On Monday, October 31, 2016, the North American Division executive committee voted a statement calling efforts to bring compliance to the world church vote at the 2015 General Conference session “profoundly divisive and demoralizing” and voiced “vigorous disagreement.” In the statement, North American Division leaders affirmed “unwavering support and steadfast intent” to secure what they feel is “full equality of women in ministry.” This, in spite of votes at the highest level of church polity in which the world church has refused, refused, and a third time refused, to approve directly or indirectly the ordination of women. The NAD vowed to continue to make “ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.”

Early October each year the General Conference holds its Annual Council meeting, and in late October the North American Division, its Year-end Meeting. The 2016 Annual Council approved a very patient process to be used for reconciliation, called “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation.” NAD leaders were frenzied in their resistance to the document, but representatives of the world church enacted the document anyway.

The Monday vote is not the first provocative action taken this year by the NAD. On Friday, October 28, the NAD voted to request that the General Conference recognize the illegal 2013 election by Southeastern California Conference of Sandra Roberts, a woman, to the male headship role of conference president. The YEM2016 action was done in spite of awareness that such recognition by the General Conference was impossible. It was an NAD statement of defiance toward the world church. Yet the passage of two days led to no improvement in graces. The Monday motion voted was offered by Southeastern California Conference pastor Randy Roberts, and reads as follows:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Three Angels’ Messages. Nothing should impede this prophetic mission.

It is thus with grave concern that the members of the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee witnessed the passing of the Unity in Mission document at the recent Annual Council. The implementation of this document will create–indeed, is already creating–a profoundly divisive and demoralizing reality in many parts of the NAD.

While we wish to register our vigorous disagreement with the intent of the document, we do not wish to respond impulsively. Therefore, in light of this document, we move to authorize NADCOM to appoint a subcommittee to craft a thoughtful path forward.

Furthermore, recognizing that the underlying focus and context of the Unity in Mission document was the ordination of women to ministry in two unions in our division, we wish to once again publicly affirm our unwavering support and steadfast intent to realize the full equality of women in ministry, in fulfillment of biblical principles, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In light of these realities, we do not want the Unity in Mission document to be a deterrent to the ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.

We invite earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this process.

The action taken by the NAD at YEM2016 is extremely divisive. The NAD participated fully in the studies and votes which resulted in the 2015 world church decision. How can the NAD ignore those same decisions which they are duty-bound to accept, and then accuse world church leadership of being “divisive” when they humbly seek to secure respect for those same decisions? Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists who fully support the world church hang their heads in shame today for the insubordinate actions of their own Division. They feel voiceless and abandoned by NAD leadership. They support efforts by the world church to help recover the wayward unions, but the actions of NAD leadership are ripping the fabric of goodwill within the Division.

Has the leadership of the NAD gone rogue? Are they content to destroy world church unity to pursue the “proactive progress” of the ideology they are bent upon inculcating not only over the protest of their North American Division members, but also the world church?

How Long O Lord?

Seventh-day Adventist Church president pastor Ted N.C. Wilson has a Question and Answer section on his Facebook page. On October 22, 2016, pastor Wilson posted a detailed answer. In response to a question which had suggested that in seeking the compliance of divisions, unions, and conferences with the world church’s decision on women’s ordination, the General Conference was abusing its powers and exercising “kingly authority., the president’s reply offers a number of interesting insights. The entire answer can be read at this link:

https://m.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/photos/a.893482760707617.1073741827.221442104578356/1125011014221456/?type=3

We here at OrdinationTruth.com reproduce four paragraphs, with our reactions.

“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church. In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”

This paragraph makes the interesting point that despite continuing claims made by those determined to practice women’s ordination, the world church is not organized so that all ordination questions are handled only by unions. It has never been.

The other point of interest is that unions may only approve ordination based on the criteria set by the world church. Criteria is not set locally, although this is the desperate argument North American Unions are making.

Pastor Wilson proceeded to offer these points regarding the facts and authority of the General Conference in session concerning women’s ordination:

• “The General Conference in Session in 1990 indicated that only men were to be ordained.”

