We have become aware of two very interesting articles written by Seventh-day Adventist laypeople. These articles outline their concerns with the Upper Columbia Conference’s Commissioned Minister policy. These are offsite links:

Interview with Upper Columbia Conference church member. An interview with UCC member Alyce Ispirescu about the Commissioned Minister policy.

Adventist Laymen Call for Special Session of UCC. Article by UCC member Belinda Lowry.

It is always good to pay close attention to what our church members are thinking. These members are not letting themselves be run over; they are standing firm in the path. What will happen?

At the end of March, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee voted a “Commissioned Minister Policy” which exceeded its authority and placed it out of harmony with the world church. That action sets an example of insubordination toward the world church.

The action of the committee has led to heart searching and concern. Some UCC churches are petitioning their conference to hold a special constituency session to turn back the “Commissioned Minister Policy.” This article explores some of the reasons why the action of the committee is faulty and why the laypeople are on the move. We encourage readers to consider the dilemma that the action by the executive committee has created.

Church members across the North American Division want to support their world church, but action being taken by some conferences is impacting confidence in local leadership. Is there a clear basis for members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to hold their local leaders accountable? Do local conferences have authority to create “Commissioned Minister Policies” that contradict the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Do local conferences have authority to unilaterally add to the authorities given to the commissioned minister?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

In the second in CAP’s series of articles on the Commissioned Minister policy wrongly voted by the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee on March 29, 2016, we chart differences between the policy of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, as indicated in the current edition of the Church Manual and NAD and GC Working Policy, and the UCC. When placed side-by-side, it becomes very clear that the UCC executive committee has exceeded its authority and placed itself in opposition to the practice of the world church. This helps explain why some UCC churches are now calling for a special session of the Upper Columbia Conference constituency to meet to reverse the policy.

cmc2-chart-image

Three conferences (Oregon, Washington, and Upper Columbia conferences in the North Pacific Union in the North American Division) have currently implemented the incorrect policy in some form. Seventh-day Adventists who respect the decisions of their world church and long to work in unity with brother and sister members around the world, are asking questions about the strange transference of duties and responsibilities of the ordained minister to the commissioned minister. The new policies even permit the ordination of local church elders by commissioned ministers.

The Council of Adventist Pastors has been led to provide documentation and analysis of these developments so that church members are able to make informed decisions regarding right and wrong practice, and to help maintain transparency and accountability for church leaders. We invite Seventh-day Adventists to read and widely circulate these materials.

CLICK HERE: Commissioned Minister Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church.

Since the July 8, 2015 General Conference vote in which delegates gathered from around the world and rejected the proposal to let division executive committees determine for themselves whether or not to ordain women to the gospel ministry, some entities have shown open disregard toward the world church. For example, Washington, Oregon, and Upper Columbia Conference executive committees have voted unilaterally to expand the commissioned minister credential in those conferences granting to bearers authorities nearly identical to the ordained minister credential.

The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) has prepared a series of articles outlining how these voted actions place these conferences in conflict with their world church. We will show how actions taken by conference executive committees in some cases exactly contradict the Church Manual and the Working Policies of the Church. We will share responses by church members to the incorrect actions of conference executive committees. Most of the articles will focus on the Upper Columbia Conference as providing a concrete case, but much will be applicable in Oregon, Washington, and other conferences where similar policies and practices are surfacing.

The first article clarifies what a commissioned minister is. Some have been seeking to fill the term with new meaning. This brief article shares actual General conference Working Policy material clearly explaining the role of the commissioned minister. This with the series of following articles is imperative reading for you if you hold your membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a conference or union where local leadership is working in contradiction of the spirit of the decisions made in the 2015 San Antonio General conference Session.

CLICK HERE: Commissioned Minister Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

On March 29, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference executive committee voted, 11-5, within the territory of that conference, to treat the commissioned minister credential identically to the ordained credential in almost every respect. However, it is not within the prerogative of a conference to create, in essence, a new credential without General Conference permission. Any such behavior exceeds the authority vested in a conference by the world church. Furthermore, the voted policy contradicts the Church Manual voted by the world church. Can each conference have its own separate Church Manual? Will this behavior help the world church press together? If a conference can disregard the policy of the General Conference, why cannot a local church disregard the policy of the local conference?

The Upper Columbia Conference is part of the North Pacific Union, which is part of the North American Division.

This post will be updated.

