A new publication began in January which offers great encouragement to God’s Church. It is called the General Conference Executive Committee Newsletter. While the newsletter especially serves the 300+ members of the General Conference executive committee, it is freely available to leaders in the church at any level who would like to read it.

The January 2017 issue of this brief, four color newsletter featured a main article by Mark A Finley, titled “A Divine Movement United in Mission and Message.” Among other thoughts shared, the article points out that “The unity of the New Testament church was based on a common commitment to Jesus’ revealed truth,” “Truth is God’s basis for the unity of His people. Truth unites,” “truth is based on the word of God,” “Church organization and its subsequent policies based on biblical principles play an indispensable role in unifying Christ’s church. Rather than being arbitrary decrees by authoritarian leaders, the church’s policies are mutual agreements based on and through the body of believers as a whole and the leadership established by them,” “No power or authority within the church can claim independent or unilateral legitimacy in view of this model of interdependence established by the Chief Shepherd.”

The February issue carried as its main article BRI’s Elias Brasil de Souza’s article “Built on a solid Foundation: A Biblical Basis for Church Governance and Authority.” A sample from that article is this statement: “A system of church authority and governance is required in order to maintain doctrinal unity and to implement the mission of the church. Thus, compliance with decisions made by the legitimate representatives of the church organization is not optional.”

The March issue carries as its lead article Myron Isminger’s “History and Development of Seventh-day Adventist Policy,” another very informative and useful article helping the church to understand the importance of organization. Each issue also carries inspiring mission stories from around this world church.

You can find the Executive Committee website at this link:

https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/newsletter/

The first three issues are available at these links:

https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ECN-January-2017.pdf

https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ECN-February-2017.pdf

https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ECN-March-2017.pdf

NPUC Gleaner: Learning From History?

By Engel Yoder


The March 2017 NPUC Gleaner editorial titled “Protest” likens the NAD union presidents who are opposing the authority of the General Conference (GC) to the German princes who opposed the authority of the papal church at the Diet of Spires in 1529 (1). By making this analogy, the editorial further insinuates that our GC leaders can be likened to the papal leaders whose authority the princes protested against. The editor then asks, “What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”

It is difficult to put into words just how offensive such an editorial is. And that it has been printed in an official church publication shows just how incredibly disjointed church leadership is in the NAD. But not only does this reveal how disconnected NAD leadership is from the rest of the world church, the history the Gleaner editor suggests that we learn from has nothing to do with our current church crisis.

When we consider what the princes of long ago can truly teach us, we find they held to two principal points. Regarding the Diet of Spires we have this historical summary:

“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. D’Aubigne, b. 13, ch. 6” (2).

Obviously, the intrusion of civil authorities is not an issue in our current situation, but neither is the arbitrary authority of the church. Can any thinking Adventist actually contend that the source of the current controversy—the 2015 GC Session vote regarding women’s ordination—was an exercise of arbitrary church authority? Never in our church history has there been so much time and study invested in a single question as this one. Every world division fully participated and expressed itself. And once the ultimate body of church authority, consisting of over 2300 duly appointed representatives from around the world, made its decision, can anyone seriously say that this decision was an arbitrary one? Or that this decision was made by the exercise of so-called “kingly” or “popish” power?

But the historian continues by going beyond identifying what the Protest at Spires opposed and identifies what it affirmed:

“. . .Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man. . . .’ But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God” (3).

As the Gleaner editorial correctly points out, the papal church claimed to have authority above that of Scripture, and this claim the princes at Spires vehemently denied. But never has Protestantism claimed that all believers would interpret Scripture in precisely the same way. The myriad of Protestant denominations attests to this fact. Actually, the principles of Protestantism purposefully grant anyone who in good conscience cannot accept the teachings and practices of a particular denomination to be entirely at liberty to go to, or even to start, another church or denomination that is more to his liking. But to expect that one can abide within a faith community while openly defying the authority of that community is to embrace the principles of the papists at Spires, not the German princes. Indeed, this expectation reflects the spirit of the one who caused war in heaven when he desired to retain his place there while defying the authority of heaven’s Sovereign.

If the editor of the Gleaner wants us to learn something from history, I suggest we begin with the editor’s own history as a four-year old and learn that a duly authorized “No” means “No.” If someone cannot accept and respect that answer, then that person, like a mature adult, should pack his soap and toothbrush and go. I sincerely hope, however, that he would choose to stay, and that he would reconsider the moral principles upon which he stands. They just may not be as solid as he thinks. He may then be reassured that the General Conference in Session remains God’s ordained authority on earth (4), that this authority is to be respected even if its judgments are not entirely understood at the moment, and that our Father’s house is truly the safest and most secure place to be in all the world.


Notes

1. http://GleanerNow.com/news/2017/03/protest, accessed March 20, 2017).
2. The Great Controversy, p. 203).
3. Ibid.
4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261.


Biographical Note: Engel Yoder has recently retired after 33 years of denominational service with Christian Record Services for the Blind. He lives in Kansas and serves as an elder in his local church.

No organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists in China. Nevertheless, there is news from the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, Chinese Union Mission field, relating to women’s ordination. Approximately two dozen women workers there had been assigned a status of “ordained” on the basis of Chinese government rules. However, it is reported that those women who had received “ordained” credentials from the Chinese government have voluntarily turned them in and received Commissioned minister credentials in their place.

The main reason women are more prominent in ministry in China is because men are expected to work, even on Sabbath, while women have more freedom to be at home. This results in more flexibility for women to do the work of ministry. Neither the Bible nor the Adventist Church approve of secular labor during the Sabbath.

