Diversity failed in the Mennonite Church USA on December 31, 2017 when its largest group, the Lancaster Conference, left the denomination over same-sex “marriage.” The Lancaster Conference opposes same-sex “marriage” as unbiblical.

The “official” Mennonite Church USA definition of marriage continues to affirm “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 19, Marriage, http://mennoniteusa.org/confession-of-faith/marriage/, accessed 2018-01-04). However, the Mennonite Council has encouraged “full inclusion” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church since 1976.

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Obergefell v. Hodges, that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling invalidated same-sex marriage bans in individual states. That decision was followed almost immediately by the Mennonite Church USA Biennial Convention, held June 30-July 5, 2015.

Delegates at that meeting voted the following resolution:

“The ways in which we have engaged the decades-long conflict in the church over issues related to human sexuality have diverted us from our central mission, divided us from each other and damaged the name of Christ in the world. While acknowledging different interpretations, we affirm the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture as an essential part of our collective discernment. We also affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within a marriage covenant, and fidelity for all people, and we acknowledge that there is currently not consensus within Mennonite Church USA on whether it is appropriate to bless Christians who are in same-sex covenanted unions. Because God has called us to seek peace and unity as together we discern and seek wisdom on these matters, we call on all those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions” (http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ForbearanceResolution.pdf, accessed 2018-02-04).

Mennonite Universities had not remained neutral. “Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, both schools affiliated MC USA, adopted policies to protect faculty in same-sex relationships in 2015” (“Biggest Mennonite Conference Leaves Denomination,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/biggest-mennonite-conference-leaves-denomination.html,” accessed 2018-01-04).

Lancaster Conference Mennonites describe what happened:

“At its annual conference in Kansas City earlier this summer, Mennonite Church USA attempted to stake out a compromise position on the role of homosexuals within the church.

“At that meeting, delegates affirmed membership guidelines that disallow same-sex marriage while at the same time asking that individual churches be allowed to dialogue, discuss and pray on the issue. Mennonite Church USA also placed a four-year moratorium on further discussion.

“The Lancaster conference held eight regional meetings with leaders and members to discuss options after July. More than 1,800 people attended those meetings” (http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-conference-votes-to-leave-mennonite-church-usa/article_06b9765a-8f94-11e5-aa0c-1f0717d08474.html, accessed 2018-01-04).

A two-year period of discernment soon began, and when the split became effective at the last day of 2017, more than 180 churches had joined with the Lancaster Conference in leaving the Mennonite Church USA.

The same-sex “marriage” debate of the last two decades has left a trail of shattered denominations. Numerous Christian bodies have refused to sustain the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexual practice is sin, and that authentic marriage is only between a man and a woman. Instead, denominational bodies have repeatedly voted themselves exempt from two thousand years of Christian understanding and then sought to suppress their brethren upholding Scriptural views.

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.

The consecration of practicing homosexual Gene Robinson to the office of bishop proved the final straw leading to the realignment of the Anglican Church. Now, the Western Jurisdiction (composed of Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho, Yellowstone, California-Nevada, California-Pacific, Desert Southwest, and Rocky Mountain conferences) of the United Methodist Church, has appointed ordained woman pastor Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian, to bishop. The office of bishop is the top leadership position that may be held in the United Methodist Church.

Oliveto, a woman, is “married” to Robin Ridenour, a woman. She was voted to be bishop on July 15, 2016 by delegates of the Western Jurisdiction. Her consecration service may be viewed here:


[The charge to Oliveto to be faithful begins about timestamp 13:15, laying on of hands and consecration 25:00, and at 28:10 her introduction as bishop.]

Oliveto wrote a song called “Pope Crush” she posted on the internet, in which she claims to be very taken by the Pope, among other things.

Response to this extraordinary development was not long in coming. Pastor Rob Renfroe responded with a stern warning and appeal, speaking of schism less than one minute into his eight minute presentation. Renfroe is a leading voice for Methodists still seeking to hold Scripture authoritative.

After describing several voted statements of non-compliance, Renfroe says, “This is now on a systemic level. This is mass rebellion within the church, and no one seems willing or able to hold them accountable.” He is probably right when he says, “This cannot be glossed over with happy words.” Pastor Renfroe urges faithful Methodists to become members of a new organization called the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

The United Methodist Church seems headed for separation. Many Methodist leaders are acting in violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline and appear unable to muster the clarity and decision necessary to save their church from schism.

