No organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists in China. Nevertheless, there is news from the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, Chinese Union Mission field, relating to women’s ordination. Approximately two dozen women workers there had been assigned a status of “ordained” on the basis of Chinese government rules. However, it is reported that those women who had received “ordained” credentials from the Chinese government have voluntarily turned them in and received Commissioned minister credentials in their place.

The main reason women are more prominent in ministry in China is because men are expected to work, even on Sabbath, while women have more freedom to be at home. This results in more flexibility for women to do the work of ministry. Neither the Bible nor the Adventist Church approve of secular labor during the Sabbath.

Men who do not work are considered suspect unless they are ordained by the Three-Self Movement. If they receive state-sponsored ordination they are monitored and controlled by the Chinese government. It is difficult for men to become pastor of a house church (secret congregations which are not recognized by the government) unless the men are very old and are retired. Thus women fill the gap left by men’s general unavailability for the work of ministry in this unique field.

Women in unusual situations may step in to fill a void, but God’s plan is for men to assume the spiritual leadership role (1 Timothy 2:9-13; 3:2; Titus 1:5). Although these Adventist women had been “ordained” in China in the past, they have decided to accept replacement of their ordination credential with the commissioned minister credential. One such female worker said, “It isn’t about titles over here. It’s about getting the work done! We don’t want any distractions from ministry and this really isn’t even an issue over here.”

In San Antonio, Texas, at the 2015 General Conference session, the assembled delegates of the world church voted not to permit Divisions to make independent provision for the ordination of women in their fields. The Seventh-day Adventist Church maintains a unified world practice of appointing spiritually-qualified men to congregational leadership. World practice should not be based on side-cases and anomalous situations. Still, the decision of these workers is a step forward for unity in the world church.

We will update this article with corrections and added information as it becomes available.

The Gleaner is the Union paper of the North Pacific Union in the North American Division, and is funded by Seventh-day Adventists in conferences in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The March 2017 Gleaner carried an editorial penned by editor Steve Vistaunet on page 4 titled “Protest.”

The editor’s 12 paragraphs come in three segments. The first describes his protest against his mother’s “totalitarian” decisions when he was four years old. But “some protests are far more worthy,” and “confront us with moral choices that cannot be compromised.”

And so, in the next segment he quotes from Ellen White’s discussion of the protest of the princes, who exclaim, “If we must choose between the Holy Scriptures of God and the old errors of the church, we should reject the former.” Vistaunet adds, “Rejecting compromise, the princes instead drafted a solemn response that declared they would not ‘consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to his Word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of souls.'”

These lines prepare the reader for the final segment:

“Union conference presidents in North America have been summoned by world church leaders to seek a way through a maze of principles, politics, and policies. The health of our collective unity hangs in the balance. What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”

The author concludes desiring that the Church “move beyond the status-quo and be fully re-engaged with our Father’s business.”

Later in the same Gleaner we find another article featuring an interview with the new NPUC president, titled “John Freedman: A Prayerful Journey” (pp. 8-11). (Freedman, while chairman of the Washington Conference executive committee spearheaded that Conference’s adoption of its present non-compliant commissioned minister policy). Freedman says this about the NAD stance toward our world church:

“I’m working closely with union presidents from around the North American Division (NAD) and our NAD leadership to determine how we can most effectively support our world church structure. We had a thoughtful meeting with world leaders on January 19. We hope to draft our vision for a suggested way forward to deal productively with the issues of governance that will be reviewed by the NAD administration and approved by the NAD executive committee before being presented to General Conference officers. These are important steps. Our church is not designed to be run by a few people at any level. It is a collective effort involving the priesthood of all believers in doing God’s will in every corner of our world. I hope we’ll soon be able to move beyond these current concerns so that all of us—male, female, young and old—can fully be about our Father’s business” (p. 11).

Wait a moment! It is because the church is not “to be run by a few people at any level” that the Church has addressed the question as it has. The spirit of the women’s ordination faction put itself on display in unilateral action by conferences and unions in North America which disregarded the previous decisions of the church. And so, the world church engaged in a study process and handed the ordination question—yet again—to thousands of delegates to the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session.

