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Currently I'm doing a little bit of research on how different churches are organised.

As far I can understand, the General Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church has an important role on discussing different important matters which are voted and eventually shared around the world.

The General Conference is responsible for the spiritual and developmental plans of the church around the world.

Source: adventist.org

If I get it correctly, after each General Conference event, a resolution is made containing the changes in the way how the church works (organizational issues, believes/principles (?) etc).

How are these resolutions shared and to whom? Who has access to them? Should they be public (to anyone, including people outside of the church) or be available only to the members of the church?

The point which I'm missing is:

  • if they would be shared only with the pastors/leaders, how would a member know if something is changed?
  • if they are shared only with the members, how would someone from outside (who eventually wants to be a member) know what they are going to accept without knowing what the General Conference decided before?
  • are there any points which should not be shared with members? Similarly, are there any parts which are shared with members but not with non-members?
  • how would somebody from outside of the church request as much information which is supposed to be public?

While this question is about the SDA church, for comparison, I'm interested how other churches/organisations handle this subject (e.g. LDS, JW etc).

  • I'm interested in answering the JW part of this question, but I have no idea how LDS or other Christians handle this, so I couldn't give a complete answer. Do you think you could post several questions which each ask for details on a specific denomination? – 4castle Feb 14 '18 at 19:58
  • @4castle oh, I see your point. I’m not sure how to proceed in this case: I could ask questions for each denomination, but I’m not sure if that would be a good idea. I’d be really curious about your answer, but I can see that accepting an answer would be difficult if the question is about multiple churches. Any suggestions? – Ionică Bizău Feb 14 '18 at 21:00
  • the information from an LDS general conference (94 since April 1971) can be found online at lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng, freely available to anyone who wants to watch, read, or listen to messages given – depperm Feb 14 '18 at 21:09
  • @depperm After a quick look I can see the talks are available, but does this include the resolutions (such as changes in beliefs/organisational changes/etc and maybe how they were voted)? – Ionică Bizău Feb 15 '18 at 4:48
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    LDS vote in General Conference to sustain church officers. This takes place during the Saturday afternoon session of each conference, and it is public, you can watch almost every session of conference ever recorded back to 1971 on lds.org. Beliefs and principles are not voted on. Doctrine is revealed by God through his chosen prophet, and isn't up for secular debate. – ShemSeger Feb 15 '18 at 5:39
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The Seventh Day Adventist General Conference session is not secret, nor is it well published. Formal minutes are only distributed to delegates of the session; this is primarily for practical reasons.

However, there are lots of news sources that cover the proceedings that discuss the high-level decisions that are made. For instance http://2015.gcsession.org/en/news/index.html

you can also find information on sites like https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/05/29/how-delegates-are-selected-general-conference-sessions

Regarding becoming a member, this is articulated through the fundamental beliefs. Usually, the General session deals with the business of the church and the protocols of the different offices of the church. Not often effecting lay members beliefs. Recently, however, there has been issues with how women should be accepted into leadership and the ministry credentials they can carry.

There is no secrecy at the session level. However, a board of directors is appointed that runs the organisation between sessions. These minutes are confidential, but cannot make significant changes; These are confidential as they can deal with highly sensitive operational issues that can affect employees. (Think restructures, pay cuts or increases, moral failures and apostates)

As a member, I gain all my information from the websites, both the official ones and the reputable Adventist news publishers. In reality, the General conference session has little impact on my day to day faith, or how the local church operates. There are other downstream organisations that have more influence over these.

  • Thanks for the answer. It's still unclear to me how this works. If I'm not wrong, after each General Conference, a document containing what was discussed and decided is released (I think they are called resolutions ). It includes, but it is not limited to beliefs/doctrine. I know such information can be found on different sites, but what I'm looking for is an archive with such documents in their raw format (not commented by somebody else or compiled in different resources). Is there a way to request such an official archive (in case it is not published online)? – Ionică Bizău Feb 16 '18 at 7:42
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I find the premise of this question a little misguided, since the governance (polity) of the Seventh Day Adventist church is based on democratic representation, and therefore resembles the Presbyterian system of church organization. Therefore, it really should be compared to other major Protestant denominations.

Church denominations exist for doctrinal centering, which means members join the church because they share the same fundamental beliefs, but there could be deviations in beliefs even within the church. The Seventh Day Adventist Church is no different, a new member can best understand what the Seventh Day Adventist church is about by reading our 28 fundamental beliefs and getting to know their local church. The general conference has no ability to change local church beliefs through resolutions.

As a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church, I can tell you the developments at the general conference level has no impact on my spiritual beliefs, which I like to think is rooted in the Bible. Even the North American division, which has more direct impact on hiring policies of my local church, cannot change the doctrinal direction of an individual member. For example, recently the North American division voted to recognize women's ordination, which has been very controversial within the church since there is little Biblical support. However, individual members are free to believe what their conscience dictates, and if a female pastor is assigned to a local church, the local church elders must agree.

To sum up, the Seventh Day Adventist church is a protestant church where members are required to support the 28 fundamental beliefs at baptism, but beliefs are dictated by an individual's freedom of conscience. Perhaps the unique aspect about the Seventh Day Adventist Church heritage compared to other protestant churches is that a majority of us believe the writings of Ellen White, a church founder, was inspired because of her testimonies, and the fact that they are not contradictory to the Bible. The Bible is the basis of our faith, therefore the decisions at the general conference are business decisions and has no ability to change the doctrine direction of the local churches.

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