[UPDATED Oct. 12, 2016]

After a lengthy meeting, the final vote of the General Conference Executive Committee was Yes 169 and No 122, adopting the recommended document, “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation.”

Early in the discussion Kathryn Proffitt told the group that she had been a delegate to the Pacific Union Conference constituency meeting. She told the assembled Autumn Council, that “As I was reviewing the Pacific Union bylaws, one particular article stood out. It said that the constituents had the authority to change the bylaws, but only if they remained in harmony with the model constitution. As a lay person, I had no idea what the model constitution was, but I knew it must be very important if it limited the delegates’ authority.”

Once she had obtained a copy and read it, she said, “This really had a profound effect on me, because I understood how much, for maybe the first time, the unity of God’s Church means to Him. My feeling, as a member of the executive committee, is that I don’t have the right to deviate from actions that have been taken by the world church.”

Many did not share this view. As much as 80% of the debate was dominated by participants from the North American Division (NAD) arguing against the document. Numerous claims went up: more time is needed; the wording needs to be improved; more study of this, more study of that. The dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, actually suggested that the church assign theologians study church policy to tell administrators what it means!

Some made emotional appeals warning that young people might leave the Church over the decision. One example was offered by Loma Linda University Church pastor Randy Roberts (located in one of the non-compliant Unions), who said the following:

“If you follow the trajectory of church after church, in the latter phases of those churches, much time, much energy, and much focus, is given to propping up the realities of that church by policies and procedures, rather than focus on the vision. When it becomes calcified in that way, people break off and start the process again with a new vision and dream. I think we’re at a point where we’re in danger of that. I can say that at least in my part of the world, to vote a document like this may actually be a very good thing in terms of vision. Because young adults and many others will say, we have to do something that is not so regimented and governed by policy.”

NAD president Dan Jackson claimed to be an African, a Canadian, and a variety of other nationalities. He said that because he had traveled around the division, “I have become Columbia Union. I have become the Mid-America Union. I have become the Pacific Union, and the church in Canada, and a member of every union.” He did not speak in favor of the document.

Dan Houghton offered the following observations:

“I’m extremely puzzled by this discussion, and I want to speak in favor of this motion. Its seems to me that 90% of everything that’s been said has been re-litigating what happened in San Antonio. And we’ve heard Mike Ryan get up twice and say, that’s not our issue. And I would just like to say, that there are lots of people watching this proceeding, right now, around our country, with different ideas. The question I have, Does a vote in General Conference session mean anything? Does it mean anything? We spent five years, and I don’t know how many dollars, preparing for Indianapolis, and we took a vote. And there was a vote. This is really not about women’s ordination, and cannot be; we cannot make it that. Does this Church have a unity,? And does it have an authority? I would encourage those of my brothers and sisters who I love, they’re my friends, to find a different way to express their frustration with that vote, than undermining the authority and the unity of this Church.”

While many aging administrators worried out loud about young people leaving the church over the decision, the one young person who did speak, Natasha Dysinger, said this:

“As a young person, I have to echo what Mr. Houghton just said. When I first read this document when it came to my inbox, I found it extremely refreshing. . . when I read it I found it to be extremely pastoral in nature. . . What I read in this is, let’s have some simple Christianity, and sit down, and pray, and discuss, and communicate.”

Some had insinuated that the General Conference, in seeking compliance with the 2015 GC session decision, was exercising kingly power. But Dr. Clinton Wahlen in speaking from the floor contradicted that claim with facts:

“Mr. Chairman, there is a difference between local policies, and policies voted by the General Conference session. The situation before us today, is, in some important respects, unprecedented. That’s why a focused solution is needed. The events leading to non-compliance with the San Antonio vote were not accidental. A great deal of energy was expended on crafting proposals for constituency meetings to act on, and these deliberate efforts have placed some unions and conferences in non-compliance. This situation arises from deep theological convictions that have been held for a very long time. Following the vote in San Antonio, a formal appeal was made on August 17, 2015 by the GC Secretariat to each division, kindly asking every entity to come into alignment with the world church. I had thought that this kind of process would have been underway for 15 months already and a report brought here today. The time has come to take action. I appeal to this body to choose the solution that policy already provides, and that the Secretariat’s recent Unity document suggests. Quoting B 05 .3, ‘Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications, including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it.’ Please hear this final appeal from Jody, a constituent of one of the non-compliant unions: ‘I feel that my local church, my conference, and my union are the ones with the kingly power. It is frustrating wanting to be unified with the GC under the layers of three uncooperative kingly powers. I want to be made whole with the world church.’ We need to consider her plea and the cry of many thousands like her.”

