On Sabbath, March 3, 2018, Potomac Conference administrators participated in the “ordination” of Ms. Renee Stepp.
But in 2015, Adventist representatives from all over the globe assembled in San Antonio Texas, USA for General Conference Session. Thousands of delegates participated debating, voting, and reaching a decision on behalf of the world church. The Church refused to grant authority for subsections of itself to act unilaterally regarding ordination. Following the Bible pattern, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never in its history approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
And yet, with the world church’s San Antonio decision in full view, the Columbia Union Executive Committee approved the request of Potomac Conference Executive Committee leaders. Stepp’s Williamsburg “ordination” is an open, high-handed act of rebellion by Potomac and Columbia elected leaders exactly contradicting the decision voted by the delegates of the world church.
According to an article by Potomac Conference, Stepp’s experience includes service as women’s dean at academy, holding office in her local church, full time student at Andrews University Theological Seminary, and chaplain of an Adventist academy. She served in a supporting role in the Vienna congregation.
Paul urged workers to select spiritually qualified males of experience to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), but never a woman. The Bible contains zero examples of women as primary congregational leaders, and zero examples of women elders.
To circumvent the decision of the world church is to circumvent God’s plan for church governance. If Columbia and Potomac can ordain a woman, they can ordain anyone.
Participants in the ordination service included Potomac conference president William “Bill” Miller, Dave Vandevere, vice president for finance, Rick Jordan and Renee Stepp.
The main yearly meeting of the world church is called Annual Council. Every October the General Conference Executive Committee gathers for this meeting. Needful decision-making is accomplished by this body for the world church between General Conference Sessions held every five years.
In the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas, delegates made an important decision. They again (similar votes had been held in 1990 and 1995 sessions) determined they would continue the practice of the Adventist Church from its beginning: they chose (again) not to open the way for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
Be that as it may, several women both before and after the 2015 meeting have been illegally “ordained to the gospel ministry” in the Pacific Union. The Columbia Union continues to have policies out of compliance with the world church on this question, and the North Pacific Union and some Unions in the Trans-European Division are following credentialing practices which are out of harmony with the world church.
At 2016 Annual Council the General Conference Executive Committee voted to engage in a process of reconciliation and if necessary, discipline toward errant parts of the world church. The year between meetings resulted in no correction to those insubordinate actions. In October 2017 Annual Council a proposal offerred the GC Executive Committee for how to proceed was returned to committee, leaving the non-compliant Unions out of harmony with the world church and the present leaders of these Unions and Divisions remaining in office.
About two weeks after Annual Council, the North American Division meets to hold its Year-End Meeting (YEM). Certain events in this year’s YEM especially stand out.
NAD YEM 2017
First, time was set aside in NAD YEM to discuss the proposal that was to be considered at 2017 Annual Council and that would have impacted Unions in rebellion in the NAD. During that discussion, a young adult from Canada, Daniel Cho, also a member of the North American Division Executive Committee, obtained the floor and spoke of the necessity of unity. He moved this motion:
In the spirit of church unity and respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session with delegates from all over the world is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters among Divisions and their entities in the church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with the NAD/GC policy, and the 2015 vote of the world church on ordination. I so move.
The motion was seconded. One person spoke in debate, then a second speaker called for opportunity to be given for prayer. While most committee members were engaged in prayer, the chair, Dan Jackson, conferred at length with ex officio committee member General Conference treasurer Juan Prestol-Peusan, NAD and GC legal counsel Karnik Doukmetzian, G. Alexander Bryant, and others, who did not participate during most of the prayer time.
Almost immediately after debate resumed, Prestol-Peusan approached the mic and after a convoluted reasoning segment, moved to table the motion.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, “The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed” (pp. 118-119). Since there was no other pending motion for the NAD Executive Committee to address before it considered Cho’s motion, the motion to table was out of order. This was a misuse of parliamentary procedure to defeat the main motion without debate. Robert’s Rules continues with the question: “Can something be defeated by adopting a motion to table it?” Answer: “This is a common violation of fair procedure. Such a motion is not in order, because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, and only a two-thirds vote can do that.”
We are indebted to a sharp-eyed layperson who brought this to our attention.
Someone may say this observation doesn’t apply since the meeting was conducted under the General Conference Rules of Order (GCROO), not Robert’s Rules. However, look again at the reason this practice is not allowed: because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, while only a 2/3rds vote can do that. Two-thirds is the required threshold to end debate on a motion by calling question (calling for an end to debate of a motion being considered and immediately putting the main question itself to a vote). Not only does this reasoning operate identically in GCROO, but GCROO specifically makes the same point: “It [motion to table] is not used to ‘drop’ or suppress a motion” (GCROO, 3a, p. 7).
