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

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

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

These lines prepare the reader for the final segment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will not stand.


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

With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.

Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.

Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).

We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.

At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.

There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).

It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?

There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.

We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a recent Walla Walla University Church (WWUC) business meeting, University leaders invited the student body to join them. In what? In requesting that the Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee reinstate a commissioned minister’s policy voted March 29 then rescinded July 19. Why the rescind? According to the official conference announcement of the change, many constituency members “felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers” (See http://ordinationtruth.com/2016/07/22/ucc-rescinds-commissioned-minister-policy/).

But conference members are very concerned that WWU church leaders would solicit advocacy from the student body for a policy which stands in opposition to God’s leadership as reflected in the Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy. The result of this incitement of our youth entrusted to the WWU remains to be seen.

The Conference is still communicating with several churches in its constituency. Those churches, in response to the March 29, 2016 executive committee vote to implement the non-Adventist practice, had voted, between then and July, asking that it hold a special constituency session. The action by the churches was plain. The churches did not ask the conference to rescind. They sought via a special constituency session to overrule the committee. Some voted statements supported the replacement of conference officers.

Most members of the constituency, whatever their views on commissioning and women’s ordination, are determined to be in support of the world church. Unilateral action by conference leaders opposing world church practice is unacceptable to them. The action by the conference in disregard toward the world church has been disunifying, provocative, and destructive to its mission. On July 19, rather than face a special constituency session, the Conference executive committee rescinded its March 29 vote. At present, the matter is in the hands of the lay members of the conference. There could be a renewed call for a special session.

The General Conference sets the criteria for ordination; it determines which authorities are included in a given credential. Seventh-day Adventist congregations are part of a world church. A local conference can no more determine for itself the authorities which are included in a denominationally-approved credential than can a local congregation.

But on November 9, aware that conference administration was engaged in its first potentially constructive dialogue with its own world church supporting congregations, WWUC voted to ask the conference executive committee to “rescind its rescind” at its upcoming December 6 meeting—while still engaged in discussion with sister churches.

Referring to the UCC churches which sought for the conference to return to operating in harmony with the world church, the president said that those churches had been “demanding” a constituency meeting and that they had “pushed aside” the executive committee. The WWUC board even accused sister churches that called for the special constituency meeting of using “ways and means discordant with Christian values. . .”

But the membership of the conference has every right to expect elected conference officers to operate in harmony with the world church. When a conference executive committee violates trust, the checks and balances of a conference’s Constitution and Bylaws empower membership to overrule decisions of a conference executive committee, or even to appoint new officers.

Conference officers are now pincered between congregations which seek harmony with the world church, and those working vigorously to advance the cause of women’s ordination no matter the cost. How much wiser if leaders will speak more widely with their constituency; how much better if they will communicate directly with the General Conference. These steps should be taken before obeying the wishes of those in Walla Walla who openly call for the implementation of policies which by violating world church practice divide the Conference.


Previous and specifically related articles include:

CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

CM Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church

CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action

Laypeople Speak Out on UCC CM Policy

UCC Rescinds Commissioned Minister Policy

Text: Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy

CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misrepresents New Policy

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

CM Crisis 6: GC Unity Documents and the Commissioned Credential

In a news item posted on November 3, 2016 on the Adventist News Network (“Important responsibility in following voted World Church actions”), General Conference president, pastor Ted N.C. Wilson reminded leaders in North America of their “sacred responsibility.” President Wilson indicated that every leader has a responsibility “to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not).” The president had indicated previous to the 2015 San Antonio session vote that he would adhere to the results of the vote no matter the outcome.

In the article, the president clarified the authority of unions:

“When union conferences were established, they were given the responsibility of working within the policies outlined for the world church, which now generally takes place by world church representatives at an Annual Council and sometimes at a General Conference Session,” Wilson said. “Unions were established to make mission more local since the General Conference wasn’t able to cover the world with direct counsel for every situation, but unions are not a law unto themselves.”

Unions do not have authority over all aspects of ordination. They never have.

“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,” Wilson said. “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.”

Some advocates of women’s ordination have accused church leaders of exercising “kingly power” as they seek for integrity in other church leaders who can only be faithful by adhering to the decisions made by the world church. To one who had asked pastor Wilson about the exercise of “kingly authority, Wilson replied:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question,” Wilson responded, “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.”

