Background

The main yearly meeting of the world church is called Annual Council. Every October the General Conference Executive Committee gathers for this meeting. Needful decision-making is accomplished by this body for the world church between General Conference Sessions held every five years.

In the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas, delegates made an important decision. They again (similar votes had been held in 1990 and 1995 sessions) determined they would continue the practice of the Adventist Church from its beginning: they chose (again) not to open the way for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

Be that as it may, several women both before and after the 2015 meeting have been illegally “ordained to the gospel ministry” in the Pacific Union. The Columbia Union continues to have policies out of compliance with the world church on this question, and the North Pacific Union and some Unions in the Trans-European Division are following credentialing practices which are out of harmony with the world church.

At 2016 Annual Council the General Conference Executive Committee voted to engage in a process of reconciliation and if necessary, discipline toward errant parts of the world church. The year between meetings resulted in no correction to those insubordinate actions. In October 2017 Annual Council a proposal offerred the GC Executive Committee for how to proceed was returned to committee, leaving the non-compliant Unions out of harmony with the world church and the present leaders of these Unions and Divisions remaining in office.

About two weeks after Annual Council, the North American Division meets to hold its Year-End Meeting (YEM). Certain events in this year’s YEM especially stand out.

NAD YEM 2017

First, time was set aside in NAD YEM to discuss the proposal that was to be considered at 2017 Annual Council and that would have impacted Unions in rebellion in the NAD. During that discussion, a young adult from Canada, Daniel Cho, also a member of the North American Division Executive Committee, obtained the floor and spoke of the necessity of unity. He moved this motion:

In the spirit of church unity and respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session with delegates from all over the world is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters among Divisions and their entities in the church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with the NAD/GC policy, and the 2015 vote of the world church on ordination. I so move.

The motion was seconded. One person spoke in debate, then a second speaker called for opportunity to be given for prayer. While most committee members were engaged in prayer, the chair, Dan Jackson, conferred at length with ex officio committee member General Conference treasurer Juan Prestol-Peusan, NAD and GC legal counsel Karnik Doukmetzian, G. Alexander Bryant, and others, who did not participate during most of the prayer time.

Almost immediately after debate resumed, Prestol-Peusan approached the mic and after a convoluted reasoning segment, moved to table the motion.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, “The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed” (pp. 118-119). Since there was no other pending motion for the NAD Executive Committee to address before it considered Cho’s motion, the motion to table was out of order. This was a misuse of parliamentary procedure to defeat the main motion without debate. Robert’s Rules continues with the question: “Can something be defeated by adopting a motion to table it?” Answer: “This is a common violation of fair procedure. Such a motion is not in order, because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, and only a two-thirds vote can do that.”

We are indebted to a sharp-eyed layperson who brought this to our attention.

Someone may say this observation doesn’t apply since the meeting was conducted under the General Conference Rules of Order (GCROO), not Robert’s Rules. However, look again at the reason this practice is not allowed: because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, while only a 2/3rds vote can do that. Two-thirds is the required threshold to end debate on a motion by calling question (calling for an end to debate of a motion being considered and immediately putting the main question itself to a vote). Not only does this reasoning operate identically in GCROO, but GCROO specifically makes the same point: “It [motion to table] is not used to ‘drop’ or suppress a motion” (GCROO, 3a, p. 7).

Thus, the NAD president and the maker of the motion to table, Juan Prestol-Puesan, who spoke together while other committee members were praying, knowingly deprived a fellow committee member, Daniel Cho, of the right to have his motion debated, duly processed, and voted on by the assembly. Debate was cut short. Furthermore, Cho is a representative of Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division and any usurpation of his rights is a usurpation of our rights as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North American Division.

What could have been done in the meeting is for a delegate to call point of order, explain the error, and the chair would have been required to rule on the point of order. If his ruling was incorrect, committee members could appeal his decision and overrule it by a simple majority vote (GCROO, p. 3, 8-9, 12).

Another point of interest from the NAD YEM: at one point during the proceedings, NAD president Dan Jackson urged his assembled NAD leaders to be “obstreperous” in pushing, against the decision of the world church, for women’s ordination. Such behavior is hard to square with his other statements that the NAD is in unity and in harmony with the world church.

Actions like those described in this article have caused an enormous loss of confidence in the present leadership of the North American Division. They have propelled the North American Church into a terrible crisis which, unless soon addressed, will split the Church in North America.

