General Conference

The Seventh-day Adventist Church comes together as a whole every five years to elect its top officers and decide on any policies that will affect the worldwide faith. One such convocation just occured June 29 to July 5 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Evelyn, Spencer and I went. It is my second General Conference (GC) Session since being a full-time pastor. But being a more experienced pastor now makes me view the session differently than the first time in Toronto. They made a manual change with respect to offering an alternative baptismal vow. I look at that very differently now that I would have five years ago.

The church expanded the number of general vice presidents from seven to nine. Whereas before there was an African-American male that served as one of the general vice presidents, now there is an African-American female and an African male. (There is also another Caucasian male in the person of Mark Finely who became a vice president for Evangelism.)

Watching the play and interplay between the African-American (regional) leadership whose constituents contribute between $180 and $200 million dollars annually to the worldwide church and the dominating (mostly) white leadership of the GC (because the NAD dominates the procedures) is also quite interesting.

But that's only one part of a GC session. The other part is coming to realize just how global this church is! 40 percent of the church is now in Africa. (Forty percent is in Africa and one out of nine GC vice presidents is African, count the GC president himself and its one out of 10. Go figure!) It is obvious that despite ourselves, the Lord has His hand upon this church. We are in over 200 countries and our membership has climbed above 13 million. Praise the Lord!

It's like one HUGE camp meeting. Rarely do I get to fellowship with so many pastors and their spouses at the same time . . . and from so many generations. It's just wonderful. Colleagues from South Central, Central States, Allegheny East and West, etc. all come together and fellowship for 10 days.

Just to illustrate, the Lord gave me a wonderful gift on Saturday night, July 9. The General Conference session had closed. Some of us who had done our internship under Dr. Charles D. Joseph, Sr. at the Straford Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chicago, Illinois decided to hook up and go to the Cheesecake Factory. Wes & Steph, Ev and I met at their hotel. Wes and I drove together and Steph and Ev rode together. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Cheesecake Factory, we saw an open spot and as we pulled into the empty space we saw a BMW 740 iL and commented that it looked a lot like Charlie Joe's. Well, I had just seen Charlie Joe's BMW less than two weeks earlier because I was at Evelyn's cousin Delvius' wedding and it was parked in the parking lot of the reception hall. I recognized the license plate and said to Wes, "That is Charlie Joe's BMW."

Sure enough, we walked into the restaurant and there was Charlie Joe with his lovely wife Vivian, and her two sisters and their husbands (Sharon and Sam; Sandy and Walt). We went over to their table to greet them.

As the night progressed, the rest of our party arrived and one by one we all went over to say hi to that table. It was the greatest thing for so many of the ministers whose lives Charlie Joe and Vivian have touched to be fellowshipping together and then to be IN THE SAME RESTAURANT AT THE SAME TIME with them was just the icing on the cake. He and Vivian came over to where we were all eating and when they came up all of us just erupted in applause.

They are just wonderful people. It is interesting to see what happens over time. It all started with Ernest Young telling Helvis Moody and I about some churches in Chicago to check out. We went to two churches that first day. We went to Hyde Park and to Straford. Helvis chose Hyde Park and when I felt the warmth of Dr. Joseph and experienced the worship of Straford, I knew that I had found my home while there in the Midwest. I told my brother-in-law, Pastor Furman "Puck" Fordham about it. His family knew Dr. Joseph because his dad was in school with Charlie Joe years ago. And Puck and I started together what would be the beginning of interns with Dr. C.D. Joseph at Straford that has yet to end.

And what I marvel at is how so many sharp, African-American preachers are attracted to that ministry. Several of us maintain that years from now many of the leaders of the church will have one thing in common: the godly influence of a man who simply went by "Charlie Joe."

Charlie's Boys:
Furman Fletcher "Pucky" Fordham
James Alfred Johnson, III
Charles Wesley Knight
MyRon Edmonds
John Scott
Fred Nichols
Juleun Johnson
Edwin McBride
Barone Savory
Yours truly, Keith S. Goodman


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