General Conference Outlines Proposed Plan of Action for Unions that Ordain Women

The communication staff of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists have released a document detailing a proposed plan of action for denominational entities characterized as having "gone outside of voted church policy by ordaining women." In the news release on the Adventist Review website, the General Conference Communication Department stated:

The recommendation — titled “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” — that was approved by the 78-member General Conference and Division Officers Committee at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, on the evening of Oct. 6 will be sent to the 343-member Executive Committee for discussion and a vote on Oct. 11.

The document follows in its entirety:



This document has not been voted by the General Conference Executive Committee.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to grow with members coming from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” These believers have the privilege of working and praying for the unity in faith and mission for which Jesus so earnestly prayed (John 17:11, 20-23). At times, such unity can be a challenge for a local church—how much more for a worldwide family of nearly 20 million people consisting of many different languages, cultures, and backgrounds. And yet this is the high ideal to which we have been called!

This is why it’s so important to come together to pray, plan, and vote formal policies and guidelines. These provide a framework which helps to hold us together as one people, united in one prophetic mission and message. It is not something we should treat lightly or ignore. Rather, it represents our best effort as a world body to be faithful to God, and move together.

In order for any organization to function effectively, members will at times have to put aside personal opinions and preferences for the mutual good and health of the larger body. As imperfect human beings, we can expect that mistakes will be made. God is our infallible Leader, but His followers won’t always get it right. At times individuals or organizations will operate outside the Church’s voted policies. Sometimes this happens by accident; sometimes on purpose (and maybe even with very good intentions). But policy has well-defined procedures to follow when an individual or entity feels the need of an exemption to a policy or other voted action of the Church. When any one entity decides to “go it alone,” the whole Church body suffers and is diminished. If not addressed, these actions can lead to charges of unfairness, and can undermine the Church’s united mission.

So what should the Church family do when this happens? Ignore the situation, praying that the problem will just go away? Move in immediately and demand compliance? Or is there some other balanced path that we can take to hold each other accountable and to work together for our mutual good?

After much prayer, consultation, and discussion, it is RECOMMENDED,

  1. To adopt the following steps of reconciliation with entities that appear to have overlooked or ignored the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the Church:
    1. Listen and pray.
      1. This step begins when the executive officers or governing body become aware of an apparent reason for concern regarding a subsidiary entity’s actions. The executive officers should then meet with the leaders of the subsidiary entity. This will provide an opportunity to pray together, and listen to each other.
    2. Consultation with wider groups.
      1. If it is found that there is reason for further discussion, the executive officers of the next higher organization should, after consulting with the entity, establish a wider group to discuss the concern. This group—including lay people, pastors, and administrators from the entity and the broader Church—should meet at least twice over a period of six months. This will provide an opportunity to listen to each other, pray together, and study God’s will from His Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. Every effort should be made and sufficient time be given, for personal visits, open consultations, meetings, and forums for dialogue.
      2. If the matter is one with critical time sensitivity (such as an entity preparing to take out an unauthorized loan that could not then be reversed), the executive committee, in consultation with their next higher organization, could authorize an amended timeframe.
      3. The executive officers who established the larger group should provide regular updates on the discussions to their governing body and to the executive officers of their next higher organization.
    3. Write pastoral letters.
      1. If after six months of discussion the matter has not been resolved, the executive officers of the next higher organization should write pastoral letters encouraging the executive officers and the governing body of the entity to lead their organization to be faithful to the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, and working policies of the Church.
    4. Listen and pray again.
      1. If these letters still don’t resolve the matter, the executive officers of the next higher organization should again meet with the executive officers and the governing body of the entity concerned to urge and encourage them to reconsider (unless an amended timeframe has been approved in step b. above). They should also request an opportunity to meet again with the group that has been addressing the matter.
    5. Start phase two of reconciliation.
      1. If, for some reason, the above process of prayer and consultation does not resolve the matter, the executive committee of the next higher organization will need to consider the conflict resolution procedures referred to in recommendation 2. below.
      2. For the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs or voted actions and policies of a worldwide nature, the General Conference will become involved.

