The United Methodist Church, wracked by a generation of controversy over human sexuality and LGBT issues, faces a pivotal decision this year. A General Conference Session to be held in Minneapolis in just three months will likely see delegates vote to split the denomination. A plan has been proposed by which LGBT favoring Methodists will acquire full control of the denomination while Methodist members upholding the biblical position rejecting the normalizing of sexual sin will be free to leave with churches and assets and form a new Methodist denomination.
The WO conflict waged havoc in the Netherlands. Together with the NAD and TED administration, the Dutch Union had set itself to set an example for insubordination in the World Church. After GC 2015 members said, enough is enough. One-third of church visiting persons (803 of 2400) signed a Member’s Manifesto and demanded a special constituency meeting. They made use of an out-of-model inserted article in the bylaws that provided for 500 individual members to do so. This provision should be adopted in the Working Policy Models, to circumvent the widespread manipulation by Church administrators, and to give the Church again to the people.
Though it looked like the Dutch brethren didn’t accomplish much, the meeting marked a turning point in this Union. In 2017 the Regular Constituency Meeting chose officers with a different mindset with an average voting percentage of 85% and a majority of lay members in the EC. In 2018 a Special Meeting voted for a new Constitution and Bylaws in which it is firmly stated that the Union should be in harmony with actions of the World Church. Also included was a for-cause dismissal article, that has been put to the test a couple of times. The pressure on the current administration is enormous, from outside and within. But we see God working. Please, pray for us? This issue causes casualties at both positions in this controversy.
A recent Fulcrum7 article reveals a little of what transpired in the past ten years, due to misinformation of the people and the constituencies by the previous EC’s, and Church politics. It also reveals the courage shown by the current administration to declare on December 18th 2019, that there will be no ordinations in the Netherlands until provided by the Working Policy in the future. When God’s people in every position stand their post, God acts for and with them.http://www.fulcrum7.com/blog/2019/12/30/courage-in-the-netherlands#comment-4741718873
The above television news report highlights the enormous divide within the United Methodist Church (UMC). The UMC as a global denomination has voted a different view than several Methodist Universities in North America. The University Methodist Church in Austin, TX is allowing same-sex “weddings” in its chapel halls, defying the General Conference Session vote results from February 2019. In response to that vote, KXGN Austin reports that the pastor of the church has declared the church will operate “as if these new rules never existed.”
The UMC is a divided church, but parents continue to send children to be educated in universities where the church associated with the school are not only inculcating in students aberrant theology but attitudes of rebellion.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is similarly divided. Some of the loudest voices favoring cultural accommodation emanate from our Universities in North America. We seek to operate so that no entity is a power to itself, but rather our denominational entities are interdependent and do not determine their own status.
Will students in our universities strengthen the world church and its decisions, or permit themselves to be led to disregard their world church. Are Adventist students different, basing their decisions on inspired counsel? Time will tell.
How has God arranged for His church to be governed? He is the head. Authority flows from Him to His people. He distributes this authority to every member, who in turn delegate it to the various entities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Thus, the church operates via the consent of the governed.
Rapid developments continue in the Methodist Church. In the lines which follow, the Council of Adventist pastors updates that situation because, as has been observed, schism over women’s ordination in the Adventist church is closely mirrored in the Methodist schism over LGBTQ.
Thomas Lambrecht, a UMC Pastor, describes the current situation in his denomination:
It has become strikingly evident over the past several months that a significant part of The United Methodist Church no longer gives its consent to be governed by the church, despite those vows. German and Scandinavian church leaders have declared they will investigate becoming autonomous churches rather than submit to the decisions of the St. Louis [February 2019] General Conference. Several bishops in the U.S. have announced that they will ignore what the General Conference enacted and operate their annual conferences as if the One Church Plan had passed. Up to a half-dozen practicing homosexuals have been ordained or commissioned in U.S. annual conferences in defiance of the longstanding prohibition in our Book of Discipline. Over a dozen U.S. annual conferences have passed resolutions rejecting the decisions made by the St. Louis General Conference. . . . Influential mega-church pastor, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, has stated, ‘We are going to live and be the kind of church we want to be, regardless what the denominational rules says [sic].’ (Good News Newsletter, June 28, 2019, The Consent of the Governed, by Thomas Lambrecht,
Since the UMC February 2019 Special GC Session the situation has descended into stark insubordination.
This spring, in response to the General Conference decisions, the moderate and progressive wings of the church in the U.S. and parts of Europe have decided to revolt against the government of the church and to establish a different foundation on principles amenable to the majority of church members in those parts of the church. We see this in the examples of disobedience cited above and calls to ‘resist.’ (Ibid.).
Even if the 2020 General Conference continues to affirm the traditional definition of marriage and sexual ethics, progressives have stated they will refuse to abide by the church’s policies. Based on apparent success in electing progressive and moderate delegates to the Jurisdictional Conferences, they believe they will have the votes to elect at least a dozen bishops who will refuse to enforce the church’s standards and will carry on the revolution (ibid.).
