On May 18, 2014, the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (a unit in the insubordinate Pacific Union) held its constituency meeting in Angwin, California. The conference of some 40,000 members was represented by hundreds of delegates. Several churches in the conference combined to bring to the delegates three items proposed for action. One item was a statement supporting the unity of the church and directly addressing the question of women’s ordination. A majority of delegates chose not to make a “yes” or “no” decision on the matter but to refer the motion to the conference executive committee. The full text of this motion was:

Resolution Supporting Unity of the Church

Whereas, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in response to conflicting practices within the church, the Apostles established church order by holding the Jerusalem Council, whose decisions were regarded as binding upon the Church everywhere;(1)

Whereas, in like manner, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was established as the highest constituted authority determining policies and procedures for the worldwide Church as reflected in the General Conference Working Policy;

Whereas, the Pacific Union has been delegated authority to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in its geographical region, conditioned upon the Union’s willingness to work in harmony with the working policies of the denomination as documented below;

Whereas, the General Conference Model Union Constitution and Bylaws requires sections essential to the unity of the Church worldwide, appearing in bold print, to be adopted into the Bylaws by each union conference;(2)

Whereas, the General Conference Model Constitution includes bold print mandatory language that requires all purposes, policies, and procedures of the union to be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the North American division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists;(3)

Whereas, the Pacific Union Conference recognizes its role, as part of the worldwide church, as indicated by its adoption of Article III into the Bylaws of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Article III incorporates required language from the Model Union Constitution of the General Conference Working Policy as follows:

“The Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is part of the North American Division which in turn is part of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a world church organization.

“All policies, purposes and procedures of this Union shall be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the North American Division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”

This Union shall pursue the purposes of the Church in harmony with the doctrines, programs, and initiatives adopted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Constituency Session.(4)

Whereas, to assure the future unity of the Church, the Article XIV of the of the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws specifically precludes the Constituency Delegation from voting changes to its Bylaws which are not in harmony with the spirit of the Model Union Constitution;(5)

Whereas, Article VII, Section 7 of the bylaws of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (NCC) requires that rules and regulations of the NCC adopted by the Executive Committee shall be in compliance with the Bylaws of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (PUC);(6)

Whereas, the current edition of the General Conference Working Policy declares all appointments and responsibilities within the church to be open to persons regardless of gender, “except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry.”(7)

Therefore, be it hereby resolved by the Northern California Conference in constituent session assembled, that the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists shall refrain from pastoral ordination to the gospel ministry without respect to gender in practice, policy, rule, or regulation until such time as the Delegates of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in worldwide session approve a Bylaw, policy, rule, or regulation which allows such ordination.

1. Acts 15

2. 2012-2013 General Conference Working Policy, D 10 05 Constitution of the Union Conferences, Page 135

3. 2012-2013 General Conference Working Policy, D 10 05 Constitution of the Union Conferences, Page 136, Article III – Relationships

4. Bylaws of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, August 29, 2011, 5, Article III – Relationships

5. Bylaws of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, August 29, 2011, Page 16, Article VII – Amendments

6. Bylaws of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Artcile VII, Section 7

7. 2012-2013 General Conference Working Policy, BA 60 10 p. 113

As can be seen, the proposed motion was entirely reasonable, respectful, and appropriate. It was directed to the very body of persons—Northern California delegates—who should make such decisions. It would have inculcated unity and harmony with the world church.

Unfortunately, the Pacific Union and its subentitites has increasingly and persistently demonstrated a voted pattern of insubordination toward the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Union is operating in open violation of General Conference decisions in 1990 and 1995. A unit within the Union, the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, voted itself a woman president outside the agreed policies of the church in 2013 who is not recognized by the General Conference.

The motion, and the two other motions, were never read to the meeting, nor debated. They were consistently treated as a set when they were three distinct and separate motions. When their turn on the agenda arrived, almost immediately two delegates moved they be referred to executive committee. Several minutes of debate ensued, with many delegates opposing such course of action.

In the end, a slim majority of the delegates voted to defer all three items to a conferance administration that has supported the insubordinate action of the Pacific Union on women’s ordination and operated in contradiction to the world church. Northern California churches entrusted the delegates to represent them and to make decisions. Rather than vote “yes” or “no” on important issues impacting the mission of the church in their field, they punted.

Today’s action by delegates in the Northern California conference, emanating yet again from within the Pacific Union, is added evidence that units in this section of the church are operating independently of the world body. Rather than moving toward unity, this field is spiraling further away from the broader consensus of the world body.