Delegates to the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference have refused to recognize the validity of a woman serving as an ordained minister three times (1990, 1995, 2015). By definition the Working Policy of the church disallows that a woman can legitimately serve as a conference president. And yet the Adventist Review, a publication representing the world church, published an article on February 20, 2016 identifying Ms. Sandra Roberts as “the first woman conference president.” Whether intended or not, the editors of the Adventist Review with this article are contributing to the establishment of an alternate line of reality. Ms. Roberts is recognized by neither the General Conference nor by many Adventist members as the president of the Southeastern California Conference.

The General Conference requires unions and conferences of the world church to adhere to the Working Policy and to the wording in bold print in the model Constitution and Bylaws provided. That text reads “President: The president, who shall be an ordained minister of experience, is the first officer and shall report to the executive committee of the conference in consultation with the secretary and the treasurer/chief financial officer” (General Conference Working Policy, 2011-2012 ed., pp. 181, 182). This bold print wording is required text. Unions and conferences have no authority to act in contradiction to it.

On October 27, 2013, the Southeastern California Conference “elected” Ms. Roberts to the office of president over that conference. Those particulars are discussed here: http://ordinationtruth.com/2013/10/27/secc-elects-woman-president/. The General Conference is bound by the voted policies of the church, and in publishing the Adventist Yearbook which lists ordained ministers and leadership data for conferences, of necessity left the officer slot for president blank for Southeastern.

On to the present matter. The Weniger Society voted to offer an award to Sandra Roberts because she was the “first female conference president.” Andrew McChesney, news editor for the Adventist Review (a publication of the General Conference), reported on the Weniger awards, and identified Ms. Roberts in print as “the first female conference president.” Yes, this is the same “president” who presided at a post-San Antonio “ordination” of a woman on December 19, 2015:

SECC Insub-Ordination from CAP on Vimeo.

The Review has no obligation to report the issuance of an award by Weniger Society based on a false premise, and certainly no business contradicting the voted position of the church. Adventists have phoned the Review and sought to post corrections to the article only to have the comments deleted without being posted. If not corrected, the article will contribute to the establishment of an alternate reality in which in spite of the refusal of the General Conference in session to approve the ordination of women, the legitimacy of this unbiblical practice is established through insubordination.

The Review article is seen at this link:

http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story3722-weniger-society-honors-branson-lemon-and-roberts

As the publication of record, this article in the Review cannot be permitted to stand as it is. The Council of Adventist Pastors asks that the article be withdrawn from publication.

If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization. All who desire the cooperation of the heavenly messengers must work in unison with them. Those who have the unction from on high will in all their efforts encourage order, discipline, and union of action, and then the angels of God can cooperate with them. But never, never will these heavenly messengers place their endorsement upon irregularity, disorganization, and disorder. All these evils are the result of Satan’s efforts to weaken our forces, to destroy our courage, and prevent successful action (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26).

The Bible says, “A bishop [elder] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable,able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV). The New Testament church had no office of woman elder. This is a point of reform that will help the church come back onto Bible ground and advance in unity. May God guide all and help all to work together on His plan.

In defiance of the world church, the Southeastern California Conference on Dec. 19, 2015 “ordained” a woman

On July 8, 2015, the Seventh-day Adventist Church held its General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Thousands of delegates from the world church gathered for Spirit-led collective decision-making. The Church voted at that time NOT to change its unified global practice of only permitting the ordination of spiritually qualified men to the gospel ministry–a decision binding upon the whole church. Nevertheless, on December 19, 2015, in the North American Division (NAD), with the approval of the Pacific Union Conference (PUC), the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) held a service “ordaining” a woman to the gospel ministry. NAD, PUC, and SECC are all subunits of the world church and have only a limited, delegated authority to act. This short video includes excerpts from the Dec. 19 Insub-Ordination service of the SECC.

It was revealed today that the Pacific Union executive committee voted September 9, 2015 to reaffirm its 2012 decision to ordain women to positions of pastoral leadership in spite of the July 9 decision of the 2015 General Conference session. That decision voted by the majority of delegates of the world church strongly denied independent action to ordain women to positions of ordained pastoral ministry by Divisions, Unions, and Conferences.

According to the Pacific Union Recorder,

“The committee pledged its support for its female pastors and said it would continue to abide by the union constituency’s 2012 mandate to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.’ The committee also asked the union officers in collaboration with the union communication department, to craft a strong statement in support of women clergy and to create a comprehensive strategy for educating local church members about the practical implications of the 2012 Pacific Union and 2015 General Conference votes, as well as church structure and authority” (“Pacific Union Executive Committee Pledges Support for Women Pastors,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 34).

The 2012 action was in contradiction to world church policy then. Our world church president pled earnestly with those assembled at that constituency meeting to avoid acting in opposition to the world church, and humbly stated that the Union’s contemplated unilateral action could lead to grave consequences.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church requires the Constitution and Bylaws of Unions and Conferences to conform to model documents included in General Conference working policy. These documents do not permit unions or conferences to ordain women to positions of ordained minister, a role biblically and via denominational policy, reserved to spiritually qualified males. Nevertheless, the “Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee and Officers”

“views full participation and recognition of women in pastoral ministry as vitally important for Spirit-filled ministry within our territory, and we will continue to abide by the 2012 mandate of our constituency to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender’” (“A Pledge of Support for Women in Ministry,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36, http://pacificunionrecorder.adventistfaith.org/issue/117/16/2294).

“The Holy Spirit gifts people of every age, gender, and ethnic background according to His purposes, and we encourage women of all ages and backgrounds who feel called to ministry to answer, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10). We are committed to supporting women in every aspect of ministry and church leadership, whether they are licensed, commissioned, or ordained” (Ibid.).

But the Pacific Union 2012 constituency decision exceeded the authority granted by the Seventh-day Adventist world church to that Union. Just as unions have no authority to create independent belief statements or unilaterally craft local standards for baptism, neither has the world church at any time granted unions authority to set their own qualifications for ordination to pastoral ministry. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ministerial ordination carries worldwide authority. But the Pacific Union says it will embark upon a campaign to “educate” its members about what the executive committee wants the July 9 world church decision to mean.

Pacific Union leaders “rejoice in the opportunity to share in this great work, and we reassert our support for women in ministry in the strongest possible terms” (Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36). But again, the Pacific Union executive committee is conflating the phrase “women in ministry” with the idea of “women’s ordination.” Women can and are serving the Lord Jesus in ministry in numerous ways all across the church, and without trespassing into roles which Scripture and thousands of years of practice have clearly reserved to spiritually qualified males.

Reaction from the Pacific Union is starting to come in. Stephen Bohr, Fresno Seventh-day Adventist Church, Central California Conference, writes

“It was with deep sadness that I saw that the PUC Executive Committee voted on September 9 to openly and defiantly rebel against God’s will as expressed by the world church in San Antonio. The fact that the PUC vote comes immediately before the October 7-14 Annual Council makes one wonder whether the PUC Executive Committee is daring the GC Executive Committee to do something about their rebellious decision. A mere verbal rebuke by the Annual Council will accomplish nothing. The question is: Will the Pacific Union’s money prevail, as it has done in the past, or will the GC Executive Committee apply the painful discipline? Let’s pray that our leaders will have the courage to apply the necessary discipline no matter the cost.”

We concur with Pr. Bohr. In San Antonio the church spoke. But these September 2015 actions of the Pacific Union are congregationalism writ large.

Is the Pacific Union its own independent church?

The current North American Division president, Dan Jackson, has not succeeded in bringing the Pacific or Columbia Unions into alignment with the world church. Leadership is needed in the top officers of the North American Division and in the Pacific Union and its executive committee that will operate in harmony with the world church.

Other Unions and units, including Columbia Union, Norwegian Union, Swedish Union, Netherlands Union, Northern California Conference, and Southeastern California Conference presently stand in opposition to the Working Policy of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, some on questions of ordination, others at the question of homosexual practice. The Council of Adventist Pastors encourages church members to much prayer for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at this time. We encourage those called to leadership to engage in decided action at this 2015 Annual Council session to fully meet the crisis created by not only the Pacific Union’s voted action of overt rebellion, but the voted actions of these other bodies.

Leadership must meet this challenge at this time. Pastors and workers who have supported the General Conference vote are on the point of being marginalized and could face removal from employ. Members who have supported the General conference decision now face a choice between local rebellion or fidelity to the mission of the world church. The crisis is come. Nevertheless, the promise is “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 380).

By Wayne Kablanow

On September 21 CAP reported on the Norwegian Union and its announcement that it is proceeding in an attempt to create a single credential for men and women, placing both sexes in positions of leadership equal to those of spiritually qualified ordained males. But we did not at that time report on similar actions about the same time by Danish and Swedish Unions.

The Danish Union stated that

“In the future DUChC will only use one term and one credential: “pastor” for both men and women who successfully have completed the intern-period” (Equality and Ordination, Danish Union of Seventh-day Adventists statement, 22 September 2015, http://www.adventist.dk/nyheder/768, accessed 2015-09-25).

