ENC-Unity-Request-Rejected-NORUC

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Norway: Union Rejects Conference Unity Request

The Norwegian Union Conference, the administrative body for three Norwegian Conferences, has rejected an appeal from its largest conference, the East Norway Conference, to come into harmony with the votes taken at General Conference Sessions in regard to the credentialing and ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

On September 10, 2017, East Norway Conference leaders sent an official request to the Norwegian Union asking, since the GC Session of 2015 had voted not to allow various world territories to determine independently whether or not to ordain women, that the Union reverse its September 2015, and 2012 vote to issue the same credentials to both male and female pastors.

The Norwegian Union leadership rejected this request by the East Norway Conference. In the February, 2018 issue of the Norwegian Union’s magazine, Advent Nytt (page 27) (https://issuu.com/adventnytt/docs/adventnytt_2-2018/1?ff=true&e=7282235/57387157), Union leaders defended their decision to not comply with the votes of the world church.

The following is an English translation of the above article:

“The Resolution of the Union Board of 10 December 2017 Concerning Equal Treatment of Male and Female Pastors in Norway.

“The Norwegian Union Conference (NORUC) board responds as follows to the letter sent by East Norway Conference Board (ENC) 2017-09-10 and their expressed disagreement with the NORUC response to TED/GC concerning gender equality and male and female pastors. The East Norway Conference’s September letter called NORUC to reconsider how pastors are reported. NORUC was asked to return to the practice of reporting male and female pastors separately, in harmony with current credentialing practice in GC Working Policy.

“The current practice of reporting the pastors is clarified in the NORUC resolution of September 20, 2015 (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC). That reaction was a logical continuation of the 2012 NORUC decision to put on hold the ordination of male pastors in order to treat male and female pastors equally. Since the 2012 decision, the same credential has been given for both male and female pastors. To return to filling in the forms with current credentials as before would mean to accept discriminatory practices indirectly, which NORUC, with pastoral support, rejected in the 2015 decision. That resolution stated that the NORUC decision was a temporary measure: ‘Until a classification of pastors is established without a distinction based on a fundamental discrimination against female pastors.’ As a result of the NORUC resolution in 2015, no ordained or non-ordained pastors from NORUC are published in the SDA Yearbook, which uses the current categories of credentials.

“For decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has sought to find a solution to this challenge, without success. The General Conference has not accepted the NORUC and TED request to create a gender-neutral category for the classification of pastors. The GC Annual Council has full authority to comply with this request if there is desire to do so.

“Prior to the NORUC Board meeting of September 20, 2015, a draft of the resolution was sent to the Board members and to all the pastors in Norway. An anonymous poll was sent to all the pastors on the same day. Poll results showed solid support (69% of votes cast) from pastors to deviate from the current credentialing system in order to implement non-discriminatory treatment of female pastors.

“The NORUC Board feels that there has been an open and comprehensive process. Very little critical feedback has been received until the East Norway Conference letter sent two years after the NORUC decision in September 2015. To continue a discriminatory practice would send a very negative signal to our female pastors.

“The NORUC Board will ask the secretary of the organization to write an article to Advent Nytt (local Norwegian magazine) with an overview of the most important events of this case.”

Union Statistics

It should be noted that the Norwegian Union Conference has a total membership of just 4,556 members. Of the three conferences, the East Norway Conference has, by far, the largest membership in the union. See screen shot below, taken from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2016 Annual Statistical Report (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf). The report is prepared by the Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.

What do we learn from the response of the Norwegian Union to the East Norway Conference?

  1. The leadership of a Norwegian Conference, representing 63% of all Adventists in that Union, disagrees with their Union administration that has positioned itself in opposition to the General Conference. The voted action of the Norwegian Union administrators does not represent the position of the East Norway Conference. The East Norway Conference does not desire to be included in the rebellion against existing voted world church policies regarding ordination and gender.
  2. The rejection by Norwegian Union leadership of the appeal of the East Norway Conference demonstrates the application of an unfair double standard. As part of the insubordinate pro-women’s ordination faction opposing the Adventist world church, Norwegian Union leadership justifies its rebellion by claiming their stance to be a matter of conscience. But when their own Norwegian Adventists express differing convictions, they trample those convictions. So, are they truly concerned for conscience?

