The Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, comprised of churches from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, released the following statement today, which we reproduce here without comment (the original material is located at the following link: http://uccsda.org/News/news20160722):

A Statement On Mission

by Paul Hoover

SPOKANE, Wash., July 22, 2016 – Our Seventh-day Adventist mission is to go to every nation, language and people group with the good news of Jesus Christ and His imminent return. And, our desire within the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) is to encourage each of our members to use their spiritual gifts toward the fulfillment of this mission.

With this goal in mind, our Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee voted a revised Commissioned Minister Policy in March 2016 that underscored the equal calling of men and women pastors. This vote was taken after significant dialogue with our conference pastors and Executive Committee members who represent our conference members.

Unfortunately, the new policy created significant concern among some of our members who felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers. Our conference leadership received notification from seven churches that revealed intentions to request a special constituency session, permitted in our constitution under certain conditions, if the policy were not reversed. When it became evident to us that rising contention among some of our membership had begun to overshadow our focus on mission, we determined to revisit the policy.

Therefore, following a lengthy dialogue during our Executive Committee meeting on July 19, 2016, the committee voted to rescind the recently voted UCC Commissioned Minister Policy. We will continue to use the Church Manual and North American Division policy (referenced below) for our commissioned pastors, in the hope that we can focus more intently on mission.

We understand the diverse reactions this latest decision will invoke throughout our conference and beyond, but we remain committed to affirming the spiritual gifts of each of our pastors—men and women. We will foster an intentional dialogue with our pastors and churches to correct any misunderstandings and strengthen unity of purpose within our common mission.

The Upper Columbia Conference will use the North American Division and Church Manual:

NAD Working Policy 2015-2016
L 32 Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Positions—Role and Status
L 32 10 Authorized Ministerial Functions

1. A commissioned minister is authorized by the conference to perform substantially all the religious functions within the scope of the tenets and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the members in the church or churches to which the minister is assigned and elected as a church elder. A commissioned minister who serves as an institutional chaplain, and has been ordained as a church elder, may also perform these functions for persons served by the institution. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a church Uniting churches Ordaining local elders and deacons

2. A commissioned minister may perform wedding or baptismal ceremonies outside of his/her pastoral district if authorized to do so by the conference president. If the ceremony is to be conducted in the territory of another conference, it will require the approval of both conference presidents.

© 1998–2012 Upper Columbia Conference. All rights reserved.

The laypeople of the Upper Columbia Conference (North Pacific Union, North American Division) are responding church by church to a mistaken policy voted by several members of the conference executive committee on the conference executive committee. At the end of March, the UCC executive committee voted into being a “Commissioned Minister Policy” which disagrees with the Church Manual, the NAD Working Policy, and, many feel, with the spirit of the decision made at the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session. The policy grants commissioned ministers authorities which the world church on no level has granted them, making them in many respect virtually equal to the ordained minister.

OrdinationTruth.com has become aware that a brief, yet most interesting article, has been published at Fulcrum7.com website. The story in question lists, church by church and in chronological order, the wording of the voted calls by which constituent churches are petitioning conference leadership to hold a special constituency session to reverse said policy.

You will find the article at the following link:

http://www.fulcrum7.com/news/2016/7/15/upper-columbia-conference-churches-push-back-against-wo-update

We have become aware of two very interesting articles written by Seventh-day Adventist laypeople. These articles outline their concerns with the Upper Columbia Conference’s Commissioned Minister policy. These are offsite links:

Interview with Upper Columbia Conference church member. An interview with UCC member Alyce Ispirescu about the Commissioned Minister policy.

Adventist Laymen Call for Special Session of UCC. Article by UCC member Belinda Lowry.

It is always good to pay close attention to what our church members are thinking. These members are not letting themselves be run over; they are standing firm in the path. What will happen?

At the end of March, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee voted a “Commissioned Minister Policy” which exceeded its authority and placed it out of harmony with the world church. That action sets an example of insubordination toward the world church.

The action of the committee has led to heart searching and concern. Some UCC churches are petitioning their conference to hold a special constituency session to turn back the “Commissioned Minister Policy.” This article explores some of the reasons why the action of the committee is faulty and why the laypeople are on the move. We encourage readers to consider the dilemma that the action by the executive committee has created.

Church members across the North American Division want to support their world church, but action being taken by some conferences is impacting confidence in local leadership. Is there a clear basis for members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to hold their local leaders accountable? Do local conferences have authority to create “Commissioned Minister Policies” that contradict the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Do local conferences have authority to unilaterally add to the authorities given to the commissioned minister?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

In the second in CAP’s series of articles on the Commissioned Minister policy wrongly voted by the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) executive committee on March 29, 2016, we chart differences between the policy of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, as indicated in the current edition of the Church Manual and NAD and GC Working Policy, and the UCC. When placed side-by-side, it becomes very clear that the UCC executive committee has exceeded its authority and placed itself in opposition to the practice of the world church. This helps explain why some UCC churches are now calling for a special session of the Upper Columbia Conference constituency to meet to reverse the policy.

cmc2-chart-image

Three conferences (Oregon, Washington, and Upper Columbia conferences in the North Pacific Union in the North American Division) have currently implemented the incorrect policy in some form. Seventh-day Adventists who respect the decisions of their world church and long to work in unity with brother and sister members around the world, are asking questions about the strange transference of duties and responsibilities of the ordained minister to the commissioned minister. The new policies even permit the ordination of local church elders by commissioned ministers.

