The spectacle of a University Church inciting its host conference to take action to oppose its own denomination should provide insight. How does the ideology which now prevails in so many North American Adventist Universities operate in the face of a clear “No” vote by the General Conference in session? The November 9, 2016 Walla Walla University (WWUC) church board meeting with Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) administration provides just such a sample case.

During the meeting, UCC president Paul Hoover offered an illustration which has been used in defense of implementing women’s ordination in some places and not in others. According to the president, a church member from Berkeley, California, should not have to do things the way a church member from Botswana might do them.

Should people who wish to be disciples of Jesus be baptized in both cases? Should they keep the Sabbath in both cases? Should they fulfill agreements and commitments properly made in both cases? Or, should church members in Berkeley, because of a supposed advanced status be given special exemptions? Should certain agreements binding upon every other brother and sister in the world church not apply to them because they are from Berkeley?

The context of the meeting at WWUC was disagreement in the conference over the unilateral, non-compliant commissioned minister policy first implemented and then rolled back by the conference. Why was it rescinded? Was it because many “small churches” in the conference require additional “education”?

Walla Walla University Department of Theology chair Dave Thomas made a gracious offer in the meeting: “I would gladly offer the services of my department to help.”

We wonder, were Walla Walla theologians to visit insufficiently educated UCC “Botswana” churches, what kind of improved understanding might be received?

HELP FROM WALLA WALLA?
In an article published on November 17, 2016, in the Collegian, the official newspaper of Walla Walla University, Thomas previewed the kinds of ideas members might be offered in such meetings. For example, he wrote that

“The church is a new society formed on principles very different from those typically seen in the world. One of those principles is the absence of hierarchy” (Dave Thomas, Collegian, “Unity, Diversity, Discrimination and Church Politics,” p. 8).

Is there an absence of hierarchy in God’s kingdom? “Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he [Lucifer] ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35). There is a hierarchy of at least three levels in this sentence. The first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets abounds with the question of “position” and “government.” There, it is Satan who proposes a non-hierarchical government: “he [Lucifer] promised those who would enter his ranks a new and better government, under which all would enjoy freedom” (p. 40). Satan argued that angels needed no laws, “no such restraint.” Indeed, the Ten Commandments, with its prohibitions, has a hierarchical aspect. Both Old and New Testament Churches had their order and rank. While such ranking is an aspect we would not emphasize, it is a fatal overstatement to claim “absence of hierarchy.”

Dr. Thomas also writes that “Top-down power tends toward rebellion and disruption,” (Ibid.). But all actual power begins with God and can be directed nowhere else but from Deity’s infinite heights. Yet there can be no justification for any creature’s rebellion against Him.

As for ordination itself, the professor insisted that “The concept of ordination assumed by the document [the reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016] is now known to be nothing more than a tradition that crept into the Church from the Roman Empire,” (Ibid.). Someone should have told this to Jesus before “He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord’s disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry” (The Desire of Ages, p. 296). For another detailed explanation of ordination, see Acts of the Apostles, pp. 58-62.

It is interesting how different the position presently being taught in the Walla Walla theology department is from the position of the world church (and presently being taught in Botswana). Indeed, the one point in which the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) did share consensus agreed at this concept:

While all believers are called to use their spiritual gifts for ministry, the Scriptures identify certain specific leadership positions that were accompanied by the Church’s public endorsement for persons who meet the biblical qualifications (Num 11:16-17; Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9). . . Aside from the unique role of the apostles, the New Testament identifies the following categories of ordained leaders: the elder/supervising elder (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim 3:2-7; 4:14; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Pet 5:1) and the deacon (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-10). While most elders and deacons ministered in local settings, some elders were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations, which may reflect the ministry of individuals such as Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:3-4; Titus 1:5). (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6497/archives/issue-2013-1520/20-cn-study-committee-votes-consensus-statement-on-theology-of-ordination/consensus-statement, accessed 2016-11-18).

The above TOSC statement, voted on July 23, 2013, came after the committee had in its January 2013 meeting considered the presentation made by Darius Jankiewicz, “The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History,” which had espoused the theory Thomas presents as fact.

It is troubling that an erroneous view of the order of heaven is presently being taught at the University. How will this non-Adventist view of church order now being taught to WWU theology students work itself out in the field when Walla Walla theology students are assigned as ministers in churches in Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, and Montana conferences?

