Share this with all your friends on Social Media:
Share this with all your friends on Social Media:
Share this with all your friends on Social Media:
NPUC Gleaner: Learning From History?
By Engel Yoder
The March 2017 NPUC Gleaner editorial titled “Protest” likens the NAD union presidents who are opposing the authority of the General Conference (GC) to the German princes who opposed the authority of the papal church at the Diet of Spires in 1529 (1). By making this analogy, the editorial further insinuates that our GC leaders can be likened to the papal leaders whose authority the princes protested against. The editor then asks, “What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”
It is difficult to put into words just how offensive such an editorial is. And that it has been printed in an official church publication shows just how incredibly disjointed church leadership is in the NAD. But not only does this reveal how disconnected NAD leadership is from the rest of the world church, the history the Gleaner editor suggests that we learn from has nothing to do with our current church crisis.
When we consider what the princes of long ago can truly teach us, we find they held to two principal points. Regarding the Diet of Spires we have this historical summary:
“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. D’Aubigne, b. 13, ch. 6” (2).
Obviously, the intrusion of civil authorities is not an issue in our current situation, but neither is the arbitrary authority of the church. Can any thinking Adventist actually contend that the source of the current controversy—the 2015 GC Session vote regarding women’s ordination—was an exercise of arbitrary church authority? Never in our church history has there been so much time and study invested in a single question as this one. Every world division fully participated and expressed itself. And once the ultimate body of church authority, consisting of over 2300 duly appointed representatives from around the world, made its decision, can anyone seriously say that this decision was an arbitrary one? Or that this decision was made by the exercise of so-called “kingly” or “popish” power?
But the historian continues by going beyond identifying what the Protest at Spires opposed and identifies what it affirmed:
“. . .Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man. . . .’ But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God” (3).
As the Gleaner editorial correctly points out, the papal church claimed to have authority above that of Scripture, and this claim the princes at Spires vehemently denied. But never has Protestantism claimed that all believers would interpret Scripture in precisely the same way. The myriad of Protestant denominations attests to this fact. Actually, the principles of Protestantism purposefully grant anyone who in good conscience cannot accept the teachings and practices of a particular denomination to be entirely at liberty to go to, or even to start, another church or denomination that is more to his liking. But to expect that one can abide within a faith community while openly defying the authority of that community is to embrace the principles of the papists at Spires, not the German princes. Indeed, this expectation reflects the spirit of the one who caused war in heaven when he desired to retain his place there while defying the authority of heaven’s Sovereign.
If the editor of the Gleaner wants us to learn something from history, I suggest we begin with the editor’s own history as a four-year old and learn that a duly authorized “No” means “No.” If someone cannot accept and respect that answer, then that person, like a mature adult, should pack his soap and toothbrush and go. I sincerely hope, however, that he would choose to stay, and that he would reconsider the moral principles upon which he stands. They just may not be as solid as he thinks. He may then be reassured that the General Conference in Session remains God’s ordained authority on earth (4), that this authority is to be respected even if its judgments are not entirely understood at the moment, and that our Father’s house is truly the safest and most secure place to be in all the world.
1. http://GleanerNow.com/news/2017/03/protest, accessed March 20, 2017).
2. The Great Controversy, p. 203).
4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261.
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.
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.
CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?
CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action
CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misrepresents New Policy
CM Crisis 5: A History Lesson as Annual Council 2016 Approaches
CM Crisis 6: GC Unity Documents and the Commissioned Credential
Seventh-day Adventist Church president pastor Ted N.C. Wilson has a Question and Answer section on his Facebook page. On October 22, 2016, pastor Wilson posted a detailed answer. In response to a question which had suggested that in seeking the compliance of divisions, unions, and conferences with the world church’s decision on women’s ordination, the General Conference was abusing its powers and exercising “kingly authority., the president’s reply offers a number of interesting insights. The entire answer can be read at this link:
We here at OrdinationTruth.com reproduce four paragraphs, with our reactions.
