The Gleaner is the Union paper of the North Pacific Union in the North American Division, and is funded by Seventh-day Adventists in conferences in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The March 2017 Gleaner carried an editorial penned by editor Steve Vistaunet on page 4 titled “Protest.”

The editor’s 12 paragraphs come in three segments. The first describes his protest against his mother’s “totalitarian” decisions when he was four years old. But “some protests are far more worthy,” and “confront us with moral choices that cannot be compromised.”

And so, in the next segment he quotes from Ellen White’s discussion of the protest of the princes, who exclaim, “If we must choose between the Holy Scriptures of God and the old errors of the church, we should reject the former.” Vistaunet adds, “Rejecting compromise, the princes instead drafted a solemn response that declared they would not ‘consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to his Word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of souls.'”

These lines prepare the reader for the final segment:

“Union conference presidents in North America have been summoned by world church leaders to seek a way through a maze of principles, politics, and policies. The health of our collective unity hangs in the balance. What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”

The author concludes desiring that the Church “move beyond the status-quo and be fully re-engaged with our Father’s business.”

Later in the same Gleaner we find another article featuring an interview with the new NPUC president, titled “John Freedman: A Prayerful Journey” (pp. 8-11). (Freedman, while chairman of the Washington Conference executive committee spearheaded that Conference’s adoption of its present non-compliant commissioned minister policy). Freedman says this about the NAD stance toward our world church:

“I’m working closely with union presidents from around the North American Division (NAD) and our NAD leadership to determine how we can most effectively support our world church structure. We had a thoughtful meeting with world leaders on January 19. We hope to draft our vision for a suggested way forward to deal productively with the issues of governance that will be reviewed by the NAD administration and approved by the NAD executive committee before being presented to General Conference officers. These are important steps. Our church is not designed to be run by a few people at any level. It is a collective effort involving the priesthood of all believers in doing God’s will in every corner of our world. I hope we’ll soon be able to move beyond these current concerns so that all of us—male, female, young and old—can fully be about our Father’s business” (p. 11).

Wait a moment! It is because the church is not “to be run by a few people at any level” that the Church has addressed the question as it has. The spirit of the women’s ordination faction put itself on display in unilateral action by conferences and unions in North America which disregarded the previous decisions of the church. And so, the world church engaged in a study process and handed the ordination question—yet again—to thousands of delegates to the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session.

This was the third time that delegates to our highest earthly decision-making body have been asked to address questions whose outcome would open or close the door for women to be ordained. On those three occasions, the answer has been No, No, and No, respectively.

Can anyone call to mind any topic the world church has addressed so many times? No comparable issue has been brought before so many Adventists in the history of the Church, or received so consistent an answer. God has spoken to His people, first in the Scriptures, and then patiently, in session after session of the General Conference.

If we would speak of decisions impacting the whole body made by but a few people, we need look no farther than to the insubordinate decisions of conferences and unions and executive committees which have defied their God and His Church.

God has through the body given the same decision again and again: No to the practice of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

The “governance issues” Freedman speaks of are not complicated. If the ordination of women was insubordinate before San Antonio, afterward, it is positively rebellious. Leadership in the North American Division is in rebellion. If these leaders wish to advance with mission and “move beyond” these concerns, the only way to do so is to accept the decision of the world church: No to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Rather than inciting NAD leaders to rebel against their world church, or insinuating that our General Conference leadership’s humble request to these entities to respect the decisions of the world church is equivalent to the Papal suppression of truth and religious liberty, the Gleaner editor and union leaders should submit their contrarian agenda to the decision of the body. Rather than drawing a line of conscience in the sand and claiming the mantle of heroic progressives, won’t you respect the combined decision of delegates gathered from across the globe you are called and conscientiously bound to uphold?

The NPUC leadership, if these two articles offer any indication, is bent on pushing the women’s ordination agenda even to the point of fracturing the Church. What extraordinary shame.

It will not stand.


NOTE: The Gleaner editorial, “Protest” is available online at http://gleanernow.com/news/2017/03/protest. The interview of John Freedman from which we quote can be read at: http://gleanernow.com/feature/john-freedman. We also noticed that the editor asked Freedman “How have you addressed the concerns of your Northwest constituents about these issues, and that the president made no reply about his constituents but that he wanted them to “move beyond these current concerns.” The reply is not surprising and is consistent with the tone of the constituency meeting which elected Freedman, in which concerns about his nomination as union president were repeatedly suppressed.