    Norwegian Union leadership is actively participating in the current attempt to reallocate world church authority from the General Conference to the unions. The Norwegian Union vote unilaterally set their own ordination and credentialing criteria for themselves. Then they refuse to consider their own East Norway Conferences’ desire to work in unity with their Church! East Norway Conference seeks harmony. Its Union suppresses and prevents this. The Norwegian Union is resisting Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.

  3. The argument used to reject the East Norway Conference request is not based on sound principles. The Norwegian Union argues that:

    1. Norwegian Union has engaged in non-compliant practice since 2012;
    2. Norwegian Union must not discriminate;
    3. The Norwegian Union position was supported by 69% of its pastors in 2015.

    But since the Norwegian union pleads “conscience,” it is fair to ask, “What about the conscience of the 31% of pastors who rejected entering into opposition to the General Conference in 2015?” Or the conscience of the delegates to the world church who voted not to grant authority to determine ordination criteria to subsections like the Norwegian Union? What makes Union administrators’ consciences superior to the consciences of voting world church delegates, or, superior to the consciences of East Norway Conference leaders?

  4. The Norwegian Union has dictated its will to the world body, rejecting Adventist ordination practice while describing their voted action as “a temporary measure” until a new credential has been established. But what if the world church never adopts a credential such as the Norwegian Union is insisting upon? The 1990 General Conference Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) to not ordain women to the gospel ministry, and the 1995 GC Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) not to allow the North American Division a variance in that policy. And in 2015, the world body voted, based on their study of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, not to allow variance to any division regarding the policy of not ordaining women to the gospel ministry that was voted in 1990. The decision has been made—by three General Conference Sessions. What do Norwegian Union leaders expect to change now?
  5. The Norwegian Union calls on the General Conference Executive Committee, during its Annual Council, to join in their rebellion against the 1990, 1995, and 2015 GC Sessions, expecting the Annual Council to issue gender-neutral credentials. But on what authority could the GC Executive Committee act against the higher authority of the General Conference in Session?
  6. The 31% of Norway pastors who disagreed in 2015, and the calls from laity in the same Union to abide by the world church’s decisions, are described by the Norwegian Union as “very little critical feedback.” Then, in 2018, the request by local leaders who represent 63% of the local membership was rejected. Even though there has been and continues to be substantive critical feedback.
  7. The Norwegian Union administrators are more concerned about sending a negative signal to Norwegian female pastors than they are about dismissing the studied, prayerful decisions of the world church.
  8. Over-representation. Why does Norway have an entire Conference consisting of only 412 members in 12 churches, and an entire Union consisting of only 4556 members? At the end of 2014 the Norwegian Union had 4536 members. But as a random comparison, the East Kenya Union had 398,267 members in 2014 (over 536,000 today). (Calculation for delegate allotments is usually based on December 31 membership numbers in the year immediately preceding a General Conference Session.)

    And yet, the Norwegian Union sent nine delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session, while the East Kenya Union sent 21. Why does the tiny Norwegian Union send so great a number of delegates proportionally to the world church session, whose decisions it is presently openly rebelling against, when faithful Adventists in Africa have so few?

    Norwegian Adventists were represented at the 2015 GC Session with a ratio of one delegate for every 504 members. But East Kenyan Union Adventists were represented by delegates at a ratio of one delegate per 18,965 members. Had East Kenya Adventists been represented at Norway’s 504:1 ratio, they would have totaled 790 delegates at San Antonio instead of 21.

We agree that female workers serving the Lord should be supported. But none should behave in a rebellious framework toward the world church. Courage and wisdom is needed to act in harmony with the Bible, and with what the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church has decided in Session. May God persuade and help faithful Adventist brothers and sisters in Norway during this difficult time.


Links from above article in order:

Norwegian Union Magazine, Advent Nytt, p. 27 –
https://issuu.com/adventnytt/docs/adventnytt_2-2018/1?ff=true&e=7282235/57387157

NORUC Resolution of September 20, 2015 – http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC

2016 statistical Report – http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf

1990 GC Session – http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions

1995 GC Session – http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions

[Reporting for this OrdinationTruth.com article is provided by Seventh-day Adventist church members from multiple continents.

