Pastor Louis Torres reviews the history of accusations of kingly power in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But carrying out the fairly considered and duly voted decision of a general conference in Session is no abuse of power. Far from it; it is simply acting faithfully. On the other hand, when a unit acts in insubordination to the decision of the world church, that is an abuse of power and unfaithfulness toward God and His church.
The General Conference Administrative Committee voted on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, to approve a complicated proposal offered by the Unity Oversight Committee. Details here:
The action proposed by the Unity Oversight Committee (UOC) for Annual Council 2018 is inadequate. God has spoken through His people. The world church has voted not to permit units to act unilaterally to ordain women to the pastoral ministry. Neither did the church vote in 2015 to permit modified specious credentialing practices. Since the 2015 vote, non-compliant conferences and unions in the North American Division (NAD) have been given more than sufficient opportunity to come in line with the decision of the world church. MORE THAN THREE YEARS HAVE PASSED since the San Antonio July 8, 2015 world church decision. In this time, NAD leadership has brought not even one insubordinate entity into compliance.
The proposed UOC plan calls for noncompliance to be reported to the next higher level. If that level fails to address the non-compliance, that level becomes responsible to the next higher level of organization. Thus, in the North American context, some entity would need to report non-compliance by Pacific Union, Columbia Union, or North Pacific Union (all of which presently embrace non-compliant practice regarding ordaining or credentialing women pastors). But reporting to the non-compliant union itself would be ineffectual. Then, if somehow the matter were actually forwarded to the North American Division, what? NAD does nothing.
If the matter is not resolved by the NAD, the General Conference can assign the matter to be reviewed by the compliance committee. And in all this there are no time limits. Indeed, the proposal asks for “much prayer and dialogue.”
There is no concrete set of time limitations at any stage. At every stage the implementation of any action is built on indeterminate “mays” and “ifs.” And even if a committee somewhere has enough conviction and energy to call for the actual application of sanctions, the possible actions are:
- Warning. (No action to address individual leaders.)
- Public reprimand. (The leaders of the non-compliant entity continue to have voice and vote. They are rewarded for their non-compliance. But a reminder is given each time they seek the floor, publicly stating that their entity is in non-compliance.)
- If non-compliance continues, members of the non-compliant entity may be removed “for cause,” according to Bylaws Article XIII Sec. 1. c. and GC B 95.
But this option (number 3) ALREADY EXISTS. By creating an elaborate series of additional steps, barriers are created which hinder the application of discipline.
And, according to the plan, even
In instances where a president has been removed from the membership of the committee “for cause,” other members of the General Conference Executive Committee from that union shall continue to exercise full privileges without mention of reprimand.
Thus, the process envisioned by the UOC achieves little. It actually adds layers. Church members are not calling for additional bureaucratic labyrinth or for time-consuming, ineffectual actions. The effect of this plan, if implemented, will be to facilitate non-compliance, assuring no substantive consequence will be applied for breaching the trust of the world body.
The proposed plan will further divide the church of God.
Instead, we urge all parties to consider a simpler proposal: to immediately remove “for cause” at Annual Council 2018 the three current NAD executive administrative officers, whose inaction has deeply damaged the global unity of the church and in the North American Division.
Three years have passed and nothing substantive has been done. Let the Annual Council now act.
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Same document, in DOCX format: ENC-Unity-Request-Rejected-NORUC
Norway: Union Rejects Conference Unity Request
The Norwegian Union Conference, the administrative body for three Norwegian Conferences, has rejected an appeal from its largest conference, the East Norway Conference, to come into harmony with the votes taken at General Conference Sessions in regard to the credentialing and ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
On September 10, 2017, East Norway Conference leaders sent an official request to the Norwegian Union asking, since the GC Session of 2015 had voted not to allow various world territories to determine independently whether or not to ordain women, that the Union reverse its September 2015, and 2012 vote to issue the same credentials to both male and female pastors.
The Norwegian Union leadership rejected this request by the East Norway Conference. In the February, 2018 issue of the Norwegian Union’s magazine, Advent Nytt (page 27) (https://issuu.com/adventnytt/docs/adventnytt_2-2018/1?ff=true&e=7282235/57387157), Union leaders defended their decision to not comply with the votes of the world church.
The following is an English translation of the above article:
“The Resolution of the Union Board of 10 December 2017 Concerning Equal Treatment of Male and Female Pastors in Norway.