“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church. In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”
This paragraph makes the interesting point that despite continuing claims made by those determined to practice women’s ordination, the world church is not organized so that all ordination questions are handled only by unions. It has never been.
The other point of interest is that unions may only approve ordination based on the criteria set by the world church. Criteria is not set locally, although this is the desperate argument North American Unions are making.
Pastor Wilson proceeded to offer these points regarding the facts and authority of the General Conference in session concerning women’s ordination:
• “The General Conference in Session in 1990 indicated that only men were to be ordained.”
• “The General Conference in Session in 1995 and 2015 indicated that no other level was to have the right to determine who would be ordained other than that which has been indicated in the Working Policy and confirmed by the General Conference in Session in 1990.”
• “After having treated this overall topic three times, the General Conference Session with representatives from all parts of the world owns this subject.”
The world church has considered this matter carefully and repeatedly at the level of the General Conference session, and the decisions made by the world church in its most representative and authoritative decision-making body “owns this subject”–not unions or divisions. Officers in the North American Division need to pause, take a deep breath, and realize that in resisting the world church they are fighting a century of mutually approved church organization. Neither the NAD nor its Unions nor Adventist unions or union conferences anywhere in the world have been granted authority to disregard the decisions of the world church of which they are only sub-units.
With reference to the charge that the elected leaders of the world church at the General Conference are exercising kingly power in their efforts to uphold the decisions of the world church, he writes this:
“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question: What could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”
“As president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am duty bound with a sacred responsibility, as are all other officers of every level of organizations throughout the church as is indicated in Working Policy, to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not). To go against this vote would be exercising kingly authority.”
In other words, when unions or divisions act in deliberate opposition to GC-level decisions, it is those actions which are the authentic—and contemporary—exercise of “kingly power.” Entities such as Pacific and Columbia and North Pacific Unions are exercising “kingly power” when they usurp the authorities vested in the world church. None of these Unions have authority to approve unauthorized credentials they are presently issuing in the name of the Church. They are acting in violation both of the trust of the world church and also the trust of their own constituencies. Seventh-day Adventists holding church membership in the Conferences connected to these Unions are under the oppression of kingly power. Members’ rights are being violated by administrations of Unions which approve illegitimate credentials.
The Council of Adventist Pastors calls upon Unions misusing the authorities the world church has entrusted to them, whatever the administrator’s personal views, to turn back from destructive actions they have taken and to come into unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Northern California Conference (NCC), located in the Pacific Union, held its Quadrennial Constituency meeting on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Of special interest was the vote on a resolution worded thus:
Submitted by: Anderson Church and Sacramento Central Church
Pastors: Murray Miller and Chris Buttery
WHEREAS, the words of Jesus admonish us to be “one” as His Father and He are one (see John 17:20-22) and one of our fundamental beliefs states that “differences between male and female must not be divisive among us” (Fundamental Belief 14);
WHEREAS, both the Church Manual (page 31), and North American Division policy emphasize that “all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the world will recognize the General Conference in session as the highest authority under God” (NAD Working Policy B01 20 3);
WHEREAS, on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Northern California Conference [hereafter referred to as NCC] Executive Committee, time was spent debriefing the actions and decisions of the Pacific Union Conference Special Constituency Session held August 19, 2012. Out of that discussion, the motion was made that the NCC will recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;
WHEREAS, the May 18, 2014, NCC Constituency Session voted to refer the duly introduced agenda item of women’s ordination to the NCC Executive Committee for an official statement;
WHEREAS, the NCC Executive committee voted to affirm their previous decision of August 22, 2012, to recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;
WHEREAS, the July 8, 2015, General Conference Session voted down a motion that would have allowed each Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church® to decide for itself whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry in its territory (which includes the Northern California Conference);
WHEREAS, we have been admonished by both the General Conference and North American Division Presidents to comply with the 2015 Session’s outcome;
WHEREAS, Article VII, Section 7 of the NCC Constitution states, “The Executive Committee shall have the authority to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs and the affairs of the Conference, provided that the same are not in conflict with these Bylaws or those of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, or of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,” and at present Executive Committee votes conflict with General Conference policy;
We now vote to retract the Executive Committee votes of August 22, 2012, and December 3, 2014, in order to be in harmony with the World Church as represented by the General Conference session of July 8, 2015. We will continue to support women in ministry with the exception of issuing a ministerial credential and thus abide by the outcome of the vote of the World Church.
