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Norway: Union Rejects Conference Unity Request
The Norwegian Union Conference, the administrative body for three Norwegian Conferences, has rejected an appeal from its largest conference, the East Norway Conference, to come into harmony with the votes taken at General Conference Sessions in regard to the credentialing and ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
On September 10, 2017, East Norway Conference leaders sent an official request to the Norwegian Union asking, since the GC Session of 2015 had voted not to allow various world territories to determine independently whether or not to ordain women, that the Union reverse its September 2015, and 2012 vote to issue the same credentials to both male and female pastors.
The Norwegian Union leadership rejected this request by the East Norway Conference. In the February, 2018 issue of the Norwegian Union’s magazine, Advent Nytt (page 27) (https://issuu.com/adventnytt/docs/adventnytt_2-2018/1?ff=true&e=7282235/57387157), Union leaders defended their decision to not comply with the votes of the world church.
The following is an English translation of the above article:
“The Resolution of the Union Board of 10 December 2017 Concerning Equal Treatment of Male and Female Pastors in Norway.
“The Norwegian Union Conference (NORUC) board responds as follows to the letter sent by East Norway Conference Board (ENC) 2017-09-10 and their expressed disagreement with the NORUC response to TED/GC concerning gender equality and male and female pastors. The East Norway Conference’s September letter called NORUC to reconsider how pastors are reported. NORUC was asked to return to the practice of reporting male and female pastors separately, in harmony with current credentialing practice in GC Working Policy.
“The current practice of reporting the pastors is clarified in the NORUC resolution of September 20, 2015 (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC). That reaction was a logical continuation of the 2012 NORUC decision to put on hold the ordination of male pastors in order to treat male and female pastors equally. Since the 2012 decision, the same credential has been given for both male and female pastors. To return to filling in the forms with current credentials as before would mean to accept discriminatory practices indirectly, which NORUC, with pastoral support, rejected in the 2015 decision. That resolution stated that the NORUC decision was a temporary measure: ‘Until a classification of pastors is established without a distinction based on a fundamental discrimination against female pastors.’ As a result of the NORUC resolution in 2015, no ordained or non-ordained pastors from NORUC are published in the SDA Yearbook, which uses the current categories of credentials.
“For decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has sought to find a solution to this challenge, without success. The General Conference has not accepted the NORUC and TED request to create a gender-neutral category for the classification of pastors. The GC Annual Council has full authority to comply with this request if there is desire to do so.
“Prior to the NORUC Board meeting of September 20, 2015, a draft of the resolution was sent to the Board members and to all the pastors in Norway. An anonymous poll was sent to all the pastors on the same day. Poll results showed solid support (69% of votes cast) from pastors to deviate from the current credentialing system in order to implement non-discriminatory treatment of female pastors.
“The NORUC Board feels that there has been an open and comprehensive process. Very little critical feedback has been received until the East Norway Conference letter sent two years after the NORUC decision in September 2015. To continue a discriminatory practice would send a very negative signal to our female pastors.
“The NORUC Board will ask the secretary of the organization to write an article to Advent Nytt (local Norwegian magazine) with an overview of the most important events of this case.”
It should be noted that the Norwegian Union Conference has a total membership of just 4,556 members. Of the three conferences, the East Norway Conference has, by far, the largest membership in the union. See screen shot below, taken from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2016 Annual Statistical Report (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf). The report is prepared by the Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
What do we learn from the response of the Norwegian Union to the East Norway Conference?
- The leadership of a Norwegian Conference, representing 63% of all Adventists in that Union, disagrees with their Union administration that has positioned itself in opposition to the General Conference. The voted action of the Norwegian Union administrators does not represent the position of the East Norway Conference. The East Norway Conference does not desire to be included in the rebellion against existing voted world church policies regarding ordination and gender.
The rejection by Norwegian Union leadership of the appeal of the East Norway Conference demonstrates the application of an unfair double standard. As part of the insubordinate pro-women’s ordination faction opposing the Adventist world church, Norwegian Union leadership justifies its rebellion by claiming their stance to be a matter of conscience. But when their own Norwegian Adventists express differing convictions, they trample those convictions. So, are they truly concerned for conscience?
Norwegian Union leadership is actively participating in the current attempt to reallocate world church authority from the General Conference to the unions. The Norwegian Union vote unilaterally set their own ordination and credentialing criteria for themselves. Then they refuse to consider their own East Norway Conferences’ desire to work in unity with their Church! East Norway Conference seeks harmony. Its Union suppresses and prevents this. The Norwegian Union is resisting Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.
The argument used to reject the East Norway Conference request is not based on sound principles. The Norwegian Union argues that:
- Norwegian Union has engaged in non-compliant practice since 2012;
- Norwegian Union must not discriminate;
- The Norwegian Union position was supported by 69% of its pastors in 2015.
But since the Norwegian union pleads “conscience,” it is fair to ask, “What about the conscience of the 31% of pastors who rejected entering into opposition to the General Conference in 2015?” Or the conscience of the delegates to the world church who voted not to grant authority to determine ordination criteria to subsections like the Norwegian Union? What makes Union administrators’ consciences superior to the consciences of voting world church delegates, or, superior to the consciences of East Norway Conference leaders?
- The Norwegian Union has dictated its will to the world body, rejecting Adventist ordination practice while describing their voted action as “a temporary measure” until a new credential has been established. But what if the world church never adopts a credential such as the Norwegian Union is insisting upon? The 1990 General Conference Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) to not ordain women to the gospel ministry, and the 1995 GC Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) not to allow the North American Division a variance in that policy. And in 2015, the world body voted, based on their study of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, not to allow variance to any division regarding the policy of not ordaining women to the gospel ministry that was voted in 1990. The decision has been made—by three General Conference Sessions. What do Norwegian Union leaders expect to change now?
- The Norwegian Union calls on the General Conference Executive Committee, during its Annual Council, to join in their rebellion against the 1990, 1995, and 2015 GC Sessions, expecting the Annual Council to issue gender-neutral credentials. But on what authority could the GC Executive Committee act against the higher authority of the General Conference in Session?
- The 31% of Norway pastors who disagreed in 2015, and the calls from laity in the same Union to abide by the world church’s decisions, are described by the Norwegian Union as “very little critical feedback.” Then, in 2018, the request by local leaders who represent 63% of the local membership was rejected. Even though there has been and continues to be substantive critical feedback.
- The Norwegian Union administrators are more concerned about sending a negative signal to Norwegian female pastors than they are about dismissing the studied, prayerful decisions of the world church.
Over-representation. Why does Norway have an entire Conference consisting of only 412 members in 12 churches, and an entire Union consisting of only 4556 members? At the end of 2014 the Norwegian Union had 4536 members. But as a random comparison, the East Kenya Union had 398,267 members in 2014 (over 536,000 today). (Calculation for delegate allotments is usually based on December 31 membership numbers in the year immediately preceding a General Conference Session.)
And yet, the Norwegian Union sent nine delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session, while the East Kenya Union sent 21. Why does the tiny Norwegian Union send so great a number of delegates proportionally to the world church session, whose decisions it is presently openly rebelling against, when faithful Adventists in Africa have so few?
Norwegian Adventists were represented at the 2015 GC Session with a ratio of one delegate for every 504 members. But East Kenyan Union Adventists were represented by delegates at a ratio of one delegate per 18,965 members. Had East Kenya Adventists been represented at Norway’s 504:1 ratio, they would have totaled 790 delegates at San Antonio instead of 21.
We agree that female workers serving the Lord should be supported. But none should behave in a rebellious framework toward the world church. Courage and wisdom is needed to act in harmony with the Bible, and with what the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church has decided in Session. May God persuade and help faithful Adventist brothers and sisters in Norway during this difficult time.
Links from above article in order:
Norwegian Union Magazine, Advent Nytt, p. 27 –
NORUC Resolution of September 20, 2015 – http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC
2016 statistical Report – http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf
[Reporting for this OrdinationTruth.com article is provided by Seventh-day Adventist church members from multiple continents.