The following is drawn from an article appearing the the Adventist Review, September 9, 2017, titled “A Personal Message from Ted N.C. Wilson Regarding Recent Disasters,” available in full here:

http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story5442-prayer-for-gods-protection-and-proclamation

I would like to make another special prayer request for the upcoming Annual Council of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist as we focus on Revival and Reformation, Mission to the Cities, Total Member Involvement, Comprehensive Health Ministry, Nurture and Retention of members, unity in our mission and the church, and so much more. Please pray that the leaders of God’s church will be humble, faithful servants and that we will humbly carry out the mandates of heaven to proclaim the prophetic warning messages with Holy Spirit power. Please earnestly pray for revival and reformation in our lives and the general life of the church. Pray for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit. My brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming soon and He wants to use all of us to proclaim His last-day message of salvation only in Him. May Christ’s focus found in John 9:4 be our focus today and until He comes: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.”

May God bless your work and witness for Him as Seventh-day Adventists all over this world as we pray for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s soon return.

Ted N C Wilson

President

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Kevin Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. 10 de octubre del 2016


[REVISED 10:43 a.m. PST]

“Hay quienes desarrollaron la idea de que a medida que nos acerquemos al fin del tiempo, cada hijo de Dios actuará independientemente de toda organización religiosa. Pero me ha instruido el Señor que en esta labor no hay tal cosa como que cada persona se mantenga independiente” (Testimonios, vol. 9, 258).

Planteamiento #1: Se ha sugerido que los primeros adventistas, bajo la dirección de James White se desplazó “desde una hermenéutica literal que sostenía que lo único admisible fuese lo que claramente establecía ls Escritura a una en que todo era permisible en tanto no contradijera la Biblia y estuviese en armonía con el sentido común”.

Respuesta:
White no sugería un cambio en la hermenéutica, sino que la iglesia continuase “perfecta[mente]” en el orden bíblico establecido en la Escritura (cf. Hechos de los Apóstoles, 88-92).

La Escritura ofrece orientación en relación con el orden y la organización de la iglesia:

Miembros – 1 Corintios 12:27 / 1 Pedro 2: 5 :: Piedras vivas
Iglesias – Tito 1: 5 :: Cada ciudad
Pequeñas regiones – Hechos 9:31 :: Judea, Galilea
Regiones mayores – 1 Corintios 16: 1; 2 Corintios 1: 1 :: Toda Acaya
Continentes – 1 Corintios 16:19 :: Asia
Participación de todos por representación – Hechos 15 :: Toda la Iglesia

Este planteamiento ignora el contexto del comentario de James White. Él se refiere a cosas que podrían mejorar el orden (como un boletín semanal de iglesia, o la publicación de la página impresa) que, aunque no está claramente establecida en las Escrituras, no se “opone a la Biblia, y es aprobada por el sentido común” (James White, “Yearly meetings” [Reuniones anuales], Review and Herald, 21 de julio de 1859, pág. 68, col. 2). El “perfeccionamiento” de la organización incluía la celebración de “conferencias anuales, y la acción sistemática de todo el cuerpo” (ibíd).

Planteamiento #2: Se afirma que las acciones actuales de la Asociación General (AG), como en los días de J. White, se modelan en un “poder regio”, al que Elena de White señaló no representando la voz de Dios en la tierra, y que las Uniones fueron establecidas para proteger (al resto de) la iglesia contra de un posible liderazgo erróneo de la Asociación General.

Respuesta:
Nada más lejos de la verdad. Es deber y responsabilidad de la AG ejecutar los votos aprobados por la iglesia mundial. Dichas acusaciones caen en la categoría del “hablar mal” y recuerdan a una de las tácticas utilizadas por la rebelión de Lucifer. Este planteamiento ignora el contexto. Elena de White es clara al afirmar que “a veces, cuando un pequeño grupo de hombres. . . en nombre de la Asociación General, intenta llevar a cabo planes imprudentes y limitar la labor divina, yo. . . ya no puedo considerar que la voz de la Asociación General, expresada por un puñado de hombres, sea la voz de Dios”. Las instrucciones destinadas a la reorganización fueron para corregir este aspecto, es por ello que tenemos Uniones. Elena de White continúa: “Pero ésto no quiere decir que las decisiones (tomadas) en una sesión de la Asociación General, compuesta por un conjunto de delegados debidamente convocados, representando todas las partes del territorio, no deban ser respetados. Dios ha ordenado que los representantes de su iglesia convocados de todas partes del mundo, cuando se reúnen en una Asociación General, tienen autoridad. El error que algunos están a punto de cometer, es en el de dar a la mente y el juicio de un hombre, o de un puñado de hombres, la plena autoridad e influencia que Dios ha conferido a su iglesia en el juicio y la voz de la Asociación General reunida para planificar para la prosperidad y el desarrollo de su obra” (Testimonios, 9: 260, 261).