This was the third time that delegates to our highest earthly decision-making body have been asked to address questions whose outcome would open or close the door for women to be ordained. On those three occasions, the answer has been No, No, and No, respectively.

Can anyone call to mind any topic the world church has addressed so many times? No comparable issue has been brought before so many Adventists in the history of the Church, or received so consistent an answer. God has spoken to His people, first in the Scriptures, and then patiently, in session after session of the General Conference.

If we would speak of decisions impacting the whole body made by but a few people, we need look no farther than to the insubordinate decisions of conferences and unions and executive committees which have defied their God and His Church.

God has through the body given the same decision again and again: No to the practice of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

The “governance issues” Freedman speaks of are not complicated. If the ordination of women was insubordinate before San Antonio, afterward, it is positively rebellious. Leadership in the North American Division is in rebellion. If these leaders wish to advance with mission and “move beyond” these concerns, the only way to do so is to accept the decision of the world church: No to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Rather than inciting NAD leaders to rebel against their world church, or insinuating that our General Conference leadership’s humble request to these entities to respect the decisions of the world church is equivalent to the Papal suppression of truth and religious liberty, the Gleaner editor and union leaders should submit their contrarian agenda to the decision of the body. Rather than drawing a line of conscience in the sand and claiming the mantle of heroic progressives, won’t you respect the combined decision of delegates gathered from across the globe you are called and conscientiously bound to uphold?

The NPUC leadership, if these two articles offer any indication, is bent on pushing the women’s ordination agenda even to the point of fracturing the Church. What extraordinary shame.

It will not stand.


NOTE: The Gleaner editorial, “Protest” is available online at http://gleanernow.com/news/2017/03/protest. The interview of John Freedman from which we quote can be read at: http://gleanernow.com/feature/john-freedman. We also noticed that the editor asked Freedman “How have you addressed the concerns of your Northwest constituents about these issues, and that the president made no reply about his constituents but that he wanted them to “move beyond these current concerns.” The reply is not surprising and is consistent with the tone of the constituency meeting which elected Freedman, in which concerns about his nomination as union president were repeatedly suppressed.

According to reports, leaders of the Trans-European Division (TED) met on February 15 “to draft a formal response” to the General Conference’ (GC) process for reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016. The TED document claims to speak for Adventist members of that Division and calls for the issuance of a single credential for ministers. The requested change would contradict three General Conference session level votes (1990, 1995, 2015) which refused to open the way for women’s ordination to the gospel ministry. Since the beginning of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the denomination has never approved the ordination of women.

Some European leaders are determined to practice the ordination of women in contradiction to their brothers and sisters in the world church. Some European Conferences even accept practicing gay and lesbian persons engaged in same-sex sin into church membership. Adventists have never accepted these two teachings as being valid biblical practices. We are a world church, not a regional European Church endorsing errant cultural practices.

The TED report on this meeting emphasized the “very complex and challenging situation the Church finds itself facing in secularized Europe.” TED leaders highlighted alleged legal demands by European secular governments. But God’s Church is not servant of the secular but of the Creator. Demands, whether made by a vast empire or by a small state, if they conflict with Scripture truth, cannot be determinative for us. The Church is called to carry forward a global countercultural witness. Europe is not an exception.

Many members in Europe do not accept that the Church must conform to state expectations. Adventists in Europe who have contacted us feel betrayed by those in leadership who have become entangled in culture. God’s Church in Europe is at risk of cultural captivity. We are a world church called to live by Bible-based rather than culturally-accommodating teachings and lifestyle practices.

The voted TED document affirmed that it would abide by decisions made by the General Conference in session, but claimed that decisions made at the General Conference level of administration were always to be carried out in specific regional settings. Are TED leaders saying they will refuse to work with the GC administration between sessions? Are they claiming they will obey with the right hand then emptying that claim of meeting with their left, granting to themselves right to “interpret” GC decisions “locally” in ways differing from the decisions of the world church?

