NOTE: Article corrected with new and more-correct information on 2017-05-09 5:13pm PST and then a further edit completed at 11:21 pm PST. This is drawn from our Netherlands sources.
A meeting of the Netherlands Union of Churches constituency was held May 4-7, 2017.
Previous leadership had guided union enactment of policies contrary to the world church, including with reference to women’s ordination and LGBT+. But new officers were elected by the constituency at this meeting. Netherlands has a new president, Rob de Raad, and a new secretary, Enrico Karg. The treasurer, Istrahel Schoera, who we understand as opposing women’s ordination, was reelected with a 99% vote. Thus, 14 of 15 members of the Executive Committee were replaced. Delegates sat in some amazement as the non-compliant president and secretary were removed.
A new Constitution and Bylaws was presented by that committee for approval. Reinder Bruinsma served on the committee. The previous constitution had been a created as a patchwork of other documents. But the proposed new Constitution disagreed in many places with the required wording for all Seventh-day Adventist Church Constitution and Bylaws documents. In the end, the new constitution was adopted but assigned immediately to a committee in order to be corrected and brought into harmony with the Model Constitution. Some delegates were very disappointed that the newly approved Constitution does not permit women to serve in the position of Union president.
New arrangements and new committees were carefully populated. One member who had been working for ten years to correct problems and bring the Union into harmony with the world church was surprised when delegates appointed her to serve on the newly appointed Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
Under the new Constitution and Bylaws the executive committee was enlarged to 17 members and now requires 50% + 1 to be laypersons. This was a remarkable change, since previously the executive committee made non-conference employee church members a minority, allowing for a maximum of 40% of such members. Several pastors objected to these changes but the constituents overruled those objections by vote.
The new officers not only have problems to resolve in terms of guiding the Union into harmony with the world church, but also very significant financial shortfalls incurred under the previous administration. Still, the new Union of Churches has a fresh start! Delegates and members are expressing great hope. They said that they have never seen a session like this. They felt their voices were heard in a fair way, their delegates rights were not violated, and that this time around they did not serve merely as voting machines for an executive committee.
Some officers insist that the union is still committed to the ordination of women because of Dutch laws. But in the Netherlands, Churches have strict freedom, and every court would realize that there had been no legal ground for the 2012 action and following 2013 implementation of women’s ordination, since in the Dutch Civil Code churches are bound to abide by their Constitution, and that, for the Netherlands, means the Working Policy. The actions of the 2012 session and the executive committee decision to implement it in 2013 were illegal. Very recently a civil court ruled in a case that churches must abide by their own denominational Policy (Google Translate this article: http://www.rd.nl/kerk-religie/rechter-censuur-oud-ambtsdrager-gg-kruiningen-opheffen-1.1398019).
Problems in Netherlands Union have been building for many years, and there has been a rising tide not only of concern, but of action by members. Many were dismayed that their Conference was out of harmony with the world church in so many points, and that leadership did not reflect the values held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This week, members of the Netherlands Union of Churches are rejoicing at the deliverance God has brought to them. Much work remains to correct matters, but our Dutch brethren seek the prayers of faithful Adventists worldwide in confidence that God will lead and guide.
A commissioning ceremony was conducted for a woman pastor on Sabbath, which had been planned by those who turned out to be the outgoing officers. It might have been intended as a statement to General Conference officers present which included Bill Knott and Karnik Doukmetzian. Constituents were very pleased with the fairness of Pr. Doukmetzian as parliamentarian.
In the letter to the local churches the executive committee stated that the woman pastor will not have hands laid on her by the pastors in the field “as yet.” The usual practice in Netherlands is to hold such a service in the afternoon when all the pastors can be present to lay hands. But the newly chosen officers want to follow a different course. Some now believe that with this commissioning service, Netherlands has seen the last woman ordained.