Analysis: The Use of General Conference Working Policy in the Case of Unions that Ordain Women

Why would anyone try to reinvent the wheel when a perfectly serviceable example lay in plain sight? To do so would seem to indicate either a remarkable ignorance of the existence of the available wheel or more likely a desire to construct more than just a wheel.

Consider this proposition in light of the kerfuffle occurring last week over the efforts originating among the General Conference officers to have the GC Executive Committee, in its Annual Council, to approve a policy for dealing with union conferences deemed to be out of harmony with General Conference policy concerning ordination. It would appear that a ‘wheel’—a policy prescribing what to do in that exact situation already exists. Witness the following excerpt from the General Conference Working Policy:

B 95 05 Discontinuation of Conferences, Missions, Regions, Field Stations, Unions, and Unions of Churches by Dissolution and/or Expulsion—If a situation arises where it is determined by the higher organization that the majority of members of a conference, a mission, a region, a field station, a union, or a union of churches are in apostasy, or that the organization refuses to operate in harmony with denominational policies and constitutional requirements, and is in rebellion, the higher organization has a responsibility to act for the protection of its loyal members, and the good name of the Church. Every effort should be made to avert the need for dissolution by counseling with the leadership and members, seeking to bring healing and reconciliation, and to preserve the organization as a witness for God and His saving truth. If conciliatory efforts fail and discontinuation appears to be the only solution, the higher organization shall have authority to act as set out under B 95 10 and B 95 15.

B 95 15 Dissolution and/or Expulsion of Unions/Unions of Churches—If, in the opinion of a division administration, a union/union of churches appears to be in apostasy or rebellion, and the procedures outlined in B 95 05 have been followed, but have proved unsuccessful, the following steps shall be taken:

1. The matter shall be considered by the division executive committee at a duly called meeting of the committee, at which time all the relevant data shall be shared. The division executive committee shall then determine whether or not the union/union of churches is in apostasy or rebellion.

2. a. In the case of a union mission/union of churches with mission status: If the division executive committee determines that a union mission/union of churches with mission status is in apostasy or rebellion and should be dissolved, it shall take an action to dissolve the organization, and shall recommend to the General Conference Executive Committee the expulsion of the unit from the world sisterhood of unions.

b. In the case of a union conference/union of churches with conference status: If the division executive committee determines that a union conference/union of churches with conference status is in apostasy or rebellion and should be expelled from the world sisterhood of unions, the division shall refer the matter to the General Conference Executive Committee with the recommendation for expulsion from the world sisterhood of unions and the reasons for it.

3. The General Conference Executive Committee, in consultation with the division, shall use its discretion to decide whether another union conference constituency meeting should be called and, if so, at what point in the procedure.

4. The General Conference Executive Committee shall consider the recommendation of the division executive committee at its Spring Meeting or Annual Council. If it approves the proposal for expulsion, the General Conference Executive Committee shall refer the recommendation to the next regular or specially called General Conference Session for consideration.

5. If a General Conference Session concurs with a recommendation to expel and votes to expel a union from the world sisterhood of unions, the division shall exercise direct responsibility for the conferences and/or missions/regions/field stations affected by the expulsion and shall, through its executive committee, take an action to attach them directly to the division until a new organization can be established or a rearrangement of territorial boundaries effected. Disloyal conferences/missions/regions/field stations shall be dealt with in harmony with the principles set out under B 75 10. In the event that a union of churches is expelled from the sisterhood of unions, the division executive committee shall vote to take into the care of the division all churches of the union of churches until reorganization or a redistribution of boundaries can be arranged. The division executive committee, functioning in place of the expelled union of churches constituency, shall have authority to disband any local churches which prove to be disloyal and to redistribute remaining churches by territorial adjustment and/or reorganization.

6. In the event of the dissolution of a union mission/union of churches with mission status and/or the expulsion of a union/union of churches with conference status from the sisterhood of unions, audits of the financial records of the union conference/union mission shall be conducted. All assets remaining after all claims have been satisfied shall be transferred to a legal entity authorized by the division, or dealt with as specified in the expelled entity’s constitution and bylaws or operating policy.

7. If, with the passage of time and efforts toward healing and restoration, it seems desirable for the nurture of the members and for the mission of the Church to reorganize the union/union of churches, the process outlined under the relevant section of B 65 shall be followed.

