In November 2017, the North Pacific Union mailed all Seventh-day Adventist pastors across the six conferences (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, Montana) a copy of William Johnsson’s startling book, Where are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio (Oak & Acorn Publishing, Westlake Village, California, 2017). Don’t be confused; the book is actually published by the Pacific Union. The Pacific union is out of compliance with 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session world church decision not to permit subsections of the church to unilaterally ordain women to the gospel ministry.

Is it fair to describe Johnsson’s book as literally shocking? The current NPUC leadership wanted its entire pastoral staff of six conferences to read content like this:

“The General Conference Session of 2015 exposed and widened fault lines that had been developing for a long time. In later years the Session will be seen as a moment comparable to the 1888 Minneapolis convocation, when two views of the church, two possibilities, met face to face. . . . As major as was the discussion concerning the role of women, that issue was but part of something far larger. Adventism is split down the middle. The split is not merely geographical between the North and the global South—it is more complicated. Like the two babies struggling in Rebekah’s womb, two Adventist churches are aborning” (pp. 1, 2).

It is one thing to acknowledge there is a substantial split within the Church, but another to intentionally transmit a throughly one-sided volume attacking the validity of a General Conference Session decision to your pastoral staff!

Johnsson places the “two churches” in sharp contrast: “a church that adopts a principled interpretation of scripture with a church that comes to the Word in a flat, literalistic manner,” “a church with ordained women clergy struggling with a church that limits the ministry to males,” “a church that downsizes the upper echelons and focuses on the grassroots with a church increasingly bureaucratic and autocratic” (all on p. 2). “two radically different versions of Adventism are competing for the future” (p. 3). Twenty or so years earlier, Johnsson had been just as explicit:

“At three General Conference sessions in a row—New Orleans in 1985, Indianapolis in 1990, and now Utrecht yesterday—the church debated the role of women in ministry. How far have we come in resolving this issue?. . . Yesterday we saw two respected Adventist scholars approach the Scriptures in different ways. One based his case on specific verses and statements of Ellen White, arguing from a literalistic basis. The other also appealed to Scripture and Ellen White, but in terms of the principles behind the statements. The differences are striking and important. They impact not only the women’s issue but many others. We have not heard the last of this matter. Adventists will have to wrestle with this most basic concern: How shall we interpret Scripture” (Adventist Review, July 7, 1995, p. 3).

But the truth is that the two differing viewpoints in the church with reference to women’s ordination both follow a principled set of interpretive approaches; the principles of interpretation are just different. The truth is that Both viewpoints favor the ministry of men and women while differing on whether congregational male leadership is biblically open to females. The truth is that mostly the grassroots of the church strongly oppose women’s ordination, while many in NAD administrative leadership and ordained pastoral ministry favor it. The truth is that the General Conference leadership is attempting to faithfully implement the decision the world body made in San Antonio in 2015, while some NAD leaders have operated autocratically and have sometimes run over church members beliefs in this area.

Johnsson’s book pounds away, attempting to destroy the authority of the General Conference and validity of the 2015 GC decision. Johnsson calls the WO debate at the session “a circus” (p. 11). He complains about how Jan Paulson was treated, but Paulson alone was given four and a half minutes to speak—almost twice as much as the other delegates. But Johnsson is not content only to hint he is undermining the 2015 GC session vote. He states his position plainly:

“[I]t was a war and . . . the war is over and that now women’s ordination will spread rapidly through the church” (p. 12). He seems to favor every irregularity in credentialing he can name (he lists several). Johnsson proceeds to write the narrative of anti-WO arguments the way he sees fit, attacking what he sees as main arguments. From page 16 and following he pushes back against them. For Johnsson, “The present situation is intolerable. Women’s ordination will come and must come” (p. 19).

What do NPUC administrators want for this Union?

Especially important is this book’s treatment of hermeneutics. Johnsson labors for several pages (pp. 115-130) attacking the allegedly “flat” hermeneutics of those who oppose WO—“flat” surely representing the church’s longstanding method of Bible study, historical-grammatical methodology. Meanwhile he supports what he views as the “principled” hermeneutics of those favoring WO. Several pages are penned favoring Adventist scholar Sakae Kubo (mentioned five times), whom he regards as “one of the church’s finest biblical exegetes” (p. 121). We wonder if the leaders who sent this book to their pastors agree with Sakae Kubo’s views regarding LGBT in his article, “Viewpoint: How Our Understanding of Homosexuality Has Changed,” (April 24, 2014).