Other items included a plan to change from two to five year apart constituency sessions. That plan was rejected by the delegates. Agenda items condemning the teaching of evolution and which also would have stated “unqualified disapproval” of the practice of homosexual acts, were, like the unity motion, referred to the conference executive committee. The most recent previous Northern California constituency session was held May 20, 2012.

The text of all three important motions is available here from the Northern California Conference website.

A 19 page set of footnotes supporting the Unity motion meticulously compiled was made available to delegates via the Northern California website, and is available VIA THIS LINK.

NOTE: ADvindicate.com has an article now offering more detail about the events at NCC Constituency meeting: The rest of the story: NCC constituency meeting

By Many Hands

Nothing is standing still. The Council of Adventist Pastors continues to observe developments in other communities of faith. One such is the Methodist church. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is experiencing a historic meltdown right now. As you read these words a significant number of North American Methodist Conferences are in one way or another refusing to support the agreed discipline of that denomination with reference to homosexuality.

The Methodist Church states its position on human sexuality thus:

“The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (Book of Discipline, p. 126). This statement and three similar, have been subject to relentless attack within the UMC by their homosexual lobby. Yet at each General Conference session the Church has continued to uphold this biblical statement.

Methodism began in the mid-1700s and shares a variety of similarities with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ordination of women pastors has been the policy since 1956. Today—predictably—the issue in the Methodist Church is over homosexuality.

On March 10, 2014, the New York Annual Conference, Methodist Church dismissed the case of a retired Methodist minister who officiated at a “wedding” between his son and and another male (see http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/new-york-conference-court-dismisses-ogletree-case, accessed 2014-03-11). In response, UMC pastor Rob Renfroe offered the following editorial comments on the website of Good News ministry:

The truth is we may not be able to live together as one church. The truth is if our bishops do not act swiftly and decisively to uphold our process of holy conferencing and enforce our Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church will be lost. God’s church will continue and the Gospel will go forth, but we will have squandered the beauty and the power of Wesleyan Christianity as embodied by the UM Church.

Knowing that they will not be able to change our official UM positions regarding human sexuality and marriage at the next General Conference, progressives have begun a campaign of disobedience and are now publicly performing services of holy union for homosexual couples. How our bishops respond will determine if this defiance is the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end (http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/02/editorial-methodisms-late-hour/#sthash.QyXRhbsO.dpuf).

According to Renfroe,

Since 1972, the UM Church has waited in vain for our bishops—our shepherds who are charged with defending and promoting our doctrines—to create statements, resources and teaching materials that explain and promote our balanced position that all persons possess sacred worth but not all sexual practices are compatible with Christian teaching. Perhaps if the Council had fulfilled its responsibility at some point in the past forty years, we would not be in the confused and divided place we now find ourselves (Ibid.).

There are lessons here for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Methodists did not hold their appointed leadership accountable. They trusted without verifying. Today that church is in the throes of an amazing conflict. Adventists have opportunity to learn from Methodist mistakes. Here, our General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson in his 2010 inaugural message offers a good plan:

Seventh-day Adventist Church members, hold your leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable to the highest standards of belief based on a literal understanding of Scripture.

If we unite on the authority of the Bible and the Historical-grammatical method of interpretation highlighted in the 1986 Annual Council Methods of Bible Study Document, we can find unity. Those Methodists who compose the homosexual lobby within that denomination are running far afield of the Historical-grammatical method. For example, William M. Kent, a member of the United Methodist Committee to Study Homosexuality, stated

. . . the scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific, and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time and place bound cultural prejudice (William M. Kent, op. cit. by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Homosexuality in Theological Perspective,” part two, http://www.christianpost.com/news/homosexuality-in-theological-perspective-part-two-6458/, accessed 2014-03-12).

In Kent’s view the plain reading of Scripture is rendered non-authoritative while the group-think of current culture is determinative. “Best” is determined based not on what the Bible says but on what “we” think. This is the road to oblivion and dissolution. In a similar but more subtle manner, the pro-women’s ordination lobby in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is engaged in creative ways of discarding texts which stand in the way of their preferred approach. As one such Adventist recently wrote on another website, “Can someone explain why the opinions of Paul of Tarsus, an individual living roughly 2000 years ago in a totally different culture and social system, should be considered as authoritative concerning what a small Protestant Christian faith community functioning in the 21st Century should do or not do with regard to whether women should be ordained? Please enlighten me.”

The Methodist Church is crashing on the homosexuality issue. As a random sample, of 20 stories on the United Methodist News Service website on March 25, 2014 the headlines or summaries mentioned gays, homosexuality, same-sex, wedding (referring to homosexual unions), 10 times.