Similarly, the Swedish Union decided in 2012 that it was an ethical issue to treat men and women equally, so-defined that role-differentiation is rejected. The Swedish Church has set up a Task Force that has already met twice, working to implement their vision of equality in contrast to the vision of equality held by the world church (http://www.adventist.se/artikel/4277/vagen-framat-efter-ordinationsbeslutet.aspx). The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the concept of gender-specific roles, and authorizes only the ordination of qualified males to position as ordained minister.

Features in common in the actions by Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden Unions include their rejection of role differentiation along with the creation of new unisex credentials which abandon the concept of ordination as practiced by the Adventist Church. What is being attempted is to designate workers who before had been titled as “ordained,” just “pastors” in the new arrangement. This is similar to the path taken by advocates of women’s ordination in North America when the “commissioned” credential was created.

The Council of Adventist Pastors, a North American group of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, not only finds Bible evidence for the practice of ordination persuasive, but also evidence found in the writings of Ellen G. White. Some examples of this are seen in her book Acts of the Apostles, such as the following:

The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95).

A council with representatives from the churches, very much like a General Conference session in which all these Unions were indeed represented, was to gather and see what solution the guidance of the Holy Spirit would lead to for the whole of the church. The practice of ordination is also a part of the divine plan:

God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.

Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God (Ibid., pp. 161, 162).

God invested His church with special authority. We seek to work together in unity. But

There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God (Ibid., p. 163).

In San Antonio the Church employed this special authority to reach a decision for the good of the entire church. We do not deny that the general feeling in Scandinavian culture is in disagreement with the position of the representatives of the world church. However, we believe that attempts to create one-sex credentials in Scandinavia and to sidestep the decision of combined representatives of the world church, are misguided and unfair to the world church. In every region, the church is called to work in harmony with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the whole body. God’s agents in the form of His ordained local workers, are to uphold a Biblical view of equality and complementarity rather than one that is captive to the culture locally. The teachings of Scripture transcend culture, and our pastors wherever they are worldwide are called to sustain the agreed understanding of the church.

The church must be faithful to its Lord Jesus and remain countercultural, even if the cultural understanding of most people in a place is dominated by unbiblical teachings. Seventh-day Adventists are people who are willing to do this. We worship on Sabbath rather than the culturally-approved Sunday. We reject the teaching of the naturally immortal soul even though most other Christian bodies teach the opposite.

The world church has repeatedly turned down women’s ordination initiatives at its highest levels. If these units wish to continue in represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that region, they are duty-bound to work in harmony with the world church. The present attempt to proceed on a pathway the world church has rejected (regional determination of ordination practice) should cease.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE GENERAL CONFERENCE DOCUMENT: Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry


Prior to the August 19 North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Executive Committee meeting, the General Conference Secretariat released a document entitled, “Unions and the Ordination to the Gospel Ministry: Brief Summary and Comprehensive Working Policy Explanation.” General Conference President Ted N. C. Wilson wrote to division presidents to explain its purpose.

In his accompanying letter, he states, “The document is provided since there have been some who have proposed the idea that unions have the full prerogative to decide about all aspects of ordination including criteria. As the GC Secretariat document shows, the authority for the unions to make decisions about the approval process for ordination candidates is delegated by the GC Executive Committee and is limited to that review and approval process. The authority for setting the criteria for ordination is not delegated since that is the purview of the world church as outlined in GC WP L 35 and voted on by world representation at Annual Council.”

The letter’s tone is clear and positive. Each division president is requested to forward the material promptly to their respective division officers and to all union presidents. We are grateful to God for the work of responsible leadership at our General Conference to correct a misunderstanding regarding the authority of unions that has created confusion and disunity.

The Secretariat document is a reminder of the principle of delegated authority. Workers across the global field operate under this plan. Members from every part of the world are represented at the GC Session, and this authority is delegated to the elected GC Executive Committee. One of the responsibilities of the GC President as Executive Committee Chair is to help the various units of the church to work together harmoniously according to the authority vested in them by the world body.

We appreciate the work of the Secretariat and the leadership of Elder Wilson and all of our leaders at the GC in producing this wise and well researched policy and historical review document to bring clarification, correction and encouragement to the Church. The clarification should aid units of the church which have erred to make immediate substantive changes so as to come into harmony with the divinely-led vote July 8 in San Antonio. At the General Conference Session in San Antonio, the Church in session agreed with the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist practice of appointing only qualified male spiritual leaders as ordained clergy and as presidents of conferences, unions, and divisions.