At least one TED officer, Executive Secretary Audrey Andersson, correctly noted that “We cannot create a new credential ourselves, but we can recommend to the GC.” The TED committee also discussed the idea of asking that the commissioned minister credential be redefined to be equivalent to the ordained minister. Again, it is the GC which defines the authorities included in credentials. The Executive Committee of the Upper Columbia Conference in the North American Division decided on January 31, 2017 to abandon seeking a similar policy, and, on paper at least, to remain in harmony with the world church.

After decades of debate and years of study, it is not time to draft responses to GC voted actions as if women’s ordination were still under consideration. The Church has repeatedly refused to localize this question or change global practice to include the ordination of women. It has refused to surrender biblical principle to cultural imperative. It is time to work with General Conference leadership and get past this. Europeans do not know better than their world church. Being Jesus’ people of the Book is what is imperative–even in Europe.

This week will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many readers will be aware that in 2015 General Conference delegates in session voted to reject a proposal to let each division executive committee to decide for itself whether or not to make provision for the ordination of women. The world church made a global decision, the result of which was to follow the biblical practice and the from-the-beginning-of-the-Adventist-Church until now global practice of only ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders.

After the session, some elements of the church in Europe and in North America continued and increased in their defiance of the world church.

At Annual Council in October 2016 General Conference leadership brought a fair-minded proposal for reconciliation procedures to help the disobedient sections of church leadership be kept accountable and help the church draw together in united practice in harmony with the decision made by the world church. Many NAD leaders aggressively fought the proposal. Nevertheless, it passed and the reconciliation procedures are now being applied. Leaders from the General Conference will meet with North American Division Union leadership in a special meeting to be held this week on January 19. Some NAD leaders have called for special prayer for these meetings. It is a good time to pray for these meetings.

While there were numerous quite contentious comments made by NAD leaders who are advocates of WO at the meeting, The Council of Adventist Pastors thought readers might find it encouraging to recapitulate again some truth-telling comments made by faithful leaders at that meeting held three months ago. For example, Dan Houghton offered the following observations:

“I’m extremely puzzled by this discussion, and I want to speak in favor of this motion. Its seems to me that 90% of everything that’s been said has been re-litigating what happened in San Antonio. . . And I would just like to say, that there are lots of people watching this proceeding, right now, around our country, with different ideas. The question I have, Does a vote in General Conference session mean anything? Does it mean anything? We spent five years, and I don’t know how many dollars, preparing for Indianapolis, and we took a vote. And there was a vote. This is really not about women’s ordination, and cannot be; we cannot make it that. Does this Church have a unity,? And does it have an authority? I would encourage those of my brothers and sisters who I love, they’re my friends, to find a different way to express their frustration with that vote, than undermining the authority and the unity of this Church.”

Some had insinuated that the General Conference, in seeking compliance with the 2015 GC session decision, was exercising kingly power. But Dr. Clinton Wahlen in speaking from the floor contradicted that claim with facts:

“Mr. Chairman, there is a difference between local policies, and policies voted by the General Conference session. The situation before us today, is, in some important respects, unprecedented. That’s why a focused solution is needed. The events leading to non-compliance with the San Antonio vote were not accidental. A great deal of energy was expended on crafting proposals for constituency meetings to act on, and these deliberate efforts have placed some unions and conferences in non-compliance. This situation arises from deep theological convictions that have been held for a very long time. Following the vote in San Antonio, a formal appeal was made on August 17, 2015 by the GC Secretariat to each division, kindly asking every entity to come into alignment with the world church. . . The time has come to take action. I appeal to this body to choose the solution that policy already provides, and that the Secretariat’s recent Unity document suggests. Quoting B05.3, ‘Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications, including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it.’ Please hear this final appeal from Jody, a constituent of one of the non-compliant unions: ‘I feel that my local church, my conference, and my union are the ones with the kingly power. It is frustrating wanting to be unified with the GC under the layers of three uncooperative kingly powers. I want to be made whole with the world church.’ We need to consider her plea and the cry of many thousands like her.”

Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore, stated:

“I’m disappointed to hear so many references made that the issue that faced the General Conference in San Antonio is some kind of minor policy. That motion required a vote based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We spent months and years, through all kinds of committees, to get to the place where this Church could vote on that issue. At this point, the issue is no longer that issue. The issue is the unity of the church. And the unity of the church is not maintained by pluralism. If we want to try to find a way that’s painless, to keep the unity of the church, we can go down the road of pluralism, but it will be very, very costly in the end. Redemptive discipline is painful. Its patient. Its full of love. And this document, I believe, gives us the start on that. We cannot as a Church maintain our unity, and allow people who oppose the world church, to simply accomplish what they wanted by default, by the Church never addressing the issue.”

We accept the decision at San Antonio, and we believe the Church needs to move forward united. Our prayers go up for church leaders to be resolute in helping the NAD Unions come into the harmony that Jesus desires. Most members in North America want to move forward united as a world church. We are not going to ordain women to the gospel ministry, because to engage in that new practice would mean to abandon the correct understanding of Biblical interpretation that this church was founded on.

The prayers that go up this week ought not be for permission to disobey the leading of God’s Spirit but for courage to surrender a pet idea rejected by the world church at San Antonio. There remains opportunity for NAD leadership to come into harmony with the world church. For this our prayers are ascending.

The spectacle of a University Church inciting its host conference to take action to oppose its own denomination should provide insight. How does the ideology which now prevails in so many North American Adventist Universities operate in the face of a clear “No” vote by the General Conference in session? The November 9, 2016 Walla Walla University (WWUC) church board meeting with Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) administration provides just such a sample case.

During the meeting, UCC president Paul Hoover offered an illustration which has been used in defense of implementing women’s ordination in some places and not in others. According to the president, a church member from Berkeley, California, should not have to do things the way a church member from Botswana might do them.

Should people who wish to be disciples of Jesus be baptized in both cases? Should they keep the Sabbath in both cases? Should they fulfill agreements and commitments properly made in both cases? Or, should church members in Berkeley, because of a supposed advanced status be given special exemptions? Should certain agreements binding upon every other brother and sister in the world church not apply to them because they are from Berkeley?

The context of the meeting at WWUC was disagreement in the conference over the unilateral, non-compliant commissioned minister policy first implemented and then rolled back by the conference. Why was it rescinded? Was it because many “small churches” in the conference require additional “education”?

Walla Walla University Department of Theology chair Dave Thomas made a gracious offer in the meeting: “I would gladly offer the services of my department to help.”

We wonder, were Walla Walla theologians to visit insufficiently educated UCC “Botswana” churches, what kind of improved understanding might be received?

HELP FROM WALLA WALLA?
In an article published on November 17, 2016, in the Collegian, the official newspaper of Walla Walla University, Thomas previewed the kinds of ideas members might be offered in such meetings. For example, he wrote that

“The church is a new society formed on principles very different from those typically seen in the world. One of those principles is the absence of hierarchy” (Dave Thomas, Collegian, “Unity, Diversity, Discrimination and Church Politics,” p. 8).

Is there an absence of hierarchy in God’s kingdom? “Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he [Lucifer] ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35). There is a hierarchy of at least three levels in this sentence. The first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets abounds with the question of “position” and “government.” There, it is Satan who proposes a non-hierarchical government: “he [Lucifer] promised those who would enter his ranks a new and better government, under which all would enjoy freedom” (p. 40). Satan argued that angels needed no laws, “no such restraint.” Indeed, the Ten Commandments, with its prohibitions, has a hierarchical aspect. Both Old and New Testament Churches had their order and rank. While such ranking is an aspect we would not emphasize, it is a fatal overstatement to claim “absence of hierarchy.”

Dr. Thomas also writes that “Top-down power tends toward rebellion and disruption,” (Ibid.). But all actual power begins with God and can be directed nowhere else but from Deity’s infinite heights. Yet there can be no justification for any creature’s rebellion against Him.

