General Conference Answers Questions Regarding Its Leadership

The following text was submitted as a comment on the Adventist Review’s recent “Questions Regarding the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Its Leadership” essay, but was not accepted for publication.

Dear General Conference Communication Department:

The web site of the Center for Adventist Research, at Andrews University, lists the late Dr. Raymond Cottrell as “one of the leading theologians and intellectuals of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination during the last half of the 20th century.” Dr. Cottrell served as associate editor of both the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary series and the Review and Herald magazine, for example, as well as holding many other denominational offices.

In his 1998 essay, “The Ethos of Adventism,” Cottrell says this about Adventist administrative structure:

"Within local Seventh-day Adventist conferences governance is representative. The congregations appoint delegates to a conference session at which they elect conference officers and make basic decisions with respect to the operation of the conference. At times this process is aborted when delegates representing higher echelons of the hierarchy veto the delegates’ preferences. The GC also has the power to suspend a conference if it does not comply with GC policy, and has, upon occasion, threatened to do so.

"Above the local conference level Adventist polity is strictly hierarchical. There is no provision by which church members or congregations can express preferences or participate in the process of governance. The local conference executive committee appoints delegates to its union session, the union executive committee to its division session, and the division executive committee to sessions of the GC. Each delegation to the next higher level consists primarily of members of the hierarchy. Lay persons appointed by each executive committee, which is part of the hierarchy, thus represent the hierarchy, not the members or their congregations.

"Instead of the three Adventist administrative levels between the local congregation and the GC, most Protestant churches have only one, or in some instances two, between congregations and their highest administrative authority. Through their congregations the members collectively constitute the supreme authority. Congregations participate in the election of officers for each of their higher administrative levels. Ultimate authority thus flows up (rather than down from the top, as in a hierarchy). Fewer administrative levels, and participation in the election of officers and in the formation of policy at all levels thus bring leaders and grass roots members closer together.

“In two major respects the polity and governance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are essentially the same as those of the Roman Catholic Church rather than Protestant churches. Both are hierarchical rather than democratic. Both are universal (“catholic,” with a lower case “c”) rather than national. Official awareness of this trend was reflected in Neal Wilson’s jocular reference to his vice presidents as “cardinals” at the 1985 session of the GC in New Orleans, and references to him as “pope” at the 1987 Spring Meeting of the GC. The Adventist hierarchy is a self-contained, self-operating, self-perpetuating system remote from, and immune to, members and congregations.”

It doesn’t seem feasible, given Dr. Cottrell’s hard-earned status as a definitive SDA insider, to merely dismiss his carefully woven analysis.

At the same time, if what he wrote is even partially true, the responses to some of the questions above, particularly the 2nd one, may not be as neatly threaded as they first appear to be, and may require a more self-effacing response from the denomination.

Can we expect to get one? It should not be too difficult for the SDA church to produce. After all, it’s not exactly as if it’s never erred.


P.S. I’ve got to give it up to Elder Wilson for the current, “Mountain Man” look. I honestly wonder what inspires the beard. Is it a more fundamentalist look for a more fundamentalist time?

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The excuse is that they want to celebrate the spirit of the Church pioneers.

The real reason, however, is to create an environment that basically will be more conducive to intimidate people as they throw their plan to violate the Unions’ authority. They understand that the representatives from the world church will be impressed (or mesmerized?) by the bearded environment and will be more prone to vote in favor of stealing the Unions’ authority, transferring it to the GC. Ah, and they will be praying a lot asking God for His guidance so that they may implement their plan successfully… :roll_eyes: :roll_eyes:

I know, it sounds really stupid, right, but it is exactly what they are doing.
As I said before, even the elephant in the room there is bearded!.. :laughing:

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All of this promises to make my viewings of The Handmaid’s Tale all the more unnerving.


My point was that Miller and EGW offered the same proofs that were bogus and accepted. History is complex and vague enough that people accept interpretations that resemble picture puzzles put together with scissors and hammers,:wink:

It seems to me that just because the Roman Empire and the RCC used the same city for their capitol and hence the same name doesn’t establish a common identity. “Babylon is fallen” is borrowed from an OT statement reporting a military defeat, not a moral one. John was instructed to report what he saw and heard. I find nothing in his description that makes Babylon a church. I have a book that’s 208 years old that makes a fascinating case for Babylon being Islam. Speculation is intriguing but always inconclusive.


I’m not, George. so , NO

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“Issues” like in the Merikay Silver case when the church vigorously argued it was a top-down hierarchy, and its employees were like “cloistered nuns?”

The kind of “family working through” that involves years of the Adventist hierophants trying to skirt US law to avoid treating women fairly—and legally—and then lost?

Is that the kind of “family” we’re talking about?

Neal Wilson: Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term ‘hierarchy’ was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church government, that attitude on the church’s part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative Protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned.

Merikay Silver trial:

3:26-29 - “The only proper disposition is to get this controversy out of the courthouse at once, and back into the Church where it belongs, where it can be dealt with by the ecclesiastical authorities.”

29:13-18 - “Just as the initial freedom of selecting a minister is a matter of church administration and government, so are the functions which accompany such a selection. It is unavoidably true that these functions, among others, include the determination of a minister’s salary.”

29:28-29 - “What the church cannot tolerate is for members to bring church disputes into civil courts.”

73:12-14 - “It follows that the Church, including the General Conference, the departments, and the institutions, are entitled to the protections of the first Amendment.”

