On November 11, 2012, the Netherlands Union constituency voted to approve the ordination of women, and the conference executive committee made that decision effective on May 30, 2013 and announced the action publically on July 5, 2013. These actions were contrary to General Conference voted policy (1995 and 2000), in reality a path of insubordination also taken by the Columbia and Pacific Unions in the US and the Northern German Union in Europe.

On September 21, the Netherlands Union unilaterally acted on their earlier decision. Union president Wim Altink charged ordination candidates to faithful service after which hands were laid on them, one being Ms. Guisèle Berkel-Larmonie. The ordination ceremony was conducted in Christus Koning church in the Hague, Netherlands.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) is a world body. In the SDA church, ordination to the gospel ministry carries worldwide authority. The church of 17+ million members seeks out biblical consensus and makes key decisions collectively, including the decision of whether or not women are eligible for ordination. Since the beginning of the church it has never adopted the practice of ordaining women as ministers with global authority. A decision to change this can only be made in a General Conference session. Such meetings occur every five years, next in 2015. After prayerful study and deliberation, thousands of delegates representing every part of the Lord’s vineyard vote in a decision binding upon every part of the world church.

For union or conference officers to participate in such an ordination as happened in Netherlands is in contradiction to the practice of the world church. For a candidate to receive ordination illegally—or for other ordained ministers to offer it—is a repudiation of the call to be a faithful servant to Jesus through His body, the church.

In another action, related yet unilateral in a different way, the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SECC) is recommending to its constituents that they vote Ms. Sandra Roberts as their new conference president on October 27. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not presently accept the ordination of women as clergy. If that conference should elect Ms. Roberts, they, as Netherlands Union, will by their actions be increasing the fragmentation and disunity of the church.

Ms. Roberts, since the NAD/GC does not recognise her as an ordained minister, cannot be recognized as a conference president. This is certainly known by all parties including the SECC nominating committee.

In fact, neither of the insubordinate actions described in this post are recognized as valid by the world church. Such actions should be seen for what they are—symbolic political statements endeavoring to increase pressure on the General Conference to approve Women’s Ordination.

The General Conference has already made clear its position. A study process is in progress (Theology of Ordination Study Committee) moving toward the General Conference session in San Antonio, TX USA in 2015. The leadership of the world church has asked units of the church, in the interest of unity, not to act unilaterally.

“The 1990(3) and 1995(4) General Conference Session decisions with respect to granting ministerial ordination to women represent the current voice of the Church in this matter. The actions of certain unions indicate their desire to establish an alternative source of authority for a matter that already carries the authority of the world Church” (“An Appeal for Unity in Respect to Ministerial Ordination Practices,” http://news.adventist.org/archive/articles/2012/06/29/on-ordination-questions-adventist-leadership-appeals-for-orderly-process).

“The essence of unity in Seventh-day Adventist organizational functioning is the mutual commitment of all organizations to collective decision-making in matters affecting the whole family—and the acceptance of those decisions as the authority of the Church. The action of any union in pursuing a different course of action represents a rejection of this key value in denominational life” (Ibid.).

In this document, our Seventh-day Adventist leaders made four specific appeals to erring units:

1. That your union continues to operate in harmony with the global decisions and global decision-making processes of the Church.
2. That until such time as the Church decides otherwise, your union refrains from taking any action to implement ministerial ordination practices that are contrary to the 1990 and 1995 General Conference Session actions.
3. That the union membership be informed concerning the implications for the entire Church in the event that one entity, for whatever reason, chooses a course of action in deliberate opposition to a decision of the whole Church.
4. That the union actively participates in the global discussion about the Church’s understanding and practice of ordination. The contributions of a union in this discussion can be forwarded to the Theology of Ordination Study Committee through the respective Ordination Study Committee set up by each division (Ibid.).

As seen in the Netherlands Union and potential SECC actions, these units are aggressively pursuing a course in contradiction to items 1, 2 and 3 above. The issue seems to have a power almost to charm individuals. Recently, Trans-European Divison president Bertil Wiklander, after an impassioned presentation in favor of Women’s Ordination, stated “I am converted completely to what I said tonight. I would die for it.” (“Ordination: The Ongoing Search for Understanding,” http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2013/09/13/ordination-ongoing-search-understanding, accessed 2013-09-25).

We can be sure that God is still leading His church on a worldwide basis. The church has a process in motion to resolve the questions surrounding the practice of Women’s Ordination and the spirit which has so far attended it. Heartfelt appeals have been made and still stand. We may pray that these units will return to the family they seem bent on leaving. There is still time to return.

