Clarification of the Clarification (with tongue fully in cheek)

On September 18, 2018, the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) issued a very interesting "clarification" regarding the administrative lines of accountability for the recently established Compliance Review Committees.

The statement issued admits that a very serious mistake in procedure was suddenly discovered. I quote: "it was recognized that a procedural oversight was inadvertently communicated, which stated that an in-house General Conference committee would be established by the General Conference Executive Committee (GCC), and that committee would report directly to the General Conference Executive Committee." That, of course, was totally wrong. These committees will report to the GC administrators and ADCOM, and nobody else.

Could this statement use some additional clarity? My ironic way to rephrase this statement would be:

"We have today discovered, unfortunately a bit late, that we have not taken full advantage of this opportunity to secure complete centralized power in our own authority. Of course, it was a simple and unfortunate 'oversight' that we 'inadvertently communicated' that our Compliance Review Committees were to be 'established by' and therefore also 'would report directly to,' and thereby be fully subject to the authority of the 'General Conference Executive Committee.'

We are so sorry for this mistake, and we will now correct this error. The only possible correct understanding is, of course, that the GC administration is the supreme authority in our church, and whatever committees we set up, they will never be subject to the authority of a merely democratic body like the GCC.

By the way, it is obvious and self-evident that the GCC cannot be fully trusted to think clearly. This was very well demonstrated when this body in October 2017 dared to question the validity of our proposal that demanded complete loyalty to all GC policies and GC in session votes. By not immediately complying with our proposals, which always express the infallible will, has unlimited legal validity, and is the only sure voice of the supreme authority in our church, should be sufficient proof that such representative bodies are prone to err, and therefore cannot always be trusted.

We see it as an important part of our mission as leaders of the GC administration, to oversee what the GCC does. It is part of our solemn duty to correct the GCC when it errs. We have the sole prerogative to decide when and in what matters this happens, and how such cases should be handled.

The Compliance Review Committees that we have set up, two of them now activated, are therefore also fully under our control. Whatever these committees report to us, we have the sole power to decide whether or not these conclusions are valid or not. If these committees present reports not in harmony with our understanding, we will simply disregard them. This position rests on solid legal precedent. We did so with the reports from the TOSC committees, and that was de facto silently approved. By now that is established legal precedent.

Since October 2017, we have worked hard to show that the GCC action in 2017 was plainly wrong. We, the GC administration, are always right, never wrong. This is why we have repeated several times, by the Questionnaire in February, the President's speech at the Lisbon Unity Conference, and all the documents issued in July, all the principles that were expressed by our 2017 proposal that the GCC found objectionable. The comments made then by Thomas Lemon, Jan Paulsen, and Lowell Cooper, and others, should not be heeded, not by us, nor by anyone else. They were all wrong, because we say so. We will, therefore, do our utmost to preserve the only true unity of our church by making sure that your thinking will always comply with our thinking. We are sorry if we inadvertently, by an unfortunate mistake, may have communicated some uncertainty about this point.

Let it be clear to all, that the only task of the GCC when assembled in October for Annual Council, is to approve, never question, whatever proposals we present to that body. We have previously warned that questioning and not complying with policies we have devised and the votes we have successfully obtained by GC in session, is, ipso facto, acts of rebellion, even if presented in the confusing and false disguise of so called freedom of conscience and speech. Such heresies will be swiftly punished, and the guilty individuals will immediately be deprived of their right to speak and vote, no matter what so called democratic constituencies they represent. We will also put all such rebels on public display in the SDA Town Square. Don't be mistaken, what you sow, we will make sure that you will also reap! Never question our authority, and never give room for the possibility that our opinions are not the only correct ones!"

Well, it remains to be seen if the GCC when assembled in historic Battle Creek, will follow the siren call from Silver Spring and be true to their ideas of early SDA history, and revive G.I. Butler's excellent and only truly biblical idea of a one-man supreme leadership authority. I believe that the GC leaders hope finally to bring our church out of its bondage to the modernist democratic aberrations that came out of the unfortunate 1901 GC in session votes.

