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A new website has been prepared by Seventh-day Adventist laypeople, titled UnityInTruth.com. From the website:
You may feel that you are ‘only’ a lay person far removed from the decision-making process of the church. However, you have the right and responsibility to let your world leaders and lay representatives who serve on the General Conference Executive Committee know of your concerns and to ask for action to bring faithfulness to the North American Division leadership (https://www.unityintruth.com/, accessed 2017-07-25).
The site lists a long series of transgressions and attempts to reshape the world church in solidarity with the pro-women’s ordination agenda here: https://www.unityintruth.com/womens-ordination/
At the end of that link is an opportunity to sign a petition asking the GC to take corrective action this October at Annual Council.
The site is very nicely prepared. We suggest you take a close look and then consider acting by signing the petition. Of course, for lasting change NAD church members should see that they elect officers in their own Conferences and Unions who truly support the world church.
“Scripture, Church Structure, and the Path to Unity” is the title for a special symposium to be held at the Secrets Unsealed Studio in Fresno California on August 1-3. The event will be live-streamed.
Presenters and topics, in sequence of presentation, are:
- Stephen Bohr, “Why Another Symposium?”
- Daniel Scarone, “Developments After San Antonio”
- Larry Kirkpatrick, “Biblical Hermeneutics and Church Leadership”
- Mike Lambert, “Scripture and Church Authority”
- Mario Veloso, “The Gender of Elders in the Church Manual”
- Kevin Paulson, “A Biblical Theology of Church Discipline”
- Mario Veloso, “That They All May be One”
- Mike Lambert, “Unity at What Cost”
- Mario Veloso, “Two Paths to Unity: John 17 and Isaiah 4”
- Kevin Paulson, “Message and Mission: Internal Church Controversy and the Challenge of Distraction”
- Larry Kirkpatrick, “Dissolution or Revolution: Church Structure and Doctrinal Faithfulness”
- Mike Lambert, “Fitly Joined Together”
- Phil Mills, “The Government of God: The Model for Church Structure”
In addition there will be town hall meeting segments on August 2 and 3 with questions and response by the presenters.
The link for the live streaming is YouTube.com/SecretsUnsealed
A website that aggressively publishes positions disagreeing with the Seventh-day Adventist Church on women’s ordination and LGBT issues, reports that North American Division (NAD) president Dan Jackson presented a proposal to General Conference (GC) leadership with laughably minimalist disciplinary steps for non-compliant unions. The NAD is said to be proposing three sanctions.
First, that persons from Columbia and Pacific Unions who serve on the General Conference executive committee continue with voice and vote but not be permitted to serve in GC subcommittee leadership roles (as if GC leadership would place these men in such positions at present). Second, that ordinations of women in those Unions not be recognized outside those Unions (a non-starter since those rebel ordinations are already NOT accepted outside those Unions). And third, that General Conference auditing services check these Unions for compliance with the world churches voted policy regarding women’s ordination.
In other words, if the report is accurate, the NAD is proposing to do nothing about the present disregard for the instruction of God in His Word as well as the voice of the Church at three General Conference sessions. This is actually a proposal to give more time to the deviant Unions to strengthen their “cause.”
The proposed sanctions leave the current practice of ordaining women operative in those places, leaves insubordinate leaders in positions where they can continue to promote disunity, and they institutionalize congregationalism by permitting Unions to continue to act independently of the world church.
Such inaction, posing as discipline, would leave the church even more fragmented. The plan Jackson is said to have set forth prepares the way for disregard of the Bible in other areas including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues, and threatens to reduce the Seventh-day Adventist Church to a patchwork of regional churches offering conflicting teachings.
The proposed sanctions, even if enacted, would leave the majority of NAD membership which broadly supports the world church and opposes women’s ordination, disenfranchised and doubtful. Many NAD members feel the Division has been hijacked and would see only betrayal in General Conference acceptance of such proposals.
Will Spring Meeting tell the NAD its proposal is unacceptable? How long will the NAD continue in open defiance of the world church and open promotion of disunity?
We rest in God’s promise that the “gates of hell” will not prevail against the Church that is built on Jesus the Rock, who taught us to obey God’s Word.
NPUC Gleaner: Learning From History?
By Engel Yoder
The March 2017 NPUC Gleaner editorial titled “Protest” likens the NAD union presidents who are opposing the authority of the General Conference (GC) to the German princes who opposed the authority of the papal church at the Diet of Spires in 1529 (1). By making this analogy, the editorial further insinuates that our GC leaders can be likened to the papal leaders whose authority the princes protested against. The editor then asks, “What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”
It is difficult to put into words just how offensive such an editorial is. And that it has been printed in an official church publication shows just how incredibly disjointed church leadership is in the NAD. But not only does this reveal how disconnected NAD leadership is from the rest of the world church, the history the Gleaner editor suggests that we learn from has nothing to do with our current church crisis.