G.T. Ng, the Executive Secretary of the General Conference also spoke to the proposal to adopt the document:

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. G.T. Ng from the custodial service of General Conference. Mr Chairman, I’m very proud of this Church because it prides itself as the church of prophecy. And this afternoon I hear prophecies being uttered from prophets, or sons of prophets. Whether they are major or minor, it is not for me to decide. But they utter prophecies I cannot find in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. This morning I heard that this document is capable of setting the Church on fire. I never knew that. This afternoon we heard words such as ‘splitting,’ causing ‘earthquake’ And if we stay on until eight o’clock, we will hear terms like ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Armageddon.’ Where in the world do those terms come from? I think this document this afternoon—what is on trial is not this document. What is on trial is our faith and belief in the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible. It has been clearly foretold that what is decided at General Conference is decided by the highest authority on earth, and either we believe that or not; its up to us. Our General Conference president has stated to us that he will move on whatever the vote. When the vote it taken, he will abide by that vote. And now it is our turn.”

Near the end of the debate, Michigan Conference president Elder Jay Gallimore made these remarks:

“Thank you brother chairman, Jay Gallimore for the Michigan Conference. I want to rise to support this document. Its an outstanding document. Redemptive discipline takes time. I wrote an article some years ago on redemptive discipline for the Ministry magazine. And they need time to get started. And I’m disappointed to hear so many references made that the issue that faced the General Conference in San Antonio is some kind of minor policy. That motion required a vote based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We spent months and years, through all kinds of committees, to get to the place where this Church could vote on that issue. At this point, the issue is no longer that issue. The issue is the unity of the church. And the unity of the church is not maintained by pluralism. If we want to try to find a way that’s painless, to keep the unity of the church, we can go down the road of pluralism, but it will be very, very costly in the end. Redemptive discipline is painful. Its patient. Its full of love. And this document, I believe, gives us the start on that. We cannot as a Church maintain our unity, and allow people who oppose the world church, to simply accomplish what they wanted by default, by the Church never addressing the issue. Should it be patient? Should it be longsuffering? Should it be all those kinds of things? Yes. And I think this document is the journey that starts the world church on addressing what it needs to, and I hope this body will vote this.”

When the final vote is considered, what was stated by general Conference vice president Billy Biaggi was likely true. He indicated that while there were many participants who felt free to speak in English, that there were hundreds who did not feel comfortable speaking. It seems clear that many of these did not concur with the numerous voices of doom and disagreement offered by North America and a few other international voices.

Soon after, the vote was taken by secret ballots on paper. After this, the meeting was closed with kind and courteous remarks by General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson.

God had worked for His people.

Kevin Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. 10 de octubre del 2016


[REVISED 10:43 a.m. PST]

“Hay quienes desarrollaron la idea de que a medida que nos acerquemos al fin del tiempo, cada hijo de Dios actuará independientemente de toda organización religiosa. Pero me ha instruido el Señor que en esta labor no hay tal cosa como que cada persona se mantenga independiente” (Testimonios, vol. 9, 258).

Planteamiento #1: Se ha sugerido que los primeros adventistas, bajo la dirección de James White se desplazó “desde una hermenéutica literal que sostenía que lo único admisible fuese lo que claramente establecía ls Escritura a una en que todo era permisible en tanto no contradijera la Biblia y estuviese en armonía con el sentido común”.

Respuesta:
White no sugería un cambio en la hermenéutica, sino que la iglesia continuase “perfecta[mente]” en el orden bíblico establecido en la Escritura (cf. Hechos de los Apóstoles, 88-92).

La Escritura ofrece orientación en relación con el orden y la organización de la iglesia:

Miembros – 1 Corintios 12:27 / 1 Pedro 2: 5 :: Piedras vivas
Iglesias – Tito 1: 5 :: Cada ciudad
Pequeñas regiones – Hechos 9:31 :: Judea, Galilea
Regiones mayores – 1 Corintios 16: 1; 2 Corintios 1: 1 :: Toda Acaya
Continentes – 1 Corintios 16:19 :: Asia
Participación de todos por representación – Hechos 15 :: Toda la Iglesia

Este planteamiento ignora el contexto del comentario de James White. Él se refiere a cosas que podrían mejorar el orden (como un boletín semanal de iglesia, o la publicación de la página impresa) que, aunque no está claramente establecida en las Escrituras, no se “opone a la Biblia, y es aprobada por el sentido común” (James White, “Yearly meetings” [Reuniones anuales], Review and Herald, 21 de julio de 1859, pág. 68, col. 2). El “perfeccionamiento” de la organización incluía la celebración de “conferencias anuales, y la acción sistemática de todo el cuerpo” (ibíd).

