With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.

Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.

Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).

We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.

At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.

There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).

It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?

There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.

We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.

In a recent Walla Walla University Church (WWUC) business meeting, University leaders invited the student body to join them. In what? In requesting that the Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee reinstate a commissioned minister’s policy voted March 29 then rescinded July 19. Why the rescind? According to the official conference announcement of the change, many constituency members “felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers” (See http://ordinationtruth.com/2016/07/22/ucc-rescinds-commissioned-minister-policy/).

But conference members are very concerned that WWU church leaders would solicit advocacy from the student body for a policy which stands in opposition to God’s leadership as reflected in the Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy. The result of this incitement of our youth entrusted to the WWU remains to be seen.

The Conference is still communicating with several churches in its constituency. Those churches, in response to the March 29, 2016 executive committee vote to implement the non-Adventist practice, had voted, between then and July, asking that it hold a special constituency session. The action by the churches was plain. The churches did not ask the conference to rescind. They sought via a special constituency session to overrule the committee. Some voted statements supported the replacement of conference officers.

Most members of the constituency, whatever their views on commissioning and women’s ordination, are determined to be in support of the world church. Unilateral action by conference leaders opposing world church practice is unacceptable to them. The action by the conference in disregard toward the world church has been disunifying, provocative, and destructive to its mission. On July 19, rather than face a special constituency session, the Conference executive committee rescinded its March 29 vote. At present, the matter is in the hands of the lay members of the conference. There could be a renewed call for a special session.

The General Conference sets the criteria for ordination; it determines which authorities are included in a given credential. Seventh-day Adventist congregations are part of a world church. A local conference can no more determine for itself the authorities which are included in a denominationally-approved credential than can a local congregation.

But on November 9, aware that conference administration was engaged in its first potentially constructive dialogue with its own world church supporting congregations, WWUC voted to ask the conference executive committee to “rescind its rescind” at its upcoming December 6 meeting—while still engaged in discussion with sister churches.

Referring to the UCC churches which sought for the conference to return to operating in harmony with the world church, the president said that those churches had been “demanding” a constituency meeting and that they had “pushed aside” the executive committee. The WWUC board even accused sister churches that called for the special constituency meeting of using “ways and means discordant with Christian values. . .”

But the membership of the conference has every right to expect elected conference officers to operate in harmony with the world church. When a conference executive committee violates trust, the checks and balances of a conference’s Constitution and Bylaws empower membership to overrule decisions of a conference executive committee, or even to appoint new officers.

Conference officers are now pincered between congregations which seek harmony with the world church, and those working vigorously to advance the cause of women’s ordination no matter the cost. How much wiser if leaders will speak more widely with their constituency; how much better if they will communicate directly with the General Conference. These steps should be taken before obeying the wishes of those in Walla Walla who openly call for the implementation of policies which by violating world church practice divide the Conference.


Previous and specifically related articles include:

CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

CM Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church

CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action

Laypeople Speak Out on UCC CM Policy

UCC Rescinds Commissioned Minister Policy

Text: Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy

CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misrepresents New Policy

CM Crisis 5: A History Lesson as Annual Council 2016 Approaches

CM Crisis 6: GC Unity Documents and the Commissioned Credential

Seventh-day Adventist Church president pastor Ted N.C. Wilson has a Question and Answer section on his Facebook page. On October 22, 2016, pastor Wilson posted a detailed answer. In response to a question which had suggested that in seeking the compliance of divisions, unions, and conferences with the world church’s decision on women’s ordination, the General Conference was abusing its powers and exercising “kingly authority., the president’s reply offers a number of interesting insights. The entire answer can be read at this link:

https://m.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/photos/a.893482760707617.1073741827.221442104578356/1125011014221456/?type=3

We here at OrdinationTruth.com reproduce four paragraphs, with our reactions.

“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church. In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”

This paragraph makes the interesting point that despite continuing claims made by those determined to practice women’s ordination, the world church is not organized so that all ordination questions are handled only by unions. It has never been.

The other point of interest is that unions may only approve ordination based on the criteria set by the world church. Criteria is not set locally, although this is the desperate argument North American Unions are making.

Pastor Wilson proceeded to offer these points regarding the facts and authority of the General Conference in session concerning women’s ordination:

• “The General Conference in Session in 1990 indicated that only men were to be ordained.”

• “The General Conference in Session in 1995 and 2015 indicated that no other level was to have the right to determine who would be ordained other than that which has been indicated in the Working Policy and confirmed by the General Conference in Session in 1990.”