The illegal vote to table the motion passed 186 to 25 with 3 abstentions.

On September 28, 2017, the agenda for the October 5-11, 2017, Annual Council was released. Many items are conventional: changes in policy wording, proposed bylaws changes, approval of calendar items. But there is more.

Since the 2015 San Antonio General Conference session, certain Unions in North American and Trans-European Divisions have acted in direct contradiction to the voted action of the world church. Conferences and Unions have acted insubordinately, ordaining women to the gospel ministry, engaging in non-authorized credentialing processes, granting ordained minister authorities to the commissioned minister, and, in one case, even “electing” a woman conference president.

None of the described practices and actions are valid, as none have been approved by the world church. More than this, some institutions of the world church, like the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA, have unilaterally issued statements attacking certain teachings of Scripture. Meanwhile, neither NAD president Dan Jackson nor TED president Raafat A Kamal, responsible for leading those Divisions, have taken any substantive action to prevent these rebellious acts. No doubt, this has led to thousands of Adventists calling for their dismissal (https://www.unityintruth.com/sign-a-petition/).

After considerable debate, the 2016 Annual Council approved a process for reconciliation set to occur between then and this year’s meeting. It is our understanding that neither Division nor its insubordinate entities have repented of their unilateral, non-compliant, world church defying practices.

This likely explains the presence of item 120 on the AC2017 Agenda: “Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence.” Since neither NAD nor TED Divisions have come into harmony with the world church, both NAD and TED are operating independently of God’s guidance to the Church through its Heaven-appointed leadership, and their practice continues in non-compliance.

The 2017 agenda materials include another item seemingly related to this. Executive Secretary G.T. Ng will make a report titled “Adventist 911.” The presentation will outline seven historical developments, each described either as “Crisis,” “Defection,” or “Rebellion.”

Other items include “Current Ecumenical Trends,” item 136, as well as proposed adjustments to theological education. We urge you to join us in praying for God-led courage, wisdom, and action by the gathered members of the General Conference Executive Committee as it meets for AC2017.

UnityInTruth.com, the website publishing this video, has an important petition all Adventists can sign, calling for substantive action to be taken at Annual Council 2017 to remove leaders who are acting in contradiction to the decisions of the world church. The petition can be signed here (Click on this link).

We want to point your attention to four interesting new websites that did not exist even six months ago. All are the products of laypeople who support the world church in the present crisis!

TheStairView.com is entirely the work of Adventist laypeople who support the long-standing Seventh-day Adventist use of the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation. The focus is on sound biblical interpretation. The material fully supports the decision of the world church. Layperson Johnston Robinson is responsible.

Rollene.no is a new website from laypeople in Norway. “Rollene” means “the Roles.” Many Adventists in Norway have remained largely unaware of the crisis concerning women’s ordination. The site invites Adventists to strengthen their understanding of bible truth applied to gender roles. The Bible is to be read according to the “Sola, Tota, Prima Scriptura” principle. Some leaders are resisting the world church and leading church members away from the body with them. The goal of Rollene.no is to minimize the resulting harm. Articles are grouped in the four sections: The Bible, the Family, the Church, and Q&A. The material fully supports the decision of the world church. Layperson Sergey Paniflov is responsible.

UnityInTruth.com is a new site seeking to activate laypeople in support of the world church. Its mission is to promote loving, Christlike accountability in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, so that we may truly reflect Christ to a world in darkness. UnityInTruth.com seeks to encourage leadership and laity alike to faithfulness to message and mission, hastening the return of Christ. The site also features a thoughtful petition calling for action against the insubordinate sections of the Church. The material fully supports the decision of the world church. Laypersons Gabe and Jennifer Arruda are responsible.

AffirmationSabbath.org is the official site of a growing movement of laypeople from across the NAD called World Church Affirmation Sabbath. The work of this group is to hold lay-led meetings where laypeople can meet face to face and learn how to better fulfill heaven’s plan for representative church governance, which has been largely ignored leaving us in the present crisis. The site gives locations for meetings to be held in September, publishes a twice-a-month newsletter, and has links to videos from it meetings. It will include livestreaming links for the September event. The work of Affirmation Sabbath fully supports the decision of the world church, and the initiative has been positively featured in the General conference Executive Committee Newsletter. Laypersons involved are listed on the site.