After all, does not the history of the Union system show that it has served only to undermine the global unity of our church, by instigating rebellion and calling for accountability of its top leaders?

Of course, even GC in session votes are not always seen as infallible. Only when they comply with the ideas of the GC administration. Battle Creek 2018 may prove to be as important in our SDA history as Battle Creek 1901.

As of today, it is still an open question: Who is the ultimate de facto (not only de iure) "boss" in the organized SDA church system? God? Local congregations? Conferences? Divisions? GC administrators and committees like GC ADCOM and GCDO? GC in session? GCC in Annual Council between sessions?

The signals, ideas, documents, and actions coming from Silver Spring make me more confused with every new attempt to a create legal-based "unity."

All this seems to indicate that we are in need of a total organizational reorientation, renovation, and reorganization. Our present GC leadership has made an important contribution to clarifying and intensifying this need.

Edwin Torkelsen is a retired historian who worked for the National Archives in Norway. He also taught Medieval History in the University of Oslo and was an Associate Professor of History in the University of Trondheim with a special interest in the development of the ecclesiastical, jurisdictional, theological, doctrinal, and political ideologies of the Medieval church. He is a member of the Tyrifjord Adventist Church in Norway.

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Further Reading:

Massive Oversight Committee System Set Up at the General Conference, Aug. 23, 2018

German Unions Respond to the GC’s Latest Documents and Committee Creation, Sept. 7, 2018

General Conference Issues Statement on Compliance Committees, Sept. 11, 2018

Pacific Union Conference Votes Opposition to GC’s Compliance Committee System, Sept. 13, 2018

General Conference Updates Compliance Document and Clarifies Committees, Sept. 19, 2018

ADCOM’s Overreach, Sept. 20, 2018

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The “rephrasing” section was very fun to read - then I realized that it was probably very accurate and the fun was over.


If only it were so…


Yes Edwin Torkelsen, GC AD COM kicked an own-goal!
And, as you point out so well, they are now appealing to
the referee (themselves) to disallow it.
We, the spectators are aghast. What next in this surrealistic
control game?

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Who broke open the eye-salve, that they found a bit of sight to see their own oversight?

Pardonne-moi mademoiselle, your freudian slip is not only showing,
it’s dragging in the gutter and you are unaware you are naked.
..(but if you come, naked and blind, we have new white gowns. Please come …)

Here’s a bit of deja vu that I read to my wife yesterday morning.
Its voice is as fresh in the current SDA uproar as human memories can be stale.
This speaker at the 1893 SDA GC session had recently been targeted by SDA GC President,
George Ide Butler, for the pillory.

Alonzo Trevier Jones, was also fresh from testifying before a U.S. Congressional Committee, partly regarding their adoption of the RCC version of the ‘10 Commandments’ in the process of their being pressured to close down the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago on Sundays:

“Perhaps this is the way I would do:
I am only a common member of the church and I must go to the elder of the church or some one of more prominence and ask him what to do. But suppose he wants to know for himself, I suppose he must ask the president of the conference what to do.”
{February 9, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 201.1}

Elder Boyd: ‘Isn’t there safety in the multitude of counselors?’

"But suppose the president of the conference wanted to know and needed to ask,
then he would have to ask the president of the General Conference, I suppose.
But suppose the president of the General Conference wants to know–who shall he ask?
[Congregation: “Ask the Lord.”]
Oh, well, you can ask the Lord, can you?
So, then, we common people can get our knowledge from the Lord without straining it through half a dozen persons like the other Catholics? Can we?:thinking:
[Congregation: “Yes.”]
Is that so?
[Congregation: “Yes.”]
In the Catholic church the common people cannot get at the Lord except through the priest
and the priest through the bishop
and the bishop through the archbishop
and the archbishop through the cardinal
and the cardinal through the pope?:roll_eyes:
Is that the way the Lord’s people are to do?
No, sir. That isn’t God’s method.
When you want to know a thing, you ask the Lord.
He is your Counselor, and He is my Counselor.
And when He is your Counselor, then, Brother Boyd,
“in the multitude of counselors there is safety,”
and not until then either, because then we have counsel of the Master of Assemblies.
And when He is the Counselor of each one and then we counsel together and He is in the midst, then there is safety in the multitude of counselors.
{February 9, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 201.2}