CONCLUSION
It is interesting how a meeting held in such a supposedly diverse university community could result in an intellectual monoculture like that manifested on the 9th of November. While some 500 persons were present at the meeting, those permitted to speak stood lockstep in their support for the non-Adventist approach to the commissioned minister credential. Still, many UCC members would decline the offered services of the WWU theology department. Most would prefer to be presented an understanding of church governance which would harmonize with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We think they would welcome a presentation from Adventist teachers who support the Bible-based teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By all means, let teachers from Botswana apply.

In light of two approaching meetings—the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) constituency (September 25) and Annual Council (October 5-12)—members may be interested in reviewing the train of events which has brought the world church and the church in the NPUC to this place.

2012, November 14: The NPUC executive committee voted to “educate northwest members  of the rationale toward biblical church leadership without regard to gender,” and after the education process “To call a special session of the North Pacific Union Conference constituency to address ministerial ordination without regard to gender.”

2013, February 20: After an outcry from members and pastors in the Union, the NPUC executive committee voted to delay the special session until the first 120 days after the General Conference Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC) completed its work. (This would have meant the holding of a special session before the 2015 General Conference session.)

2014, November 12: After an outcry from members and pastors in the Union, the NPUC executive committee voted to delay the holding of the special session to within the 120 days following the 2015 NAD Year-end meeting. That is, no matter what decision would be made at the General Conference session regarding women’s ordination, many on the NPUC executive committee hoped to lead the NPUC into a situation similar to that of the Pacific Union.

2015, July 8: The General Conference in session voted not to permit Division executive committees to approve the ordination of women in their territories.

2015, August 18: The General Conference Secretariat released a document titled “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry.” This document stated that the authority of unions and other parts of the church is derived and limited. The authority of these units comes from the General Conference itself. “This means that each union’s actions regarding ordination must be in accordance with those of the General Conference since it is the source of the authority.” The document explicitly and repeatedly states that “the church’s procedures and policies do not permit women to be ordained” (emphasis in original).

2015, August 19: The North Pacific Union executive committee met to revisit its previous decision to hold a special constituency session of the Union. The committee voted 26-4 to rescind its earlier decision to hold a special constituency session because “we do not believe that convening a special constituency meeting about the ordination of women as pastors would be productive at this time.”

2015, October 7-15: The General Conference held its Annual Council for the Year.

2015, October 20: Immediately after the conclusion of Annual Council, the Washington Conference (a Conference in the NPUC) held an executive committee meeting in which it created a commissioned minister policy contradicting the world church. They chose to name this the “Mission-Focused Leadership Policy.” The president of the Washington Conference at this time was John Freedman. The advent of the “commissioned minister policy” approach was clearly a response to the General Conference vote. The specifications of the policies voted clearly oppose the authority of the world church.

2015, October 22: Oregon Conference executive committee voted a policy almost identical to Washington Conference, but workers are directed to publicize the policy only by word of mouth.

2016, March 29: Upper Columbia Conference executive committee follows the example of Washington and Oregon, voting a similar policy in opposition to the world church.

2016, July 19: Upper Columbia Conference executive committee, after several of its churches vote to seek a special constituency session to rescind the commissioned minister policy it had voted, rescinds the policy rather than holding such a session.

2016, August 17: The NPUC nominating committee, chaired by NAD president Dan Jackson, votes to recommend Washington Conference president John Freedman to replace retiring NPUC president Max Torkelsen.

2016, September: Churches in Washington Conference recount the development of the Washington Conference commissioned minister policy, and call on members to contact their delegates to oppose Freedman’s election. Churches in NPUC Conferences vote an 11th hour letter to their own NPUC delegates asking that the nominating committee report be referred back to committee, and that a candidate other than John Freedman be elected to serve as NPUC president. The election is scheduled for the September 25, 2016 NPUC constituency meeting.

Thus, not only have the numerous faux ordinations of women in the Pacific Union been held since the 2015 Annual Council, but the adoption by Oregon, Washington and Upper Columbia Conferences in the NPUC of commissioned minister policies opposing the world church, have all taken place only after the conclusion of last year’s Annual Council.

All of which is to point out that the 2016 Annual Council, to be held October 5-12, will be the first Annual Council since the developments of the past year, in which world church leaders will be assembled to act authoritatively to address these actions and to restore order in the world church.

This Annual Council will be a time of decision. Let all lift up these church leaders in prayer.

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.

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