On September 3—23, 1991, the delegates of our Unions and Fields came together in a castle at Breuberg, a little town situated in the beautiful forest area of Odenwald, about 60 miles southeast of Frankfurt, Germany. The session was opened by J. Moreno, the outgoing president, with the remark that, from the beginning of the Reform Movement, this was the first session with a full, worldwide attendance–109 delegates present.
GC delegation, sixteenth session, Breuberg (south of Frankfurt), Germany, 1991.
In his opening address, Brother Moreno said among other things: "Great changes have taken place in the world during these last four years, and further serious events are expected to occur in the next few years. The opening of the East-European countries, where the people now enjoy religious liberty, and where the Gospel can be preached freely, is one of the prophetic signs showing that the coming of Jesus is very near."
D. Dumitru, the outgoing GC vice president, said: "I am particularly thankful to the Lord because I can see for the first time representatives from practically all our Unions and Fields." After reporting on his activities during the quadrennium, he added: "Let us unite our hearts and efforts in the finishing of the work to hasten the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
A. C. Sas, the outgoing GC secretary, presented the statistical report: members added during the quadrennium: over 5,000. Membership at the end of 1990: over 20,000. Number of buildings (such as churches and chapels) owned by our corporation: 395. Organized churches: 492. Organized groups: 481. Rented meeting places: 238. Private homes where meetings are held: 355. Number of ministers: 158. Full-time Bible workers: 302. Part-time Bible workers: 44. Voluntary Bible workers: 116. Colporteurs: nearly l,000. In conclusion, he said: "The GC officers have worked together in harmony, revealing a good spirit of mutual understanding."
Delegation in session, 1991.
J. Garbi, the outgoing GC treasurer, presented a clear picture of the financial situation of our organization. He closed his remarks saying: "I thank the brethren of the different Unions, Fields, and Missions that have cooperated with the General Conference and especially with the Treasury Department by sending in their reports and remittances on time."
Then the regional secretaries reported on the work accomplished in their regions. Next, the GC departmental secretaries presented their reports.
Unions, Fields, and Missions: Change of Status
For technical reasons, three unions agreed to be dissolved and reorganized as follows:
Former Danube Union, now: Hungarian Field, Poland-Czechoslovakia Field.
Former Trans-African Union, now: Natal-Transvaal Field, Resda Field, Zimbabwe-Botswana Field, Zaire Field, Zambia Field.
Chilean Field to be reorganized as a Union Conference in January 1992.
French Polynesian Mission to be called French Polynesian Field from now on.
Martinique and Guadeloupe to be a Mission under the supervision of the French Polynesian Field.
South Korea Mission to be called Korean Field Conference from now on.
Southeast US Field recognized by the delegation.
Pacific North Mission (USA) recognized.
New GC Officers
The following were elected for the new quadrennium: N. S. Brittain, president; D. Dumitru, vice president; A. C. Sas, secretary.
The incoming GC president, N. S. Brittain, thanked the delegates for the confidence bestowed upon him and encouraged them to take a good report back to their fields. He said we are called upon to raise the standard of the truth everywhere, even though in some matters we may not understand one another fully. In the name of the delegation, he also thanked the German Union and the Romanian Union for the hospitality and for everything that was done to accommodate the delegation session and spiritual gathering. Then, from , he read words of encouragement and counsel to the homeward-bound delegates.
J. Moreno pronounced the benediction, and the delegation sang the hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."
1995 – Seventeenth General Conference Session
The delegation session began right after the spiritual convention which was held at the Stadium of Ploesti, Romania, August 29–31, 1995, with an estimated attendance of 4,500–5,000 people. The Romanian Union had provided a fair and pleasant place at Voineasa, in the Carpathian mountains. That is where 131 delegates representing our worldwide membership met from September 4 through September 24, 1995.
GC delegation, seventeenth session, Voineasa, Romania, 1995.
In his opening address, N. S. Brittain, the outgoing president, emphasized our responsibility in the plan of God for these last days. Our work, he said, is paralleled by that of Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. There was a seventy-year period which became very significant in the history of ancient Israel, and there is also a period of seventy years, from the establishment of the Reform Movement (Gotha, Germany, 1925) until now (1995), which should likewise have a deep meaning for us.
"The history covering these seventy years," he said, "is a history of development, amid victories and disappointments, with examples of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Yet through it all the message entrusted to us has remained clear, and we have seen the leading hand of God in His work. The work is His, not ours. Let us never lose sight of this distinction.
"During the second part of the quadrennium, much attention was given to the building of the GC headquarters (Roanoke, VA, USA), and we are happy that the new building is now occupied and functioning."
Brother Brittain also pointed out a certain number of challenges that our leaders and members would have to meet during the new administrative period:
"There is little time left in which to dedicate ourselves to the finishing of the work," he said. "Therefore, we cannot waste our precious moments trying to deal with all the trials and problems that the adversary will put in our way to draw our attention from the things that really matter as far as the salvation of souls is concerned."
