Some are today arguing that the Acts 15 model opens the way for the practice of women’s ordination. Dr. Phil Mills, who served on the TOSC (Theology of Ordination Study Committee) makes the following careful presentation sharing important insight for God’s Church today from the Jerusalem Council. Acts 15 rightly understood does not open the way for women’s ordination.
In a little more than eight months the United Methodist Church will hold a Special General Conference Session to consider plans to divide into separate churches. This historic meeting has been triggered by the adoption of LGBT favoring hermeneutics similar to the NAD’s Principle-Based, Historical-Cultural (PBHC) approach to biblical interpretation. In several respects, the Methodist issues are remarkably similar to our own. While the Methodist split looks unstoppable, Adventists can still avoid a similar outcome. This extremely instructive presentation by UMC minister Thomas Lambrecht is offered here for insights Adventists might glean in order that we might “press together!” First 35 minutes is Lambrecht talk, last ten Q&A answered by Lambrecht.
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.
According to reports, leaders of the Trans-European Division (TED) met on February 15 “to draft a formal response” to the General Conference’ (GC) process for reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016. The TED document claims to speak for Adventist members of that Division and calls for the issuance of a single credential for ministers. The requested change would contradict three General Conference session level votes (1990, 1995, 2015) which refused to open the way for women’s ordination to the gospel ministry. Since the beginning of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the denomination has never approved the ordination of women.
Some European leaders are determined to practice the ordination of women in contradiction to their brothers and sisters in the world church. Some European Conferences even accept practicing gay and lesbian persons engaged in same-sex sin into church membership. Adventists have never accepted these two teachings as being valid biblical practices. We are a world church, not a regional European Church endorsing errant cultural practices.
The TED report on this meeting emphasized the “very complex and challenging situation the Church finds itself facing in secularized Europe.” TED leaders highlighted alleged legal demands by European secular governments. But God’s Church is not servant of the secular but of the Creator. Demands, whether made by a vast empire or by a small state, if they conflict with Scripture truth, cannot be determinative for us. The Church is called to carry forward a global countercultural witness. Europe is not an exception.
Many members in Europe do not accept that the Church must conform to state expectations. Adventists in Europe who have contacted us feel betrayed by those in leadership who have become entangled in culture. God’s Church in Europe is at risk of cultural captivity. We are a world church called to live by Bible-based rather than culturally-accommodating teachings and lifestyle practices.
The voted TED document affirmed that it would abide by decisions made by the General Conference in session, but claimed that decisions made at the General Conference level of administration were always to be carried out in specific regional settings. Are TED leaders saying they will refuse to work with the GC administration between sessions? Are they claiming they will obey with the right hand then emptying that claim of meeting with their left, granting to themselves right to “interpret” GC decisions “locally” in ways differing from the decisions of the world church?
At least one TED officer, Executive Secretary Audrey Andersson, correctly noted that “We cannot create a new credential ourselves, but we can recommend to the GC.” The TED committee also discussed the idea of asking that the commissioned minister credential be redefined to be equivalent to the ordained minister. Again, it is the GC which defines the authorities included in credentials. The Executive Committee of the Upper Columbia Conference in the North American Division decided on January 31, 2017 to abandon seeking a similar policy, and, on paper at least, to remain in harmony with the world church.
After decades of debate and years of study, it is not time to draft responses to GC voted actions as if women’s ordination were still under consideration. The Church has repeatedly refused to localize this question or change global practice to include the ordination of women. It has refused to surrender biblical principle to cultural imperative. It is time to work with General Conference leadership and get past this. Europeans do not know better than their world church. Being Jesus’ people of the Book is what is imperative–even in Europe.
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?
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.
Jay Gallimore is president of the Michigan Conference in the North American Division.
One of the last prayers of Jesus before the Cross was that his disciples would be one in Him, even as He and the Father were one (John 17:21).