When we consider what the princes of long ago can truly teach us, we find they held to two principal points. Regarding the Diet of Spires we have this historical summary:
“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. D’Aubigne, b. 13, ch. 6” (2).
Obviously, the intrusion of civil authorities is not an issue in our current situation, but neither is the arbitrary authority of the church. Can any thinking Adventist actually contend that the source of the current controversy—the 2015 GC Session vote regarding women’s ordination—was an exercise of arbitrary church authority? Never in our church history has there been so much time and study invested in a single question as this one. Every world division fully participated and expressed itself. And once the ultimate body of church authority, consisting of over 2300 duly appointed representatives from around the world, made its decision, can anyone seriously say that this decision was an arbitrary one? Or that this decision was made by the exercise of so-called “kingly” or “popish” power?
But the historian continues by going beyond identifying what the Protest at Spires opposed and identifies what it affirmed:
“. . .Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man. . . .’ But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God” (3).
As the Gleaner editorial correctly points out, the papal church claimed to have authority above that of Scripture, and this claim the princes at Spires vehemently denied. But never has Protestantism claimed that all believers would interpret Scripture in precisely the same way. The myriad of Protestant denominations attests to this fact. Actually, the principles of Protestantism purposefully grant anyone who in good conscience cannot accept the teachings and practices of a particular denomination to be entirely at liberty to go to, or even to start, another church or denomination that is more to his liking. But to expect that one can abide within a faith community while openly defying the authority of that community is to embrace the principles of the papists at Spires, not the German princes. Indeed, this expectation reflects the spirit of the one who caused war in heaven when he desired to retain his place there while defying the authority of heaven’s Sovereign.
If the editor of the Gleaner wants us to learn something from history, I suggest we begin with the editor’s own history as a four-year old and learn that a duly authorized “No” means “No.” If someone cannot accept and respect that answer, then that person, like a mature adult, should pack his soap and toothbrush and go. I sincerely hope, however, that he would choose to stay, and that he would reconsider the moral principles upon which he stands. They just may not be as solid as he thinks. He may then be reassured that the General Conference in Session remains God’s ordained authority on earth (4), that this authority is to be respected even if its judgments are not entirely understood at the moment, and that our Father’s house is truly the safest and most secure place to be in all the world.
1. http://GleanerNow.com/news/2017/03/protest, accessed March 20, 2017).
2. The Great Controversy, p. 203).
4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261.
Biographical Note: Engel Yoder has recently retired after 33 years of denominational service with Christian Record Services for the Blind. He lives in Kansas and serves as an elder in his local church.
No organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists in China. Nevertheless, there is news from the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, Chinese Union Mission field, relating to women’s ordination. Approximately two dozen women workers there had been assigned a status of “ordained” on the basis of Chinese government rules. However, it is reported that those women who had received “ordained” credentials from the Chinese government have voluntarily turned them in and received Commissioned minister credentials in their place.
The main reason women are more prominent in ministry in China is because men are expected to work, even on Sabbath, while women have more freedom to be at home. This results in more flexibility for women to do the work of ministry. Neither the Bible nor the Adventist Church approve of secular labor during the Sabbath.
Men who do not work are considered suspect unless they are ordained by the Three-Self Movement. If they receive state-sponsored ordination they are monitored and controlled by the Chinese government. It is difficult for men to become pastor of a house church (secret congregations which are not recognized by the government) unless the men are very old and are retired. Thus women fill the gap left by men’s general unavailability for the work of ministry in this unique field.
Women in unusual situations may step in to fill a void, but God’s plan is for men to assume the spiritual leadership role (1 Timothy 2:9-13; 3:2; Titus 1:5). Although these Adventist women had been “ordained” in China in the past, they have decided to accept replacement of their ordination credential with the commissioned minister credential. One such female worker said, “It isn’t about titles over here. It’s about getting the work done! We don’t want any distractions from ministry and this really isn’t even an issue over here.”
In San Antonio, Texas, at the 2015 General Conference session, the assembled delegates of the world church voted not to permit Divisions to make independent provision for the ordination of women in their fields. The Seventh-day Adventist Church maintains a unified world practice of appointing spiritually-qualified men to congregational leadership. World practice should not be based on side-cases and anomalous situations. Still, the decision of these workers is a step forward for unity in the world church.
We will update this article with corrections and added information as it becomes available.
The Gleaner is the Union paper of the North Pacific Union in the North American Division, and is funded by Seventh-day Adventists in conferences in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The March 2017 Gleaner carried an editorial penned by editor Steve Vistaunet on page 4 titled “Protest.”
The editor’s 12 paragraphs come in three segments. The first describes his protest against his mother’s “totalitarian” decisions when he was four years old. But “some protests are far more worthy,” and “confront us with moral choices that cannot be compromised.”
And so, in the next segment he quotes from Ellen White’s discussion of the protest of the princes, who exclaim, “If we must choose between the Holy Scriptures of God and the old errors of the church, we should reject the former.” Vistaunet adds, “Rejecting compromise, the princes instead drafted a solemn response that declared they would not ‘consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to his Word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of souls.'”
These lines prepare the reader for the final segment:
“Union conference presidents in North America have been summoned by world church leaders to seek a way through a maze of principles, politics, and policies. The health of our collective unity hangs in the balance. What could the princes of long ago teach us by example?”
The author concludes desiring that the Church “move beyond the status-quo and be fully re-engaged with our Father’s business.”
Later in the same Gleaner we find another article featuring an interview with the new NPUC president, titled “John Freedman: A Prayerful Journey” (pp. 8-11). (Freedman, while chairman of the Washington Conference executive committee spearheaded that Conference’s adoption of its present non-compliant commissioned minister policy). Freedman says this about the NAD stance toward our world church:
“I’m working closely with union presidents from around the North American Division (NAD) and our NAD leadership to determine how we can most effectively support our world church structure. We had a thoughtful meeting with world leaders on January 19. We hope to draft our vision for a suggested way forward to deal productively with the issues of governance that will be reviewed by the NAD administration and approved by the NAD executive committee before being presented to General Conference officers. These are important steps. Our church is not designed to be run by a few people at any level. It is a collective effort involving the priesthood of all believers in doing God’s will in every corner of our world. I hope we’ll soon be able to move beyond these current concerns so that all of us—male, female, young and old—can fully be about our Father’s business” (p. 11).
Wait a moment! It is because the church is not “to be run by a few people at any level” that the Church has addressed the question as it has. The spirit of the women’s ordination faction put itself on display in unilateral action by conferences and unions in North America which disregarded the previous decisions of the church. And so, the world church engaged in a study process and handed the ordination question—yet again—to thousands of delegates to the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session.
This was the third time that delegates to our highest earthly decision-making body have been asked to address questions whose outcome would open or close the door for women to be ordained. On those three occasions, the answer has been No, No, and No, respectively.
Can anyone call to mind any topic the world church has addressed so many times? No comparable issue has been brought before so many Adventists in the history of the Church, or received so consistent an answer. God has spoken to His people, first in the Scriptures, and then patiently, in session after session of the General Conference.
If we would speak of decisions impacting the whole body made by but a few people, we need look no farther than to the insubordinate decisions of conferences and unions and executive committees which have defied their God and His Church.
God has through the body given the same decision again and again: No to the practice of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.
The “governance issues” Freedman speaks of are not complicated. If the ordination of women was insubordinate before San Antonio, afterward, it is positively rebellious. Leadership in the North American Division is in rebellion. If these leaders wish to advance with mission and “move beyond” these concerns, the only way to do so is to accept the decision of the world church: No to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
Rather than inciting NAD leaders to rebel against their world church, or insinuating that our General Conference leadership’s humble request to these entities to respect the decisions of the world church is equivalent to the Papal suppression of truth and religious liberty, the Gleaner editor and union leaders should submit their contrarian agenda to the decision of the body. Rather than drawing a line of conscience in the sand and claiming the mantle of heroic progressives, won’t you respect the combined decision of delegates gathered from across the globe you are called and conscientiously bound to uphold?
The NPUC leadership, if these two articles offer any indication, is bent on pushing the women’s ordination agenda even to the point of fracturing the Church. What extraordinary shame.
It will not stand.
NOTE: The Gleaner editorial, “Protest” is available online at http://gleanernow.com/news/2017/03/protest. The interview of John Freedman from which we quote can be read at: http://gleanernow.com/feature/john-freedman. We also noticed that the editor asked Freedman “How have you addressed the concerns of your Northwest constituents about these issues, and that the president made no reply about his constituents but that he wanted them to “move beyond these current concerns.” The reply is not surprising and is consistent with the tone of the constituency meeting which elected Freedman, in which concerns about his nomination as union president were repeatedly suppressed.
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.