The Council of Adventist Pastors has been led to provide documentation and analysis of these developments so that church members are able to make informed decisions regarding right and wrong practice, and to help maintain transparency and accountability for church leaders. We invite Seventh-day Adventists to read and widely circulate these materials.

CLICK HERE: Commissioned Minister Crisis 2: UCC Commissioned Minister Policy Compared With World Church.

Since the July 8, 2015 General Conference vote in which delegates gathered from around the world and rejected the proposal to let division executive committees determine for themselves whether or not to ordain women to the gospel ministry, some entities have shown open disregard toward the world church. For example, Washington, Oregon, and Upper Columbia Conference executive committees have voted unilaterally to expand the commissioned minister credential in those conferences granting to bearers authorities nearly identical to the ordained minister credential.

The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) has prepared a series of articles outlining how these voted actions place these conferences in conflict with their world church. We will show how actions taken by conference executive committees in some cases exactly contradict the Church Manual and the Working Policies of the Church. We will share responses by church members to the incorrect actions of conference executive committees. Most of the articles will focus on the Upper Columbia Conference as providing a concrete case, but much will be applicable in Oregon, Washington, and other conferences where similar policies and practices are surfacing.

The first article clarifies what a commissioned minister is. Some have been seeking to fill the term with new meaning. This brief article shares actual General conference Working Policy material clearly explaining the role of the commissioned minister. This with the series of following articles is imperative reading for you if you hold your membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a conference or union where local leadership is working in contradiction of the spirit of the decisions made in the 2015 San Antonio General conference Session.

CLICK HERE: Commissioned Minister Crisis 1: What is a Commissioned Minister?

On March 29, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference executive committee voted, 11-5, within the territory of that conference, to treat the commissioned minister credential identically to the ordained credential in almost every respect. However, it is not within the prerogative of a conference to create, in essence, a new credential without General Conference permission. Any such behavior exceeds the authority vested in a conference by the world church. Furthermore, the voted policy contradicts the Church Manual voted by the world church. Can each conference have its own separate Church Manual? Will this behavior help the world church press together? If a conference can disregard the policy of the General Conference, why cannot a local church disregard the policy of the local conference?

The Upper Columbia Conference is part of the North Pacific Union, which is part of the North American Division.

This post will be updated.

Delegates to the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference have refused to recognize the validity of a woman serving as an ordained minister three times (1990, 1995, 2015). By definition the Working Policy of the church disallows that a woman can legitimately serve as a conference president. And yet the Adventist Review, a publication representing the world church, published an article on February 20, 2016 identifying Ms. Sandra Roberts as “the first woman conference president.” Whether intended or not, the editors of the Adventist Review with this article are contributing to the establishment of an alternate line of reality. Ms. Roberts is recognized by neither the General Conference nor by many Adventist members as the president of the Southeastern California Conference.

The General Conference requires unions and conferences of the world church to adhere to the Working Policy and to the wording in bold print in the model Constitution and Bylaws provided. That text reads “President: The president, who shall be an ordained minister of experience, is the first officer and shall report to the executive committee of the conference in consultation with the secretary and the treasurer/chief financial officer” (General Conference Working Policy, 2011-2012 ed., pp. 181, 182). This bold print wording is required text. Unions and conferences have no authority to act in contradiction to it.

On October 27, 2013, the Southeastern California Conference “elected” Ms. Roberts to the office of president over that conference. Those particulars are discussed here: http://ordinationtruth.com/2013/10/27/secc-elects-woman-president/. The General Conference is bound by the voted policies of the church, and in publishing the Adventist Yearbook which lists ordained ministers and leadership data for conferences, of necessity left the officer slot for president blank for Southeastern.

On to the present matter. The Weniger Society voted to offer an award to Sandra Roberts because she was the “first female conference president.” Andrew McChesney, news editor for the Adventist Review (a publication of the General Conference), reported on the Weniger awards, and identified Ms. Roberts in print as “the first female conference president.” Yes, this is the same “president” who presided at a post-San Antonio “ordination” of a woman on December 19, 2015:

SECC Insub-Ordination from CAP on Vimeo.

The Review has no obligation to report the issuance of an award by Weniger Society based on a false premise, and certainly no business contradicting the voted position of the church. Adventists have phoned the Review and sought to post corrections to the article only to have the comments deleted without being posted. If not corrected, the article will contribute to the establishment of an alternate reality in which in spite of the refusal of the General Conference in session to approve the ordination of women, the legitimacy of this unbiblical practice is established through insubordination.

The Review article is seen at this link:

http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story3722-weniger-society-honors-branson-lemon-and-roberts

As the publication of record, this article in the Review cannot be permitted to stand as it is. The Council of Adventist Pastors asks that the article be withdrawn from publication.