“Second, if the church recognizes that some people are born with an alternative sexual orientation, and since the Bible, as we have shown above, is not condemning them but heterosexuals who are committing the perverted act of engaging in sexual activity with a non-consenting heterosexual, it is normal—not abnormal—for a gay or lesbian person to wish to marry another gay or lesbian person, just as it is normal for a heterosexual person to marry a person of the opposite sex. How can we say that we will not allow someone who is gay or lesbian to do the natural thing—and yet not say the same thing to the heterosexual?” (https://spectrummagazine.org/article/news/2014/04/05/viewpoint-how-our-understanding-homosexuality-has-changed).

Kubo’s article concludes thus:

“The Church then should get rid of the statement, ‘We hate the sin but love the sinner,’ with respect to alternative sexualities and should treat everyone the same. The church must let people do what is natural for them—even if that means marrying someone of the same sex. And we should expect the same of all couples, no matter their gender: that they be committed to their partners and not engage in extramarital affairs” (Ibid.).

Interesting, especially if Johnsson’s propheying pans out: “the five years following it [the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session] will be focused on issues of interpreting the Bible” (Where Are We headed?, p. 115).

What exactly is practiced today in the congregation where Kubo worships?

Johnsson is glad, he says, that our Adventist Fundamental Belief statement has a Preamble. “It positions Adventists for the possibility of change—even major change—in beliefs and practice” (p. 118).

We cannot help but notice that the reason so many favor WO is because of their hermeneutics. Kubo is a staunch supporter of women’s ordination. Even a cursory search of Spectrum magazine will locate numerous Kubo articles promoting the ordination of women.

But the worst parts of Johnsson’s book are actually at the close. There, the author openly attacks current General Conference leaders. The very worst feature of the book is his attack on the validity of the 2015 vote:

“[T]he manner in which the San Antonio Session handled the women’s ordination issue leaves in doubt the accuracy of the vote” (p. 148).

Johnsson wildly claims that TOSC Report findings were withheld (p. 149), and raises other absurd objections, concluding, “In view of this background, I cannot accept that the vote in San Antonio settled the issue of the ordination of women” (p. 149).

Possibly the wildest view in the book is Johnsson chorusing the myth propounded by George Knight and others that the Unions were essentially intended to be immune to the authority of the world church, and that the General Conference vote in San Antonio was actually somehow a misuse of Church authority.

And so, says Johnsson, for the General Conference to simply endeavor to secure united action in the world church in a mattter that has been decided by the General Conference in session, is—our pastors are told—“Wrong from any angle you look at it. Wrong in its theology. Wrong in its history. Wrong in its policy. Wrong in its spirit. It is more papal than Seventh-day Adventist. It runs directly counter to the life and teachings of Jesus” (p 145).

Adventist pastors and members deserve better. The North Pacific Union erred in intentionally sending this book to its pastors, and promoting divisive, unwarranted doubts about world church leaders who are seeking to be faithful against all odds.

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

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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.

Secrets Unsealed ministry has released a video featuring CAP Pastor Stephen Bohr, addressing the recent one-sided actions of the North American Division and of Adventist World magazine promoting women’s ordination.

Pacific Union Conference communication director Gerry Chudleigh published his paper on May 1, 2014 titled, “A short history of the Headship Doctrine in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Chudleigh proposes that in the 1980s a small group of Adventists from Southern Michigan raided Calvinist theologians for their “headship theology.” Nevertheless, he says, practically no Adventists had heard such ideas until 2012. According to Chudleigh “headship theology” is a brand new doctrine for Adventists, and the TOSC process “may be the first Adventist school of headship theology.” Via TOSC, according to him, this divisive new doctrine is being spread across the world field. Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick (Bonners Ferry and Clark Fork Idaho churches, Upper Columbia Conference, NPUC, NAD) considers Chudleigh’s rendition of events in this short response video. He is one of several ministers who are part of the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP).