AdventNetwork of Southern Africa Pens Open Letter to General Conference

Editor’s Note: The AdventNetwork, a forum of both lay church members and pastors in the Southern Africa Union Conference, has penned an open letter to the General Conference regarding its compliance committee system. The letter follows in its entirety:

Open Letter from Members of AdventNetwork* of Southern Africa

On the General Conference Compliance Committees

Dear GC ADCOM,

Greetings from the Southern Tip of Africa,

Within the plethora of wisdom that the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Southern Africa has deposited over the ages, none is more valuable to the challenges that the current SDA Church faces, than the spirit of collective wisdom.

Collective wisdom is a wisdom that is not centralised in a few individuals and is not a spirit that makes decisions for only the benefit of a few leaders. It has as its focus the spreading of the Gospel to a child of God that has experienced the horrible effects of the Sin problem in the name of Christianity under political and ecclesiastical exclusion.

It is not a wisdom that seeks to police those who are under its care, but rather seeks to educate and enhance the other (who is my brother or sister in Christ) to see the benefit of Wisdom. It is a wisdom that centres itself in the “fear of the Lord” (Psalm 111:10). As a church whose members faced one of the greatest atrocities committed to humanity (Apartheid), and who still live with the ever-present effects of it within our communities, it required and still requires a wisdom not centralised in a few to achieve Unity. A collective wisdom that understands, that educates and that seeks to repair broken relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ from the local church level all the way to the General Conference Elected leadership. It understands the fact that unity cannot be forced but should be nurtured in a forgiving environment reminiscent of Jesus’ work of Salvation (Romans 8:15).

However, the greatest lesson that this journey has taught those who seek to further the kingdom of God in this part of Africa (AdventNetwork), is that policing conscience is a tool of oppression and not of leadership. Humiliation is a tool of bullies and not leaders. Centralised Power is a tool of oppressors and not leaders. Exclusion from decision making is a tool of oppression, not freedom.

It is with this wisdom gained from a real experience, that we cannot remain silent when the spiritual leaders appointed by the faithful members of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, propose something that is reminiscent of a political tool used to silence our people during the darkest days of our history. As faithful Seventh-Day Adventist, we the AdventNetwork, who love and fear God, and understand His character to be one of unconditional Love, highlight the following with regards to the General Conference Compliance Committee Proposal:

1. The scope of the GC Compliance Committee is not specified and hence it leaves room for manipulation and abuse. Are all policies going to be policed by the five committees or only those that the GC Executive deem important? It also creates a sense of an investigative atmosphere amongst brothers and sisters that are supposed to have a fellowship experience when gathered.

2. Policing a Prophetic Movement — This is a deeper theological concern that centres around God’s leading of His people towards the fulfilment of the eschatological Hope. For the sake of time, we will limit the explanation to the policing of God’s Spirit in conviction as it becomes obsolete in one’s personal experience for the fear of being publicly humiliated by a policing committee. Whereas within the current policy framework there is room for growth, education and learning to take place, all under the guiding influence of a personal God — God the Holy Spirit.

3. Adequacy of current policies to deal with matters of “non-compliance” — It is evident that as a Church we have adequate policies that deals with issues of “non-compliance”. From local church level to the GC. It therefore stands to reason that the problem is not the policies, but those who implement policies. Which in turn means that establishing more committees will only create more issues of non-compliance, as the very ones who are selective are now selecting. It also means that the GC Compliance Committees (GCCC) will need their own Compliance Committees, and so on and so forth. Rather make sure that the current policies are adhered to effectively. This GCCC is in fact creating the very issue that it sets out to avert — disunity. It becomes a self-destructive tool, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. Potential for misuse of powers — As members who are aware of issues of misuse of power in the past and present, within the Church’s structures, it needs to be stated that centralising this much power has never benefitted most members, but only those who are left with the power. We hear the evils of the Papacy being preached on a weekly basis, and yet we follow in their footsteps with this proposal. Surely you don’t need a degree in History to see what such centralised power in a church organisation has delivered, to know that this is reminiscent of “Babylon”.

It is with great concern that we notice the heavy handedness that the GC leadership has dealt with this matter.

5. Additional structure of this magnitude requires a GC Business Session — It is also the view of AdventNetwork that such a monumental change to the governance of the SDA church should be left for a GC Business Session to deliberate on. It should not flaunt policy to stop the flaunting of policy. The EXCOM might be the first committee to be investigated by the GCCC.

6. Form follows function — The principle that God has worked on with regards to humanity’s salvation and our part to be played in the salvation of God’s children was and still is: Form-follows-function. This basically means that God would ordain forms (Structures) to achieve the function (Purpose). The SDA Church had major developments in governance (form) during 1860s, 1901, 1913 etc. to name but a few, all of which, when studied, came about as a way of furthering the Gospel message. Somehow taking into consideration all the factors at play within the current climate of the world church, we struggle to see how this form follows function. Instead the form seeks to dictate to the function which is a recipe for further alienation from the preaching of the Gospel.

7. Unity does not mean conformity — this point has been preached time and time again and it is basic. It is something that the Sabbath School Lesson study, a few weeks ago, brought out clearly. Even when an issue as major as circumcision was contentious within the early Christian church, the Holy Spirit led them to agree to disagree and Paul went on preaching it was not necessary as a precondition to Christianity, and the Jews in Judea could continue to practice as a sign of belonging to God (Basically) — yet they were united in the Mission. This truth has also been the central theme to the unity of the church within Southern Africa — unity does not mean conformity. You cannot police unity, but you can police conformity — and when we read Ephesians 4:1-2, the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is best achieve through “humility, gentleness (unselfishness, mildness, meekness), patience, bearing with one another and showing TOLERANCE”.

We have a shared wisdom that does not rely on human effort. God as asked only three things of His children:

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly, - Micah 6:8

It is within this way of life, shared wisdom, that we have grown in a manner that seeks to embrace diversity, cultivate unity, and share the Gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. Therefore, our plea to the GC ADCOM is to listen to a wisdom gained from a painful experience. Listen to the Spirit of Unity in the bond of Peace. Listen to your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yours in the Master’s service,

Members of the AdventNetwork of Southern Africa

*the AdventNetwork is a forum of both lay church members and pastors from across the Southern Africa Union Conference (in Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division). The forum engages on church related topical as well as general matters which pertain to the role of the church in society.

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Further Reading:

Responses from Church Entities and Timeline of Key Events, Annual Council 2017 to Present

Image: a map of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Courtesy of Adventist.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9070
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“It should not flaunt policy to stop the flaunting of policy.” 'nough said.

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The issue that formulated the SDA Church is as phony as the issue that now divides the Church. Worship has never been fixed to a time or place. Rest is a command to individuals not institutions. For all of its evangelism, none in the church want the power company to shut down at sunset of any day of the week.Even the church makes room for hospitals, dairies, cafeterias, one could add to the list. The final issue will be Who alone is worthy of worship. As in Daniel there may be a when attached. But the issue is Who alone shall receive our praise and gratitude.

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Thanks for such a clear and needed pronouncement. Africa is a very important component of the SDA Church. We need to hear its voice more often, and loudly!

The current attempt to centralize more power is a clear indication that someone is trying to reign as a dictator. Utilizing methods similar to the ones used in the former Soviet Union, aiming to control by imposing a regime of threat to freedom of conscience and terror, has no place in any environment - must less in a RELIGIOUS environment!

I, again, propose the dissolution of the GC. It’s a completely irrelevant agency that only consumes (wastes) money that local churches need badly. There is not one, not a single ONE benefit that local churches experience as result of the existence of the GC. Let’s get rid of it, and tons of problems will go away instantly!

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It is a minority who believes that centralised control will solve the issue of free consciousness. Our ability to think and come to a conclusion might be the intimidating and frieghtning to some, yet God made us this way, because God knew that the only way to love someone is out of choice, not fear. Apartheid was and is painful because it separate the church, and people, it create resentment and mistrust, and it has been slow to restore and heal the wounds. The Adventist church preached apartheid, it was only in the 1990’s did the conference’s start mergering, and there were some issues with that. So when people say that discrimination is only a “race” or colour issue, they are wrong, discrimination separates us from God image, while inclusiveness draws us into a closer view of God character and image.

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Wonderful article. I’m with George. Dissolution of the GC. I don’t need them. My name on the SDA church roles amounts to nothing! I only want my name in the book of Life, and the GC doesn’t control that.

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In 1960 I was a medical intern in the huge 2000 bed BARAGWANATH HOSPITAL in the large black township of SOWETO, Johannesburg.

I will never forget the night when mass casualties were admitted to our surgical unit, from the SHARPEVILLE MASSACRE.

289 blacks had been shot by white policemen, including 29 children.
69 were dead.

The police claimed that a crowd of demonstrators had attacked them.
Forensic examination of the gunshot wounds showed that all had been shot in the back, proving that they had been fleeing the police, not attacking them.

My black fellow intern, with an identical medical degree from the same medical school, was being paid one third of my salary.

My Asian fellow intern, with identical credentials to mine, was compensated two thirds of my salary.

These horrors of APARTHEID were what impelled my emigration from that unfortunate country nearly sixty years ago.

The above statement from my countrymen, both black and white, lay and clergy, is beautifully enunciated.

We had thought that Ted Wilson had monumental support from the African bretrhern. Apparently not.

Kudos to those from the African continent who are standing up to tyranny.

NELSON MANDELA, one of the greatest statesmen of our lifetime, would be proud of you !!

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Does anybody know much about the Southern Africa Union in terms of their support for Women’s Ordination? The reason I ask is from what I understand, most of Africa tends to oppose women’s ordination. If that is the case in this particular union, the fact that these individuals from that union are writing this letter is very significant. I have been expecting the document to pass this year because people from the Global South who voted against it last year will vote for it this year because of weariness of the debate. But with this letter, it could be difficult to dismiss opposition to the document as just a Global North thing.

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Amen, AdventNetwork !

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If I were Elder Ted Wilson, I would not wait for another “Open Letter” this time most likely from the Inter American Division. I would strongly suggest he immediately burn the 14-page document, scrap his Unity letter, dissolve the five GC Review Committees and enter into rapprochement with PUC, CUC and those he has caused collateral damage. Otherwise, he really should grow his beard longer and bushier to camouflage his identity during this AC2018.

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i think you’re right…this letter is probably more significant than the others we’ve seen…

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I agree with you, Nelson Mandela would have been proud. He was such a humble human being, but that is not why I respect him, he showed me that being the president of the South Africa did not change the way in which he treated people, irrespective of their social standing, even to the extent of apologize for the wrongs of a cabinet minister who thought that their position demanded respect. That event helped me realize, that if this man, the President of South Africa, could walk from Westbrook/Genandendal Presidential Residence to Unit commanders office, and apolozige for how one of his cabinet minister’s treated a police official, showed us what kind of leader he was, and we were willing to serve him and country. Maybe our leaders might learn that being president or leader, doesn’t mean demanding respect to achieve unity, but maybe reflecting Christ love and letting God do the rest. Showing that being humble is not humiliating, but elevating the name of God.

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What an open letter to the GC brethren!
Plain, Powerful and Prophetic.

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AdventNetwork Of Southern Africa, thank-you…this letter means so much! I only hope and pray that others will stand and be counted among the Righteous. The Adventist church membership deserves so much more respect and love than it is getting by establishing these Compliance Committees and threats from the GC.

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“Prime Minister” Wilson should now call for new elections. He has lost the confidence and support of too much of the church, especially now that we can no longer assume that all of Africa supports him.

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Do you really think he is psychologically capable of admitting he was mistaken and changing course?

What capable leader would ignore such large segments of his constituency?

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What we need is transparency regarding the “gifts” that are given to delegates when they arrive in the U.S.

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Profound question.

If TW were convicted that God chose him instead of being elected by men to lead the church, then he would have no choice but to believe that his mental frame has the blessings of God and whatever he does is the will of God. This phenomenon is known as when the ego merges with the superego. If this were the case then he is not “psychologically capable of admitting he was mistaken” because of the loss of that “still small voice.” This would pose no problem with God except TW is not god. Therein lies the problem.

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https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/02/26/southern-africa-union-ordination-report-disproves-monolithic-africa-narrative

Those who are surprised by this Position Statement from Advent Network Members in South Africa, have clearly not been following the position of South Africa in this regard. The above link contains a report from the Executive Committee of the Southern Africa Union Conference(SAU) which challenged the monolithic view that all of Africa is anti. This was in 2015 already.

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