“The Norwegian Union Conference (NORUC) board responds as follows to the letter sent by East Norway Conference Board (ENC) 2017-09-10 and their expressed disagreement with the NORUC response to TED/GC concerning gender equality and male and female pastors. The East Norway Conference’s September letter called NORUC to reconsider how pastors are reported. NORUC was asked to return to the practice of reporting male and female pastors separately, in harmony with current credentialing practice in GC Working Policy.
“The current practice of reporting the pastors is clarified in the NORUC resolution of September 20, 2015 (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC). That reaction was a logical continuation of the 2012 NORUC decision to put on hold the ordination of male pastors in order to treat male and female pastors equally. Since the 2012 decision, the same credential has been given for both male and female pastors. To return to filling in the forms with current credentials as before would mean to accept discriminatory practices indirectly, which NORUC, with pastoral support, rejected in the 2015 decision. That resolution stated that the NORUC decision was a temporary measure: ‘Until a classification of pastors is established without a distinction based on a fundamental discrimination against female pastors.’ As a result of the NORUC resolution in 2015, no ordained or non-ordained pastors from NORUC are published in the SDA Yearbook, which uses the current categories of credentials.
“For decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has sought to find a solution to this challenge, without success. The General Conference has not accepted the NORUC and TED request to create a gender-neutral category for the classification of pastors. The GC Annual Council has full authority to comply with this request if there is desire to do so.
“Prior to the NORUC Board meeting of September 20, 2015, a draft of the resolution was sent to the Board members and to all the pastors in Norway. An anonymous poll was sent to all the pastors on the same day. Poll results showed solid support (69% of votes cast) from pastors to deviate from the current credentialing system in order to implement non-discriminatory treatment of female pastors.
“The NORUC Board feels that there has been an open and comprehensive process. Very little critical feedback has been received until the East Norway Conference letter sent two years after the NORUC decision in September 2015. To continue a discriminatory practice would send a very negative signal to our female pastors.
“The NORUC Board will ask the secretary of the organization to write an article to Advent Nytt (local Norwegian magazine) with an overview of the most important events of this case.”
It should be noted that the Norwegian Union Conference has a total membership of just 4,556 members. Of the three conferences, the East Norway Conference has, by far, the largest membership in the union. See screen shot below, taken from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2016 Annual Statistical Report (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf). The report is prepared by the Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
What do we learn from the response of the Norwegian Union to the East Norway Conference?
- The leadership of a Norwegian Conference, representing 63% of all Adventists in that Union, disagrees with their Union administration that has positioned itself in opposition to the General Conference. The voted action of the Norwegian Union administrators does not represent the position of the East Norway Conference. The East Norway Conference does not desire to be included in the rebellion against existing voted world church policies regarding ordination and gender.
The rejection by Norwegian Union leadership of the appeal of the East Norway Conference demonstrates the application of an unfair double standard. As part of the insubordinate pro-women’s ordination faction opposing the Adventist world church, Norwegian Union leadership justifies its rebellion by claiming their stance to be a matter of conscience. But when their own Norwegian Adventists express differing convictions, they trample those convictions. So, are they truly concerned for conscience?
Norwegian Union leadership is actively participating in the current attempt to reallocate world church authority from the General Conference to the unions. The Norwegian Union vote unilaterally set their own ordination and credentialing criteria for themselves. Then they refuse to consider their own East Norway Conferences’ desire to work in unity with their Church! East Norway Conference seeks harmony. Its Union suppresses and prevents this. The Norwegian Union is resisting Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.
The argument used to reject the East Norway Conference request is not based on sound principles. The Norwegian Union argues that:
- Norwegian Union has engaged in non-compliant practice since 2012;
- Norwegian Union must not discriminate;
- The Norwegian Union position was supported by 69% of its pastors in 2015.
But since the Norwegian union pleads “conscience,” it is fair to ask, “What about the conscience of the 31% of pastors who rejected entering into opposition to the General Conference in 2015?” Or the conscience of the delegates to the world church who voted not to grant authority to determine ordination criteria to subsections like the Norwegian Union? What makes Union administrators’ consciences superior to the consciences of voting world church delegates, or, superior to the consciences of East Norway Conference leaders?
