This week will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many readers will be aware that in 2015 General Conference delegates in session voted to reject a proposal to let each division executive committee to decide for itself whether or not to make provision for the ordination of women. The world church made a global decision, the result of which was to follow the biblical practice and the from-the-beginning-of-the-Adventist-Church until now global practice of only ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders.

After the session, some elements of the church in Europe and in North America continued and increased in their defiance of the world church.

At Annual Council in October 2016 General Conference leadership brought a fair-minded proposal for reconciliation procedures to help the disobedient sections of church leadership be kept accountable and help the church draw together in united practice in harmony with the decision made by the world church. Many NAD leaders aggressively fought the proposal. Nevertheless, it passed and the reconciliation procedures are now being applied. Leaders from the General Conference will meet with North American Division Union leadership in a special meeting to be held this week on January 19. Some NAD leaders have called for special prayer for these meetings. It is a good time to pray for these meetings.

While there were numerous quite contentious comments made by NAD leaders who are advocates of WO at the meeting, The Council of Adventist Pastors thought readers might find it encouraging to recapitulate again some truth-telling comments made by faithful leaders at that meeting held three months ago. For example, Dan Houghton offered the following observations:

“I’m extremely puzzled by this discussion, and I want to speak in favor of this motion. Its seems to me that 90% of everything that’s been said has been re-litigating what happened in San Antonio. . . And I would just like to say, that there are lots of people watching this proceeding, right now, around our country, with different ideas. The question I have, Does a vote in General Conference session mean anything? Does it mean anything? We spent five years, and I don’t know how many dollars, preparing for Indianapolis, and we took a vote. And there was a vote. This is really not about women’s ordination, and cannot be; we cannot make it that. Does this Church have a unity,? And does it have an authority? I would encourage those of my brothers and sisters who I love, they’re my friends, to find a different way to express their frustration with that vote, than undermining the authority and the unity of this Church.”

Some had insinuated that the General Conference, in seeking compliance with the 2015 GC session decision, was exercising kingly power. But Dr. Clinton Wahlen in speaking from the floor contradicted that claim with facts:

“Mr. Chairman, there is a difference between local policies, and policies voted by the General Conference session. The situation before us today, is, in some important respects, unprecedented. That’s why a focused solution is needed. The events leading to non-compliance with the San Antonio vote were not accidental. A great deal of energy was expended on crafting proposals for constituency meetings to act on, and these deliberate efforts have placed some unions and conferences in non-compliance. This situation arises from deep theological convictions that have been held for a very long time. Following the vote in San Antonio, a formal appeal was made on August 17, 2015 by the GC Secretariat to each division, kindly asking every entity to come into alignment with the world church. . . The time has come to take action. I appeal to this body to choose the solution that policy already provides, and that the Secretariat’s recent Unity document suggests. Quoting B05.3, ‘Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications, including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it.’ Please hear this final appeal from Jody, a constituent of one of the non-compliant unions: ‘I feel that my local church, my conference, and my union are the ones with the kingly power. It is frustrating wanting to be unified with the GC under the layers of three uncooperative kingly powers. I want to be made whole with the world church.’ We need to consider her plea and the cry of many thousands like her.”

Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore, stated:

“I’m disappointed to hear so many references made that the issue that faced the General Conference in San Antonio is some kind of minor policy. That motion required a vote based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We spent months and years, through all kinds of committees, to get to the place where this Church could vote on that issue. At this point, the issue is no longer that issue. The issue is the unity of the church. And the unity of the church is not maintained by pluralism. If we want to try to find a way that’s painless, to keep the unity of the church, we can go down the road of pluralism, but it will be very, very costly in the end. Redemptive discipline is painful. Its patient. Its full of love. And this document, I believe, gives us the start on that. We cannot as a Church maintain our unity, and allow people who oppose the world church, to simply accomplish what they wanted by default, by the Church never addressing the issue.”

We accept the decision at San Antonio, and we believe the Church needs to move forward united. Our prayers go up for church leaders to be resolute in helping the NAD Unions come into the harmony that Jesus desires. Most members in North America want to move forward united as a world church. We are not going to ordain women to the gospel ministry, because to engage in that new practice would mean to abandon the correct understanding of Biblical interpretation that this church was founded on.