Our spiritual condition as a people, especially in some places, is cause for great concern, Brother Brittain stated. And he explained that there is strong evidence that we need more and more reformatory actions in our experience as a Movement (Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 594, 595; and vol. 6, p. 142). He brought up a question which should arouse our thinking: Are we coming out completely from the captivity of the world, or will the future show that we have adopted philosophies calculated to turn our hearts away from full consecration to the Lord. At this seventeenth session, he emphasized, the Reform Movement may be at the crossroads, since plans and decisions must now be made which may lead our church either into a spiritual revival or into apostasy. Therefore, lest we forget the ways of the Lord and give room to self-sufficiency and religious pride, let us turn wholeheartedly to Him who said, "Without Me ye can do nothing." He also insisted that we must cease to make decisions based upon false sympathy or upon dictatorial control.
Our goal will be achieved if we allow the Spirit of God to develop a clear and united vision among all the workers. So we will "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." In order to receive the latter rain, we must do a personal and collective work in developing true Christian unity in our ranks.
The growing need for workers is becoming urgent in several Regions, Brother Brittain stated. This need spotlights one of the requirements of our missionary schools, namely the preparation of textbooks for a common course of instruction, correlated with a plan to conduct special seminars for workers.
The need for more personal involvement in missionary activity was also accentuated by Brother Brittain. And these were the closing words of his introduction: "May the Lord guide us during this session. May we listen earnestly to the voice of the Holy Spirit, laying our own opinions aside. And may we fully unite in the word of God."
After having reported on his work during the quadrennium, in his capacity as vice president, Brother D. Dumitru said: "As I look back to the last four years, I must thank God from the bottom of my heart for all the loving watchcare that He has extended to my coworkers and to me on our many trips and in the fulfillment of our duties."
The outgoing secretary’s report revealed that over 7,000 new members were added to the Reform Movement from January 1991 to December 1994. Our people (23,772 on December 31, 1994; over 24,000 at the time of the session)–organized in 13 Union Conferences, 23 Field Conferences, andMission Fields–were at that time scattered in 81 countries and territories. The report also showed other interesting details: chapels owned by our corporation, 581; other buildings owned, 98; rented meeting places, 223; private homes used as regular meeeting places, 530; number of organized churches, 606; organized groups, 652; number of ministers, 196; full-time Bible workers, 241; part-time Bible workers, 104; voluntary Bible workers, 95; colporteurs, l,943; colporteur leaders, 58; office workers, 112.
The Sabbath School Department reported that, at the end of l994, there were 1,417 Sabbath Schools with almost 35,000 students (adults and children) in the Reform Movement.
The report of the Colporteur Department showed that over four million books and booklets were sold during the quadrennium 1991–1994 in addition to the seven million tracts.
The Missionary Department reported the work done during the quadrennium: Bible studies given, over 250,000; missionary visits, over 380,000; books and booklets distributed, over four million (these are not the books and booklets sold by the colporteurs); tracts and pamphlets distributed, over eight million.
The outgoing treasurer, Brother Ruffo Lopez, at the end of his report, thanked the Lord and the brethren for all the support received from them.
Unions, Fields, and Missions Confirmed
The following constituencies were confirmed by the delegation: Bolivian Union (for administrative purposes, Bolivia was separated from the South American Southern Union); Martinique Field (Martinique and Guadeloupe were separated from the French Polynesian Field); Spain Mission (Spain was separated from the Iberian Field); Czechoslovakia Mission (separated from Poland); Ghana Mission; Finland Mission; Costa Rica Mission; China Mission.
General Conference president, A. C. Sas; vice presidents, N. S. Brittain and D. Suresh-Kumar; secretary, D. P. Silva.
At the close of the session, the new president, Brother Sas, appealed to his coworkers and to all the ministers that they do their best to set an example before the people. As undershepherds, he said, we should not drive them, but lead them. He appealed especially to the older brethren to come closer to the younger ones as friends, bridging the gap that in many cases exists between the two age levels. By tactfully making friends and winning the confidence of others, he stated, we will be able to help them. Speaking about our priorities, he said we should be anxious to be witnesses, not only through our words, but through our converted lives, demonstrating to the world that we are the people of God and that we are preparing to receive the promised power for the finishing of the work. We should not fear the future unless we forget the way in which the Lord has led us and taught us. And we should work to convert souls to Christ, not to ourselves. If we have this aim in view, he said, the Lord will bless our efforts.
In the name of the delegation, Brother Sas thanked the brethren of the Romanian Union for their hospitality. A spirit of perfect peace prevailed among the delegates. Brother I. Tomoiaga offered the closing prayer, and Brother F. Devai pronounced the final benediction.