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.

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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?

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.

By Wayne Kablanow

On September 21 CAP reported on the Norwegian Union and its announcement that it is proceeding in an attempt to create a single credential for men and women, placing both sexes in positions of leadership equal to those of spiritually qualified ordained males. But we did not at that time report on similar actions about the same time by Danish and Swedish Unions.

The Danish Union stated that

“In the future DUChC will only use one term and one credential: “pastor” for both men and women who successfully have completed the intern-period” (Equality and Ordination, Danish Union of Seventh-day Adventists statement, 22 September 2015, http://www.adventist.dk/nyheder/768, accessed 2015-09-25).

Similarly, the Swedish Union decided in 2012 that it was an ethical issue to treat men and women equally, so-defined that role-differentiation is rejected. The Swedish Church has set up a Task Force that has already met twice, working to implement their vision of equality in contrast to the vision of equality held by the world church (http://www.adventist.se/artikel/4277/vagen-framat-efter-ordinationsbeslutet.aspx). The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the concept of gender-specific roles, and authorizes only the ordination of qualified males to position as ordained minister.

Features in common in the actions by Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden Unions include their rejection of role differentiation along with the creation of new unisex credentials which abandon the concept of ordination as practiced by the Adventist Church. What is being attempted is to designate workers who before had been titled as “ordained,” just “pastors” in the new arrangement. This is similar to the path taken by advocates of women’s ordination in North America when the “commissioned” credential was created.

The Council of Adventist Pastors, a North American group of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, not only finds Bible evidence for the practice of ordination persuasive, but also evidence found in the writings of Ellen G. White. Some examples of this are seen in her book Acts of the Apostles, such as the following:

The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95).

A council with representatives from the churches, very much like a General Conference session in which all these Unions were indeed represented, was to gather and see what solution the guidance of the Holy Spirit would lead to for the whole of the church. The practice of ordination is also a part of the divine plan:

God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.

Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God (Ibid., pp. 161, 162).

God invested His church with special authority. We seek to work together in unity. But

There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God (Ibid., p. 163).

In San Antonio the Church employed this special authority to reach a decision for the good of the entire church. We do not deny that the general feeling in Scandinavian culture is in disagreement with the position of the representatives of the world church. However, we believe that attempts to create one-sex credentials in Scandinavia and to sidestep the decision of combined representatives of the world church, are misguided and unfair to the world church. In every region, the church is called to work in harmony with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the whole body. God’s agents in the form of His ordained local workers, are to uphold a Biblical view of equality and complementarity rather than one that is captive to the culture locally. The teachings of Scripture transcend culture, and our pastors wherever they are worldwide are called to sustain the agreed understanding of the church.

The church must be faithful to its Lord Jesus and remain countercultural, even if the cultural understanding of most people in a place is dominated by unbiblical teachings. Seventh-day Adventists are people who are willing to do this. We worship on Sabbath rather than the culturally-approved Sunday. We reject the teaching of the naturally immortal soul even though most other Christian bodies teach the opposite.

The world church has repeatedly turned down women’s ordination initiatives at its highest levels. If these units wish to continue in represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that region, they are duty-bound to work in harmony with the world church. The present attempt to proceed on a pathway the world church has rejected (regional determination of ordination practice) should cease.

On September 20, 2015, the executive committee of the Norway Union voted unilaterally to discontinue the practice of ordination. They claim that the churches longstanding practice of ordaining spiritually qualified males is discriminatory and unbiblical. A new practice distinct to the Norwegian Union was announced:

From now on, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway will have a simple dedicatory prayer for a person embarking on pastoral internship. Similarly, there will be a dedicatory prayer for those who take the step from pastoral internship to regular pastoral service. The Norwegian Union will operate with only two categories of pastoral employees from now on. 1) Pastors in regular service, and 2) Pastoral interns. The Norwegian Union will not report pastoral employees to the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook until the General Conference has established pastoral categories that are not discriminatory (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Hjem/Nyheter/2015/September-2015/Adventistkirken-slutter-aa-ordinere#.VgBa4rShbfa, accessed 2015-09-21).

The Norwegian Union, it seems, has judged the practice of the world church and found it wanting. The Union has voted to embark on an entirely different practice than the world church. Effectively, they have not merely declared but enacted an unauthorized regional policy. They have rejected the decision of the General Conference in session on July 8, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. In that decision, a substantial majority of delegates voted not to permit regional decisions on the question of pastoral spiritual leadership—the very thing Norway Union has now enacted.

The Norwegian Union is not an autonomous regional church. It does not have an inherent authority separated from the world church. Its authority is derived from the General Conference. The authority that it does have is limited. The Seventh-day Adventist Church considers ordination to be a global, not a regional matter.

The Norwegian Union isn’t fooling anyone with its claims to want to be in harmony with the world church. It has acted exactly contradictory to the San Antonio decision. The Union has exceeded its authority. Nor is it alone. Immediately to the south, the Netherlands Union of Churches is also engaged in forging an independent pathway on the ordination question. That Union is also operating unilaterally with its positive policy on homosexuality, embracing the cultural tide of immorality. (To revisit the action of Netherlands Union on the homosexuality question, see “Homosexuality or Christianity? Netherlands Union again places itself in opposition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” at http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/homosexuality-or-christianity/, accessed 2015-09-21).

In hardly two weeks Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders will meet in Annual Council. At that time it is imperative that church leadership act to correct the action of errant unions including Columbia Union, Pacific Union, Norwegian Union and Netherlands Union of Churches, along with other insubordinate entities. The world church has decided that women’s ordination—the question of spiritual leadership—is not to be determined on a regional pattern. We collectively are all part of a world church organization. The Council of Adventist Pastors believes that our leaders will be acting with the best spiritual interest of the church at heart in taking whatever action necessary to maintain the unity of the world church and prevent fragmentation by rebel units—including the Norwegian Union.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE GENERAL CONFERENCE DOCUMENT: Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry


Prior to the August 19 North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Executive Committee meeting, the General Conference Secretariat released a document entitled, “Unions and the Ordination to the Gospel Ministry: Brief Summary and Comprehensive Working Policy Explanation.” General Conference President Ted N. C. Wilson wrote to division presidents to explain its purpose.

In his accompanying letter, he states, “The document is provided since there have been some who have proposed the idea that unions have the full prerogative to decide about all aspects of ordination including criteria. As the GC Secretariat document shows, the authority for the unions to make decisions about the approval process for ordination candidates is delegated by the GC Executive Committee and is limited to that review and approval process. The authority for setting the criteria for ordination is not delegated since that is the purview of the world church as outlined in GC WP L 35 and voted on by world representation at Annual Council.”

The letter’s tone is clear and positive. Each division president is requested to forward the material promptly to their respective division officers and to all union presidents. We are grateful to God for the work of responsible leadership at our General Conference to correct a misunderstanding regarding the authority of unions that has created confusion and disunity.

The Secretariat document is a reminder of the principle of delegated authority. Workers across the global field operate under this plan. Members from every part of the world are represented at the GC Session, and this authority is delegated to the elected GC Executive Committee. One of the responsibilities of the GC President as Executive Committee Chair is to help the various units of the church to work together harmoniously according to the authority vested in them by the world body.

We appreciate the work of the Secretariat and the leadership of Elder Wilson and all of our leaders at the GC in producing this wise and well researched policy and historical review document to bring clarification, correction and encouragement to the Church. The clarification should aid units of the church which have erred to make immediate substantive changes so as to come into harmony with the divinely-led vote July 8 in San Antonio. At the General Conference Session in San Antonio, the Church in session agreed with the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist practice of appointing only qualified male spiritual leaders as ordained clergy and as presidents of conferences, unions, and divisions.

Pr. Larry Kirkpatrick has the take-away from the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference session held in San Antonio Texas, July 2-11. Kirkpatrick explains why the session as a whole was the world church confirming the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist hermeneutic sustaining the plain reading of the Bible.