73:15-21 - “At bottom, this is simply a case of schism. Mrs. Silver and Mrs. Tobler have decided that they know better than do the Elders of the Church how the Church should behave itself in relation to anti-discrimination laws.

The Church per contra has exercised its authority to declare that Mrs. Silver is at variance and has a tendency to ignore Christian counsel. Such disputes are not for judicial arbitrament.”

89:9-11 - “Laws designed to enforce fairness to workers in a commercial setting are not designed to operate in an ecclesiastical one.”

89:27-28 - “The wage policy of a church cannot be determined by the government.”

90:2-5 - “Those who work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church respond to a religious vocation in
exactly the same sense as does a cloistered nun.

Man’s law is by its very nature not applicable.

Cessante legis, cessat ipsa lex.”

There you have it. Cloistered nun.

Eat your cucumbers with a thankful heart.

The willingness to surrender one’s independence,
to barter the evidence of one’s senses,
for the comfortable but reality-distorting satisfaction
of feeling in harmony with a group
is, of course, the stuff on which
demagogues and dictators thrive.

Paul Watzlawick

Question: How do you presently feel about your leadership in the Merikay Silver case?

Question: Do you still consider your employees to be exactly like cloistered nuns?

Question: How far do you really want to carry this Roman Catholic/Adventist authority parallel?

Question:. Do you feel you worked through the “family issues” and came out stronger after you lost the Merikay Silver case?

Question: Do the Elders always know best?

(Feel Free to add more questions…)


I was on Kant this week.
Car le mensonge nuit toujours à autrui : même s’il ne nuit pas à un autre homme, il nuit à l’humanité en général et il rend vaine la source du droit

– La véracité étant un devoir formel de l’homme à l’égard de chacun

– Le contraire de la vérité est la fausseté : quand elle est tenue pour vérité, elle se nomme erreur

Lying is a sin. Why are you lying? You are deceiving yourselves and others.
I will not translate. We all know the law. Women and men are equal. It’s in the Bible. To except yourself or your entity from the law while recognising that the law stands is to deceive. There is no turning around it.
To ask women to be subordinates to men like a wife to her husband is pure perversion. First a wife submit herself. You therefore cannot enforce it, like a man cannot be enforced to love his wife. And we live in the church as brothers and sisters not husbands and wives.

Now we are all advised to become mockers. This is not the message our Jesus Christ gave us as his last command.

Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Pr 9:8.

I am absolutely disheartened but I still hope that all this will be corrected. Paul made mistakes, Moses made mistakes; they were still great leaders and great men. Shed whatever has to be shed and start your journey to great leadership, it’s all we are waiting for.

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Well, they still do, don’t they? Is this a blatant lie, or am I mistaken that the SDA church has always (and still does) have a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint?

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My take:

Adventist eschatology is set up as a zero-sum game, winner takes all.

The SDA ace-in-the-hole is the Sabbath. All of world history and the fate of billions pivots on the point of that inherently unstable inverted pyramid.

The two heavies on the stage of world history are the Roman Catholic Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The point of contention is not really the Law of God, as Adventists claim, as they routinely ignore and break other commandments (most notably the sixth) with impunity.

The Sabbath is the most important thing in God’s universe (or at least the Adventist universe).

Therefore, Adventism must maintain an agonistic stance vis a vis the RCC, else it has no eschatology and no raison d’etre.

This laser focus on the Sabbath frees up Adventism to adopt Catholic Power-and-Control methods with a clear conscience.


No, you are not mistaken.

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Is the “Bearded Look” just a device to attempt to ATTRACT the younger generation??

A distinctly beastly view of the Catholic church. If that isn’t anti, then I don’t know what is.

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Well, if that doesn’t do it, I’m sure the 1880 garb will! It’s a winning strategy. :wink:

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TAM, from your post #120 and responses #122,124, would
it be correct to conclude that you don’t believe that there is
such a person as the Holy Spirit?


The idea that the Pope is the antichrist, son of perdition, man of sin, etc. has been thought my many of the reformers and others. But, my issue is being dishonest, or outright lying about a belief, under oath even (!). I have such an issue with people who lie…

True. And there is absolutely nothing biblical about this belief/doctrine.

True too. And there are so many issues regarding “Sabbath”…where to begin?

True again. And, absolutely nothing biblical about this either. For Christianity, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the main thing.

Good points all, Cassie.

Excellent point, Carol.

Adventist doctrine could use some, shall we say…tweaking?

As I always say, Adventist eschatology and soteriology are like two wet tom cats tied up in a gunnysack— ain’t never gonna git along.


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Yesterday in my SS class I asked a question about what should one do when his/her conviction differs from the church’s teaching. All members agreed that one should follow his/her conviction. When it comes specifically to the issue of women’s ordination, it is true that at the GC session in 2015, it was voted not to ordain women. The vote itself is not as disheartening as the bases on which these delegates voted. Here is an example of an arguments presented in the position on women’s ordination in one of the three documents mentioned in the current GC article: there is a clear biblical model for male leadership. This argument is supported by a text from 1 Tim. 3.2 “… husband of one wife …” Seventh-day Adventist claim to be the people of the Book. Yet, I cannot imagine more shallow interpretation of a biblical passage. This interpretation is on a kindergarten level. A child in any SDA school can mention female leaders mentioned in the Bible. Kindergarten age children know about the leadership of Ellen White in the SDA church. Female members have many leadership roles in our churches in many areas of churches’ life. This argument is a clear example of a bias view rather than one based on scriptural evidence.


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