The ANN article can be found at this link:

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2016-11-03/importantresponsibility-in-following-voted-worldchurch-actions/

The detailed response by the president is found on his official blog here:

http://perspectives.adventist.org/en/questions-answers/questions/go/2016-10-22/what-authority-do-church-unions-have-in-ordaining-ministers/

Pastor Wilson’s Facebook page, quoted in the ANN article, is here:

https://www.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/

The president often communicates with world church members via his Facebook page.

On Monday, October 31, 2016, the North American Division executive committee voted a statement calling efforts to bring compliance to the world church vote at the 2015 General Conference session “profoundly divisive and demoralizing” and voiced “vigorous disagreement.” In the statement, North American Division leaders affirmed “unwavering support and steadfast intent” to secure what they feel is “full equality of women in ministry.” This, in spite of votes at the highest level of church polity in which the world church has refused, refused, and a third time refused, to approve directly or indirectly the ordination of women. The NAD vowed to continue to make “ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.”

Early October each year the General Conference holds its Annual Council meeting, and in late October the North American Division, its Year-end Meeting. The 2016 Annual Council approved a very patient process to be used for reconciliation, called “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation.” NAD leaders were frenzied in their resistance to the document, but representatives of the world church enacted the document anyway.

The Monday vote is not the first provocative action taken this year by the NAD. On Friday, October 28, the NAD voted to request that the General Conference recognize the illegal 2013 election by Southeastern California Conference of Sandra Roberts, a woman, to the male headship role of conference president. The YEM2016 action was done in spite of awareness that such recognition by the General Conference was impossible. It was an NAD statement of defiance toward the world church. Yet the passage of two days led to no improvement in graces. The Monday motion voted was offered by Southeastern California Conference pastor Randy Roberts, and reads as follows:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Three Angels’ Messages. Nothing should impede this prophetic mission.

It is thus with grave concern that the members of the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee witnessed the passing of the Unity in Mission document at the recent Annual Council. The implementation of this document will create–indeed, is already creating–a profoundly divisive and demoralizing reality in many parts of the NAD.

While we wish to register our vigorous disagreement with the intent of the document, we do not wish to respond impulsively. Therefore, in light of this document, we move to authorize NADCOM to appoint a subcommittee to craft a thoughtful path forward.

Furthermore, recognizing that the underlying focus and context of the Unity in Mission document was the ordination of women to ministry in two unions in our division, we wish to once again publicly affirm our unwavering support and steadfast intent to realize the full equality of women in ministry, in fulfillment of biblical principles, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In light of these realities, we do not want the Unity in Mission document to be a deterrent to the ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.

We invite earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this process.

The action taken by the NAD at YEM2016 is extremely divisive. The NAD participated fully in the studies and votes which resulted in the 2015 world church decision. How can the NAD ignore those same decisions which they are duty-bound to accept, and then accuse world church leadership of being “divisive” when they humbly seek to secure respect for those same decisions? Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists who fully support the world church hang their heads in shame today for the insubordinate actions of their own Division. They feel voiceless and abandoned by NAD leadership. They support efforts by the world church to help recover the wayward unions, but the actions of NAD leadership are ripping the fabric of goodwill within the Division.

Has the leadership of the NAD gone rogue? Are they content to destroy world church unity to pursue the “proactive progress” of the ideology they are bent upon inculcating not only over the protest of their North American Division members, but also the world church?

How Long O Lord?

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:

https://m.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/photos/a.893482760707617.1073741827.221442104578356/1125011014221456/?type=3

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;

The Motion:

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CORRECT CREDENTIALS ESSENTIAL FOR UNITY
The document states,

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

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

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


LINKS:

CM Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

CM Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church

CM Crisis 3: Significance of Commissioned Minister Policy Action

Laypeople Speak Out on UCC CM Policy

UCC Rescinds Commissioned Minister Policy

Text: Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy

CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misleads on Policy

Who Should be NPUC President?

NPUC Churches raise Nomination Concern

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

John freedman Elected NPUC President

General Conference Documents Prepare for Action

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.