General Conference Answers Questions Regarding Its Leadership


(Spectrumbot) #1

Editor's Note: On October 8, 2018, the General Conference released the following statement on the Adventist News Network. It is reprinted here in its entirety:

Questions regarding the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its leadership

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is an international spiritual community of 21 million members bound together by the Holy Spirit in its commitment to Christ, His message and mission. Our worldwide church organization strengthens the unity of the church, safeguards its doctrinal integrity and fosters its mission.

Over the past few months some questions have been raised regarding the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its leadership. We invite you to consider the following:

In an effort to unite the church over difficult issues, has the General Conference (GC) leadership become a persecuting power as identified in Revelation 13?

Suggesting the Seventh-day Adventist Church or its leadership are fulfilling the prophecy of Revelation 13:7 is virtually identifying the church as Babylon. The context of this passage clearly points to Daniel 7 where a power would intend to change times and laws. The one and only power that makes this claim and matches the prophetic description is the Roman papacy, which exercised both religious and political power throughout its history and especially during the Middle Ages from AD 538-1798.

By encouraging the church to follow what has been voted by the General Conference in Session and its Executive Committee, church leaders are fulfilling their obligation of upholding the decisions of the world church.

Is the General Conference leadership exercising “kingly power” akin to papal authority?

The charge that the General Conference or its leadership are exercising “kingly power” akin to papal authority misunderstands the vast difference between the decision-making processes in the Roman Catholic Church in comparison to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The papacy is a system of centralized, top-down authority centered in an infallible pope and his cardinals. But in the Adventist Church authority flows in both directions, from the bottom-up and the top-down, through representatives who include at all committee levelswomen[sic] as well as men, and lay members as well as pastors.

In the Catholic Church, decisions on doctrine are decreed by the pope and the top theologians of the church. In contrast, within the Adventist Church, the statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs simply summarizes what members, based on their own Bible study, already believe. Only the largest and most representative gathering of leaders and lay members at the General Conference Session held every five years can modify this statement of beliefs, the Church Manual, and certain GC policies, because they affect every level of the church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, on all levels, operates on a representative form of church governance. Church leaders are elected officials who are duty bound to carry out the voted actions of the General Conference Session and the General Conference Executive Committee.

The fact that non-compliance in various areas of church life take time to resolve is a clear testimony to the fact that the Adventist Church has a distributed, rather than a top-down, system of authority, with appropriate checks and balances. It is also possible to resolve matters by higher levels of church governance, such as the General Conference Executive Committee or the world gathering of leaders and lay members at the General Conference Session.

In 2015 the General Conference Session voted against allowing regions of the world to choose whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry. Were the full reports from the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) made available to delegates and members before the 2015 General Conference Session?

The process for the study of ordination was careful, thorough, and transparent in every way. In addition to the church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), encouragement was also given for the study to be pursued at other levels. Division committees reported their findings to TOSC and vice versa, which enabled extensive dialogue on these issues worldwide.

The papers presented at TOSC were made publicly available online soon after each committee meeting on the ASTR website (www.adventistarchives.org/gc-tosc).

Three weeks before the 2014 Annual Council, the Adventist Reviewand[sic] Adventist News Network published an appeal for church members — and especially Executive Committee members and 2015 General Council delegates — to prayerfully study the Bible and the materials on the ASTR website. The appeal (bit.ly/ARappealand bit.ly/ANNappeal) included numerous weblinks to the related materials.

At the 2014 Annual Council, members of the GC Executive Committee received 30-minute reports representing each of the three positions generated by TOSC. They also received a 125-page report, published in June 2014, containing detailed summaries of these three positions and their respective recommendations regarding the way forward.

The 30-minute reports presented at Annual Council were published in their entirety in the Adventist Reviewas[sic] Position 1 (bit.ly/ARposition1), Position 2 (bit.ly/ARposition2), and Position 3 (bit.ly/ARposition3).

On March 4, 2015, a letter was sent to every GC Session delegate with a link to session materials, including this full TOSC report with a link for requesting a printed copy.

At the GC Session itself, summaries of each of the three positions were read, allowing more time for discussion, and printed copies of the TOSC report were made available.

It should be remembered that TOSC was a study committee only, with no administrative authority, nor was it representative of the world field. Its purpose was to study the topic of ordination and to make its findings known to the larger church. As a study committee, they were tasked to research and submit reports only.

As such, the straw poll taken by the chair did not constitute any official vote. The results indicated the committee was quite evenly divided among the three positions. While some have tried to read that “vote” as favoring the ordination of women, others point out that a similarly sizeable majority recognized male leadership as the ideal biblical model for God’s people.

Is the Church suppressing freedom of conscience by asking elected leaders to comply with General Conference Session and Executive Committee voted actions?

Church leaders have a special responsibility to set an example of faithfulness to Christ. They do this by drawing the church into closer bonds of unity based on our voted beliefs and practices. One of the causes of disunity is a failure to abide by the agreed upon policies of the church. Individuals are not forced to accept these policies. Coercion is not part of heaven’s plan. If a church leader found themselves in complete opposition to the church’s policies and could not live with their conscience they always have the option of resigning their leadership position. Every individual is left free to follow God’s leading as he or she understands it but each leader has a responsibility to uphold the voted actions of the General Conference in Session and the actions of the General Conference Executive Committee. Freedom of conscience on the one hand and leadership accountability to the global church on the other are precious values that should always be guarded and respected among us.

When someone does not agree with church leadership, what is the appropriate way to question its actions and decisions?

When there is disagreement, one should try to follow the principles of Matthew 18. Personal and public attacks are against our biblical mandate as Christians. Jesus was clear: we should treat each other as we wish to be treated.

The same is also true for how we treat leaders. Even the apostle Paul, when rebuked for speaking disrespectfully of the Jewish high priest, said “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:5). As one hears or reads the strong rhetoric being used today against church leadership, one wonders if those making the accusations know the person whom they are attacking.

The Bible encourages us to speak respectfully about each other and our leaders. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to control our words and actions.

Why is unity so important?

The church is the object of God’s supreme regard. Jesus prayed specifically for His church as He faced the shame of the cross, recognizing that their unity was a necessary pre-requisite[sic] for the successful accomplishment of the mission He was entrusting to them.

Only as we unite in faith, practice, and mission can the work God has given us be successfully accomplished. A dying world awaits the proclamation of the unique last day Christ-centered biblical message that has been entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Heaven’s imperative is to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:16). Only a church united in love and doctrine, committed to mission, and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit will accomplish Christ’s purpose in preparing the people for the coming of our Lord.

If compliance is so difficult to achieve and this issue is so divisive, wouldn’t it be better to just forget about this and focus on mission?

The world church would love to leave these contentions behind us. We believe we must focus on mission and God’s mandate to spread His gospel of love to the world as a united church. However, we simply cannot ignore decisions that we make as a global body.

Every family struggles from time to time to resolve difficult issues. Families that ignore the issues continue to suffer, but those who work through their issues come out stronger.

We believe we will emerge from this struggle stronger and united as a global church family. We call upon every member and leader to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us.

This article derives from a larger document that addresses these specific issues in greater depth. That document is available at https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/newsletter/.

###

This statement originally appeared on the Adventist News Network. Image courtesy of ANN.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9083

(Robert Lindbeck) #3

Where was the follow up question - “Doesn’t the result of the vote actually mean that the church, with regards to ordination, stay at status quo? What did the vote actually mean?”
The actual question that was asked was a spin and incorrect reporting of the vote that took place.


(jeremy) #4

i’m pleasantly surprised to see the GC taking the time to answer these pertinent questions so thoroughly, leading up to AC2018…while it’s sad that it has to do this, it’s good that it did…i think this statement will reassure many adventists that they can have confidence in their GC leaders…


#5

Sadly, time was not set aside for adequate discussion of this issue. Why did the G.C. not allow two days for this important business, at least?

The rationale for this TOSC research was exactly and publicly attributed to get international input from all 13 divisions. Funding was provided for the INTERNATIONAL reports and meetings.

Has the GC anti-WO leadership gone directly to their “enemies” and directly spoken to them? Is there a report about this? Where?

This is a curious statement. How can the leadership demand compliance with THEIR personal views of a policy issue and force members to recant the Priesthood of ALL Believers?

Thousands have been doing just this. It happened this weekend at the Constituency meeting in SECC. Prayer, study, and following the nudgings of the Holy Spirit. It’s happening all over the world. Unions, conferences, churches, individuals have spoken in documents, interviews, books, and in meetings after prayers for the Holy Spirit. Regardless, it seems the leadership ignores their injunctions.

Sadly, the General Conference ADCOM does not include the Priesthood of All Believers, Gifts of the Holy Spirit anywhere in their writings insisting that everyone join their view. By insisting on ignoring the Gifts of the Spirit upon women, the leadership is actually pressing against unity in the Spirit. This is troubling and puzzling.


(Raj Attiken) #6

Translation: “No, we are not authoritarian.” “No, we don’t exercise kingly power.” “We distributed the TOSC report, although we disregarded its findings.” “Of course we are not suppressing freedom of conscience.” “Unity is so important that we’ll enforce uniformity.”
“Yes, we are doing everything right. Trust us!”


(jeremy) #7

this certainly represents a significant impasse, but it may just be that we are looking at it incorrectly…if san antonio can be shown to have been inadvertently illegitimate - that ordination questions really do belong to unions, and not the GC - perhaps it can be withdrawn, and we can start all over…

i really hope someone at AC2018 can insist on discussing the division of powers principle in our church without getting side-tracked…if i were a delegate, this is the question i’d be focused on…there isn’t a compliance problem, at least on WO, if san antonio can be shown to have been inadvertently illegitimate…


#8

With due respect, it would be advisable to read up some more on what the GC leadership has done to address the issues relative to your questions. Do so, it’ll save you time. And energy.