RECOMMENDED, 2. To request the General Conference Administrative Committee to recommend to 2017 Annual Council procedural steps to be followed in the event that a resolution of the conflict is not achieved under procedures identified above.

Even though conflict resolution will be necessary from time to time, the Seventh-day Adventist family and organizational units are all called to be part of a prophetic end-time movement reaching out with a message of hope and salvation to all nations, languages, creeds, and castes around the world. What a privilege to be part of a Church family that bears “one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), that is “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Eph 4:32), and that strives to work together “that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).

All Bible references are from the New King James Version.


Photo Credit: Brent Hardinge / Adventist News Network

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

“subsidiary entity’s actions.”

The term “subsidiary” shows up a number of times in this discussion. As I’ve asked Jared before, could someone please actually look at whether Unions are a legal subsidiary of the GC, at least in the USA? No one has ever offered any proof of this one way or the other here on Spectrum. What is the legal identity of the Unions and what do their articles of incorporation and their constitution/bylaws state?

Edit: I’ve found the following about the NPUC with a little Googling:

The following link claims to have the Articles of Incorporation of the NPUC:

Its an Oregon non-profit, and basic boiler plate. No references to being a subsidiary of the GC. Since some items at the end aren’t complete its not clear how authentic this is, or perhaps it was preliminary. Interesting that it is Oregon, although the Agent is in WA, as is the headquarters now. Used to be in Portland, so no surprise that the NPUC was set up as an Oregon corp. I would think it would now be a WA one however.

The following link is claimed to be the Constitution of the NPUC, from cr 2011:

The Preamble and Article 5 Relationships are worth reading. They basically state the Union will operate within “basic harmony” of the Division and GC.

Art 9 Constituency Meetings Sec 2-(4) Either NAD or the GC can call a special constituency meeting at any time.

Sec 4 Constitution and Bylaws Committee is the key section: Basically this committee, which is a standing committee is charged with reviewing the Constitution and Bylaws and recommending changes to the Union constituency meeting. There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions on altering the Constitution and Bylaws, i.e. Article 5 is not protected. The constituents can do as they please. It should be noted that these changes can be made at either the regular constituency meeting, or a special one, so it could be one called by NAD or the GC.

Art 14 Finances Sec 2 Polices state that tithe and all other funds will be used in harmony with NAD and GC financial policies.

Art 16 Amendment, Revision and Repeal places no limitations on what can be changed in the Constitution/Bylaws. Details are 2/3s vote and some timing issues.

Art 20 Dissolution: 2/3rds vote ANY constituency meeting (so special ones as well), and remaining assets would go to the GC.

So the moral of the story is that there is nothing in either the Articles of Incorporation, or the Constitution and Bylaws of the NPUC that makes it controlled by the GC or NAD, but Article 5 as currently written states that the NPUC will function “in basic harmony” with NAD and GC policy. The NPUC is NOT a subsidiary of any other organization. The GC can call a special constituency meeting. A 2/3 vote at any constituency meeting can alter ANY element of the Constitution and Bylaws (including Article 5) as well as dissolve the NPUC, whose assets in such a dissolution would go to the GC. Of course Art 20 on dissolution could be altered by a 2/3 vote first as well.

So legally, NAD and the GC only have backdoor control of the NPUC. I assume other Unions are similar.

Per a comment from mtskeels9496, the clause in Art 5 stating the NPUC is part of the NAD can be viewed as a subsidiary relationship. I think this is true, since there is no formal definition of subsidiary in a legal sense, but the problem is then that the control structure, if viewed as a subsidiary is to weak to retain control by the NAD/GC. Subsidiaries are legally independent organizations from their parents, but are either majority owned or majority controlled by the parent. The NPUC is neither. The GC/NAD do have some limited influence, but they didn’t retain the right to control either the BoD or the Constitution, so they effectively don’t have control. All ultimate power does reside with the constituents, so the Union is controlled by the Conferences and their churches, so the Union is more correctly viewed as being a subsidiary of the combination of Conferences within its region.