Planteamiento #2: Se afirma que las acciones actuales de la Asociación General (AG), como en los días de J. White, se modelan en un “poder regio”, al que Elena de White señaló no representando la voz de Dios en la tierra, y que las Uniones fueron establecidas para proteger (al resto de) la iglesia contra de un posible liderazgo erróneo de la Asociación General.

Respuesta:
Nada más lejos de la verdad. Es deber y responsabilidad de la AG ejecutar los votos aprobados por la iglesia mundial. Dichas acusaciones caen en la categoría del “hablar mal” y recuerdan a una de las tácticas utilizadas por la rebelión de Lucifer. Este planteamiento ignora el contexto. Elena de White es clara al afirmar que “a veces, cuando un pequeño grupo de hombres. . . en nombre de la Asociación General, intenta llevar a cabo planes imprudentes y limitar la labor divina, yo. . . ya no puedo considerar que la voz de la Asociación General, expresada por un puñado de hombres, sea la voz de Dios”. Las instrucciones destinadas a la reorganización fueron para corregir este aspecto, es por ello que tenemos Uniones. Elena de White continúa: “Pero ésto no quiere decir que las decisiones (tomadas) en una sesión de la Asociación General, compuesta por un conjunto de delegados debidamente convocados, representando todas las partes del territorio, no deban ser respetados. Dios ha ordenado que los representantes de su iglesia convocados de todas partes del mundo, cuando se reúnen en una Asociación General, tienen autoridad. El error que algunos están a punto de cometer, es en el de dar a la mente y el juicio de un hombre, o de un puñado de hombres, la plena autoridad e influencia que Dios ha conferido a su iglesia en el juicio y la voz de la Asociación General reunida para planificar para la prosperidad y el desarrollo de su obra” (Testimonios, 9: 260, 261).

En esta era de desarrollo de las comunicaciones y de los viajes rápidos, la iglesia es una comunidad global, en la que lo que se hace en una parte del organismo se puede experimentar en tiempo real en diversas partes del mundo. Por esta razón, la acción unida en relación con los diversos aspectos del ministerio se hace necesaria para que la misión avance de manera efectiva. Ciertamente, la selección o la sustitución de líderes es una de esas áreas donde se necesita una póliza unida, sobre todo luego de años de estudio y deliberación.

Planteamiento #3: Algunos sostienen que la ordenación no es aprobada en la Escritura o en el Espíritu de Profecía y, por ende, ni siquiera debería haber sido discutido en la sesión de la Asociación General. Sostienen que la Asociación General al adoptar medidas relativas a la ordenación, fue más allá de su jurisdicción. Estos proponentes desean que tanto el establecimiento de criterios y la selección de líderes se produzca en el ámbito de la Unión.

Respuesta:
La iglesia mundial jamás consideró que dicha postura tenga fundamento bíblico. La “Declaración de Consenso sobre la Teología Adventista de la Ordenación, “votada por el Concilio Anual del 2014, demuestra la base bíblica de nuestra comprensión de la ordenación, a la que la comisión de estudio TOSC “llegó en un alto grado de acuerdo relativo a una teología bíblica de la ordenación”, indicando que “los Adventistas del Séptimo Día entendemos la ordenación, en un sentido bíblico, como la acción de la Iglesia en reconocimiento público hacia quienes el Señor ha llamado y equipado para el ministerio de la iglesia local y universal” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-ordination.pdf).

La acción tomada por la iglesia mundial en una sesión (debidamente) convocada (incluyendo a presidentes y laicos de asociaciones y uniones) rebate este planteamiento ya que fue elegida sobre la base de los delegados (por medio del) “estudio profundo de la Biblia, y de los escritos de Elena G. White y los informes de las comisiones de estudio sobre la ordenación …” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf).

Cualquiera que sea la postura con respecto a quién debe ser ordenado, “El peligro para nuestra unidad no reside principalmente en quién ordenamos, o qué credenciales emitimos. El principal peligro radica en aceptar la posibilidad de una acción unilateral. Eso tiene implicaciones potenciales que van más allá de la cuestión inmediata. Sin embargo, si tuviéramos que sacrificar el principio general de representación, colegiada, en el fundamento de consenso en la toma de decisiones, si aceptáramos que las unidades organizativas pudieran actuar unilateralmente, entonces toda nuestra política eclesiástica y el sistema de gobierno de la iglesia estarían en peligro de fragmentarse (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Septiembre del 2016 p. 41).

