NPUC Gleaner: Learning From History?

By Engel Yoder


The March 2017 NPUC Gleaner editorial titled “Protest” likens the NAD union presidents who are opposing the authority of the General Conference (GC) to the German princes who opposed the authority of the papal church at the Diet of Spires in 1529 (1). By making this analogy, the editorial further insinuates that our GC leaders can be likened to the papal leaders whose authority the princes protested against. The editor then asks, “What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”

It is difficult to put into words just how offensive such an editorial is. And that it has been printed in an official church publication shows just how incredibly disjointed church leadership is in the NAD. But not only does this reveal how disconnected NAD leadership is from the rest of the world church, the history the Gleaner editor suggests that we learn from has nothing to do with our current church crisis.

When we consider what the princes of long ago can truly teach us, we find they held to two principal points. Regarding the Diet of Spires we have this historical summary:

“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. D’Aubigne, b. 13, ch. 6” (2).

Obviously, the intrusion of civil authorities is not an issue in our current situation, but neither is the arbitrary authority of the church. Can any thinking Adventist actually contend that the source of the current controversy—the 2015 GC Session vote regarding women’s ordination—was an exercise of arbitrary church authority? Never in our church history has there been so much time and study invested in a single question as this one. Every world division fully participated and expressed itself. And once the ultimate body of church authority, consisting of over 2300 duly appointed representatives from around the world, made its decision, can anyone seriously say that this decision was an arbitrary one? Or that this decision was made by the exercise of so-called “kingly” or “popish” power?

But the historian continues by going beyond identifying what the Protest at Spires opposed and identifies what it affirmed:

“. . .Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man. . . .’ But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God” (3).

As the Gleaner editorial correctly points out, the papal church claimed to have authority above that of Scripture, and this claim the princes at Spires vehemently denied. But never has Protestantism claimed that all believers would interpret Scripture in precisely the same way. The myriad of Protestant denominations attests to this fact. Actually, the principles of Protestantism purposefully grant anyone who in good conscience cannot accept the teachings and practices of a particular denomination to be entirely at liberty to go to, or even to start, another church or denomination that is more to his liking. But to expect that one can abide within a faith community while openly defying the authority of that community is to embrace the principles of the papists at Spires, not the German princes. Indeed, this expectation reflects the spirit of the one who caused war in heaven when he desired to retain his place there while defying the authority of heaven’s Sovereign.

If the editor of the Gleaner wants us to learn something from history, I suggest we begin with the editor’s own history as a four-year old and learn that a duly authorized “No” means “No.” If someone cannot accept and respect that answer, then that person, like a mature adult, should pack his soap and toothbrush and go. I sincerely hope, however, that he would choose to stay, and that he would reconsider the moral principles upon which he stands. They just may not be as solid as he thinks. He may then be reassured that the General Conference in Session remains God’s ordained authority on earth (4), that this authority is to be respected even if its judgments are not entirely understood at the moment, and that our Father’s house is truly the safest and most secure place to be in all the world.


Notes

1. http://GleanerNow.com/news/2017/03/protest, accessed March 20, 2017).
2. The Great Controversy, p. 203).
3. Ibid.
4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261.


Biographical Note: Engel Yoder has recently retired after 33 years of denominational service with Christian Record Services for the Blind. He lives in Kansas and serves as an elder in his local church.

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.

Churches in Conferences in the North Pacific Union are registering their concern over the nomination of the current Washington Conference president who has been proposed to delegates to become the new Union president. Persons in several conferences have indicated concern, but churches in Washington and Upper Columbia Conferences have gone further. They have written out their concern in a brief letter they plan to send to delegates to the NPUC meeting.

The respectful yet straightforward letter has been reproduced at Fulcrum7.com at THIS LINK. Although the constituency meeting will happen almost immediately, (September 25, 2016), churches continue to vote to have their congregations added to the letter. Additional churches are readying to add their support to the letter. We are told that church boards wishing to add their support to the concern listed in the letter should contact NPUCchurchestoNPUCdelegates@gmail.com as soon as possible.

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO ALL SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS

NPUC Supporting Pastors
PO Box 19424
Spokane, WA 99219

OrdinationTruth.com
contact@ordinationtruth.com

North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC), North American Division, February 24, 2013: The NPUC Executive Committee (Ex Com) on February 20 reconsidered their previous decision to call a special constituency session to address Women’s Ordination. A majority of the Executive Committee chose not to rescind their November 14, 2013 decision but voted to confirm their previous decision. The Ex Com vote completely disregarded the concerns expressed by the NPUC Supporting Pastors in their January 30, 2013 letter to the presidents.

Ex Com actually plans to hold a special constituency session of the NPUC between November 2014 and February 2015, a full four months before the July 2015 General Conference session. This, in a Union in which no consensus exists within the constituency in favor of Women’s Ordination.

The published report of the latest Ex Com action in the February 21, 2013 Gleaner article, “NPUC Updates its Ordination Plan,” predicts action beyond even that taken by the Columbia and Pacific Unions. It indicates that if the GC does not recommend and vote the ordination of women at the GC World Quinquennial Session of July, 2015, “the NPUC has resolved to then move ahead on its own.” The NPUC—months before the GC session—may unilaterally dismiss July 2015 Quinquennial Session action by the world church. Such action could place at risk the existence of the North Pacific Union as a unit of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The General Conference is engaged in a substantial study process through the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. But NPUC Ex Com has reactivated its Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Leadership to prepare additional “educative” materials and to develop a timeline for action. What “action”? The Gleaner describes an intentionality to plan for Women’s Ordination independently of the world church.

The Union paper continues to operate with a clear bias favoring the ordination of women to headship positions.

The NPUC Supporting Pastors stated that they shall continue to offer their views in contrast. OrdinationTruth.com is an alternative source for information regarding views on Women’s Ordination not published in NAD union papers. The Supporting Pastors reissued their call for that manifestation of the type of Biblical unity illustrated, taught and practiced by the Seventh-day Adventist Church from its beginning until now according to the Scriptural model of Acts 15:1-24. This unity could be expressed by rescinding the February 20, 2013 action to hold a special constituency meeting before the 2015 General Conference session.

The Supporting Pastors recognize the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and its voted directives at duly called General Conference sessions as the ultimate human expression of ecclesiastical authority in Seventh-day Adventist Church polity. Unilateral actions by unions, including North Pacific Union, are invalid. The Supporting Pastors stated that they are continuing to pray for divine guidance for Union Leadership concerning this issue.

# # #

The North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Executive Committee met this week and the Union paper, the Gleaner, has issued the following report:

NPUC Updates Its Ordination Plan.

NPUC Supporting Pastors respond to this development.

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO ALL SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS

NPUC Supporting Pastors
PO Box 19424
Spokane, WA 99219

OrdinationTruth.com
contact@ordinationtruth.com


North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC), North American Division, February 4, 2013: Today the NPUC Supporting Pastors launched the OrdinationTruth.com website. At launch, twenty-eight ministers formally lent their support, choosing to be named and listed as Supporting Pastors. As more pastors learn of this encouragement toward unity, it is anticipated the list will speedily grow.

Those within the Union advocating in favor of Women’s Ordination are preparing for a special constituency meeting of the Union where NPUC could move ahead of the world church. The Supporting Pastors came together to respond to this emergency. They respectfully ask that the NPUC Executive Committee rescind its November 2012 decision and that no special constituency meeting to act on Women’s Ordination be held before the 2015 General Conference session.

In 2012, two of nine North American Division union constituencies voted to act independently of the world Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Those two unions moved unilaterally to ordain women as pastors. The SDA Church rejected similar initatives in 1990 and 1995 General Conference sessions. In Adventist polity, an ordained minister carries authority to function across the world field. Union conferences do not have authority to determine whether women shall be ordained within their territories; this decision rests with the combined Church represented by the General Conference. A group within the NPUC also launched a union-wide initiative intended to lead to a special meeting. But such action at this time could align the North Pacific Union with other insubordinate unions.

OrdinationTruth.com is intended as a fresh venue where information can be shared highlighting Christian teachings about unity, order, and gender in the Church. The site also exists to help assure that the conversation about Women’s Ordination in the Union is balanced. The Union paper has carried only one side of the question. Immediately, and in weeks and months to come, OrdinationTruth.com will carry news, articles, and studies addressing questions of unity and Women’s Ordination, especially within the territory of the NPUC. There is also an e-mail list where interested persons can participate as the situation unfolds. For these materials, more detailed positions, and participation options, persons are directed to http://www.OrdinationTruth.com.

Initially published documents include an overview document as well as, “Ordination: God’s Purpose versus Satan’s Designs,” found in the FEATURES section of the site.

The NPUC Supporting Pastors seek to work in harmony with the NPUC and invite prayer for Union leadership and support for the world church in this difficult hour.

# # #
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination of 17 million members operating in 230 nations. The NPUC (North Pacific Union) Supporting Pastors are Seventh-day Adventist ministers called to serve in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, and Montana conferences. In particular, they are led to give voice to the understanding of Seventh-day Adventists who (1) seek to work in harmony with the world church as represented by the General Conference, and/or (2) who cannot conscientiously support as an appropriate practice Women’s Ordination in the present situation. NPUC Supporting Pastors recognize the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church located in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA as the ultimate organizational authority within SDA polity.