En esta era de desarrollo de las comunicaciones y de los viajes rápidos, la iglesia es una comunidad global, en la que lo que se hace en una parte del organismo se puede experimentar en tiempo real en diversas partes del mundo. Por esta razón, la acción unida en relación con los diversos aspectos del ministerio se hace necesaria para que la misión avance de manera efectiva. Ciertamente, la selección o la sustitución de líderes es una de esas áreas donde se necesita una póliza unida, sobre todo luego de años de estudio y deliberación.

Planteamiento #3: Algunos sostienen que la ordenación no es aprobada en la Escritura o en el Espíritu de Profecía y, por ende, ni siquiera debería haber sido discutido en la sesión de la Asociación General. Sostienen que la Asociación General al adoptar medidas relativas a la ordenación, fue más allá de su jurisdicción. Estos proponentes desean que tanto el establecimiento de criterios y la selección de líderes se produzca en el ámbito de la Unión.

Respuesta:
La iglesia mundial jamás consideró que dicha postura tenga fundamento bíblico. La “Declaración de Consenso sobre la Teología Adventista de la Ordenación, “votada por el Concilio Anual del 2014, demuestra la base bíblica de nuestra comprensión de la ordenación, a la que la comisión de estudio TOSC “llegó en un alto grado de acuerdo relativo a una teología bíblica de la ordenación”, indicando que “los Adventistas del Séptimo Día entendemos la ordenación, en un sentido bíblico, como la acción de la Iglesia en reconocimiento público hacia quienes el Señor ha llamado y equipado para el ministerio de la iglesia local y universal” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-ordination.pdf).

La acción tomada por la iglesia mundial en una sesión (debidamente) convocada (incluyendo a presidentes y laicos de asociaciones y uniones) rebate este planteamiento ya que fue elegida sobre la base de los delegados (por medio del) “estudio profundo de la Biblia, y de los escritos de Elena G. White y los informes de las comisiones de estudio sobre la ordenación …” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf).

Cualquiera que sea la postura con respecto a quién debe ser ordenado, “El peligro para nuestra unidad no reside principalmente en quién ordenamos, o qué credenciales emitimos. El principal peligro radica en aceptar la posibilidad de una acción unilateral. Eso tiene implicaciones potenciales que van más allá de la cuestión inmediata. Sin embargo, si tuviéramos que sacrificar el principio general de representación, colegiada, en el fundamento de consenso en la toma de decisiones, si aceptáramos que las unidades organizativas pudieran actuar unilateralmente, entonces toda nuestra política eclesiástica y el sistema de gobierno de la iglesia estarían en peligro de fragmentarse (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Septiembre del 2016 p. 41).

Si la Iglesia aceptase las confusas nociones de algunos proponentes, ¿qué habría de impedir que en un futuro las asociaciones ó misiones y las uniones promoviesen puntos de vista carentes de fundamento bíblico respecto a la autoridad profética, la Creación, el diezmo, el juicio investigador, o la conducta hacia un mismo sexo? De este modo, se abriría la puerta a creencias y prácticas que destruirían la proclamación mundial del Evangelio adventista.

Planteamiento #4: Se expresa temor porque vayamos a perder a nuestros jóvenes si no abordamos el tema de la coordinación y la estructura de la iglesia en la forma propuesta por este sector [opositor al status quo].
 
Respuesta:
Esta misma táctica de miedo se utilizó cuando se habló de la Doctrina del Santuario en la iglesia. Entonces éramos sólo 4 millones. Sin embargo, fue superado. Hubo pérdidas, pero ahora la membresía es de casi 20 millones. Afirmar la verdad no pierde, sino atrae a los jóvenes.

Planteamiento #5: Supuestamente, el voto adoptado por la AG en contra de permitir que las divisiones tomaran sus propias decisiones relativas a la práctica de la ordenación manifiesta un despliegue de “autoridad regia” y un criterio de autoridad descendente (de arriba hacia abajo) que imita “los errores más serios cometidos por la Iglesia Católica”.

Respuesta:
Este alegado desesperado es falso. La naturaleza interdependiente de la iglesia adventista hoy es más diversa y representativa que nunca antes. Décadas de estudio y deliberación de todos los niveles en todo el campo del mundo llevaron a la decisión adoptado en la AG en el 2015, y la decisión a tomarse en el 2016 debiera evidenciar nuestro compromiso en la toma de decisiones colectivas.

La opción es clara: el Documento de Unidad preparado por la Secretaría [de la AG] es un recurso poderoso y destacado por el respeto hacia las decisiones colectivas de la iglesia, por el respeto a la unidad de la iglesia y por el respeto a la organización de la iglesia. Es bíblicamente coherente y armoniza con los consejos del Espíritu de Profecía. La opción que tenemos por delante ya no es sobre la ordenación de damas al ministerio sino, si nuestra estructura eclesiástica continuará siendo interdependientes o seremos forzados hacia el congregacionalismo.

Kevin D. Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. October 10, 2016

CLICK HERE: DOWNLOAD THIS DOCUMENT IN 1-PAGE (FRONT/BACK) PDF FORMAT FOR SHARING


Introduction

“Some have advanced the thought that as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 258).

Claim #1: It has been suggested that early Adventists, under the direction of James White moved ”from a literalistic hermeneutic that held that the only things permissible were those specifically spelled out in Scripture, to one in which everything was permissible that did not contradict the Bible and was in harmony with common sense.”

Response
White was not suggesting a change in hermeneutics, but that the church should further “perfect” upon the biblical order already established in Scripture (cf. Acts of the Apostles, 88-92).

Does Scripture give indications concerning church order / organization?

Members – 1 Corinthians 12:27 / 1 Peter 2:5 :: “Living stones”
Churches – Titus 1:5 :: “Every City”
Small regions – Acts 9:31 :: “Judea” “Galilee”
Larger regions – 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1 :: “All Achaia”
Continents – 1 Corinthians 16:19 :: “Asia”
Input by all through representation – Acts 15 :: The Entire Church

The claim ignores the context of James White’s comment. He was discussing things that could enhance order (having a weekly church paper, a publishing press) which, while not specifically spelled out in Scripture, is not “opposed by the Bible, and is approved by sound sense” (James White, “Yearly Meetings,” Review and Herald, July 21, 1859, p. 68, col. 2). The further “perfecting” of organization included the holding of “yearly conferences, and systematic action of the entire body” (ibid).

Claim #2: It is claimed that the actions of the General Conference (GC) today, as in White’s day, modeled “kingly power,” that Ellen White indicates that it did not represent the voice of God on earth, and that unions were put in place to protect against possible misguided leadership from the General Conference.

Response
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the duty and responsibility of the GC to carry out the voted actions of the world church. Such accusations fit the category of “evil speaking” and remind one of the tactics used by Lucifer in his rebellion. The claim’s context is ignored. Ellen White is clear that “at times, when a small group of men . . . in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I . . . could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God.” The instructions for reorganization were to correct this, which is why we have unions. Ellen White continues: “But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference session, composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field, should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing, is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 260, 261).

In this age of enhanced communications and rapid travel, the church is a global community where what is done in one part of the body can be experienced in real time in many parts of the world. For this reason, unified action concerning many aspects of ministry is necessary if mission is to move forward effectively. Certainly the selection or replacement of leaders is one such area where unified policy is needed, particularly after years of study and deliberation.

Claim #3: Some claim that ordination is not supported by Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy and thus should not even have been discussed at the General Conference session. They say that the General Conference in taking action concerning ordination, went beyond its proper jurisdiction. They desire that both the setting of criteria and the selection and setting aside of leaders should take place at the Union level.

Response
The world church has never considered such a position to be biblical. The “Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination,” voted by the 2014 Annual Council, shows the Biblical basis for our understanding of ordination, that the TOSC study commission “did reach a high degree of accord concerning a biblical theology of ordination,” indicating that “Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global Church ministry.” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-a-seventh-day-adventist-theology-of-ordination.pdf).

The action taken by the world church in session (including conference and union presidents and laypersons) differs from this claim, because it was voted based on the delegates “thorough study of the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions on ordination…” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf)

Whatever one’s view concerning who should be ordained, “The danger to our unity lies not primarily in who we ordain, or what credentials we issue to them. The chief danger lies in accepting the possibility of unilateral action. That has potential implications which go far beyond this immediate issue. Yet if we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists September 2016 p. 41).

If the Church accepts the confused notions now being offered by some, what in the future would prevent conferences and unions from promoting unbiblical views regarding prophetic authority, creation, tithing, the investigative judgment, or same-sex behavior? The door will be opened for beliefs and practices enormously destructive to Adventist global gospel proclamation.

Claim #4: It is feared that we will lose our young people if we don’t address the issue of ordination and church structure in the manner advocated by some.

Response
This same scare tactic was used when the sanctuary doctrine of the church was being discussed. Membership was then 4 million. The issue was met head on. There were some losses, but membership is now nearly 20 million. Standing for truth draws young people; it doesn’t drive them away.

