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.
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:
- On technical content: 88% in favor
- On article 3 of the Constitution part: 89% in favor
- 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.
The Adventist Review recently posted a survey on Facebook which appears to be designed to link Antitrinitarianism with Last Generation Theology and with those who oppose women’s ordination.
The current resurgence in Antitrinitarianism is not justified by the Bible or the Ellen G. White writings. A small number of persons have recently adopted Antitrinitarian notions and are presenting teachings such as
– There are two persons in the Godhead—the Father and the Son Jesus only—and that there are not three distinct persons.
– The Holy Spirit is not an actual person in Himself.
– There was a time when Jesus as a distinct person actually had a beginning.
All three notions are false. There are three persons, not two (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13). The Holy Spirit is a distinct person in Himself just as the Father and Jesus. And, Jesus has always existed as a distinct person in the Godhead; He never had a beginning (Micah 5:2; John 1:1-3).
Meanwhile, “Last Generation Theology” is basically a shorthand way to refer to the distinctive Adventist sanctuary package. In the last days God has raised up a movement to follow Jesus fully, and to receive His forgiveness and power for victory over sin (Revelation 14:12; 18:1). As Ellen White writes,
Christ is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary from the sins of the people, and it is the work of all who are laborers together with God to be cleansing the sanctuary of the soul from everything that is offensive to Him (Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, pp. 54, 55).
There is more to say, but Ellen White stated a profound truth in The Great Controversy that
The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great advent movement and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people” (The Great Controversy, p. 423).
Meanwhile, other voices seem determined to give the impression of a strong connection between LGT and Antitrinitarianism. George Knight, not content to compare General Conference leadership to Nazis and Catholics over the women’s ordination issue, follows a guilt-by-association plan in his new book End-Time Events and The Last Generation (ETETLG). What he does here is similar.
Knight claims in ETETLG that “anti-Trinitarianism is especially strong among the believers in Andreasen’s last generation theology,” and, “It should be noted that not all of the newer voices among the last generation theology believers are anti-Trinitarian,” and, “it is important to realize that the last generation segment of Adventism is far from united on Trinitarian issues,” pp. 113, 114 and 114, respectively). Knight’s attempt to link the recent interest in anti-Trinitarianism among a small number of Adventists and former-Adventists at the margin falls flat. All of the prominent contemporary voices Knight names as supporting Last Generation Theology and who are named in the Seminary book God’s Character and the Last Generation, are fully Trinitarian and fully supportive of the Fundamental Beliefs of the church including the Godhead or Trinity.
Adventist Review editors in early May 2018 posted a short survey on Facebook titled “The Godhead Survey.” Most of the questions composing the survey are significantly misleading. Do we believe that the one God in three persons, whom Ellen White refers to as the “heavenly trio,” are co-equal? or co-eternal? Do we believe that Jesus is eternally submissive to the Father? or functionally submissive? Here are the survey questions:
- God the Father and God the Son share co-equal, co-sovereign divinity. T or F
- Jesus may properly be called God’s only begotten Son because He had a beginning at some stage in eternity past. T or F
- God the Father and God the Holy Spirit share co-equal, co-sovereign divinity. T or F
- Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father is a divine dimension of the hierarchy also present within God’s created order. T or F
- Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father illustrates the same principle of headship applicable between husband and wife in God’s ideal for marriage. T or F
- The life of Jesus proves that victory over sin is assured to everyone who trusts in God as Jesus did. T or F
- Before Christ returns God is looking for a generation of people who will vindicate Him by showing a perfect reproduction of the character of Christ.
- Because Christ shared the same human nature that we do, we know that we may overcome as He did.
- How old are you?
- Gender? M or F
What is intended in the survey to be the meaning of “co-equal”? Adventist Fundamental Beliefs do not make this claim. Instead, FB #2 states, “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.” The full texts of FBs #2 The Trinity, #3 The Father, #4 The Son, #5 The Holy Spirit, never use language stating that the three divine Persons are co-equal. But Survey questions #1 and #3 use “co-equal” and ask the respondent to indicate True or False.
The second survey question states “Jesus may properly be called God’s only begotten Son because He had a beginning at some stage in eternity past.” The title of the survey, “Godhead,” seems calculated to interest antitrinitarian respondents, who will certainly mark question two as “True.” This response, along with others, will cause it to appear that there is a connection between those who believe regular Adventism, who are thus “LGT,” and those who are Antitrinitarian!
