Background

The main yearly meeting of the world church is called Annual Council. Every October the General Conference Executive Committee gathers for this meeting. Needful decision-making is accomplished by this body for the world church between General Conference Sessions held every five years.

In the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas, delegates made an important decision. They again (similar votes had been held in 1990 and 1995 sessions) determined they would continue the practice of the Adventist Church from its beginning: they chose (again) not to open the way for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Be that as it may, several women both before and after the 2015 meeting have been illegally “ordained to the gospel ministry” in the Pacific Union. The Columbia Union continues to have policies out of compliance with the world church on this question, and the North Pacific Union and some Unions in the Trans-European Division are following credentialing practices which are out of harmony with the world church.

At 2016 Annual Council the General Conference Executive Committee voted to engage in a process of reconciliation and if necessary, discipline toward errant parts of the world church. The year between meetings resulted in no correction to those insubordinate actions. In October 2017 Annual Council a proposal offerred the GC Executive Committee for how to proceed was returned to committee, leaving the non-compliant Unions out of harmony with the world church and the present leaders of these Unions and Divisions remaining in office.

About two weeks after Annual Council, the North American Division meets to hold its Year-End Meeting (YEM). Certain events in this year’s YEM especially stand out.

NAD YEM 2017

First, time was set aside in NAD YEM to discuss the proposal that was to be considered at 2017 Annual Council and that would have impacted Unions in rebellion in the NAD. During that discussion, a young adult from Canada, Daniel Cho, also a member of the North American Division Executive Committee, obtained the floor and spoke of the necessity of unity. He moved this motion:

In the spirit of church unity and respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session with delegates from all over the world is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters among Divisions and their entities in the church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with the NAD/GC policy, and the 2015 vote of the world church on ordination. I so move.

The motion was seconded. One person spoke in debate, then a second speaker called for opportunity to be given for prayer. While most committee members were engaged in prayer, the chair, Dan Jackson, conferred at length with ex officio committee member General Conference treasurer Juan Prestol-Peusan, NAD and GC legal counsel Karnik Doukmetzian, G. Alexander Bryant, and others, who did not participate during most of the prayer time.

Almost immediately after debate resumed, Prestol-Peusan approached the mic and after a convoluted reasoning segment, moved to table the motion.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, “The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed” (pp. 118-119). Since there was no other pending motion for the NAD Executive Committee to address before it considered Cho’s motion, the motion to table was out of order. This was a misuse of parliamentary procedure to defeat the main motion without debate. Robert’s Rules continues with the question: “Can something be defeated by adopting a motion to table it?” Answer: “This is a common violation of fair procedure. Such a motion is not in order, because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, and only a two-thirds vote can do that.”

We are indebted to a sharp-eyed layperson who brought this to our attention.

Someone may say this observation doesn’t apply since the meeting was conducted under the General Conference Rules of Order (GCROO), not Robert’s Rules. However, look again at the reason this practice is not allowed: because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, while only a 2/3rds vote can do that. Two-thirds is the required threshold to end debate on a motion by calling question (calling for an end to debate of a motion being considered and immediately putting the main question itself to a vote). Not only does this reasoning operate identically in GCROO, but GCROO specifically makes the same point: “It [motion to table] is not used to ‘drop’ or suppress a motion” (GCROO, 3a, p. 7).

Thus, the NAD president and the maker of the motion to table, Juan Prestol-Puesan, who spoke together while other committee members were praying, knowingly deprived a fellow committee member, Daniel Cho, of the right to have his motion debated, duly processed, and voted on by the assembly. Debate was cut short. Furthermore, Cho is a representative of Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division and any usurpation of his rights is a usurpation of our rights as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North American Division.

What could have been done in the meeting is for a delegate to call point of order, explain the error, and the chair would have been required to rule on the point of order. If his ruling was incorrect, committee members could appeal his decision and overrule it by a simple majority vote (GCROO, p. 3, 8-9, 12).

Another point of interest from the NAD YEM: at one point during the proceedings, NAD president Dan Jackson urged his assembled NAD leaders to be “obstreperous” in pushing, against the decision of the world church, for women’s ordination. Such behavior is hard to square with his other statements that the NAD is in unity and in harmony with the world church.

Actions like those described in this article have caused an enormous loss of confidence in the present leadership of the North American Division. They have propelled the North American Church into a terrible crisis which, unless soon addressed, will split the Church in North America.

The illegal vote to table the motion passed 186 to 25 with 3 abstentions.