I should note this link that I found was a markup of revisions made in 2011. There might be a newer version now, I don’t know.

As a final note, it should be clear that the NPUC could separate itself from the NAD/GC by the following at any constituency meeting:

  1. Alter Art 5 (and the Preamble too for consistency)
  2. Alter Art 14
  3. Alter Art 20

Various others would also be altered to drop NAD/GC committee membership etc.


"In order for any organization to function effectively, members will at times have to put aside personal opinions and preferences for the mutual good and health of the larger body. "

I fear that we will see these EXACT words used against us by government entities just prior to the Second Coming, and they will quote US chapter and verse!

Has the General Conference decided to ignore their own working policy, which states that the Unions determine who should be ordained? The only conflict is in the minds of the GC, not in the minds of many of the members. This is not going to end well. I thank God that my name does no have to be on the rolls of any denomination in order for me to become an eternal citizen of heaven.


personal opinions and preferences may be, but what about moral convictions? These unions are morally convinced that the denial of ordination for women is unjust. And our unjust treatment of women here in the West will prolong the unjust and unequal treatment of women in other countries in all areas of life.
If the matter is just a question of personal opinion or preference, why does the GC even bother? Why spending hundreds of thousands of Dollars for TOSC?


Somehow all these steps seem like “do this OR ELSE!” (else being what the next year’s session will propose.
What puzzles me is what does “next higher organization” mean? As far as I know, we are all servants (and pastors are servants just as well as the rest of church members). Only one higher then us is God. Also, officially we are organizationally inverse pyramid, meaning - conference is the servant of local churches, union servant of conference, division of unions, and GC of divisions - did I get that right?


Moral Convictions
THESE are NOT personal opinions, NOR are they preferences!!!

The GOOD FOR the Larger Body [the Christian Church {IS the SDA church a Christian Church?}] IS for Equality AND All Inclusion in ALL Activities of the Church on a World Wide basis.

THEIR Paradigm is ALL WRONG to BEGIN WITH!!! They are starting their 50-Page Document from the Wrong Starting Gate.
BUT No One Cares.
And no one HAS Cared for the past almost 50 YEARS of “discussion” [BY MEN].
Actually at the turn of the 1900s. Over 100 years ago.


Or, say, something like this:

@Michaelp said: Also, I would be interested to know more about the discussion on proposed changes to Article XVI which, in the event of dissolution of the Union, would have given the Union’s assets to the local conferences rather than to the GC.

Such a Time: 2016 Pacific Union Conference Constituency Session

Would that have been the first shot at Fort Sumter?

1 Like

Aka… another female ordination.

1 Like

I have never heard that presidents, secretaries, directors and other leaders think of themselves as members. So this obligation of putting aside of personal opinions and acknowledging of imperfectness can not be seen as mutual.
All these steps from 1 to 5 are only a time winning maneuver. I don’t see any sign of a possible change of mind on the side of the authors of the above document. All steps are designed in such a manner that only subsidiary entities have obligations. GC is still talking as the one who wants to be respected and obeyed. The prolongation of one more year may be achieved after “much prayer, consultation, and discussion”, but there has not been any change of mind and the goal is still the same: “demand compliance”.
What will happen in one year? Nobody knows now, but the Church and the members will lose one year more in unnecessary and futile battles. The mission is already put on hold. The damage is done, but the only responsible for it are still untouchable.
Why aren’t there any mechanisms for some committee members to stand up at this Council and call the president for accountability for incompetent leadership: loss of millions of dollars on ineffective evangelism (e.g. thrown away copies of Great Controversy books), more millions of dollars on TOSC and conferences on creationism (and other conferences), clumsy handling of WO issue…

Maybe by that move we’ll have an impression of forgiveness and charity, but this will be only impression. The reality is pretty much different and we all know very well that it is very far from a nice one.