Claim #5: Supposedly, the GC session vote against allowing divisions to make their own decisions concerning ordination practice is exhibiting “kingly power and top-down authority,” adopting and replicating “the most serious mistakes of Roman Catholicism.”

Response
This desperate charge is clearly false. The interdependent nature of the Adventist church is more diverse and representative today than ever before. Decades of study and deliberation at all levels throughout the world field led to the decision in 2015, and the decision to be made in 2016 must evidence our commitment to collective decision-making.

The Choice Is Clear: The Unity document prepared by the Secretariat is a powerful and outstanding appeal for respect toward the collective actions of the church, church unity, and organization. It is sound biblically and in accordance with Spirit of Prophecy counsels. The choice is no longer about women’s ordination, but whether our church structure will remain interdependent or be forced into congregationalism.

Adventists are reading with interest two documents released on Sunday by the General Conference. According to Adventist News Network, General Conference executive secretary G.T. Ng stated, “During Annual Council this year we plan to discuss how best to address divergence from the current policy.”

“A Study of Church Governance and Unity” is a 50 page study. Section headings discuss unity, policy, diversity, authority, authority in the Spirit of Prophecy, unilateralism, and application. The shorter document summarizes the longer.

Since the General Conference vote in 2015 in which delegates forbade divisions of the Church from ordaining women to the gospel ministry, several Unions and Conferences have acted unilaterally toward the world church. A wide range of approaches have been implemented, including inflating the commissioned credential to parity with the ordained minister, the outright ordination of women, changing ordained credentials for commissioned ones, and more. All undermine the unity and mission of the Church.

The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that readers peruse the full documents (linked to at the end of this article). We also believe that readers will be interested in our highlighting some of the material now being studied by church leaders.

ON POLICY

“Policies provide a clear record of what representatives of the world Church have discussed and agreed is essential for the global body to engage effectively in mission and ministry” (p. 9).

“Policy also expresses our unity, for, in the succinct words of a recent statement by world Church leaders, ‘General Conference Session actions and voted policies are agreements that the body of Christ make together’” (p. 9, emphasis in original).

“When God’s people determine whether or not to allow diverse approaches among them, they should make their decision collectively and collaboratively, not unilaterally” (p. 12).

Far from being inessential, policies are a concrete expression of the unity of the Church. It is because the Church invests energy in creating policy that the Church is able to operate an effective global program, and to do so coherently. When variations are permitted, such should be determined on the basis of collective decision-making, not unilateral action.

DECISIONS APPLY TO DIVISIONS, UNIONS, CONFERENCES

Inherent in our system of representative, consultative, consensus-based decision-making is that organizational units and church-member representatives have input into the decisions of organizations at higher levels of structure. However, having had input, reciprocity means that there must be acceptance of the collective decision. Also inherent in the system, then, is that the authority of an organizational unit at any level is plenary in its territory, encompassing all constituent or component organizations at lower levels. The latter are bound by the decisions of the higher-level units of which they form a part, and of any executive committees entrusted by Working Policy with far-reaching authority. . . .the authority of the GC Executive Committee applies not only to divisions, but also to unions, and in consequence to conferences and missions. . . . unions are constitutionally obliged to act in harmony with GC Working Policy (p. 15).

No mission, conference, or union has a right to take unilateral decisions on important matters, or to depart from decisions taken by units at a higher level of structure with wider authority. . . Recognition as a conference/mission or union brings with it decision-making authority in defined areas and the right of representation at higher levels of denominational structure, but ‘status’ is contingent on ‘compliance with denominational practices and policies’ and ‘can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it’ (B 05, 3). (p. 16).

These are clear statements that the authority of each part of the church structure attached to the General Conference is derived from it. A decision limiting what a division can do also limits what that division’s unions, that union’s conferences, and that conference’s local churches can do. Authority is limited and derived; we are a world church.

The document also reminds us that the status of a division, union, or conference is subject to that unit’s “compliance with denominational practices and policies.” The document draws an important parallel between Ellen White’s warnings referring to the unilateral actions of J.H. Kellogg and “the current circumstances of unilateral action by Church organizational units.” The GC then says “overly independent, unilateral action poses a special danger to the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (p. 31).

DANGER AND COMPLIANCE

When, after such a process [referring to the TOSC study and GC session voted decision. pp. 40, 41], a GC Session takes a decision, one obviously intended to apply to to the world (since variation in practice was part of the motion put to the Session), it cannot be disregarded. The decision cannot be called a matter of little significance on which everyone could reasonably go their own way. That is because we all, together, considered it, and collectively decided it was not such a matter, but one in which we should act together. The biblical principle of unity in decision-making requires compliance. Whatever our views as individuals, ‘private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered (p. 41).