Yet, the New Testament predicted a great apostasy within Christianity. Revelation shows the great red dragon pursuing the woman, the symbol of the remnant church, who keeps the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. In contrast, the vision reveals another woman called Babylon who is the mother of harlots. This, as we understand, is false Christianity with its many divisions.
So we can reasonably conclude that Jesus and the disciples never believed that the outcome of His ministry would be a united Christianity at large. But He did believe in a united remnant.
This remnant is made up of many different nations and cultures. So it would be natural for broad discussion to take place regarding “unity in diversity” amongst Seventh-day Adventists. But what do we mean by this phrase? How does our definition differ from Babylon’s notion of “unity in diversity”?
Jesus understood oneness on the basis of two things. First, Jesus petitioned the Father to sanctify the disciples through the word of truth. In other words the Spirit of truth would employ Scripture to mold the church into oneness with Christ and one another.
The second was for Christ to be one with His disciples, just as He was one with the Father. He prayed; “I in them [disciples], and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17: 23).
We should note how the mother of harlots, who sleeps with the kings of the earth, unites her daughters. Even though they are all related to each other through the mother, they all have different fathers. While she raised them to hold on to certain core practices, the rest of their beliefs are as diverse as their spiritual fathers. In contrast, the faithful woman keeps the commandments of God and has the faith of just One—Jesus.
When “unity in diversity” is applied to the disciples of Jesus, it cannot mean diversity regarding the teachings of the Word of God. Here the church must stand united. Take away the unity of doctrine, and you really have no mission. Diversity cannot become an excuse to negate the commandments of God.
Yet, there may be diversity on how the principle is applied. For example, let us take the New Testament command to dress modestly. The clothing in India, Africa, and North America may be very different. Certainly all cultures will have immodest choices. But the Bible doesn’t demand that all clothing be alike, only that it be modest. So Christians may wear any cultural clothing they like as longs as it is modest. Such diversity does not overthrow the principle of modesty, but supports it.
However, to use the expression “unity in diversity” as a means to embrace cultural positions, which are contrary to Scripture, is to promote a delusion called pluralism. Pluralism, within the church context, assumes that unity can be maintained by giving credibility and support to different competing beliefs and practices.
Babylon has already embraced this, but it is not the oneness for which Jesus prayed.
Today the Seventh-day Adventist Church is faced with this temptation. Will we as a church choose faithfulness to Scripture or concede to cultural norms? The pressure to conform to cultural standards burdens the church in many ways. At the end of the day, should we endorse pluralism for the sake of unity?
The church faced a major issue at its last General Conference (GC) session. After a careful and thoughtful process and with representatives from all over the world, it essentially voted not to allow the ordination of women. The motion asked for a vote based on the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. The vote supported position one of the Theology Ordination Study Committee. That position makes it clear that the issue is not about the value or equality of men and women, but about faithfulness to the divine order given in Scripture. Some, of course, disagreed with the vote. That is to be expected. But for the sake of unity in the church, there comes a time for institutions, entities, and their leadership to surrender their opinions and practices.
Sadly, there are some unions and entities that are defying the vote of the GC Session by refusing to bring their practice into harmony with the vote of the world church on this matter. So now the issue is no longer about ordination, but rather the unity of the church.
Ordination to the office of a minister is no small matter to the world church. It is one of the essentials to its organization. It is the responsibility of the GC to define the qualifications for that office on the basis of Scripture. And it is the responsibility of the unions to see that those qualifications have been met.
If every union or conference acted unilaterally and assumed the same authority of the GC in session, unity would be impossible. If a local church, conference, or union decided to act contrary to the church manual or the voted actions of the GC, then it would threaten the unity of the body.
The Annual Council with nearly 315 delegates, is made up of GC officers, union presidents, administrators from our educational institutions, and laity from around the world. It functions as the executive committee for the world church between sessions. It should come as no surprise that they voted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 to start the process of addressing the issues of noncompliance. The document is designed to cover any noncompliance issue, not just ordination.