Si la Iglesia aceptase las confusas nociones de algunos proponentes, ¿qué habría de impedir que en un futuro las asociaciones ó misiones y las uniones promoviesen puntos de vista carentes de fundamento bíblico respecto a la autoridad profética, la Creación, el diezmo, el juicio investigador, o la conducta hacia un mismo sexo? De este modo, se abriría la puerta a creencias y prácticas que destruirían la proclamación mundial del Evangelio adventista.

Planteamiento #4: Se expresa temor porque vayamos a perder a nuestros jóvenes si no abordamos el tema de la coordinación y la estructura de la iglesia en la forma propuesta por este sector [opositor al status quo].
 
Respuesta:
Esta misma táctica de miedo se utilizó cuando se habló de la Doctrina del Santuario en la iglesia. Entonces éramos sólo 4 millones. Sin embargo, fue superado. Hubo pérdidas, pero ahora la membresía es de casi 20 millones. Afirmar la verdad no pierde, sino atrae a los jóvenes.

Planteamiento #5: Supuestamente, el voto adoptado por la AG en contra de permitir que las divisiones tomaran sus propias decisiones relativas a la práctica de la ordenación manifiesta un despliegue de “autoridad regia” y un criterio de autoridad descendente (de arriba hacia abajo) que imita “los errores más serios cometidos por la Iglesia Católica”.

Respuesta:
Este alegado desesperado es falso. La naturaleza interdependiente de la iglesia adventista hoy es más diversa y representativa que nunca antes. Décadas de estudio y deliberación de todos los niveles en todo el campo del mundo llevaron a la decisión adoptado en la AG en el 2015, y la decisión a tomarse en el 2016 debiera evidenciar nuestro compromiso en la toma de decisiones colectivas.

La opción es clara: el Documento de Unidad preparado por la Secretaría [de la AG] es un recurso poderoso y destacado por el respeto hacia las decisiones colectivas de la iglesia, por el respeto a la unidad de la iglesia y por el respeto a la organización de la iglesia. Es bíblicamente coherente y armoniza con los consejos del Espíritu de Profecía. La opción que tenemos por delante ya no es sobre la ordenación de damas al ministerio sino, si nuestra estructura eclesiástica continuará siendo interdependientes o seremos forzados hacia el congregacionalismo.

Kevin D. Paulson, Larry Kirkpatrick. October 10, 2016

CLICK HERE: DOWNLOAD THIS DOCUMENT IN 1-PAGE (FRONT/BACK) PDF FORMAT FOR SHARING


Introduction

“Some have advanced the thought that as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 258).

Claim #1: It has been suggested that early Adventists, under the direction of James White moved ”from a literalistic hermeneutic that held that the only things permissible were those specifically spelled out in Scripture, to one in which everything was permissible that did not contradict the Bible and was in harmony with common sense.”

Response
White was not suggesting a change in hermeneutics, but that the church should further “perfect” upon the biblical order already established in Scripture (cf. Acts of the Apostles, 88-92).

Does Scripture give indications concerning church order / organization?

Members – 1 Corinthians 12:27 / 1 Peter 2:5 :: “Living stones”
Churches – Titus 1:5 :: “Every City”
Small regions – Acts 9:31 :: “Judea” “Galilee”
Larger regions – 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1 :: “All Achaia”
Continents – 1 Corinthians 16:19 :: “Asia”
Input by all through representation – Acts 15 :: The Entire Church

The claim ignores the context of James White’s comment. He was discussing things that could enhance order (having a weekly church paper, a publishing press) which, while not specifically spelled out in Scripture, is not “opposed by the Bible, and is approved by sound sense” (James White, “Yearly Meetings,” Review and Herald, July 21, 1859, p. 68, col. 2). The further “perfecting” of organization included the holding of “yearly conferences, and systematic action of the entire body” (ibid).

Claim #2: It is claimed that the actions of the General Conference (GC) today, as in White’s day, modeled “kingly power,” that Ellen White indicates that it did not represent the voice of God on earth, and that unions were put in place to protect against possible misguided leadership from the General Conference.