Survey question #4 states, “Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father is a divine dimension of the hierarchy also present within God’s created order.” But “eternal subordination” is a straw man argument of the pro-women’s ordination faction in the church. Rather, from what we read in the Bible and EGW writings, Jesus chooses to be in functional submission to the Father. Eternally subordinate could indicate a structural or organic difference within the Godhead. We have Bible evidence for functional submission but not for eternal subordination.
Survey question #5 states “Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father illustrates the same principle of headship applicable between husband and wife in God’s ideal for marriage.” It is wrong to use the term “eternal subordination,” which, again, is not employed by any who support LGT or who oppose women’s ordination. But this question, if answered “True,” would lend support to the idea that male leadership or headship is based on a mistaken view of the relation between the three persons of the Godhead or Trinity.
What the Adventist Review would seek to prove about male leadership using the potential survey results of this misleading Survey?
Questions #6 through #8 would likely be regarded by most Adventists as close to true. We believe that Jesus’ victory shows us how to overcome. Yet we have to ask, Who can claim to trust in the Father with hearts as deeply committed to Him as Jesus did? Yes, that should be our goal. But those trusting the most in Jesus will feel deep distrust in themselves. Such might hesitate to mark this “True.” Christ has not yet come, as He seeks to see His character closely copied in the last generation (Ellen White uses the term “perfectly reproduced.” See Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69; Counsels to Teachers, p. 324). But we must beware of claiming that they vindicate Jesus. By living holy lives, they will give testimony to God’s goodness, and those lives will have a vindicating aspect to them (The Desire of Ages, p. 671), but all should be clear that Jesus’ death on the cross provided the complete sacrifice for our sins and that humans living holy lives in no way add merit to the sacrifice of the cross.
Most will be comfortable answering questions #6, #7, #8 “Yes,” but what would be the result of the finished survey? Question two would assure receiving many “True” answers from Antitrinitarians, while questions 6-8 would provide many “True” answers from Adventists who believe what the Church teaches. Thus, survey results could create the false impression that there is substantial overlap between Antitrinitarianism, Last Generation Theology, and those who support a biblical-qualifications only position with reference to women’s ordination (those opposing women’s ordination).
Thus, the Antitrinitarian error might be used misleadingly to portray conservative Adventists as heretics. The Adventist Review “Godhead Survey” appears to be intentionally designed to create false impressions, false linkages between truth and error.
Was it so designed? We will likely never know.
Hopefully, the survey will be deleted from the Adventist Review’s Facebook page during the next few days. But “The Godhead Survey” is filled with misleading questions, seems to treat the members of the church with contempt, and to be designed for political purposes to divide and confuse conservative Adventists and to unite and advance the insubordinate position of those now combining against the authority of the world church in session and the General Conference. Are the editors at the Review working to unite the Church at this time? Bill Knott’s remarkably awful 2015 article “A Time to Marginalize” reminds us that the Review has been a deeply-divisive source of disunity, right when we need to unify over biblically sound decisions the church has made which have been decided by duly elected delegates in Session.
Let us pray for the appointment of new leadership at the Adventist Review and apology for this remarkable exhibit of deception.
The editor of the Review can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. But at this point, a more effectual course really would be to write to the chair of the Adventist Review, Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, at email@example.com.
The General Conference Executive Officers and Division Officers released a very interesting statement regarding “The One Project” and its transformation into the “Global Resource Collective.” One paragraph in the document reads as follows:
Church leaders are often asked for advice on how to relate with some initiatives and organizations, some of which are well established and widely accepted, such as ASI-recognized entities, which have long cooperated with the church and its leadership. A more recent development is the One Project (now apparently transitioning to become the Global Resource Collective), about which some questions have been raised. Therefore, the General Conference executive leadership with Division presidents has decided to offer some guidance regarding the evaluation of any initiative seeking church endorsement.
A list of seven items gives guidance for determining how that organization and others relate to the world church. You can read the entire statement at the following link:
NOTE: Click on down arrow on lower left corner of document to advance to next page. Whatever you do, be sure to read bottom of page four.
