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.
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.
On June 8, 2017, The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) voted officially to discard Jesus’ teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Canon 31 was officially replaced by a new rule which permits same-sex “marriages.” Anticipating this development, GAFCON (Global African Future Conference), after the vote, today appointed its own bishop to the United Kingdom (UK), Andy Lines.
The Anglican, i.e., Episcopal Church, for hundreds of years has deferred to the archbishop of Canterbury as the “first among equals,” as being the bishop uniting the Anglican Church. However, current archbishop Justin Welby has alienated the majority of Anglicans by refusing to seriously discipline TEC (The Episcopal Church in the USA) and other sections of the Church which have departed from Christian principles of marriage. In 2003 TEC appointed Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as bishop. In 2015 TEC approved same-sx “marriage” rules, and in 2016 received an inconsequential slap on the wrist from Welby.
The Anglican Church numbers some 70 million members worldwide. Between 50-60 million are African. GAFCON, in appointing its own bishop to the UK, Justin Welby’s home turf, signals to all that his episcopal oversight is considered compromised. On June 30 Andy Lines will be consecrated as bishop. Anglicans in Europe will have the option of accepting Andy Lines as overseer rather than Welby. In a concrete way, today’s developments demonstrate the depth of schism in the Anglican Church.
More detail can be had at the following links:
Scottish Episcopal Church approves Gay Marriage http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-40190204
EDINBURGH: Rev. Canon Andy Lines Named GAFCON Missionary Bishop to Europe
Missionary Bishop Introduced by Archbishop Foley Beach
According to reports, leaders of the Trans-European Division (TED) met on February 15 “to draft a formal response” to the General Conference’ (GC) process for reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016. The TED document claims to speak for Adventist members of that Division and calls for the issuance of a single credential for ministers. The requested change would contradict three General Conference session level votes (1990, 1995, 2015) which refused to open the way for women’s ordination to the gospel ministry. Since the beginning of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the denomination has never approved the ordination of women.
Some European leaders are determined to practice the ordination of women in contradiction to their brothers and sisters in the world church. Some European Conferences even accept practicing gay and lesbian persons engaged in same-sex sin into church membership. Adventists have never accepted these two teachings as being valid biblical practices. We are a world church, not a regional European Church endorsing errant cultural practices.
The TED report on this meeting emphasized the “very complex and challenging situation the Church finds itself facing in secularized Europe.” TED leaders highlighted alleged legal demands by European secular governments. But God’s Church is not servant of the secular but of the Creator. Demands, whether made by a vast empire or by a small state, if they conflict with Scripture truth, cannot be determinative for us. The Church is called to carry forward a global countercultural witness. Europe is not an exception.
Many members in Europe do not accept that the Church must conform to state expectations. Adventists in Europe who have contacted us feel betrayed by those in leadership who have become entangled in culture. God’s Church in Europe is at risk of cultural captivity. We are a world church called to live by Bible-based rather than culturally-accommodating teachings and lifestyle practices.
The voted TED document affirmed that it would abide by decisions made by the General Conference in session, but claimed that decisions made at the General Conference level of administration were always to be carried out in specific regional settings. Are TED leaders saying they will refuse to work with the GC administration between sessions? Are they claiming they will obey with the right hand then emptying that claim of meeting with their left, granting to themselves right to “interpret” GC decisions “locally” in ways differing from the decisions of the world church?
At least one TED officer, Executive Secretary Audrey Andersson, correctly noted that “We cannot create a new credential ourselves, but we can recommend to the GC.” The TED committee also discussed the idea of asking that the commissioned minister credential be redefined to be equivalent to the ordained minister. Again, it is the GC which defines the authorities included in credentials. The Executive Committee of the Upper Columbia Conference in the North American Division decided on January 31, 2017 to abandon seeking a similar policy, and, on paper at least, to remain in harmony with the world church.
After decades of debate and years of study, it is not time to draft responses to GC voted actions as if women’s ordination were still under consideration. The Church has repeatedly refused to localize this question or change global practice to include the ordination of women. It has refused to surrender biblical principle to cultural imperative. It is time to work with General Conference leadership and get past this. Europeans do not know better than their world church. Being Jesus’ people of the Book is what is imperative–even in Europe.
With the arrival of the February 13, 2017 “Statement from the North American Division on Baptism at Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church,” members in North America are asking fresh questions.
