In an unprecedented act, the North Pacific Union (NPUC) executive committee voted 34-2 on November 14 to “unreservedly endorse the official response of the North American Division (NAD) to the document approved by the General Conference (GC) executive committee” (Gleaner, December 2018, p. 5).

Readers will recall that on November 6, 2018, the NAD voted a response to the October 14, 2018, General Conference action. In its response, the NAD stated

[W]e are compelled to reject the spirit and direction of this document voted at the 2018 Annual Council (hereafter indicated as ‘the document’), as it is not consistent with the biblical model of the church. We simply cannot, in good conscience, support or participate in the implementation of the process outlined in the document, as it is contrary to the culture of respect and collaboration taught in the Bible.

Excerpt from NAD Newspoints, November 7, 2018. https://www.nadadventist.org/sites/default/files/2018-11/NP%2011-7-18.pdf

It is difficult to see how the NPUC decision can do anything but create disunity in the North Pacific Union, its constituent conferences, the NAD territory and the world church. The 2015 General Conference Session vote at San Antonio regarding ordination is being openly disregarded. And now, the NAD—with the unreserved endorsement of the NPUC—adds further insult. The NPUC leaders have published a decision which can only encourage disregard for the Holy Spirit-guided decision-making of representative members from the broader world church.

The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) hereby expresses its unreserved disagreement with entities acting in open resistance toward the work of the Holy Spirit. The church should now be given an example of unity. Instead, entities we have respected act in insubordination, telling the world church they refuse to participate in the generous, even mild, compliance process voted at GC Annual Council 2018.

We find instructive the following lines published in Ministry magazine in 1995 shortly after the world church decided a second time not to embrace the ordination of women to the gospel ministry:

The General Conference in its session every five years is the highest authorizing body of the church. If we do not like what it votes, then we can work through legitimate channels of the church to change the decision. But in the process we must obey what the session has voted. What is the alternative? Anarchy, disunity, conflict, and fragmentation.

Part of the struggle of living in this sinful world is living with decisions we do not like. While majorities must always be respectful of the minority, the minority cannot expect to have its way when the majority rules otherwise. Either God is leading this church or not. If He is, then we need to respect the decisions made by the church in its highest governing session.

Ministry, April 1995, p. 30

Should an administrator who three months after General Conference session led his conference executive committee to vote a policy contrary to the world church be made president of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC)?

On August 17, 2016 the NPUC nominating committee submitted the name of Washington Conference president John Freedman as candidate to become union president. But on October 20, 2015, Freedman led the Washington Conference executive committee to implement a commissioned minister policy which is out of harmony with the Church Manual, the Working Policy of the General Conference, and the Working Policy of the North American Division (NAD). Should one who led his conference into opposition to the world church be made leader of a union?

NAD WANTS FREEDMAN

This year NPUC president Max Torkelson made known he would retire at the conclusion of his current term. The nominating committee met to determine who to recommend to serve as union president. The meeting was chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, with NAD executive secretary G. Alexander Bryant also present. Bryant had previously announced that the push for women pastors would “move forward independent of the findings and conclusion of the ordination issue” (http://www.nadministerial.org/article/370/for-nad-pastors/pastor-life/women-clergy/why-the-nad-needs-women-pastors/wanted-more-female-pastors-essential-for-the-harvest). Division leadership has relentlessly pursued its goal to add hundreds of women pastors to lead congregations.

At San Antonio the world church voted to refuse to permit division executive committees to make provision for women’s ordination. But only three months after the GC vote, Freedman’s Washington Conference executive committee created a commissioned minister policy directly contradicting the world church. The new policy was published in the NPUC Gleaner (“New Mission-Focused Leadership Policy Adopted,” Gleaner, December 2015, p. 25). The article Washington leadership had published in the Gleaner was misleading throughout (See http://ordinationtruth.com/2016/09/05/cm4-wa-conference-misrepresents-new-policy/).

After Washington, Oregon Conference followed with an almost identical policy. Upper Columbia Conference was next, although it rescinded after several churches called for a special constituency session.

