Background

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

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

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

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

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

NAD YEM 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

http://outlookmag.org/mauc-executive-committee-votes-two-statements/

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.