A North American Division: Myth, Milestone or Mirage?

Speaker: Categories: Nov 21, 1989


This lecture has only one CD/MP3]

[42min, 6sec]


Beyond the local conference level the real organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church seems to be little known and perhaps even less cared about by many who would otherwise consider themselves to be dedicated, well-informed, fundamental believers. Statements from the Twenty-seven Fundamental Beliefs, the basic teachings of the church, suggest that "the church is the community of believers . . . ," "the church is God’s family . . . ," "the church is one body with many members . . . ," and "we are all equal in Christ . . . "

Like references to motherhood, the flag, and apple pie, such statements make us feel good but do little to define or explain just how our theology should be made evident in church structure. However extreme, some might consider that church organizational structure is, like church doctrines, divinely originated and divinely transmitted. Therefore, any inquiry into or any criticism of what already exists would be tantamount to blasphemy! Nevertheless, such inquiries and such criticisms are being made today and do merit attention.

"In 1922," suggests Dr. Raymond Cottrell, our November speaker, "the General Conference (GC) established the world divisions of the church, which now number ten. The divisions do not constitute a lower, subordinate level of organization, but are considered to be the GC itself administering the work of the church in their respective areas. Each division, however, functions as a self-governing entity in the administration of its own affairs, subject, of course, to basic General Conference policy."

"At the same time," [in 1922], Dr. Cottrell continues, "the GC set up what is called a "special arrangement" or relationship between itself and a nominal North American Division (NAD) by which the headquarters staff of the GC in Takoma Park governs the church in North America. Unlike the other world divisions, NAD is a "division" in name only, and for statistical purposes. The church in North America has no voice in the administration of its own affairs. [emphasis supplied] A few recent cosmetic modifications have not changed this "special arrangement."


Raymond Cottrell is a "regular" at the San Diego FORUM, meeting with us frequently during the past nine years and presenting topics such as: "View from Glacier View (10-80), "1844: Message for our Time," (3-82), "The Sanctuary Problem," (3-84), "What Do the Rocks Say?" (3-86), "A Reliable Method of Bi b le Study," (2-87), and "The Future of Adventism," (9-88). His perceptive mind and scholarship have been greatly appreciated.

Dr. Cottrell has served in pastoral evangelism in the Pacific Union Conference, 1930-34; as a missionary in China, 1934-41; a Bible teacher at PUC, 1941-52; associate editor, SDA Bible Commentary, 1952-57; associate editor, Adventist Review, 1957-67; and book editor, Review Publishing Association, 1967-77. He has served on numerous denominational committees, including the General Conference Biblical Research Committee, 1952-75. He is widely published with more than six hundred fifty articles and editorials to his credit. Though retired in 1977, he continues to serve on the Southeastern California Conference Constitution Committee, the Spirit of Prophecy Committee, and the Gender Inclusiveness Task Force. He is a frequent speaker at FORUM chapters throughout the West.

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