In November 2017, the North Pacific Union mailed all Seventh-day Adventist pastors across the six conferences (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, Montana) a copy of William Johnsson’s startling book, Where are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio (Oak & Acorn Publishing, Westlake Village, California, 2017). Don’t be confused; the book is actually published by the Pacific Union. The Pacific union is out of compliance with 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session world church decision not to permit subsections of the church to unilaterally ordain women to the gospel ministry.

Is it fair to describe Johnsson’s book as literally shocking? The current NPUC leadership wanted its entire pastoral staff of six conferences to read content like this:

“The General Conference Session of 2015 exposed and widened fault lines that had been developing for a long time. In later years the Session will be seen as a moment comparable to the 1888 Minneapolis convocation, when two views of the church, two possibilities, met face to face. . . . As major as was the discussion concerning the role of women, that issue was but part of something far larger. Adventism is split down the middle. The split is not merely geographical between the North and the global South—it is more complicated. Like the two babies struggling in Rebekah’s womb, two Adventist churches are aborning” (pp. 1, 2).

It is one thing to acknowledge there is a substantial split within the Church, but another to intentionally transmit a throughly one-sided volume attacking the validity of a General Conference Session decision to your pastoral staff!

Johnsson places the “two churches” in sharp contrast: “a church that adopts a principled interpretation of scripture with a church that comes to the Word in a flat, literalistic manner,” “a church with ordained women clergy struggling with a church that limits the ministry to males,” “a church that downsizes the upper echelons and focuses on the grassroots with a church increasingly bureaucratic and autocratic” (all on p. 2). “two radically different versions of Adventism are competing for the future” (p. 3). Twenty or so years earlier, Johnsson had been just as explicit:

“At three General Conference sessions in a row—New Orleans in 1985, Indianapolis in 1990, and now Utrecht yesterday—the church debated the role of women in ministry. How far have we come in resolving this issue?. . . Yesterday we saw two respected Adventist scholars approach the Scriptures in different ways. One based his case on specific verses and statements of Ellen White, arguing from a literalistic basis. The other also appealed to Scripture and Ellen White, but in terms of the principles behind the statements. The differences are striking and important. They impact not only the women’s issue but many others. We have not heard the last of this matter. Adventists will have to wrestle with this most basic concern: How shall we interpret Scripture” (Adventist Review, July 7, 1995, p. 3).

But the truth is that the two differing viewpoints in the church with reference to women’s ordination both follow a principled set of interpretive approaches; the principles of interpretation are just different. The truth is that Both viewpoints favor the ministry of men and women while differing on whether congregational male leadership is biblically open to females. The truth is that mostly the grassroots of the church strongly oppose women’s ordination, while many in NAD administrative leadership and ordained pastoral ministry favor it. The truth is that the General Conference leadership is attempting to faithfully implement the decision the world body made in San Antonio in 2015, while some NAD leaders have operated autocratically and have sometimes run over church members beliefs in this area.

Johnsson’s book pounds away, attempting to destroy the authority of the General Conference and validity of the 2015 GC decision. Johnsson calls the WO debate at the session “a circus” (p. 11). He complains about how Jan Paulson was treated, but Paulson alone was given four and a half minutes to speak—almost twice as much as the other delegates. But Johnsson is not content only to hint he is undermining the 2015 GC session vote. He states his position plainly:

“[I]t was a war and . . . the war is over and that now women’s ordination will spread rapidly through the church” (p. 12). He seems to favor every irregularity in credentialing he can name (he lists several). Johnsson proceeds to write the narrative of anti-WO arguments the way he sees fit, attacking what he sees as main arguments. From page 16 and following he pushes back against them. For Johnsson, “The present situation is intolerable. Women’s ordination will come and must come” (p. 19).

What do NPUC administrators want for this Union?

Especially important is this book’s treatment of hermeneutics. Johnsson labors for several pages (pp. 115-130) attacking the allegedly “flat” hermeneutics of those who oppose WO—“flat” surely representing the church’s longstanding method of Bible study, historical-grammatical methodology. Meanwhile he supports what he views as the “principled” hermeneutics of those favoring WO. Several pages are penned favoring Adventist scholar Sakae Kubo (mentioned five times), whom he regards as “one of the church’s finest biblical exegetes” (p. 121). We wonder if the leaders who sent this book to their pastors agree with Sakae Kubo’s views regarding LGBT in his article, “Viewpoint: How Our Understanding of Homosexuality Has Changed,” (April 24, 2014).