The prayers that go up this week ought not be for permission to disobey the leading of God’s Spirit but for courage to surrender a pet idea rejected by the world church at San Antonio. There remains opportunity for NAD leadership to come into harmony with the world church. For this our prayers are ascending.

According to the Rocky Mountain Conference News Nuggets Newsletter, dated December 9, 2016, the executive committee of the Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC) voted the following statement November 12:

The Mid-America Union Conference executive committee, after reviewing the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference executive committee at the 2016 Annual Council, wishes to express the following thoughts about this action:

We share the need for and pray for worldwide unity and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

We affirm the document’s call to mutual listening, consultation, and prayer as we work together over differences.

We, as a protestant organization, believe the true authority of our church lies with the local members comprising our churches. Furthermore, we recognize our working policies delegate authority to our constituencies as voted by our church members.

We believe all members and entities in the church should be held accountable when needed by the constituencies to which they are responsible, as has been outlined by our church’s working policies. We see this as paramount, because to do otherwise would be a departure from our protestant heritage. By staying with and following our long-held policies for accountability, the appearance or threat of kingly power is held in check.

We express grave concern with the Unity Document’s establishing working policy as on par with our fundamental beliefs. Whereas policy is made for the organizing of our church for the purpose of mission, our fundamental beliefs speak to the Biblical truths we hold as a people.

We are alarmed by the “Unity in Mission” document and object to the direction it is taking our church. True unity will not be achieved based on voted policies, but rather through our spirit of “Christlike forbearance,” as Ellen White counsels us to do.

“The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish a perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance.” (MS 24, 1892)

One reads the MAUC voted document in vain for affirmation that the world church has any authority in the Mid-America Union. On the contrary, the document suggests that the executive committee admits only that members of its constituency have authority. At this time when a statement of support for the General Conference would have been welcome, Columbia and Pacific Unions, which are acting in open disregard for the authority of the world church, may take the MAUC statement as support for their insubordinate voted actions.

On December 6, 2016, the Rocky Mountain Conference voted to affirm the MAUC statement.

A report on the MAUC voted statement appears here:

http://outlookmag.org/mauc-executive-committee-votes-two-statements/

At the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session thousands of delegates participated. The decision sought was determined after “prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions.” The outcome represented the ground-up process which God in His wisdom instructed His Church to follow for seeking His will on matters in which we must remain globally united. Acceptance of the GC session vote is the proper path to bring unity to His people. The MAUC statement, in so many words, is objecting to the General Conference implementing the decisions of the world church. The General Conference represents the will of the world church and is duty bound to abide by and implement the policies voted—as is the Mid-America Union and the Rocky Mountain Conference. And “In 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” (Church Manual, p. 27).

Order is essential at this time. If the Church in North America becomes a zone operating independently of world church order, it has no future. The General Conference has voted to implement a careful plan to bring order, but NAD entities have united to resist it. The situation in the Division is desperate.

The spectacle of a University Church inciting its host conference to take action to oppose its own denomination should provide insight. How does the ideology which now prevails in so many North American Adventist Universities operate in the face of a clear “No” vote by the General Conference in session? The November 9, 2016 Walla Walla University (WWUC) church board meeting with Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) administration provides just such a sample case.

During the meeting, UCC president Paul Hoover offered an illustration which has been used in defense of implementing women’s ordination in some places and not in others. According to the president, a church member from Berkeley, California, should not have to do things the way a church member from Botswana might do them.

Should people who wish to be disciples of Jesus be baptized in both cases? Should they keep the Sabbath in both cases? Should they fulfill agreements and commitments properly made in both cases? Or, should church members in Berkeley, because of a supposed advanced status be given special exemptions? Should certain agreements binding upon every other brother and sister in the world church not apply to them because they are from Berkeley?

The context of the meeting at WWUC was disagreement in the conference over the unilateral, non-compliant commissioned minister policy first implemented and then rolled back by the conference. Why was it rescinded? Was it because many “small churches” in the conference require additional “education”?