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Same document, in DOCX format: ENC-Unity-Request-Rejected-NORUC
Norway: Union Rejects Conference Unity Request
The Norwegian Union Conference, the administrative body for three Norwegian Conferences, has rejected an appeal from its largest conference, the East Norway Conference, to come into harmony with the votes taken at General Conference Sessions in regard to the credentialing and ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
On September 10, 2017, East Norway Conference leaders sent an official request to the Norwegian Union asking, since the GC Session of 2015 had voted not to allow various world territories to determine independently whether or not to ordain women, that the Union reverse its September 2015, and 2012 vote to issue the same credentials to both male and female pastors.
The Norwegian Union leadership rejected this request by the East Norway Conference. In the February, 2018 issue of the Norwegian Union’s magazine, Advent Nytt (page 27) (https://issuu.com/adventnytt/docs/adventnytt_2-2018/1?ff=true&e=7282235/57387157), Union leaders defended their decision to not comply with the votes of the world church.
The following is an English translation of the above article:
“The Resolution of the Union Board of 10 December 2017 Concerning Equal Treatment of Male and Female Pastors in Norway.
“The Norwegian Union Conference (NORUC) board responds as follows to the letter sent by East Norway Conference Board (ENC) 2017-09-10 and their expressed disagreement with the NORUC response to TED/GC concerning gender equality and male and female pastors. The East Norway Conference’s September letter called NORUC to reconsider how pastors are reported. NORUC was asked to return to the practice of reporting male and female pastors separately, in harmony with current credentialing practice in GC Working Policy.
“The current practice of reporting the pastors is clarified in the NORUC resolution of September 20, 2015 (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC). That reaction was a logical continuation of the 2012 NORUC decision to put on hold the ordination of male pastors in order to treat male and female pastors equally. Since the 2012 decision, the same credential has been given for both male and female pastors. To return to filling in the forms with current credentials as before would mean to accept discriminatory practices indirectly, which NORUC, with pastoral support, rejected in the 2015 decision. That resolution stated that the NORUC decision was a temporary measure: ‘Until a classification of pastors is established without a distinction based on a fundamental discrimination against female pastors.’ As a result of the NORUC resolution in 2015, no ordained or non-ordained pastors from NORUC are published in the SDA Yearbook, which uses the current categories of credentials.
“For decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has sought to find a solution to this challenge, without success. The General Conference has not accepted the NORUC and TED request to create a gender-neutral category for the classification of pastors. The GC Annual Council has full authority to comply with this request if there is desire to do so.
“Prior to the NORUC Board meeting of September 20, 2015, a draft of the resolution was sent to the Board members and to all the pastors in Norway. An anonymous poll was sent to all the pastors on the same day. Poll results showed solid support (69% of votes cast) from pastors to deviate from the current credentialing system in order to implement non-discriminatory treatment of female pastors.
“The NORUC Board feels that there has been an open and comprehensive process. Very little critical feedback has been received until the East Norway Conference letter sent two years after the NORUC decision in September 2015. To continue a discriminatory practice would send a very negative signal to our female pastors.
“The NORUC Board will ask the secretary of the organization to write an article to Advent Nytt (local Norwegian magazine) with an overview of the most important events of this case.”
It should be noted that the Norwegian Union Conference has a total membership of just 4,556 members. Of the three conferences, the East Norway Conference has, by far, the largest membership in the union. See screen shot below, taken from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2016 Annual Statistical Report (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf). The report is prepared by the Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
What do we learn from the response of the Norwegian Union to the East Norway Conference?
- The leadership of a Norwegian Conference, representing 63% of all Adventists in that Union, disagrees with their Union administration that has positioned itself in opposition to the General Conference. The voted action of the Norwegian Union administrators does not represent the position of the East Norway Conference. The East Norway Conference does not desire to be included in the rebellion against existing voted world church policies regarding ordination and gender.
The rejection by Norwegian Union leadership of the appeal of the East Norway Conference demonstrates the application of an unfair double standard. As part of the insubordinate pro-women’s ordination faction opposing the Adventist world church, Norwegian Union leadership justifies its rebellion by claiming their stance to be a matter of conscience. But when their own Norwegian Adventists express differing convictions, they trample those convictions. So, are they truly concerned for conscience?