7 thoughts on “Netherlands Union, SECC, Women’s Ordination unilateral action

  1. What will the NAD do when Ms. Roberts comes to meetings? How can she legally be seated as the president of the SECC and conduct business representing that conference?

    Reply
    • Danny,
      The NAD, as part of the GC, is bound by the GC Working Policy. Ms. Roberts will not be able to make motions or participate as a voting member. SECC will be without representation–by their own choice–if they vote her in. This is a fracture of the church. She will only be able to function fully as an officer in SECC and PUC. That is, until corrective action is taken with reference to SECC and PUC.

      Reply
  2. It is sad to see the spirit of disunity and even “revolution”, as seen in these unilateral actions. I am not surprised because we have been told that both unity and separation would be seen in the future. The future is here. The question is, which side of the question will each of us be on?

    I can imagine a church where women are ordained as ministers, provided they are not also being ordained to manhood. But I can also imagine a church where things continue as they have been for the brief time before Jesus comes again.

    Time is short. Our work, our burden, as laid out in the prophecies is clear. We should know what the thrust of our message is right now. This is not a time to gather up side issues, no matter how dear to our hearts, and divert our energies from the work at hand. Nowhere in the Bible or the Testimonies is a mandate to ordain women to be found.

    God has said He will communicate His will to the church through prophets – visions and dreams, not through the progress of the world’s wisdom. We don’t get our truth, much less our marching orders, from contemporary culture. We have to deal with culture, and sometimes accommodate it, but it is not the source of light and truth. The most recent prophet – Ellen G. White – avoided the WO issue studiously. If God wishes to have us make a change in this area, He will surly make it clear to the church in His chosen way. We have to believe this! Surely the Lord will do nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. Only in this way can the entire church be whole-heartedly on board.

    Let’s seek the will of God, not our own. The WO push is not like the protestant reformation. Sola Scriptura has been replaced with “Sola What I think is Right”, or “Sola What the Enlightened Western Culture Has Progressed To”. These things are not to die for! These things are not worth dividing the church over. If WO is the will of God, such that He is withholding the Latter Rain because of the injustice of current policy, He will surely let His voice be heard. Otherwise, let’s get busy doing His revealed will up to this point.

    I am prepared to go along with whatever the Lord makes plain – together with the whole church. I am aware of the counsel Ellen White gave concerning swine’s flesh, back when she still ate pork. What she said holds true still. God made His will known. Let’s not run ahead of Him, thinking we know better. Let us proceed as One, putting self aside.

    Reply
  3. What will those against WO do, if the church votes at the next GC to allow women to be ordained as pastors? Would anti WO members and leaders with their strong biblical perspective become defiant and refuse to honor this decision?

    Based on all that I’ve read here, to ordain women as elders/pastors wouldn’t be biblical; so what if the church by majority vote chooses to do that which, according to some, is not biblical, would that now make it right? Would it be considered as the voice of God?

    When is a vote the voice of God?

    Years ago the church allowed women to become ordained elders of churches and now the people want to go all the way. And it makes sense: if one can be an elder, why not a pastor? Perhaps our leaders and church went wrong from the beginning by compromise and now we are reaping what we sowed.

    May The Lord have mercy upon us.

    Reply
    • Thank the Lord, He is merciful. Absent some direct providential guidance in the mean time, the idea that the GC session would vote to authorize WO is probably purely hypothetical. But were it to go that way, I can tell you what would happen. Some conservatives would leave the church, and some would stay.

      Same goes for a “no” vote. Some more “progressive” people would leave, and some would stay. The church is being shaken.

      I think we should have confidence in God’s leading. He is head of the church. We have no idea what He will do in the next two years. But our work is to humble ourselves, and subordinate our ideas to His holy word, and the SOP.

      Let’s have mercy on God, and follow Him instead of expecting Him to follow us!

      Reply
  4. By voting to go against defined official church policy and have Ms Roberts be nominated to be SECC President, the good folks who have made this decision are going to open a can of worms of which they may well regret. If the SECC can go against church policy and do what they want, what will keep any local church in the SECC from voting to do whatever they choose even if it is against SECC or Union, Division or GC policy and procedures?
    A church could vote to take it’s self in any direction a majority wanted and that would be going down the road to full congregationalism. And that would spell the end to unity of mission and theology for the SDA church. But that is actually one of the goals of so called ‘progressive’ Adventism. It appears the shaking is going to intensify now!

    Reply

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