Walla Walla University Department of Theology chair Dave Thomas made a gracious offer in the meeting: “I would gladly offer the services of my department to help.”

We wonder, were Walla Walla theologians to visit insufficiently educated UCC “Botswana” churches, what kind of improved understanding might be received?

HELP FROM WALLA WALLA?
In an article published on November 17, 2016, in the Collegian, the official newspaper of Walla Walla University, Thomas previewed the kinds of ideas members might be offered in such meetings. For example, he wrote that

“The church is a new society formed on principles very different from those typically seen in the world. One of those principles is the absence of hierarchy” (Dave Thomas, Collegian, “Unity, Diversity, Discrimination and Church Politics,” p. 8).

Is there an absence of hierarchy in God’s kingdom? “Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he [Lucifer] ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35). There is a hierarchy of at least three levels in this sentence. The first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets abounds with the question of “position” and “government.” There, it is Satan who proposes a non-hierarchical government: “he [Lucifer] promised those who would enter his ranks a new and better government, under which all would enjoy freedom” (p. 40). Satan argued that angels needed no laws, “no such restraint.” Indeed, the Ten Commandments, with its prohibitions, has a hierarchical aspect. Both Old and New Testament Churches had their order and rank. While such ranking is an aspect we would not emphasize, it is a fatal overstatement to claim “absence of hierarchy.”

Dr. Thomas also writes that “Top-down power tends toward rebellion and disruption,” (Ibid.). But all actual power begins with God and can be directed nowhere else but from Deity’s infinite heights. Yet there can be no justification for any creature’s rebellion against Him.

As for ordination itself, the professor insisted that “The concept of ordination assumed by the document [the reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016] is now known to be nothing more than a tradition that crept into the Church from the Roman Empire,” (Ibid.). Someone should have told this to Jesus before “He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord’s disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry” (The Desire of Ages, p. 296). For another detailed explanation of ordination, see Acts of the Apostles, pp. 58-62.

It is interesting how different the position presently being taught in the Walla Walla theology department is from the position of the world church (and presently being taught in Botswana). Indeed, the one point in which the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) did share consensus agreed at this concept:

While all believers are called to use their spiritual gifts for ministry, the Scriptures identify certain specific leadership positions that were accompanied by the Church’s public endorsement for persons who meet the biblical qualifications (Num 11:16-17; Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9). . . Aside from the unique role of the apostles, the New Testament identifies the following categories of ordained leaders: the elder/supervising elder (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim 3:2-7; 4:14; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Pet 5:1) and the deacon (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-10). While most elders and deacons ministered in local settings, some elders were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations, which may reflect the ministry of individuals such as Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:3-4; Titus 1:5). (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6497/archives/issue-2013-1520/20-cn-study-committee-votes-consensus-statement-on-theology-of-ordination/consensus-statement, accessed 2016-11-18).

The above TOSC statement, voted on July 23, 2013, came after the committee had in its January 2013 meeting considered the presentation made by Darius Jankiewicz, “The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History,” which had espoused the theory Thomas presents as fact.

It is troubling that an erroneous view of the order of heaven is presently being taught at the University. How will this non-Adventist view of church order now being taught to WWU theology students work itself out in the field when Walla Walla theology students are assigned as ministers in churches in Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, and Montana conferences?

CONCLUSION
It is interesting how a meeting held in such a supposedly diverse university community could result in an intellectual monoculture like that manifested on the 9th of November. While some 500 persons were present at the meeting, those permitted to speak stood lockstep in their support for the non-Adventist approach to the commissioned minister credential. Still, many UCC members would decline the offered services of the WWU theology department. Most would prefer to be presented an understanding of church governance which would harmonize with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We think they would welcome a presentation from Adventist teachers who support the Bible-based teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By all means, let teachers from Botswana apply.

In a recent Walla Walla University Church (WWUC) business meeting, University leaders invited the student body to join them. In what? In requesting that the Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee reinstate a commissioned minister’s policy voted March 29 then rescinded July 19. Why the rescind? According to the official conference announcement of the change, many constituency members “felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers” (See http://ordinationtruth.com/2016/07/22/ucc-rescinds-commissioned-minister-policy/).