Readers will be aware of the matter at hand. In mid-2016 in the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Northern California Conference (NCC), a woman elder holding a commissioned minister credential voted by the Pacific Union Conference, baptized a lesbian who had previously “married” another Chico church member who is a lesbian. This person was made a member of the church. The matter was kept quiet by its perpetrators until the story broke on February 2, 2017.
Since then, we have no indication that the Northern California Conference has taken any substantive action. As of the time of publication [3:50 p.m., February 14, 2017] the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to include in its membership (at least) two baptized lesbians who think that they are married to each other. And all this with approval of Pastor Dan Wysong, the elders, and the church membership. Meanwhile, it is the teaching of the world church that “Marriage [is]. . . a lifelong union between a man and a woman. . . and should be entered into only between a man and a woman. . .” (Fundamental Beliefs #23).
We also realize that “reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are. . . . 4. Fornication, which includes among other issues, promiscuity, homosexual activity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality” (Church Manual, revised 2015 edition, p. 62). It is remarkable that someone would be baptized and added to membership while actively practicing the very sins which the world church agrees are grounds for removal from membership.
At present, the conference administration seems determined to maintain a veil of secrecy over the matter pleading they are addressing the situation as a matter of “employee confidentiality.” They claim to support world church teachings while at the same time their NCC Chico church continues to include as members in regular standing baptized practicing homosexuals who are in a same-sex “marriage” with each other.
There is an overarching responsibility that is being missed. Namely, that these leaders have a responsibility to maintain the teachings of the Church. Local churches do NOT have authority to set standards of membership; rather, they are permitted within parameters set by the world church to receive persons as members. The same world church says that no congregation is granted permission to establish its own tests of fellowship, but that such authority is held only by the “General Conference Session” (Church Manual, p. 64).
It is interesting to us that the lesbian who was baptized was baptized by a woman elder who holds a current credential from the Pacific Union (PUC). Is it the policy of the Pacific Union not only to disregard the General Conference Session decisions on women’s ordination, but also its decisions about homosexuality?
There is a breach of trust by the Chico church membership, the pastor and elders of that church, the Northern California Conference, the Pacific Union, and the North American Division (NAD). Each of these entities is responsible to the broader world church membership to uphold the decisions of the world church. Indeed, these entities are responsible to God and to each member of the Adventist Church to sustain the biblical understanding of the world church regarding marriage and human sexuality.
We, the Council of Adventist Pastors, respectfully call upon NCC, PUC, and NAD pastors to join us in upholding the teachings and practices of the world church and to sustain the Adventist understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Up to this time, present leadership of NCC, PUC, and NAD, by pursuing a course of unfaithfulness toward the world church regarding women’s ordination, credentialing, homosexuality and membership, are causing the disintegration of unity and trust. Many months have passed with no correction of the Chico matter. We believe that intervention by higher authorities is needful, and that those who are approving of these things should be released from duty, whether presidents or pastors.
The North American Division Union presidents presented to the General Conference president and officers an antagonistic statement in the January 19, 2017 meeting. The NAD leaders indicated while they see no consensus favoring women’s ordination among church members in the NAD, that the General Conference in seeking to maintain unity in the church, is overreaching its authority. The NAD Union Presidents’ statement offers no Scripture in defense of its position. Nor does it acknowledge the authority of the world church in its July 8, 2015 San Antonio vote which refused to authorize actions presently being taken within the North American Division to ordain women to the gospel ministry.
The presidents claimed “strong personal and collective unity” with the church, but also indicated themselves to be unified in support of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry, an unscriptural innovation which the Church has never, since its inception, practiced. The Union presidents go so far as to offer their “personal general observations” that in the NAD unions, membership sustains “a grass roots support for women’s ordination,” with “opposition in a few conferences.”
We believe that actually, the majority of church members in NAD oppose women’s ordination, and that the most telling statement in the document is the presidents’ claim that “An inclusive NAD survey taken in 2014 of conference, union and division leadership revealed a 90%-plus approval of women’s ordination” in the Division. That claim may actually be correct. If so, it points out the extreme disconnect between leadership and membership within the Division. The NAD presidents are trapped in an echo chamber of their own, and are operating in rejection of the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to them through the world church.
The presidents’ document claims that they “acknowledge the conscientious convictions” of those who oppose women’s ordination. But actually those who oppose the practice have been shut out of the main publications of the church. Excluded from publishing in union papers or the Adventist Review, these Adventists whose convictions are allegedly so respected have been refused opportunity to publish on NAD-run denominational presses and their only recourse has been to publish privately.