The document is obsessed with policy compliance. Here unity is uniformity and reconciliation is pressure to conform. Pastoral letters come down but do not go up. Ultimately, conflict resolution is bending to the will of the “higher” organization. The final paragraph refers to Galatians 6:2, one of the loveliest verses in all of Scripture, and in connection with that verse evokes the idea (finally) of the church as family. You’d have thought this idea might soften the otherwise corporatized and totalitarian thinking that, without any scriptural justification, strides ever so heavily through the document.

Alas, it does not–or has not, as of yet.

Exactly how do the well-suited figures behind the document propose to “bear the burdens” of Adventist women called to pastoral ministry? Exactly how do they propose to “bear the burdens” of those many ordinary church members who believe, as a matter of conscience, that what Paul said in Galatians 3 is actually true? Did he not actually say that in Christ all distinctions of status based on inherited traits or imposed conditions are once and for all de-legitimized?

And then there’s the honesty question: Why do current high officials persist in overlooking Ellen White’s well attested ambivalence about General Conference authority? And why do they persist in keeping from the membership the also well attested concern of the pioneers, Ellen White included, to subvert doctrinal self-satisfaction and obsession with uniformity?



I have three observations on this document.

First, if the issue of whether or not the church should ordain women is merely a matter of “personal opinion and preference” (that we should set aside in order to achieve unity), then why has it been studied and presented as a matter of biblical truth? Now that the General Conference has acknowledged that women’s ordination is only a matter of preference, why can’t we allow for such minor differences and avoid a split in the church?

Second, the claim that “the whole Church body suffers and is diminished” as a result of the localized practice of ordaining women is unfounded, as is the the claim that “these actions can lead to charges of unfairness, and can undermine the Church’s united mission.” There is simply no evidence to support this assertion, even after years of women being ordained locally in some areas. The mission of the church has not suffered one bit. In fact, if you look to China as an example, the church has grown by leaps and bounds in areas where women have taken the helm. Again, there is simply NO evidence that the unity or mission of the church is under threat as a result of this issue. This is a false and misleading assertion, and overlooks the fact that it is the rigid thinking and leadership of our current administration that has threatened the unity of the church.

Third, the equation of “biblical principles” with “voted actions and working policies of the Church” (1.3) is too strict of a correspondence. There may be times when the majority is wrong in setting policy–or in thinking that policies cannot have some built-in flexibility. We need to be able to listen to those who do not represent the majority opinion and humbly be open to the fact that the Spirit may be speaking through them. Members of the church are not only called to submit to one another (which may mean submitting to one another’s consciences), but also to the Spirit of God, which is not always associated with the “kings” in a given situation. God still raises up prophets and prophetic movements to rebuke kingly power and temple religion.

Finally, I am deeply saddened by this document. I will be praying to God for men and women of courage to arise next Tuesday, to speak boldly and wisely, and to defeat this measure. What saddens me even more, is that I don’t believe the church needed to come to this point. We have been brought to this rock and a hard place by the inartful leadership of an ideological leader who placed his own convictions above the good of the church.



For all of 10 years on this very website, and however imperfectly I have championed a solution that allows Adventists to escape the binary options of either ordaining women or not ordaining women. We do not need some world regions doing it and other world regions not doing it.

Surely we can refuse to think that just by extending a male sacramental status to females will solve our problems and revitalize our mission to the world. Surely we can think outside such an ancient, brittle and broken ‘ordination’ paradigm. To think in this way is a grand delusion.

The powerful engine that is the GC is engaged at the moment in a push or pull tug of war with brittle and inflexible unions, both of whom tend to see things their way or not all at. (I hasten to add that some of the European Unions already have decided to think outside of such an inflexible paradigm, choosing rather to adopt potential solutions to the issues that contain some significant merit, in my opinion. At least they have broken the brittle mould, that is our current GC ‘ordination’ paradigm).