- The Norwegian Union has dictated its will to the world body, rejecting Adventist ordination practice while describing their voted action as “a temporary measure” until a new credential has been established. But what if the world church never adopts a credential such as the Norwegian Union is insisting upon? The 1990 General Conference Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) to not ordain women to the gospel ministry, and the 1995 GC Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) not to allow the North American Division a variance in that policy. And in 2015, the world body voted, based on their study of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, not to allow variance to any division regarding the policy of not ordaining women to the gospel ministry that was voted in 1990. The decision has been made—by three General Conference Sessions. What do Norwegian Union leaders expect to change now?
- The Norwegian Union calls on the General Conference Executive Committee, during its Annual Council, to join in their rebellion against the 1990, 1995, and 2015 GC Sessions, expecting the Annual Council to issue gender-neutral credentials. But on what authority could the GC Executive Committee act against the higher authority of the General Conference in Session?
- The 31% of Norway pastors who disagreed in 2015, and the calls from laity in the same Union to abide by the world church’s decisions, are described by the Norwegian Union as “very little critical feedback.” Then, in 2018, the request by local leaders who represent 63% of the local membership was rejected. Even though there has been and continues to be substantive critical feedback.
- The Norwegian Union administrators are more concerned about sending a negative signal to Norwegian female pastors than they are about dismissing the studied, prayerful decisions of the world church.
Over-representation. Why does Norway have an entire Conference consisting of only 412 members in 12 churches, and an entire Union consisting of only 4556 members? At the end of 2014 the Norwegian Union had 4536 members. But as a random comparison, the East Kenya Union had 398,267 members in 2014 (over 536,000 today). (Calculation for delegate allotments is usually based on December 31 membership numbers in the year immediately preceding a General Conference Session.)
And yet, the Norwegian Union sent nine delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session, while the East Kenya Union sent 21. Why does the tiny Norwegian Union send so great a number of delegates proportionally to the world church session, whose decisions it is presently openly rebelling against, when faithful Adventists in Africa have so few?
Norwegian Adventists were represented at the 2015 GC Session with a ratio of one delegate for every 504 members. But East Kenyan Union Adventists were represented by delegates at a ratio of one delegate per 18,965 members. Had East Kenya Adventists been represented at Norway’s 504:1 ratio, they would have totaled 790 delegates at San Antonio instead of 21.
We agree that female workers serving the Lord should be supported. But none should behave in a rebellious framework toward the world church. Courage and wisdom is needed to act in harmony with the Bible, and with what the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church has decided in Session. May God persuade and help faithful Adventist brothers and sisters in Norway during this difficult time.
Links from above article in order:
Norwegian Union Magazine, Advent Nytt, p. 27 –
NORUC Resolution of September 20, 2015 – http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC
2016 statistical Report – http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf
[Reporting for this OrdinationTruth.com article is provided by Seventh-day Adventist church members from multiple continents.
On Sabbath, March 3, 2018, Potomac Conference administrators participated in the “ordination” of Ms. Renee Stepp.
But in 2015, Adventist representatives from all over the globe assembled in San Antonio Texas, USA for General Conference Session. Thousands of delegates participated debating, voting, and reaching a decision on behalf of the world church. The Church refused to grant authority for subsections of itself to act unilaterally regarding ordination. Following the Bible pattern, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never in its history approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
And yet, with the world church’s San Antonio decision in full view, the Columbia Union Executive Committee approved the request of Potomac Conference Executive Committee leaders. Stepp’s Williamsburg “ordination” is an open, high-handed act of rebellion by Potomac and Columbia elected leaders exactly contradicting the decision voted by the delegates of the world church.
According to an article by Potomac Conference, Stepp’s experience includes service as women’s dean at academy, holding office in her local church, full time student at Andrews University Theological Seminary, and chaplain of an Adventist academy. She served in a supporting role in the Vienna congregation.
Paul urged workers to select spiritually qualified males of experience to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), but never a woman. The Bible contains zero examples of women as primary congregational leaders, and zero examples of women elders.
To circumvent the decision of the world church is to circumvent God’s plan for church governance. If Columbia and Potomac can ordain a woman, they can ordain anyone.
Participants in the ordination service included Potomac conference president William “Bill” Miller, Dave Vandevere, vice president for finance, Rick Jordan and Renee Stepp.
On June 8, 2017, The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) voted officially to discard Jesus’ teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Canon 31 was officially replaced by a new rule which permits same-sex “marriages.” Anticipating this development, GAFCON (Global African Future Conference), after the vote, today appointed its own bishop to the United Kingdom (UK), Andy Lines.