Even NAD young adults have been marginalized by NAD leadership, as evident in the video above.
The January 19 statement complains about the General Conference’s rejection years ago of NAD’s attempt to change the E-60 Working Policy. Read about the current NAD president’s role in that debacle in “E-60 and the WO Endgame” at http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/kirl-e60-and-the-wo-endgame/. On the even longer history of NAD’s decision to block opposing viewpoints and use NAD publications for pro-women’s ordination propaganda, read the 1997 NAD’s own words in “President’s Commission on Women in Ministry Report” at http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Presidents-Commission-on-Women-in-Ministry-Report.pdf
Notable is statement number six in the document: “We believe the GC is dangerously overreaching its authority and potentially endangering the current and future unity and mission of the church (see SOP below).” But the statement goes on to say that “Non-doctrinal issues on which we have no consensus are not a basis for splitting the church.”
Then why is the North American Division leadership determined to split the Church? Are they so trapped within the culture they are charged to witness God’s revealed truth to, that they would burn down the Church rather than subordinate themselves to the humble, Spirit-led decision reached in General Conference Session after so much study and prayer?
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.
According to the Rocky Mountain Conference News Nuggets Newsletter, dated December 9, 2016, the executive committee of the Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC) voted the following statement November 12:
The Mid-America Union Conference executive committee, after reviewing the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference executive committee at the 2016 Annual Council, wishes to express the following thoughts about this action:
We share the need for and pray for worldwide unity and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We affirm the document’s call to mutual listening, consultation, and prayer as we work together over differences.
We, as a protestant organization, believe the true authority of our church lies with the local members comprising our churches. Furthermore, we recognize our working policies delegate authority to our constituencies as voted by our church members.
We believe all members and entities in the church should be held accountable when needed by the constituencies to which they are responsible, as has been outlined by our church’s working policies. We see this as paramount, because to do otherwise would be a departure from our protestant heritage. By staying with and following our long-held policies for accountability, the appearance or threat of kingly power is held in check.
We express grave concern with the Unity Document’s establishing working policy as on par with our fundamental beliefs. Whereas policy is made for the organizing of our church for the purpose of mission, our fundamental beliefs speak to the Biblical truths we hold as a people.
We are alarmed by the “Unity in Mission” document and object to the direction it is taking our church. True unity will not be achieved based on voted policies, but rather through our spirit of “Christlike forbearance,” as Ellen White counsels us to do.
“The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish a perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance.” (MS 24, 1892)
One reads the MAUC voted document in vain for affirmation that the world church has any authority in the Mid-America Union. On the contrary, the document suggests that the executive committee admits only that members of its constituency have authority. At this time when a statement of support for the General Conference would have been welcome, Columbia and Pacific Unions, which are acting in open disregard for the authority of the world church, may take the MAUC statement as support for their insubordinate voted actions.
On December 6, 2016, the Rocky Mountain Conference voted to affirm the MAUC statement.
A report on the MAUC voted statement appears here:
At the San Antonio 2015 General Conference session thousands of delegates participated. The decision sought was determined after “prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the reports of the study commissions.” The outcome represented the ground-up process which God in His wisdom instructed His Church to follow for seeking His will on matters in which we must remain globally united. Acceptance of the GC session vote is the proper path to bring unity to His people. The MAUC statement, in so many words, is objecting to the General Conference implementing the decisions of the world church. The General Conference represents the will of the world church and is duty bound to abide by and implement the policies voted—as is the Mid-America Union and the Rocky Mountain Conference. And “In Seventh-day Adventist Church structure, no organization determines its own status, nor does it function as if it had no obligations to the Church family beyond its boundaries” (Church Manual, p. 27).
Order is essential at this time. If the Church in North America becomes a zone operating independently of world church order, it has no future. The General Conference has voted to implement a careful plan to bring order, but NAD entities have united to resist it. The situation in the Division is desperate.
The spectacle of a University Church inciting its host conference to take action to oppose its own denomination should provide insight. How does the ideology which now prevails in so many North American Adventist Universities operate in the face of a clear “No” vote by the General Conference in session? The November 9, 2016 Walla Walla University (WWUC) church board meeting with Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) administration provides just such a sample case.
During the meeting, UCC president Paul Hoover offered an illustration which has been used in defense of implementing women’s ordination in some places and not in others. According to the president, a church member from Berkeley, California, should not have to do things the way a church member from Botswana might do them.
Should people who wish to be disciples of Jesus be baptized in both cases? Should they keep the Sabbath in both cases? Should they fulfill agreements and commitments properly made in both cases? Or, should church members in Berkeley, because of a supposed advanced status be given special exemptions? Should certain agreements binding upon every other brother and sister in the world church not apply to them because they are from Berkeley?
The context of the meeting at WWUC was disagreement in the conference over the unilateral, non-compliant commissioned minister policy first implemented and then rolled back by the conference. Why was it rescinded? Was it because many “small churches” in the conference require additional “education”?
Walla Walla University Department of Theology chair Dave Thomas made a gracious offer in the meeting: “I would gladly offer the services of my department to help.”
We wonder, were Walla Walla theologians to visit insufficiently educated UCC “Botswana” churches, what kind of improved understanding might be received?
HELP FROM WALLA WALLA?
In an article published on November 17, 2016, in the Collegian, the official newspaper of Walla Walla University, Thomas previewed the kinds of ideas members might be offered in such meetings. For example, he wrote that
“The church is a new society formed on principles very different from those typically seen in the world. One of those principles is the absence of hierarchy” (Dave Thomas, Collegian, “Unity, Diversity, Discrimination and Church Politics,” p. 8).
Is there an absence of hierarchy in God’s kingdom? “Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he [Lucifer] ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35). There is a hierarchy of at least three levels in this sentence. The first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets abounds with the question of “position” and “government.” There, it is Satan who proposes a non-hierarchical government: “he [Lucifer] promised those who would enter his ranks a new and better government, under which all would enjoy freedom” (p. 40). Satan argued that angels needed no laws, “no such restraint.” Indeed, the Ten Commandments, with its prohibitions, has a hierarchical aspect. Both Old and New Testament Churches had their order and rank. While such ranking is an aspect we would not emphasize, it is a fatal overstatement to claim “absence of hierarchy.”
Dr. Thomas also writes that “Top-down power tends toward rebellion and disruption,” (Ibid.). But all actual power begins with God and can be directed nowhere else but from Deity’s infinite heights. Yet there can be no justification for any creature’s rebellion against Him.
As for ordination itself, the professor insisted that “The concept of ordination assumed by the document [the reconciliation document voted at Annual Council 2016] is now known to be nothing more than a tradition that crept into the Church from the Roman Empire,” (Ibid.). Someone should have told this to Jesus before “He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord’s disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry” (The Desire of Ages, p. 296). For another detailed explanation of ordination, see Acts of the Apostles, pp. 58-62.
It is interesting how different the position presently being taught in the Walla Walla theology department is from the position of the world church (and presently being taught in Botswana). Indeed, the one point in which the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) did share consensus agreed at this concept:
While all believers are called to use their spiritual gifts for ministry, the Scriptures identify certain specific leadership positions that were accompanied by the Church’s public endorsement for persons who meet the biblical qualifications (Num 11:16-17; Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9). . . Aside from the unique role of the apostles, the New Testament identifies the following categories of ordained leaders: the elder/supervising elder (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim 3:2-7; 4:14; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Pet 5:1) and the deacon (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-10). While most elders and deacons ministered in local settings, some elders were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations, which may reflect the ministry of individuals such as Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:3-4; Titus 1:5). (http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6497/archives/issue-2013-1520/20-cn-study-committee-votes-consensus-statement-on-theology-of-ordination/consensus-statement, accessed 2016-11-18).
The above TOSC statement, voted on July 23, 2013, came after the committee had in its January 2013 meeting considered the presentation made by Darius Jankiewicz, “The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History,” which had espoused the theory Thomas presents as fact.
It is troubling that an erroneous view of the order of heaven is presently being taught at the University. How will this non-Adventist view of church order now being taught to WWU theology students work itself out in the field when Walla Walla theology students are assigned as ministers in churches in Washington, Oregon, Upper Columbia, Idaho, and Montana conferences?
It is interesting how a meeting held in such a supposedly diverse university community could result in an intellectual monoculture like that manifested on the 9th of November. While some 500 persons were present at the meeting, those permitted to speak stood lockstep in their support for the non-Adventist approach to the commissioned minister credential. Still, many UCC members would decline the offered services of the WWU theology department. Most would prefer to be presented an understanding of church governance which would harmonize with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We think they would welcome a presentation from Adventist teachers who support the Bible-based teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By all means, let teachers from Botswana apply.