Constituents of the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) voted today directly contradicting the global position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). The SDA Church does not accept Women’s Ordination or the placement of women in the conference presidency. But today, October 27, 2013, the SECC made Sandra E. Roberts its president. The vote occurred during the Quinquennial Constituency meeting held at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California. The SECC has been a subsection and interlocking unit of the world SDA Church.
The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson phoned Pacific Union president Ricardo Graham Saturday evening and stated that such action, if voted, was out of policy, and that the General Conference would not recognize her as president. (SECC is part of the Pacific Union.) This information was shared with the delegates. During the meeting, several delegates spoke in opposition to the action and in support of the world church. But eventually, the majority voted to elect Roberts.
Southeastern California Conference is a part of the 18 million member Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Church has been carefully organized as an interlocking community. Local members are joined in their local church congregation; these congregations are organized together as conferences; conferences are organized together into unions; unions are organized into divisions of the General Conference. The whole in combination make up one united Seventh-day Adventist Church.
SECC’s meeting was a conference constituency level meeting; the most authoritative administrative body of the Church is the General Conference session. Delegates gather together from round the globe for General Conference sessions every five years. The most recent session was in 2010 and the next in 2015. The meeting enables Spirit-led collective decision making.
In 1990 and 1995 General Conference sessions the Church rejected proposals to permit individual divisions, unions, or conferences (like SECC) to ordain women. As a global organization connecting congregations in more than 220 nations, every subsection of the Church is committed to adhere to determinations offered in General Conference sessions. Unilateral contrary actions—such as that today voted by SECC—are disunifying in nature and prima facie evidence of direct opposition to the world church.
Voted action by 567 SECC delegates has now placed Ms. Roberts and SECC in exactly such a position.
What next? In just four days (Oct. 31) North American Division Year-end Meetings begin, where those gathered include the NAD conference presidents. But current Church Manual (p. 32) and current NAD Working Policy (E-60, p. 244) explicitly prohibit a woman from serving in this position. The North American Division will not be able to include Mrs. Roberts as a presidential participant in its meetings without joining itself to SECC in premeditated opposition toward the world church. All eyes will be on the North American Division and its president as it opens its Year-end Meeting.
The world church is watching the North American Division. After all, ultimately it was NAD’s change of Working Policy E-60 in 2010—and later recognition of its having exceeded its own authority—that led NAD President Dan Jackson to instruct NAD unions on January 31, 2012 concerning how to “move this matter forward” and “consider new approaches,”
“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. . .” (See E-60 Letter, Dan Jackson, http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/nadletterdanjackson-e60.pdf).
In the same letter, Jackson admitted that in adding the word “commissioned,” NAD had erred and indicated that the word “commissioned” would be removed from NAD Working Policy in the 2011-2012 edition. Thus, NAD Working Policy presently states that “a conference/mission president should be an ordained minister of experience.”
Ms. Roberts does not meet this requirement. Nevertheless, the NAD now has what they wanted—a woman in an executive position of leadership.
But, as much as some NAD officers might like to, the NAD—even president Jackson—cannot with impunity include Mrs. Roberts as a voting participant in the 2013 Year-end meeting in contradiction to NAD and GC Working Policy.
The NAD, already on precarious ground, claiming to respect and stand in harmony with the Church, now has opportunity to show itself part of the world church—by upholding the authorized practices of the world church.
The crisis which has been caused by the NAD has now landed again on their own door step. The global Adventist Church will have evidence whether or not the NAD officers shall demonstrate true respect for the sisterhood of Adventist churches round the world very soon now. On October 31, NAD shall either respect the world church and disallow Ms. Roberts’ participation in the Year-end Meeting, or, they will include her, in demonstration of a spirit of opposition to the world church.