If we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down. Unions would decline to follow divisions’ guidance; conferences will ignore unions when it suits them; local churches would flout conferences or missions (Ibid.).

Longtime readers of OrdinationTruth.com will recognize in the above statements things we have been saying since 2013. At that time the Pacific Union constituency session vote to disregard the 1990 decision not to ordain women was still fresh in our minds and the NPUC was telling members they were going to embark on a plan to “educate members” about a position on women’s ordination which was contrary to that of the world church, and then hold a special constituency session to vote on it. In other words, threatened unilateral action by the Union prompted us to act. We have engaged in a process of study and published those results in support of the world church. The sample quotations above (and there are many more in the documents) help us know that these issues are well understood and that the world church, after much forbearance, is ready to bring Spirit-led correction.

DOCUMENTS

Here are the General Conference documents available for downloading:
A Study of Church Governance and Unity (54 pp.).
Summary of a statement on Church Governance and Unity (17 pp.).

In light of two approaching meetings—the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) constituency (September 25) and Annual Council (October 5-12)—members may be interested in reviewing the train of events which has brought the world church and the church in the NPUC to this place.

2012, November 14: The NPUC executive committee voted to “educate northwest members  of the rationale toward biblical church leadership without regard to gender,” and after the education process “To call a special session of the North Pacific Union Conference constituency to address ministerial ordination without regard to gender.”

2013, February 20: After an outcry from members and pastors in the Union, the NPUC executive committee voted to delay the special session until the first 120 days after the General Conference Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC) completed its work. (This would have meant the holding of a special session before the 2015 General Conference session.)

2014, November 12: After an outcry from members and pastors in the Union, the NPUC executive committee voted to delay the holding of the special session to within the 120 days following the 2015 NAD Year-end meeting. That is, no matter what decision would be made at the General Conference session regarding women’s ordination, many on the NPUC executive committee hoped to lead the NPUC into a situation similar to that of the Pacific Union.

2015, July 8: The General Conference in session voted not to permit Division executive committees to approve the ordination of women in their territories.

2015, August 18: The General Conference Secretariat released a document titled “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry.” This document stated that the authority of unions and other parts of the church is derived and limited. The authority of these units comes from the General Conference itself. “This means that each union’s actions regarding ordination must be in accordance with those of the General Conference since it is the source of the authority.” The document explicitly and repeatedly states that “the church’s procedures and policies do not permit women to be ordained” (emphasis in original).

2015, August 19: The North Pacific Union executive committee met to revisit its previous decision to hold a special constituency session of the Union. The committee voted 26-4 to rescind its earlier decision to hold a special constituency session because “we do not believe that convening a special constituency meeting about the ordination of women as pastors would be productive at this time.”

2015, October 7-15: The General Conference held its Annual Council for the Year.

2015, October 20: Immediately after the conclusion of Annual Council, the Washington Conference (a Conference in the NPUC) held an executive committee meeting in which it created a commissioned minister policy contradicting the world church. They chose to name this the “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy.” The president of the Washington Conference at this time was John Freedman. The advent of the “commissioned minister policy” approach was clearly a response to the General Conference vote. The specifications of the policies voted clearly oppose the authority of the world church.

2015, October 22: Oregon Conference executive committee voted a policy almost identical to Washington Conference, but workers are directed to publicize the policy only by word of mouth.

2016, March 29: Upper Columbia Conference executive committee follows the example of Washington and Oregon, voting a similar policy in opposition to the world church.

2016, July 19: Upper Columbia Conference executive committee, after several of its churches vote to seek a special constituency session to rescind the commissioned minister policy it had voted, rescinds the policy rather than holding such a session.

2016, August 17: The NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, votes to recommend Washington Conference president John Freedman to replace retiring NPUC president Max Torkelsen.

2016, September: Churches in Washington Conference recount the development of the Washington Conference commissioned minister policy, and call on members to contact their delegates to oppose Freedman’s election. Churches in NPUC Conferences vote an 11th hour letter to their own NPUC delegates asking that the nominating committee report be referred back to committee, and that a candidate other than John Freedman be elected to serve as NPUC president. The election is scheduled for the September 25, 2016 NPUC constituency meeting.

Thus, not only have the numerous faux ordinations of women in the Pacific Union been held since the 2015 Annual Council, but the adoption by Oregon, Washington and Upper Columbia Conferences in the NPUC of commissioned minister policies opposing the world church, have all taken place only after the conclusion of last year’s Annual Council.

All of which is to point out that the 2016 Annual Council, to be held October 5-12, will be the first Annual Council since the developments of the past year, in which world church leaders will be assembled to act authoritatively to address these actions and to restore order in the world church.

This Annual Council will be a time of decision. Let all lift up these church leaders in prayer.

A constituency meeting of the Pacific Union is happening right now (Sunday and Monday, August 28, 29, 2016). Rebellion toward the world church has been flowing out of the Union for many years, especially involving the practice of women’s ordination and the support of LGBTQ themes. The current meeting is attempting to make changes that would loosen the authority of the General conference over this rogue region of the church. Let us explain.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide body, with churches in over 200 countries. Every five years delegates are elected and meet together to advance the mission of the church in a General Conference session.

The most recent such session, held in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, refused to permit Divisions to ordain women. Because it adheres to Bible-based, spiritually qualified male leadership, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not call women to serve as conference presidents. Nevertheless, Southeastern California Conference (SECC) in 2013 elected a woman president. After the 2015 General Conference session decision voted by delegates not to permit the ordination of women, SECC has proceeded in defiance, ordaining multiple women to the gospel ministry.

SECC Insub-Ordination from CAP on Vimeo.

As of (Monday morning, August 29) the meeting is in its final hours and is debating organizational changes it does not have the authority to enact.

Proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Pacific Union are seen http://www.adventistfaith.com/session/_downloads/ProposedBylawChanges.pdf.

Because the Pacific Union is a subsidiary part of the General Conference, it is bound by certain required wording in its Constitution and Bylaws documents. For example, it is required that in the event of the union being dissolved, all assets revert to the next higher organizational unit (in the case of the Pacific Union, the North American Division). However, delegates will vote on whether to replace that required wording with wording that says that in the event of dissolution, all assets revert “to the individual conferences comprising the pacific Union at the time of its dissolution.” Another proposed change is to delete the required wording that limits changes to the Constitution and bylaws to wording which must be in harmony with the General Conference required wording. Removal of this clause would appear to loosen requirements that the Union remain in harmony with the world church.

However, even if these insubordinate initiatives are voted and pass, the Union constituency has no authority to make them. All such changes contrary to the required wording are, in our understanding, null and void so long as the General Conference requires the Union to comply. Indeed, changes such as the leaders of the Pacific Union seek to vote into being today only clarify that the rebellion in that section of the church is in an advanced stage and will serve to make corrective action by the General Conference less difficult. These rebel actions will solidify world church support for decisive action by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Pacific Union is a Seventh-day Adventist organizational grouping of several conferences located in the states of Hawaii, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Each conference is a grouping of Seventh-day Adventist churches. The North American Division (NAD) is made up of nine such unions including the Pacific Union. The NAD is one of 13 top-level organizational units of the world church.

UPDATE: The the most troubling changes debated were not implemented. However, the key development of the session was when a motion was offered by Sacramento Central church pastor Chris Buttery. The motion sought to have the 2012 Union decision to approve the ordination of women rescinded. Delegates, however, voted 74 percent to 26 percent to maintain the 2012 decision. Thus, the Pacific Union, by the vote of its delegates now AFTER the 2015 General conference session, continues to operate in opposition to the world church.

On October 11, 2015, at the General Conference Annual Council meeting a document was presented that appealed to unions to abide by the July 9, 2015 decision rejecting regional ordination of women to pastoral ministry. The document is titled, “Appeal and Appreciation to All Church Entities and Members From GC and Division Officers Regarding GC Session Vote on Ordination.” Text of the document here:

Appeal-Church-Entities-Members

It was revealed today that the Pacific Union executive committee voted September 9, 2015 to reaffirm its 2012 decision to ordain women to positions of pastoral leadership in spite of the July 9 decision of the 2015 General Conference session. That decision voted by the majority of delegates of the world church strongly denied independent action to ordain women to positions of ordained pastoral ministry by Divisions, Unions, and Conferences.

According to the Pacific Union Recorder,

“The committee pledged its support for its female pastors and said it would continue to abide by the union constituency’s 2012 mandate to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.’ The committee also asked the union officers in collaboration with the union communication department, to craft a strong statement in support of women clergy and to create a comprehensive strategy for educating local church members about the practical implications of the 2012 Pacific Union and 2015 General Conference votes, as well as church structure and authority” (“Pacific Union Executive Committee Pledges Support for Women Pastors,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 34).

The 2012 action was in contradiction to world church policy then. Our world church president pled earnestly with those assembled at that constituency meeting to avoid acting in opposition to the world church, and humbly stated that the Union’s contemplated unilateral action could lead to grave consequences.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church requires the Constitution and Bylaws of Unions and Conferences to conform to model documents included in General Conference working policy. These documents do not permit unions or conferences to ordain women to positions of ordained minister, a role biblically and via denominational policy, reserved to spiritually qualified males. Nevertheless, the “Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee and Officers”

“views full participation and recognition of women in pastoral ministry as vitally important for Spirit-filled ministry within our territory, and we will continue to abide by the 2012 mandate of our constituency to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender’” (“A Pledge of Support for Women in Ministry,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36, http://pacificunionrecorder.adventistfaith.org/issue/117/16/2294).

“The Holy Spirit gifts people of every age, gender, and ethnic background according to His purposes, and we encourage women of all ages and backgrounds who feel called to ministry to answer, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10). We are committed to supporting women in every aspect of ministry and church leadership, whether they are licensed, commissioned, or ordained” (Ibid.).

But the Pacific Union 2012 constituency decision exceeded the authority granted by the Seventh-day Adventist world church to that Union. Just as unions have no authority to create independent belief statements or unilaterally craft local standards for baptism, neither has the world church at any time granted unions authority to set their own qualifications for ordination to pastoral ministry. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ministerial ordination carries worldwide authority. But the Pacific Union says it will embark upon a campaign to “educate” its members about what the executive committee wants the July 9 world church decision to mean.

Pacific Union leaders “rejoice in the opportunity to share in this great work, and we reassert our support for women in ministry in the strongest possible terms” (Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36). But again, the Pacific Union executive committee is conflating the phrase “women in ministry” with the idea of “women’s ordination.” Women can and are serving the Lord Jesus in ministry in numerous ways all across the church, and without trespassing into roles which Scripture and thousands of years of practice have clearly reserved to spiritually qualified males.

Reaction from the Pacific Union is starting to come in. Stephen Bohr, Fresno Seventh-day Adventist Church, Central California Conference, writes

“It was with deep sadness that I saw that the PUC Executive Committee voted on September 9 to openly and defiantly rebel against God’s will as expressed by the world church in San Antonio. The fact that the PUC vote comes immediately before the October 7-14 Annual Council makes one wonder whether the PUC Executive Committee is daring the GC Executive Committee to do something about their rebellious decision. A mere verbal rebuke by the Annual Council will accomplish nothing. The question is: Will the Pacific Union’s money prevail, as it has done in the past, or will the GC Executive Committee apply the painful discipline? Let’s pray that our leaders will have the courage to apply the necessary discipline no matter the cost.”

We concur with Pr. Bohr. In San Antonio the church spoke. But these September 2015 actions of the Pacific Union are congregationalism writ large.

Is the Pacific Union its own independent church?

The current North American Division president, Dan Jackson, has not succeeded in bringing the Pacific or Columbia Unions into alignment with the world church. Leadership is needed in the top officers of the North American Division and in the Pacific Union and its executive committee that will operate in harmony with the world church.

Other Unions and units, including Columbia Union, Norwegian Union, Swedish Union, Netherlands Union, Northern California Conference, and Southeastern California Conference presently stand in opposition to the Working Policy of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, some on questions of ordination, others at the question of homosexual practice. The Council of Adventist Pastors encourages church members to much prayer for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at this time. We encourage those called to leadership to engage in decided action at this 2015 Annual Council session to fully meet the crisis created by not only the Pacific Union’s voted action of overt rebellion, but the voted actions of these other bodies.

Leadership must meet this challenge at this time. Pastors and workers who have supported the General Conference vote are on the point of being marginalized and could face removal from employ. Members who have supported the General conference decision now face a choice between local rebellion or fidelity to the mission of the world church. The crisis is come. Nevertheless, the promise is “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 380).

By Wayne Kablanow

On September 21 CAP reported on the Norwegian Union and its announcement that it is proceeding in an attempt to create a single credential for men and women, placing both sexes in positions of leadership equal to those of spiritually qualified ordained males. But we did not at that time report on similar actions about the same time by Danish and Swedish Unions.

The Danish Union stated that

“In the future DUChC will only use one term and one credential: “pastor” for both men and women who successfully have completed the intern-period” (Equality and Ordination, Danish Union of Seventh-day Adventists statement, 22 September 2015, http://www.adventist.dk/nyheder/768, accessed 2015-09-25).

Similarly, the Swedish Union decided in 2012 that it was an ethical issue to treat men and women equally, so-defined that role-differentiation is rejected. The Swedish Church has set up a Task Force that has already met twice, working to implement their vision of equality in contrast to the vision of equality held by the world church (http://www.adventist.se/artikel/4277/vagen-framat-efter-ordinationsbeslutet.aspx). The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the concept of gender-specific roles, and authorizes only the ordination of qualified males to position as ordained minister.