While it is amazing to see what is transpiring in Methodism’s late hour, what some are engaged in in Adventism is equally alarming. Let us hold our leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable. Let us reaffirm our commitment to sound biblical interpretation which will very largely prevent the problems other groups are facing and aid us in keeping focused on our mission of sharing Jesus’ third Angel’s Message with the world.

At the Stateline Church, near Milton-Freewater, Oregon, Pastor Mike Lambert presents part five of his six-part series on “A gender agenda.” The message addresses Deborah’s behavior in relation to headship in Judges 4, Phoebe and Junias in Romans 16, Ellen White’s “ordination” credential, and finally and very importantly, some of the urgent larger issues.

Mike Lambert, pastor of the Stateline, Oregon, Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivers the first of six presentations—all of which we shall post online over the next few weeks, from his series titled “A gender agenda.” In the series, Pr. Lambert addresses the cluster of texts and arguments favoring and opposing women’s ordination, with associated issues. In this first part, Elder Lambert begins to address Galatians 3:28 but also provides a quick but careful walk through the historic developments of the issue in the Seventh-day Adventist church from its beginning right up to the present. Stateline Church is located immediately south of Walla Walla/College Place, WA.

Our pastors have given thought to an article recently published on the internet and offer this little response. The article in question proposes that the Seventh-day Adventist Church not follow the path of other churches by not splitting over the question of women’s ordination. We certainly desire that the church not split! But what is the truly pivotal question, the one which determines whether we are united or divided? And why does the author avoid it? We address this in “A New Path?” FIND IT HERE.

Exactly one year ago on February 4, 2013 the OrdinationTruth.com website went live. Much has happened this past year. Reflecting on the past orients us for the future.

The attempt to introduce women’s ordination (the practice of women and men in the Church serving interchangeably in positions of spiritual authority) has a history in our midst. The emphasis as it has developed in our lifetime has its rise in the 1960s. The ordination of women as local elders was introduced at 1986 Annual Council.

In due course, the ordination of women as pastors with full global authority was addressed at two General Conference sessions (1990 and 1995). Decisions were made at the highest level of church authority. The Church refused to take the step of ordaining women to these positions of spiritual authority. Our brothers and sisters were not convinced that the practice was reconcilable with Scripture.

By 2009, North American Division (NAD) leadership remained urgent to proceed. They targeted the Church’s E-60 policy. This world church guidance forbade women from serving in male headship positions such as conference and union president. But General Conference (GC) leadership upheld the decisions of the GC sessions (exactly what did NAD leadership expect?).

After an extended interaction between the NAD and GC, NAD leadership saw they could not prevail by following the rules; GC policy was too clear. The result? In early 2012 the NAD president wrote to the leaders of NAD Unions inciting them to action with directions such as the following:

“The North American Division and its Unions and Conferences (as local circumstances permit) must become more intentional in the development of pathways to ministry for female pastors. We must also develop intentional methods of mentoring women who can take on executive leadership positions within our conferences. . . . We must continue to move this matter forward throughout the North American Division” (Quoted in the E-60 link above).

The division president told them that in order to bring change they would have to make it happen at union and conference levels.

The result of this astonishing move came with speed. By midyear NAD’s Columbia and Pacific Unions had held special meetings and voted themselves their own variances, placing themselves in opposition to the world church. They denied the authority of the 1990/1995 General Conference sessions. They even acted in the face of earnest appeals by the General Conference administration which sent our current president to these meetings to plead that they not act in disunity.

It should not be passed over that these actions were undertaken even as the current GC administration was responding to the 2010 General Conference session request to revisit the question of women’s ordination by forming the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), a gathering of more than 100 scholars, laypeople, pastors, and administrators representing all 13 world Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And yet, even as that process was beginning, these Unions exceeded their authority and began to “ordain” women.

When we in the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) learned from our union paper, Gleaner, that the NPUC had created an ad hoc committee to study these matters and that our Union would now “educate” church members concerning the basis for “ordination without regard to gender,” after which it would hold a special session as Columbia and Pacific Unions had, we knew forces were converging which might lead to the same insubordinate outcome as those Unions. It became necessary that we investigate further for ourselves, and then seek to aid our Union and if possible influence it not to join itself to the example of the other NAD Unions.

Appeals were forwarded to NPUC leadership. We pleaded that the proposed steps not be taken. We are thankful that until now the NPUC has not held a similar session.