• “The General Conference in Session in 1995 and 2015 indicated that no other level was to have the right to determine who would be ordained other than that which has been indicated in the Working Policy and confirmed by the General Conference in Session in 1990.”

• “After having treated this overall topic three times, the General Conference Session with representatives from all parts of the world owns this subject.”

The world church has considered this matter carefully and repeatedly at the level of the General Conference session, and the decisions made by the world church in its most representative and authoritative decision-making body “owns this subject”–not unions or divisions. Officers in the North American Division need to pause, take a deep breath, and realize that in resisting the world church they are fighting a century of mutually approved church organization. Neither the NAD nor its Unions nor Adventist unions or union conferences anywhere in the world have been granted authority to disregard the decisions of the world church of which they are only sub-units.

With reference to the charge that the elected leaders of the world church at the General Conference are exercising kingly power in their efforts to uphold the decisions of the world church, he writes this:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question: What could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”

“As president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am duty bound with a sacred responsibility, as are all other officers of every level of organizations throughout the church as is indicated in Working Policy, to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not). To go against this vote would be exercising kingly authority.”

In other words, when unions or divisions act in deliberate opposition to GC-level decisions, it is those actions which are the authentic—and contemporary—exercise of “kingly power.” Entities such as Pacific and Columbia and North Pacific Unions are exercising “kingly power” when they usurp the authorities vested in the world church. None of these Unions have authority to approve unauthorized credentials they are presently issuing in the name of the Church. They are acting in violation both of the trust of the world church and also the trust of their own constituencies. Seventh-day Adventists holding church membership in the Conferences connected to these Unions are under the oppression of kingly power. Members’ rights are being violated by administrations of Unions which approve illegitimate credentials.

The Council of Adventist Pastors calls upon Unions misusing the authorities the world church has entrusted to them, whatever the administrator’s personal views, to turn back from destructive actions they have taken and to come into unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Northern California Conference (NCC), located in the Pacific Union, held its Quadrennial Constituency meeting on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Of special interest was the vote on a resolution worded thus:

Submitted by: Anderson Church and Sacramento Central Church

Pastors: Murray Miller and Chris Buttery

WHEREAS, the words of Jesus admonish us to be “one” as His Father and He are one (see John 17:20-22) and one of our fundamental beliefs states that “differences between male and female must not be divisive among us” (Fundamental Belief 14);

WHEREAS, both the Church Manual (page 31), and North American Division policy emphasize that “all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the world will recognize the General Conference in session as the highest authority under God” (NAD Working Policy B01 20 3);

WHEREAS, on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Northern California Conference [hereafter referred to as NCC] Executive Committee, time was spent debriefing the actions and decisions of the Pacific Union Conference Special Constituency Session held August 19, 2012. Out of that discussion, the motion was made that the NCC will recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;

WHEREAS, the May 18, 2014, NCC Constituency Session voted to refer the duly introduced agenda item of women’s ordination to the NCC Executive Committee for an official statement;

WHEREAS, the NCC Executive committee voted to affirm their previous decision of August 22, 2012, to recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;

WHEREAS, the July 8, 2015, General Conference Session voted down a motion that would have allowed each Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church® to decide for itself whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry in its territory (which includes the Northern California Conference);

WHEREAS, we have been admonished by both the General Conference and North American Division Presidents to comply with the 2015 Session’s outcome;

WHEREAS, Article VII, Section 7 of the NCC Constitution states, “The Executive Committee shall have the authority to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs and the affairs of the Conference, provided that the same are not in conflict with these Bylaws or those of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, or of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,” and at present Executive Committee votes conflict with General Conference policy;

The Motion:

We now vote to retract the Executive Committee votes of August 22, 2012, and December 3, 2014, in order to be in harmony with the World Church as represented by the General Conference session of July 8, 2015. We will continue to support women in ministry with the exception of issuing a ministerial credential and thus abide by the outcome of the vote of the World Church.

The constituency proceeded to vote. The motion, which would have placed NCC back in compliance with the world church, failed with 211 Yes votes compared to 294 No votes. This is an interesting result when we realize that constituency session vote are weighted in favor of conference leadership by the inclusion of its entire employed pastoral staff. That is, the membership at large is likely much more opposed to unilateral action separated from the General Conference than conference leadership.

