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.