Further information on these denominationally “illegal” ordinations can be perused here:
California-Nevada has 6 new LGBTQ clergy, kathy L. Gilbert, UM News, June 25, 2019
US elections see shift in GC2020 delegates, Heather Hahn, UM News, June 27, 2019
Indeed, the pages of UMNews.org on any given occasion include numerous mentions of LGBT clergy ordained—all in rebellion against the numerous GC Session votes affirming that LGBT practice is incompatible with Christianity.
Then it is no surprise when Lambrecht points out, “Our church is now unquestionably in a constitutional crisis, where our ecclesiastical framework appears to be unable to resolve the conflict. We have two irreconcilable positions, and one faction is willfully choosing to violate the constitutionally established processes of the church.” He observes, “We have one part of the church government (some bishops and annual conferences) choosing to willfully violate church law established by another part of the church government (General Conference) operating under its constitutional authority.”
[W]e must accept the fact that a separation must occur in our church. That separation can be done amicably or it can be done contentiously. One way or another, however, it must happen. We can no longer think that unity under a single church government is possible.(Ibid.).
Seventh-day Adventists need not follow the Methodist path to separation. In the Methodist Church, an impassible chasm developed between Methodist clergy and administrative leaders trapped in their ideological bubble, and the broader church membership, a majority of whom reject the cultural descent into sexual depravity. Although the mechanisms of representative church government, with constitution and bylaws documents and administrative bodies voted into place and functioning between GC Sessions was present, division continued and became permanent in the denomination. The clergy and administrators trapped themselves in their own bubble, while the broader church membership tended to blindly trust their leaders, anticipating that in the end everything would work out. There was never an effective intervention where everyone came back onto the same page.
All of which urges the question: What steps can the Seventh-day Adventist Church take to bring our broader membership together with our clergy and administrators on the platform of Bible truth? The sharp schism in the Methodist Church warns us that there is grave danger in failure to move proactively.
Readers of OrdinationTruth.com are likely aware that, similarly to the divided situation within the Seventh-day Adventist Church over women’s ordination, the United Methodist Church is locked in schism over LGBTQ practice. Click on the link below to read the full article.http://ordinationtruth.com/poc-q-t-methodists-declare-rebellion-to-general-conference/
The United Methodist Church Special General Conference Session held February 23-26, 2019 resulted in the passage of “Traditional Plan.” This plan upheld the many decades-published position in the Methodist Book of Discipline–the authoritative church policy of the Methodist church—which states,
“While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (Paragraph 304.3).
Since the 1980s the strong LGBT faction in the church has fought to remove this language from their Book of Discipline–language which they say “causes harm” to LGBT members of that denomination. This divide has deeply fractured that church.
The 2019 Session resulted in the passage of a plan that not only continues the Book of Discipline language, but takes new steps toward correction. Now, after the session, the pro-LGBT faction is distraught and angry. One leading pastor publicly weighed the options:
- Leave to form a new United Methodism.
- Stay, resist, give the Good News/Confessing Movement/Wesleyan Covenant Association the gracious exit they’ve been looking for in hopes that they will leave, and then reform the United Methodist Church for mission and ministry for the 21st century.
And when it comes to this issue, why should conservative United Methodists abandon their church when the LGBT faction has again failed to convince? Pastor Thomas Lambrecht writes that actually,
“Traditionalists have not been eager to leave the denomination. It is a mistake to think traditionalists have ‘been looking for’ a gracious exit. For over 50 years, Good News has enthusiastically encouraged evangelicals to remain in The United Methodist Church and help reform it” (https://goodnewsmag.org/2019/04/why-traditionalists-are-not-leaving/).And
“Traditionalists believe we have the votes to fully pass and implement the rest of the Traditional Plan at General Conference 2020. With Africa gaining votes and the U.S. losing votes, and with the full ten-day time frame available, revised versions of the provisions that failed to pass in St. Louis or are declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council can be passed and implemented.”More interesting is the offer by conservatives to liberals of a “gracious exit”:
“Traditionalists would be open to a mutually agreed separation that multiplies Methodism into two or three new denominations. In that case, no one would be ‘leaving’ the UM Church, but everyone would be on the equal footing of deciding on a new affiliation with a new denomination.
“A scenario of multiplying Methodism would seek to treat everyone fairly and equally. There would be no winners or losers. All annual conferences and local churches would be able to make an informed choice about which new Methodist expression they want to be part of. The consciences and convictions of all would be respected because all could belong to an expression that embodies their convictions.”Both sides seem see the impossibility of continuing together. The tide of the world and the tide of Scripture do not mix. In the absence of a change of view and heart, separation is an option that, more than ever, can be expected to be front and center in May 2020 when the next General Conference Session of the Methodist Church meets.