Fundamental to religious liberty is the “right of association.” This simply means that everyone has the right to start and maintain their own church with its unique doctrine and teachings. Religious liberty means the individual can voluntarily choose to belong or not to belong. They also have the right to leave and form their own group. But they do not have the right to force their pluralistic ideas on the body unless the group agrees to it.
The action recently voted means that the church leadership, empowered by the Annual Council, has an open door to start addressing the issue of noncompliance. It will be a patient, redemptive, and longsuffering process. One can only hope and pray that those supporting this opposition will have a change of heart. If not corrected, there are consequences of insubordination to the worldwide body.
The world church is faced with two choices: (1) allow noncompliance to go on, and thereby dismantle the unity and practice of the church; or (2) stand firm on the vote of the GC Session and preserve the integrity and oneness of the church. Redemptive discipline can be painful and filled with tears! Yet, any organization that cannot or refuses to discipline itself is doomed to failure.
No one wants dissension or animosity. While people’s different convictions in the church may be patiently endured, they cannot be allowed to undermine or disrupt the faith, practice, and teachings of the church. The utilization of shrewdness or political maneuvering to undermine the collective decision of the church body is unchristian and cannot be accepted. Church discipline, rightly done, is not persecution; but rather, it embodies the pursuit of principled love, not sentimentalism.
Pluralism is the death knell to the theology and mission of the church. During the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus was offered the kingdoms of this world without the pain and suffering of the cross. He refused.
Those proposing a pluralistic path to oneness, instead of disciplinary action, are advancing a delusion. This will not result in the accomplishment of the church’s mission, nor preserve its integrity as the remnant church, or deliver us to our ultimate hope of the Second Coming.
Only the oneness of Jesus can overthrow the seductive temptation of pluralism. Unlike Babylon the path of the faithful remnant church will be painful and bloodstained.
But the good news is that the path of Christ’s oneness and unity ends in glory!
 http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/theology-of-ordination-position-no.-1. This was the position supported by the vote of the world church.
Note: This item was oriignally published here:
The Northern California Conference (NCC), located in the Pacific Union, held its Quadrennial Constituency meeting on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Of special interest was the vote on a resolution worded thus:
Submitted by: Anderson Church and Sacramento Central Church
Pastors: Murray Miller and Chris Buttery
WHEREAS, the words of Jesus admonish us to be “one” as His Father and He are one (see John 17:20-22) and one of our fundamental beliefs states that “differences between male and female must not be divisive among us” (Fundamental Belief 14);
WHEREAS, both the Church Manual (page 31), and North American Division policy emphasize that “all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the world will recognize the General Conference in session as the highest authority under God” (NAD Working Policy B01 20 3);
WHEREAS, on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Northern California Conference [hereafter referred to as NCC] Executive Committee, time was spent debriefing the actions and decisions of the Pacific Union Conference Special Constituency Session held August 19, 2012. Out of that discussion, the motion was made that the NCC will recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;
WHEREAS, the May 18, 2014, NCC Constituency Session voted to refer the duly introduced agenda item of women’s ordination to the NCC Executive Committee for an official statement;
WHEREAS, the NCC Executive committee voted to affirm their previous decision of August 22, 2012, to recommend to the Pacific Union Conference candidates for ordination without regard to gender;
WHEREAS, the July 8, 2015, General Conference Session voted down a motion that would have allowed each Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church® to decide for itself whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry in its territory (which includes the Northern California Conference);
WHEREAS, we have been admonished by both the General Conference and North American Division Presidents to comply with the 2015 Session’s outcome;
WHEREAS, Article VII, Section 7 of the NCC Constitution states, “The Executive Committee shall have the authority to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs and the affairs of the Conference, provided that the same are not in conflict with these Bylaws or those of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, or of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,” and at present Executive Committee votes conflict with General Conference policy;
We now vote to retract the Executive Committee votes of August 22, 2012, and December 3, 2014, in order to be in harmony with the World Church as represented by the General Conference session of July 8, 2015. We will continue to support women in ministry with the exception of issuing a ministerial credential and thus abide by the outcome of the vote of the World Church.