"You will find a sentence in Gospel Workers, like this:
{February 9, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 201.3}

“We are to counsel together and to be subject one to another, but at the same time we are to exercise the ability God has given us in order to learn what is truth. Each one of us must look to God for divine enlightenment. After you have received counsel from the wise, the judicious, there is yet a Counselor whose wisdom is unerring. Fail not to present your case before Him and entreat His directions. He has promised that if you lack wisdom and ask of Him, He will give it to you liberally and upbraid not.” pp. 129, 257.
{February 9, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 201.4}

Then I ask again from this night henceforth, Is He your counselor?
Is He individually our counselor?
[Congregation: “Yes.” ]
And the word that we heard from Brother Underwood on this same subject, especially in the selling of property,
"if there were more of this seeking the Lord for His guidance,
there would be more of His direction."
We would have more of Him in our work and in our counsels.
What in the world did He make Himself our Counselor for,
if He did not expect we should have His counsel?:hushed:
Then let us have it.":grinning:
{February 9, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 201.5}

. . . and, this is not the only time that this former SDA historian, who knew the RCC so well, pointed out the similarities between SDA beliefs and practices of his day and the RCC. Nothing changes when such change-leaders are pilloried, even by ‘future’ SDA historians.

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Can humor convey such painful truths, exhibit one replies in the Affirmative, ouch!


Now I wonder how many more “serious mistakes” the ADCOMM is guilty of that have yet to be discovered. If they make mistakes with matters that can be verified, how much more with matters that are spiritual in nature?

Let the circus begin…“with tongue fully in cheek.”

I am trembling at the thought of another Clairification .
All this obfuscation may soon reach heaven

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personally, i think the de jure, if not the de facto, “boss” of the church has to be we the people…after-all, god works through us, and at any time, we can bring the church to a screeching halt by withholding our tithes and offerings…in any kind of world, the people who pay the bills are the “boss”…

as for reorganization, while i don’t think it’s out of the question - 1901 is a long time ago, although not as long ago as 1776, or more correctly, 1788 - what i think is needed are stronger non-GC leaders, who are more sure of themselves and their rights, including their right to take the GC to court…

strictly speaking, our current church structure has the advantage of vesting final authority in different matters in the different levels of our church government, but it seems to me that there is an assumption that all power really is vested in silver spring…that is, if our non-GC leaders really are sure of themselves, why are they forever reacting to what is going on in the GC…it’s like everybody’s sitting there, waiting with baited breath to see what TW will be doing next…is there some sort of tacit agreement that what ADCOM decides, everyone must somehow adopt…i don’t get it…

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Reading this article reminds me that the SDA church is its own basic non democratic government. It has become a huge world wide bureaucracy with it’s own World Divisions, Unions and Conferences and institutions. Local church members have very little say and involvenent in anything. In real church life this giant bureaucracy functions far removed from real church members’ lives. I have been an SDA church elder for 25 years and have raised concerns with the local British Columbia Canada and Canadian Union but have largely been ignored.

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They took a wrong turn wayback in SA. I can hear the archangel crying out More incoming, everybody duck or your goose is cooked. There are prayers coming from all quarters on all sides of the issue. It’s hot stuff. Everyone thinks their sainthood has the leverage. One good sign is Loma Linda is going about the Lords business while most others are locked in a battle of prayers. Doesn’t sound anything like the upper room.

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