• “After having treated this overall topic three times, the General Conference Session with representatives from all parts of the world owns this subject.”

The world church has considered this matter carefully and repeatedly at the level of the General Conference session, and the decisions made by the world church in its most representative and authoritative decision-making body “owns this subject”–not unions or divisions. Officers in the North American Division need to pause, take a deep breath, and realize that in resisting the world church they are fighting a century of mutually approved church organization. Neither the NAD nor its Unions nor Adventist unions or union conferences anywhere in the world have been granted authority to disregard the decisions of the world church of which they are only sub-units.

With reference to the charge that the elected leaders of the world church at the General Conference are exercising kingly power in their efforts to uphold the decisions of the world church, he writes this:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question: What could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”

“As president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am duty bound with a sacred responsibility, as are all other officers of every level of organizations throughout the church as is indicated in Working Policy, to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not). To go against this vote would be exercising kingly authority.”

In other words, when unions or divisions act in deliberate opposition to GC-level decisions, it is those actions which are the authentic—and contemporary—exercise of “kingly power.” Entities such as Pacific and Columbia and North Pacific Unions are exercising “kingly power” when they usurp the authorities vested in the world church. None of these Unions have authority to approve unauthorized credentials they are presently issuing in the name of the Church. They are acting in violation both of the trust of the world church and also the trust of their own constituencies. Seventh-day Adventists holding church membership in the Conferences connected to these Unions are under the oppression of kingly power. Members’ rights are being violated by administrations of Unions which approve illegitimate credentials.

The Council of Adventist Pastors calls upon Unions misusing the authorities the world church has entrusted to them, whatever the administrator’s personal views, to turn back from destructive actions they have taken and to come into unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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.).

Today (September 25, 2016), a majority of delegates to the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) constituency session, elected Washington Conference president John Freedman to be president of the NPUC. Freedman’s nomination, uncontested as the practice in all such elections, was accomplished by a vote of only 72 percent Yes. An unusually high margin of 28 percent of delegates voted No.

Freedman’s Washington Conference executive committee, just three months after the 2015 General Conference session decision in San Antonio, Texas, had voted into being a commissioned minister policy contradicting the voted policies of the world church. A similar policy voted by the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee had aroused several constituent churches of that Conference to vote a call for a special constituency session to reverse the policy there. Conference leaders there rescinded their policy in August, circumventing the special session.

Churches in Washington Conference had called on that Conference to rescind its errant policy. But the NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, had nominated Freedman to be the next NPUC president on August 17. When Freedman’s executive committee met to consider the Washington Conference church’s request on August 23, it rejected the call to rescind. After Washington Conference leadership refused to meet with the churches which called for the policy to be rescinded, scores of members from those churches sent a letter to all the elders in the NPUC territory informing them about the policy and suggesting they contact delegates to urge them to learn about the Washington policy and its opposition to the General Conference.

In the subsequent two weeks before the Union constituency session, about a dozen constituent churches across the NPUC voted a respectful letter which they sent to their own delegates, urging them to refer the nomination back to nominating committee.

The segment of the constituency meeting dealing with the nomination for the presidency was chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson. The parliamentary authority for the meeting is the General Conference Rules of Order (GCRoR). These rules state that

“6. If there is objection to a part or the whole of the Nominating Committee report, the objector(s) may request that the report (not an individual name) be referred back to the Nominating Committee for further consideration. It is the usual procedure for the chair to accept the referral; however, if the request becomes a motion, it is nondebatable and is decided by simple majority vote” (General Conference Rules of Order, sixth ed., Elections, p. 5).

Thus, a delegate who has the floor may request that the nominating committee report be referred back to the committee, and the chair, if he followed “the usual procedure,” would be obliged to accept the referral. Jackson, doubtless aware that objection would be made, preempted this option by asking the assembled delegates whether they wished any referral to happen without a motion, or any referral to be processed as a motion. This request surprised the delegates and for several seconds the hundreds assembled said nothing. In effect Jackson was preempting the option to simply refer. (To turn the referral into a motion would almost certainly guarantee its defeat, since 50+% would have to vote yes on the motion without understanding the reason for the referral.) At this point, delegate Jim Brackett stood and moved that the first option (simple referral) be used. This was seconded and then voted upon. The motion was defeated.

Multiple motions to refer the report back were made, but each defeated. The votes were in the 30-40 versus 60-70 percent range. One delegate on the floor stated to the assembled delegates that more than fifty pastors in the Union had objections to the nomination and sought again to refer it to committee. (There are around 200 church-employed pastors in the whole Union.) A majority of delegates, aware they were nominating a candidate whose conference’s policy rejects compliance with the world church, refused to let the nomination go back to committee. Concerns of delegates were blocked from being heard. In the end, Freedman was elected. Upon Freedman’s return to the room, as is customary, many stood to applaud his election, but half and perhaps more, remained quietly seated.

Freedman takes the helm during a time of crisis in the Adventist Church which has arisen because of the ill-advised actions of Conferences including Washington Conference, Unions, and Unions of Churches which have risen to oppose the decisions of the world church.

General Conference Annual Council 2016 comes in October.

NOTE: This article was edited September 27 and the sequence of events corrected and clarified. Information about the correction is posted in the comments that follow the article, as well as comments that have been sent to be posted.

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.

Churches in Conferences in the North Pacific Union are registering their concern over the nomination of the current Washington Conference president who has been proposed to delegates to become the new Union president. Persons in several conferences have indicated concern, but churches in Washington and Upper Columbia Conferences have gone further. They have written out their concern in a brief letter they plan to send to delegates to the NPUC meeting.

The respectful yet straightforward letter has been reproduced at Fulcrum7.com at THIS LINK. Although the constituency meeting will happen almost immediately, (September 25, 2016), churches continue to vote to have their congregations added to the letter. Additional churches are readying to add their support to the letter. We are told that church boards wishing to add their support to the concern listed in the letter should contact NPUCchurchestoNPUCdelegates@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Should an administrator who three months after General Conference session led his conference executive committee to vote a policy contrary to the world church be made president of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC)?

On August 17, 2016 the NPUC nominating committee submitted the name of Washington Conference president John Freedman as candidate to become union president. But on October 20, 2015, Freedman led the Washington Conference executive committee to implement a commissioned minister policy which is out of harmony with the Church Manual, the Working Policy of the General Conference, and the Working Policy of the North American Division (NAD). Should one who led his conference into opposition to the world church be made leader of a union?

NAD WANTS FREEDMAN

This year NPUC president Max Torkelson made known he would retire at the conclusion of his current term. The nominating committee met to determine who to recommend to serve as union president. The meeting was chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, with NAD executive secretary G. Alexander Bryant also present. Bryant had previously announced that the push for women pastors would “move forward independent of the findings and conclusion of the ordination issue” (http://www.nadministerial.org/article/370/for-nad-pastors/pastor-life/women-clergy/why-the-nad-needs-women-pastors/wanted-more-female-pastors-essential-for-the-harvest). Division leadership has relentlessly pursued its goal to add hundreds of women pastors to lead congregations.

At San Antonio the world church voted to refuse to permit division executive committees to make provision for women’s ordination. But only three months after the GC vote, Freedman’s Washington Conference executive committee created a commissioned minister policy directly contradicting the world church. The new policy was published in the NPUC Gleaner (“New Mission-Focused Leadership Policy Adopted,” Gleaner, December 2015, p. 25). The article Washington leadership had published in the Gleaner was misleading throughout (See http://ordinationtruth.com/2016/09/05/cm4-wa-conference-misrepresents-new-policy/).

After Washington, Oregon Conference followed with an almost identical policy. Upper Columbia Conference was next, although it rescinded after several churches called for a special constituency session.

Since San Antonio, the Southeastern California Conference has conducted several “ordinations” of women pastors. Just days ago, while Jackson was present at a meeting of the Pacific Union Conference, delegates refused to consider rescinding their 2012 action approving the ordination of women. Jackson, a world church division president, should have led constituents to come into harmony with their world church on this point. He did not speak to the question. Who is surprised that a committee chaired by Jackson would wish to elevate Freedman, an ardent supporter of women’s ordination, to the presidency of the NPUC?

FREEDMAN LED WASHINGTON CONFERENCE TO INSUBORDINATION

Consider the wording of the actual published Washington Conference policy:

The recent Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) consensus statement recognized that “Through the saving work of Christ” church members constitute “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2: 5, 9) who are “given the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20), called, and enabled through the power of the Spirit and the gifts He bestows on them to carry out the Gospel Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

In addition to recognizing that it is God who calls and chooses who He will to complete His work on this earth, the TOSC committee also agreed that over the years ordination “has acquired meaning beyond what was originally implied” in the Bible. On the basis of these findings committee members overwhelmingly supported two options that would allow for the ordination of women. In spite of this action, the GC session voted to not allow divisions self-determination regarding ordination.

The Washington conference document is quoting from an unofficial “straw vote” that occurred at the final meeting of TOSC. At that time some two-thirds of Committee members supported either allowing Divisions to ordain women, or, the so-called “third option,” which acknowledged biblical support for spiritual male headship yet advocated letting each Division decide independently of others. Its rationale? Sometimes “divine ideals” are permitted by God to give way to immediate circumstances and the wishes of God’s people. An example cited by them was Israel’s demand for a king.

It could be argued on the same grounds, however, that a majority of the Committee acknowledged the Biblical case for spiritual male headship, since two of the three groups also supported male spiritual leadership.

The “straw vote” was not a legislative action, as TOSC was not a legislative body. TOSC was a study committee; its assignment was only advisory. The composition of the Committee was not proportionate to world Division membership. It was simply a committee intended to include all points of view. For Washington Conference to cite an unofficial vote, a straw poll from an advisory committee populated non-representationally, shows how far facts must be bent to find even theoretical authority for Washington Conference’s voted action.

By minting its own policy, Washington Conference made a gesture of insubordination, and thus joined forces with the rebellion demonstrated since San Antonio by Pacific Union and some European unions.

MORE AUTHORITY LOCAL OR WORLD?

The third paragraph in the Conference policy shows how far the Washington Conference has strayed from the world church under Freedman’s leadership:

While we desire to respect this vote, we also desire to live in harmony with Scripture and the Seventh-day Adventist belief that it is the responsibility of the Church to recognize those individuals whom the Lord has called and equipped for ministry in a local setting. We further desire to reconcile and live by the voted theology of ordination which is based in scripture but which our church policies do not allow. Thus we, the Washington Conference Executive Committee, have adopted the following policy for Mission-Focused Leadership. VOTED: October 20, 2015 (http://www.washingtonconference.org/site/1/docs/wacpolicy_missionfocusedleadership.pdf, accessed 2016-08-24).

The Washington Conference executive committee says it desires to respect the vote of the world church. But it claims that the world church’s actions are out of “harmony with Scripture.” Washington has two conflicting desires. The policy voted shows which has prevailed.

The new policy gives blanket approval for all commissioned ministers to conduct baptisms and weddings within the conference territory. The world church permits the conference president to give such authority on an individual-by-individual, instance-by-instance basis. The world church gave an inch for unusual local cases; the Washington Conference took a mile.

Washington’s new policy treats the commissioned minister identically to the ordained minister with reference to organizing and uniting churches. This is an authority the world church has reserved for the ordained minister.

Again, the world church has restricted the responsibility of conference president to the ordained minister of experience, a consecrated male worker. But Washington Conference voted policy now grants “That both commissioned and ordained ministers be allowed to serve in any position of the Washington Conference including conference president.” The executive committee has exceeded its authority.

Seeing their own position as biblical, and the position of the world church voted by the delegates to the General Conference in session to be unbiblical, the Washington Conference, led by Freedman, voted for itself a policy exceeding the authorities granted it by the world church. The voted policy actually scolds the world church, Washington says, for holding to policy over Scripture. This is a false representation, since the world church position agrees with Scripture in limiting the ordained ministry to spiritually qualified males as designed in God’s creation order (1 Timothy 2:12, 13; 3:2; Titus 1:5, 6).

WHO SHOULD BE NPUC PRESIDENT?

Delegates to the NPUC constituency session should weigh certain questions. If, as president of Washington Conference, Freedman was willing to place his personal opinion about women in positions Scripturally reserved for male leadership above the voted position of the General Conference in session, what would he do as president of the North Pacific Union Conference?

Another question is whether the constituents of the NPUC are ready to reward Freedman for opposing the world church. Is his example one we wish to see replicated in the NPUC? Those placed in leadership positions inevitably set example. Is Freedman’s example best for the Union at this time?

And a final concern remains. The NPUC is a diverse body. While administrators in Washington and Oregon Conferences favor women’s ordination, many church members across the union strongly oppose these unilateral acts of insubordination. (That is, they oppose the commissioned minister policies initiated by Washington, Oregon, and Upper Columbia Conferences.)

This is seen most recently in the votes of several churches in the Upper Columbia Conference to call for a special session of that conference constituency to turn back the insubordinate policy. The determination of these congregations to remain faithful to the world church led to the reversal of the Commissioned Minister policy. Several churches have called for possible replacement of the top administrative officers in that conference. In this setting of contention—created entirely by the refusal of conference administrations within the NPUC to adhere to the decisions and policies of the world church—how would a Freedman presidency turn out for the Union? Would a different candidate be more suitable for the union presidency at this time?