Background

The main yearly meeting of the world church is called Annual Council. Every October the General Conference Executive Committee gathers for this meeting. Needful decision-making is accomplished by this body for the world church between General Conference Sessions held every five years.

In the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas, delegates made an important decision. They again (similar votes had been held in 1990 and 1995 sessions) determined they would continue the practice of the Adventist Church from its beginning: they chose (again) not to open the way for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Be that as it may, several women both before and after the 2015 meeting have been illegally “ordained to the gospel ministry” in the Pacific Union. The Columbia Union continues to have policies out of compliance with the world church on this question, and the North Pacific Union and some Unions in the Trans-European Division are following credentialing practices which are out of harmony with the world church.

At 2016 Annual Council the General Conference Executive Committee voted to engage in a process of reconciliation and if necessary, discipline toward errant parts of the world church. The year between meetings resulted in no correction to those insubordinate actions. In October 2017 Annual Council a proposal offerred the GC Executive Committee for how to proceed was returned to committee, leaving the non-compliant Unions out of harmony with the world church and the present leaders of these Unions and Divisions remaining in office.

About two weeks after Annual Council, the North American Division meets to hold its Year-End Meeting (YEM). Certain events in this year’s YEM especially stand out.

NAD YEM 2017

First, time was set aside in NAD YEM to discuss the proposal that was to be considered at 2017 Annual Council and that would have impacted Unions in rebellion in the NAD. During that discussion, a young adult from Canada, Daniel Cho, also a member of the North American Division Executive Committee, obtained the floor and spoke of the necessity of unity. He moved this motion:

In the spirit of church unity and respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session with delegates from all over the world is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters among Divisions and their entities in the church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with the NAD/GC policy, and the 2015 vote of the world church on ordination. I so move.

The motion was seconded. One person spoke in debate, then a second speaker called for opportunity to be given for prayer. While most committee members were engaged in prayer, the chair, Dan Jackson, conferred at length with ex officio committee member General Conference treasurer Juan Prestol-Peusan, NAD and GC legal counsel Karnik Doukmetzian, G. Alexander Bryant, and others, who did not participate during most of the prayer time.

Almost immediately after debate resumed, Prestol-Peusan approached the mic and after a convoluted reasoning segment, moved to table the motion.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, “The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed” (pp. 118-119). Since there was no other pending motion for the NAD Executive Committee to address before it considered Cho’s motion, the motion to table was out of order. This was a misuse of parliamentary procedure to defeat the main motion without debate. Robert’s Rules continues with the question: “Can something be defeated by adopting a motion to table it?” Answer: “This is a common violation of fair procedure. Such a motion is not in order, because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, and only a two-thirds vote can do that.”

We are indebted to a sharp-eyed layperson who brought this to our attention.

Someone may say this observation doesn’t apply since the meeting was conducted under the General Conference Rules of Order (GCROO), not Robert’s Rules. However, look again at the reason this practice is not allowed: because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, while only a 2/3rds vote can do that. Two-thirds is the required threshold to end debate on a motion by calling question (calling for an end to debate of a motion being considered and immediately putting the main question itself to a vote). Not only does this reasoning operate identically in GCROO, but GCROO specifically makes the same point: “It [motion to table] is not used to ‘drop’ or suppress a motion” (GCROO, 3a, p. 7).

Thus, the NAD president and the maker of the motion to table, Juan Prestol-Puesan, who spoke together while other committee members were praying, knowingly deprived a fellow committee member, Daniel Cho, of the right to have his motion debated, duly processed, and voted on by the assembly. Debate was cut short. Furthermore, Cho is a representative of Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division and any usurpation of his rights is a usurpation of our rights as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North American Division.

What could have been done in the meeting is for a delegate to call point of order, explain the error, and the chair would have been required to rule on the point of order. If his ruling was incorrect, committee members could appeal his decision and overrule it by a simple majority vote (GCROO, p. 3, 8-9, 12).

Another point of interest from the NAD YEM: at one point during the proceedings, NAD president Dan Jackson urged his assembled NAD leaders to be “obstreperous” in pushing, against the decision of the world church, for women’s ordination. Such behavior is hard to square with his other statements that the NAD is in unity and in harmony with the world church.