While many within NCC oppose women’s ordination on Bible grounds, others favor women’s ordination but do believe that the world church has ultimate authority over these decisions. On July 8, 2015, world church delegates to the San Antonio General Conference session voted “No” to a proposal which would have permitted individual divisions of the church to decide whether or not to ordain women for themselves.

Many NCC members are very disturbed about the decision.

As a side note, it is interesting to read the NCC reaction to the resolution. On page 71 of the Constituency meeting book, the NCC makes several claims which are summarized in this sentence: “The NCC Executive Committee actions are not in contradiction with either the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws or the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws.” This statement is false. Saying one is in harmony with the world church while acting out disharmony towards it is unlikely to convince others that one is in compliance. Rather, it puts the highlight on the fact that the NCC, as other conferences and unions in some parts of the world church, is now operating in open disregard for the authority of the world church of which it is constituent.

Update: Oct. 23, 2016: An earlier version of this article pointed to published statements by church members in the conference who had stated they would stop returning tithe through the NCC. The individual we had linked to has since then flipped his position and adopted the erroneous recently published views of George Knight and others about the history and authority of unions. That individual was and is in favor of women’s ordination, but initially ad upheld the authority of the world church over its sub-units.

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.

Adventist pastors who have perused the documents released by the General Conference on September 25, 2016, anticipate that readers of OrdinationTruth.com may be interested in reviewing what these documents say about the unauthorized commissioned minister credentials that have been issued in multiple conferences in the North Pacific Union since 2015. Such credentials are invalid since they carry authorities which the world church has not approved for this credential. The new GC documents support these concerns.

GENERAL CONFERENCE SAYS NEW COMMISSIONED POLICIES DIVERGE
On the first page of the document, the fourth paragraph reads as follows. Notice the last item.

Starting in 2012, however, a few unions have, in effect, claimed the right to set criteria for ordination, disregarding the 1990 GC Session action not to allow women to be ordained to gospel ministry, and the decisions of the 1995 and 2015 Sessions not to allow variances from this policy. Since the 2015 Session, some unions and conferences have diverged from GC Working Policy by discontinuing ordinations, and commissioning or licensing all new pastors; issuing ministerial licenses and/or commissioned-minister credentials or licenses to all pastors in their territories, including those previously ordained; and allowing commissioned or licensed ministers to function as ordained ministers (p. 1).

As we have carefully outlined in previous articles (SEE LINKS AT END OF THIS ARTICLE), this is the course that has been taken by Conferences in the NPUC. While the redefined commissioned credentials have not in all respects permitted function as ordained minister, in several respects they have. We understand this statement in the document as aimed directly at the illegitimate “commissioned+” credential voted into being by church administration in the regions of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

INVALID CREDENTIALING AND LICENSING PRACTICES
A section of the GC document discusses invalid practices. The document warns, “As we have seen, denominational policy results from deliberations by representatives from around the world. Ignoring what was commonly agreed upon sets a dangerous precedent in organizational terms. It also strikes a serious blow against unity” (p. 35).

In recounting the history of Adventist practice, the document compares the ordained with the commissioned credential. The Adventist Church “has consistently regarded” “ordination. . . as qualitatively different to licensing or commissioning” (Ibid.). Indeed, another paragraph directly addresses “unorthodox credentialing practices”:

What, however, of the unorthodox credentialing practices? Is it perhaps the case that the Church has not taken a position on them? As we have seen, in the absence of an agreed and stated view, organizational units could continue to act. In fact, however, these are practices about which the world Church has deliberated and pronounced, meaning that it is necessary for all to accept the decision of the wider body (Ibid.).

Credentials are a very concrete thing, and have been throughout all but the earliest years of the church organization. They reflect mutually agreed practice, and are not locally malleable. The Church has specified and defined credentials very carefully, and neither unions nor conferences may independently redefine what a credential stands for.

A FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE
Are credentials in a sense dependent upon other credentials? Credentials differentiate workers and set parameters for responsibility sets. The document makes an important point:

A statement approved by the GC Executive Committee in 1930, then embodied in GC Working Policy, sets out a foundational principle: that ‘any shadow of uncertainty in the matter of what ministerial credentials stand for in one field reflects a shadow upon all credentials, and is a matter of general denominational concern.’ Where there is any question about policy’s provisions, then, the GC Executive Committee is obliged to take an interest and reach a verdict (p. 36).