Surveying the situation, we saw that issues were not contained to the NPUC, and heard from many from across the NAD who were as alarmed as ourselves at actions now manifesting in the North American field. Because the NPUC continued to send mixed signals, our initially chosen name (“NPUC Supporting Pastors”) made unclear what we did and did not support. Growing interest throughout the NAD and a desire from others outside our Union who wished to participate led us to change our name to the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP). Now pastors throughout the North American Division territory could participate.

What the NAD president and Columbia and Pacific Unions had begun continued to bear its fruit. In October 2013, the Southeastern California Conference constituency, in opposition to its world church, elected Ms. Sandra Roberts to serve as its president in direct violation of E-60 and GC session decisions.

This was not all. Each Division invited to be involved in TOSC had been asked to study the issues surrounding women’s ordination. NAD leadership appointed itself a committee, too. Its committee released a 249 page report pleading that the world church permit it to ordain women.

Most astonishing of all was that—at last—the unavoidable issue of hermeneutics was placed front and center. The NAD admitted in its report that in order to neutralize the Bible evidence opposing the ordination of women, it was necessary to use a plan of biblical interpretation they called the “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method.

This method is said to be intended only for selective use. It is to be applied especially in the interpretation of what the NAD called “difficult” New Testament “headship” texts. The NAD-proposed method exactly contradicts the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist approach to biblical interpretation called the Historical-grammatical approach, voted by Annual Council in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1986.

We commend current NAD leadership for their lucid admission that this change in interpretive methodology is required to make possible the achievement of their purpose. But is the church ready to lay aside the Historical-grammatical approach that Scripture interprets Scripture? Is it ready to discard the one methodical approach to the Bible which has led to our unity on a worldwide basis in embracing the seventh day Sabbath, and our adherence to the literal, physical, visible, audible Second Coming of Jesus with kindred truths?

We believe that every church member within the North American Divisions would be blessed by the NAD’s Minority report.

Another development of interest coming from TOSC has been that some in our world divisions have called for a return to biblical fidelity on the issue of women elders, that the practice be discontinued.

“There is a lack of biblical precedence for the appointment of female elders…. there is no biblical support for the ordination of woman pastors. The ordination of women elders should also not be considered. That implies that as from the action date, women shall no longer serve as elders” (Summary of the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division Biblical Research Committee on the Ordination of Women, pp. 1, 3, at
http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-southern-africa-indian-ocean-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).

Other Divisions have also found the desire to ordain women as pastors having global authority biblically unsustainable. For example, consider these notes from fellow believers in the South American Division:

In the New Testament, the preeminence of male spiritual leadership is seen in the role of the husband at home (Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Cor 11:3), in the leadership of the apostles, the elders and the deacons in the Church (Acts 6:1-6; 17 14:23; 15:6, 22; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 2:20; 4:11; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), and in the ministry of the prophets, the pastors-teachers, and the evangelists (Acts 13:1; 21:8; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). . . . The New Testament plainly presents the qualifications required for someone to become a bishop/presbyter/pastor (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). According to these texts, the pastoral ministry seems to belong to a distinctive area of male spiritual leadership in the Church. Faithfulness to biblical teaching predicates the need to follow this orientation. There is no clear biblical basis, therefore, to ordain women to the pastoral ministry” (South American Division Summary and Report on its Study and Proposal on the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Ministry, pp. 3, 4, http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-south-american-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).

We find ourselves much in agreement with these initiatives which would help restore consistency and unity and help revitalize as a global people our faithfulness to the Bible.

Looking to developments anticipated between now and 2015, we remain alert. Columbia and Pacific union leadership remain in place, and those Unions are presently “ordaining” women in opposition to the General Conference session determined position of the world church. Those Unions are presently operating in flagrant defiance of the world church. They have substituted their authority for the authority of the General Conference.

Another trend we already see is pro-WO advocates urging that the General Conference is illegitimately gathering power to itself, centralizing its authority. We anticipate that these unfounded charges will be broadcast ever more loudly by those who insist on acting in contradiction to the appeals for unity which have been offered on behalf of the world church.

TOSC is set to complete its study process this year and forward its report to 2014 GC Annual Council. The NAD’s proposed “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method is now public knowledge and Adventists are only just beginning to process the implications that would follow its adoption. Shall the Seventh-day Adventist Church endorse the ordination of females to male headship roles? Possibly. But if so, it is clear now that it will be at the cost of the most primitive, basic issue of all—how we interpret Scripture.

It is urgent that we count the cost now before we buy the product in 2015. If we are going to charge women’s ordination on the Seventh-day Adventist hermeneutical credit card, we must first consider what it will cost in the long term.