Men who do not work are considered suspect unless they are ordained by the Three-Self Movement. If they receive state-sponsored ordination they are monitored and controlled by the Chinese government. It is difficult for men to become pastor of a house church (secret congregations which are not recognized by the government) unless the men are very old and are retired. Thus women fill the gap left by men’s general unavailability for the work of ministry in this unique field.

Women in unusual situations may step in to fill a void, but God’s plan is for men to assume the spiritual leadership role (1 Timothy 2:9-13; 3:2; Titus 1:5). Although these Adventist women had been “ordained” in China in the past, they have decided to accept replacement of their ordination credential with the commissioned minister credential. One such female worker said, “It isn’t about titles over here. It’s about getting the work done! We don’t want any distractions from ministry and this really isn’t even an issue over here.”

In San Antonio, Texas, at the 2015 General Conference session, the assembled delegates of the world church voted not to permit Divisions to make independent provision for the ordination of women in their fields. The Seventh-day Adventist Church maintains a unified world practice of appointing spiritually-qualified men to congregational leadership. World practice should not be based on side-cases and anomalous situations. Still, the decision of these workers is a step forward for unity in the world church.

We will update this article with corrections and added information as it becomes available.

The Gleaner is the Union paper of the North Pacific Union in the North American Division, and is funded by Seventh-day Adventists in conferences in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The March 2017 Gleaner carried an editorial penned by editor Steve Vistaunet on page 4 titled “Protest.”

The editor’s 12 paragraphs come in three segments. The first describes his protest against his mother’s “totalitarian” decisions when he was four years old. But “some protests are far more worthy,” and “confront us with moral choices that cannot be compromised.”

And so, in the next segment he quotes from Ellen White’s discussion of the protest of the princes, who exclaim, “If we must choose between the Holy Scriptures of God and the old errors of the church, we should reject the former.” Vistaunet adds, “Rejecting compromise, the princes instead drafted a solemn response that declared they would not ‘consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to his Word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of souls.'”

These lines prepare the reader for the final segment:

“Union conference presidents in North America have been summoned by world church leaders to seek a way through a maze of principles, politics, and policies. The health of our collective unity hangs in the balance. What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”

The author concludes desiring that the Church “move beyond the status-quo and be fully re-engaged with our Father’s business.”

Later in the same Gleaner we find another article featuring an interview with the new NPUC president, titled “John Freedman: A Prayerful Journey” (pp. 8-11). (Freedman, while chairman of the Washington Conference executive committee spearheaded that Conference’s adoption of its present non-compliant commissioned minister policy). Freedman says this about the NAD stance toward our world church:

“I’m working closely with union presidents from around the North American Division (NAD) and our NAD leadership to determine how we can most effectively support our world church structure. We had a thoughtful meeting with world leaders on January 19. We hope to draft our vision for a suggested way forward to deal productively with the issues of governance that will be reviewed by the NAD administration and approved by the NAD executive committee before being presented to General Conference officers. These are important steps. Our church is not designed to be run by a few people at any level. It is a collective effort involving the priesthood of all believers in doing God’s will in every corner of our world. I hope we’ll soon be able to move beyond these current concerns so that all of us—male, female, young and old—can fully be about our Father’s business” (p. 11).

Wait a moment! It is because the church is not “to be run by a few people at any level” that the Church has addressed the question as it has. The spirit of the women’s ordination faction put itself on display in unilateral action by conferences and unions in North America which disregarded the previous decisions of the church. And so, the world church engaged in a study process and handed the ordination question—yet again—to thousands of delegates to the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session.

This was the third time that delegates to our highest earthly decision-making body have been asked to address questions whose outcome would open or close the door for women to be ordained. On those three occasions, the answer has been No, No, and No, respectively.

Can anyone call to mind any topic the world church has addressed so many times? No comparable issue has been brought before so many Adventists in the history of the Church, or received so consistent an answer. God has spoken to His people, first in the Scriptures, and then patiently, in session after session of the General Conference.

If we would speak of decisions impacting the whole body made by but a few people, we need look no farther than to the insubordinate decisions of conferences and unions and executive committees which have defied their God and His Church.

God has through the body given the same decision again and again: No to the practice of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

The “governance issues” Freedman speaks of are not complicated. If the ordination of women was insubordinate before San Antonio, afterward, it is positively rebellious. Leadership in the North American Division is in rebellion. If these leaders wish to advance with mission and “move beyond” these concerns, the only way to do so is to accept the decision of the world church: No to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Rather than inciting NAD leaders to rebel against their world church, or insinuating that our General Conference leadership’s humble request to these entities to respect the decisions of the world church is equivalent to the Papal suppression of truth and religious liberty, the Gleaner editor and union leaders should submit their contrarian agenda to the decision of the body. Rather than drawing a line of conscience in the sand and claiming the mantle of heroic progressives, won’t you respect the combined decision of delegates gathered from across the globe you are called and conscientiously bound to uphold?

The NPUC leadership, if these two articles offer any indication, is bent on pushing the women’s ordination agenda even to the point of fracturing the Church. What extraordinary shame.

It will not stand.


NOTE: The Gleaner editorial, “Protest” is available online at http://gleanernow.com/news/2017/03/protest. The interview of John Freedman from which we quote can be read at: http://gleanernow.com/feature/john-freedman. We also noticed that the editor asked Freedman “How have you addressed the concerns of your Northwest constituents about these issues, and that the president made no reply about his constituents but that he wanted them to “move beyond these current concerns.” The reply is not surprising and is consistent with the tone of the constituency meeting which elected Freedman, in which concerns about his nomination as union president were repeatedly suppressed.