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

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?


1: Who is Leaving?
2: What is the Crossroads?
3: How to Remain Faithful?
4: Global Anglican response to DNW?
5: Episcopal Oversight at St. Johns
6: J.I. Packer on Same-Sex Blessing
7: J.I. Packer on First Order Issues
8: Implications for the Church
9: The Future of the Church
10: Who is Leaving Who?

The times in which we live are tumultuous. It can be useful to see how other Christian groups are reacting to challenges similar to those the Seventh-day Adventist Church faces. In that spirit we link here to 10 short videos on Anglican realignment.

Many people think of Anglicans as being a very liberal denomination. However, a remarkable thing has happened in recent years. Within Anglicanism there has been a remarkable resistance to same-sex marriage and a retreat from women’s ordination. The videos below outline developments in that conflict as Anglicans who wished to remain faithful to what they always believed resisted the destructive movement toward gay marriage taken by the North American section of their church. The videos are short, about eight minutes each. Some include interview segments with J.I. Packer.

Although Adventists would not agree in every respect with key parts of the Anglican view, we appreciate the clarity of these resisters that same-sex marriage is alien to the gospel. The videos include several graphic illustrations helping visualize what was happening in the Anglican Realignment. CAP finds especially interesting the strong desire these Anglicans have to be faithful to the truth as they understand it and to work with their world church, even as they struggled with the wrongly-moving North American section of their church.

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.

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.

In defiance of the world church, the Southeastern California Conference on Dec. 19, 2015 “ordained” a woman

On July 8, 2015, the Seventh-day Adventist Church held its General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Thousands of delegates from the world church gathered for Spirit-led collective decision-making. The Church voted at that time NOT to change its unified global practice of only permitting the ordination of spiritually qualified men to the gospel ministry–a decision binding upon the whole church. Nevertheless, on December 19, 2015, in the North American Division (NAD), with the approval of the Pacific Union Conference (PUC), the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) held a service “ordaining” a woman to the gospel ministry. NAD, PUC, and SECC are all subunits of the world church and have only a limited, delegated authority to act. This short video includes excerpts from the Dec. 19 Insub-Ordination service of the SECC.

pucsecc2015dec19illegalordinationponder

On December 19, 2015, the Southeastern California Conference (SECC), Pacific Union (PUC), and Loma Linda University Church (LLUC) ordained a woman pastor, an action opposite the vote of the world church this summer in San Antonio, Texas.

After years of study the world church had considered a motion to permit division committees to act unilaterally in approving the ordination of women to pastoral ministry. Delegates assembled from around the world. The July 8, 2015 vote was 1381 No and 977 Yes.(1) And yet incredibly, the illegitimately appointed leader of the SECC told the person upon whom hands of ordination were laid that “Today, I’m not welcoming you to ministry but I am welcoming you on behalf of your colleagues in ministry, on behalf of the conference, on behalf of the worldwide church, as an ordained minister of the gospel.”

How has God’s church traveleld to this surreal moment? With San Antonio immediately in the rear view mirror, the SECC executive committee proceeded to seek the ordination of Shirley Ponder. Those presently leading the Conference forwarded their request to the Pacific Union. On November 22, the Union approved the requested action.(2)

The “ordination” held at Loma Linda University Church on December 19 contradicts the Bible-based practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Church considers pastoral ministry leading a congregation as a task specially assigned to elders. The office of elder is in the Bible limited to spiritually qualified males (1 Timothy 2:12, 13; 3:2; Titus 1:6; 1 Corinthians 11:2, 3). The Seventh-day Adventist Church from its beginnings has placed called elders as leaders of congregations and conferences and unions, the administrative bodies of the church.(3)(4)

Instability was introduced in Adventist practice in North America by actions taken in the 1970s and 1980s which (contrary to Scripture) permitted women to serve as elders. That decision, however, has never been brought before the church to be directly addressed in a General Conference session; it was taken at an Annual Council.(5)

That innovation stands near the root of the disunity that has plagued the church since that time. It has even led the North American Division to introduce a new way of interpreting Scripture in an attempt to support the new practice!(6) The persistent pressure for women’s ordination, which has continued after the General Conference session, shows that turmoil will continue until the issue of woman elders is resolved.

These units have exceeded the authority delegated to them by the world body and violated the trust of the world church. Since the Loma Linda “ordination” occurred on December 19, a time of year when many are visiting their families, no immediate action is anticipated from the General Conference (GC). However, the GC which is tasked with carrying forward the decisions of the world church sought to preempt such a mistake. Note the following excerpt from an August 2015 statement set forth by the GC Secretariat following the San Antonio world church decision:

“The authority given to the unions is not only delegated, but also limited. Unions have the power to select those to be ordained from among candidates proposed by conferences who meet the criteria set by the World Church. Authority to determine the criteria has never been delegated from the General Conference to any other organization—it does not belong to the work of the union but rather the criteria were voted by the World Church and are part of the GC Working Policy in the ‘L’ section entitled ‘The Ministry and Ministerial Training.’ In particular, the L 35 section outlines specifically the ‘Qualifications for Ordination to the Ministry’ which have been voted by the World Church during Annual Council.

“The church’s policies and practice do not permit women to be ordained, since section L, which governs ordination, is the only section in GC WP with language that is masculine gender-specific. All other sections of GC WP use gender-neutral or inclusive language, but Section L consistently refers only to men being ordained or on track for ordination. In addition, the section in GC WP BA 60 10 (pages 118-119), which refers to the church’s official position regarding discrimination, specifically states that ‘Neither shall these positions be limited by gender (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry’).

Therefore, no union or any other entity can ordain women to the gospel ministry”(7).

In this light, the actions of the Southeastern California Conference, the Pacific Union Conference, and of the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church along with all others who laid hands of ordination on Shirley Ponder, including the illegitimate leader of the SECC(8), are invalid. The world church, of which these all are part, has not approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.

The current president of the NAD has not acted faithfully to inhibit the series of events which have led to the Dec. 19 act of opposition toward the world church.(9) Notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, the Pacific Union has challenged the authority of the world church(10) and has now acted out its challenge.

The trust of the world church has been betrayed.


1. http://ordinationtruth.com/2015/07/08/gc-result-yes-977-no-1381/
2. http://www.pacificunionrecorder.com/issue/122/16/23833. http://ordinationtruth.com/2014/09/12/did-adventist-ordain-women-to-the-gospel-ministry-a-century-ago/
4. http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/required-church-manual-and-bylaws-president-text/
5. Dr. Mario Veloso, “Women Elders: How the error was accomplished.” SEE TIMESTAMP 46:56 – 52:16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y1OFLJ_biA
6. http://ordinationtruth.com/2014/01/20/nads-pbhc-hermeneutic-a-closer-look/
7. “UNIONS AND ORDINATION TO THE GOSPEL MINISTRY” BRIEF SUMMARY
AND COMPREHENSIVE WORKING POLICY EXPLANATION GENERAL CONFERENCE
SECRETARIAT AUGUST 2015). Full document: http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/UnionsAndOrdinationToTheGospelMinistry.pdf
8. http://ordinationtruth.com/2013/10/27/secc-elects-woman-president/
9. http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/kirl-e60woendgame.pdf
10. http://ordinationtruth.com/2015/10/08/pacific-union-rebels-against-gc-wo-decision/

On October 11, 2015, at the General Conference Annual Council meeting a document was presented that appealed to unions to abide by the July 9, 2015 decision rejecting regional ordination of women to pastoral ministry. The document is titled, “Appeal and Appreciation to All Church Entities and Members From GC and Division Officers Regarding GC Session Vote on Ordination.” Text of the document here:

Appeal-Church-Entities-Members

It was revealed today that the Pacific Union executive committee voted September 9, 2015 to reaffirm its 2012 decision to ordain women to positions of pastoral leadership in spite of the July 9 decision of the 2015 General Conference session. That decision voted by the majority of delegates of the world church strongly denied independent action to ordain women to positions of ordained pastoral ministry by Divisions, Unions, and Conferences.

According to the Pacific Union Recorder,

“The committee pledged its support for its female pastors and said it would continue to abide by the union constituency’s 2012 mandate to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.’ The committee also asked the union officers in collaboration with the union communication department, to craft a strong statement in support of women clergy and to create a comprehensive strategy for educating local church members about the practical implications of the 2012 Pacific Union and 2015 General Conference votes, as well as church structure and authority” (“Pacific Union Executive Committee Pledges Support for Women Pastors,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 34).