Response
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the duty and responsibility of the GC to carry out the voted actions of the world church. Such accusations fit the category of “evil speaking” and remind one of the tactics used by Lucifer in his rebellion. The claim’s context is ignored. Ellen White is clear that “at times, when a small group of men . . . in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I . . . could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God.” The instructions for reorganization were to correct this, which is why we have unions. Ellen White continues: “But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference session, composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field, should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing, is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work” (Testimonies, vol. 9, 260, 261).

In this age of enhanced communications and rapid travel, the church is a global community where what is done in one part of the body can be experienced in real time in many parts of the world. For this reason, unified action concerning many aspects of ministry is necessary if mission is to move forward effectively. Certainly the selection or replacement of leaders is one such area where unified policy is needed, particularly after years of study and deliberation.

Claim #3: Some claim that ordination is not supported by Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy and thus should not even have been discussed at the General Conference session. They say that the General Conference in taking action concerning ordination, went beyond its proper jurisdiction. They desire that both the setting of criteria and the selection and setting aside of leaders should take place at the Union level.

Response
The world church has never considered such a position to be biblical. The “Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination,” voted by the 2014 Annual Council, shows the Biblical basis for our understanding of ordination, that the TOSC study commission “did reach a high degree of accord concerning a biblical theology of ordination,” indicating that “Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global Church ministry.” (https://www.adventistarchives.org/consensus-statement-on-a-seventh-day-adventist-theology-of-ordination.pdf).

The action taken by the world church in session (including conference and union presidents and laypersons) differs from this claim, because it was voted based on the delegates “thorough study of the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions on ordination…” (http://www.adventistreview.org/assets/public/news/2014-10/statement.pdf)

Whatever one’s view concerning who should be ordained, “The danger to our unity lies not primarily in who we ordain, or what credentials we issue to them. The chief danger lies in accepting the possibility of unilateral action. That has potential implications which go far beyond this immediate issue. Yet if we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down (“A Study of Church Governance and Unity,” Secretariat, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists September 2016 p. 41).

If the Church accepts the confused notions now being offered by some, what in the future would prevent conferences and unions from promoting unbiblical views regarding prophetic authority, creation, tithing, the investigative judgment, or same-sex behavior? The door will be opened for beliefs and practices enormously destructive to Adventist global gospel proclamation.

Claim #4: It is feared that we will lose our young people if we don’t address the issue of ordination and church structure in the manner advocated by some.

Response
This same scare tactic was used when the sanctuary doctrine of the church was being discussed. Membership was then 4 million. The issue was met head on. There were some losses, but membership is now nearly 20 million. Standing for truth draws young people; it doesn’t drive them away.

Claim #5: Supposedly, the GC session vote against allowing divisions to make their own decisions concerning ordination practice is exhibiting “kingly power and top-down authority,” adopting and replicating “the most serious mistakes of Roman Catholicism.”

Response
This desperate charge is clearly false. The interdependent nature of the Adventist church is more diverse and representative today than ever before. Decades of study and deliberation at all levels throughout the world field led to the decision in 2015, and the decision to be made in 2016 must evidence our commitment to collective decision-making.

The Choice Is Clear: The Unity document prepared by the Secretariat is a powerful and outstanding appeal for respect toward the collective actions of the church, church unity, and organization. It is sound biblically and in accordance with Spirit of Prophecy counsels. The choice is no longer about women’s ordination, but whether our church structure will remain interdependent or be forced into congregationalism.

Adventists are reading with interest two documents released on Sunday by the General Conference. According to Adventist News Network, General Conference executive secretary G.T. Ng stated, “During Annual Council this year we plan to discuss how best to address divergence from the current policy.”

“A Study of Church Governance and Unity” is a 50 page study. Section headings discuss unity, policy, diversity, authority, authority in the Spirit of Prophecy, unilateralism, and application. The shorter document summarizes the longer.

Since the General Conference vote in 2015 in which delegates forbade divisions of the Church from ordaining women to the gospel ministry, several Unions and Conferences have acted unilaterally toward the world church. A wide range of approaches have been implemented, including inflating the commissioned credential to parity with the ordained minister, the outright ordination of women, changing ordained credentials for commissioned ones, and more. All undermine the unity and mission of the Church.

The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that readers peruse the full documents (linked to at the end of this article). We also believe that readers will be interested in our highlighting some of the material now being studied by church leaders.

ON POLICY

“Policies provide a clear record of what representatives of the world Church have discussed and agreed is essential for the global body to engage effectively in mission and ministry” (p. 9).