But conference members are very concerned that WWU church leaders would solicit advocacy from the student body for a policy which stands in opposition to God’s leadership as reflected in the Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy. The result of this incitement of our youth entrusted to the WWU remains to be seen.

The Conference is still communicating with several churches in its constituency. Those churches, in response to the March 29, 2016 executive committee vote to implement the non-Adventist practice, had voted, between then and July, asking that it hold a special constituency session. The action by the churches was plain. The churches did not ask the conference to rescind. They sought via a special constituency session to overrule the committee. Some voted statements supported the replacement of conference officers.

Most members of the constituency, whatever their views on commissioning and women’s ordination, are determined to be in support of the world church. Unilateral action by conference leaders opposing world church practice is unacceptable to them. The action by the conference in disregard toward the world church has been disunifying, provocative, and destructive to its mission. On July 19, rather than face a special constituency session, the Conference executive committee rescinded its March 29 vote. At present, the matter is in the hands of the lay members of the conference. There could be a renewed call for a special session.

The General Conference sets the criteria for ordination; it determines which authorities are included in a given credential. Seventh-day Adventist congregations are part of a world church. A local conference can no more determine for itself the authorities which are included in a denominationally-approved credential than can a local congregation.

But on November 9, aware that conference administration was engaged in its first potentially constructive dialogue with its own world church supporting congregations, WWUC voted to ask the conference executive committee to “rescind its rescind” at its upcoming December 6 meeting—while still engaged in discussion with sister churches.

Referring to the UCC churches which sought for the conference to return to operating in harmony with the world church, the president said that those churches had been “demanding” a constituency meeting and that they had “pushed aside” the executive committee. The WWUC board even accused sister churches that called for the special constituency meeting of using “ways and means discordant with Christian values. . .”

But the membership of the conference has every right to expect elected conference officers to operate in harmony with the world church. When a conference executive committee violates trust, the checks and balances of a conference’s Constitution and Bylaws empower membership to overrule decisions of a conference executive committee, or even to appoint new officers.

Conference officers are now pincered between congregations which seek harmony with the world church, and those working vigorously to advance the cause of women’s ordination no matter the cost. How much wiser if leaders will speak more widely with their constituency; how much better if they will communicate directly with the General Conference. These steps should be taken before obeying the wishes of those in Walla Walla who openly call for the implementation of policies which by violating world church practice divide the Conference.


Previous and specifically related articles include:

CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

CM Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church

CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action

Laypeople Speak Out on UCC CM Policy

UCC Rescinds Commissioned Minister Policy

Text: Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy

CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misrepresents New Policy

CM Crisis 5: A History Lesson as Annual Council 2016 Approaches

CM Crisis 6: GC Unity Documents and the Commissioned Credential

In a news item posted on November 3, 2016 on the Adventist News Network (“Important responsibility in following voted World Church actions”), General Conference president, pastor Ted N.C. Wilson reminded leaders in North America of their “sacred responsibility.” President Wilson indicated that every leader has a responsibility “to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not).” The president had indicated previous to the 2015 San Antonio session vote that he would adhere to the results of the vote no matter the outcome.

In the article, the president clarified the authority of unions:

“When union conferences were established, they were given the responsibility of working within the policies outlined for the world church, which now generally takes place by world church representatives at an Annual Council and sometimes at a General Conference Session,” Wilson said. “Unions were established to make mission more local since the General Conference wasn’t able to cover the world with direct counsel for every situation, but unions are not a law unto themselves.”

Unions do not have authority over all aspects of ordination. They never have.

“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church,” Wilson said. “In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”

Some advocates of women’s ordination have accused church leaders of exercising “kingly power” as they seek for integrity in other church leaders who can only be faithful by adhering to the decisions made by the world church. To one who had asked pastor Wilson about the exercise of “kingly authority, Wilson replied:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question,” Wilson responded, “what could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”

The ANN article can be found at this link:

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2016-11-03/importantresponsibility-in-following-voted-worldchurch-actions/

The detailed response by the president is found on his official blog here:

http://perspectives.adventist.org/en/questions-answers/questions/go/2016-10-22/what-authority-do-church-unions-have-in-ordaining-ministers/

Pastor Wilson’s Facebook page, quoted in the ANN article, is here:

https://www.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/

The president often communicates with world church members via his Facebook page.