Today (September 25, 2016), a majority of delegates to the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) constituency session, elected Washington Conference president John Freedman to be president of the NPUC. Freedman’s nomination, uncontested as the practice in all such elections, was accomplished by a vote of only 72 percent Yes. An unusually high margin of 28 percent of delegates voted No.

Freedman’s Washington Conference executive committee, just three months after the 2015 General Conference session decision in San Antonio, Texas, had voted into being a commissioned minister policy contradicting the voted policies of the world church. A similar policy voted by the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee had aroused several constituent churches of that Conference to vote a call for a special constituency session to reverse the policy there. Conference leaders there rescinded their policy in August, circumventing the special session.

Churches in Washington Conference had called on that Conference to rescind its errant policy. But the NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, had nominated Freedman to be the next NPUC president on August 17. When Freedman’s executive committee met to consider the Washington Conference church’s request on August 23, it rejected the call to rescind. After Washington Conference leadership refused to meet with the churches which called for the policy to be rescinded, scores of members from those churches sent a letter to all the elders in the NPUC territory informing them about the policy and suggesting they contact delegates to urge them to learn about the Washington policy and its opposition to the General Conference.

In the subsequent two weeks before the Union constituency session, about a dozen constituent churches across the NPUC voted a respectful letter which they sent to their own delegates, urging them to refer the nomination back to nominating committee.

The segment of the constituency meeting dealing with the nomination for the presidency was chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson. The parliamentary authority for the meeting is the General Conference Rules of Order (GCRoR). These rules state that

“6. If there is objection to a part or the whole of the Nominating Committee report, the objector(s) may request that the report (not an individual name) be referred back to the Nominating Committee for further consideration. It is the usual procedure for the chair to accept the referral; however, if the request becomes a motion, it is nondebatable and is decided by simple majority vote” (General Conference Rules of Order, sixth ed., Elections, p. 5).

Thus, a delegate who has the floor may request that the nominating committee report be referred back to the committee, and the chair, if he followed “the usual procedure,” would be obliged to accept the referral. Jackson, doubtless aware that objection would be made, preempted this option by asking the assembled delegates whether they wished any referral to happen without a motion, or any referral to be processed as a motion. This request surprised the delegates and for several seconds the hundreds assembled said nothing. In effect Jackson was preempting the option to simply refer. (To turn the referral into a motion would almost certainly guarantee its defeat, since 50+% would have to vote yes on the motion without understanding the reason for the referral.) At this point, delegate Jim Brackett stood and moved that the first option (simple referral) be used. This was seconded and then voted upon. The motion was defeated.

Multiple motions to refer the report back were made, but each defeated. The votes were in the 30-40 versus 60-70 percent range. One delegate on the floor stated to the assembled delegates that more than fifty pastors in the Union had objections to the nomination and sought again to refer it to committee. (There are around 200 church-employed pastors in the whole Union.) A majority of delegates, aware they were nominating a candidate whose conference’s policy rejects compliance with the world church, refused to let the nomination go back to committee. Concerns of delegates were blocked from being heard. In the end, Freedman was elected. Upon Freedman’s return to the room, as is customary, many stood to applaud his election, but half and perhaps more, remained quietly seated.

Freedman takes the helm during a time of crisis in the Adventist Church which has arisen because of the ill-advised actions of Conferences including Washington Conference, Unions, and Unions of Churches which have risen to oppose the decisions of the world church.

General Conference Annual Council 2016 comes in October.

NOTE: This article was edited September 27 and the sequence of events corrected and clarified. Information about the correction is posted in the comments that follow the article, as well as comments that have been sent to be posted.

Churches in Conferences in the North Pacific Union are registering their concern over the nomination of the current Washington Conference president who has been proposed to delegates to become the new Union president. Persons in several conferences have indicated concern, but churches in Washington and Upper Columbia Conferences have gone further. They have written out their concern in a brief letter they plan to send to delegates to the NPUC meeting.

The respectful yet straightforward letter has been reproduced at Fulcrum7.com at THIS LINK. Although the constituency meeting will happen almost immediately, (September 25, 2016), churches continue to vote to have their congregations added to the letter. Additional churches are readying to add their support to the letter. We are told that church boards wishing to add their support to the concern listed in the letter should contact NPUCchurchestoNPUCdelegates@gmail.com as soon as possible.

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