How the Church listens and responds

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Jim Reinking

Today, there is a push for “ordination without regard to gender.” But beyond ordination itself there is a larger concern. It is the question of church governance or gospel order. The authority God has vested in the General Conference must be considered if we would be faithful to Jesus and His relationship to His “remnant church.” No individual any level—member, pastor, administrator, conference, union or division—has the right to disregard the decisions made by the General Conference in session. The Lord has given us vital counsel that it would be foolish not to follow:

I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man’s judgment
should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never
should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as
sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what
plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the
judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is
exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be
stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard
as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of
independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.

At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general
management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference,
sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I have
said that I could no longer regard the voice of the General
Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God. But
this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed
of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of
the field should not be respected. God has ordained that the
representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when
assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error
that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and
judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of
authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the
judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the
prosperity and advancement of His work” (Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 260, 261).

Were a conference to disregard the working policies of its union, taking unilateral action opposed to those policies, many would be rightfully concerned and the union would be taking appropriate action to resolve the problem. And yet, that is just what is happening when unions decide to take actions contrary to the policies of the General Conference.

In addition to the counsel given us through the prophetic gift regarding the authority of the world church, unions are bound by their constitutions and bylaws to conform to the General Conference decisions. Were each union within the world church to act unilaterally, apart from the General Conference, God’s church would become fragmented. We are concerned for the unity of the church.

The actions taken by three unions last summer contrary to these principles constitute insubordination. As constituents of the North Pacific Union Conference, we in ministry are respectfully appealing to our union president, Elder Max Torkelsen, with the NPUC Executive Committee to hold the line against those who would have the NPUC take similar actions.

The General Conference has put in place a thorough and well thought out process to again visit the question of the ordination of women. Let us work with that process.

The last verse of the book of Judges recalls a situation in which leadership among God’s people had degenerated until each was doing what in their own eyes they felt right. Those in spiritual leadership within the organization have a responsibility to both the people of God and to the Lord Himself to refuse to follow prevailing winds. They must lead by principle. We urge the leadership of the NPUC to exercise that restraint which is in harmony with the church organization Heaven has given us, and work in unison with it’s processes.

4 thoughts on “Listening to God’s Voice

  1. “The actions taken by three unions last summer contrary to these principles constitute insubordination. As constituents of the North Pacific Union Conference, we in ministry are respectfully appealing to our union president, Elder Max Torkelsen, with the NPUC Executive Committee to hold the line against those who would have the NPUC take similar actions.”

    All you can do is make a request and have no “authority” to demand compliance. Since the GC has done nothing substancial to discipline these Unions (if they have authority to do so) then lay members must conclude they have no authority, or they are not doing their duty in discipline. How then can any church member respect a church instrumentality that is obviously impotent to administer their office, or, is fearful to do their duty for political reasons?

    Levels of authority are rendered useless if there is no punishment administered for violation of stated policy by those ordained to do the job. In one sense, the study committee has no viable function until and unless those who have acted with an “in your face” rebellion are dealt with. They have put the cart before the horse. Even if the church decides that WO is biblical, it still has not dealt with the rebellion that preceded the decision to approve WO. The order of authority has already been abandon and allows all other levels of administration to do the same thing based on their own judgment.

    And this is only one reason the problem can’t and won’t be cured by study on ordination. When WO was allowed and approved by higher levels of authority to have local churches ordain women, there was no turning back. The church will split.

    Reply
  2. In talking to one of the chief officers of one of the conferences in the Pacific Union regarding the ordination of a woman pastor on Sabbath, February 9, there were questions raised about what really happened. As a result, I talked to Elder Orville Parchment, an Administrative Assistant to Elder Ted Wilson, and to Elder Miranda, the head of the G.C. Revival and Reformation Committee, who was actually present at the PUC’s constituency meeting to be sure of what I had understood were the facts. It is vital that we are sure of our facts and the representations that we make make are consistent with the spirit of Christ, In some cases, people’s reputations are involved. So here is a summary of the relevant facts:
    1. The constitutional question before the PUC constituents was specific to the requirement of the constitution that the union be in harmony with the G.C. policies. The constituents were being asked to change that requirement so that the union could proceed to vote on the ordination question. The counsel of one of the two attorneys present was that they could proceed anyway, a perspective that was not shared by the G.C. After the failure of the vote, one of the conference president’s rose to a “point of order.” Though I didn’t know about the involvement of the attorneys, the substance of my understanding is correct and I remain of the opinion that the actions taken represent insubordination on the part of the union. Constitutions and By-Laws are important to any organization and represent official procedures that govern an organization. But beyond the Constitutions and By-Laws, we Seventh-day Adventists have the benefit of the counsels the Lord as given us, such as quoted below. This counsel, given us by means of the Holy Spirit, trumps Constitutions, By-Laws and procedures that are out of harmony with it’s instruction.

    “I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.

    At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I have said that I could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God. But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work.” 9T 260, 261

    “Brother A, your experience in reference to leadership two years ago was for your own benefit and was highly essential to you. You had very marked, decided views in regard to individual independence and right to private judgment. These views you carry to extremes. You reason that you must have light and evidence for yourself in reference to your duty.

    I have been shown that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any one man. But when the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon the earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained, but be surrendered. Your error was in persistently maintaining your private judgment of your duty against the voice of the highest authority the Lord has upon the earth. After you had taken your own time, and after the work had been much hindered by your delay, you came to Battle Creek in answer to the repeated and urgent calls of the General Conference. You firmly maintained that you had done right in following your own convictions of duty. You considered it a virtue in you to persistently maintain your position of independence. You did not seem to have a true sense of the power that God has given to His church in the voice of the General Conference. You thought that in responding to the call made to you by the General Conference you were submitting to the judgment and mind of one man. You accordingly manifested an independence, a set, willful spirit, which was all wrong.” 3T 492

    2. Elder Wilson did not recommend a compromise with the PUC by which it could proceed to vote on ordination, nor was there a consultation with the G.C. before the ordination a couple of weeks ago.

    3. At last fall’s Autumn Council there was no attempt to remove Elder Wilson and no compromise in the action taken as a result. Elder Wilson stepped aside from the chair and had one of the G.C. Vice-presidents chair the discussion regarding the actions of the three unions in question. The vote was taken by secret ballot. There was not a public call for Elder Wilson to be ousted. I have been told that this is not simply about Elder Ted Wilson, but there is a strong consensus among 12 of the 13 divisions regarding the issue of the unilateral actions of the unions in question. As a result of the Autumn Council’s action, the Northern German Union has accepted it and has reversed itself, something that I believe that PUC and Columbia Union ought to be doing.

    4. Since there was no consultation with the G.C. before the ordination of a couple of weeks ago. I am deeply committed to the organization and based on principles of church governance, the counsel given us by the Lord regarding the authority invested in the G.C., the Constitution of the PUC, (what does the NCC Constitution state regarding it’s relationship to G.C. policy?), and the action of the Autumn Council I cannot see a valid base for the ordination of a couple weeks ago. It will not be recognized by the church.

    This issue can be highly charged emotionally and the actions of the two unions (we will see what happens at NPUC) is a cause of divisiveness and disunion. If a conference had taken action contrary to the policy of the union, or a church contrary to that of it’s conference there would be deep concern. If each of the 125 unions worldwide decided to act unilaterally the unity of the Seventh-day Adventist church, which has been one of our strengths, would result in a loose confederation of entities. I do not believe that to be the Lord’s will for His people. This is my church and your church that we have been serving, but ultimately it is His church and is a vital part of our confession of Him and our recognition of His Lordship.

    Reply

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