Thus, the NAD president and the maker of the motion to table, Juan Prestol-Puesan, who spoke together while other committee members were praying, knowingly deprived a fellow committee member, Daniel Cho, of the right to have his motion debated, duly processed, and voted on by the assembly. Debate was cut short. Furthermore, Cho is a representative of Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division and any usurpation of his rights is a usurpation of our rights as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North American Division.
What could have been done in the meeting is for a delegate to call point of order, explain the error, and the chair would have been required to rule on the point of order. If his ruling was incorrect, committee members could appeal his decision and overrule it by a simple majority vote (GCROO, p. 3, 8-9, 12).
Another point of interest from the NAD YEM: at one point during the proceedings, NAD president Dan Jackson urged his assembled NAD leaders to be “obstreperous” in pushing, against the decision of the world church, for women’s ordination. Such behavior is hard to square with his other statements that the NAD is in unity and in harmony with the world church.
Actions like those described in this article have caused an enormous loss of confidence in the present leadership of the North American Division. They have propelled the North American Church into a terrible crisis which, unless soon addressed, will split the Church in North America.
The illegal vote to table the motion passed 186 to 25 with 3 abstentions.
On September 28, 2017, the agenda for the October 5-11, 2017, Annual Council was released. Many items are conventional: changes in policy wording, proposed bylaws changes, approval of calendar items. But there is more.
Since the 2015 San Antonio General Conference session, certain Unions in North American and Trans-European Divisions have acted in direct contradiction to the voted action of the world church. Conferences and Unions have acted insubordinately, ordaining women to the gospel ministry, engaging in non-authorized credentialing processes, granting ordained minister authorities to the commissioned minister, and, in one case, even “electing” a woman conference president.
None of the described practices and actions are valid, as none have been approved by the world church. More than this, some institutions of the world church, like the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA, have unilaterally issued statements attacking certain teachings of Scripture. Meanwhile, neither NAD president Dan Jackson nor TED president Raafat A Kamal, responsible for leading those Divisions, have taken any substantive action to prevent these rebellious acts. No doubt, this has led to thousands of Adventists calling for their dismissal (https://www.unityintruth.com/sign-a-petition/).
After considerable debate, the 2016 Annual Council approved a process for reconciliation set to occur between then and this year’s meeting. It is our understanding that neither Division nor its insubordinate entities have repented of their unilateral, non-compliant, world church defying practices.
This likely explains the presence of item 120 on the AC2017 Agenda: “Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence.” Since neither NAD nor TED Divisions have come into harmony with the world church, both NAD and TED are operating independently of God’s guidance to the Church through its Heaven-appointed leadership, and their practice continues in non-compliance.
The 2017 agenda materials include another item seemingly related to this. Executive Secretary G.T. Ng will make a report titled “Adventist 911.” The presentation will outline seven historical developments, each described either as “Crisis,” “Defection,” or “Rebellion.”
Other items include “Current Ecumenical Trends,” item 136, as well as proposed adjustments to theological education. We urge you to join us in praying for God-led courage, wisdom, and action by the gathered members of the General Conference Executive Committee as it meets for AC2017.
UnityInTruth.com, the website publishing this video, has an important petition all Adventists can sign, calling for substantive action to be taken at Annual Council 2017 to remove leaders who are acting in contradiction to the decisions of the world church. The petition can be signed here (Click on this link).
A new website has been prepared by Seventh-day Adventist laypeople, titled UnityInTruth.com. From the website:
You may feel that you are ‘only’ a lay person far removed from the decision-making process of the church. However, you have the right and responsibility to let your world leaders and lay representatives who serve on the General Conference Executive Committee know of your concerns and to ask for action to bring faithfulness to the North American Division leadership (https://www.unityintruth.com/, accessed 2017-07-25).
At the end of that link is an opportunity to sign a petition asking the GC to take corrective action this October at Annual Council.
The site is very nicely prepared. We suggest you take a close look and then consider acting by signing the petition. Of course, for lasting change NAD church members should see that they elect officers in their own Conferences and Unions who truly support the world church.
A website that aggressively publishes positions disagreeing with the Seventh-day Adventist Church on women’s ordination and LGBT issues, reports that North American Division (NAD) president Dan Jackson presented a proposal to General Conference (GC) leadership with laughably minimalist disciplinary steps for non-compliant unions. The NAD is said to be proposing three sanctions.
First, that persons from Columbia and Pacific Unions who serve on the General Conference executive committee continue with voice and vote but not be permitted to serve in GC subcommittee leadership roles (as if GC leadership would place these men in such positions at present). Second, that ordinations of women in those Unions not be recognized outside those Unions (a non-starter since those rebel ordinations are already NOT accepted outside those Unions). And third, that General Conference auditing services check these Unions for compliance with the world churches voted policy regarding women’s ordination.
In other words, if the report is accurate, the NAD is proposing to do nothing about the present disregard for the instruction of God in His Word as well as the voice of the Church at three General Conference sessions. This is actually a proposal to give more time to the deviant Unions to strengthen their “cause.”
The proposed sanctions leave the current practice of ordaining women operative in those places, leaves insubordinate leaders in positions where they can continue to promote disunity, and they institutionalize congregationalism by permitting Unions to continue to act independently of the world church.
Such inaction, posing as discipline, would leave the church even more fragmented. The plan Jackson is said to have set forth prepares the way for disregard of the Bible in other areas including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues, and threatens to reduce the Seventh-day Adventist Church to a patchwork of regional churches offering conflicting teachings.
The proposed sanctions, even if enacted, would leave the majority of NAD membership which broadly supports the world church and opposes women’s ordination, disenfranchised and doubtful. Many NAD members feel the Division has been hijacked and would see only betrayal in General Conference acceptance of such proposals.
Will Spring Meeting tell the NAD its proposal is unacceptable? How long will the NAD continue in open defiance of the world church and open promotion of disunity?
We rest in God’s promise that the “gates of hell” will not prevail against the Church that is built on Jesus the Rock, who taught us to obey God’s Word.
According to the Rocky Mountain Conference News Nuggets Newsletter, dated December 9, 2016, the executive committee of the Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC) voted the following statement November 12:
The Mid-America Union Conference executive committee, after reviewing the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference executive committee at the 2016 Annual Council, wishes to express the following thoughts about this action:
We share the need for and pray for worldwide unity and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We affirm the document’s call to mutual listening, consultation, and prayer as we work together over differences.
We, as a protestant organization, believe the true authority of our church lies with the local members comprising our churches. Furthermore, we recognize our working policies delegate authority to our constituencies as voted by our church members.
We believe all members and entities in the church should be held accountable when needed by the constituencies to which they are responsible, as has been outlined by our church’s working policies. We see this as paramount, because to do otherwise would be a departure from our protestant heritage. By staying with and following our long-held policies for accountability, the appearance or threat of kingly power is held in check.
We express grave concern with the Unity Document’s establishing working policy as on par with our fundamental beliefs. Whereas policy is made for the organizing of our church for the purpose of mission, our fundamental beliefs speak to the Biblical truths we hold as a people.
We are alarmed by the “Unity in Mission” document and object to the direction it is taking our church. True unity will not be achieved based on voted policies, but rather through our spirit of “Christlike forbearance,” as Ellen White counsels us to do.
“The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish a perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance.” (MS 24, 1892)
One reads the MAUC voted document in vain for affirmation that the world church has any authority in the Mid-America Union. On the contrary, the document suggests that the executive committee admits only that members of its constituency have authority. At this time when a statement of support for the General Conference would have been welcome, Columbia and Pacific Unions, which are acting in open disregard for the authority of the world church, may take the MAUC statement as support for their insubordinate voted actions.
On December 6, 2016, the Rocky Mountain Conference voted to affirm the MAUC statement.
A report on the MAUC voted statement appears here:
At the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session thousands of delegates participated. The decision sought was determined after “prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions.” The outcome represented the ground-up process which God in His wisdom instructed His Church to follow for seeking His will on matters in which we must remain globally united. Acceptance of the GC session vote is the proper path to bring unity to His people. The MAUC statement, in so many words, is objecting to the General Conference implementing the decisions of the world church. The General Conference represents the will of the world church and is duty bound to abide by and implement the policies voted—as is the Mid-America Union and the Rocky Mountain Conference. And “In Seventh-day Adventist Church structure, no organization determines its own status, nor does it function as if it had no obligations to the Church family beyond its boundaries” (Church Manual, p. 27).
Order is essential at this time. If the Church in North America becomes a zone operating independently of world church order, it has no future. The General Conference has voted to implement a careful plan to bring order, but NAD entities have united to resist it. The situation in the Division is desperate.
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.”
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:
“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.