As Adventists we share much with the Methodists, and so remain alert to developments there. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church see the nature of the present crisis in our Church, and act with decision? Organizational disintegration is now occurring in our own ranks. Many Adventist conferences, unions, and unions of churches are acting out voted decisions of insubordination. The decision of the General Conference in San Antonio to refuse to make way for women’s ordination is being set aside for local preference. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church take needful action this year? Or will our own leaders fail in this moment of crisis?

Let us pray earnestly for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as Annual Council approaches in less than two months.

The article linked to by this post is a case study, made up of several timelines, showing the process of change in TEC (The Episcopal Church) which led them to their today where they are ordaining practicing homosexuals. The material is extensive. It covers TEC from before the ordination of women, into 2016 and the development of present LGBTQ issues in that church. TEC is not the SDA Church, but there are many useful things to learn from the sequence of developments there. If we are careful, we will not repeat the mistakes of others, no matter how well meaning they were so many years ago. We are sure that few Episcopalians in 1970 imagined where fateful decisions made along the way would lead their church in 2016!

LINK TO FEATURED ARTICLE:
http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/liberation-theology-episcopal-church-usa-1970-2016/


1: Who is Leaving?
2: What is the Crossroads?
3: How to Remain Faithful?
4: Global Anglican response to DNW?
5: Episcopal Oversight at St. Johns
6: J.I. Packer on Same-Sex Blessing
7: J.I. Packer on First Order Issues
8: Implications for the Church
9: The Future of the Church
10: Who is Leaving Who?

The times in which we live are tumultuous. It can be useful to see how other Christian groups are reacting to challenges similar to those the Seventh-day Adventist Church faces. In that spirit we link here to 10 short videos on Anglican realignment.

Many people think of Anglicans as being a very liberal denomination. However, a remarkable thing has happened in recent years. Within Anglicanism there has been a remarkable resistance to same-sex marriage and a retreat from women’s ordination. The videos below outline developments in that conflict as Anglicans who wished to remain faithful to what they always believed resisted the destructive movement toward gay marriage taken by the North American section of their church. The videos are short, about eight minutes each. Some include interview segments with J.I. Packer.

Although Adventists would not agree in every respect with key parts of the Anglican view, we appreciate the clarity of these resisters that same-sex marriage is alien to the gospel. The videos include several graphic illustrations helping visualize what was happening in the Anglican Realignment. CAP finds especially interesting the strong desire these Anglicans have to be faithful to the truth as they understand it and to work with their world church, even as they struggled with the wrongly-moving North American section of their church.

During a panel discussion, a segment of Dr. Mario Veloso explains the history behind women elders. The question has never been directly voted at a General Conference session and has been carried forward in outside of common church procedure. NOTE: View especially at time stamp 46.56 – 52:16.

This presentation offers those details, which most Seventh-day Adventist church members have never heard.

Pastor Ron Woolsey came out from an unchristian lifestyle to follow Jesus. Previously involved in homosexuality, Woolsey considers how prefixing our Christianity can clarify or bring distortion to our views. Woolsey looks with a careful eye at the recently released (2015) Andrews University statement on homosexuality. According to Woolsey, significant weaknesses in the statement “open the door to compromise with the gay agenda.”

CLICK HERE TO READ WOOLSEY’S ARTICLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very recently we received this video produced by Michael McCaffrey. McCaffrey examines closely important parallels between the rebellion of Korah and the present attempt to introduce women’s ordination. You might think “I’ve read this before,” but this is a very powerful presentation not only on this point, but also in terms of God’s design. Is there a profound parallel between these two “movements,” and more, what is the significance of Aaron’s Rod that budded?

The following seven links contain the FULL LENGTH presentation of Adventist women on women’s ordination.

Part 1: Culture versus the Bible (Length 8:33):

Part 2: Terms and Conditions (Length 6:06):

Part 3: Women’s Roles (Length 5:59):

Part 4: Effects of the Women’s Rights Movement (Length 8:02):

Part 5: Cooperation versus Competition (Length 3:41):

Part 6: Unity is in Truth (Length 5:04):

Part 7: God’s Word Our Standard (Length 5:55):