Since San Antonio, the Southeastern California Conference has conducted several “ordinations” of women pastors. Just days ago, while Jackson was present at a meeting of the Pacific Union Conference, delegates refused to consider rescinding their 2012 action approving the ordination of women. Jackson, a world church division president, should have led constituents to come into harmony with their world church on this point. He did not speak to the question. Who is surprised that a committee chaired by Jackson would wish to elevate Freedman, an ardent supporter of women’s ordination, to the presidency of the NPUC?

FREEDMAN LED WASHINGTON CONFERENCE TO INSUBORDINATION

Consider the wording of the actual published Washington Conference policy:

The recent Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) consensus statement recognized that “Through the saving work of Christ” church members constitute “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2: 5, 9) who are “given the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20), called, and enabled through the power of the Spirit and the gifts He bestows on them to carry out the Gospel Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

In addition to recognizing that it is God who calls and chooses who He will to complete His work on this earth, the TOSC committee also agreed that over the years ordination “has acquired meaning beyond what was originally implied” in the Bible. On the basis of these findings committee members overwhelmingly supported two options that would allow for the ordination of women. In spite of this action, the GC session voted to not allow divisions self-determination regarding ordination.

The Washington conference document is quoting from an unofficial “straw vote” that occurred at the final meeting of TOSC. At that time some two-thirds of Committee members supported either allowing Divisions to ordain women, or, the so-called “third option,” which acknowledged biblical support for spiritual male headship yet advocated letting each Division decide independently of others. Its rationale? Sometimes “divine ideals” are permitted by God to give way to immediate circumstances and the wishes of God’s people. An example cited by them was Israel’s demand for a king.

It could be argued on the same grounds, however, that a majority of the Committee acknowledged the Biblical case for spiritual male headship, since two of the three groups also supported male spiritual leadership.

The “straw vote” was not a legislative action, as TOSC was not a legislative body. TOSC was a study committee; its assignment was only advisory. The composition of the Committee was not proportionate to world Division membership. It was simply a committee intended to include all points of view. For Washington Conference to cite an unofficial vote, a straw poll from an advisory committee populated non-representationally, shows how far facts must be bent to find even theoretical authority for Washington Conference’s voted action.

By minting its own policy, Washington Conference made a gesture of insubordination, and thus joined forces with the rebellion demonstrated since San Antonio by Pacific Union and some European unions.

MORE AUTHORITY LOCAL OR WORLD?

The third paragraph in the Conference policy shows how far the Washington Conference has strayed from the world church under Freedman’s leadership:

While we desire to respect this vote, we also desire to live in harmony with Scripture and the Seventh-day Adventist belief that it is the responsibility of the Church to recognize those individuals whom the Lord has called and equipped for ministry in a local setting. We further desire to reconcile and live by the voted theology of ordination which is based in scripture but which our church policies do not allow. Thus we, the Washington Conference Executive Committee, have adopted the following policy for Mission-Focused Leadership. VOTED: October 20, 2015 (http://www.washingtonconference.org/site/1/docs/wacpolicy_missionfocusedleadership.pdf, accessed 2016-08-24).

The Washington Conference executive committee says it desires to respect the vote of the world church. But it claims that the world church’s actions are out of “harmony with Scripture.” Washington has two conflicting desires. The policy voted shows which has prevailed.

The new policy gives blanket approval for all commissioned ministers to conduct baptisms and weddings within the conference territory. The world church permits the conference president to give such authority on an individual-by-individual, instance-by-instance basis. The world church gave an inch for unusual local cases; the Washington Conference took a mile.

Washington’s new policy treats the commissioned minister identically to the ordained minister with reference to organizing and uniting churches. This is an authority the world church has reserved for the ordained minister.

Again, the world church has restricted the responsibility of conference president to the ordained minister of experience, a consecrated male worker. But Washington Conference voted policy now grants “That both commissioned and ordained ministers be allowed to serve in any position of the Washington Conference including conference president.” The executive committee has exceeded its authority.

Seeing their own position as biblical, and the position of the world church voted by the delegates to the General Conference in session to be unbiblical, the Washington Conference, led by Freedman, voted for itself a policy exceeding the authorities granted it by the world church. The voted policy actually scolds the world church, Washington says, for holding to policy over Scripture. This is a false representation, since the world church position agrees with Scripture in limiting the ordained ministry to spiritually qualified males as designed in God’s creation order (1 Timothy 2:12, 13; 3:2; Titus 1:5, 6).

WHO SHOULD BE NPUC PRESIDENT?

Delegates to the NPUC constituency session should weigh certain questions. If, as president of Washington Conference, Freedman was willing to place his personal opinion about women in positions Scripturally reserved for male leadership above the voted position of the General Conference in session, what would he do as president of the North Pacific Union Conference?

Another question is whether the constituents of the NPUC are ready to reward Freedman for opposing the world church. Is his example one we wish to see replicated in the NPUC? Those placed in leadership positions inevitably set example. Is Freedman’s example best for the Union at this time?

And a final concern remains. The NPUC is a diverse body. While administrators in Washington and Oregon Conferences favor women’s ordination, many church members across the union strongly oppose these unilateral acts of insubordination. (That is, they oppose the commissioned minister policies initiated by Washington, Oregon, and Upper Columbia Conferences.)

This is seen most recently in the votes of several churches in the Upper Columbia Conference to call for a special session of that conference constituency to turn back the insubordinate policy. The determination of these congregations to remain faithful to the world church led to the reversal of the Commissioned Minister policy. Several churches have called for possible replacement of the top administrative officers in that conference. In this setting of contention—created entirely by the refusal of conference administrations within the NPUC to adhere to the decisions and policies of the world church—how would a Freedman presidency turn out for the Union? Would a different candidate be more suitable for the union presidency at this time?

RECOMMENDATION

The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that delegates vote for a union president who will lead the NPUC in harmony with the world church of which it is part. Members wish to remain united to the world church and do not want to see friction introduced between northwest congregations and the world church.

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

On August 19, 2015 the executive committee of the North Pacific Union voted 26 to 4 to rescind its November 12, 2014 action. The committee had stated that if the world church refused to permit the regional ordination of women, the NPUC would hold a special constituency session and consider “going ahead” to ordain women. The committee action today aligns the NPUC position with the July 8, 2015 General Conference session rejection of regionally independent ordination. Seventh-day Adventist practice has been unified in following a biblical pattern since the 1800s, ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders serving as pastors leading congregations, conferences, unions, and divisions.

Previous to the August 19 meeting, North Pacific Union president Max Torkelson III received an eight page document from the General Conference Secretariat detailing the authority of unions in relation to the world church. The official document states that

“Unions do not have the right to set their own criteria for ordination and are operating outside the parameters of Church structure if they do, just as if a local church decided to establish its own set of beliefs then it would no longer be a Seventh-day Adventist church” (“Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry,” General Conference Secretariat, August 2015, p. 3).

Thus units that have unilaterally voted to ordain women are “operating outside the parameters of Church structure.” Such entities stand on the fringes of the Church. The North Pacific Union today demonstrated its commitment to operate within the parameters set by the world body. The Council of Adventist Pastors sees the committee’s action to rescind today as positive.

The inappropriate actions and illegitimate, out of policy credentials granted by Pacific Union, Columbia Union, the Netherlands Union of Churches, and certain conferences including the Southeastern California Conference, need to be rescinded and such ordinations repudiated by those entities to keep faith with their sister Adventist congregations. As one Adventist from Netherlands stated in an online comment: “I am a member of the world church, for my membership is accepted all over the world. But not so if my Union is an SDA offshoot.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church as a world body seeks to adhere to the teachings of Scripture for optimum male and female service to God and His church.

Exactly one year ago on February 4, 2013 the OrdinationTruth.com website went live. Much has happened this past year. Reflecting on the past orients us for the future.

The attempt to introduce women’s ordination (the practice of women and men in the Church serving interchangeably in positions of spiritual authority) has a history in our midst. The emphasis as it has developed in our lifetime has its rise in the 1960s. The ordination of women as local elders was introduced at 1986 Annual Council.

In due course, the ordination of women as pastors with full global authority was addressed at two General Conference sessions (1990 and 1995). Decisions were made at the highest level of church authority. The Church refused to take the step of ordaining women to these positions of spiritual authority. Our brothers and sisters were not convinced that the practice was reconcilable with Scripture.

By 2009, North American Division (NAD) leadership remained urgent to proceed. They targeted the Church’s E-60 policy. This world church guidance forbade women from serving in male headship positions such as conference and union president. But General Conference (GC) leadership upheld the decisions of the GC sessions (exactly what did NAD leadership expect?).

After an extended interaction between the NAD and GC, NAD leadership saw they could not prevail by following the rules; GC policy was too clear. The result? In early 2012 the NAD president wrote to the leaders of NAD Unions inciting them to action with directions such as the following:

“The North American Division and its Unions and Conferences (as local circumstances permit) must become more intentional in the development of pathways to ministry for female pastors. We must also develop intentional methods of mentoring women who can take on executive leadership positions within our conferences. . . . We must continue to move this matter forward throughout the North American Division” (Quoted in the E-60 link above).

The division president told them that in order to bring change they would have to make it happen at union and conference levels.

The result of this astonishing move came with speed. By midyear NAD’s Columbia and Pacific Unions had held special meetings and voted themselves their own variances, placing themselves in opposition to the world church. They denied the authority of the 1990/1995 General Conference sessions. They even acted in the face of earnest appeals by the General Conference administration which sent our current president to these meetings to plead that they not act in disunity.

It should not be passed over that these actions were undertaken even as the current GC administration was responding to the 2010 General Conference session request to revisit the question of women’s ordination by forming the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), a gathering of more than 100 scholars, laypeople, pastors, and administrators representing all 13 world Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And yet, even as that process was beginning, these Unions exceeded their authority and began to “ordain” women.

When we in the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) learned from our union paper, Gleaner, that the NPUC had created an ad hoc committee to study these matters and that our Union would now “educate” church members concerning the basis for “ordination without regard to gender,” after which it would hold a special session as Columbia and Pacific Unions had, we knew forces were converging which might lead to the same insubordinate outcome as those Unions. It became necessary that we investigate further for ourselves, and then seek to aid our Union and if possible influence it not to join itself to the example of the other NAD Unions.

Appeals were forwarded to NPUC leadership. We pleaded that the proposed steps not be taken. We are thankful that until now the NPUC has not held a similar session.

Surveying the situation, we saw that issues were not contained to the NPUC, and heard from many from across the NAD who were as alarmed as ourselves at actions now manifesting in the North American field. Because the NPUC continued to send mixed signals, our initially chosen name (“NPUC Supporting Pastors”) made unclear what we did and did not support. Growing interest throughout the NAD and a desire from others outside our Union who wished to participate led us to change our name to the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP). Now pastors throughout the North American Division territory could participate.

What the NAD president and Columbia and Pacific Unions had begun continued to bear its fruit. In October 2013, the Southeastern California Conference constituency, in opposition to its world church, elected Ms. Sandra Roberts to serve as its president in direct violation of E-60 and GC session decisions.

This was not all. Each Division invited to be involved in TOSC had been asked to study the issues surrounding women’s ordination. NAD leadership appointed itself a committee, too. Its committee released a 249 page report pleading that the world church permit it to ordain women.

Most astonishing of all was that—at last—the unavoidable issue of hermeneutics was placed front and center. The NAD admitted in its report that in order to neutralize the Bible evidence opposing the ordination of women, it was necessary to use a plan of biblical interpretation they called the “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method.

This method is said to be intended only for selective use. It is to be applied especially in the interpretation of what the NAD called “difficult” New Testament “headship” texts. The NAD-proposed method exactly contradicts the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist approach to biblical interpretation called the Historical-grammatical approach, voted by Annual Council in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1986.

We commend current NAD leadership for their lucid admission that this change in interpretive methodology is required to make possible the achievement of their purpose. But is the church ready to lay aside the Historical-grammatical approach that Scripture interprets Scripture? Is it ready to discard the one methodical approach to the Bible which has led to our unity on a worldwide basis in embracing the seventh day Sabbath, and our adherence to the literal, physical, visible, audible Second Coming of Jesus with kindred truths?

We believe that every church member within the North American Divisions would be blessed by the NAD’s Minority report.

Another development of interest coming from TOSC has been that some in our world divisions have called for a return to biblical fidelity on the issue of women elders, that the practice be discontinued.

“There is a lack of biblical precedence for the appointment of female elders…. there is no biblical support for the ordination of woman pastors. The ordination of women elders should also not be considered. That implies that as from the action date, women shall no longer serve as elders” (Summary of the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division Biblical Research Committee on the Ordination of Women, pp. 1, 3, at
http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-southern-africa-indian-ocean-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).

Other Divisions have also found the desire to ordain women as pastors having global authority biblically unsustainable. For example, consider these notes from fellow believers in the South American Division:

In the New Testament, the preeminence of male spiritual leadership is seen in the role of the husband at home (Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Cor 11:3), in the leadership of the apostles, the elders and the deacons in the Church (Acts 6:1-6; 17 14:23; 15:6, 22; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 2:20; 4:11; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), and in the ministry of the prophets, the pastors-teachers, and the evangelists (Acts 13:1; 21:8; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). . . . The New Testament plainly presents the qualifications required for someone to become a bishop/presbyter/pastor (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). According to these texts, the pastoral ministry seems to belong to a distinctive area of male spiritual leadership in the Church. Faithfulness to biblical teaching predicates the need to follow this orientation. There is no clear biblical basis, therefore, to ordain women to the pastoral ministry” (South American Division Summary and Report on its Study and Proposal on the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Ministry, pp. 3, 4, http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-south-american-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).

We find ourselves much in agreement with these initiatives which would help restore consistency and unity and help revitalize as a global people our faithfulness to the Bible.

Looking to developments anticipated between now and 2015, we remain alert. Columbia and Pacific union leadership remain in place, and those Unions are presently “ordaining” women in opposition to the General Conference session determined position of the world church. Those Unions are presently operating in flagrant defiance of the world church. They have substituted their authority for the authority of the General Conference.

Another trend we already see is pro-WO advocates urging that the General Conference is illegitimately gathering power to itself, centralizing its authority. We anticipate that these unfounded charges will be broadcast ever more loudly by those who insist on acting in contradiction to the appeals for unity which have been offered on behalf of the world church.

TOSC is set to complete its study process this year and forward its report to 2014 GC Annual Council. The NAD’s proposed “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method is now public knowledge and Adventists are only just beginning to process the implications that would follow its adoption. Shall the Seventh-day Adventist Church endorse the ordination of females to male headship roles? Possibly. But if so, it is clear now that it will be at the cost of the most primitive, basic issue of all—how we interpret Scripture.

It is urgent that we count the cost now before we buy the product in 2015. If we are going to charge women’s ordination on the Seventh-day Adventist hermeneutical credit card, we must first consider what it will cost in the long term.

Although we have had an enormous response to our continuing study and website, many Seventh-day Adventists—even some pastors—remain unaware of this website or of the existence of the Council of Adventist Pastors. We encourage all readers to share this blog post link with fellow Adventists and especially with your pastors who, in this one post, will have a sample of links and materials the scores of pastors who are CAP have shared. Maybe your pastor would like to participate?

And now: Let OrdinationTruth.com year two BEGIN! . . .

In “Artful Dissembling: A Plea for Change of Direction Regarding Recent North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Actions and Statements,” Pastor Clinton L. Schultz zeros-in on two-message-sending language used in the Gleaner, and its immediate consequences for unity in the field. Are some leaders, convinced they are right, contaminating others in the field with an independent spirit? Does loose language in the Union paper need to change? FIND IT HERE.

The North Pacific Union Conference has issued a statement in response to NPUC Supporting Pastors. You will find it here: http://www.gleaneronline.org/2013/02/concerned-nw-pastors-speak-out-on-ordination/. The ranks of the Supporting Pastors have increased. Names listed here: List of OrdinationTruth.com NPUC Supporting Pastors.

The initial news release by the NPUC Supporting Pastors can be found here.

The North Pacific Union Conference will meet for its regularly scheduled Executive Committee meeting in eight days, February 18-20 at Ridgefield, Washington.