Considering Compliance

My ancestors, and multitudes of family friends, arrived at Ellis Island as Mennonites from Germany, by way of Ukraine and Holland. Once they received their immigration documents, they moved to Mennonite communities in the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.

All went well until a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist came preaching about Sabbath and the Second Coming of Christ. In most of the communities, a large portion of the Mennonite families decided Adventism was true and were baptized.

Because Mennonites believed you had to believe and behave as a Mennonite to live in the community, the “real” Mennonites “shunned” the Adventist Mennonites. “Shunning” involves treating others as if they do not exist. Neighbors who had traveled to the US on the same ship — sometimes in the same cabin — now treated their Adventist friends as if they had suddenly become invisible. They believed that the only acceptable way to deal with those who decided to believe in ways different from how they believed, was to refuse to sell them gasoline, to refuse to sell them milk, to refuse to allow them to go to school with their children, and, when necessary, to call them “shaming” names that pointed out their evil choices.

My ancestors, and many of their family friends, were shunned and shamed by neighbors who believed that the “real” Mennonites were the only “right” people on the block. They thought that “being right” gave them license to shun and shame.

The Adventist Mennonites were shamed, shunned, and chased from their homes. However, rather than allow bitterness to seethe into anger and rage, they chose to trust God and move on as His servants.

For me, any talk of shaming and shunning is personal.

When I first read through the Compliance documents, I was stunned to read details of how leaders of offending entities would be shamed and shunned by church leadership. It’s written right there in the document! Like forcing adulterers to wear the red letter “A” on their clothing, those found out of compliance with a denominational policy will be introduced with shaming words that remind everyone of their offense.

Shaming does nothing to build positive relationships. Shaming is petty and foolish. In a church it is more than foolish. Shaming is evil.

So is shunning. For the past several years, the regularly elected president of the Southeastern California Conference has attended General Conference meetings where church leaders have refused to even acknowledge her presence. That’s shunning.

It could make me bitter and angry. It could whip me into a rage against the machine that treats my friend, president Sandra Roberts, so poorly. Some days I do dream of malicious ways to “set this right.”

Then I remember my great-grandparents and their friends: Adventist Mennonites who channeled their bitterness into open-hearted ministry and service.

Bitterness kills the bitter ones, not those who deserve it.

That leads me back to the Compliance document. There is no need to divide our church into “real” Adventists and “non-compliant” Adventists. We are ONE with differences. To separate out or shame those whose differences offend us is to allow our personal fears to override the uniting power of God’s love. Such choices make Screwtape proud. The ability to live with those differences while celebrating the indwelling Christ is an essential attribute of a strong church.

This article was written by Dick Duerksen, an Adventist pastor for 48 years, and originally appeared on the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists website. It is reprinted here with permission. Image courtesy of the Oregon Conference.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

i think a lot of backlash has happened as a result of this shameful shunning…for myself, it is one more evidence that our GC is no longer the voice of god…somewhere along the way, despite what may have been good intentions, a distinctly unchristian course has come to dominate the GC’s response to WO…

WO has really ripened character…we can now clearly see what people are made of…


Salvation is not an entitlement but a gift. It is freely available to both XY and XX on an equal,basis. Mary was the first to carry the Good News.Now in his second term we have yet to hear any thing approaching Good News from the elected head of an organization committed to that very task. We hear words like dire, grave. And deliberate act to eliminate a duly elected female conference president. Cunning was never intended to be a requirement for high church office. Nor was shunning a tactic of unity.


My family is employed at GC and it is a shame how much they are in the dark by being that close to headquarters.
Sounds like the GC is made up of Mennonites.


Thank you! Your family’s history exhibits how hurtful the practice of shunning and shaming is for everyone. It is, indeed, a disgrace that the GC Executive Committee has approved this degrading practice.


I’d feel better if those who most strongly support WO didn’t make such an effort to say, “we support WO but that doesn’t mean we will ever support LGBTQ ordination.”

Thanks for taking is off the table, NAD.

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Pastor Duerksen,

Your poignant Mennonite story resonates with pain and is so aptly pertinent to the recent GC proposals advocating shunning and shaming of “dissidents”—those not in “compliance”.

The contemptible,tawdry treatment of Sandra Roberts, duly elected President of the SEC Conference should be an affront to the huge majority of constiuents who voted her into office.

Shaming and shunning has been the modus operandi of Adventists for decades, not just in the current humiliations bestowed on Dr Roberts.

Ask any member of Kinship International, our gay / lesbian Adventist group, for their harrowing, heartbreaking tearful testimonies of soul crushing shaming and shunning.

It is not lost on this group that the largest compliance committee is the one dealing with homosexuality. Apparently this mean spirited, shabby, odious treatment of our gay lesbian offspring is to be ratcheted up to another notch of nastiness.

How can the appointed members of this stigmatizing clique, hell bent on heaping on more hurt, face themselves in the mirror???


Of all the troubling aspects of the Oct 14 vote the codification of the “shunning clause” is easily the most ridiculous and anti-Christian element. To call it juvenile is an insult to children everywhere and to consider it Christlike is to belittle Christ.


The principle cause of aberrant behavior is aberrant theology. If you are a neo-subordinationist, church purificationist, and a believer in last generation theology, as Ted Wilson and Mark Finley evidently are, then shunning and shaming is for you a Christian duty. Hierarchy in the Godhead and our faith community, the duty to cleanse the church of sinners, and the imperative to do so quickly so that Jesus will come again, are aberrant beliefs that argue strongly for shunning and shaming.


Does the GC documents dealing with compliance actually say they will shun? I have read it, but didn’t pick that up. What I saw was that times it would be necessary to name those who are in rebellion, just as in 1 Timothy 5:20. That is entirely biblical, and at times the servant of the Lord had to do the same. If for example a NAD leader has to be dropped from employment because of persistent refusal to follow biblical principles, and agitates for rebellion of the world church, everyone would and should know the reasons, and the regret that this had to happen.

Its funny how names can be named, as has happened when it comes to brethren who have stood up against Dr Ford in decades past, yet now we are all in a dither about the possibility of some, who would be in rebellion might have to have a warning against their name.

I’ve seen plenty of names posted on Spectrum, some possibly legit, and some just because they supported the opposite camp in the theological debate, but what makes the difference in this case that has some all worried? Its like the old saying, “Do as I say, but not as I do.”

It doesn’t help for this writer to unfortunately exaggerate the real issue here, with an account of the wrong done in the Mennonite example. The extremism in their shunning goes to the level of family members not even engaging in common courtesy speech, ever, or eating at the same table, ever, or perhaps a warning if the other person shunned as about to hurt themselves by something unseen, ever. No one supports that kind of childish behavior.

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You used the wrong adjective, Jimmy!

The appropriate apt appellation is vicious, vindictive, venomous behavior —— the nastiness meted out by Adventist parents, congregations and schools to our gay offspring for the many past decades!


Jimmy –
You don’t believe that the SDA church Leadership has been SHUNNING the women
of the church from way back in the days of Ellen White when the 1st request to make
women equal to men in the giving of the gospel?
And it was tabled forever by a 3 man committee. And ever since the Leadership has
been following the example of these 3 men EACH TIME it has been proposed through
the years and even to November 2018.

Also add Robin’s comments to SHUNNING behavior by both Leadership and the
COMMUNITIES of local worshipers to Children of God.
Children that God GAVE to many Seventh day Adventist parents. Children they REJECTED.
Told God He Made A Mistake and REFUSED to accept them as their own.


In the Adventist community it absolutely happens and over the years (1968 and the present) have seen this in action in places such as Minnesota, Washington, California, Japan. It happens for all kinds of reasons and impacts a broader range than just the individual or family. It is childish but it is real.

Really, I would have never believed it. What is indicated in your 1968 year here. I know of some (and they are very few) who came into church membership through Bob Brinsmead in about that era. They were frowned upon and one family seemed to hate them, but for the most of us members, we had good friendships with them, even though we disagreed on a few minor issues. They were not shunned in the true sense, just not liked by just one family who were very straight-laced.

I can only say what I have seen in the local churches attended over the years.

This made an impression on a me as a child and as I grew up seeing the very real effect of various people or families who were subjected to this kind of thing.

As an adult you begin to understand that this is almost always as a result of some kind of petty or simple misunderstanding about something.

Ouch, what a vehement response. I don’t think we were talking about LGBTI and associated stuff. But if you want to start on that, let’s talk about the filthiness (health wise plus) of most of it - or maybe not, its too revolting. But we can still talk with them, why not?

But if what you describe is actually parents standing up for what is right and principled, then we have a problem, and it may not be exactly as you have described. Good parents have that right with their own children. And if its just parents standing up for what is right, and if that means a parent doesn’t want their young impressionable children associating or listening to transvestites for example, telling them their lifestyle choice is good, then that is good, isn’t it? That’s not all the adjectives you describe, but a good and caring parent.

Are you describing something different than this?

Let me address your last paragraph first, and perhaps the last sentence. While it is written somewhat confusing to me, as I know nothing of the meaning behind it, it does not sound good in the least. Parents reject their own children and either they told God He made a mistake, or God is supposed to tell them someone or other made a mistake. That doesn’t sound Adventist in the least. Surely it must be extremely isolated and rare.

The sentence before adding to Robin’s comments is not clear in meaning in the least. If you could clarify or give added explanation it might help.

The first part of the comment is not “shunning” in the religious context in the least. To use the word correctly in the religious sense, we think of the Catholic excomunication, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ shunning, Judaism shunning (not practices much now), the Bahai Faith, Islam, Church of Scientology, Amish, Mennonites, and few others who practice family estrangement, physical removal from congregation just by their being there (as opposed to a vocal disrupting of the service order), turning back on a person with no speaking at all, even to pass the time of day.

These “shunnings” are far removed from church leaders saying this is not biblical, we cannot give in to your wants and desires and remain faithful to God. This is not shunning. I can name a number of our women folk who have shared the gospel in similar roles as men. They didn’t seek ordination saying I cannot do this if you won’t ordain me. I know of some not of our faith in past generations who did the same. Some did a vital missionary work.

I venture very few have ever heard of the “three men” who are supposed to be still controlling the church today. I certainly haven’t. And I have never heard these “three men” ever referred to instead of the Bible in giving the true principles of church leadership.

And so, your first three sentences might reveal you have been listening to the wrong people, people with an agenda, who are prepared to manipulate history or facts to suit themselves. Lets face it, until this “culture” thing of recent times, this women’s lib came out, no-one ever heard of the church following three men on this issue. And yes, some of the WO proponents admit that they are following a modern culture thing, with just a little bit of Bible mis-use thrown in to make it plausible - the most common one being Galatians 3:28.

The NAD should role model the Christian unity Christ prayed for in John 17:20-23. Each individual and entity should be subject to their peers as Paul admonished in Ephesians 5:21. Each peer should be willing to bear the burdens placed on any submissive individual or entity as Paul commands in Galatians 6:2. That is, we should stand together in love, trust and respect despite our passionately held differences.

It is a shame that the 28 obscure the essentials. The Everlasting Covenant of the Old Testament has become the Evetlasting Gospel. Adventism embraces Rev 14 and then overlooks it’s Message. The Three Angels have the Everlasting Gospel. that will be the final test of the last generation.The challenge is to stand by what Christ had done, not what a final generation can do. compliance is not the issue. The Gospel is!

This is a time for prayer. Thanks Brother Duerksen for acknowledging the ministry of Sandra Roberts. As a member of the Southeastern California Conference several years ago, I joined hundreds of delegates in overwhelmingly electing her to our Conference Leadership. This was despite the ominous threats of General Conference leadership retaliation.

Many of us committed to be prayer warriors, asking God to protect her, give her courage and insight and send angels to further our Conference mission. Like Gamaliel, her ministry speaks for itself. Her treatment by world Church leaders has indeed been shameful. As a Church we should be better than this,