“Second, if the church recognizes that some people are born with an alternative sexual orientation, and since the Bible, as we have shown above, is not condemning them but heterosexuals who are committing the perverted act of engaging in sexual activity with a non-consenting heterosexual, it is normal—not abnormal—for a gay or lesbian person to wish to marry another gay or lesbian person, just as it is normal for a heterosexual person to marry a person of the opposite sex. How can we say that we will not allow someone who is gay or lesbian to do the natural thing—and yet not say the same thing to the heterosexual?” (https://spectrummagazine.org/article/news/2014/04/05/viewpoint-how-our-understanding-homosexuality-has-changed).

Kubo’s article concludes thus:

“The Church then should get rid of the statement, ‘We hate the sin but love the sinner,’ with respect to alternative sexualities and should treat everyone the same. The church must let people do what is natural for them—even if that means marrying someone of the same sex. And we should expect the same of all couples, no matter their gender: that they be committed to their partners and not engage in extramarital affairs” (Ibid.).

Interesting, especially if Johnsson’s propheying pans out: “the five years following it [the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session] will be focused on issues of interpreting the Bible” (Where Are We headed?, p. 115).

What exactly is practiced today in the congregation where Kubo worships?

Johnsson is glad, he says, that our Adventist Fundamental Belief statement has a Preamble. “It positions Adventists for the possibility of change—even major change—in beliefs and practice” (p. 118).

We cannot help but notice that the reason so many favor WO is because of their hermeneutics. Kubo is a staunch supporter of women’s ordination. Even a cursory search of Spectrum magazine will locate numerous Kubo articles promoting the ordination of women.

But the worst parts of Johnsson’s book are actually at the close. There, the author openly attacks current General Conference leaders. The very worst feature of the book is his attack on the validity of the 2015 vote:

“[T]he manner in which the San Antonio Session handled the women’s ordination issue leaves in doubt the accuracy of the vote” (p. 148).

Johnsson wildly claims that TOSC Report findings were withheld (p. 149), and raises other absurd objections, concluding, “In view of this background, I cannot accept that the vote in San Antonio settled the issue of the ordination of women” (p. 149).

Possibly the wildest view in the book is Johnsson chorusing the myth propounded by George Knight and others that the Unions were essentially intended to be immune to the authority of the world church, and that the General Conference vote in San Antonio was actually somehow a misuse of Church authority.

And so, says Johnsson, for the General Conference to simply endeavor to secure united action in the world church in a mattter that has been decided by the General Conference in session, is—our pastors are told—“Wrong from any angle you look at it. Wrong in its theology. Wrong in its history. Wrong in its policy. Wrong in its spirit. It is more papal than Seventh-day Adventist. It runs directly counter to the life and teachings of Jesus” (p 145).

Adventist pastors and members deserve better. The North Pacific Union erred in intentionally sending this book to its pastors, and promoting divisive, unwarranted doubts about world church leaders who are seeking to be faithful against all odds.

21 thoughts on “NAD NPUC Sends Anti-GC Book to Pastors in Six Conferences

    • Look at his AGENDA: Division! What I marvel at is our impotence at allowing Johnsson the liberty to form his own church. Has he no local church membership that can relieve him of membership? It is a DUTY to do that.

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  1. Johnsson wants change, alright. He wants to change Adventism’s historic hermeneutics to bring our church’s interpretation of Scripture into harmony with his own culturally shaped personal opinion. He can’t fathom why anyone would read the Bible just as it reads – e.g. that the events of Creation took place in six literal days some 6000 years ago, or that the events of the Creation and Fall were judged by God to determine distinct relational roles for men and women. Literal vs. principled hermeneutics? God’s principles are found in the plain reading of His word, and when we dismiss this plain reading, whose principles are we left with? I suggest, the world’s. For Adventism to depart from her hermeneutical roots now would be fatal to the movement.

    But Johnsson is right about one thing: “two Adventist churches are aborning.” And it’s amazing how polar opposites they are. To illustrate, the way Johnsson describes how GC leadership is handling the 2015 Session vote and its aftermath actually applies to the way the NAD, Union, and Conference leadership on his side of the issue are handling it: “Wrong from any angle you look at it. Wrong in its theology. Wrong in its history. Wrong in its policy. Wrong in its spirit. It is more papal than Seventh-day Adventist. It runs directly counter to the life and teachings of Jesus.” I’m not optimistic that there is hope for reconciliation between such polar opposite groups. But then, thanks to Jacob’s all-night wrestling match, it happened to Jacob and Esau.

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    • Yes, we agree that there are several objectionable ideas and doctrinally unsound elaborations in Johnson’s book. For this article we chose to focus on just one or two items rather than systematically list the departures in the book. Others have written reviews of the book which may be more systematic.

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  2. What can be done to remove these apostate leaders? They are so rebellious. Sadly, they are so wrong theologically and don’t even seem to realize it. The church they want is not the church i joined in the 1950’s.

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  3. Does the Bible even promote the ordination of men? It was constantine who developed the specialized “priesthood” who were paid by the state and over and above the laity! Being a pastor/teacher is just one of the gifts of the spirit.

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  4. I lost respect for Bill Johnsson in October of 2001. He preached a good message about Ground Zero and read Marty Webber’s poem, “It’s the ashes.” After the message I went up to Elder Johnsson and introduced myself, explaining that I had, just days after the attack, spent 9 days in the Rubble as a Law Enforcement Chaplain. I told him that I was preparing a sermon about my experience and asked for a copy of the poem. He looked at me and told me it would be in the Review after the first of the year. He then quickly turned and walked away leaving me very disappointed. Prior to that encounter news papers, radio and TV had done numerous interview with me about my experience in the rubble and ashes. Although I had not sought an interview, it was disappointing that the editor of my own Church magazine had no interest. Now that I am aware of his book, there is no respect at all for him or the NPUC. I believe our GC leaders and faithful conferences and faithful members must stand firm against the attacks on standards and the true voice of Hod on this earth.

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  5. I am amazed that because I do not support the PUC/AZ conferences with my tithe (I send my tithe outside of my home conference) that I am barred from holding a local church office while men in high places who openly oppose the General Conference and support unbiblical positions are allowed to hold some of the highest positions in the church?

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  6. Help Us Lord. Talking about the Second Coming of “JESUS CHRIST” being very near! Also gives way and clear Evidence that the “Holy Spirit” is slowly being withdrawn from the earth Readying for the Second Coming of “JESUS CHRIST”!

    It is also clear that Demons have come into the World Church Disguised as men of “GOD” and they are not! The word of “GOD” warned us that this would happen. …and it looks like the church is getting exactly what it deserves for not following the insturtions written down in the book of John, where-in it is written: Beloved believe not every Spirit, but try the spirt whether they are of “GOD” because many “False Prohets” have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

    As I have previously stated; I have search the scriptures from cover to cover; …and have yet to find what the criteria, is for a Female if she Desires the Office of a Bishop!
    I found what is written for a”MAN” if He Desires the office of A Bishop! …and It Is Written: In the book of, 1 Timothy 3: 1-5 …and here is what is says…. This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of ”GOD”?)

    Somehow, these men are deliberately over looking the fact that the church is the “Bride of “JESUS CHRIST” and it’s obvious they don’t care.
    So the question is, how can a woman lead or take charge of the Bride of “JESUS CHRIST” while at the same time subject the “Man” that “She was created for under her leadership?

    As always, I have to ask the question! Name the Female that “JESUS CHRIST” made an Apostle! ….and why are these
    so-called Brethren overlooking what is clearly spelled out in Devine order of the role of a Male and Female, as well as the Ordinances, that says; But I will Have You To Know; That the Head of Every “Man” is “CHRIST”, and the Head of the “woman” is the “Man”; and the Head of “CHRIST” is “GOD”!

    This proves that we are definitely in the endtimes, and the word of “GOD” spells it all out! There is a way that seemeth “Right” unto a Man but the end thereof is the way of death!