#9

The brief article responds fairly and squarely to the misguided criticisms by George Knight and others here and elsewhere. David Larson has more than adequately done that also, here. It will go a long way to help assuage some lingering and valid concerns, straighten out the inaccurate characterizations and settle some of the fear-mongering we’ve come to expect from Spectrumites.
Whatever the council does, do something it must.


(Elmer Cupino) #10

When about to be caught red-handedly, redirect the attention to a common enemy. This is vintage infantile defense mechanism frequently seen in preschool playgrounds and is sadly reflective of our church leaders mental frame. “Unity by Redirection and Projection” should be the theme of AC2018.

Why can’t our GC officers leave the RCC alone and settle our problems among ourselves. No need to triangulate. This is just so pathetic. The point is the behavior, not the institution.


#11

With all due respect, @BePositive, I have carefully followed every article, detail, interview, publication, study and book on this topic since Utrecht.

Perhaps you have answers to the questions??


(Steve Mga) #12

Notice, it says “regions of the world” instead of Division Offices.
Is this a twist on words to confuse the readers of what REALLY was voted SA2015?
NOTICE they fail to report that Unions STILL have the Authority to have whoever
[men or women] THEY want as pastors.
So this STILL BY OMMISSION perpetuates the assumption that UNIONS are being
uncooperative, going their own way in DEFIANCE to what was voted SA2015.
NOTICE – They are calling for President Roberts to resign from her voted in Office
as President.
NOTICE-- They are asking that NOBODY call Leaders to account for their actions.
If one does then it is considered an ATTACK on the PERSONHOOD of the person
and NOT just the actions exhibited.
WHAT ABOUT THIS QUESTION AND ITS ANSWERS-- If compliance is so difficult to
achieve and this issue is so divisive, wouldn’t it be better to just forget about this and
focus on mission [mission statement].


(Steve Mga) #13

Jeremy –
NO WAY will they say that the SA2015 vote was illegitimate. That is WHY it was worded the
way it was. To CONFUSE the Delegates for whom English was NOT their first language.
This is why threats of “dire consequences” were made.
This is why threats of making certain Unions and Conferences into “Missions”.


(jeremy) #14

i didn’t say they should say san antonio was illegitimate…i said they should say, or find, that san antonio was inadvertently illegitimate…

if we are interested in resolving this impasse, we need to find a way to save face for all concerned…


(Steve Mga) #15

Jeremy –
Nobody at the Very Top will agree to that.
They got the vote they wanted and have been making the most of it.
Even very intelligent persons who comment here on Spectrum are
still confused by the wording of the motion, and what the vote meant.


(Peter Marks) #16

I appreciated Dr Jon Paulien’s moderating tone in his LLUC Sabbath School presentation. His ability to explain the GC’s frame of mind in dealing with compliance issues is something I really respect.

One point of Paulien’s that really resonated with me is that the 2015 SAN Antonio vote on Ordination was wrong headed because neither response gave any hope of resolving the impasse.

The quickest solution to this impasse may indeed be for the GC to think of a way to credientialize our pastoral leaders without maintaining separate gender tracks, much as Norway appears to have done.

The real question that must be uppermost in the minds of the GC Executive Committee should be - Does the proposed compliance policy add to consensus decision making and build trust among church leadership? I believe the answer is still ‘NO’.

However we must acknowledge the attempt to build unity, though it must be said that unity will never be produced by use of sticks.


(jeremy) #17

well, they’ve also got a very big headache…and now it looks like the compliance review committees may be in doubt…

i think there have to be at least some leaders at the very top who would love to start all over…


#18

Raj, I think you pretty much summed up the conclusion drawn. The overall tone of the response appeared to be over simplified and misdirects the readers. As a result of this response there is as you put it ‘Yep everything is fine here’ and is really in the end dishonest on the part of the GC.


(Steve Mga) #19

This is a Very Well Crafted document, and the WORDING of it took a lot of time
and thought by a number of persons to get it “just right”.
How something is worded, which words are used, are Very Important in a
document such as this.

I was a nursing home administrator in TN for over 20 years, dealing with State
surveyors and wording on compliant-not compliant forms.
I would put this document in the same status of those.
It is all in the WORDING as how to interpret.
It was all in the WORDING by me as how I responded, and I became very GOOD
at it. Perhaps this is WHY I am SUSPICIOUS of this document from the Adventist
News Network.


(2nd Opinion) #20

In a Trumpian world it’s called “doubling down.” That’s what this is. The only response can be “voting down.”


#21

The TOSC has three types of Position Summaries and corresponding Way Forwards.

I hadn’t read through the whole document and after doing so the writers were being very honest in their approach.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through it I would strongly advise that you do. At least look at the Summaries first and then the subsequent analysis for each position to get the main points.