Actions like those described in this article have caused an enormous loss of confidence in the present leadership of the North American Division. They have propelled the North American Church into a terrible crisis which, unless soon addressed, will split the Church in North America.

The illegal vote to table the motion passed 186 to 25 with 3 abstentions.

Kevin D. Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. October 10, 2016

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Introduction

“Some have advanced the thought that as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 258).

Claim #1: It has been suggested that early Adventists, under the direction of James White moved ”from a literalistic hermeneutic that held that the only things permissible were those specifically spelled out in Scripture, to one in which everything was permissible that did not contradict the Bible and was in harmony with common sense.”

Response
White was not suggesting a change in hermeneutics, but that the church should further “perfect” upon the biblical order already established in Scripture (cf. Acts of the Apostles, 88-92).

Does Scripture give indications concerning church order / organization?

Members – 1 Corinthians 12:27 / 1 Peter 2:5 :: “Living stones”
Churches – Titus 1:5 :: “Every City”
Small regions – Acts 9:31 :: “Judea” “Galilee”
Larger regions – 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1 :: “All Achaia”
Continents – 1 Corinthians 16:19 :: “Asia”
Input by all through representation – Acts 15 :: The Entire Church

The claim ignores the context of James White’s comment. He was discussing things that could enhance order (having a weekly church paper, a publishing press) which, while not specifically spelled out in Scripture, is not “opposed by the Bible, and is approved by sound sense” (James White, “Yearly Meetings,” Review and Herald, July 21, 1859, p. 68, col. 2). The further “perfecting” of organization included the holding of “yearly conferences, and systematic action of the entire body” (ibid).

Claim #2: It is claimed that the actions of the General Conference (GC) today, as in White’s day, modeled “kingly power,” that Ellen White indicates that it did not represent the voice of God on earth, and that unions were put in place to protect against possible misguided leadership from the General Conference.

Response
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the duty and responsibility of the GC to carry out the voted actions of the world church. Such accusations fit the category of “evil speaking” and remind one of the tactics used by Lucifer in his rebellion. The claim’s context is ignored. Ellen White is clear that “at times, when a small group of men . . . in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I . . . could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God.” The instructions for reorganization were to correct this, which is why we have unions. Ellen White continues: “But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference session, composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field, should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing, is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 260, 261).

In this age of enhanced communications and rapid travel, the church is a global community where what is done in one part of the body can be experienced in real time in many parts of the world. For this reason, unified action concerning many aspects of ministry is necessary if mission is to move forward effectively. Certainly the selection or replacement of leaders is one such area where unified policy is needed, particularly after years of study and deliberation.

Claim #3: Some claim that ordination is not supported by Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy and thus should not even have been discussed at the General Conference session. They say that the General Conference in taking action concerning ordination, went beyond its proper jurisdiction. They desire that both the setting of criteria and the selection and setting aside of leaders should take place at the Union level.

Response
The world church has never considered such a position to be biblical. The “Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination,” voted by the 2014 Annual Council, shows the Biblical basis for our understanding of ordination, that the TOSC study commission “did reach a high degree of accord concerning a biblical theology of ordination,” indicating that “Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global Church ministry.” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-a-seventh-day-adventist-theology-of-ordination.pdf).

The action taken by the world church in session (including conference and union presidents and laypersons) differs from this claim, because it was voted based on the delegates “thorough study of the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions on ordination…” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf)

Whatever one’s view concerning who should be ordained, “The danger to our unity lies not primarily in who we ordain, or what credentials we issue to them. The chief danger lies in accepting the possibility of unilateral action. That has potential implications which go far beyond this immediate issue. Yet if we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists September 2016 p. 41).

If the Church accepts the confused notions now being offered by some, what in the future would prevent conferences and unions from promoting unbiblical views regarding prophetic authority, creation, tithing, the investigative judgment, or same-sex behavior? The door will be opened for beliefs and practices enormously destructive to Adventist global gospel proclamation.

Claim #4: It is feared that we will lose our young people if we don’t address the issue of ordination and church structure in the manner advocated by some.