Norwegian Union leadership is actively participating in the current attempt to reallocate world church authority from the General Conference to the unions. The Norwegian Union vote unilaterally set their own ordination and credentialing criteria for themselves. Then they refuse to consider their own East Norway Conferences’ desire to work in unity with their Church! East Norway Conference seeks harmony. Its Union suppresses and prevents this. The Norwegian Union is resisting Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.
The argument used to reject the East Norway Conference request is not based on sound principles. The Norwegian Union argues that:
- Norwegian Union has engaged in non-compliant practice since 2012;
- Norwegian Union must not discriminate;
- The Norwegian Union position was supported by 69% of its pastors in 2015.
But since the Norwegian union pleads “conscience,” it is fair to ask, “What about the conscience of the 31% of pastors who rejected entering into opposition to the General Conference in 2015?” Or the conscience of the delegates to the world church who voted not to grant authority to determine ordination criteria to subsections like the Norwegian Union? What makes Union administrators’ consciences superior to the consciences of voting world church delegates, or, superior to the consciences of East Norway Conference leaders?
- The Norwegian Union has dictated its will to the world body, rejecting Adventist ordination practice while describing their voted action as “a temporary measure” until a new credential has been established. But what if the world church never adopts a credential such as the Norwegian Union is insisting upon? The 1990 General Conference Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) to not ordain women to the gospel ministry, and the 1995 GC Session voted (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/5734/archives/issue-2012-1528/the-question-of-ordination/general-conference-session-actions) not to allow the North American Division a variance in that policy. And in 2015, the world body voted, based on their study of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, not to allow variance to any division regarding the policy of not ordaining women to the gospel ministry that was voted in 1990. The decision has been made—by three General Conference Sessions. What do Norwegian Union leaders expect to change now?
- The Norwegian Union calls on the General Conference Executive Committee, during its Annual Council, to join in their rebellion against the 1990, 1995, and 2015 GC Sessions, expecting the Annual Council to issue gender-neutral credentials. But on what authority could the GC Executive Committee act against the higher authority of the General Conference in Session?
- The 31% of Norway pastors who disagreed in 2015, and the calls from laity in the same Union to abide by the world church’s decisions, are described by the Norwegian Union as “very little critical feedback.” Then, in 2018, the request by local leaders who represent 63% of the local membership was rejected. Even though there has been and continues to be substantive critical feedback.
- The Norwegian Union administrators are more concerned about sending a negative signal to Norwegian female pastors than they are about dismissing the studied, prayerful decisions of the world church.
Over-representation. Why does Norway have an entire Conference consisting of only 412 members in 12 churches, and an entire Union consisting of only 4556 members? At the end of 2014 the Norwegian Union had 4536 members. But as a random comparison, the East Kenya Union had 398,267 members in 2014 (over 536,000 today). (Calculation for delegate allotments is usually based on December 31 membership numbers in the year immediately preceding a General Conference Session.)
And yet, the Norwegian Union sent nine delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session, while the East Kenya Union sent 21. Why does the tiny Norwegian Union send so great a number of delegates proportionally to the world church session, whose decisions it is presently openly rebelling against, when faithful Adventists in Africa have so few?
Norwegian Adventists were represented at the 2015 GC Session with a ratio of one delegate for every 504 members. But East Kenyan Union Adventists were represented by delegates at a ratio of one delegate per 18,965 members. Had East Kenya Adventists been represented at Norway’s 504:1 ratio, they would have totaled 790 delegates at San Antonio instead of 21.
We agree that female workers serving the Lord should be supported. But none should behave in a rebellious framework toward the world church. Courage and wisdom is needed to act in harmony with the Bible, and with what the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church has decided in Session. May God persuade and help faithful Adventist brothers and sisters in Norway during this difficult time.
Links from above article in order:
Norwegian Union Magazine, Advent Nytt, p. 27 –
NORUC Resolution of September 20, 2015 – http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Ressurskolonnen/Offisielle-uttalelser-Official-statements/Ordination-Looking-ahead-NORUC
2016 statistical Report – http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2017.pdf
[Reporting for this OrdinationTruth.com article is provided by Seventh-day Adventist church members from multiple continents.
On Sabbath, March 3, 2018, Potomac Conference administrators participated in the “ordination” of Ms. Renee Stepp.