The 2012 action was in contradiction to world church policy then. Our world church president pled earnestly with those assembled at that constituency meeting to avoid acting in opposition to the world church, and humbly stated that the Union’s contemplated unilateral action could lead to grave consequences.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church requires the Constitution and Bylaws of Unions and Conferences to conform to model documents included in General Conference working policy. These documents do not permit unions or conferences to ordain women to positions of ordained minister, a role biblically and via denominational policy, reserved to spiritually qualified males. Nevertheless, the “Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee and Officers”

“views full participation and recognition of women in pastoral ministry as vitally important for Spirit-filled ministry within our territory, and we will continue to abide by the 2012 mandate of our constituency to ‘approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender’” (“A Pledge of Support for Women in Ministry,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36, http://pacificunionrecorder.adventistfaith.org/issue/117/16/2294).

“The Holy Spirit gifts people of every age, gender, and ethnic background according to His purposes, and we encourage women of all ages and backgrounds who feel called to ministry to answer, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10). We are committed to supporting women in every aspect of ministry and church leadership, whether they are licensed, commissioned, or ordained” (Ibid.).

But the Pacific Union 2012 constituency decision exceeded the authority granted by the Seventh-day Adventist world church to that Union. Just as unions have no authority to create independent belief statements or unilaterally craft local standards for baptism, neither has the world church at any time granted unions authority to set their own qualifications for ordination to pastoral ministry. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ministerial ordination carries worldwide authority. But the Pacific Union says it will embark upon a campaign to “educate” its members about what the executive committee wants the July 9 world church decision to mean.

Pacific Union leaders “rejoice in the opportunity to share in this great work, and we reassert our support for women in ministry in the strongest possible terms” (Pacific Union Recorder, October 2015, p. 36). But again, the Pacific Union executive committee is conflating the phrase “women in ministry” with the idea of “women’s ordination.” Women can and are serving the Lord Jesus in ministry in numerous ways all across the church, and without trespassing into roles which Scripture and thousands of years of practice have clearly reserved to spiritually qualified males.

Reaction from the Pacific Union is starting to come in. Stephen Bohr, Fresno Seventh-day Adventist Church, Central California Conference, writes

“It was with deep sadness that I saw that the PUC Executive Committee voted on September 9 to openly and defiantly rebel against God’s will as expressed by the world church in San Antonio. The fact that the PUC vote comes immediately before the October 7-14 Annual Council makes one wonder whether the PUC Executive Committee is daring the GC Executive Committee to do something about their rebellious decision. A mere verbal rebuke by the Annual Council will accomplish nothing. The question is: Will the Pacific Union’s money prevail, as it has done in the past, or will the GC Executive Committee apply the painful discipline? Let’s pray that our leaders will have the courage to apply the necessary discipline no matter the cost.”

We concur with Pr. Bohr. In San Antonio the church spoke. But these September 2015 actions of the Pacific Union are congregationalism writ large.

Is the Pacific Union its own independent church?

The current North American Division president, Dan Jackson, has not succeeded in bringing the Pacific or Columbia Unions into alignment with the world church. Leadership is needed in the top officers of the North American Division and in the Pacific Union and its executive committee that will operate in harmony with the world church.

Other Unions and units, including Columbia Union, Norwegian Union, Swedish Union, Netherlands Union, Northern California Conference, and Southeastern California Conference presently stand in opposition to the Working Policy of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, some on questions of ordination, others at the question of homosexual practice. The Council of Adventist Pastors encourages church members to much prayer for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at this time. We encourage those called to leadership to engage in decided action at this 2015 Annual Council session to fully meet the crisis created by not only the Pacific Union’s voted action of overt rebellion, but the voted actions of these other bodies.

Leadership must meet this challenge at this time. Pastors and workers who have supported the General Conference vote are on the point of being marginalized and could face removal from employ. Members who have supported the General conference decision now face a choice between local rebellion or fidelity to the mission of the world church. The crisis is come. Nevertheless, the promise is “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 380).