Response
This same scare tactic was used when the sanctuary doctrine of the church was being discussed. Membership was then 4 million. The issue was met head on. There were some losses, but membership is now nearly 20 million. Standing for truth draws young people; it doesn’t drive them away.

Claim #5: Supposedly, the GC session vote against allowing divisions to make their own decisions concerning ordination practice is exhibiting “kingly power and top-down authority,” adopting and replicating “the most serious mistakes of Roman Catholicism.”

Response
This desperate charge is clearly false. The interdependent nature of the Adventist church is more diverse and representative today than ever before. Decades of study and deliberation at all levels throughout the world field led to the decision in 2015, and the decision to be made in 2016 must evidence our commitment to collective decision-making.

The Choice Is Clear: The Unity document prepared by the Secretariat is a powerful and outstanding appeal for respect toward the collective actions of the church, church unity, and organization. It is sound biblically and in accordance with Spirit of Prophecy counsels. The choice is no longer about women’s ordination, but whether our church structure will remain interdependent or be forced into congregationalism.

A constituency meeting of the Pacific Union is happening right now (Sunday and Monday, August 28, 29, 2016). Rebellion toward the world church has been flowing out of the Union for many years, especially involving the practice of women’s ordination and the support of LGBTQ themes. The current meeting is attempting to make changes that would loosen the authority of the General conference over this rogue region of the church. Let us explain.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide body, with churches in over 200 countries. Every five years delegates are elected and meet together to advance the mission of the church in a General Conference session.

The most recent such session, held in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, refused to permit Divisions to ordain women. Because it adheres to Bible-based, spiritually qualified male leadership, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not call women to serve as conference presidents. Nevertheless, Southeastern California Conference (SECC) in 2013 elected a woman president. After the 2015 General Conference session decision voted by delegates not to permit the ordination of women, SECC has proceeded in defiance, ordaining multiple women to the gospel ministry.

SECC Insub-Ordination from CAP on Vimeo.

As of (Monday morning, August 29) the meeting is in its final hours and is debating organizational changes it does not have the authority to enact.

Proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Pacific Union are seen http://www.adventistfaith.com/session/_downloads/ProposedBylawChanges.pdf.

Because the Pacific Union is a subsidiary part of the General Conference, it is bound by certain required wording in its Constitution and Bylaws documents. For example, it is required that in the event of the union being dissolved, all assets revert to the next higher organizational unit (in the case of the Pacific Union, the North American Division). However, delegates will vote on whether to replace that required wording with wording that says that in the event of dissolution, all assets revert “to the individual conferences comprising the pacific Union at the time of its dissolution.” Another proposed change is to delete the required wording that limits changes to the Constitution and bylaws to wording which must be in harmony with the General Conference required wording. Removal of this clause would appear to loosen requirements that the Union remain in harmony with the world church.

However, even if these insubordinate initiatives are voted and pass, the Union constituency has no authority to make them. All such changes contrary to the required wording are, in our understanding, null and void so long as the General Conference requires the Union to comply. Indeed, changes such as the leaders of the Pacific Union seek to vote into being today only clarify that the rebellion in that section of the church is in an advanced stage and will serve to make corrective action by the General Conference less difficult. These rebel actions will solidify world church support for decisive action by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Pacific Union is a Seventh-day Adventist organizational grouping of several conferences located in the states of Hawaii, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Each conference is a grouping of Seventh-day Adventist churches. The North American Division (NAD) is made up of nine such unions including the Pacific Union. The NAD is one of 13 top-level organizational units of the world church.

UPDATE: The the most troubling changes debated were not implemented. However, the key development of the session was when a motion was offered by Sacramento Central church pastor Chris Buttery. The motion sought to have the 2012 Union decision to approve the ordination of women rescinded. Delegates, however, voted 74 percent to 26 percent to maintain the 2012 decision. Thus, the Pacific Union, by the vote of its delegates now AFTER the 2015 General conference session, continues to operate in opposition to the world church.

TOSC committee member Eugene Prewitt Carefully considers the biblical requirement that elders be the “husand of one wife.”

TOSC’s Eugene Prewitt discusses the question about whether the word “ordained is found in the Bible.