General Conference Executive Officers,
I am a pastor and was a delegate at the Southeastern California Conference Constituency Session where I voted for Sandra Roberts to be our conference president. I knew that this decision would be controversial and disapproved of by General Conference leadership.
What I did not expect was the General Conference Executive Officers choosing to frame the issue in terms of who is, and is not, being led by the Holy Spirit. The third paragraph of the official statement clearly reveals this framing and reads as follows:
“Working Policy, which is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When personal convictions are placed ahead of the collective policy decisions of the worldwide church, troubling precedents are set. God works in an orderly way and wishes His church to exemplify this sanctified behavior through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility and submission to God for the good of the church body as outlined in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are fundamental Biblical principles for the benefit of the church.”
I have no problem with you disagreeing with the decision we made. However, you have chosen not just to disagree with our decision, but to question our Christian experience altogether. It is clear you believe that you are being led by the Holy Spirit, and we are not. The Holy Spirit is referenced three times in that paragraph to describe current policy but our decision is just a “personal conviction.” Also, the suggestion is made that we acted in an unsanctified manner.
You are choosing to use the Holy Spirit in a manipulative way which is entirely unacceptable for any religious group (particularly one which you repeatedly state has a special calling) to impose on its members. You have placed yourself in a position of judging our characters and convictions.
You tell us that we need to act in “submission to God for the good of the church body.” I guess the GC working policy and/or Executive Officers are “God” in this case? Certainly the way you are acting leads me to believe you view yourselves in this way. You are determining who is led by the Holy Spirit. You are deciding who is sanctified. You are deciding who needs to submit and how. In my reading of Scripture, God alone has this authority. I guess we should add an amendment to Scripture that states the General Conference Executive Officers of the Adventist church also can do this.
Let me state wholeheartedly that I did vote out of personal conviction. However, my life’s goal is for the Holy Spirit to be the source of my personal convictions. In this case, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to my vote for Sandy Roberts.
Please take a few moments to consider that we might have been led by the Holy Spirit to make our decision. Please, just take some time to reflect on that possibility.
I also want to clearly state that while I strongly disagree with your position, I would never question your commitment to God or desire to be led by the Holy Spirit. I trust that you have been praying about the issue, as have I.
So, how do we move forward?
My ultimate dream is that church leadership would actually abide by Fundamental Belief #14 which states:
The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.
If the church abided by this belief, women would no longer be discriminated against and this would not be an issue. However, if you are going to choose to discriminate based on gender, I would ask that you revise this fundamental belief at the GC Session in 2015 and add this statement to the end: “This fundamental belief applies in all cases except in regards to women in ministry.”
If that is not the path you choose, Paul, in Romans 14, gives us some principles to follow. There were honest believers on both sides of contentious church issues including food and observance of special days. He allows for there to be differences of opinion and practice on these very important issues of that time. His conclusions are fairly simple and would do us well moving forward. His message is simple: We each have to live based upon our personal convictions because we are individually accountable to God (vs 10-12; 23). We should avoid judging others, particularly those who disagree with us, and ensure we don’t place stumbling blocks in their way (vs 13).
I hope you will reconsider the attitudes which underly this message, apologize for the accusatory nature of this official statement, and trust that we are seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading as much as you are.
Trevan Osborn is Pastor for Young Adults at the Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in California.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5611