This week will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many readers will be aware that in 2015 General Conference delegates in session voted to reject a proposal to let each division executive committee to decide for itself whether or not to make provision for the ordination of women. The world church made a global decision, the result of which was to follow the biblical practice and the from-the-beginning-of-the-Adventist-Church until now global practice of only ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders.

After the session, some elements of the church in Europe and in North America continued and increased in their defiance of the world church.

At Annual Council in October 2016 General Conference leadership brought a fair-minded proposal for reconciliation procedures to help the disobedient sections of church leadership be kept accountable and help the church draw together in united practice in harmony with the decision made by the world church. Many NAD leaders aggressively fought the proposal. Nevertheless, it passed and the reconciliation procedures are now being applied. Leaders from the General Conference will meet with North American Division Union leadership in a special meeting to be held this week on January 19. Some NAD leaders have called for special prayer for these meetings. It is a good time to pray for these meetings.

While there were numerous quite contentious comments made by NAD leaders who are advocates of WO at the meeting, The Council of Adventist Pastors thought readers might find it encouraging to recapitulate again some truth-telling comments made by faithful leaders at that meeting held three months ago. For example, Dan Houghton offered the following observations:

“I’m extremely puzzled by this discussion, and I want to speak in favor of this motion. Its seems to me that 90% of everything that’s been said has been re-litigating what happened in San Antonio. . . And I would just like to say, that there are lots of people watching this proceeding, right now, around our country, with different ideas. The question I have, Does a vote in General Conference session mean anything? Does it mean anything? We spent five years, and I don’t know how many dollars, preparing for Indianapolis, and we took a vote. And there was a vote. This is really not about women’s ordination, and cannot be; we cannot make it that. Does this Church have a unity,? And does it have an authority? I would encourage those of my brothers and sisters who I love, they’re my friends, to find a different way to express their frustration with that vote, than undermining the authority and the unity of this Church.”

Some had insinuated that the General Conference, in seeking compliance with the 2015 GC session decision, was exercising kingly power. But Dr. Clinton Wahlen in speaking from the floor contradicted that claim with facts:

“Mr. Chairman, there is a difference between local policies, and policies voted by the General Conference session. The situation before us today, is, in some important respects, unprecedented. That’s why a focused solution is needed. The events leading to non-compliance with the San Antonio vote were not accidental. A great deal of energy was expended on crafting proposals for constituency meetings to act on, and these deliberate efforts have placed some unions and conferences in non-compliance. This situation arises from deep theological convictions that have been held for a very long time. Following the vote in San Antonio, a formal appeal was made on August 17, 2015 by the GC Secretariat to each division, kindly asking every entity to come into alignment with the world church. . . The time has come to take action. I appeal to this body to choose the solution that policy already provides, and that the Secretariat’s recent Unity document suggests. Quoting B05.3, ‘Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications, including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it.’ Please hear this final appeal from Jody, a constituent of one of the non-compliant unions: ‘I feel that my local church, my conference, and my union are the ones with the kingly power. It is frustrating wanting to be unified with the GC under the layers of three uncooperative kingly powers. I want to be made whole with the world church.’ We need to consider her plea and the cry of many thousands like her.”

Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore, stated:

“I’m disappointed to hear so many references made that the issue that faced the General Conference in San Antonio is some kind of minor policy. That motion required a vote based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We spent months and years, through all kinds of committees, to get to the place where this Church could vote on that issue. At this point, the issue is no longer that issue. The issue is the unity of the church. And the unity of the church is not maintained by pluralism. If we want to try to find a way that’s painless, to keep the unity of the church, we can go down the road of pluralism, but it will be very, very costly in the end. Redemptive discipline is painful. Its patient. Its full of love. And this document, I believe, gives us the start on that. We cannot as a Church maintain our unity, and allow people who oppose the world church, to simply accomplish what they wanted by default, by the Church never addressing the issue.”

We accept the decision at San Antonio, and we believe the Church needs to move forward united. Our prayers go up for church leaders to be resolute in helping the NAD Unions come into the harmony that Jesus desires. Most members in North America want to move forward united as a world church. We are not going to ordain women to the gospel ministry, because to engage in that new practice would mean to abandon the correct understanding of Biblical interpretation that this church was founded on.