Now why, instead of initiating a near crisis, did ‘the brethren’ not simply reference this existing policy and proceed to implement it? Let’s return to the above-cited possibilities. Was it an incredible ignorance of the existence of this policy? Given the cumulative knowledge of policy matters in among the GC Secretariat, that really does seem incredible. The more likely answer would seem to be that B95 wasn’t exactly what the initiator(s) of this episode wanted to do. Evidence pointing toward that answer is in B95. Note:

B 95 15 If, in the opinion of a division administration, a union/union of churches appears to be in apostasy or rebellion, and the procedures outlined in B 95 05 have been followed, but have proved unsuccessful, the following steps shall be taken:

1. The matter shall be considered by the division executive committee at a duly called meeting of the committee, at which time all the relevant data shall be shared. The division executive committee shall then determine whether or not the union/union of churches is in apostasy or rebellion.

Note that the procedure must begin at the division level, and that the language is mandatory—it shall be done following this procedure. If the division committee—not just its officers—decide a union should be disciplined, it refers the matter to the GC Executive Committee with a recommendation for further action. The GC Committee shall consider the recommendation at either a Spring Meeting or Annual Council. If the decision were to be for expulsion/dissolution, the matter shall go to the next General Conference Session. Note also that B95 makes no provision for what happens if the division committee decides that no problem exists.

B95 is mandatory, and its provisions are clear. Perhaps the problem is that it leaves little room for unilateral executive action other than informally making a division aware of a perceived problem—that, and the fact that the procedure mandated would take more that a bit of time to carry out.

Perhaps the lack of attention to B75 reflects a little-discussed attitude: that GCWP is to be used to regulate the actions of “subordinate” organizations rather than the GC itself—and its officers. Over the past decades, two realities have been observed. First, discussions of policy conflicts often eventually lead someone to observe that ‘there’s policy, and then there’s policy,’ meaning that some policies are more important than others. As a practical matter, that’s true. But it also reflects the reality that the use of policy to influence the outcome of a discussion is optional, to be done if policy furthers the case of the person citing it.

The second observed reality is that although GCWP is the closest thing we have to a law code, it is not given that weight. When practice is seen to be in conflict with policy, the organization simply changes policy to reflect practice, when change in policy should rightly precede change in practice—at least if policy is as important as it is on occasion claimed to be. GC officers more than once have chosen to ignore policy if it seems the best thing to do, as though policy is optional, not mandatory. This is a bit like Richard Nixon’s position that if the president does it, it isn’t illegal. In hindsight, that was a most unfortunate argument. It still is, and not just in the setting of civil government.

SEE ALSO: Unions and the General Conference - What Happens Next?

Mitchell Tyner is retired Associate General Counsel to the General Conference.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7687
1 Like

To what degree if any, Mitch, does the policy you elaborate on here conflict with George Knight’s account, just published over the weekend, of the the invention of the union conference as a “firewall” protecting local entities from the heavy hand of centralized church authority? The division has no “constituency,” so is itself an arm of the General Conference, right?

Chuck

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Those provisions were to address apostasy. Ordaining women is not apostasy as it is not a doctrinal matter but only a practice in areas where it is the consensus of the union conferences.

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Good catch.

Now, is the wording of the vote in San Antonio starting to make sense? You tell me.

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?

Edit: Looks like somebody read the GCWP and figured out a strategy to make an end run around it, to me.

A strategy that likely was not fully understood by the voters at the time.

What seemed like a “largely symbolic” vote turns out to have teeth, it appears to me.


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Which leads to the only conclusion that just like President Nixon, the only way to preserve our church is for our honorable GC president to resign, thus sparring the church further damage. Pastor TW initiated the decision to circumvent that which he was charged to uphold, and the outcome cannot be resolved other than by his resignation.

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This is very helpful. Some additional thoughts/questions:

It would seem to me that the big problem the GC has is that the North American Division executive committee has to approve the nuclear option and we know by a strong margin North Americans are in favor of WO. It would seem that the leaders have a real problem.

So if the GC leadership does not get the division vote they want, do they have a process to move forward anyway?

Is what is written in the GC working policy actually binding on the union conferences given they have their own corporations and own constituencies?

Meaning this, assuming all the policies are followed, using the current or modified working policy can they just walk into the Union offices and say to the president and other officers “Your fired”?

Would the courts allow that?

In the grip of grace

Steve Moran

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"B95 is mandatory, and its provisions are clear. Perhaps the problem is that it leaves little room for unilateral executive action other than informally making a division aware of a perceived problem—that, and the fact that the procedure mandated would take more that a bit of time to carry out. "

Please note that the policy leaves little room for UNILATERAL executive action. That is the crux. This policy, in place for over 20 years, reflects my understanding (as a SDA for 54 years) that the authority of the church flows upward—from the pew to the GC president. It is the ultimate sham to my protestant ethos to uphold the idea that authority should flow down from the president to the pew.

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I have felt for some time that a Yes vote was not a good thing for that motion. On the other hand since it was presented as a vote for accepting WO it was a nice show of how many are willing to allow this. I was grateful not to be a delegate voting against it, knowing that vote would not be understood and would bring grief to my sisters. Even with that knowledge it was hard for me to see the no votes, knowing that for most if not all, the intent of their hearts was not protection of our unions but opposition to acknowledging God’s call to women.

1 Like

Ted is a control freak. His tools are waving an open a Bible, a distorted quote of Ell n White, and a back up of working policy. These are his resources for Grave Consequences. He is a perfect example of why Ellen regretted her comment on the General Conference in session. Glacier View could not stop scholarship. neither will Ted. Tom Z

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No, this is incorrect. Those provisions were to address apostasy OR rebellion. While saying that it is not a doctrinal issue is debatable there is no doubt that there is a rebellion going on.

Elmer,

First of all, the premise is not very convincing so you conclusion based on this premise is not convincing either.

Second, there are other options to preserve our church. One of these would be for the divisions, conferences, local churches, etc, to accept the vote from San Antonio. The vote was taken by the delegates sent from all the corners of the worldwide church. Blaming Ted Wilson for the outcome is misguided.

1 Like

It is the problem with anything. Solutions, policy only comes about as the result of a problem. Very difficult to see into the future and see the potential problems for all contingencies. Especially when making organizational documents.
The intent of the policy described is as we all know it is and would be. The recently debated subsidiary issues were only issues to people who know nothing of organizations.
As the author says a sufficiently robust policy exists for the issue at hand based on the principal involved.
The only problem is no one ever expected that the divisions which are the arms of the GC as was mentioned above, would ever be part of the problem.
Now the bane of all organizations and society itself “lawyers” want to twist what was the obvious intent and focus of the policy to turn the policy on its ear in a technical and legal way.
Organizational documents are like a knife that cuts both ways.
It is however interesting to hear the leftist gears grind about the binds that the legal wording puts the GC in while at the same time seeing no problem whatsoever with the legal bind the Unions put themselves in by writing into their organizational documents provisions that violate other parts of their provisions such as WO and being in harmony with the GC and world church.
If hypocrisy was a determining factor in decisions, progressives would win 0 arguments ever.

Please review the question presented to the delegates at San Antonio:

There is continual misperception of the San Antonio vote. The unions are not “in rebellion” against that vote. Indeed, they cannot be, since the vote only concerned itself with the authority of divisions of the church.

Only the NAD could be perceived to be “in rebellion” by unilaterally declaring that female pastors in the NAD are to be ordained. The NAD has not made such a declaration and is thus not in rebellion to the vote that denies its right to make such a declaration.

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No, this is not true. The whole responsibility for this mess is on Ted Wilson and his leading team. He is a weak leader. Because every weak leader tries to hide himself behind a referendum. If you want to achieve something where you don’t need a vote of the people, because you’re a leader, but you don’t have guts to stand behind your decision, then you go to the polls. That’s what he did.
On the other hand a strong leader estimates the odds and makes the decisions. There was no need for that vote in San Antonio after he had a 2/3 majority of best theologians and church administrators (TOSC) telling him that WO is acceptable in areas of the world where there were already pastoring women.
But I have no illusions that he will resign. He’s not only a weak leader without guts, but he has also a conviction that he has a special task of purification of the church. He is inspired by some EGW quotes about a church which would seem to be fallen and then will arise again much stronger then she was before. Who can tell him or me that this is the exact moment which was predicted. Similar situations have already happened in the past, and there will be many in the future.

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First, it seems to me from reading the policies that a strong argument can be made that the unions’ practice of ordaining women does not rise to the level of “rebellion” contemplated, given that dissolution and/or expulsion is extreme and draconian.

Second, if the NAD administrator, Dan Jackson, decides not to proceed, that ends the matter.

Third, under circumstances in which he feels compelled to proceed, if the NAD executive committee determines that the unions are not in rebellion, then that ends the matter.

Obviously, Ted Wilson recognizes that the policies in place are highly protective of the unions, so he is ignoring the policies and instituting a different policy–the one year of grace–so that his personal feelings can prevail. He is Nixonian in the sense that he perceives that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not governed by law but governed by him.

