Facts and Fiction about the General Conference’s Compliance Document
Oct 23, 2018, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, Pastor Mark Finley


If a myth is repeated often enough and loud enough a lot of people will accept it as reality. For centuries people believed the earth was flat, and the sun revolved around the earth. Even reputed scientists and scholars of the day taught and repeated the myth. A myth is a myth no matter how loud it is trumpeted and no matter who shouts it.

Myths are running rampant on social media about the document, “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions,” recently voted at the 2018 Annual Council.

Some claim the General Conference desires to control what happens even on the local church level and no one is safe from its tentacles of control. The document has been called “papal,” “anti-protestant,” and “unbiblical.”

Let’s consider seven common myths and the facts of the document.

Myth #1: The document is an overreach by the General Conference to centralize power.

Fact #1: The document actually states, “Planning for and ensuring compliance shall initially be entrusted to the entity closest to the matter” (p. 1, line 25).

The intent of the document is to allow the entity closest to the issue of non-compliance to handle the matter. Rather than a centralization of power, it encourages the opposite. It urges all issues of policy non-compliance to be solved at the local level. If that is not possible the next highest level of church organization may become involved. For example, if a local conference has a challenge with non-compliance that it cannot or will not solve, the Union Conference/Mission can become involved in working out a solution. This is true for each level of church organization.

If there is non-compliance of a General Conference Session or Executive Committee voted action, the GC Executive Committee may become involved.

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By a vote of 185 yes, 124 no, with two abstentions, the General Conference Executive Committee (GCEC) on Oct. 14, 2018 adopted a plan to facilitate course correction for church entities rebelliously engaged in ordaining women to the gospel ministry.

One day later, October 15, NAD leaders issued their own statement. Disagreeing with the GCEC decision, they asserted that the newly voted plan “seeks to create a hierarchical system of governance.” Present NAD leadership indicated that “In a collaborative effort, leaders in the NAD are discussing how the church in North America will move forward.”

The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP), a group including both conference-employed and retired North American Division pastors, decided to issue its own statement as follows:

At the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio Texas, it was voted not to permit any Division to unilaterally engage in the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. Yet recent years have seen approximately 60 such illegal ordinations—many actually occurring after San Antonio. What was voted by delegates in 2015 was not a policy decision; the motion enacted was based on the word of God. Recall the motion’s wording:

“After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions, and;
After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission,
Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No”

Church membership is always voluntary. The people of God by faith are bound to obey the decision voted. CAP pastors believe that for the NAD to manifest anything less than whole-hearted commitment to timely and full cooperation with the world church is profoundly misguided.

With rejoicing CAP reiterates its full support of the 2015 San Antonio decision and indicates its full support of the voted decision of the 2018 Annual Council. As pastors and workers presently serving Jesus in the North America Division, NAD CAP pastors treasure unity with the world church.

Consider these sample responses from some NAD CAP pastors:

* Pastor Kent Knight, ret., states “I found Sunday’s deliberation and the outcome of the resulting vote to be greatly reassuring of God’s leading. I retired last evening with a prayerful concern for those who were disappointed.”

* Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick says, “Here we stand at the end of time and just now some are trading present truth for a stale feminism that cannot be reconciled with Scripture. But Jesus is ready to help those who have become confused to turn to Him.”

* Pastor Lonny Liebelt wrote, “I was grateful that the motion was passed at Fall Council to move forward with the compliance issues in our church today.”

* Pastor Jim Anderson says, “God’s counsel is being followed, at least by our brothers and sisters in much of the world. Lord, may it be so in the NAD.”

* Pastor Dan Knapp, ret., said, “The vote to implement the Compliance Document Sunday, October 14 confirms once again that Biblically-based faith and governance practices will triumph over strained Biblical hermeneutics, secular cultural accommodation and radical gender obliterating social political correctness.”

* Pastor Alvaro Sauza writes, “I am praying for Elder Daniel Jackson to seize the opportunity of stepping up to the plate and humbly submitting to the decision we have made as a church. May our NAD president take the lead in surrendering personal agenda for the sake of unity. I believe God is waiting for a genuine demonstration of Micah 6:8 by the NAD.”

* Pastor Mike Lambert added, “I am part of something that is bigger than me. It is the Great Advent Movement, tasked with a mission that goes to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. On Sunday, our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world voted a document to help keep order in our great mission. Let us faithfully pray for and support their decision.”

Refusal by GCEC to act decisively toward errant NAD leadership as necessary, would spread the virus of non-compliance to the General Conference Executive Committee itself, making the GCEC itself non-compliant. If present NAD leaders manifest anything short of full cooperation with the world church, let it be known that those leaders speak for themselves only and not for rank and file workers and members. Our hearts and prayers are with the God of heaven and His world church. Jesus never purchased peace by compromise (DA 356). Neither can God’s remnant church.

Seventh-day Adventist world church president Pastor Ted Wilson spoke to the members of the Seventh-day Adventist world church in a special October 10, 2018 video message release.

Several Western Units of the Church, especially in the North American Division, including the Pacific Union, Columbia Union, with several conferences in California, have continued to ordain women to the gospel ministry in contravention of the decision of the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session world church delegate-voted decision. Those actions of unfaithfulness to God and to the global church body, are subject to discipline by the General Conference Executive Committee, meeting October 8-14 in Annual Council in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2018-10-10/136611/

Pastor Louis Torres reviews the history of accusations of kingly power in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But carrying out the fairly considered and duly voted decision of a general conference in Session is no abuse of power. Far from it; it is simply acting faithfully. On the other hand, when a unit acts in insubordination to the decision of the world church, that is an abuse of power and unfaithfulness toward God and His church.

http://ordinationtruth.com/kingly-power-accusations-in-the-sda-church-by-louis-torres/

Lonny Liebelt responds to William Johnsson’s article “A troubling Disconnect.” Johnsson thinks that he and the pro-WO faction is being led by the Holy Spirit. He thinks that the Generla confernece is not being led by the Holy Spirit. Pastor Liebelt interacts with Johnsson’s assertions here:

http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/response-to-william-johnsson-a-troubling-disconnect/

The Jerusalem Council and Acts 15 from CAP on Vimeo.

Some are today arguing that the Acts 15 model opens the way for the practice of women’s ordination. Dr. Phil Mills, who served on the TOSC (Theology of Ordination Study Committee) makes the following careful presentation sharing important insight for God’s Church today from the Jerusalem Council. Acts 15 rightly understood does not open the way for women’s ordination.

The General Conference Administrative Committee voted on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, to approve a complicated proposal offered by the Unity Oversight Committee. Details here:

https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story6303-administrative-committee-takes-step-forward-in-unity-process

The action proposed by the Unity Oversight Committee (UOC) for Annual Council 2018 is inadequate. God has spoken through His people. The world church has voted not to permit units to act unilaterally to ordain women to the pastoral ministry. Neither did the church vote in 2015 to permit modified specious credentialing practices. Since the 2015 vote, non-compliant conferences and unions in the North American Division (NAD) have been given more than sufficient opportunity to come in line with the decision of the world church. MORE THAN THREE YEARS HAVE PASSED since the San Antonio July 8, 2015 world church decision. In this time, NAD leadership has brought not even one insubordinate entity into compliance.

The proposed UOC plan calls for noncompliance to be reported to the next higher level. If that level fails to address the non-compliance, that level becomes responsible to the next higher level of organization. Thus, in the North American context, some entity would need to report non-compliance by Pacific Union, Columbia Union, or North Pacific Union (all of which presently embrace non-compliant practice regarding ordaining or credentialing women pastors). But reporting to the non-compliant union itself would be ineffectual. Then, if somehow the matter were actually forwarded to the North American Division, what? NAD does nothing.

If the matter is not resolved by the NAD, the General Conference can assign the matter to be reviewed by the compliance committee. And in all this there are no time limits. Indeed, the proposal asks for “much prayer and dialogue.”

There is no concrete set of time limitations at any stage. At every stage the implementation of any action is built on indeterminate “mays” and “ifs.” And even if a committee somewhere has enough conviction and energy to call for the actual application of sanctions, the possible actions are:

  1. Warning. (No action to address individual leaders.)
  2. Public reprimand. (The leaders of the non-compliant entity continue to have voice and vote. They are rewarded for their non-compliance. But a reminder is given each time they seek the floor, publicly stating that their entity is in non-compliance.)
  3. If non-compliance continues, members of the non-compliant entity may be removed “for cause,” according to Bylaws Article XIII Sec. 1. c. and GC B 95.

But this option (number 3) ALREADY EXISTS. By creating an elaborate series of additional steps, barriers are created which hinder the application of discipline.