On Monday, October 31, 2016, the North American Division executive committee voted a statement calling efforts to bring compliance to the world church vote at the 2015 General Conference session “profoundly divisive and demoralizing” and voiced “vigorous disagreement.” In the statement, North American Division leaders affirmed “unwavering support and steadfast intent” to secure what they feel is “full equality of women in ministry.” This, in spite of votes at the highest level of church polity in which the world church has refused, refused, and a third time refused, to approve directly or indirectly the ordination of women. The NAD vowed to continue to make “ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.”

Early October each year the General Conference holds its Annual Council meeting, and in late October the North American Division, its Year-end Meeting. The 2016 Annual Council approved a very patient process to be used for reconciliation, called “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation.” NAD leaders were frenzied in their resistance to the document, but representatives of the world church enacted the document anyway.

The Monday vote is not the first provocative action taken this year by the NAD. On Friday, October 28, the NAD voted to request that the General Conference recognize the illegal 2013 election by Southeastern California Conference of Sandra Roberts, a woman, to the male headship role of conference president. The YEM2016 action was done in spite of awareness that such recognition by the General Conference was impossible. It was an NAD statement of defiance toward the world church. Yet the passage of two days led to no improvement in graces. The Monday motion voted was offered by Southeastern California Conference pastor Randy Roberts, and reads as follows:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Three Angels’ Messages. Nothing should impede this prophetic mission.

It is thus with grave concern that the members of the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee witnessed the passing of the Unity in Mission document at the recent Annual Council. The implementation of this document will create–indeed, is already creating–a profoundly divisive and demoralizing reality in many parts of the NAD.

While we wish to register our vigorous disagreement with the intent of the document, we do not wish to respond impulsively. Therefore, in light of this document, we move to authorize NADCOM to appoint a subcommittee to craft a thoughtful path forward.

Furthermore, recognizing that the underlying focus and context of the Unity in Mission document was the ordination of women to ministry in two unions in our division, we wish to once again publicly affirm our unwavering support and steadfast intent to realize the full equality of women in ministry, in fulfillment of biblical principles, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In light of these realities, we do not want the Unity in Mission document to be a deterrent to the ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.

We invite earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this process.

The action taken by the NAD at YEM2016 is extremely divisive. The NAD participated fully in the studies and votes which resulted in the 2015 world church decision. How can the NAD ignore those same decisions which they are duty-bound to accept, and then accuse world church leadership of being “divisive” when they humbly seek to secure respect for those same decisions? Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists who fully support the world church hang their heads in shame today for the insubordinate actions of their own Division. They feel voiceless and abandoned by NAD leadership. They support efforts by the world church to help recover the wayward unions, but the actions of NAD leadership are ripping the fabric of goodwill within the Division.

Has the leadership of the NAD gone rogue? Are they content to destroy world church unity to pursue the “proactive progress” of the ideology they are bent upon inculcating not only over the protest of their North American Division members, but also the world church?

How Long O Lord?

Kevin D. Paulson writes in response to a paper by Darius Jankewicz, “Hermeneutics of Slavery: A ‘Bible-Alone’ Faith and the Problem of Human Enslavement.” Paulson offers “The Biblical Consensus, Slavery, and Contemporary Adventist Issues.” The document is a PDF format, full-length document.

One argument offered by supporters of women’s ordination is to attempt to compare the approach to interpreting the Bible which some supporters of slavery offered in defense of slavery in the American South, with the interpretational approach of contemporary opponents of women’s ordination.

DOWNLOAD FILE IN PDF FORMAT.

Jay Gallimore is president of the Michigan Conference in the North American Division.


One of the last prayers of Jesus before the Cross was that his disciples would be one in Him, even as He and the Father were one (John 17:21).

Yet, the New Testament predicted a great apostasy within Christianity. Revelation shows the great red dragon pursuing the woman, the symbol of the remnant church, who keeps the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. In contrast, the vision reveals another woman called Babylon who is the mother of harlots. This, as we understand, is false Christianity with its many divisions.

So we can reasonably conclude that Jesus and the disciples never believed that the outcome of His ministry would be a united Christianity at large. But He did believe in a united remnant.

This remnant is made up of many different nations and cultures. So it would be natural for broad discussion to take place regarding “unity in diversity” amongst Seventh-day Adventists. But what do we mean by this phrase? How does our definition differ from Babylon’s notion of “unity in diversity”?

Jesus understood oneness on the basis of two things. First, Jesus petitioned the Father to sanctify the disciples through the word of truth. In other words the Spirit of truth would employ Scripture to mold the church into oneness with Christ and one another.

The second was for Christ to be one with His disciples, just as He was one with the Father. He prayed; “I in them [disciples], and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17: 23).

We should note how the mother of harlots, who sleeps with the kings of the earth, unites her daughters. Even though they are all related to each other through the mother, they all have different fathers. While she raised them to hold on to certain core practices, the rest of their beliefs are as diverse as their spiritual fathers. In contrast, the faithful woman keeps the commandments of God and has the faith of just One—Jesus.

When “unity in diversity” is applied to the disciples of Jesus, it cannot mean diversity regarding the teachings of the Word of God. Here the church must stand united. Take away the unity of doctrine, and you really have no mission. Diversity cannot become an excuse to negate the commandments of God.

Yet, there may be diversity on how the principle is applied. For example, let us take the New Testament command to dress modestly. The clothing in India, Africa, and North America may be very different. Certainly all cultures will have immodest choices. But the Bible doesn’t demand that all clothing be alike, only that it be modest. So Christians may wear any cultural clothing they like as longs as it is modest. Such diversity does not overthrow the principle of modesty, but supports it.

However, to use the expression “unity in diversity” as a means to embrace cultural positions, which are contrary to Scripture, is to promote a delusion called pluralism. Pluralism, within the church context, assumes that unity can be maintained by giving credibility and support to different competing beliefs and practices.

Babylon has already embraced this, but it is not the oneness for which Jesus prayed.

Today the Seventh-day Adventist Church is faced with this temptation. Will we as a church choose faithfulness to Scripture or concede to cultural norms? The pressure to conform to cultural standards burdens the church in many ways. At the end of the day, should we endorse pluralism for the sake of unity?

The church faced a major issue at its last General Conference (GC) session. After a careful and thoughtful process and with representatives from all over the world, it essentially voted not to allow the ordination of women. The motion asked for a vote based on the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. The vote supported position one of the Theology Ordination Study Committee.[1] That position makes it clear that the issue is not about the value or equality of men and women, but about faithfulness to the divine order given in Scripture. Some, of course, disagreed with the vote. That is to be expected. But for the sake of unity in the church, there comes a time for institutions, entities, and their leadership to surrender their opinions and practices.

Sadly, there are some unions and entities that are defying the vote of the GC Session by refusing to bring their practice into harmony with the vote of the world church on this matter. So now the issue is no longer about ordination, but rather the unity of the church.

Ordination to the office of a minister is no small matter to the world church. It is one of the essentials to its organization. It is the responsibility of the GC to define the qualifications for that office on the basis of Scripture. And it is the responsibility of the unions to see that those qualifications have been met.

If every union or conference acted unilaterally and assumed the same authority of the GC in session, unity would be impossible. If a local church, conference, or union decided to act contrary to the church manual or the voted actions of the GC, then it would threaten the unity of the body.

The Annual Council with nearly 315 delegates, is made up of GC officers, union presidents, administrators from our educational institutions, and laity from around the world. It functions as the executive committee for the world church between sessions. It should come as no surprise that they voted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 to start the process of addressing the issues of noncompliance. The document is designed to cover any noncompliance issue, not just ordination.

Fundamental to religious liberty is the “right of association.” This simply means that everyone has the right to start and maintain their own church with its unique doctrine and teachings. Religious liberty means the individual can voluntarily choose to belong or not to belong. They also have the right to leave and form their own group. But they do not have the right to force their pluralistic ideas on the body unless the group agrees to it.