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It is nice to hear from someone who knows the ins and outs of policy and the legal angle.It’s a sad day when the leaders start to dictate in a way that is not very Christ-like. We need to become more loveable to one another. This is not an easy thing to do and something most of us struggle with but we can overcome with Christ’s help. Is it so difficult to realize that women have a place in finishing the work? I see the same commitment in women as I do men when it comes to spreading God’s word. Let’s unite and help spread the gospel. God doesn’t need us, we need God.

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I hope it’s not the case but if a division fails to support the GC position by declaring a union to be in rebellion, could perhaps the GC then declare the division to be in rebellion for its dereliction of duty in failing to support church doctrine?

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My 87 year old mother who has been an Adventist her whole life and a pastor’s wife for 56 years write the following: "I have read the GC Council document which someone printed out for me. Though the document claims to be about maintaining unity in the church it really is another potshot at ordination of women which should not be a GC item to settle in the first place. Amazing, how many policy changes have been voted at General Conference sessions to destroy the counsel of God’s Last Day prophet (EGW) regarding ordination of women in ministry and positions of equal opportunity where women might be better suited for the task than men in certain areas. "This question is not for men to settle, God has setteled it. " - Manuscript 142, 1903. Just a careful reading of chapter 86 of the book Desire of Ages underscore the inclusiveness of ALL believers in the gospel commission. On page 822 we read, “ALL who receive the life of Christ are ORDAINED to work for the salvation of their fellow men.” It is not a matter of “rights.” It is an obligation of ALL believers. On page 826 the counsel is stronger yet: "There is no place for tradition, for man’s theories and conclusions, or for church legislation. No laws ordained by ecclesiastical authority are included in the commission. None of these are Christ’s servants to teach. He would have us bear testimony to the fact that He cannot be satisfied until the human race are recalimed and reinstated in their holy privileges as His sons and daughter.

Consider also Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5:33 and onward. Note especially very 39, “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it - lest you even b e found to fight against God.”

By the way, -Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is still the highest authority on earth. – Anne S. Krpalek, an OLD friend of Jesus.

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If the higher organization, ‘GC’ is ‘in Rebellion or Apostasy’ or out of harmony with it’s own constitutional requirements and policies what provision is there for the membership, “loyal members” to initiate action in protection of the ‘good name of the church’ by replacement, dissolution or expulsion of administrators who are exploiting ‘kingly power’.

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From what I read, it is the North American Division Executive Committee that HAS to determine if a Union is in “Rebellion or Apostasy”. If a Union is doing something “Bad”.
The Division Executive Committee investigates in a Called Meeting.
If in agreement with the Union, the matter is dropped.
If not, consult with the General Conference regarding HOW THE Nrth American Division will proceed.
It is all up to Pastor Dan Jackson and HIS Team to decide IF ANY Union is in “Rebellion or Apostasy”.
ALSO, one would have to DEFINE WHAT actually IS THE ISSUE of Rebellion or Apostasy.

In order to determine the NAD Execs would need to confer with the offending Union AND ALL it Members. This means visiting around, holding church meetings with members so they can voice their opinions.
It is ONLY after all that is performed [taking testimony, depositions so to speak] can it be determined if there IS an issue after all.
If the NAD Executive Committee AGREE with the Unions, the matter is dropped. Nothing is moved up the line of resolution.

It seems to me that NOW is the time to involve MORE women in Ordained Ministry. During this One Year hiatus. Also to tell the GC Autumn or Spring Councils that THEY are “out of order” with these documents.

We have a number of Universities in our North American Division. I recognize that several are under the Direct Control of the General Conference. But the others ARE NOT. Seems like their Religion – Theological Departments would also tell the North American Division [President Jackson and his Exec Committee] if there Truly IS a “rebellion and apostasy”.
It seems as though several of our University Religion Departments ARE NOT in Agreement with the General Conference Autumn Council of 350 members.
This could tip the scale toward the NAD DOING NOTHING.

What ever the NAD IS ALLOWED to do, that would go for our European brothers and sisters also.
Our Chinese “Sister-hood” of churches already SEE NO PROBLEM with Female Leadership. Actually are doing MUCH better than the rest of the World Seventh day Adventist Church Family.

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The problem is the politicking behind the issue. By disregarding TOSC, an expensive committee set up for this specific issue, TW has opened himself up to suspicions of meddling for his own purposes. The hurt is exacerbated for a lot of people because he choose to ignore the TOSC recommendations and worded the vote in a manner which appealed to his Southern Hemisphere backers. To shackle areas of the church with mores totally foreign to one’s own is disappointing. The matter is totally ecclesiastical and as such church policy needs to be flexible to cater for this.

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