The NPUC Supporting Pastors/CAP (name explanation forthcoming) sat down and checked what several years of Church Manuals as well as the current governing documents of the Seventh-day Adventist Church say about the requirements for the leader of a conference or union. Perhaps readers as constituents of our conferences and unions are interested in the results? Then read Required Church Manual and Bylaws President Text.
On November 11, 2012, the Netherlands Union constituency voted to approve the ordination of women, and the conference executive committee made that decision effective on May 30, 2013 and announced the action publically on July 5, 2013. These actions were contrary to General Conference voted policy (1995 and 2000), in reality a path of insubordination also taken by the Columbia and Pacific Unions in the US and the Northern German Union in Europe.
On September 21, the Netherlands Union unilaterally acted on their earlier decision. Union president Wim Altink charged ordination candidates to faithful service after which hands were laid on them, one being Ms. Guisèle Berkel-Larmonie. The ordination ceremony was conducted in Christus Koning church in the Hague, Netherlands.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) is a world body. In the SDA church, ordination to the gospel ministry carries worldwide authority. The church of 17+ million members seeks out biblical consensus and makes key decisions collectively, including the decision of whether or not women are eligible for ordination. Since the beginning of the church it has never adopted the practice of ordaining women as ministers with global authority. A decision to change this can only be made in a General Conference session. Such meetings occur every five years, next in 2015. After prayerful study and deliberation, thousands of delegates representing every part of the Lord’s vineyard vote in a decision binding upon every part of the world church.
For union or conference officers to participate in such an ordination as happened in Netherlands is in contradiction to the practice of the world church. For a candidate to receive ordination illegally—or for other ordained ministers to offer it—is a repudiation of the call to be a faithful servant to Jesus through His body, the church.
In another action, related yet unilateral in a different way, the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SECC) is recommending to its constituents that they vote Ms. Sandra Roberts as their new conference president on October 27. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not presently accept the ordination of women as clergy. If that conference should elect Ms. Roberts, they, as Netherlands Union, will by their actions be increasing the fragmentation and disunity of the church.
Ms. Roberts, since the NAD/GC does not recognise her as an ordained minister, cannot be recognized as a conference president. This is certainly known by all parties including the SECC nominating committee.
In fact, neither of the insubordinate actions described in this post are recognized as valid by the world church. Such actions should be seen for what they are—symbolic political statements endeavoring to increase pressure on the General Conference to approve Women’s Ordination.
The General Conference has already made clear its position. A study process is in progress (Theology of Ordination Study Committee) moving toward the General Conference session in San Antonio, TX USA in 2015. The leadership of the world church has asked units of the church, in the interest of unity, not to act unilaterally.
“The 1990(3) and 1995(4) General Conference Session decisions with respect to granting ministerial ordination to women represent the current voice of the Church in this matter. The actions of certain unions indicate their desire to establish an alternative source of authority for a matter that already carries the authority of the world Church” (“An Appeal for Unity in Respect to Ministerial Ordination Practices,” http://news.adventist.org/archive/articles/2012/06/29/on-ordination-questions-adventist-leadership-appeals-for-orderly-process).
“The essence of unity in Seventh-day Adventist organizational functioning is the mutual commitment of all organizations to collective decision-making in matters affecting the whole family—and the acceptance of those decisions as the authority of the Church. The action of any union in pursuing a different course of action represents a rejection of this key value in denominational life” (Ibid.).
In this document, our Seventh-day Adventist leaders made four specific appeals to erring units:
1. That your union continues to operate in harmony with the global decisions and global decision-making processes of the Church.
2. That until such time as the Church decides otherwise, your union refrains from taking any action to implement ministerial ordination practices that are contrary to the 1990 and 1995 General Conference Session actions.
3. That the union membership be informed concerning the implications for the entire Church in the event that one entity, for whatever reason, chooses a course of action in deliberate opposition to a decision of the whole Church.
4. That the union actively participates in the global discussion about the Church’s understanding and practice of ordination. The contributions of a union in this discussion can be forwarded to the Theology of Ordination Study Committee through the respective Ordination Study Committee set up by each division (Ibid.).
As seen in the Netherlands Union and potential SECC actions, these units are aggressively pursuing a course in contradiction to items 1, 2 and 3 above. The issue seems to have a power almost to charm individuals. Recently, Trans-European Divison president Bertil Wiklander, after an impassioned presentation in favor of Women’s Ordination, stated “I am converted completely to what I said tonight. I would die for it.” (“Ordination: The Ongoing Search for Understanding,” http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2013/09/13/ordination-ongoing-search-understanding, accessed 2013-09-25).