So the battle is on between those who see huge theological objections to the ordination of women and those who see huge ethical objections if we do not permit the ordination of women.The options provided for the resolution of this dilemma for the most part involve the taking of either the theological high ground or to take the moral high ground. I say “A plague on both their houses.” Both options for the most part seek to work within what I can only describe as a very brittle paradigm that is even now very broken.

The consensus-building that I am advocating seeks to re-envision the nature of Adventist leadership, ministry & mission. This will include a revitalized understand of the nature of ‘ordination’ if we like that terminology. To deconstruct the term and to build a new paradigm concerning Adventist leadership, gospel ministry and mission is our present and urgent task. This new paradigm concern all that we conceive Adventist leadership and gospel ministry and service to be It will include our theology of appointment to leadership and the associated policy guidelines for doing so. We cannot avoid doing this essential study and consensus building of a new paradigm.

Such a consensus will involve the following 4 items.

  1. A renewed Adventist mission driven hermeneutic distilled from the Scriptural meta-narrative of the missio Dei and the ministry of Jesus to be continued by his people is fundamental if we are to understand the nature of Adventist leadership and thus the purpose of ‘ordination.’ People such as Bertil Wiklander, Jan Barna, Cristian Dumitrescu and Fernando Canale are Adventist scholars who have done a lot of this preliminary work for us.

  2. Based on such hermeneutics, study should be given to producing a comprehensive theology of Adventist leadership, gospel ministry and mission. Again, Adventists have much material at their finger tips already of this nature.

  3. Based on such a theology foundational principles should be developed and ennuciated to guide policy formulation of things like ‘ordination’ and credentialing. The two foundational ecclesiological principles contained in the Study of Church Governance and Unity document surely leaves much to be desired.

  4. Only then should our renewed ‘ordination’ and credentialing policy formulation begin .

If we attempt to bypass any of these four steps we will fail of ever building consensus on these issues. We may surprise ourselves as a global faith communion how compelling and inviting such work can be.

A little teaser from Sakae Kubo might indicate what we are likely to discover. Kubo wrote in recent on another thread of this blogsite. He said, “What in fact we should do is to have a simple service where those whom God has called to serve full-time in ministry are set aside for that purpose. Ordination today implies also the granting of power such as qualification to be president of a conference. Instead what it should imply is a greater opportunity for service. We should think of this simple service not as giving us more power but as making us greater servants.”

The 2015 GC Session voted to begin a study of hermeneutics. Lets begin it with a focus and specific purpose in mind to help build consensus in both our theology and ecclesial practice of ‘ordinatrion.’

It will never be simpler than this!

Few local churches would ever put a proposal to the vote that they knew would not result in a greater degree of harmony and greater functionality. Yet this is what the GC Session did last year. It ostensively promoted a proposal that they knew was only half-baked. Even Blind Freddie would have known that the proposal voted down by a margin of 58% to 42% would not bring harmony and greater functionality to our faith communion had it got up by a similar margin.

Let’s have one more attempt at operating a streamlined consensus building process on the issues before us before beginning to throw anathema’s around! We must build a consensus is broad enough to allow and encourage people to grow into adoption of culturally sensitive practices within broad policy guidelines. Adventists can yet achieve a satisfying consensus concerning a united yet diverse ordination policy! Will we try or will it prove too hard?


That is the whole problem. A group putting up an issue as a moral one that is not so stated in scripture, the basis of SDA belief. Where is your thus saith the Lord? Where is the command? How can you dare say such a thing, judging your fellow members as immoral, when God has not so stated?

Don’t you see as well that you offend the others by taking such a stubborn stance? Everyone else has to step aside to accommodate you! The colonial powers have taken hits because of just such an attitude. It is hard to take a seat down the row.


