Adventist Church in Norway Formally Responds to General Conference "Unity" Document

A Statement by the Norwegian Union Conference Leaders, released on the union's website today: The document A Study of Church Governance and Unity published recently by the General Conference Secretariat seeks, it claims, to develop unity in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The document has a number of weaknesses and is likely to contribute to the splitting of the church over the issue of equality for women in ministry. An attempt to coerce unions to comply with General Conference Working Policy is likely to set in motion a series of uncontrollable and unpredictable events.

Oversimplification A major weakness of the lengthy document from the Secretariat is over simplification of the issue under consideration: the Adventist church’s approach to the ordination of women. The basic assumption on which the argument of the document is based, is this: Unity can only be achieved by getting deviant unions in line with General Conference Working Policy.

It is understandable that the General Conference Secretariat, whose function is to ensure that Seventh-day Adventist entities follow the General Conference Working Policy, writes only in terms of policy compliance, but it is a dangerous oversimplification based on pragmatic rather than moral and spiritual considerations.

Those unions which have ordained female pastors or stopped ordaining altogether, do so because they are convinced that the Bible tells them to treat men and women equally. Their decisions are not grounded in policy, but in spiritual and moral obligation.

The document does not properly take into account the theological understanding that has motivated unions to a course of action different to the stipulations of the Working Policy. This failure in understanding means that the document will not actually provide a basis for stronger unity, but rather the contrary.

The work of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) ended by presenting two opposite understandings of the biblical material on the ordination of women. When a worldwide church study of ordination concluded that both views are legitimate, it is futile now to call upon Working Policy to deny that diversity.

Diversity Section III of the document discusses “Diversity, Union and Authority” and states: “In the Bible, diversity is a positive quality, not a negative one” (p. 10). The same is true in the writings of Ellen G. White. The document goes on to raise the question of how the limits to diversity are to be defined. The Secretariat proposes the principle that decisions on the limits of diversity should be defined “collectively and collaboratively, not unilaterally.” (p. 12).

The document considers the early church council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) saying it “is significant almost as much for its process as for the theological decision that resulted.” (p 13). The document ignores the fact that there are two major factors for the success of the decision at the Jerusalem council. One factor was how the Holy Spirit lead to positions they previously held unthinkable as well as working mightily among gentiles. In the council, Peter told how he was asked to visit Cornelius, and Paul and Barnabas witnessed concerning their work among gentiles. The second major factor was the apostles’ brave leadership of guiding the church into a totally new understanding of Scripture, making room for different practices in the church.

In the Old Testament, God had prescribed a manner of worship and from their plain reading of the Scriptures, the Jews had drawn the conclusion that “it was improbable that He would ever authorize a change in any of its specifications.” (AA 189). Still the leadership of the church helped members to a broadened view. Ellen G. White says: “the very existence of the Church” depended on this decision (AA 192).

At the General Conference Session in San Antonio in 2015, the Seventh-day Adventist Church decided to deny the principle that guided the Jerusalem Council and made it a success. The work of the Holy Spirit through female pastors in China was not mentioned. Delegates decided against diversity in the practice of ordination. Previously, in the years while TOSC did its work, the General Conference leadership had followed a strategy of conspicuous silence regarding how to handle diversity. The General Conference behaved very differently from the apostles at the Jerusalem council, providing no leadership to the church on a very divisive issue. We believe that the General Conference leadership must take responsibility for its failure to reach a decision that would create the possibility for different practices to exist harmoniously, side by side within the church. Because of the “no-vote” in San Antonio, we are now in a much more difficult situation than we were in prior to San Antonio.

Need for leadership to lead The question of ordination of female ministers has undoubtedly been the most divisive and most difficult issue the Seventh-day Adventist Church has faced in recent decades. When facing divisive issues, the church needs competent leadership. However, the General Conference President has made no attempt to create space for divisions and unions to allow ordination of women. The TOSC had not ruled any of the presented views as illegitimate. Therefore there was an obligation for the General Conference leadership to set aside divisive personal convictions and work for a unifying solution.

The General Conference was repeatedly urged to give a recommendation to the delegates to the San Antonio session. Most notably many members of the General Conference Executive Committee pleaded with leadership at the 2014 Annual Council to give guidance to the delegates. Leadership declined. The failure to create space for different views on the ordination of women to ministry was a grave mistake.

Elder Wilson made clear his personal opposition to the ordination of women, but he never attempted to defuse the situation by calling for a solution that would accommodate both sides. If unity was high on the agenda of the General Conference leadership prior to San Antonio, they did not use the most obvious opportunity to create it.

The study document released by the General Conference Secretariat says not one word about the obligation of the General Conference leadership to safeguard unity by creating space for different practices. That is a major weakness of the document.

Dialogue is better than confrontation Joshua 22 recounts a story showing the value of dialogue in changing policy. After the conquest of Israel, the account in Joshua 22, describes how some tribes heard that the two and a half tribes that took land on the other side of the Jordan, had erected an altar. The Israelites assembled for war against the two and a half tribes. They would not tolerate a departure from policy.

However, after representatives had talked with the leaders of the two and a half tribes, the situation was defused. War was avoided. The unauthorized altar was accepted.

Ellen G. White comments on the issue: “How often serious difficulties arise from a simple misunderstanding, even among those who are actuated by the worthiest motives; and without the exercise of courtesy and forbearance, what serious and even fatal results may follow (PP 519).

She continues to draw lessons of the greatest importance and relevance for the Seventh- day Adventist Church in the present crisis: “While very sensitive to the least blame in regard to their own course, many are too severe in dealing with those whom they suppose to be in error. No one was ever reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many are thus driven further from the right path and led to harden their hearts against conviction. A spirit of kindness, a courteous, forbearing deportment may save the erring and hide a multitude of sins (PP 519.520 Italics supplied).

“The wisdom displayed by the Reubenites and their companions is worthy of imitation. ... Those who are actuated by the spirit of Christ will possess that charity which suffers long and is kind” (PP 520).

This is the kind of attitude needed to make sure the Seventh-day Adventist Church stays united. Only actions bearing the qualities of the fruit of the spirit will bring true unity among the people of God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22.23).

Assessment of possible outcomes It has become known that the General Conference is working on a document outlining how to discipline unions that do not comply with policy. Information from the General Conference indicates that the church leadership wants to use considerable pressure to get unions in line with the Working Policy.

It is our experience that few of the documents presented by the General Conference to the Executive Committee, contain any assessment of possible outcome scenarios. Therefore, it is important to ask, what are the implications of the church leadership’s failure to consider possible responses to the propositions in the present document?

We have noted above that the document A Study of Church Governance and Unity is oversimplifying the issue. Any thinking along the lines that an Executive Committee action would coerce unions into line, is far too optimistic. The major problem with this thinking is that the General Conference is appealing to policy, but for the unions in question this is a question of a biblical and moral mandate.

In a showdown along these lines, the General Conference is bound to loose. We are Seventh-day Adventists. We know by heart Acts 5:29: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (KJV).

Here are some possible outcomes that must be be considered:

  1. Unions accept the urge to return to following the General Conference Working Policy. This is probably what the General Conference is intending. It is, however, an unlikely outcome, given the biblical, moral and in some cases legal obligations felt by some unions that they have to treat men and women equally.

  2. The General Conference tries to replace union leadership in unions that do not comply with the Working Policy. Any such move will most certainly meet with strong opposition, and may turn out to be impossible to accomplish because the actions of these unions are an expression of the convictions of the members in those unions.

  3. General Conference will lose further credibility among large segments of the membership because of the handling of the situation.

  4. The Church will split. The affected unions may sever connections with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A domino effect may take place where many other unions leave the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By trying to coerce unions, a series of uncontrollable and unforeseen events will develop.

The probability of splitting the church by voting harsh measures against unions which do not fully comply with the General Conference Working Policy is arguably higher than the probability of achieving the desired outcome of unity. That must be a sobering thought for everyone involved, particularly for the members of the General Conference Executive Committee.

There is always more than one option The document A Study of Church Governance and Unity released by the General Conference Secretariat leaves the impression that the compliance of the Unions is the only solution to current problems.

However, in any situation there are always several options. Discerning leaders will always try to present various options when facing an issue that is a violation neither of any of the Fundamental Beliefs, nor of any clear biblical principle. To think there is only one option available is very dangerous for an Executive Committee facing crisis.

Here are some possible options that may better preserve unity.

  1. Leave the situation as it is. Continue a genuine dialogue with all parties in order to find workable solutions.

  2. Work constructively toward a healing solution along the lines of Acts 15 opening up for diversity. It is within the power of the General Conference Executive to vote changes to the General Conference Working Policy that will ensure unity in diversity.

  3. Create a new gender inclusive credential. It is the prerogative of the General Conference Executive Committee to create new policies.

  4. Discontinue ordination in its present form. Specify a simple prayer of dedication as the norm when people begin ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

  5. Table the proposal and give further study to finding means of healing. 4

Never before in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have we been closer to a major split of the church. May leaders and members of the Executive Committee take to heart the lessons from Joshua 22 and Acts 15 and make wise decisions that will truly foster unity in our Church, despite our differences.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you brothers and sisters from Norway for your response! It’s so refreshing to see how GC doesn’t understand diversity.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.(Joshua 24:15)


This is leadership. Thank you, Norway Union, for showing the G.C. and other unions how to strategize and use leadership to find solutions, not to create more disunity.

The tone is hopeful. The suggestions are clear. The implications are on target. The writing is crisp. The scriptural base is solid.

Will the G.C. take suggestion? We can pray they humbly accept instruction and wisdom from Norway.


Several observations:

First, the General Conference has voted three (3) times to deny identical roles in ministry to men and women. In 1995 this vote was prefaced by a Biblical presentation on behalf of both theological camps in this controversy. The anti-women’s ordination stance prevailed.

Twenty years later, the General Conference in session voted against a motion for the regional settlement of the ordination question, and did so—based on the motion’s own wording—on the basis of Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy authority.

If those on the losing side of the San Antonio vote truly believe they have Biblical and moral authority supporting their defiance, it is foolish for them to argue for the peaceful co-existence of both perspectives in the church. If it is Biblically and morally wrong to not ordain women in Norway or North America, it is Biblically and morally wrong to not ordain them anywhere.

These two positions cannot be expected to peacefully tolerate one another, as is obvious in those territories where the most outspoken “tolerance” champions on this issue tend to be fiercely intolerant of those who differ with them. The world church has voted three times on this question, and if those who have consistently lost in these decisions truly believe they have Scripture and morality on their side, it is neither harsh nor unchristian to urge that they reassess their relationship with the worldwide Adventist body.

Second, the Jerusalem Council did not make “room for different practices in the church,” at least not regarding the issue which was before them, which was whether or not circumcision was to be required as a test of Christian fellowship. The issue was not whether circumcision could continue to be individually practiced, but rather, whether it was to be required as a prerequisite for becoming a Christian.

The answer was not a regional or congregational settlement of the issue by the Council, but rather, a universal one. Nowhere was circumcision to be required as a prerequisite for joining the Christian church. To draw a comparison between this and the proposal by certain ones for a regional settlement of the ordination controversy in contemporary Adventism is therefore invalid.

Third, the leadership of the General Conference is accused of not leading the church, when in fact it has led, the only problem being that the authors of this letter and their fellow travelers don’t like the direction in which the church is being led. Elder Wilson took the lead very decisively at the close of the debate in San Antonio, making it clear that a regional adjudication of this question was not the wisest course to take. The church followed the president’s lead.

Fourth, the authors of this letter and their allies have had multiplied and often unchallenged opportunities to present the case for their side to the Seventh-day Adventist Church—through its mainstream publications, academic venues, workers’ retreats and meetings, and a host of other settings. In many of the above circumstances, little if any equal time has been given to convictions from the opposing side. After a lengthy and careful process, the issue was brought to the world church for a vote.

And despite the fact that the pro-women’s ordination camp lost for the third time, they now insist on their right to do as they please, irrespective of the world church’s decision.

Were those of their persuasion guiding the worldwide Adventist community just now, had their convictions won out in San Antonio, it is seriously doubtful they would show tolerance for a dissenting view.

Two irreconcilable approaches to the inspired writings, two clashing paradigms regarding gender roles in ministry, two colliding perspectives on church unity and structural accountability, cannot be expected to dwell together in tranquil harmony. Amos 3:3 is still in the Bible.


Dear Kevin, I humbly suggest you reread the document the Norway union published.


Dear Igor,

I humbly ask that you reread the minutes from the last three GC Sessions that said no to WO.


This is such a wise and thoughtful approach to a problem that seems likely to tear the church apart . . .

It is equally disheartening, thought not surprising, that Kevin P. has such disdain for those he should see as brothers and sisters in Christ, preferring they be ostracized from the family.

The problem that Kevin and those with similar points of view fail to recognize is that even if he/they win. They will turn around to discover there is another group that needs purging and then another and another until no one is left.

The kingdom of Jesus is all about inviting people into the family and not pushing them out.

In the grip of grace

Steve Moran


Excellent overview response from the ACN. It shows reasoned probabilities flowing from both an attempt to engage open-minded discussion on the matter of gender discrimination in the , seemingly, most crucial role of the church,viz preaching the “Word” and thereby gathering converts and also from an intransigent “fortress” mind set. Jesus did not despise women,in fact he took part in the traditional annointing ritual of the David Kings while the dynast sat at table. This signified his betrothal in marriage to Mary Magdalene who was pretty old for a first marriage at the time (27 years old, born in AD 3). Jesus was very patient with her when she pestered him about taking up arms against the Romans and in fact left the marriage and was expelled by his followers to the Herodian estates in France, eventually, carrying his last child(Joseph, the crown prince, as a royal title ) with her. In fact he started a ritual to memorialise her forever among his followers, the Eucharist where the chalice represented the sacred womb and the wine represented the sacred bloodline. One of the descendants of Joseph is know as King Arthur of Britain, who devised the democratic idea of servant leadership (the round table) and a code of helping people in distress. If Mary can have held such an important role which we all as Adventists still honour in our communion services, what is the problem with women being considered for Pastoral headships in the “remnant” church?


Perhaps we shouldn’t again mention that Amos 5:24 is still there … Joel 2:28-29. Galatians 3:28. Acts 5:29,35,38-39… And of course Acts 15. Indeed, I and many others truly believe that long view of the story of redemption, with full Biblical as well as moral authority lies clearly and substantially on the path of gender equality; and support co-existence as a matter to address over time. It took centuries to be clear about the injustice of oppression and slavery, and it wasn’t cleared up in one place at one time. Indeed, given the ugliness of racism roaring to prominence this year, it still isn’t over even here in the first of the first world


God is using a small union, the faithful of Norway, to guide us into harmony and truth. Thank you to the Norwegian Union Conference for not only outlining the problem, but giving viable and God-centered solutions. I pray that the GC pays close attention and realizes that it is not infallible. The GC needs to consider implementing these solutions. I see the solutions as excellent and filled with the Holy Spirit. We need to move forward so that the love of God can be our focus and we can get back to the business of both men and women evangelizing the world.


Way to go, Norway!!

Loving and considerate of all points of view but firm in what God called them to do.


This is right leadership. In all of these two weeks I haven’t read better argumentation on all threads here on Spectrum than this response of the Norvegian Union. I can only hope that other WO friendly unions will do the same. The guys from Norway have very clearly and eloquently sent a message to GC and TW that this what they are trying to accomplish is a very dangerous game with fatal consequences. Anyone who like KP are enjoying in possible future"fights" and “battles” don’t give a penny for the future of their Church. Pray that in the end the sense prevails.


I think Kevin and the others care about the future of their church.

Having been of this mindset myself, and continually living around those of this mindset all my life, I understand all too well the kind of triumphant fatalism about the church’s inevitable near-fall, and glorious comeback.

From the Review:

“The church,” Ellen White wrote, “may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place.”

Again, she wrote: “Satan will cast all the reproach possible upon the chosen ones whom he cannot deceive and delude with his satanic inventions and falsehoods. But . . . will Christ, our representative and head, close His heart, or withdraw His hand, or falsify His promise? No; never, never.”

They will never back down. This is a fight nobody should want. No good will come from it.

You cannot ever extract Ellen White from the SDA church, so let them have the church.

Perhaps it will have to get lots worse before that makes sense.

EDIT: And let me just add that I have lived a combination of Adventism and headship doctrine in my personal life, and it is indescribably toxic.

This is not fixable. The momentum is too great. It was probably too great years ago when I started posting about this witch’s brew of Adventism and headship doctrine, but it is certainly too late now.

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.

Split and make something positive before this gets irretrievably damaging to the kids. Don’t make the kids grow up in the middle of an ugly, unfixable mess.

Just my thoughts, and I hope I’m wrong. But I’ve lived this already.

Adventist eschatology is predicated on controversy and judgment and division, not family, so perhaps the present situation shouldn’t be surprising.


The refutation of your argument that proponents of women’s ordination cannot coexist peacefully with opponents of women’s ordination is that there is peaceful coexistence right now.

I observe that proponents of women’s ordination understand that sanctification is the work of a lifetime. In the foreseeable future, there will be little dissent against women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as evidenced by the trajectory of the results of the votes taken. We should not excommunicate someone who in good faith struggles with misogyny but pray for that person and do what we can to help that person grow in grace. And we should not impose women’s ordination under circumstances in which the mission of the Church might suffer as a result. Yes, equality is a Christian imperative. But (a) forbearance and long-suffering with the weaker members of the family and (b) the mission of the Church are also Christian imperatives.

The lesson we learn from the Jerusalem Council is that the church should govern by consensus. Scripture does not authorize the making of church policy by a close vote. There is neither a biblical text nor a precedent from Scripture or Seventh-day Adventist Church history that supports the notion that a bare majority of Christians can trample upon the personal conscience of a large and significant minority of Christians.

I encourage you Kevin not to leave the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We must all persevere together. We do not need to split over women’s ordination, as churches in the 19th century split over slavery. A modicum of statesmanship from Ted Wilson can prevent a catastrophe. And statesmanship is itself a Christian virtue, which characterizes peacemakers who shall be called children of God.


I have not given up hope that grace and forbearance will prevail and our children will be safe. This is not war, this is family.


Would this prove that Kevin did not reread the above very good article which deftly outlines the issues that have come out of the last three CG sessions and their misguided missive calling for “Unity”?

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Well written document. It’s time for GC to listen.


Anyone who cares deeply about biblical authority will take note of Paul’s attitude toward the Corinthian church, where a party spirit might have motivated him to seek some bureaucratic solution BUT DID NOT. Such a person will notice, too, that Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians treats food offered to idols (where the Acts 15 perspective was unmistakably negative) AS SOMETHING OF A NON-ISSUE.

Unity did concern Paul; fussy uniformity did not. He understood that the path to consensus may be long and hard. He understood that patience over issues the Bible does not address perspicuously is better than divisive (and in our situation, pointless) authoritarianism.

The NT story is one of persuasive power, not coercive power. Without the failure of leadership we suffered through in San Antonio, there would be a lot less division over the women’s ordination issue than there is just now. People would be adjusting; over time many would (one way or the other) change their minds.



As always, I remain proud of my Norwegian heritage. It is always best to do what is right morally and spiritually than it is to adhere to policies that promote moral and spiritual abuse on others. I heartily endorse Norway’s response to the GC.

As EGW said so well:

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men [and women] - men [and women] who will not be bought or sold; men [and women] who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men [and women] who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men [and women] whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men [and women] who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”

It is a sin to discriminate against women just because they lack a Y chromosome, and God is looking for those brave souls who will stand against what is wrong and stand up for what is right.


The problem with the “world church’s decision” on WO is it is now increasingly evident that it is based on shaky and faulty foundations. Whereas twenty years ago they trumpeted their decision to be based on “Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy authority,” the very same institution declared before SA2016 that there was no biblical basis. What happened? Magic? Changing goal posts?