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 Why was it rescinded?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.

7 thoughts on “CM Crisis, pt. 8: Help From Walla Walla University?

  1. Botswana Berkeley alliteration
    The Botswana Berkeley alliteration would have made my aging freshman comp teacher jump sufficiently high to click her heels together. An “A” for its use; failing marks thereafter for the absence of common sense. Why? In his attempt to dispute Ellen White’s remarkable comment, with reference to the GC, when in session to be God talking to us, “I haven’t thought that in a long time” he unashamedly circumvents the revelatory, trust, healing ministry of Jesus Christ.
    One size fits all? In his scenario, one might wonder how the evils of genitalia mutilation would be addressed. One might wonder what the church does to educate its baptismal candidates regarding the equality of the sexes. That effort could very well impede the church’s need to increase its numbers by baptizing massive numbers of Botswanians.

    Reply
  2. To Dr. Thomas’ observation that “Top-down power tends toward rebellion and corruption” I would respond that bottom-up power tends toward chaos and confusion — the precise characteristics of spiritual Babylon. WO proponents argue that ordination is “nothing more than a tradition that crept into the Church from the Roman Empire” and at the same time argue that not allowing women to participate in this tradition constitutes the violation of a moral principle that cannot be tolerated. This position is laughable. But then, error invariably gets caught in its own inconsistencies. If this is any indication of what is being taught in the Walla Walla theology department I’ll take the consistent theology taught in Botswana any day. Thanks for yet another common-sense article clarifying the issue.

    Reply
  3. I personally think it is time for our UCC leadership to be replaced with those who will serve the will of God not there own personal agendas, the world church has spoken and we are to submit to that ruling body. If a union or conference does not the leadership needs to be replaced to those who will let the sprirt of God guide them. What if my local church decided to go on our own against UCC policy and do what we wanted, how far do you think we would get? A special meeting will do just that and that is what they are afraid of, being removed from office. Let us say enough and follow the guide lines layed out for our conference and see what the churches say through fasting and prayer,the God way!

    Reply
    • Who do you think laced leadership in UCC? It was by much prayer and God-fearing members that they are there. Jesus is king in their lives. In trying to make your point it appears you and the OT people are playing into the hands of Satan, causing dissension. I’ve been a member of the SDA church for 50 years. And we always knew women would one day be ordained. Like how the slaves were finally freed. Anyone who studies scripture with the Holy Spirit guiding them knows that God loves us all equally. This foundation is the truth that all other scripture must agree with.

      Reply
  4. Before we throw stones and attack the character of an ordained pastor, I would hope that time could be found to meet and pray with him….taking time to fellowship together; learn about/from each other.

    Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to interact with several of WWU’s theology professors; Dave Thomas being one of them. I have found him and the other profs to be honest, authentic and God fearing.

    This long distance sniping is harmful and needs to stop.

    Reply
    • Brother Brian, just to be clear, character is not at issue and, as far as I can see, the character of no one has been attacked. What is at issue is theology and church policy as these relate to WO. Am I wrong?

      Reply
  5. This is the year of reconciliation; efforts are to be made to bring non-compliant individuals and conferences into harmony. This cannot be accomplished through “common sense” and human efforts. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts.” Zech. 4:6. Let us not just talk of the need for intercessory prayer. Let us pray for those who are on the front lines of this situation. Let us pray for our own hearts to long for the salvation of souls more than anything.

    Reply

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