The action recently voted means that the church leadership, empowered by the Annual Council, has an open door to start addressing the issue of noncompliance. It will be a patient, redemptive, and longsuffering process. One can only hope and pray that those supporting this opposition will have a change of heart. If not corrected, there are consequences of insubordination to the worldwide body.

The world church is faced with two choices: (1) allow noncompliance to go on, and thereby dismantle the unity and practice of the church; or (2) stand firm on the vote of the GC Session and preserve the integrity and oneness of the church. Redemptive discipline can be painful and filled with tears! Yet, any organization that cannot or refuses to discipline itself is doomed to failure.

No one wants dissension or animosity. While people’s different convictions in the church may be patiently endured, they cannot be allowed to undermine or disrupt the faith, practice, and teachings of the church. The utilization of shrewdness or political maneuvering to undermine the collective decision of the church body is unchristian and cannot be accepted. Church discipline, rightly done, is not persecution; but rather, it embodies the pursuit of principled love, not sentimentalism.

Pluralism is the death knell to the theology and mission of the church. During the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus was offered the kingdoms of this world without the pain and suffering of the cross. He refused.

Those proposing a pluralistic path to oneness, instead of disciplinary action, are advancing a delusion. This will not result in the accomplishment of the church’s mission, nor preserve its integrity as the remnant church, or deliver us to our ultimate hope of the Second Coming.

Only the oneness of Jesus can overthrow the seductive temptation of pluralism. Unlike Babylon the path of the faithful remnant church will be painful and bloodstained.

But the good news is that the path of Christ’s oneness and unity ends in glory!


[1] http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/theology-of-ordination-position-no.-1. This was the position supported by the vote of the world church.

Note: This item was oriignally published here:
http://www.misda.org/article/245/member-services/administration/president/unity-diversity-oneness

Seventh-day Adventist Church president pastor Ted N.C. Wilson has a Question and Answer section on his Facebook page. On October 22, 2016, pastor Wilson posted a detailed answer. In response to a question which had suggested that in seeking the compliance of divisions, unions, and conferences with the world church’s decision on women’s ordination, the General Conference was abusing its powers and exercising “kingly authority., the president’s reply offers a number of interesting insights. The entire answer can be read at this link:

https://m.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/photos/a.893482760707617.1073741827.221442104578356/1125011014221456/?type=3

We here at OrdinationTruth.com reproduce four paragraphs, with our reactions.

“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church. In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”

This paragraph makes the interesting point that despite continuing claims made by those determined to practice women’s ordination, the world church is not organized so that all ordination questions are handled only by unions. It has never been.

The other point of interest is that unions may only approve ordination based on the criteria set by the world church. Criteria is not set locally, although this is the desperate argument North American Unions are making.

Pastor Wilson proceeded to offer these points regarding the facts and authority of the General Conference in session concerning women’s ordination:

• “The General Conference in Session in 1990 indicated that only men were to be ordained.”

• “The General Conference in Session in 1995 and 2015 indicated that no other level was to have the right to determine who would be ordained other than that which has been indicated in the Working Policy and confirmed by the General Conference in Session in 1990.”

• “After having treated this overall topic three times, the General Conference Session with representatives from all parts of the world owns this subject.”

The world church has considered this matter carefully and repeatedly at the level of the General Conference session, and the decisions made by the world church in its most representative and authoritative decision-making body “owns this subject”–not unions or divisions. Officers in the North American Division need to pause, take a deep breath, and realize that in resisting the world church they are fighting a century of mutually approved church organization. Neither the NAD nor its Unions nor Adventist unions or union conferences anywhere in the world have been granted authority to disregard the decisions of the world church of which they are only sub-units.

With reference to the charge that the elected leaders of the world church at the General Conference are exercising kingly power in their efforts to uphold the decisions of the world church, he writes this:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question: What could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”

“As president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am duty bound with a sacred responsibility, as are all other officers of every level of organizations throughout the church as is indicated in Working Policy, to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not). To go against this vote would be exercising kingly authority.”