“Policy also expresses our unity, for, in the succinct words of a recent statement by world Church leaders, ‘General Conference Session actions and voted policies are agreements that the body of Christ make together’” (p. 9, emphasis in original).

“When God’s people determine whether or not to allow diverse approaches among them, they should make their decision collectively and collaboratively, not unilaterally” (p. 12).

Far from being inessential, policies are a concrete expression of the unity of the Church. It is because the Church invests energy in creating policy that the Church is able to operate an effective global program, and to do so coherently. When variations are permitted, such should be determined on the basis of collective decision-making, not unilateral action.

DECISIONS APPLY TO DIVISIONS, UNIONS, CONFERENCES

Inherent in our system of representative, consultative, consensus-based decision-making is that organizational units and church-member representatives have input into the decisions of organizations at higher levels of structure. However, having had input, reciprocity means that there must be acceptance of the collective decision. Also inherent in the system, then, is that the authority of an organizational unit at any level is plenary in its territory, encompassing all constituent or component organizations at lower levels. The latter are bound by the decisions of the higher-level units of which they form a part, and of any executive committees entrusted by Working Policy with far-reaching authority. . . .the authority of the GC Executive Committee applies not only to divisions, but also to unions, and in consequence to conferences and missions. . . . unions are constitutionally obliged to act in harmony with GC Working Policy (p. 15).

No mission, conference, or union has a right to take unilateral decisions on important matters, or to depart from decisions taken by units at a higher level of structure with wider authority. . . Recognition as a conference/mission or union brings with it decision-making authority in defined areas and the right of representation at higher levels of denominational structure, but ‘status’ is contingent on ‘compliance with denominational practices and policies’ and ‘can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it’ (B 05, 3). (p. 16).

These are clear statements that the authority of each part of the church structure attached to the General Conference is derived from it. A decision limiting what a division can do also limits what that division’s unions, that union’s conferences, and that conference’s local churches can do. Authority is limited and derived; we are a world church.

The document also reminds us that the status of a division, union, or conference is subject to that unit’s “compliance with denominational practices and policies.” The document draws an important parallel between Ellen White’s warnings referring to the unilateral actions of J.H. Kellogg and “the current circumstances of unilateral action by Church organizational units.” The GC then says “overly independent, unilateral action poses a special danger to the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (p. 31).

DANGER AND COMPLIANCE

When, after such a process [referring to the TOSC study and GC session voted decision. pp. 40, 41], a GC Session takes a decision, one obviously intended to apply to to the world (since variation in practice was part of the motion put to the Session), it cannot be disregarded. The decision cannot be called a matter of little significance on which everyone could reasonably go their own way. That is because we all, together, considered it, and collectively decided it was not such a matter, but one in which we should act together. The biblical principle of unity in decision-making requires compliance. Whatever our views as individuals, ‘private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered (p. 41).

If we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down. Unions would decline to follow divisions’ guidance; conferences will ignore unions when it suits them; local churches would flout conferences or missions (Ibid.).

Longtime readers of OrdinationTruth.com will recognize in the above statements things we have been saying since 2013. At that time the Pacific Union constituency session vote to disregard the 1990 decision not to ordain women was still fresh in our minds and the NPUC was telling members they were going to embark on a plan to “educate members” about a position on women’s ordination which was contrary to that of the world church, and then hold a special constituency session to vote on it. In other words, threatened unilateral action by the Union prompted us to act. We have engaged in a process of study and published those results in support of the world church. The sample quotations above (and there are many more in the documents) help us know that these issues are well understood and that the world church, after much forbearance, is ready to bring Spirit-led correction.

DOCUMENTS

Here are the General Conference documents available for downloading:
A Study of Church Governance and Unity (54 pp.).
Summary of a statement on Church Governance and Unity (17 pp.).

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.

Just three months after the San Antonio General Conference (GC) session, the Washington Conference executive committee created a new policy. The executive committee, led by president John Freedman, calls it a “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy.” The action expands authorities granted to commissioned ministers. In December 2015, the Gleaner published a short article describing the new policy. The Council of Adventist pastors has prepared a comparison of the article announcing the policy to official Adventist documents. (The Gleaner is the union paper which serves the North Pacific Union Conference. The NPUC consists of Seventh-day Adventists in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Upper Columbia, and Washington Conferences.)

Our analysis below reviews the Gleaner article and reacts to it. It compares the policy as described in the news article with authoritative church documents. It is formatted into two columns for easy comparison.