And, according to the plan, even

In instances where a president has been removed from the membership of the committee “for cause,” other members of the General Conference Executive Committee from that union shall continue to exercise full privileges without mention of reprimand.

Thus, the process envisioned by the UOC achieves little. It actually adds layers. Church members are not calling for additional bureaucratic labyrinth or for time-consuming, ineffectual actions. The effect of this plan, if implemented, will be to facilitate non-compliance, assuring no substantive consequence will be applied for breaching the trust of the world body.

The proposed plan will further divide the church of God.

Instead, we urge all parties to consider a simpler proposal: to immediately remove “for cause” at Annual Council 2018 the three current NAD executive administrative officers, whose inaction has deeply damaged the global unity of the church and in the North American Division.

Three years have passed and nothing substantive has been done. Let the Annual Council now act.


In a little more than eight months the United Methodist Church will hold a Special General Conference Session to consider plans to divide into separate churches. This historic meeting has been triggered by the adoption of LGBT favoring hermeneutics similar to the NAD’s Principle-Based, Historical-Cultural (PBHC) approach to biblical interpretation. In several respects, the Methodist issues are remarkably similar to our own. While the Methodist split looks unstoppable, Adventists can still avoid a similar outcome. This extremely instructive presentation by UMC minister Thomas Lambrecht is offered here for insights Adventists might glean in order that we might “press together!” First 35 minutes is Lambrecht talk, last ten Q&A answered by Lambrecht.

Delegates meeting in Netherlands Union in a Special Constituency meeting have voted a new Constitution and Bylaws for their Union, which is in full harmony with the General Conference.

Part 1:

Full meeting:

On May 27, 2018, the Netherlands Union voted to use the required General Conference Model Constitution text in its Constitution & Bylaws. The model constitution, specifying Netherlands in the text, reads,

The Netherlands Union of Churches is a member unit of the Trans European Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The purposes, policies, and procedures of this union of churches shall be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the Trans European Division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This union of churches shall pursue the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in harmony with the Fundamental Beliefs, programs, and initiatives adopted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in its quinquennial sessions.

In the adopted text, being in harmony is translated “to conform.” Previously used wording had not been clear. The revised wording makes clear that as long as the World Church does not change its stance regarding women’s ordination, women cannot be ordained to the gospel ministry in the Netherlands Union.

Ingrid Wijngarde, a member of the “Standing Committee Constitution & Bylaws” (SCC&B) stated that, “The 2012 delegate’s resolution regarding women’s ordination and its ratification by the Executive Committee in 2013 was not authoritative policy, since the union’s constituency had never been given authority to vote such a decision.”

Other SCC&B members are: lay member and lawyer Zippora Anson, retired pastor Henk Koning, the Union’s secretary Enrico Karg, and TED secretary Ms. Audrey Andersson, chair.

Delegates established the new C&B in three voting rounds, taking three categories of the C&B articles together. The voting results were:

  1. On technical content: 88% in favor
  2. On article 3 of the Constitution part: 89% in favor
  3. On typos to be corrected in a proposal to the regular quinquennial
    session of 2022: 88% in favor

Delegate approval easily exceeded the necessary two thirds majority for non-bolded text changes.

In approving the new Constitution and Bylaws wording, Dutch delegates representing their membership showed that Netherlands Union members wish to remain in full harmony with the world church.

A delegate to the meeting said, “This outcome is a positive one for the 800+ members who signed the member’s manifesto in 2015 which was brought to a special meeting in 2016. What then seemed like disaster and an utterly discouraging session day, today became a source of corporate encouragement. God was working with our hearts as individuals, beyond our sight. We didn’t know.”

Sister Audrey Andersson, TED secretary, shared a short devotional about Gideon. One delegate said, “What I took from the meditation was that if we want to change the church—local, regional, global—first we must put our own households in order. And then we may pray and watch God do as He promised He would. Gideon did just that.”

GC Legal Counselor Karnik Doukmetzian attended as parliamentarian, since meeting under the General Conference Rules of Order is new for the Netherlands. Union president Rob de Raad asked Wendy Dekker, a patent lawyer and member of a local
church, to chair the meeting, which she accomplished in a professional and courteous manner. Union secretary Enrico Karg along with many others had labored at length to prepare for the meeting. While delegates did not agree on everything, there were no angry faces. Business was conducted in a positive spirit. The meeting gave an example for how Seventh-day Adventists ought to do church—deciding by consensus.

The Spirit of God blessed Netherlands Adventists in the meeting.