But in 2015, Adventist representatives from all over the globe assembled in San Antonio Texas, USA for General Conference Session. Thousands of delegates participated debating, voting, and reaching a decision on behalf of the world church. The Church refused to grant authority for subsections of itself to act unilaterally regarding ordination. Following the Bible pattern, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never in its history approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
And yet, with the world church’s San Antonio decision in full view, the Columbia Union Executive Committee approved the request of Potomac Conference Executive Committee leaders. Stepp’s Williamsburg “ordination” is an open, high-handed act of rebellion by Potomac and Columbia elected leaders exactly contradicting the decision voted by the delegates of the world church.
According to an article by Potomac Conference, Stepp’s experience includes service as women’s dean at academy, holding office in her local church, full time student at Andrews University Theological Seminary, and chaplain of an Adventist academy. She served in a supporting role in the Vienna congregation.
Paul urged workers to select spiritually qualified males of experience to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), but never a woman. The Bible contains zero examples of women as primary congregational leaders, and zero examples of women elders.
To circumvent the decision of the world church is to circumvent God’s plan for church governance. If Columbia and Potomac can ordain a woman, they can ordain anyone.
Participants in the ordination service included Potomac conference president William “Bill” Miller, Dave Vandevere, vice president for finance, Rick Jordan and Renee Stepp.
Three separate reform groups within the Church of England are joining forces to resist dangerous trends in that Church. Reform, Fellowship of Word & Spirit, and The Church Society, announced the triple-merger and published a series of brief videos preparing church members for the upcoming change.
Anglican Church members are dismayed at the inroads of same-sex relationships in the Church. David Virtue writes, “Many conservative evangelicals feel the Church of England is on a liberalizing trajectory towards accepting same-sex relationships.” Dr. Lee Gatis, who will preside over the organization after the May meeting merge, stated “This is a huge story and counters the fiction that orthodox groups are fragmenting and leaving. We’re not. We’re coming together like never before, as the times demand.” Another piece of the picture is movement within the Church of England toward appointing women bishops, a practice opposed by many church members. Libby Lane was consecrated as bishop in 2015 although a clergyman raised his protest:
Libby Lane describes in the closing minutes of the below video how many of the most recently appointed bishops are female. (Lane was “appointed” in 2014 and “consecrated” in 2015.)
The church should be immersed in Scripture, but the trends of culture are drowning the church. The final movements will be rapid ones.
Additional information and videos are available at these links:
Diversity failed in the Mennonite Church USA on December 31, 2017 when its largest group, the Lancaster Conference, left the denomination over same-sex “marriage.” The Lancaster Conference opposes same-sex “marriage” as unbiblical.
The “official” Mennonite Church USA definition of marriage continues to affirm “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 19, Marriage, http://mennoniteusa.org/confession-of-faith/marriage/, accessed 2018-01-04). However, the Mennonite Council has encouraged “full inclusion” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church since 1976.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Obergefell v. Hodges, that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling invalidated same-sex marriage bans in individual states. That decision was followed almost immediately by the Mennonite Church USA Biennial Convention, held June 30-July 5, 2015.
Delegates at that meeting voted the following resolution:
“The ways in which we have engaged the decades-long conflict in the church over issues related to human sexuality have diverted us from our central mission, divided us from each other and damaged the name of Christ in the world. While acknowledging different interpretations, we affirm the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture as an essential part of our collective discernment. We also affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within a marriage covenant, and fidelity for all people, and we acknowledge that there is currently not consensus within Mennonite Church USA on whether it is appropriate to bless Christians who are in same-sex covenanted unions. Because God has called us to seek peace and unity as together we discern and seek wisdom on these matters, we call on all those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions” (http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ForbearanceResolution.pdf, accessed 2018-02-04).
Mennonite Universities had not remained neutral. “Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, both schools affiliated MC USA, adopted policies to protect faculty in same-sex relationships in 2015” (“Biggest Mennonite Conference Leaves Denomination,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/biggest-mennonite-conference-leaves-denomination.html,” accessed 2018-01-04).
Lancaster Conference Mennonites describe what happened:
“At its annual conference in Kansas City earlier this summer, Mennonite Church USA attempted to stake out a compromise position on the role of homosexuals within the church.
“At that meeting, delegates affirmed membership guidelines that disallow same-sex marriage while at the same time asking that individual churches be allowed to dialogue, discuss and pray on the issue. Mennonite Church USA also placed a four-year moratorium on further discussion.
“The Lancaster conference held eight regional meetings with leaders and members to discuss options after July. More than 1,800 people attended those meetings” (http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-conference-votes-to-leave-mennonite-church-usa/article_06b9765a-8f94-11e5-aa0c-1f0717d08474.html, accessed 2018-01-04).
A two-year period of discernment soon began, and when the split became effective at the last day of 2017, more than 180 churches had joined with the Lancaster Conference in leaving the Mennonite Church USA.
The same-sex “marriage” debate of the last two decades has left a trail of shattered denominations. Numerous Christian bodies have refused to sustain the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexual practice is sin, and that authentic marriage is only between a man and a woman. Instead, denominational bodies have repeatedly voted themselves exempt from two thousand years of Christian understanding and then sought to suppress their brethren upholding Scriptural views.
In November 2017, the North Pacific Union mailed all Seventh-day Adventist pastors across the six conferences (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, Montana) a copy of William Johnsson’s startling book, Where are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio (Oak & Acorn Publishing, Westlake Village, California, 2017). Don’t be confused; the book is actually published by the Pacific Union. The Pacific union is out of compliance with 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session world church decision not to permit subsections of the church to unilaterally ordain women to the gospel ministry.
Is it fair to describe Johnsson’s book as literally shocking? The current NPUC leadership wanted its entire pastoral staff of six conferences to read content like this:
“The General Conference Session of 2015 exposed and widened fault lines that had been developing for a long time. In later years the Session will be seen as a moment comparable to the 1888 Minneapolis convocation, when two views of the church, two possibilities, met face to face. . . . As major as was the discussion concerning the role of women, that issue was but part of something far larger. Adventism is split down the middle. The split is not merely geographical between the North and the global South—it is more complicated. Like the two babies struggling in Rebekah’s womb, two Adventist churches are aborning” (pp. 1, 2).
It is one thing to acknowledge there is a substantial split within the Church, but another to intentionally transmit a throughly one-sided volume attacking the validity of a General Conference Session decision to your pastoral staff!
Johnsson places the “two churches” in sharp contrast: “a church that adopts a principled interpretation of scripture with a church that comes to the Word in a flat, literalistic manner,” “a church with ordained women clergy struggling with a church that limits the ministry to males,” “a church that downsizes the upper echelons and focuses on the grassroots with a church increasingly bureaucratic and autocratic” (all on p. 2). “two radically different versions of Adventism are competing for the future” (p. 3). Twenty or so years earlier, Johnsson had been just as explicit:
“At three General Conference sessions in a row—New Orleans in 1985, Indianapolis in 1990, and now Utrecht yesterday—the church debated the role of women in ministry. How far have we come in resolving this issue?. . . Yesterday we saw two respected Adventist scholars approach the Scriptures in different ways. One based his case on specific verses and statements of Ellen White, arguing from a literalistic basis. The other also appealed to Scripture and Ellen White, but in terms of the principles behind the statements. The differences are striking and important. They impact not only the women’s issue but many others. We have not heard the last of this matter. Adventists will have to wrestle with this most basic concern: How shall we interpret Scripture” (Adventist Review, July 7, 1995, p. 3).
But the truth is that the two differing viewpoints in the church with reference to women’s ordination both follow a principled set of interpretive approaches; the principles of interpretation are just different. The truth is that Both viewpoints favor the ministry of men and women while differing on whether congregational male leadership is biblically open to females. The truth is that mostly the grassroots of the church strongly oppose women’s ordination, while many in NAD administrative leadership and ordained pastoral ministry favor it. The truth is that the General Conference leadership is attempting to faithfully implement the decision the world body made in San Antonio in 2015, while some NAD leaders have operated autocratically and have sometimes run over church members beliefs in this area.
Johnsson’s book pounds away, attempting to destroy the authority of the General Conference and validity of the 2015 GC decision. Johnsson calls the WO debate at the session “a circus” (p. 11). He complains about how Jan Paulson was treated, but Paulson alone was given four and a half minutes to speak—almost twice as much as the other delegates. But Johnsson is not content only to hint he is undermining the 2015 GC session vote. He states his position plainly:
“[I]t was a war and . . . the war is over and that now women’s ordination will spread rapidly through the church” (p. 12). He seems to favor every irregularity in credentialing he can name (he lists several). Johnsson proceeds to write the narrative of anti-WO arguments the way he sees fit, attacking what he sees as main arguments. From page 16 and following he pushes back against them. For Johnsson, “The present situation is intolerable. Women’s ordination will come and must come” (p. 19).
What do NPUC administrators want for this Union?
Especially important is this book’s treatment of hermeneutics. Johnsson labors for several pages (pp. 115-130) attacking the allegedly “flat” hermeneutics of those who oppose WO—“flat” surely representing the church’s longstanding method of Bible study, historical-grammatical methodology. Meanwhile he supports what he views as the “principled” hermeneutics of those favoring WO. Several pages are penned favoring Adventist scholar Sakae Kubo (mentioned five times), whom he regards as “one of the church’s finest biblical exegetes” (p. 121). We wonder if the leaders who sent this book to their pastors agree with Sakae Kubo’s views regarding LGBT in his article, “Viewpoint: How Our Understanding of Homosexuality Has Changed,” (April 24, 2014).
“Second, if the church recognizes that some people are born with an alternative sexual orientation, and since the Bible, as we have shown above, is not condemning them but heterosexuals who are committing the perverted act of engaging in sexual activity with a non-consenting heterosexual, it is normal—not abnormal—for a gay or lesbian person to wish to marry another gay or lesbian person, just as it is normal for a heterosexual person to marry a person of the opposite sex. How can we say that we will not allow someone who is gay or lesbian to do the natural thing—and yet not say the same thing to the heterosexual?” (https://spectrummagazine.org/article/news/2014/04/05/viewpoint-how-our-understanding-homosexuality-has-changed).
Kubo’s article concludes thus:
“The Church then should get rid of the statement, ‘We hate the sin but love the sinner,’ with respect to alternative sexualities and should treat everyone the same. The church must let people do what is natural for them—even if that means marrying someone of the same sex. And we should expect the same of all couples, no matter their gender: that they be committed to their partners and not engage in extramarital affairs” (Ibid.).
Interesting, especially if Johnsson’s propheying pans out: “the five years following it [the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session] will be focused on issues of interpreting the Bible” (Where Are We headed?, p. 115).
What exactly is practiced today in the congregation where Kubo worships?
Johnsson is glad, he says, that our Adventist Fundamental Belief statement has a Preamble. “It positions Adventists for the possibility of change—even major change—in beliefs and practice” (p. 118).
We cannot help but notice that the reason so many favor WO is because of their hermeneutics. Kubo is a staunch supporter of women’s ordination. Even a cursory search of Spectrum magazine will locate numerous Kubo articles promoting the ordination of women.
But the worst parts of Johnsson’s book are actually at the close. There, the author openly attacks current General Conference leaders. The very worst feature of the book is his attack on the validity of the 2015 vote:
“[T]he manner in which the San Antonio Session handled the women’s ordination issue leaves in doubt the accuracy of the vote” (p. 148).
Johnsson wildly claims that TOSC Report findings were withheld (p. 149), and raises other absurd objections, concluding, “In view of this background, I cannot accept that the vote in San Antonio settled the issue of the ordination of women” (p. 149).
Possibly the wildest view in the book is Johnsson chorusing the myth propounded by George Knight and others that the Unions were essentially intended to be immune to the authority of the world church, and that the General Conference vote in San Antonio was actually somehow a misuse of Church authority.
And so, says Johnsson, for the General Conference to simply endeavor to secure united action in the world church in a mattter that has been decided by the General Conference in session, is—our pastors are told—“Wrong from any angle you look at it. Wrong in its theology. Wrong in its history. Wrong in its policy. Wrong in its spirit. It is more papal than Seventh-day Adventist. It runs directly counter to the life and teachings of Jesus” (p 145).
Adventist pastors and members deserve better. The North Pacific Union erred in intentionally sending this book to its pastors, and promoting divisive, unwarranted doubts about world church leaders who are seeking to be faithful against all odds.
The main yearly meeting of the world church is called Annual Council. Every October the General Conference Executive Committee gathers for this meeting. Needful decision-making is accomplished by this body for the world church between General Conference Sessions held every five years.
In the 2015 General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas, delegates made an important decision. They again (similar votes had been held in 1990 and 1995 sessions) determined they would continue the practice of the Adventist Church from its beginning: they chose (again) not to open the way for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
Be that as it may, several women both before and after the 2015 meeting have been illegally “ordained to the gospel ministry” in the Pacific Union. The Columbia Union continues to have policies out of compliance with the world church on this question, and the North Pacific Union and some Unions in the Trans-European Division are following credentialing practices which are out of harmony with the world church.
At 2016 Annual Council the General Conference Executive Committee voted to engage in a process of reconciliation and if necessary, discipline toward errant parts of the world church. The year between meetings resulted in no correction to those insubordinate actions. In October 2017 Annual Council a proposal offerred the GC Executive Committee for how to proceed was returned to committee, leaving the non-compliant Unions out of harmony with the world church and the present leaders of these Unions and Divisions remaining in office.
About two weeks after Annual Council, the North American Division meets to hold its Year-End Meeting (YEM). Certain events in this year’s YEM especially stand out.
NAD YEM 2017
First, time was set aside in NAD YEM to discuss the proposal that was to be considered at 2017 Annual Council and that would have impacted Unions in rebellion in the NAD. During that discussion, a young adult from Canada, Daniel Cho, also a member of the North American Division Executive Committee, obtained the floor and spoke of the necessity of unity. He moved this motion:
In the spirit of church unity and respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session with delegates from all over the world is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters among Divisions and their entities in the church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with the NAD/GC policy, and the 2015 vote of the world church on ordination. I so move.
The motion was seconded. One person spoke in debate, then a second speaker called for opportunity to be given for prayer. While most committee members were engaged in prayer, the chair, Dan Jackson, conferred at length with ex officio committee member General Conference treasurer Juan Prestol-Peusan, NAD and GC legal counsel Karnik Doukmetzian, G. Alexander Bryant, and others, who did not participate during most of the prayer time.
Almost immediately after debate resumed, Prestol-Peusan approached the mic and after a convoluted reasoning segment, moved to table the motion.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, “The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed” (pp. 118-119). Since there was no other pending motion for the NAD Executive Committee to address before it considered Cho’s motion, the motion to table was out of order. This was a misuse of parliamentary procedure to defeat the main motion without debate. Robert’s Rules continues with the question: “Can something be defeated by adopting a motion to table it?” Answer: “This is a common violation of fair procedure. Such a motion is not in order, because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, and only a two-thirds vote can do that.”
We are indebted to a sharp-eyed layperson who brought this to our attention.
Someone may say this observation doesn’t apply since the meeting was conducted under the General Conference Rules of Order (GCROO), not Robert’s Rules. However, look again at the reason this practice is not allowed: because it would permit debate to be suppressed by a majority vote, while only a 2/3rds vote can do that. Two-thirds is the required threshold to end debate on a motion by calling question (calling for an end to debate of a motion being considered and immediately putting the main question itself to a vote). Not only does this reasoning operate identically in GCROO, but GCROO specifically makes the same point: “It [motion to table] is not used to ‘drop’ or suppress a motion” (GCROO, 3a, p. 7).
Thus, the NAD president and the maker of the motion to table, Juan Prestol-Puesan, who spoke together while other committee members were praying, knowingly deprived a fellow committee member, Daniel Cho, of the right to have his motion debated, duly processed, and voted on by the assembly. Debate was cut short. Furthermore, Cho is a representative of Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division and any usurpation of his rights is a usurpation of our rights as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North American Division.
What could have been done in the meeting is for a delegate to call point of order, explain the error, and the chair would have been required to rule on the point of order. If his ruling was incorrect, committee members could appeal his decision and overrule it by a simple majority vote (GCROO, p. 3, 8-9, 12).
Another point of interest from the NAD YEM: at one point during the proceedings, NAD president Dan Jackson urged his assembled NAD leaders to be “obstreperous” in pushing, against the decision of the world church, for women’s ordination. Such behavior is hard to square with his other statements that the NAD is in unity and in harmony with the world church.
Actions like those described in this article have caused an enormous loss of confidence in the present leadership of the North American Division. They have propelled the North American Church into a terrible crisis which, unless soon addressed, will split the Church in North America.
The illegal vote to table the motion passed 186 to 25 with 3 abstentions.