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


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

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

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

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

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

On August 19, 2015 the executive committee of the North Pacific Union voted 26 to 4 to rescind its November 12, 2014 action. The committee had stated that if the world church refused to permit the regional ordination of women, the NPUC would hold a special constituency session and consider “going ahead” to ordain women. The committee action today aligns the NPUC position with the July 8, 2015 General Conference session rejection of regionally independent ordination. Seventh-day Adventist practice has been unified in following a biblical pattern since the 1800s, ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders serving as pastors leading congregations, conferences, unions, and divisions.

Previous to the August 19 meeting, North Pacific Union president Max Torkelson III received an eight page document from the General Conference Secretariat detailing the authority of unions in relation to the world church. The official document states that

“Unions do not have the right to set their own criteria for ordination and are operating outside the parameters of Church structure if they do, just as if a local church decided to establish its own set of beliefs then it would no longer be a Seventh-day Adventist church” (“Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry,” General Conference Secretariat, August 2015, p. 3).

Thus units that have unilaterally voted to ordain women are “operating outside the parameters of Church structure.” Such entities stand on the fringes of the Church. The North Pacific Union today demonstrated its commitment to operate within the parameters set by the world body. The Council of Adventist Pastors sees the committee’s action to rescind today as positive.

The inappropriate actions and illegitimate, out of policy credentials granted by Pacific Union, Columbia Union, the Netherlands Union of Churches, and certain conferences including the Southeastern California Conference, need to be rescinded and such ordinations repudiated by those entities to keep faith with their sister Adventist congregations. As one Adventist from Netherlands stated in an online comment: “I am a member of the world church, for my membership is accepted all over the world. But not so if my Union is an SDA offshoot.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church as a world body seeks to adhere to the teachings of Scripture for optimum male and female service to God and His church.

[The Following document was released to the church via the North American Division on July 10, 2015.]

General Conference President Elder Ted Wilson has requested that each division president of the 13 world regions, clarify the meaning of the vote taken on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

North American Division (NAD) President Daniel Jackson would like to make the following statement:

Firstly, we want to acknowledge that we will comply with the vote of the world church.

Secondly, the vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church or any of their entities from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

Thirdly, it is important that we identify what the motion did not do:

It did not disallow women from serving as commissioned church pastors.
It did not disallow women to serve as ordained elders in the local church
It did not disallow the ordination of deaconesses.

Since the motion did not disallow these things, we therefore continue to encourage those who have been serving in these capacities to continue to do so.

It is vital to understand that the NAD will continue to follow the directions found in the General Conference Working Policy allowing conferences and unions to license women as Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Ministry.

We will also continue to encourage utilizing the services of women as ordained local elders and deaconesses.

The following is a series of policies which are drawn from the Working Policy and that inform our direction:

Church Manual Policy BA 60 05 on Human Relations which states:
“The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender. The Church bases its position on principles clearly enunciated in the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the official pronouncements of the General Conference.”

Church Manual Policy BA 60 10 which states:
“The world Church supports nondiscrimination in employment practices and policies and upholds the principle that both men and women, without regard to race and color, shall be given full and equal opportunity within the Church to develop the knowledge and skills needed for the building up of the Church. Positions of service and responsibility (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry*) on all levels of church activity shall be open to all on the basis of the individual’s qualifications.”

*The exception clause, and any other statement above, shall not be used to reinterpret the action already taken by the world Church authorizing the ordination of women as local church elders in divisions where the division executive committees have given their approval.

The 1989 General Conference Annual Council vote which allowed for:
“Those who have, without regard to gender, been recognized as commissioned ministers or licensed ministers may perform essentially the ministerial functions of an ordained minister of the gospel in the churches to which they are assigned, subject to division authorization of this provision, if the following conditions apply:
“1) The individual has completed approved ministerial training.
“2) The individual has been called by a conference to serve in a full-time pastoral-evangelistic-ministerial role.
“3) The individual has been elected and ordained as a local church elder.”

North American Division Working Policy L 33 10 which states:
“A commissioned minister in leadership position is authorized by the conference, union or division to perform substantially all the functions of the ordained minister within the territory of the organization he/she serves. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a Church, Uniting churches, and Ordaining local elders or deacons.”

It is important to keep in mind that God calls all of his children to serve Him in ministry. He calls both men and women to serve His church and the NAD will continue to support the filling of these positions regardless of gender. The NAD will also continue to utilize all of its efforts to recognize the call of those who feel moved by the Holy Spirit into pastoral ministry.