Features in common in the actions by Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden Unions include their rejection of role differentiation along with the creation of new unisex credentials which abandon the concept of ordination as practiced by the Adventist Church. What is being attempted is to designate workers who before had been titled as “ordained,” just “pastors” in the new arrangement. This is similar to the path taken by advocates of women’s ordination in North America when the “commissioned” credential was created.

The Council of Adventist Pastors, a North American group of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, not only finds Bible evidence for the practice of ordination persuasive, but also evidence found in the writings of Ellen G. White. Some examples of this are seen in her book Acts of the Apostles, such as the following:

The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95).

A council with representatives from the churches, very much like a General Conference session in which all these Unions were indeed represented, was to gather and see what solution the guidance of the Holy Spirit would lead to for the whole of the church. The practice of ordination is also a part of the divine plan:

God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.

Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God (Ibid., pp. 161, 162).

God invested His church with special authority. We seek to work together in unity. But

There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God (Ibid., p. 163).

In San Antonio the Church employed this special authority to reach a decision for the good of the entire church. We do not deny that the general feeling in Scandinavian culture is in disagreement with the position of the representatives of the world church. However, we believe that attempts to create one-sex credentials in Scandinavia and to sidestep the decision of combined representatives of the world church, are misguided and unfair to the world church. In every region, the church is called to work in harmony with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the whole body. God’s agents in the form of His ordained local workers, are to uphold a Biblical view of equality and complementarity rather than one that is captive to the culture locally. The teachings of Scripture transcend culture, and our pastors wherever they are worldwide are called to sustain the agreed understanding of the church.

The church must be faithful to its Lord Jesus and remain countercultural, even if the cultural understanding of most people in a place is dominated by unbiblical teachings. Seventh-day Adventists are people who are willing to do this. We worship on Sabbath rather than the culturally-approved Sunday. We reject the teaching of the naturally immortal soul even though most other Christian bodies teach the opposite.

The world church has repeatedly turned down women’s ordination initiatives at its highest levels. If these units wish to continue in represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that region, they are duty-bound to work in harmony with the world church. The present attempt to proceed on a pathway the world church has rejected (regional determination of ordination practice) should cease.

On September 20, 2015, the executive committee of the Norway Union voted unilaterally to discontinue the practice of ordination. They claim that the churches longstanding practice of ordaining spiritually qualified males is discriminatory and unbiblical. A new practice distinct to the Norwegian Union was announced:

From now on, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway will have a simple dedicatory prayer for a person embarking on pastoral internship. Similarly, there will be a dedicatory prayer for those who take the step from pastoral internship to regular pastoral service. The Norwegian Union will operate with only two categories of pastoral employees from now on. 1) Pastors in regular service, and 2) Pastoral interns. The Norwegian Union will not report pastoral employees to the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook until the General Conference has established pastoral categories that are not discriminatory (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Hjem/Nyheter/2015/September-2015/Adventistkirken-slutter-aa-ordinere#.VgBa4rShbfa, accessed 2015-09-21).

The Norwegian Union, it seems, has judged the practice of the world church and found it wanting. The Union has voted to embark on an entirely different practice than the world church. Effectively, they have not merely declared but enacted an unauthorized regional policy. They have rejected the decision of the General Conference in session on July 8, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. In that decision, a substantial majority of delegates voted not to permit regional decisions on the question of pastoral spiritual leadership—the very thing Norway Union has now enacted.

The Norwegian Union is not an autonomous regional church. It does not have an inherent authority separated from the world church. Its authority is derived from the General Conference. The authority that it does have is limited. The Seventh-day Adventist Church considers ordination to be a global, not a regional matter.

The Norwegian Union isn’t fooling anyone with its claims to want to be in harmony with the world church. It has acted exactly contradictory to the San Antonio decision. The Union has exceeded its authority. Nor is it alone. Immediately to the south, the Netherlands Union of Churches is also engaged in forging an independent pathway on the ordination question. That Union is also operating unilaterally with its positive policy on homosexuality, embracing the cultural tide of immorality. (To revisit the action of Netherlands Union on the homosexuality question, see “Homosexuality or Christianity? Netherlands Union again places itself in opposition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” at http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/homosexuality-or-christianity/, accessed 2015-09-21).

In hardly two weeks Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders will meet in Annual Council. At that time it is imperative that church leadership act to correct the action of errant unions including Columbia Union, Pacific Union, Norwegian Union and Netherlands Union of Churches, along with other insubordinate entities. The world church has decided that women’s ordination—the question of spiritual leadership—is not to be determined on a regional pattern. We collectively are all part of a world church organization. The Council of Adventist Pastors believes that our leaders will be acting with the best spiritual interest of the church at heart in taking whatever action necessary to maintain the unity of the world church and prevent fragmentation by rebel units—including the Norwegian Union.