The prayers that go up this week ought not be for permission to disobey the leading of God’s Spirit but for courage to surrender a pet idea rejected by the world church at San Antonio. There remains opportunity for NAD leadership to come into harmony with the world church. For this our prayers are ascending.

In a news item posted on November 3, 2016 on the Adventist News Network (“Important responsibility in following voted World Church actions”), General Conference president, pastor Ted N.C. Wilson reminded leaders in North America of their “sacred responsibility.” President Wilson indicated that every leader has a responsibility “to follow what the world church has voted in session (whether I agree with it or not).” The president had indicated previous to the 2015 San Antonio session vote that he would adhere to the results of the vote no matter the outcome.

In the article, the president clarified the authority of unions:

“When union conferences were established, they were given the responsibility of working within the policies outlined for the world church, which now generally takes place by world church representatives at an Annual Council and sometimes at a General Conference Session,” Wilson said. “Unions were established to make mission more local since the General Conference wasn’t able to cover the world with direct counsel for every situation, but unions are not a law unto themselves.”

Unions do not have authority over all aspects of ordination. They never have.

“While the union has the right to approve or disapprove of which individuals, recommended from local conferences, to ordain, that decision is to be made only within the framework of the Working Policy of the world church,” Wilson said. “In addition, the unions are not responsible for approving men to be ordained to the gospel ministry on the division or the General Conference levels. Each of those organizations and their institutions, through the respective executive committees, are authorized to approve ordinations. Therefore, the unions are not responsible for all aspects of ordination.”

Some advocates of women’s ordination have accused church leaders of exercising “kingly power” as they seek for integrity in other church leaders who can only be faithful by adhering to the decisions made by the world church. To one who had asked pastor Wilson about the exercise of “kingly authority, Wilson replied:

“Regarding your ‘kingly authority’ question,” Wilson responded, “what could be more of a ‘kingly authority’ action than to deliberately go against what has been voted by the worldwide representation of delegates from around the world at a General Conference Session? Three times this subject has been addressed in some form by a General Conference Session.”

The ANN article can be found at this link:

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2016-11-03/importantresponsibility-in-following-voted-worldchurch-actions/

The detailed response by the president is found on his official blog here:

http://perspectives.adventist.org/en/questions-answers/questions/go/2016-10-22/what-authority-do-church-unions-have-in-ordaining-ministers/

Pastor Wilson’s Facebook page, quoted in the ANN article, is here:

https://www.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/

The president often communicates with world church members via his Facebook page.

Mike Lambert, pastor of the Stateline, Oregon, Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivers the first of six presentations—all of which we shall post online over the next few weeks, from his series titled “A gender agenda.” In the series, Pr. Lambert addresses the cluster of texts and arguments favoring and opposing women’s ordination, with associated issues. In this first part, Elder Lambert begins to address Galatians 3:28 but also provides a quick but careful walk through the historic developments of the issue in the Seventh-day Adventist church from its beginning right up to the present. Stateline Church is located immediately south of Walla Walla/College Place, WA.

On November 4, 2013, the North American Division’s biblical research committee brought its completed study on women’s ordination to its Year-end Meeting. The document was approved by 182 of 216 NAD delegates. Astonishingly, the study (we refer to the “Majority Report”) proposed a new method of biblical interpretation. They claimed it to be in harmony with longstanding Seventh-day Adventist use of the Historical-grammatical method. Most Seventh-day Adventists are unaware of this officially proposed NAD approach to the Bible. The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) has produced video interviews discussing the NAD’s “Principle-based Historical-cultural” method (PBHC). In three segments, Pr Jim Brackett interviews Pr Larry Kirkpatrick to unpack the implications.