This is why the Working Policy outlines so carefully (SEE LINKS AT END OF THIS ARTICLE) the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of each distinct kind of credential. The very purpose is to make the authorities vested in each kind of credential distinct, so as to remove even “any shadow of uncertainty” over the question “of what ministerial credentials stand for.”

The Commissioned Minister policies enacted by conferences within the NPUC carry a combination of authorities from commissioned and from ordained minister credentials. They are less than ordained minister credentials in some respects, yet more than the commissioned minister credential. They, thus, are really “commissioned+” or “ordained-” credentials. As we shall next see, the General Conference has authorized no such credential.

GC MUST APPROVE MODIFIED CREDENTIALS
Where there seems valid reason to issue a modified kind of credential, provision exists for this. The Church is not inflexible. But before any such credential would be issued, prior approval must be secured from the General Conference Executive Committee. However, in the case of the commissioned minister credentials now being issued by Conferences in the North Pacific Union, this approval has not been sought.

“Organizations that have departed from Adventist practice in credentialing and licensing have done so without consulting and taking counsel—and that, too, is a departure (perhaps a more egregious one) from our established practice” (pp. 38, 39).

“While generally requiring strict adherence, it provides that local organizations can adapt, even depart from, the policies—but this requires ‘prior approval from the General Conference Executive Committee’ (B 15 10, 1). Such approval has not been granted” (p. 39).

In other words, what has been seen in the NPUC is exactly what this GC document addresses—unilateral action. This is unacceptable, and designated as such in the document.

CORRECT CREDENTIALS ESSENTIAL FOR UNITY
The document states,

The ordaining and commissioning of pastors, and the issuing of credentials and licenses, are not matters essential to salvation, but they are essential to the unity of the Church. They are also important elements of the Church’s smooth functioning as an organization: that is, they are important for mission (p. 42).

The commissioned minister credentials currently being issued by Oregon and Washington Conferences in the NPUC are invalid, for they are a hybrid credential granting authorities reserved to the ordained minister to the commissioned minister. Neither Oregon, nor Washington Conferences, nor the Union, have sought or been granted the authority to create this “commissioned+” credential. The creation of this credential has created disunity and distrust in the Union.

RESTORING TRUST
It would be a first step toward restoring trust if the executive committees of the Oregon and Washington Conferences, and the executive committee of the North Pacific Union, would act immediately to rescind and repudiate their actions creating and approving this false credential, before further embarrassing the Church in the Northwest and contributing to a situation which may lead to the dismissal of the NAD president under whose watch these errors occurred.


LINKS:

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

CM Crisis 4: Washington Conference Misleads on Policy

Who Should be NPUC President?

NPUC Churches raise Nomination Concern

CM Crisis 5: A History Lesson as Annual Council 2016 Approaches

John freedman Elected NPUC President

General Conference Documents Prepare for Action

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

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

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

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

ON POLICY

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

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

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

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

DECISIONS APPLY TO DIVISIONS, UNIONS, CONFERENCES

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

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

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

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

DANGER AND COMPLIANCE

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

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

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

DOCUMENTS

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

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

A constituency meeting of the Pacific Union is happening right now (Sunday and Monday, August 28, 29, 2016). Rebellion toward the world church has been flowing out of the Union for many years, especially involving the practice of women’s ordination and the support of LGBTQ themes. The current meeting is attempting to make changes that would loosen the authority of the General conference over this rogue region of the church. Let us explain.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide body, with churches in over 200 countries. Every five years delegates are elected and meet together to advance the mission of the church in a General Conference session.

The most recent such session, held in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, refused to permit Divisions to ordain women. Because it adheres to Bible-based, spiritually qualified male leadership, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not call women to serve as conference presidents. Nevertheless, Southeastern California Conference (SECC) in 2013 elected a woman president. After the 2015 General Conference session decision voted by delegates not to permit the ordination of women, SECC has proceeded in defiance, ordaining multiple women to the gospel ministry.