The Anglican, i.e., Episcopal Church, for hundreds of years has deferred to the archbishop of Canterbury as the “first among equals,” as being the bishop uniting the Anglican Church. However, current archbishop Justin Welby has alienated the majority of Anglicans by refusing to seriously discipline TEC (The Episcopal Church in the USA) and other sections of the Church which have departed from Christian principles of marriage. In 2003 TEC appointed Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as bishop. In 2015 TEC approved same-sx “marriage” rules, and in 2016 received an inconsequential slap on the wrist from Welby.
The Anglican Church numbers some 70 million members worldwide. Between 50-60 million are African. GAFCON, in appointing its own bishop to the UK, Justin Welby’s home turf, signals to all that his episcopal oversight is considered compromised. On June 30 Andy Lines will be consecrated as bishop. Anglicans in Europe will have the option of accepting Andy Lines as overseer rather than Welby. In a concrete way, today’s developments demonstrate the depth of schism in the Anglican Church.
More detail can be had at the following links:
Scottish Episcopal Church approves Gay Marriage http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-40190204
EDINBURGH: Rev. Canon Andy Lines Named GAFCON Missionary Bishop to Europe
Missionary Bishop Introduced by Archbishop Foley Beach
NOTE: Article corrected with new and more-correct information on 2017-05-09 5:13pm PST and then a further edit completed at 11:21 pm PST. This is drawn from our Netherlands sources.
A meeting of the Netherlands Union of Churches constituency was held May 4-7, 2017.
Previous leadership had guided union enactment of policies contrary to the world church, including with reference to women’s ordination and LGBT+. But new officers were elected by the constituency at this meeting. Netherlands has a new president, Rob de Raad, and a new secretary, Enrico Karg. The treasurer, Istrahel Schoera, who we understand as opposing women’s ordination, was reelected with a 99% vote. Thus, 14 of 15 members of the Executive Committee were replaced. Delegates sat in some amazement as the non-compliant president and secretary were removed.
A new Constitution and Bylaws was presented by that committee for approval. Reinder Bruinsma served on the committee. The previous constitution had been a created as a patchwork of other documents. But the proposed new Constitution disagreed in many places with the required wording for all Seventh-day Adventist Church Constitution and Bylaws documents. In the end, the new constitution was adopted but assigned immediately to a committee in order to be corrected and brought into harmony with the Model Constitution. Some delegates were very disappointed that the newly approved Constitution does not permit women to serve in the position of Union president.
New arrangements and new committees were carefully populated. One member who had been working for ten years to correct problems and bring the Union into harmony with the world church was surprised when delegates appointed her to serve on the newly appointed Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
Under the new Constitution and Bylaws the executive committee was enlarged to 17 members and now requires 50% + 1 to be laypersons. This was a remarkable change, since previously the executive committee made non-conference employee church members a minority, allowing for a maximum of 40% of such members. Several pastors objected to these changes but the constituents overruled those objections by vote.
The new officers not only have problems to resolve in terms of guiding the Union into harmony with the world church, but also very significant financial shortfalls incurred under the previous administration. Still, the new Union of Churches has a fresh start! Delegates and members are expressing great hope. They said that they have never seen a session like this. They felt their voices were heard in a fair way, their delegates rights were not violated, and that this time around they did not serve merely as voting machines for an executive committee.
Some officers insist that the union is still committed to the ordination of women because of Dutch laws. But in the Netherlands, Churches have strict freedom, and every court would realize that there had been no legal ground for the 2012 action and following 2013 implementation of women’s ordination, since in the Dutch Civil Code churches are bound to abide by their Constitution, and that, for the Netherlands, means the Working Policy. The actions of the 2012 session and the executive committee decision to implement it in 2013 were illegal. Very recently a civil court ruled in a case that churches must abide by their own denominational Policy (Google Translate this article: http://www.rd.nl/kerk-religie/rechter-censuur-oud-ambtsdrager-gg-kruiningen-opheffen-1.1398019).
Problems in Netherlands Union have been building for many years, and there has been a rising tide not only of concern, but of action by members. Many were dismayed that their Conference was out of harmony with the world church in so many points, and that leadership did not reflect the values held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This week, members of the Netherlands Union of Churches are rejoicing at the deliverance God has brought to them. Much work remains to correct matters, but our Dutch brethren seek the prayers of faithful Adventists worldwide in confidence that God will lead and guide.