How sad and cynical that so many Spirit-called women in ministry are in a phase of ‘approval purgatory’. What courage and resolution it must take for them to continue doing God’s will. This is a sad chapter indeed.
@elmer_cupino @Carmen @GeorgeTichy


Adventist Con Men
1.I don’t have the temperament to make the thoughtful, careful, measured observations that you make. I appreciate what you write.

2.In my job I deal with liars, manipulators and deceivers. Oftentimes charming. The worst are the one’s who quote scripture. So to me the ‘secretariat’ (a Pravda kind of word) is peopled with ‘apparatchiks’. Elderly, white males, close to retirement and a pension who have no clue what is going on in the daily life of the average church member.

3.How many of the Secretariat are cowed versus enthusiastically support the ‘fatwas’ coming out of Silver Springs I don’t know. But there is an agenda here and a power struggle going on. What disgusts many good people is that God’s name is being dragged through this. AND everybody knows it.

4.Ted Wilson and his ‘inner circle’ would do well to reflect on the life of Savonarola. Best wishes, Edgar


All flowery and perhaps well-meaning rhetoric aside, this is an endeavour to enforce headship dogma. We are left to watch how it plays out.


Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a literary analysis of the documents attributed to the secretariat to determine whether there are similarities in word choice, style, and structure to papers published by the Biblical Research Institute?


Regardless of the ordination issue, as I read the document, it seems that the General Conference would be in violation of this “Unity Doctrine” should the Executive Committee approve it.

  1. To adopt the following steps of reconciliation with entities that appear to have overlooked or ignored the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the Church:

To start, this document clearly ignores Fundamental Belief # 14, “Unity in the Body of Christ”

“The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.”

This Fundamental Belief was voted and approved in a General Conference Session, and cannot be altered or removed without a vote in a future GC Session.

Also, in the Working Policy for discrimination (BA 60 10), the policy clearly states:

"The world Church supports nondiscrimination in employment practices and policies and upholds the principle that both men and women, without regard to race and color, shall be given full and equal opportunity within the Church to develop the knowledge and skills needed for the building up of the Church.”

So either the “Unity Doctrine” will not be used to “punish” Unions who have ordained women, or the General Conference will be guilty of ignoring a Fundamental Belief (approved by a GC Session voted action) and the working policy of the Church and must themselves go through the reconciliation process as outlined.


This is outrageous!

What a false claim, statement and assertion that @2ndOpinion has accurately focused on in his/her comments! For this “proposed plan” to be based in this foundational idea is merely an assumption. In what ways is our church body “diminished” when women follow the calling of the Holy Spirit, acquire an appropriate education, are called and answer that call, and their church family affirms that calling in Christ Jesus?

This falsity is deeply troubling. This is pure, blatant “Headship Heresy” slipping into our policies at the highest level.


The time for complaining is over and the time for planning has come.

I suggest that with our JDs and CPAs we begin planning for a not-for-profit philanthropic organization to which we can tax deductible funds in order to support women in ministry, if and when this becomes necessary.

We should hope and pray for the best but prepare for the worst…

General Conference President Elder Ted N. C. Wilson and his closest colleagues have never shown even the slightest interest in working toward a mutually acceptable solution. Their responses, especially his, are three: (1) assert authority, (2) threaten “grave consequences” and (3) advise academics who understand some things differently to “Get Out!”

This would be laughable did he not have the votes but he does. If my calculations are correct, the total combined membership of the Columbia Union Conference and Pacific Union Conference is about 2% of the nearly 20,000,000 million members worldwide. He has no need to take us seriously and he doesn’t.

Under these circumstances, I see no option for us than to do all we can to protect our women in ministry and provide for them.

We shouldn’t start a new denomination, establish new congregations or invite people to divert their tithe to this fund. We don’t have to make those mistakes and we won’t. We would relate to the denomination the same way other “supporting ministries” do.

This will be temporary. Someone will eventually succeed Elder Wilson and there is a good chance that by then the SDA world will want a more inclusive President.

So, again: Stop complaining and start planning!