Adventists are thoroughly divided over women’s ordination. While there appears to have been no substantial action on the topic at Spring Meeting this year, our own 2020 General Conference Session is now about a year away. Then, the world church will elect new leadership for each of our 13 world divisions. A wise work by the nominating committee can help the Adventist Church address the church governance issues that have arisen because of the insubordination of some leadership in the NAD and their disregard for the 2015 world church decision refusing to permit individual divisions to decide for themselves whether to ordain women.
Adventists can avoid the Methodist path by refusing to ordain women to the gospel ministry, and, at the same time, avoid the catastrophic divide over LGBT which has the Methodist denomination on the brink of schism.
The Potomac Conference Executive committee voted on February 26, 2019 to submit the name of Therezinha Barbalho for approval for ordination to the gospel ministry. Barbalho, a woman, serves as pastor in the Silver Spring, MD church. Union approval is required before a conference proceeds with an ordination. The target date for Barbalho’s ordination is June 2019.
The world church voted in General Conference Session 2015 not to permit Divisions to decide unilaterally whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry. Disregard for that decision led the General Conference Executive Committee to create and vote a special compliance process in 2018.
The highest human authority in the church is the General Conference Session held every five years. Between GC Sessions, the General Conference Executive Committee handles necessary business items. The GC in session is analogous to a church business meeting, and the GC executive committee to the church board meeting. In the case of the General Conference, these meetings have global authority. Divisions, unions, and conferences in their turn, are all under the authority of the next higher level of organization. The Church Manual, p. 27, reminds us, “In the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure, no organization determines its own status, nor does it function as if it had no obligations to the Church family beyond its boundaries.”
Because the world church has not approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, neither Potomac Conference nor Columbia Union, subsidiary entities that they are, have not been delegated authority \to conduct such an ordination. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the ordained minister is recognized by the Church as having authority to minister on behalf of the church globally. For this reason, no sub-entity can act unilaterally; ordination grants authority across the entire organization.
It is ironic that the Conference and the Union are following the lines of authority to approve such an ordination at the lower levels when they clearly lack the authority at the higher levels. When conferences and unions act unilaterally and in contradiction to the decisions of the world church, they are engaging in a form of congregationalism. They are disrespecting the decision-making process of the very entities which have delegated to them the authority they are misusing. They are sowing disunity in the Church.
James Howard, Associate Director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist presents a series on biblical hermeneutics and applies them to the issue of women’s ordination. This series is straightforward and encouraging and well worth watching. You will be refreshed and strengthened in your understanding of Seventh-day Adventist biblical interpretation. This series was filmed on November 9th and 10th, 2018.
Gerita Liebelt grew up a tomboy. Hers was a gender journey. Looking back
from 2019 with the standpoint of years, in our latest article Gerita
traces her journey through the gyrations of social change traversed in
those decades. What is her conclusion? Did God get it right? Or secular
In an unprecedented act, the North Pacific Union (NPUC) executive committee voted 34-2 on November 14 to “unreservedly endorse the official response of the North American Division (NAD) to the document approved by the General Conference (GC) executive committee” (Gleaner, December 2018, p. 5).
Readers will recall that on November 6, 2018, the NAD voted a response to the October 14, 2018, General Conference action. In its response, the NAD stated
[W]e are compelled to reject the spirit and direction of this document voted at the 2018 Annual Council (hereafter indicated as ‘the document’), as it is not consistent with the biblical model of the church. We simply cannot, in good conscience, support or participate in the implementation of the process outlined in the document, as it is contrary to the culture of respect and collaboration taught in the Bible.Excerpt from NAD Newspoints, November 7, 2018. https://www.nadadventist.org/sites/default/files/2018-11/NP%2011-7-18.pdf
It is difficult to see how the NPUC decision can do anything but create disunity in the North Pacific Union, its constituent conferences, the NAD territory and the world church. The 2015 General Conference Session vote at San Antonio regarding ordination is being openly disregarded. And now, the NAD—with the unreserved endorsement of the NPUC—adds further insult. The NPUC leaders have published a decision which can only encourage disregard for the Holy Spirit-guided decision-making of representative members from the broader world church.
The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) hereby expresses its unreserved disagreement with entities acting in open resistance toward the work of the Holy Spirit. The church should now be given an example of unity. Instead, entities we have respected act in insubordination, telling the world church they refuse to participate in the generous, even mild, compliance process voted at GC Annual Council 2018.
We find instructive the following lines published in Ministry magazine in 1995 shortly after the world church decided a second time not to embrace the ordination of women to the gospel ministry:
The General Conference in its session every five years is the highest authorizing body of the church. If we do not like what it votes, then we can work through legitimate channels of the church to change the decision. But in the process we must obey what the session has voted. What is the alternative? Anarchy, disunity, conflict, and fragmentation.
Part of the struggle of living in this sinful world is living with decisions we do not like. While majorities must always be respectful of the minority, the minority cannot expect to have its way when the majority rules otherwise. Either God is leading this church or not. If He is, then we need to respect the decisions made by the church in its highest governing session.Ministry, April 1995, p. 30