Seventh-day Adventists throughout the NPUC have an interest in Washington’s wrong policy. The Conference should act in harmony with the global practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The creation of the Washington policy so soon after the GC vote shows movement independent of the world church. The example offered by Washington’s policy opened the way for similar policies by Oregon and Upper Columbia Conferences. It created a regional island of resistance to world church policy. (Upper Columbia Conference adopted its policy March 29 but rescinded it on August 20 after several churches called for a special constituency session.)

Since the time when Washington Conference voted its policy, the NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, has nominated Washington Conference president John Freedman to serve as the new president of North Pacific Union Conference. The NPUC constituency will meet and vote on September 25, 2016.

How we would rejoice if North American Division Unions and Conferences would simply work together with the world church and cease from actions which attempt to bypass its decisions!

To read the comparison, CLICK HERE: Analysis of Washington Conference “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy”


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

The General Conference released an important document in August 2015. At the General Conference session, world church delegates decided not to grant authority to division executive committees to make provision for the ordination of women in their division territory. One month following the San Antonio General Conference session, the General Conference Secretariat released the document titled “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry.” This document reiterates where authority resides and what authorities are delegated to unions and other Adventist denominational entities.

Since the time when this document was issued by the General Conference, various conferences, unions, and unions of churches have acted in opposition to the decision against permitting divisions ordain women and in opposition to the facts stated in the document “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry.” For example, at its August 2016 Constituency session, the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists did not rescind its 2012 action illegitimately approving the ordination of women. Another 2016 example of rebellion toward the world church is seen in the June “ordinations” of Sara-May Colon and Patty Marruffo: http://www.pacificunionrecorder.com/issue/130/6/2502

The Council of Adventist Pastors points members across the world church to this important information provided by the General Conference.

Find the document at this link: http://ordinationtruth.com/2015/09/10/unions-and-ordination-to-the-gospel-ministry/

At the end of March, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee voted a “Commissioned Minister Policy” which exceeded its authority and placed it out of harmony with the world church. That action sets an example of insubordination toward the world church.

The action of the committee has led to heart searching and concern. Some UCC churches are petitioning their conference to hold a special constituency session to turn back the “Commissioned Minister Policy.” This article explores some of the reasons why the action of the committee is faulty and why the laypeople are on the move. We encourage readers to consider the dilemma that the action by the executive committee has created.

Church members across the North American Division want to support their world church, but action being taken by some conferences is impacting confidence in local leadership. Is there a clear basis for members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to hold their local leaders accountable? Do local conferences have authority to create “Commissioned Minister Policies” that contradict the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Do local conferences have authority to unilaterally add to the authorities given to the commissioned minister?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

In the second in CAP’s series of articles on the Commissioned Minister policy wrongly voted by the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee on March 29, 2016, we chart differences between the policy of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, as indicated in the current edition of the Church Manual and NAD and GC Working Policy, and the UCC. When placed side-by-side, it becomes very clear that the UCC executive committee has exceeded its authority and placed itself in opposition to the practice of the world church. This helps explain why some UCC churches are now calling for a special session of the Upper Columbia Conference constituency to meet to reverse the policy.

cmc2-chart-image

Three conferences (Oregon, Washington, and Upper Columbia conferences in the North Pacific Union in the North American Division) have currently implemented the incorrect policy in some form. Seventh-day Adventists who respect the decisions of their world church and long to work in unity with brother and sister members around the world, are asking questions about the strange transference of duties and responsibilities of the ordained minister to the commissioned minister. The new policies even permit the ordination of local church elders by commissioned ministers.

The Council of Adventist Pastors has been led to provide documentation and analysis of these developments so that church members are able to make informed decisions regarding right and wrong practice, and to help maintain transparency and accountability for church leaders. We invite Seventh-day Adventists to read and widely circulate these materials.

CLICK HERE: Commissioned Minister Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church.

pucsecc2015dec19illegalordinationponder

On December 19, 2015, the Southeastern California Conference (SECC), Pacific Union (PUC), and Loma Linda University Church (LLUC) ordained a woman pastor, an action opposite the vote of the world church this summer in San Antonio, Texas.

After years of study the world church had considered a motion to permit division committees to act unilaterally in approving the ordination of women to pastoral ministry. Delegates assembled from around the world. The July 8, 2015 vote was 1381 No and 977 Yes.(1) And yet incredibly, the illegitimately appointed leader of the SECC told the person upon whom hands of ordination were laid that “Today, I’m not welcoming you to ministry but I am welcoming you on behalf of your colleagues in ministry, on behalf of the conference, on behalf of the worldwide church, as an ordained minister of the gospel.”