–Prepared by the Communication Department of the North American Division


[NOTE: The same statement has been issued a second time, lacking the phrase “of the church or any of their entities” at the “secondly” paragraph. We do not regard the omission to be significant. The initial draft no doubt reflects the expressed will of the General Conference and is more clarifying than the revision. The clear intent of the bylaws and of the July 8 voted action matches the initial language. -Ed.]

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION

Screenshot from 2015-07-09 21:39:23

The Netherlands Union of Churches (NUC) declared in 2012 and 2013 that it would ordain women, but it waited. On July 8, 2015 delegates from across the globe met for General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas. The assembled church voted it would not permit Divisions to make such determination locally. One day after, Netherlands declares it will proceed to ordain women. NUC declares that its policy will not be affected. It has before declared that it would act contrary to General Conference session actions. Now it declares it will act contrary to the 2015 General Conference session. All this, while the ink is not yet dry on the Wednesday, July 9 decision.

Translation of the statement:

The delegates of the Dutch churches voted at their Session in the autumn of 2012 to ordain women in an equal way to their male colleagues. The vote took effect in June 2013 and will remain in effect. The decision of the General Conference Session in San Antonio does not change this.

Female pastors will continue to be ordained in the Netherlands Union Conference. We thank God that he calls men and women to serve him. We want to enthusiastically confirm that call by the laying on of hands.

NUC is under the Trans-European Division. The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirmed, just one day ago, what it had voted in 1990 and 1995: that no Division nor any of its subunits has the unilateral authority to ordain women to pastoral ministry.

The website link to the page which the above screenshot is taken from as of July 9, 2015 PST is http://www.adventist.nl/2015/07/10/verklaring-inzegening-vrouwen-in-nederland/

Voting in favor of the motion: 977
Voting in opposition to the motion: 1381
Abstain: 5

The motion is defeated.

This morning Pr. Ted Wilson, president of the General conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church outlined the process that would be followed and plead for a sweet spirit to prevail. After summaries of the TOSC finding groups 1, 2 and 3 were given, debate began. Persons spoke in favor and in opposition to the motion. Eventually the group stopped for lunch.

Debate resumed. The debate was dominated by Africa and IAD and NAD. Jay Gallimore spoke plainly against. Numerous NAD delegates speaking in favor, offering weak, pragmatic, culture-based arguments.

Eventually, Pr. Jan Paulson (former GC president) addressed the group from the floor pleading in favor of the motion, claiming still to have the spirit of leadership. Claiming he “loved Africa,” he said that if the Africans trusted their leaders, they should vote yes. Paulson’s condescending remarks perturbed the African contingent. Several complained to the chair. Paulson’s sad speech led to great unrest. The assembled delegates were led to pause for prayer. Natasha Nebblett, a NAD delegate and lay leader of GYC, spoke strongly in opposition to the motion, mentioning 1000s of NAD Adventists who disagreed with women’s ordination and actions of NAD leadership.

Eventually, the current GC president, pastor Ted Wilson spoke briefly from the floor offering clear, thoughtful, godly remarks. Many emotionally and culturally-based arguments had been presented by NAD and TED delegates, but those from other divisions called for unity and working together. They did not agree with letting each division determine women’s ordination independently for itself.

The vote was taken in due course with the above final result. Pr. Wilson addressed the group at the conclusion of the meeting. He shared the well known statement from Ellen White’s writings in Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 261, “When assembled in session, the General Conference shall have authority.” “Now is the time to unify under the bloodstained banner of Jesus Christ and His power, not our own power.”

FYI the motion:

REQUEST TO THE 2015 GENERAL CONFERENCE SESSION

WHEREAS, The unity for which Jesus prayed is vitally important to the witness of Seventh-day Adventist Church, and;
WHEREAS, The Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to engage every member in its worldwide mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ among people from every nation, culture and ethnicity, and;
WHEREAS, Various groups appointed by the General Conference and its divisions have carefully studied the Bible and Ellen G White writings with respect to the ordination of women and have not arrived at consensus as to whether ministerial ordination for women is unilaterally affirmed or denied, and;
WHEREAS, The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms that “God has ordained that the representatives of His Church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference Session, shall have authority”,
THEREFORE, The General Conference Executive Committee requests delegates in their sacred responsibility to God at the 2015 General Conference Session to respond to the following question:

After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions, and;
After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission,

Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No