In other words, when unions or divisions act in deliberate opposition to GC-level decisions, it is those actions which are the authentic—and contemporary—exercise of “kingly power.” Entities such as Pacific and Columbia and North Pacific Unions are exercising “kingly power” when they usurp the authorities vested in the world church. None of these Unions have authority to approve unauthorized credentials they are presently issuing in the name of the Church. They are acting in violation both of the trust of the world church and also the trust of their own constituencies. Seventh-day Adventists holding church membership in the Conferences connected to these Unions are under the oppression of kingly power. Members’ rights are being violated by administrations of Unions which approve illegitimate credentials.

The Council of Adventist Pastors calls upon Unions misusing the authorities the world church has entrusted to them, whatever the administrator’s personal views, to turn back from destructive actions they have taken and to come into unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Northern California Conference (NCC), located in the Pacific Union, held its Quadrennial Constituency meeting on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Of special interest was the vote on a resolution worded thus:

Submitted by: Anderson Church and Sacramento Central Church

Pastors: Murray Miller and Chris Buttery

WHEREAS, the words of Jesus admonish us to be “one” as His Father and He are one (see John 17:20-22) and one of our fundamental beliefs states that “differences between male and female must not be divisive among us” (Fundamental Belief 14);

WHEREAS, both the Church Manual (page 31), and North American Division policy emphasize that “all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the world will recognize the General Conference in session as the highest authority under God” (NAD Working Policy B01 20 3);

WHEREAS, on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Northern California Conference [hereafter referred to as NCC] Executive Committee, time was spent debriefing the actions and decisions of the Pacific Union Conference Special Constituency Session held August 19, 2012. Out of that discussion, the motion was made that the NCC will recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;

WHEREAS, the May 18, 2014, NCC Constituency Session voted to refer the duly introduced agenda item of women’s ordination to the NCC Executive Committee for an official statement;

WHEREAS, the NCC Executive committee voted to affirm their previous decision of August 22, 2012, to recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;

WHEREAS, the July 8, 2015, General Conference Session voted down a motion that would have allowed each Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church® to decide for itself whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry in its territory (which includes the Northern California Conference);

WHEREAS, we have been admonished by both the General Conference and North American Division Presidents to comply with the 2015 Session’s outcome;

WHEREAS, Article VII, Section 7 of the NCC Constitution states, “The Executive Committee shall have the authority to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs and the affairs of the Conference, provided that the same are not in conflict with these Bylaws or those of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, or of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,” and at present Executive Committee votes conflict with General Conference policy;

The Motion:

We now vote to retract the Executive Committee votes of August 22, 2012, and December 3, 2014, in order to be in harmony with the World Church as represented by the General Conference session of July 8, 2015. We will continue to support women in ministry with the exception of issuing a ministerial credential and thus abide by the outcome of the vote of the World Church.

The constituency proceeded to vote. The motion, which would have placed NCC back in compliance with the world church, failed with 211 Yes votes compared to 294 No votes. This is an interesting result when we realize that constituency session vote are weighted in favor of conference leadership by the inclusion of its entire employed pastoral staff. That is, the membership at large is likely much more opposed to unilateral action separated from the General Conference than conference leadership.

While many within NCC oppose women’s ordination on Bible grounds, others favor women’s ordination but do believe that the world church has ultimate authority over these decisions. On July 8, 2015, world church delegates to the San Antonio General Conference session voted “No” to a proposal which would have permitted individual divisions of the church to decide whether or not to ordain women for themselves.

Many NCC members are very disturbed about the decision.

As a side note, it is interesting to read the NCC reaction to the resolution. On page 71 of the Constituency meeting book, the NCC makes several claims which are summarized in this sentence: “The NCC Executive Committee actions are not in contradiction with either the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws or the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws.” This statement is false. Saying one is in harmony with the world church while acting out disharmony towards it is unlikely to convince others that one is in compliance. Rather, it puts the highlight on the fact that the NCC, as other conferences and unions in some parts of the world church, is now operating in open disregard for the authority of the world church of which it is constituent.

Update: Oct. 23, 2016: An earlier version of this article pointed to published statements by church members in the conference who had stated they would stop returning tithe through the NCC. The individual we had linked to has since then flipped his position and adopted the erroneous recently published views of George Knight and others about the history and authority of unions. That individual was and is in favor of women’s ordination, but initially ad upheld the authority of the world church over its sub-units.