With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.
Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.
Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).
We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.
At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.
There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).
It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?
There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.
We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.
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.
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.
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.
The article linked to by this post is a case study, made up of several timelines, showing the process of change in TEC (The Episcopal Church) which led them to their today where they are ordaining practicing homosexuals. The material is extensive. It covers TEC from before the ordination of women, into 2016 and the development of present LGBTQ issues in that church. TEC is not the SDA Church, but there are many useful things to learn from the sequence of developments there. If we are careful, we will not repeat the mistakes of others, no matter how well meaning they were so many years ago. We are sure that few Episcopalians in 1970 imagined where fateful decisions made along the way would lead their church in 2016!
LINK TO FEATURED ARTICLE:
On March 29, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference executive committee voted, 11-5, within the territory of that conference, to treat the commissioned minister credential identically to the ordained credential in almost every respect. However, it is not within the prerogative of a conference to create, in essence, a new credential without General Conference permission. Any such behavior exceeds the authority vested in a conference by the world church. Furthermore, the voted policy contradicts the Church Manual voted by the world church. Can each conference have its own separate Church Manual? Will this behavior help the world church press together? If a conference can disregard the policy of the General Conference, why cannot a local church disregard the policy of the local conference?
The Upper Columbia Conference is part of the North Pacific Union, which is part of the North American Division.
This post will be updated.
Delegates to the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference have refused to recognize the validity of a woman serving as an ordained minister three times (1990, 1995, 2015). By definition the Working Policy of the church disallows that a woman can legitimately serve as a conference president. And yet the Adventist Review, a publication representing the world church, published an article on February 20, 2016 identifying Ms. Sandra Roberts as “the first woman conference president.” Whether intended or not, the editors of the Adventist Review with this article are contributing to the establishment of an alternate line of reality. Ms. Roberts is recognized by neither the General Conference nor by many Adventist members as the president of the Southeastern California Conference.
The General Conference requires unions and conferences of the world church to adhere to the Working Policy and to the wording in bold print in the model Constitution and Bylaws provided. That text reads “President: The president, who shall be an ordained minister of experience, is the first officer and shall report to the executive committee of the conference in consultation with the secretary and the treasurer/chief financial officer” (General Conference Working Policy, 2011-2012 ed., pp. 181, 182). This bold print wording is required text. Unions and conferences have no authority to act in contradiction to it.
On October 27, 2013, the Southeastern California Conference “elected” Ms. Roberts to the office of president over that conference. Those particulars are discussed here: http://ordinationtruth.com/2013/10/27/secc-elects-woman-president/. The General Conference is bound by the voted policies of the church, and in publishing the Adventist Yearbook which lists ordained ministers and leadership data for conferences, of necessity left the officer slot for president blank for Southeastern.
On to the present matter. The Weniger Society voted to offer an award to Sandra Roberts because she was the “first female conference president.” Andrew McChesney, news editor for the Adventist Review (a publication of the General Conference), reported on the Weniger awards, and identified Ms. Roberts in print as “the first female conference president.” Yes, this is the same “president” who presided at a post-San Antonio “ordination” of a woman on December 19, 2015:
The Review has no obligation to report the issuance of an award by Weniger Society based on a false premise, and certainly no business contradicting the voted position of the church. Adventists have phoned the Review and sought to post corrections to the article only to have the comments deleted without being posted. If not corrected, the article will contribute to the establishment of an alternate reality in which in spite of the refusal of the General Conference in session to approve the ordination of women, the legitimacy of this unbiblical practice is established through insubordination.
The Review article is seen at this link:
As the publication of record, this article in the Review cannot be permitted to stand as it is. The Council of Adventist Pastors asks that the article be withdrawn from publication.
If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization. All who desire the cooperation of the heavenly messengers must work in unison with them. Those who have the unction from on high will in all their efforts encourage order, discipline, and union of action, and then the angels of God can cooperate with them. But never, never will these heavenly messengers place their endorsement upon irregularity, disorganization, and disorder. All these evils are the result of Satan’s efforts to weaken our forces, to destroy our courage, and prevent successful action (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26).
The Bible says, “A bishop [elder] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable,able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV). The New Testament church had no office of woman elder. This is a point of reform that will help the church come back onto Bible ground and advance in unity. May God guide all and help all to work together on His plan.
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).
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.
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.
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/
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
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