RECOMMENDATION

The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that delegates vote for a union president who will lead the NPUC in harmony with the world church of which it is part. Members wish to remain united to the world church and do not want to see friction introduced between northwest congregations and the world church.

Just three months after the San Antonio General Conference (GC) session, the Washington Conference executive committee created a new policy. The executive committee, led by president John Freedman, calls it a “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy.” The action expands authorities granted to commissioned ministers. In December 2015, the Gleaner published a short article describing the new policy. The Council of Adventist pastors has prepared a comparison of the article announcing the policy to official Adventist documents. (The Gleaner is the union paper which serves the North Pacific Union Conference. The NPUC consists of Seventh-day Adventists in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Upper Columbia, and Washington Conferences.)

Our analysis below reviews the Gleaner article and reacts to it. It compares the policy as described in the news article with authoritative church documents. It is formatted into two columns for easy comparison.

Seventh-day Adventists throughout the NPUC have an interest in Washington’s wrong policy. The Conference should act in harmony with the global practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The creation of the Washington policy so soon after the GC vote shows movement independent of the world church. The example offered by Washington’s policy opened the way for similar policies by Oregon and Upper Columbia Conferences. It created a regional island of resistance to world church policy. (Upper Columbia Conference adopted its policy March 29 but rescinded it on August 20 after several churches called for a special constituency session.)

Since the time when Washington Conference voted its policy, the NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, has nominated Washington Conference president John Freedman to serve as the new president of North Pacific Union Conference. The NPUC constituency will meet and vote on September 25, 2016.

How we would rejoice if North American Division Unions and Conferences would simply work together with the world church and cease from actions which attempt to bypass its decisions!

To read the comparison, CLICK HERE: Analysis of Washington Conference “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy”


Previous and specifically related articles include:

CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

CM Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church

CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action

Laypeople Speak Out on UCC CM Policy

UCC Rescinds Commissioned Minister Policy

Text: Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy

The Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, comprised of churches from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, released the following statement today, which we reproduce here without comment (the original material is located at the following link: http://uccsda.org/News/news20160722):

A Statement On Mission

by Paul Hoover

SPOKANE, Wash., July 22, 2016 – Our Seventh-day Adventist mission is to go to every nation, language and people group with the good news of Jesus Christ and His imminent return. And, our desire within the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) is to encourage each of our members to use their spiritual gifts toward the fulfillment of this mission.

With this goal in mind, our Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee voted a revised Commissioned Minister Policy in March 2016 that underscored the equal calling of men and women pastors. This vote was taken after significant dialogue with our conference pastors and Executive Committee members who represent our conference members.

Unfortunately, the new policy created significant concern among some of our members who felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers. Our conference leadership received notification from seven churches that revealed intentions to request a special constituency session, permitted in our constitution under certain conditions, if the policy were not reversed. When it became evident to us that rising contention among some of our membership had begun to overshadow our focus on mission, we determined to revisit the policy.

Therefore, following a lengthy dialogue during our Executive Committee meeting on July 19, 2016, the committee voted to rescind the recently voted UCC Commissioned Minister Policy. We will continue to use the Church Manual and North American Division policy (referenced below) for our commissioned pastors, in the hope that we can focus more intently on mission.

We understand the diverse reactions this latest decision will invoke throughout our conference and beyond, but we remain committed to affirming the spiritual gifts of each of our pastors—men and women. We will foster an intentional dialogue with our pastors and churches to correct any misunderstandings and strengthen unity of purpose within our common mission.

The Upper Columbia Conference will use the North American Division and Church Manual:

NAD Working Policy 2015-2016
L 32 Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Positions—Role and Status
L 32 10 Authorized Ministerial Functions

1. A commissioned minister is authorized by the conference to perform substantially all the religious functions within the scope of the tenets and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the members in the church or churches to which the minister is assigned and elected as a church elder. A commissioned minister who serves as an institutional chaplain, and has been ordained as a church elder, may also perform these functions for persons served by the institution. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a church Uniting churches Ordaining local elders and deacons

2. A commissioned minister may perform wedding or baptismal ceremonies outside of his/her pastoral district if authorized to do so by the conference president. If the ceremony is to be conducted in the territory of another conference, it will require the approval of both conference presidents.

© 1998–2012 Upper Columbia Conference. All rights reserved.