A commissioning ceremony was conducted for a woman pastor on Sabbath, which had been planned by those who turned out to be the outgoing officers. It might have been intended as a statement to General Conference officers present which included Bill Knott and Karnik Doukmetzian. Constituents were very pleased with the fairness of Pr. Doukmetzian as parliamentarian.
In the letter to the local churches the executive committee stated that the woman pastor will not have hands laid on her by the pastors in the field “as yet.” The usual practice in Netherlands is to hold such a service in the afternoon when all the pastors can be present to lay hands. But the newly chosen officers want to follow a different course. Some now believe that with this commissioning service, Netherlands has seen the last woman ordained.
NPUC Gleaner: Learning From History?
By Engel Yoder
The March 2017 NPUC Gleaner editorial titled “Protest” likens the NAD union presidents who are opposing the authority of the General Conference (GC) to the German princes who opposed the authority of the papal church at the Diet of Spires in 1529 (1). By making this analogy, the editorial further insinuates that our GC leaders can be likened to the papal leaders whose authority the princes protested against. The editor then asks, “What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”
It is difficult to put into words just how offensive such an editorial is. And that it has been printed in an official church publication shows just how incredibly disjointed church leadership is in the NAD. But not only does this reveal how disconnected NAD leadership is from the rest of the world church, the history the Gleaner editor suggests that we learn from has nothing to do with our current church crisis.
When we consider what the princes of long ago can truly teach us, we find they held to two principal points. Regarding the Diet of Spires we have this historical summary:
“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. D’Aubigne, b. 13, ch. 6” (2).
Obviously, the intrusion of civil authorities is not an issue in our current situation, but neither is the arbitrary authority of the church. Can any thinking Adventist actually contend that the source of the current controversy—the 2015 GC Session vote regarding women’s ordination—was an exercise of arbitrary church authority? Never in our church history has there been so much time and study invested in a single question as this one. Every world division fully participated and expressed itself. And once the ultimate body of church authority, consisting of over 2300 duly appointed representatives from around the world, made its decision, can anyone seriously say that this decision was an arbitrary one? Or that this decision was made by the exercise of so-called “kingly” or “popish” power?
But the historian continues by going beyond identifying what the Protest at Spires opposed and identifies what it affirmed:
“. . .Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man. . . .’ But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God” (3).
As the Gleaner editorial correctly points out, the papal church claimed to have authority above that of Scripture, and this claim the princes at Spires vehemently denied. But never has Protestantism claimed that all believers would interpret Scripture in precisely the same way. The myriad of Protestant denominations attests to this fact. Actually, the principles of Protestantism purposefully grant anyone who in good conscience cannot accept the teachings and practices of a particular denomination to be entirely at liberty to go to, or even to start, another church or denomination that is more to his liking. But to expect that one can abide within a faith community while openly defying the authority of that community is to embrace the principles of the papists at Spires, not the German princes. Indeed, this expectation reflects the spirit of the one who caused war in heaven when he desired to retain his place there while defying the authority of heaven’s Sovereign.
If the editor of the Gleaner wants us to learn something from history, I suggest we begin with the editor’s own history as a four-year old and learn that a duly authorized “No” means “No.” If someone cannot accept and respect that answer, then that person, like a mature adult, should pack his soap and toothbrush and go. I sincerely hope, however, that he would choose to stay, and that he would reconsider the moral principles upon which he stands. They just may not be as solid as he thinks. He may then be reassured that the General Conference in Session remains God’s ordained authority on earth (4), that this authority is to be respected even if its judgments are not entirely understood at the moment, and that our Father’s house is truly the safest and most secure place to be in all the world.
1. http://GleanerNow.com/news/2017/03/protest, accessed March 20, 2017).
2. The Great Controversy, p. 203).
4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261.
Biographical Note: Engel Yoder has recently retired after 33 years of denominational service with Christian Record Services for the Blind. He lives in Kansas and serves as an elder in his local church.
With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.
Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.
Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).
We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.
At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.
There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).
It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?
There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.
We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.
0n July 14, 2014, Alice Silva and Amber Machado were “married,” with Alice taking Amber’s last name. In June 2016 Alice Machado became a baptized member in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist church in Northern California Conference (NCC). Amber Machado was already a baptized member of the Chico church.