CONTINUES IN PART 2 POSTED ABOVE…

The Trans-European Division at its 2013 Year-end Meeting made several recommendations connected with the issue of Women’s Ordination. Among its recommendations to the world church: “Removing the intricate differences between various levels of ministry, such as the licensed and ordained minister, the licensed minister and the ordained local church elder, the pastor and the local church elder,” that the Church “remove all gender distinctions in its Working Policy related to the ministry,” that “unions, whose constituency meetings in session have voted approval and whose division committee has voted approval, be allowed to maintain an inclusive pastoral ministry which removes all gender distinctions within the work of the church in that union territory,” “recommend that the ritualistic and consecrational flavour of the act of ordination, its vague mixture of granting the Holy Spirit or gifts for ministry and ecclesiastical authority be radically toned done and removed from policy and practice,” recommends “that the imposition of hands be an optional part of the ceremony,” and asks that the church “separate Ordination from Election to an Organisational Office of Leadership.” An article reporting more fully can be found here:

http://www.ted-adventist.org/news/ted-executive-committee-recommends-inclusive-ministry-without-gender-distinctions

A committee in the Division has been at work on these issues for 19 months. Over the coming months TED has plans to offer well over 1,000 pages of material they hope will support these ideas and others. The TED report is by far the legthiest to be sent to the GC Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC). TED is also the smallest of the 13 world divisions in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, having some 84,000 members.

With Year-end Meetings occurring in the 13 divisions across the world field, the reports of each division are being received by those divisions in preparation to be passed to the GC Theology of Ordination Study Committee. These reports are scheduled to be presented to TOSC in January 2014.

The South Pacific Division, which includes Australia and many other units in the South Pacific region, has received its Biblical Research Committee report favoring Women’s Ordination. More information, as well as a six-page summary of their work, can be found here:

http://record.net.au/items/spd-recommends-womens-ordination.

The report that follows was made public today (November 12, 2013) by the Inter-European Division. While we do not concur with the decision of their study committee, we share their news release here as pertinent to the the chief topic we have been investigating.

Madrid, Spain [Corrado Cozzi]. The Inter-European Division will recommend to the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee that there is room for the church to ordain women to pastoral ministry.

The recommendation follows study of the papers presented at the division’s Biblical Research Committee [BRC] as well as those prepared for the Theology of Ordination Study Committee this year from January 15 to 17 and July 22 to 24.

The process is part of the world church’s ongoing study of the theology of ordination, which was first established at the denomination’s General Conference Session in 2010. Each of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions is preparing its own report, and world church officials have promised to bring back a compiled report to the 2015 General Conference Session.

The Inter-European Division’s recommendation stems from several points:

  1. The Bible does not specifically define what ordination for
    pastoral ministry is.
  2. There are no direct statements in the Bible either commanding or
    prohibiting women’s ordination.
  3. As the church felt free to develop its organizational structure
    to further its mission based on biblical principles, division BRC
    members consider ordination not as a doctrinal or biblical issue, but something that must be handled at an administrative level.
  4. There are no clear biblical principles that would require or
    guide the application of the principle of headship in the family or the church.
  5. The Old Testament priesthood has its fulfillment in the unique
    priesthood of Christ, which is the basis for the priesthood of all
    believers.
  6. BRC members were unclear over why ordination requires a
    differentiation between genders that doesn’t exist in other levels of ministry or service, such as teachers, deacons, prophets and leaders.

Based on the report of the Biblical Research Committee, the Executive Committee of the Inter-European Division recommends the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, taking into consideration the possibility of applying it according to the needs of the fields (http://eud.adventist.org/news/detail/date/2013/11/12/inter-european-division-will-recommend-that-there-is-room-for-womens-ordination/, accessed 2013-11-12).

The decision was made at the Division’s 2013 Year-end Meeting. The Inter-European Division is one of 13 Divisions which make up the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are nearly 18 million members of the church. Inter-European Division has approximately 178,000 members. It is composed of the Austrian, Bulgarian, Czecho-Slovakian, Franco-Belgian, Italian, North German, Portuguese, Romanian, South German, Spanish, and Swiss Unions.

Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick has investigated in particular the history of the past five years that have brought so much disunity to the world church. He tells the tragic backstory of these developments in “E-60 and the WO Endgame.”

First, download (the accompanying chart) that will help the reader understand the sequence of developments and print it out. Then FIND THE PDF VERSION HERE or the standard HTML/mobile version HERE.

UPDATED: 2013-11-05 01:51: Adventist Review Reports on the NAD TOSC Report here: http://www.adventistreview.org/article/6791/archives/issue-2013-1530/30-cn-north-america-church-leaders-receive-theology-of-ordination-report.

2013-11-04 21:59: As the North American Division Year-end Meeting draws to a close, the NAD has finally come to its Division report for the Theology of Ordination Study committee. They voted to receive the report, although 31 voted “No.” NAD has also launched a new website (NADOrdination.com) with several videos. What will surprise some is that NAD has now come out into the open with a new hermeneutical approach in contrast to the Historical-grammatical approach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The new approach has been designated by its advocates the “Principle-based Historical-cultural” method (PBHC). Kyoshin Ahn writes positively about the new hermeneutic as a representing “a whole new movement in biblical studies. . . . The overwhelming majority of the [NAD] committee feels that these difficult passages [passages mentioned by those who oppose WO] require the modern Adventist reader to employ a principle-based approach” (North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report, pp. 23, 31). In the Minority Report, included in the NAD-TOSC Report, Edwin H. Reynolds and Clinton Wahlen ably point out the dangers of unsound interpretive approaches. Warn Reynolds and Wahlen in their minority report, “. . .it is one thing to study the historical-cultural backgrounds to enlighten our understanding of the setting in which the text was written.; it is another thing altogether to suggest that the text was culturally conditioned and that, therefore, a trajectory beyond the text must be constructed for our current more enlightened age. If the latter were true, it would mean that the Bible does not set forth universal principles but only that which was perceieved by the inspire writers to be valid for the local situation at the time or, even worse, reflects then-current prejudices and misunderstandings” (Ibid., pp. 196, 197). No doubt, CAP shall publish more on these developments in due course.

2013-10-31 13:26: It appears so far that the first report below may be correct. Ms. Roberts is said to have been welcomed at the Year-end Meeting by NAD Secretary G. Alexander Bryant. Long applause is reported. The NAD, PUC, and the SECC seem to be jointly aligned in upholding actions which are in defiance of the General Conference in session.

2013-10-31 07:22: General Conference Statement “Moving Forward Together” here: http://www.adventistreview.org/article/6780/archives/issue-2013-1530/30-cn-moving-forward-together. Excerpt from the statement: “Working Policy, which is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When personal convictions are placed ahead of the collective policy decisions of the worldwide church, troubling precedents are set. God works in an orderly way and wishes His church to exemplify this sanctified behavior through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility and submission to God for the good of the church body as outlined in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are fundamental Biblical principles for the benefit of the church.

“At the 2012 Annual Council in a voted action entitled, “Statement on Church Polity, Procedures, and Resolution of Disagreements in the Light of Recent Union Actions on Ministerial Ordination,” the world church strongly indicated that it does not recognize as ordained ministers individuals who do not meet the criteria outlined in policy. It deeply concerns the world leadership of the church that recently a local conference constituency elected as a conference president an individual who is not recognized by the world church as an ordained minister. Ordination to the ministry is one of the criteria set forth for being a conference president. General Conference administration is working with the North American Division administration as they deal with the implications of this local conference action, which is contrary to the 2012 Annual Council action.” (This statement appears now here: http://news.adventist.org/all-news/news/go/2013-10-31/adventist-officers-release-statement-regarding-a-local-conferences-recent-election-of-president-1/. The NAD Year-end Meeting begins on October 31 at 1:30 Eastern time.

2013-10-31 00:40: It is being reported that NAD officers and the union officers from the NAD met on October 30 and confirmed that Sandy Roberts will be given the same registration packet and badge as everyone else and will participate in the NAD Year End Meetings the same as every other elected president of a local conference.

If this is true, and if it actually comes to pass that Ms. Roberts will be a voting participant in this YEM, the North American Division will be openly aligning itself with the insubordination of the Southeastern California Conference that elected a woman in a position the world church only authorizes men to fill. If indeed this comes to pass it will mean that the NAD stands in open violation of its own Working Policy. Check E-60.

NOTE: Information in this post is to be considered only tentative until confirmed.

NOTE: This post will be updated.