If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization. All who desire the cooperation of the heavenly messengers must work in unison with them. Those who have the unction from on high will in all their efforts encourage order, discipline, and union of action, and then the angels of God can cooperate with them. But never, never will these heavenly messengers place their endorsement upon irregularity, disorganization, and disorder. All these evils are the result of Satan’s efforts to weaken our forces, to destroy our courage, and prevent successful action (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26).

The Bible says, “A bishop [elder] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable,able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV). The New Testament church had no office of woman elder. This is a point of reform that will help the church come back onto Bible ground and advance in unity. May God guide all and help all to work together on His plan.

Set to lose 400,000+ members in five years

Can Seventh-day Adventists learn from the history of others? The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) approved the ordination of women as elders in 1929 and as ministers in 1956. In 2013 its General Assembly approved the ordination of openly gay persons to ministry. Predictably, in 2014 the church redefined marriage as a covenant uniting two persons (rather than as uniting a husband and wife). These actions were ratified in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

It was anticipated that membership would increase on the basis of this more “inclusive” denominational stance. What actually occurred was that the Presbyterian Church USA lost a quarter of a million members in 2013 and is projecting average losses between 75,000 and 100,000 members annually in the 2015-2020 period. The following membership numbers are based upon a PCUSA budgeting presentation.

YEAR MEMBERSHIP (End-of-year)
2012 2,004,192 (- 82,952)
2013 1,921,240 (-254,473)
2014 1,666,767 (-100,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2015 1,566,767 (-100,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2016 1,466,767 (-100,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2017 1,391,767 (- 75,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2018 1,316,767 (- 75,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2019 1,241,767 (- 75,000 Projected Membership Loss)
2020 1,166,767 (- 75,000 Projected Membership Loss)
(Source: PCUSA Budgeting slide: http://www.layman.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/statement-of-cash-flow-per-capita-budget_Page_2.jpg)

Some of this decline is based on the death of aging members. Still, this would only account for a limited portion. The extraordinary projections almost certainly reflect anticipation of continued exodus of members to more conservative Presbyterian bodies. These include the Presbyterian Church of America (formed in 1973 and rejects women’s ordination), Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians formed in 2012. As of November 13, 2015, ECO included 231 congregations.

Meanwhile, according to apportionment numbers, even with 3% annual increases in 2017-2020, PCUSA will substantially exhaust most of its financial resources by the close of that period.

Women’s ordination weakens a body, SOGI issues (Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity) destroy it. In 2009 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America approved both same-sex “marriage” and the ordination of gay clergy, only to loose more than 600 congregations in the next two years. PCUSA and ELCA seem engaged in a competition over which denomination will be the first to be completely dissolved.

UPDATE 2016-02-11: There are varying reports about membership loss numbers as reflected in comments in links below. It in not completely clear which numbers are more correct, although the large 2013 numbers we draw from the budget department slide could reflect the same-sex “marriage decision and its straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back effect and rise of ECO. Either way, we hold that this demonstrates a correlation between the pro-gay decisions and the exodus from PCUSA. Those wishing to follow up more closely can peruse the links provided by brother Pickle in his post. –Admin

In separate votes in October 2015, Washington and Oregon Conference executive committees exceeded their authority. Both approved policies that inflate the commissioned minister credential to practical equivalency with the ordained minister credential in their territories. And yet, on July 8, 2015, in San Antonio, Texas, the General Conference session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted NOT to permit regional ordination of women. The intent of that vote was that each section of the church NOT go its own way. Oregon and Washington Conferences are acting independently. The voted actions these conferences have taken is simply congregationalism at the level of the conference. These administrations and their executive committees are creating a spirit of disunity.

The policies adopted explicitly contradict the Church Manual. For example,

  • The new policies permit commissioned ministers to organize churches. This responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 37).
  • The new policies permit commissioned ministers to unite churches. This responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 40).
  • The new policies permit commissioned ministers to ordain local elders. However, this responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 72).

(For the Washington policy, see here. For the Oregon policy, see here.)

Will these Conference administrations be pleased if local churches also pick and choose for themselves which parts of the Church Manual they comply with?

The voted action of the Washington Conference policy even directs “That both commissioned and ordained pastors be allowed to serve in any position of the Washington Conference including conference president” (See Washington Conference Policy). But the world church requires that conference presidents, who stand “at the head of the gospel ministry in the conference,” be “ordained pastor[s] of experience” (Church Manual, page 32). “Ordained pastor” in the Adventist Church always means a spiritually-qualified male. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long maintained its practice in harmony with Scripture, recognizing only persons meeting this specification as called to positions standing at the leadership, or “head” of the work.

The Oregon Conference voted its policy in October and has yet to publish this action to its membership in print.

It is highly inappropriate for Conferences to adopt policies which explicitly contradict the Church Manual and the approved policies of the world church. Such action will almost certainly be perceived by broader church membership as divisive. No local conference has authority to create policies and practices contradicting the Church Manual or the General Conference Working Policy.