Ginger Harwood baptized Alice Machado at the Chico Church. Harwood holds a commissioned minister credential through the Pacific Union Conference. Harwood was “ordained” as a Seventh-day Adventist minister in 2013 in a rebel ordination service held at the La Sierra University church in Riverside, California. The Seventh-day Adventist Church never has and currently does not practice the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. In a November 8, 2016 email stated to be from NCC president Jim Pedersen to a concerned member, Pedersen wrote
The SDA Church continues to call all people to a saving relationship with Jesus, including baptism. There is also an understanding that members are not yet perfect, including those who get baptized – but there is a growth experience as we become more like Christ. The LGBT discussion continues to expand and be defined by the church, upholding the biblical foundation of marriage.
Now, three years later, “ordained” pastor Harwood has baptized a practicing lesbian into the Seventh-day Adventist church.
And we were told that accepting women’s ordination would never lead to this.
Interestingly, 23 years ago Harwood wrote a chapter in The Welcome Table, a book promoting the ordination of women. Back then she saw that those who opposed women’s ordination felt that, “such changes will alter our core identity” (p. 271). In that book, Harwood’s is perhaps the most credible, measured, and fair-minded chapter. And yet, two decades later she is bringing into church membership a person whom she must have known to be currently “married” to another woman. This is what is so chilling. If just twentyish years of journey brings one of the coolest heads and most rational among supporters of women’s ordination to the place of baptizing a lesbian, where has the same passage of time taken those more radical?
To baptize a practicing lesbian is something new for the Adventist Church. To embrace it would be to engage in change of Adventist core identity. One wonders if Harwood would have thought 23 years ago that this is where she would be today.
People who are convinced that their view is correct act on those beliefs. It is inevitable. What is happening in Northern California Conference right now is a time-machine to the future. These events are foretelling what will be happening in your Conference tomorrow if the current beliefs promoted by the current leadership of the Pacific Union and the North American Division are permitted to play out. Members in local conferences need to do what Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson called for in his 2010 address to the Church:
Seventh-day Adventist Church members, hold your leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable to the highest standards of belief based on a literal understanding of Scripture.
There is a linkage between the theology of women’s ordination and queer theology. While this is denied on the one hand, we see it turned into practice on the other. People who are convinced that their view is correct act on those beliefs. There are two opposite approaches to biblical interpretation in the Church, and there are two different sets of actual beliefs and practices which stem from them. God’s Church stands at the door of pluralism and paganism.
For more extensive information, see
NOTE: Errors corrected and two new paragraphs added.
This week will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many readers will be aware that in 2015 General Conference delegates in session voted to reject a proposal to let each division executive committee to decide for itself whether or not to make provision for the ordination of women. The world church made a global decision, the result of which was to follow the biblical practice and the from-the-beginning-of-the-Adventist-Church until now global practice of only ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders.
After the session, some elements of the church in Europe and in North America continued and increased in their defiance of the world church.
At Annual Council in October 2016 General Conference leadership brought a fair-minded proposal for reconciliation procedures to help the disobedient sections of church leadership be kept accountable and help the church draw together in united practice in harmony with the decision made by the world church. Many NAD leaders aggressively fought the proposal. Nevertheless, it passed and the reconciliation procedures are now being applied. Leaders from the General Conference will meet with North American Division Union leadership in a special meeting to be held this week on January 19. Some NAD leaders have called for special prayer for these meetings. It is a good time to pray for these meetings.
While there were numerous quite contentious comments made by NAD leaders who are advocates of WO at the meeting, The Council of Adventist Pastors thought readers might find it encouraging to recapitulate again some truth-telling comments made by faithful leaders at that meeting held three months ago. For example, 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 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.”
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. . . 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 B05.3, ‘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.”
Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore, stated:
“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.”
We accept the decision at San Antonio, and we believe the Church needs to move forward united. Our prayers go up for church leaders to be resolute in helping the NAD Unions come into the harmony that Jesus desires. Most members in North America want to move forward united as a world church. We are not going to ordain women to the gospel ministry, because to engage in that new practice would mean to abandon the correct understanding of Biblical interpretation that this church was founded on.
The prayers that go up this week ought not be for permission to disobey the leading of God’s Spirit but for courage to surrender a pet idea rejected by the world church at San Antonio. There remains opportunity for NAD leadership to come into harmony with the world church. For this our prayers are ascending.