Many of these sites merit further detailed review and we hope in the near future to describe some of them more fully.

A new website has been prepared by Seventh-day Adventist laypeople, titled UnityInTruth.com. From the website:

You may feel that you are ‘only’ a lay person far removed from the decision-making process of the church. However, you have the right and responsibility to let your world leaders and lay representatives who serve on the General Conference Executive Committee know of your concerns and to ask for action to bring faithfulness to the North American Division leadership (https://www.unityintruth.com/, accessed 2017-07-25).

The site lists a long series of transgressions and attempts to reshape the world church in solidarity with the pro-women’s ordination agenda here: https://www.unityintruth.com/womens-ordination/

At the end of that link is an opportunity to sign a petition asking the GC to take corrective action this October at Annual Council.

The site is very nicely prepared. We suggest you take a close look and then consider acting by signing the petition. Of course, for lasting change NAD church members should see that they elect officers in their own Conferences and Unions who truly support the world church.

Seventh-day Adventist church members in the Upper Columbia Conference will gather May 20 for multiple regional meetings. The meetings were not organized by Conference administration but by the laypeople themselves. The meetings are described as giving opportunity for members of the Conference to show their support for the world church.

Meetings will be held simultaneously, May 20, at the Stateline church in Milton Freewater, OR, two miles from Walla Walla University, and also at the Chewelah church, north of Spokane, WA. Meetings begin in the afternoon, with UCC members attending their local church in the morning, then traveling to Affirmation Sabbath.

Food will be provided so that guests can eat after arrival. Meetings begin at 3:00 pm. Six speakers will give short talks (15 minutes each) one after another, with a final 30 minute presentation titled “In Affirmation of the World Church.” The highlight of the meeting will come in the fellowship shared in the meal provided at 5:30. Members will have a precious opportunity to connect with other members from their own region. An open question and answer session is planned.

The group’s website is http://www.AffirmationSabbath.org. Its Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/WorldChurchAffirmationSabbath

Most Seventh-day Adventists reject the radical policy of opposition toward the world church seen in some places. Affirmation Sabbath is planned to be a positive experience. In a gracious post by NPUC executive committee member Alyce Ispirescu, WCAS invites members around the world to join them in special prayer for world church leaders on May 20.

A website that aggressively publishes positions disagreeing with the Seventh-day Adventist Church on women’s ordination and LGBT issues, reports that North American Division (NAD) president Dan Jackson presented a proposal to General Conference (GC) leadership with laughably minimalist disciplinary steps for non-compliant unions. The NAD is said to be proposing three sanctions.

First, that persons from Columbia and Pacific Unions who serve on the General Conference executive committee continue with voice and vote but not be permitted to serve in GC subcommittee leadership roles (as if GC leadership would place these men in such positions at present). Second, that ordinations of women in those Unions not be recognized outside those Unions (a non-starter since those rebel ordinations are already NOT accepted outside those Unions). And third, that General Conference auditing services check these Unions for compliance with the world churches voted policy regarding women’s ordination.

In other words, if the report is accurate, the NAD is proposing to do nothing about the present disregard for the instruction of God in His Word as well as the voice of the Church at three General Conference sessions. This is actually a proposal to give more time to the deviant Unions to strengthen their “cause.”

The proposed sanctions leave the current practice of ordaining women operative in those places, leaves insubordinate leaders in positions where they can continue to promote disunity, and they institutionalize congregationalism by permitting Unions to continue to act independently of the world church.

Such inaction, posing as discipline, would leave the church even more fragmented. The plan Jackson is said to have set forth prepares the way for disregard of the Bible in other areas including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues, and threatens to reduce the Seventh-day Adventist Church to a patchwork of regional churches offering conflicting teachings.

The proposed sanctions, even if enacted, would leave the majority of NAD membership which broadly supports the world church and opposes women’s ordination, disenfranchised and doubtful. Many NAD members feel the Division has been hijacked and would see only betrayal in General Conference acceptance of such proposals.

Will Spring Meeting tell the NAD its proposal is unacceptable? How long will the NAD continue in open defiance of the world church and open promotion of disunity?

We rest in God’s promise that the “gates of hell” will not prevail against the Church that is built on Jesus the Rock, who taught us to obey God’s Word.

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.

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.