We can be sure that God is still leading His church on a worldwide basis. The church has a process in motion to resolve the questions surrounding the practice of Women’s Ordination and the spirit which has so far attended it. Heartfelt appeals have been made and still stand. We may pray that these units will return to the family they seem bent on leaving. There is still time to return.
The Southeastern California Conference (SECC) has nominated Sandra Roberts to serve as president of that conference (http://seccsession.org/nominating-committee-report, accessed 2013-09-18). The nominating committee recommendation to delegates is that the constituency session to be held on October 27, 2013 vote to appoint Ms. Roberts to this position. Roberts is currently executive secretary of SECC. However, the Seventh-day Adentist Church, in harmony with biblical principle, throughout its history has ordained only males to this leadership role. The current edition of the Church Manual, states that:
“The conference president should be an ordained pastor of experience and good report. He stands at the head of the gospel ministry in the conference and is the chief elder, or overseer, of all the churches” (Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2010 ed., p. 32).
The position of conference president is one of male headship. The Adventist Church has nothing against any particular “she,” but the church has indicated that this is a “he” position. The pastor who functions as president “stands at the head of the gospel ministry in the conference.” The apostle Paul stated the authority principle clearly in 2 Timothy 2:12:
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (ESV).
The highest position involving the exercise of authority in a conference is that of its president. No unit which is part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has authority to appoint a female person to this male-specific office. Two General Conference sessions (1990, 1995) forbade any such innovation. If, on October 27 constituents vote as their nominating committee recommends, by this act they shall place Southeastern California Conference in an unambiguous position of voted rebellion against the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
What does Ellen White tell us about the the designed relation between Adam and Eve and the effect of the Fall upon that relationship? Pastor John Witcombe takes a brief look in “The Curse That Redeems.” FIND IT HERE
The July 2013 issue of Ministry magazine, a journal published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and mailed to clergy of all Christian denominations, contained an article by Nancy Vyhmeister, titled “Junia the Apostle” (pp. 6-9). The cover artwork features an image of a smiling woman, presumably and supposedly a representation of this “apostle.” If you have never heard this person (Junia) described as a female apostle before now, you are not alone. However, among those endeavoring to find support for women to serve in male-sex specific roles, it is no new idea that this person must have been a female apostle.
Pastor Mike Lambert received his copy of Ministry this month, too (all Seventh-day Adventist clergy are mailed a copy of the magazine each month). When he saw the cover and its claim, he investigated. The brief article that follows here is pastor Lambert’s frank reaction to the arguments offered. FIND IT HERE.
On May 30, 2013 the Netherlands Union Executive Committee voted to ordain female pastors, but kept this decision secret until July 5, 2013. They claim they felt their action necessary to make a point of recognizing women as equal to men. Consider this part of their statement:
In the end, this decision was the result of weighing the principle of unity against the principle of equality. Other possibilities were also discussed, including the option of not ordaining any pastors until the world church recognises equality, and the option of waiting until the upcoming session of the General Conference of the world church to reach a decision. Ultimately it was decided that from June 1st, 2013 all ordained and commissioned pastors, regardless of gender, will be considered ordained in the Netherlands” (http://www.adventist.nl/2013/07/06/netherlands-union-conference-votes-to-ordain-female-pastors/, accessed 2013-07-07).
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ordination grants the individual an authority in the church that is global in nature, not merely local. The world church—not local unions—looks to the Scriptures to determination qualifications for ordination. Because of the biblical counsel concerning spiritual leadership, one of the requirements for ordination is that an individual be male.
For 2,000 years the church has discerned that men and women are equal, yet called to different roles. No union has the authority to redefine “equality” for the world church. In addition, there is cause for concerned over any “principle of equality” that is seen to be of greater authority than the “principle of unity.” The Netherlands Union offered no explanation for the basis of their superior “principle of equality.”
Unions are entrusted to discern which male candidates meet the qualifications which the world church has set forth for those who shall be ordained. In exceeding its authority, the Netherlands Union stands in defiance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It has acted unilaterally and in disregard to previous world church actions (1990, 1995 GC sessions) refusing to grant unions the right to ordain whomever they wished. The present, high-handed action of the Netherlands Union, constitutes a current example set before church members and before the world, of disunity, rebellion and apostasy.
Part 7 in an 8 part series offers reviews of The Welcome Table and of Women in Ministry, the two most prominent pro-Women’s Ordination books published in the Adventist Church. After the first six articles in the series, this one at last brings things together to show how Feminist Theology has manifest itself in the Adventist Church. FIND IT HERE.