The constituency proceeded to vote. The motion, which would have placed NCC back in compliance with the world church, failed with 211 Yes votes compared to 294 No votes. This is an interesting result when we realize that constituency session vote are weighted in favor of conference leadership by the inclusion of its entire employed pastoral staff. That is, the membership at large is likely much more opposed to unilateral action separated from the General Conference than conference leadership.
While many within NCC oppose women’s ordination on Bible grounds, others favor women’s ordination but do believe that the world church has ultimate authority over these decisions. On July 8, 2015, world church delegates to the San Antonio General Conference session voted “No” to a proposal which would have permitted individual divisions of the church to decide whether or not to ordain women for themselves.
Many NCC members are very disturbed about the decision.
As a side note, it is interesting to read the NCC reaction to the resolution. On page 71 of the Constituency meeting book, the NCC makes several claims which are summarized in this sentence: “The NCC Executive Committee actions are not in contradiction with either the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws or the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws.” This statement is false. Saying one is in harmony with the world church while acting out disharmony towards it is unlikely to convince others that one is in compliance. Rather, it puts the highlight on the fact that the NCC, as other conferences and unions in some parts of the world church, is now operating in open disregard for the authority of the world church of which it is constituent.
Update: Oct. 23, 2016: An earlier version of this article pointed to published statements by church members in the conference who had stated they would stop returning tithe through the NCC. The individual we had linked to has since then flipped his position and adopted the erroneous recently published views of George Knight and others about the history and authority of unions. That individual was and is in favor of women’s ordination, but initially ad upheld the authority of the world church over its sub-units.
Kevin Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. 10 de octubre del 2016
“Hay quienes desarrollaron la idea de que a medida que nos acerquemos al fin del tiempo, cada hijo de Dios actuará independientemente de toda organización religiosa. Pero me ha instruido el Señor que en esta labor no hay tal cosa como que cada persona se mantenga independiente” (Testimonios, vol. 9, 258).
Planteamiento #1: Se ha sugerido que los primeros adventistas, bajo la dirección de James White se desplazó “desde una hermenéutica literal que sostenía que lo único admisible fuese lo que claramente establecía ls Escritura a una en que todo era permisible en tanto no contradijera la Biblia y estuviese en armonía con el sentido común”.
White no sugería un cambio en la hermenéutica, sino que la iglesia continuase “perfecta[mente]” en el orden bíblico establecido en la Escritura (cf. Hechos de los Apóstoles, 88-92).
La Escritura ofrece orientación en relación con el orden y la organización de la iglesia:
Miembros – 1 Corintios 12:27 / 1 Pedro 2: 5 :: Piedras vivas
Iglesias – Tito 1: 5 :: Cada ciudad
Pequeñas regiones – Hechos 9:31 :: Judea, Galilea
Regiones mayores – 1 Corintios 16: 1; 2 Corintios 1: 1 :: Toda Acaya
Continentes – 1 Corintios 16:19 :: Asia
Participación de todos por representación – Hechos 15 :: Toda la Iglesia
Este planteamiento ignora el contexto del comentario de James White. Él se refiere a cosas que podrían mejorar el orden (como un boletín semanal de iglesia, o la publicación de la página impresa) que, aunque no está claramente establecida en las Escrituras, no se “opone a la Biblia, y es aprobada por el sentido común” (James White, “Yearly meetings” [Reuniones anuales], Review and Herald, 21 de julio de 1859, pág. 68, col. 2). El “perfeccionamiento” de la organización incluía la celebración de “conferencias anuales, y la acción sistemática de todo el cuerpo” (ibíd).