The constituency proceeded to vote. The motion, which would have placed NCC back in compliance with the world church, failed with 211 Yes votes compared to 294 No votes. This is an interesting result when we realize that constituency session vote are weighted in favor of conference leadership by the inclusion of its entire employed pastoral staff. That is, the membership at large is likely much more opposed to unilateral action separated from the General Conference than conference leadership.
While many within NCC oppose women’s ordination on Bible grounds, others favor women’s ordination but do believe that the world church has ultimate authority over these decisions. On July 8, 2015, world church delegates to the San Antonio General Conference session voted “No” to a proposal which would have permitted individual divisions of the church to decide whether or not to ordain women for themselves.
Many NCC members are very disturbed about the decision.
As a side note, it is interesting to read the NCC reaction to the resolution. On page 71 of the Constituency meeting book, the NCC makes several claims which are summarized in this sentence: “The NCC Executive Committee actions are not in contradiction with either the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws or the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws.” This statement is false. Saying one is in harmony with the world church while acting out disharmony towards it is unlikely to convince others that one is in compliance. Rather, it puts the highlight on the fact that the NCC, as other conferences and unions in some parts of the world church, is now operating in open disregard for the authority of the world church of which it is constituent.
Update: Oct. 23, 2016: An earlier version of this article pointed to published statements by church members in the conference who had stated they would stop returning tithe through the NCC. The individual we had linked to has since then flipped his position and adopted the erroneous recently published views of George Knight and others about the history and authority of unions. That individual was and is in favor of women’s ordination, but initially ad upheld the authority of the world church over its sub-units.
The consecration of practicing homosexual Gene Robinson to the office of bishop proved the final straw leading to the realignment of the Anglican Church. Now, the Western Jurisdiction (composed of Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho, Yellowstone, California-Nevada, California-Pacific, Desert Southwest, and Rocky Mountain conferences) of the United Methodist Church, has appointed ordained woman pastor Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian, to bishop. The office of bishop is the top leadership position that may be held in the United Methodist Church.
Oliveto, a woman, is “married” to Robin Ridenour, a woman. She was voted to be bishop on July 15, 2016 by delegates of the Western Jurisdiction. Her consecration service may be viewed here:
[The charge to Oliveto to be faithful begins about timestamp 13:15, laying on of hands and consecration 25:00, and at 28:10 her introduction as bishop.]
Oliveto wrote a song called “Pope Crush” she posted on the internet, in which she claims to be very taken by the Pope, among other things.
Response to this extraordinary development was not long in coming. Pastor Rob Renfroe responded with a stern warning and appeal, speaking of schism less than one minute into his eight minute presentation. Renfroe is a leading voice for Methodists still seeking to hold Scripture authoritative.
After describing several voted statements of non-compliance, Renfroe says, “This is now on a systemic level. This is mass rebellion within the church, and no one seems willing or able to hold them accountable.” He is probably right when he says, “This cannot be glossed over with happy words.” Pastor Renfroe urges faithful Methodists to become members of a new organization called the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
The United Methodist Church seems headed for separation. Many Methodist leaders are acting in violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline and appear unable to muster the clarity and decision necessary to save their church from schism.
As Adventists we share much with the Methodists, and so remain alert to developments there. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church see the nature of the present crisis in our Church, and act with decision? Organizational disintegration is now occurring in our own ranks. Many Adventist conferences, unions, and unions of churches are acting out voted decisions of insubordination. The decision of the General Conference in San Antonio to refuse to make way for women’s ordination is being set aside for local preference. Will the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church take needful action this year? Or will our own leaders fail in this moment of crisis?
Let us pray earnestly for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as Annual Council approaches in less than two months.
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?