Although we have had an enormous response to our continuing study and website, many Seventh-day Adventists—even some pastors—remain unaware of this website or of the existence of the Council of Adventist Pastors. We encourage all readers to share this blog post link with fellow Adventists and especially with your pastors who, in this one post, will have a sample of links and materials the scores of pastors who are CAP have shared. Maybe your pastor would like to participate?

And now: Let OrdinationTruth.com year two BEGIN! . . .

The United Methodist Church (began ordaining women in 1956) is today dealing with pastors performing same-sex unions in defiance of their own denominational Book of Discipline. We included a link to a previous video about the attempt to legitimize homosexual practice at the 2012 UMC GC session. The 11 minute video above updates some developments since then. While this is not specifically a Seventh-day Adventist matter, there are similarities between the Methodist and Adventist Churches—as there are between the women’s ordination and homosexual practice advocacies (both driven by liberation theology) (See also LGBTQ theology).

UPDATE 2013-12-24: Pastor Mark Shaeffer (the subject of some of the video material above) was defrocked by the United Methodist Church on December 19, 2013 after he refused to be repentant for his actions, refused to commit himself to uphold the UMC Book of Discipline, and refused to surrender his credentials.

Last year a document was released that quite succinctly answered some of the key questions in the present controversy over unity and the ordination of women. That document was titled Questions & Answers Regarding Current Issues of Unity Facing the Church. We reproduce this document here in hopes of lending it wider circulation. This document was subtitled, “A response by the General Conference Officers and Division Presidents” (i.e., the top 25 world leaders of the Adventist Church).

We also remind visitors to this site that CAP has made available a document summarizing developments of the past five years titled E-60 and the WO Endgame, which is also quite useful in understanding these developments. Finally, a third document addresses similar policy questions as the above and may be helpful. That document is titled Church policy, Church unity, and Women’s Ordination.

State of the Church – Ted Wilson from GCComm on Vimeo.

BREAKING NEWS. This video was released late on the afternoon of Thursday, November 14, 2013. In it, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, shares a “state of the church” address. The release of this message directly to the church viewership in this way is unusual. Wilson tells about the powerful movings of the Holy Spirit upon the church round the world right now, but also shares four special concerns which are weighing on his heart. Included among these is a special concern over disunity and some segments of the Church ignoring the agreed policies by which the church works together.

The report that follows was made public today (November 12, 2013) by the Inter-European Division. While we do not concur with the decision of their study committee, we share their news release here as pertinent to the the chief topic we have been investigating.

Madrid, Spain [Corrado Cozzi]. The Inter-European Division will recommend to the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee that there is room for the church to ordain women to pastoral ministry.

The recommendation follows study of the papers presented at the division’s Biblical Research Committee [BRC] as well as those prepared for the Theology of Ordination Study Committee this year from January 15 to 17 and July 22 to 24.

The process is part of the world church’s ongoing study of the theology of ordination, which was first established at the denomination’s General Conference Session in 2010. Each of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions is preparing its own report, and world church officials have promised to bring back a compiled report to the 2015 General Conference Session.

The Inter-European Division’s recommendation stems from several points:

  1. The Bible does not specifically define what ordination for
    pastoral ministry is.
  2. There are no direct statements in the Bible either commanding or
    prohibiting women’s ordination.
  3. As the church felt free to develop its organizational structure
    to further its mission based on biblical principles, division BRC
    members consider ordination not as a doctrinal or biblical issue, but something that must be handled at an administrative level.
  4. There are no clear biblical principles that would require or
    guide the application of the principle of headship in the family or the church.
  5. The Old Testament priesthood has its fulfillment in the unique
    priesthood of Christ, which is the basis for the priesthood of all
    believers.
  6. BRC members were unclear over why ordination requires a
    differentiation between genders that doesn’t exist in other levels of ministry or service, such as teachers, deacons, prophets and leaders.

Based on the report of the Biblical Research Committee, the Executive Committee of the Inter-European Division recommends the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, taking into consideration the possibility of applying it according to the needs of the fields (http://eud.adventist.org/news/detail/date/2013/11/12/inter-european-division-will-recommend-that-there-is-room-for-womens-ordination/, accessed 2013-11-12).

The decision was made at the Division’s 2013 Year-end Meeting. The Inter-European Division is one of 13 Divisions which make up the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are nearly 18 million members of the church. Inter-European Division has approximately 178,000 members. It is composed of the Austrian, Bulgarian, Czecho-Slovakian, Franco-Belgian, Italian, North German, Portuguese, Romanian, South German, Spanish, and Swiss Unions.