As for ordination itself, the professor insisted that “The concept of ordination assumed by the document [the reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016] is now known to be nothing more than a tradition that crept into the Church from the Roman Empire,” (Ibid.). Someone should have told this to Jesus before “He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord’s disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry” (The Desire of Ages, p. 296). For another detailed explanation of ordination, see Acts of the Apostles, pp. 58-62.

It is interesting how different the position presently being taught in the Walla Walla theology department is from the position of the world church (and presently being taught in Botswana). Indeed, the one point in which the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) did share consensus agreed at this concept:

While all believers are called to use their spiritual gifts for ministry, the Scriptures identify certain specific leadership positions that were accompanied by the Church’s public endorsement for persons who meet the biblical qualifications (Num 11:16-17; Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9). . . Aside from the unique role of the apostles, the New Testament identifies the following categories of ordained leaders: the elder/supervising elder (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim 3:2-7; 4:14; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Pet 5:1) and the deacon (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-10). While most elders and deacons ministered in local settings, some elders were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations, which may reflect the ministry of individuals such as Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:3-4; Titus 1:5). (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6497/archives/issue-2013-1520/20-cn-study-committee-votes-consensus-statement-on-theology-of-ordination/consensus-statement, accessed 2016-11-18).

The above TOSC statement, voted on July 23, 2013, came after the committee had in its January 2013 meeting considered the presentation made by Darius Jankiewicz, “The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History,” which had espoused the theory Thomas presents as fact.

It is troubling that an erroneous view of the order of heaven is presently being taught at the University. How will this non-Adventist view of church order now being taught to WWU theology students work itself out in the field when Walla Walla theology students are assigned as ministers in churches in Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, and Montana conferences?

CONCLUSION
It is interesting how a meeting held in such a supposedly diverse university community could result in an intellectual monoculture like that manifested on the 9th of November. While some 500 persons were present at the meeting, those permitted to speak stood lockstep in their support for the non-Adventist approach to the commissioned minister credential. Still, many UCC members would decline the offered services of the WWU theology department. Most would prefer to be presented an understanding of church governance which would harmonize with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We think they would welcome a presentation from Adventist teachers who support the Bible-based teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By all means, let teachers from Botswana apply.

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

Adventist pastors who have perused the documents released by the General Conference on September 25, 2016, anticipate that readers of OrdinationTruth.com may be interested in reviewing what these documents say about the unauthorized commissioned minister credentials that have been issued in multiple conferences in the North Pacific Union since 2015. Such credentials are invalid since they carry authorities which the world church has not approved for this credential. The new GC documents support these concerns.

GENERAL CONFERENCE SAYS NEW COMMISSIONED POLICIES DIVERGE
On the first page of the document, the fourth paragraph reads as follows. Notice the last item.

Starting in 2012, however, a few unions have, in effect, claimed the right to set criteria for ordination, disregarding the 1990 GC Session action not to allow women to be ordained to gospel ministry, and the decisions of the 1995 and 2015 Sessions not to allow variances from this policy. Since the 2015 Session, some unions and conferences have diverged from GC Working Policy by discontinuing ordinations, and commissioning or licensing all new pastors; issuing ministerial licenses and/or commissioned-minister credentials or licenses to all pastors in their territories, including those previously ordained; and allowing commissioned or licensed ministers to function as ordained ministers (p. 1).

As we have carefully outlined in previous articles (SEE LINKS AT END OF THIS ARTICLE), this is the course that has been taken by Conferences in the NPUC. While the redefined commissioned credentials have not in all respects permitted function as ordained minister, in several respects they have. We understand this statement in the document as aimed directly at the illegitimate “commissioned+” credential voted into being by church administration in the regions of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

INVALID CREDENTIALING AND LICENSING PRACTICES
A section of the GC document discusses invalid practices. The document warns, “As we have seen, denominational policy results from deliberations by representatives from around the world. Ignoring what was commonly agreed upon sets a dangerous precedent in organizational terms. It also strikes a serious blow against unity” (p. 35).

