According to reports, leaders of the Trans-European Division (TED) met on February 15 “to draft a formal response” to the General Conference’ (GC) process for reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016. The TED document claims to speak for Adventist members of that Division and calls for the issuance of a single credential for ministers. The requested change would contradict three General Conference session level votes (1990, 1995, 2015) which refused to open the way for women’s ordination to the gospel ministry. Since the beginning of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the denomination has never approved the ordination of women.

Some European leaders are determined to practice the ordination of women in contradiction to their brothers and sisters in the world church. Some European Conferences even accept practicing gay and lesbian persons engaged in same-sex sin into church membership. Adventists have never accepted these two teachings as being valid biblical practices. We are a world church, not a regional European Church endorsing errant cultural practices.

The TED report on this meeting emphasized the “very complex and challenging situation the Church finds itself facing in secularized Europe.” TED leaders highlighted alleged legal demands by European secular governments. But God’s Church is not servant of the secular but of the Creator. Demands, whether made by a vast empire or by a small state, if they conflict with Scripture truth, cannot be determinative for us. The Church is called to carry forward a global countercultural witness. Europe is not an exception.

Many members in Europe do not accept that the Church must conform to state expectations. Adventists in Europe who have contacted us feel betrayed by those in leadership who have become entangled in culture. God’s Church in Europe is at risk of cultural captivity. We are a world church called to live by Bible-based rather than culturally-accommodating teachings and lifestyle practices.

The voted TED document affirmed that it would abide by decisions made by the General Conference in session, but claimed that decisions made at the General Conference level of administration were always to be carried out in specific regional settings. Are TED leaders saying they will refuse to work with the GC administration between sessions? Are they claiming they will obey with the right hand then emptying that claim of meeting with their left, granting to themselves right to “interpret” GC decisions “locally” in ways differing from the decisions of the world church?

At least one TED officer, Executive Secretary Audrey Andersson, correctly noted that “We cannot create a new credential ourselves, but we can recommend to the GC.” The TED committee also discussed the idea of asking that the commissioned minister credential be redefined to be equivalent to the ordained minister. Again, it is the GC which defines the authorities included in credentials. The Executive Committee of the Upper Columbia Conference in the North American Division decided on January 31, 2017 to abandon seeking a similar policy, and, on paper at least, to remain in harmony with the world church.

After decades of debate and years of study, it is not time to draft responses to GC voted actions as if women’s ordination were still under consideration. The Church has repeatedly refused to localize this question or change global practice to include the ordination of women. It has refused to surrender biblical principle to cultural imperative. It is time to work with General Conference leadership and get past this. Europeans do not know better than their world church. Being Jesus’ people of the Book is what is imperative–even in Europe.

With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.

Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.

Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).

We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.

At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.

There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).

It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?

There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.

We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.

0n July 14, 2014, Alice Silva and Amber Machado were “married,” with Alice taking Amber’s last name. In June 2016 Alice Machado became a baptized member in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist church in Northern California Conference (NCC). Amber Machado was already a baptized member of the Chico church.

Ginger Harwood baptized Alice Machado at the Chico Church. Harwood holds a commissioned minister credential through the Pacific Union Conference. Harwood was “ordained” as a Seventh-day Adventist minister in 2013 in a rebel ordination service held at the La Sierra University church in Riverside, California. The Seventh-day Adventist Church never has and currently does not practice the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. In a November 8, 2016 email stated to be from NCC president Jim Pedersen to a concerned member, Pedersen wrote

The SDA Church continues to call all people to a saving relationship with Jesus, including baptism. There is also an understanding that members are not yet perfect, including those who get baptized – but there is a growth experience as we become more like Christ. The LGBT discussion continues to expand and be defined by the church, upholding the biblical foundation of marriage.

Now, three years later, “ordained” pastor Harwood has baptized a practicing lesbian into the Seventh-day Adventist church.

And we were told that accepting women’s ordination would never lead to this.

Interestingly, 23 years ago Harwood wrote a chapter in The Welcome Table, a book promoting the ordination of women. Back then she saw that those who opposed women’s ordination felt that, “such changes will alter our core identity” (p. 271). In that book, Harwood’s is perhaps the most credible, measured, and fair-minded chapter. And yet, two decades later she is bringing into church membership a person whom she must have known to be currently “married” to another woman. This is what is so chilling. If just twentyish years of journey brings one of the coolest heads and most rational among supporters of women’s ordination to the place of baptizing a lesbian, where has the same passage of time taken those more radical?

To baptize a practicing lesbian is something new for the Adventist Church. To embrace it would be to engage in change of Adventist core identity. One wonders if Harwood would have thought 23 years ago that this is where she would be today.

People who are convinced that their view is correct act on those beliefs. It is inevitable. What is happening in Northern California Conference right now is a time-machine to the future. These events are foretelling what will be happening in your Conference tomorrow if the current beliefs promoted by the current leadership of the Pacific Union and the North American Division are permitted to play out. Members in local conferences need to do what Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson called for in his 2010 address to the Church:

Seventh-day Adventist Church members, hold your leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable to the highest standards of belief based on a literal understanding of Scripture.

There is a linkage between the theology of women’s ordination and queer theology. While this is denied on the one hand, we see it turned into practice on the other. People who are convinced that their view is correct act on those beliefs. There are two opposite approaches to biblical interpretation in the Church, and there are two different sets of actual beliefs and practices which stem from them. God’s Church stands at the door of pluralism and paganism.

For more extensive information, see

http://www.fulcrum7.com/blog/2017/2/2/married-lesbian-baptised-into-chico-seventh-day-adventist-church


NOTE: Errors corrected and two new paragraphs added.