SECC Insub-Ordination from CAP on Vimeo.

As of (Monday morning, August 29) the meeting is in its final hours and is debating organizational changes it does not have the authority to enact.

Proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Pacific Union are seen http://www.adventistfaith.com/session/_downloads/ProposedBylawChanges.pdf.

Because the Pacific Union is a subsidiary part of the General Conference, it is bound by certain required wording in its Constitution and Bylaws documents. For example, it is required that in the event of the union being dissolved, all assets revert to the next higher organizational unit (in the case of the Pacific Union, the North American Division). However, delegates will vote on whether to replace that required wording with wording that says that in the event of dissolution, all assets revert “to the individual conferences comprising the pacific Union at the time of its dissolution.” Another proposed change is to delete the required wording that limits changes to the Constitution and bylaws to wording which must be in harmony with the General Conference required wording. Removal of this clause would appear to loosen requirements that the Union remain in harmony with the world church.

However, even if these insubordinate initiatives are voted and pass, the Union constituency has no authority to make them. All such changes contrary to the required wording are, in our understanding, null and void so long as the General Conference requires the Union to comply. Indeed, changes such as the leaders of the Pacific Union seek to vote into being today only clarify that the rebellion in that section of the church is in an advanced stage and will serve to make corrective action by the General Conference less difficult. These rebel actions will solidify world church support for decisive action by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Pacific Union is a Seventh-day Adventist organizational grouping of several conferences located in the states of Hawaii, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Each conference is a grouping of Seventh-day Adventist churches. The North American Division (NAD) is made up of nine such unions including the Pacific Union. The NAD is one of 13 top-level organizational units of the world church.

UPDATE: The the most troubling changes debated were not implemented. However, the key development of the session was when a motion was offered by Sacramento Central church pastor Chris Buttery. The motion sought to have the 2012 Union decision to approve the ordination of women rescinded. Delegates, however, voted 74 percent to 26 percent to maintain the 2012 decision. Thus, the Pacific Union, by the vote of its delegates now AFTER the 2015 General conference session, continues to operate in opposition to the world church.

The consecration of practicing homosexual Gene Robinson to the office of bishop proved the final straw leading to the realignment of the Anglican Church. Now, the Western Jurisdiction (composed of Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho, Yellowstone, California-Nevada, California-Pacific, Desert Southwest, and Rocky Mountain conferences) of the United Methodist Church, has appointed ordained woman pastor Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian, to bishop. The office of bishop is the top leadership position that may be held in the United Methodist Church.

Oliveto, a woman, is “married” to Robin Ridenour, a woman. She was voted to be bishop on July 15, 2016 by delegates of the Western Jurisdiction. Her consecration service may be viewed here:


[The charge to Oliveto to be faithful begins about timestamp 13:15, laying on of hands and consecration 25:00, and at 28:10 her introduction as bishop.]

Oliveto wrote a song called “Pope Crush” she posted on the internet, in which she claims to be very taken by the Pope, among other things.

Response to this extraordinary development was not long in coming. Pastor Rob Renfroe responded with a stern warning and appeal, speaking of schism less than one minute into his eight minute presentation. Renfroe is a leading voice for Methodists still seeking to hold Scripture authoritative.

After describing several voted statements of non-compliance, Renfroe says, “This is now on a systemic level. This is mass rebellion within the church, and no one seems willing or able to hold them accountable.” He is probably right when he says, “This cannot be glossed over with happy words.” Pastor Renfroe urges faithful Methodists to become members of a new organization called the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

The United Methodist Church seems headed for separation. Many Methodist leaders are acting in violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline and appear unable to muster the clarity and decision necessary to save their church from schism.

As Adventists we share much with the Methodists, and so remain alert to developments there. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church see the nature of the present crisis in our Church, and act with decision? Organizational disintegration is now occurring in our own ranks. Many Adventist conferences, unions, and unions of churches are acting out voted decisions of insubordination. The decision of the General Conference in San Antonio to refuse to make way for women’s ordination is being set aside for local preference. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church take needful action this year? Or will our own leaders fail in this moment of crisis?

Let us pray earnestly for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as Annual Council approaches in less than two months.