A pastor with an animated personality took to the platform at the 2012 Annual Council and told what sounded like an unbelievable story: He recalled how he dropped to his knees to pray beside two young men who had died – and after saying amen, the dead men had resurrected.
“I don’t know about you, friends, but that’s what I call a miracle. And it reminds me, it reminds me, brothers and sisters, that we really never know which breath will be our last!” stated the pastor, who specializes in church fundraising efforts by reaching worshippers’ hearts (and wallets).
If the resurrection anecdote sounded too good to be true, there’s a good reason for that. The fictional story was actually part of a skit produced by Seventh-day Adventist Church officials in a training program called Leadership Education and Development, or LEAD.
The purpose of the LEAD Conference, held on October 11 and 12, the opening days of Annual Council, was to teach important leadership principles to the 350 members of the Executive Committee.
This year’s theme was policy compliance, or the importance of denominational employees adhering to policies. “If we play by the rules,” said world church Secretary G. T. Ng, “there be peace in the family.”
In the skit featuring the prevaricating pastor named Ima Climber (played by Clifford Goldstein, who in real life is the editor of the Adult Sabbath School Guide), church officials sought to show how to handle a renegade employee.
The skit revealed how a district pastor in the fictitious Antarctic Field called the prevaricating pastor’s supervisor, the executive secretary, to complain about the pastor.
The executive secretary explained that he would need to meet with the prevaricating pastor, then other field officials, as part of the routine procedure to look into the complaint.
The executive secretary then met the pastor to confirm the details of the complaint. Afterward, the executive secretary briefed the field president, who in turn summoned the pastor and fired him. Only one problem: The pastor was fired without the knowledge and permission of the executive committee, which, according to policy, is the committee that can discipline an elected official.
Following the skit, delegates huddled in breakout groups to discuss principles of governance and leadership within the Adventist Church. Case studies allowed new Executive Committee members to learn from more seasoned administrators, Ng said.
“The expectation is to help train leadership in leadership principles, and every year we are going to have a new theme,” he said.