In recounting the history of Adventist practice, the document compares the ordained with the commissioned credential. The Adventist Church “has consistently regarded” “ordination. . . as qualitatively different to licensing or commissioning” (Ibid.). Indeed, another paragraph directly addresses “unorthodox credentialing practices”:

What, however, of the unorthodox credentialing practices? Is it perhaps the case that the Church has not taken a position on them? As we have seen, in the absence of an agreed and stated view, organizational units could continue to act. In fact, however, these are practices about which the world Church has deliberated and pronounced, meaning that it is necessary for all to accept the decision of the wider body (Ibid.).

Credentials are a very concrete thing, and have been throughout all but the earliest years of the church organization. They reflect mutually agreed practice, and are not locally malleable. The Church has specified and defined credentials very carefully, and neither unions nor conferences may independently redefine what a credential stands for.

A FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE
Are credentials in a sense dependent upon other credentials? Credentials differentiate workers and set parameters for responsibility sets. The document makes an important point:

A statement approved by the GC Executive Committee in 1930, then embodied in GC Working Policy, sets out a foundational principle: that ‘any shadow of uncertainty in the matter of what ministerial credentials stand for in one field reflects a shadow upon all credentials, and is a matter of general denominational concern.’ Where there is any question about policy’s provisions, then, the GC Executive Committee is obliged to take an interest and reach a verdict (p. 36).

This is why the Working Policy outlines so carefully (SEE LINKS AT END OF THIS ARTICLE) the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of each distinct kind of credential. The very purpose is to make the authorities vested in each kind of credential distinct, so as to remove even “any shadow of uncertainty” over the question “of what ministerial credentials stand for.”

The Commissioned Minister policies enacted by conferences within the NPUC carry a combination of authorities from commissioned and from ordained minister credentials. They are less than ordained minister credentials in some respects, yet more than the commissioned minister credential. They, thus, are really “commissioned+” or “ordained-” credentials. As we shall next see, the General Conference has authorized no such credential.

GC MUST APPROVE MODIFIED CREDENTIALS
Where there seems valid reason to issue a modified kind of credential, provision exists for this. The Church is not inflexible. But before any such credential would be issued, prior approval must be secured from the General Conference Executive Committee. However, in the case of the commissioned minister credentials now being issued by Conferences in the North Pacific Union, this approval has not been sought.

“Organizations that have departed from Adventist practice in credentialing and licensing have done so without consulting and taking counsel—and that, too, is a departure (perhaps a more egregious one) from our established practice” (pp. 38, 39).

“While generally requiring strict adherence, it provides that local organizations can adapt, even depart from, the policies—but this requires ‘prior approval from the General Conference Executive Committee’ (B 15 10, 1). Such approval has not been granted” (p. 39).

In other words, what has been seen in the NPUC is exactly what this GC document addresses—unilateral action. This is unacceptable, and designated as such in the document.

CORRECT CREDENTIALS ESSENTIAL FOR UNITY
The document states,

The ordaining and commissioning of pastors, and the issuing of credentials and licenses, are not matters essential to salvation, but they are essential to the unity of the Church. They are also important elements of the Church’s smooth functioning as an organization: that is, they are important for mission (p. 42).

The commissioned minister credentials currently being issued by Oregon and Washington Conferences in the NPUC are invalid, for they are a hybrid credential granting authorities reserved to the ordained minister to the commissioned minister. Neither Oregon, nor Washington Conferences, nor the Union, have sought or been granted the authority to create this “commissioned+” credential. The creation of this credential has created disunity and distrust in the Union.

RESTORING TRUST
It would be a first step toward restoring trust if the executive committees of the Oregon and Washington Conferences, and the executive committee of the North Pacific Union, would act immediately to rescind and repudiate their actions creating and approving this false credential, before further embarrassing the Church in the Northwest and contributing to a situation which may lead to the dismissal of the NAD president under whose watch these errors occurred.


LINKS:

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 Misleads on Policy

Who Should be NPUC President?

NPUC Churches raise Nomination Concern

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

John freedman Elected NPUC President

General Conference Documents Prepare for Action

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.