Planteamiento #2: Se afirma que las acciones actuales de la Asociación General (AG), como en los días de J. White, se modelan en un “poder regio”, al que Elena de White señaló no representando la voz de Dios en la tierra, y que las Uniones fueron establecidas para proteger (al resto de) la iglesia contra de un posible liderazgo erróneo de la Asociación General.
Nada más lejos de la verdad. Es deber y responsabilidad de la AG ejecutar los votos aprobados por la iglesia mundial. Dichas acusaciones caen en la categoría del “hablar mal” y recuerdan a una de las tácticas utilizadas por la rebelión de Lucifer. Este planteamiento ignora el contexto. Elena de White es clara al afirmar que “a veces, cuando un pequeño grupo de hombres. . . en nombre de la Asociación General, intenta llevar a cabo planes imprudentes y limitar la labor divina, yo. . . ya no puedo considerar que la voz de la Asociación General, expresada por un puñado de hombres, sea la voz de Dios”. Las instrucciones destinadas a la reorganización fueron para corregir este aspecto, es por ello que tenemos Uniones. Elena de White continúa: “Pero ésto no quiere decir que las decisiones (tomadas) en una sesión de la Asociación General, compuesta por un conjunto de delegados debidamente convocados, representando todas las partes del territorio, no deban ser respetados. Dios ha ordenado que los representantes de su iglesia convocados de todas partes del mundo, cuando se reúnen en una Asociación General, tienen autoridad. El error que algunos están a punto de cometer, es en el de dar a la mente y el juicio de un hombre, o de un puñado de hombres, la plena autoridad e influencia que Dios ha conferido a su iglesia en el juicio y la voz de la Asociación General reunida para planificar para la prosperidad y el desarrollo de su obra” (Testimonios, 9: 260, 261).
En esta era de desarrollo de las comunicaciones y de los viajes rápidos, la iglesia es una comunidad global, en la que lo que se hace en una parte del organismo se puede experimentar en tiempo real en diversas partes del mundo. Por esta razón, la acción unida en relación con los diversos aspectos del ministerio se hace necesaria para que la misión avance de manera efectiva. Ciertamente, la selección o la sustitución de líderes es una de esas áreas donde se necesita una póliza unida, sobre todo luego de años de estudio y deliberación.
Planteamiento #3: Algunos sostienen que la ordenación no es aprobada en la Escritura o en el Espíritu de Profecía y, por ende, ni siquiera debería haber sido discutido en la sesión de la Asociación General. Sostienen que la Asociación General al adoptar medidas relativas a la ordenación, fue más allá de su jurisdicción. Estos proponentes desean que tanto el establecimiento de criterios y la selección de líderes se produzca en el ámbito de la Unión.
La iglesia mundial jamás consideró que dicha postura tenga fundamento bíblico. La “Declaración de Consenso sobre la Teología Adventista de la Ordenación, “votada por el Concilio Anual del 2014, demuestra la base bíblica de nuestra comprensión de la ordenación, a la que la comisión de estudio TOSC “llegó en un alto grado de acuerdo relativo a una teología bíblica de la ordenación”, indicando que “los Adventistas del Séptimo Día entendemos la ordenación, en un sentido bíblico, como la acción de la Iglesia en reconocimiento público hacia quienes el Señor ha llamado y equipado para el ministerio de la iglesia local y universal” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-ordination.pdf).
La acción tomada por la iglesia mundial en una sesión (debidamente) convocada (incluyendo a presidentes y laicos de asociaciones y uniones) rebate este planteamiento ya que fue elegida sobre la base de los delegados (por medio del) “estudio profundo de la Biblia, y de los escritos de Elena G. White y los informes de las comisiones de estudio sobre la ordenación …” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf).
Cualquiera que sea la postura con respecto a quién debe ser ordenado, “El peligro para nuestra unidad no reside principalmente en quién ordenamos, o qué credenciales emitimos. El principal peligro radica en aceptar la posibilidad de una acción unilateral. Eso tiene implicaciones potenciales que van más allá de la cuestión inmediata. Sin embargo, si tuviéramos que sacrificar el principio general de representación, colegiada, en el fundamento de consenso en la toma de decisiones, si aceptáramos que las unidades organizativas pudieran actuar unilateralmente, entonces toda nuestra política eclesiástica y el sistema de gobierno de la iglesia estarían en peligro de fragmentarse (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Septiembre del 2016 p. 41).
Si la Iglesia aceptase las confusas nociones de algunos proponentes, ¿qué habría de impedir que en un futuro las asociaciones ó misiones y las uniones promoviesen puntos de vista carentes de fundamento bíblico respecto a la autoridad profética, la Creación, el diezmo, el juicio investigador, o la conducta hacia un mismo sexo? De este modo, se abriría la puerta a creencias y prácticas que destruirían la proclamación mundial del Evangelio adventista.
Planteamiento #4: Se expresa temor porque vayamos a perder a nuestros jóvenes si no abordamos el tema de la coordinación y la estructura de la iglesia en la forma propuesta por este sector [opositor al status quo].
Esta misma táctica de miedo se utilizó cuando se habló de la Doctrina del Santuario en la iglesia. Entonces éramos sólo 4 millones. Sin embargo, fue superado. Hubo pérdidas, pero ahora la membresía es de casi 20 millones. Afirmar la verdad no pierde, sino atrae a los jóvenes.
Planteamiento #5: Supuestamente, el voto adoptado por la AG en contra de permitir que las divisiones tomaran sus propias decisiones relativas a la práctica de la ordenación manifiesta un despliegue de “autoridad regia” y un criterio de autoridad descendente (de arriba hacia abajo) que imita “los errores más serios cometidos por la Iglesia Católica”.
Este alegado desesperado es falso. La naturaleza interdependiente de la iglesia adventista hoy es más diversa y representativa que nunca antes. Décadas de estudio y deliberación de todos los niveles en todo el campo del mundo llevaron a la decisión adoptado en la AG en el 2015, y la decisión a tomarse en el 2016 debiera evidenciar nuestro compromiso en la toma de decisiones colectivas.
La opción es clara: el Documento de Unidad preparado por la Secretaría [de la AG] es un recurso poderoso y destacado por el respeto hacia las decisiones colectivas de la iglesia, por el respeto a la unidad de la iglesia y por el respeto a la organización de la iglesia. Es bíblicamente coherente y armoniza con los consejos del Espíritu de Profecía. La opción que tenemos por delante ya no es sobre la ordenación de damas al ministerio sino, si nuestra estructura eclesiástica continuará siendo interdependientes o seremos forzados hacia el congregacionalismo.
Kevin D. Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. October 10, 2016
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Adventists are reading with interest two documents released on Sunday by the General Conference. According to Adventist News Network, General Conference executive secretary G.T. Ng stated, “During Annual Council this year we plan to discuss how best to address divergence from the current policy.”
“A Study of Church Governance and Unity” is a 50 page study. Section headings discuss unity, policy, diversity, authority, authority in the Spirit of Prophecy, unilateralism, and application. The shorter document summarizes the longer.
Since the General Conference vote in 2015 in which delegates forbade divisions of the Church from ordaining women to the gospel ministry, several Unions and Conferences have acted unilaterally toward the world church. A wide range of approaches have been implemented, including inflating the commissioned credential to parity with the ordained minister, the outright ordination of women, changing ordained credentials for commissioned ones, and more. All undermine the unity and mission of the Church.
The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that readers peruse the full documents (linked to at the end of this article). We also believe that readers will be interested in our highlighting some of the material now being studied by church leaders.
“Policies provide a clear record of what representatives of the world Church have discussed and agreed is essential for the global body to engage effectively in mission and ministry” (p. 9).
“Policy also expresses our unity, for, in the succinct words of a recent statement by world Church leaders, ‘General Conference Session actions and voted policies are agreements that the body of Christ make together’” (p. 9, emphasis in original).
“When God’s people determine whether or not to allow diverse approaches among them, they should make their decision collectively and collaboratively, not unilaterally” (p. 12).
Far from being inessential, policies are a concrete expression of the unity of the Church. It is because the Church invests energy in creating policy that the Church is able to operate an effective global program, and to do so coherently. When variations are permitted, such should be determined on the basis of collective decision-making, not unilateral action.
DECISIONS APPLY TO DIVISIONS, UNIONS, CONFERENCES
Inherent in our system of representative, consultative, consensus-based decision-making is that organizational units and church-member representatives have input into the decisions of organizations at higher levels of structure. However, having had input, reciprocity means that there must be acceptance of the collective decision. Also inherent in the system, then, is that the authority of an organizational unit at any level is plenary in its territory, encompassing all constituent or component organizations at lower levels. The latter are bound by the decisions of the higher-level units of which they form a part, and of any executive committees entrusted by Working Policy with far-reaching authority. . . .the authority of the GC Executive Committee applies not only to divisions, but also to unions, and in consequence to conferences and missions. . . . unions are constitutionally obliged to act in harmony with GC Working Policy (p. 15).
No mission, conference, or union has a right to take unilateral decisions on important matters, or to depart from decisions taken by units at a higher level of structure with wider authority. . . Recognition as a conference/mission or union brings with it decision-making authority in defined areas and the right of representation at higher levels of denominational structure, but ‘status’ is contingent on ‘compliance with denominational practices and policies’ and ‘can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it’ (B 05, 3). (p. 16).
These are clear statements that the authority of each part of the church structure attached to the General Conference is derived from it. A decision limiting what a division can do also limits what that division’s unions, that union’s conferences, and that conference’s local churches can do. Authority is limited and derived; we are a world church.
The document also reminds us that the status of a division, union, or conference is subject to that unit’s “compliance with denominational practices and policies.” The document draws an important parallel between Ellen White’s warnings referring to the unilateral actions of J.H. Kellogg and “the current circumstances of unilateral action by Church organizational units.” The GC then says “overly independent, unilateral action poses a special danger to the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (p. 31).
DANGER AND COMPLIANCE
When, after such a process [referring to the TOSC study and GC session voted decision. pp. 40, 41], a GC Session takes a decision, one obviously intended to apply to to the world (since variation in practice was part of the motion put to the Session), it cannot be disregarded. The decision cannot be called a matter of little significance on which everyone could reasonably go their own way. That is because we all, together, considered it, and collectively decided it was not such a matter, but one in which we should act together. The biblical principle of unity in decision-making requires compliance. Whatever our views as individuals, ‘private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered (p. 41).
If we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down. Unions would decline to follow divisions’ guidance; conferences will ignore unions when it suits them; local churches would flout conferences or missions (Ibid.).
Longtime readers of OrdinationTruth.com will recognize in the above statements things we have been saying since 2013. At that time the Pacific Union constituency session vote to disregard the 1990 decision not to ordain women was still fresh in our minds and the NPUC was telling members they were going to embark on a plan to “educate members” about a position on women’s ordination which was contrary to that of the world church, and then hold a special constituency session to vote on it. In other words, threatened unilateral action by the Union prompted us to act. We have engaged in a process of study and published those results in support of the world church. The sample quotations above (and there are many more in the documents) help us know that these issues are well understood and that the world church, after much forbearance, is ready to bring Spirit-led correction.
Here are the General Conference documents available for downloading:
A Study of Church Governance and Unity (54 pp.).
Summary of a statement on Church Governance and Unity (17 pp.).
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.