    Finally, we must keep in mind, THAT THERE IS POWER IN THE NAME OF “JESUS” and We Must Use and Call Upon That Power! For the Lord have Shared that “POWER” …and it too is written;
    Behold, I Give Unto “YOU” Power To Tread On Serpents and Scorpions, and Over All The Power Of The “Enemy” (Satan!) and Nothing Shall By Any Means Hurt You!

    Now this is for those that have “FAITH” and Belive! Because this is what it takes to defeat Satan!

    …and we must not under any circumstances. Allow those that have been put into Satan prison, and made to live alternative life styles, wherein they bare the titles that Satan have put upon them, come before baring such titles when they come into the church! They must lose the tiltles and replace the titles with “New Creature” in “CHRIST JESUS”! They must dress accordingly to the “Gender” in which they were born, and be received into fellowship within the fold and Baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and The “Holy Ghost”! wherein they will become a “New Creature”!

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  7. I support Kubo’s interpretation of the Bible. How can we say that our loving Lord would discriminate against the women of our church and limit them from ordination. My daughters think that the male leaders of our church are chauvinistic and want to protect their power and leadership of our church. How can our loving Lord discriminate against the gay church population prevented them from baptism and gay marriage. We as a church accept members who drink a “little” alcohol but certainly not smokers. We have singled out gays as sinners but not recognizing that heterosexuals are also sinners perseverating in our daily sins – how is that different in god’s Eyes?? Let us not judge each other harshly but let us love each other as God loves us,

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  8. How long will the General Conference tolerate, this “Preteniousness” coming out of the North Pacific Union Conference? Need I remind them what is written; that there is “Power” in the name of “JESUS CHRIST”? ….however, it is only given to those that believe, In “JESUS CHRIST” when “HE” said: Behold; I “GIVE YOU” Power to tread on Serpents and Scorpions, and over “ALL” the Power of the Enemy (SATAN) and nothing shall by any means “Hurt You”! Luke 10:19

    Here is where our “Faith” is challenged for it is also,written; But without Faith it is Impossible to please “HIM”; for he that cometh to “GOD” must believe that “HE” Is, and that “HE” is a rewarder of “Them” that diligently seek “HIM”! Hebrews 11:6

    We were instructed in “HIS” word; Beloved, believe not every Spirit, but try the Spirits whether they are of “GOD” because many false prophets are gone out into the world! 1 John :4:1

    What this North Pacific Union Conference is doing, cannot be tolerated, we must sound the alarm that this action of the North Pacific Union Conference, is not of “GOD” and is totally unacceptable!

    We cannot serve “GOD” anyway we want to and still survive the Second Coming of “JESUS CHRIST”!

    Bretheren, we have to step to the plate, and defeat this challenge that have come upon us; for the Second Coming of Our Lord and Savior “JESUS CHRIST” is very, very near, and we will be held accountable!

    Therefore we must Govern ourselves accordingly!
    Save Us “JESUS”

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  9. Every one need be awake now than any other time. We as a church have a reason to exist. We don’t have time for personal gratification. The party issues should not preocupy. The precious time we need to reach out the souls with the final warning of the three Angles messages. If you listen keenly you will know that it not God who is being presented but only human at work. Give glory to God a lone.

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  10. What is most offending about Johnsson’s book is the mean spirit that manifests itself throughout. Let us call it by its right name, false teaching and apostacy.

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  11. Reply to Ross Chadwick who asks, “Does the Bible even promote the ordination of men?”: Mark 3:14 tells us that Jesus “ordained” His twelve disciples. The Desire of Ages devotes an enlightening chapter to the topic, “He Ordained Twelve”. That’s a good place to begin your Bible study on ordination of men.

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  12. Is it possible that the church structure and legal name could actually cease to exist? Check out the Great Controversy. The last mention of the name “Adventist” or “Seventh-day Adventist” occurs on page 457. Thereafter, she only speaks about “the people of God.”

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  13. It is the shaking and it is shaking the whole world. The issues vary: the outcome is the same: Division and Paralysis for nations and churches. A house divided is all Satan intends to achieve. The answer to it all is the latter rain. May God shake us awake, shake us in and keep us in the truth. It is pointless to argue. It is time to speak truth clearly, take a position as a church and work together with those who have another agenda other than creating confusion and division. We have no political agenda in the great commission, only proclamation.

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