How has God’s church traveleld to this surreal moment? With San Antonio immediately in the rear view mirror, the SECC executive committee proceeded to seek the ordination of Shirley Ponder. Those presently leading the Conference forwarded their request to the Pacific Union. On November 22, the Union approved the requested action.(2)

The “ordination” held at Loma Linda University Church on December 19 contradicts the Bible-based practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Church considers pastoral ministry leading a congregation as a task specially assigned to elders. The office of elder is in the Bible limited to spiritually qualified males (1 Timothy 2:12, 13; 3:2; Titus 1:6; 1 Corinthians 11:2, 3). The Seventh-day Adventist Church from its beginnings has placed called elders as leaders of congregations and conferences and unions, the administrative bodies of the church.(3)(4)

Instability was introduced in Adventist practice in North America by actions taken in the 1970s and 1980s which (contrary to Scripture) permitted women to serve as elders. That decision, however, has never been brought before the church to be directly addressed in a General Conference session; it was taken at an Annual Council.(5)

That innovation stands near the root of the disunity that has plagued the church since that time. It has even led the North American Division to introduce a new way of interpreting Scripture in an attempt to support the new practice!(6) The persistent pressure for women’s ordination, which has continued after the General Conference session, shows that turmoil will continue until the issue of woman elders is resolved.

These units have exceeded the authority delegated to them by the world body and violated the trust of the world church. Since the Loma Linda “ordination” occurred on December 19, a time of year when many are visiting their families, no immediate action is anticipated from the General Conference (GC). However, the GC which is tasked with carrying forward the decisions of the world church sought to preempt such a mistake. Note the following excerpt from an August 2015 statement set forth by the GC Secretariat following the San Antonio world church decision:

“The authority given to the unions is not only delegated, but also limited. Unions have the power to select those to be ordained from among candidates proposed by conferences who meet the criteria set by the World Church. Authority to determine the criteria has never been delegated from the General Conference to any other organization—it does not belong to the work of the union but rather the criteria were voted by the World Church and are part of the GC Working Policy in the ‘L’ section entitled ‘The Ministry and Ministerial Training.’ In particular, the L 35 section outlines specifically the ‘Qualifications for Ordination to the Ministry’ which have been voted by the World Church during Annual Council.

“The church’s policies and practice do not permit women to be ordained, since section L, which governs ordination, is the only section in GC WP with language that is masculine gender-specific. All other sections of GC WP use gender-neutral or inclusive language, but Section L consistently refers only to men being ordained or on track for ordination. In addition, the section in GC WP BA 60 10 (pages 118-119), which refers to the church’s official position regarding discrimination, specifically states that ‘Neither shall these positions be limited by gender (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry’).

Therefore, no union or any other entity can ordain women to the gospel ministry”(7).

In this light, the actions of the Southeastern California Conference, the Pacific Union Conference, and of the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church along with all others who laid hands of ordination on Shirley Ponder, including the illegitimate leader of the SECC(8), are invalid. The world church, of which these all are part, has not approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

The current president of the NAD has not acted faithfully to inhibit the series of events which have led to the Dec. 19 act of opposition toward the world church.(9) Notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, the Pacific Union has challenged the authority of the world church(10) and has now acted out its challenge.

The trust of the world church has been betrayed.


1. http://ordinationtruth.com/2015/07/08/gc-result-yes-977-no-1381/
2. http://www.pacificunionrecorder.com/issue/122/16/23833. http://ordinationtruth.com/2014/09/12/did-adventist-ordain-women-to-the-gospel-ministry-a-century-ago/
4. http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/required-church-manual-and-bylaws-president-text/
5. Dr. Mario Veloso, “Women Elders: How the error was accomplished.” SEE TIMESTAMP 46:56 – 52:16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y1OFLJ_biA
6. http://ordinationtruth.com/2014/01/20/nads-pbhc-hermeneutic-a-closer-look/
7. “UNIONS AND ORDINATION TO THE GOSPEL MINISTRY” BRIEF SUMMARY
AND COMPREHENSIVE WORKING POLICY EXPLANATION GENERAL CONFERENCE
SECRETARIAT AUGUST 2015). Full document: http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/UnionsAndOrdinationToTheGospelMinistry.pdf
8. http://ordinationtruth.com/2013/10/27/secc-elects-woman-president/
9. http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/kirl-e60woendgame.pdf
10. http://ordinationtruth.com/2015/10/08/pacific-union-rebels-against-gc-wo-decision/