a medical student from Denmark, traveled more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) to meet old friends and be inspired by the programming. He also was happy to connect with other people interested in medical ministry in Europe. Translation into English, Czech, and Polish of the sermons in the main tent underlined the international nature of the event.
Before the sermon on Thursday evening Michael Dörnbrack, a pastor and one of the founders of YiM, introduced Benny and his two friends John and Elli. A number of years ago Benny, an avid rock climber and passionate Adventist, had brought his rock-climbing buddy John to his Pathfinder group and had later begun to study the Bible with him. John, in turn, had invited his girlfriend, Elli—so a friend brought a friend. Dörnbrack challenged the audience to “not have a submarine faith,” which only shows itself on Sabbath morning for two hours.
Before the 2014 YiM participants packed their backpacks and suitcases on Monday, they once again sang the theme song of the congress: “Lift up your heads, see Jesus our King.” It was a little foretaste of heaven.
—By Gerald A. Klingbeil, associate
editor, with contributions from Marcus Witzig, Baden-Württemberg Conference
Details Released in Cyber Attack That Defrauded Adventist Church of a Half Million U.S. Dollars
New details have been released in the ongoing investigation of a sophisticated cyber theft that defrauded the Seventh-day Adventist Church of approximately US$500,000 during a four-week period late last year.
Church leaders say a compromised password appears to have allowed online scammers to hack into the Gmail account of a church employee authorized to initiate instructions for money transfers. Impersonating the employee—and unbeknownst to him—the scammers sent e-mails to financial personnel at Adventist world church headquarters, approving the transfer of funds on behalf of a denominational entity. An elaborate filtration system set up by the scammers marked all responses from headquarters as “read” and “deleted,” thus bypassing the employee’s inbox.
Meanwhile, the scammers laundered funds from 16 fraudulent transactions through the personal bank accounts of five apparently unwitting victims, church financial officers said.
“We have modified procedures to do our best to prevent anything like this from happening again,” said Robert E. Lemon, treasurer of the Adventist world church.
Lemon said incidences of fraud in which scammers troll the Internet for e-mails giving instructions to “pay, transfer, or send” funds are growing in occurrence. In such cases scammers carefully study account holder’s e-mails so they can send transaction requests that closely mirror the tone and content of legitimate e-mails. Some hackers may even include personal comments—often work or family details gleaned from actual e-mails—to make the transaction requests appear more genuine.
“We urge church employees and members to exercise extreme caution when acting on instructions for handling funds that come through an e-mail without a second independent verification through another means, such as phone call, text message, or fax,” Lemon said.
At headquarters, internal controls were in place that church leaders said should have alerted financial personnel of a problem with the first transaction. But several key employees who would have questioned the transactions were traveling or were otherwise out of the office at the time, Lemon said. Additionally, the transfer amounts and explanations were “within the normal scope” for the denominational entity in question, he said.
Church financial personnel discovered the fraud after growing suspicious of the high rate of transaction requests and an alert from one of the banks involved. The scammers quickly discontinued fraudulent activity associated with both the e-mail account and the linked bank accounts.
While the church was able to recover some of the funds that were still in the bank accounts before they were frozen, Adventist financial officers said they’re unsure whether the remaining losses are recoverable. Cooperation with U.S. federal authorities in the ongoing investigation is expected to continue, they said.
“There is no indication that any employees were involved in unethical behavior, and no church e-mail servers or bank accounts were accessed or compromised in the scheme,” Lemon said.
“Having something like this happen on our watch is very difficult for those of us in treasury,” Lemon added. “We would like to thank each church member for their faithfulness and solicit their prayers that God will help us guard His funds in an ever-changing landscape of online fraud.”
—By Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN
CLARITY AND TACT: Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson delivers the keynote address at the opening of the “In God’s Image: Scripture. Sexuality. Society.” summit at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on March 17, 2014.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Adventist young adults engage people in the community with some of the more colorful aspects of Bible prophecy at the Youth in Mission Congress in Germany.