Many are saying that San Antonio doesn’t matter. They wish. We encourage readers to review the article here and see if the idea that San Antonio doesn’t matter is valid or not.

There are impacts in both the short and long term. There is an impact on mission. And it is all good.

Click here and find out! http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/san-antonio-adventist-hermeneutic-confirmed/.

[The Following document was released to the church via the North American Division on July 10, 2015.]

General Conference President Elder Ted Wilson has requested that each division president of the 13 world regions, clarify the meaning of the vote taken on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

North American Division (NAD) President Daniel Jackson would like to make the following statement:

Firstly, we want to acknowledge that we will comply with the vote of the world church.

Secondly, the vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church or any of their entities from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

Thirdly, it is important that we identify what the motion did not do:

It did not disallow women from serving as commissioned church pastors.
It did not disallow women to serve as ordained elders in the local church
It did not disallow the ordination of deaconesses.

Since the motion did not disallow these things, we therefore continue to encourage those who have been serving in these capacities to continue to do so.

It is vital to understand that the NAD will continue to follow the directions found in the General Conference Working Policy allowing conferences and unions to license women as Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Ministry.

We will also continue to encourage utilizing the services of women as ordained local elders and deaconesses.

The following is a series of policies which are drawn from the Working Policy and that inform our direction:

Church Manual Policy BA 60 05 on Human Relations which states:
“The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender. The Church bases its position on principles clearly enunciated in the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the official pronouncements of the General Conference.”

Church Manual Policy BA 60 10 which states:
“The world Church supports nondiscrimination in employment practices and policies and upholds the principle that both men and women, without regard to race and color, shall be given full and equal opportunity within the Church to develop the knowledge and skills needed for the building up of the Church. Positions of service and responsibility (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry*) on all levels of church activity shall be open to all on the basis of the individual’s qualifications.”

*The exception clause, and any other statement above, shall not be used to reinterpret the action already taken by the world Church authorizing the ordination of women as local church elders in divisions where the division executive committees have given their approval.

The 1989 General Conference Annual Council vote which allowed for:
“Those who have, without regard to gender, been recognized as commissioned ministers or licensed ministers may perform essentially the ministerial functions of an ordained minister of the gospel in the churches to which they are assigned, subject to division authorization of this provision, if the following conditions apply:
“1) The individual has completed approved ministerial training.
“2) The individual has been called by a conference to serve in a full-time pastoral-evangelistic-ministerial role.
“3) The individual has been elected and ordained as a local church elder.”

North American Division Working Policy L 33 10 which states:
“A commissioned minister in leadership position is authorized by the conference, union or division to perform substantially all the functions of the ordained minister within the territory of the organization he/she serves. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a Church, Uniting churches, and Ordaining local elders or deacons.”

It is important to keep in mind that God calls all of his children to serve Him in ministry. He calls both men and women to serve His church and the NAD will continue to support the filling of these positions regardless of gender. The NAD will also continue to utilize all of its efforts to recognize the call of those who feel moved by the Holy Spirit into pastoral ministry.

–Prepared by the Communication Department of the North American Division


[NOTE: The same statement has been issued a second time, lacking the phrase “of the church or any of their entities” at the “secondly” paragraph. We do not regard the omission to be significant. The initial draft no doubt reflects the expressed will of the General Conference and is more clarifying than the revision. The clear intent of the bylaws and of the July 8 voted action matches the initial language. -Ed.]

From Clinton and Gina Wahlen’s website:

Free Download– English, Spanish, Portuguese Editions — GC Special Until July 8, 2015

In order to encourage everyone to read and study the issue of women’s ordination up to the time it will be discussed at this year’s General Conference session, we are making an amazing FREE offer. Just click on the image below to download the book of your choice in English, Spanish, or Portuguese—and please share this page with all your friends!

cw-wodim-enWomen’s Ordination: Does it Matter? ENGLISH PDF

cw-wodim-spWomen’s Ordination, Does it Matter? SPANISH PDF

cw-wodim-poWomen’s Ordination, Does it Matter? PORTUGUESE PDF

Clinton Wahlen serves as an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference.