If I Could Have a Conversation with Elder Ted Wilson…

Elder Wilson, since your proposal for creating discipline regarding policy violations has been referred back, having been rejected in its current form, I want to share my thoughts about your role for the future in this long-running saga. Actually, I think these developments give you an opportunity to take on a statesman role rather than acting as the authoritarian and chief enforcer.

Changing the Subject

So far, it appears you have made this whole issue about policy. The first thing I hope you consider is that most of us don’t view policy the way the General Conference does. We don’t elevate it to near-theology status. Policy is just…policy. Policy is stuff people make up because they think it will help with the business of the organization, but policy has to have fluidity to recognize changing circumstances. Policy is not sacred. So I would humbly suggest that you change your emphasis. I hope you consider digging a hole in a different place instead of digging deeper in the current hole. What is really needed is a guiding hand, not to discipline, but to find a way to achieve accommodation among different regions of the world and different cultures. Church members have different views. You can’t cram us all into one bucket. So I have hope you might change the subject and seek resolution instead of retribution.

Split Votes

Split votes, particularly within the parameters of 40/60 or 60/40, are nearly always going to be problematic in volunteer or spiritual organizations. It is just the nature of the beast. These votes reflect varying convictions. The vote in San Antonio to allow Divisions to make the decisions regarding the ordination of women was just such a vote. As a matter of fact, just about every vote on the subject, in any venue, has been a similar split. Like it or not, the issue was never going to be resolved by split votes. The issue will have to be resolved in some way that recognizes the variance in, and legitimacy of, the views of church members. Attempts to resolve the problem through the exercise of authority will only exacerbate the problem. Volunteers (church members) and spiritual beings will not be dictated to with regard to their convictions. I beseech you to recognize this as reality and take the lead in working to find accommodation for the different perspectives that led to these split votes.

Statesmanship

Unfortunately, I cannot recall a single moment when you have played the statesman in the events that have led us to this place. Not for a moment does it appear that you used your influence – at least publicly – to calm the waters, to bring about accommodation among viewpoints, to find a middle road. You seem to value your own perspectives and achieving your own objectives more than you value using your considerable influence to bring about harmony. I implore you to act the statesman as we go forward from this week's events. I also implore you to consider, especially after all the prayers asking for the Spirit’s leading, that this vote was prompted by the Holy Spirit and seek to discover why that may have been true.

Churchman versus Churchman

You seem to have made this a contest among churchmen. It has gotten to the point where it feels like a squabble between the pope and the College of Cardinals. A conversation just among the leading clergy does not get even close to reflecting reality. This is a situation where church members – people in the pews who are the real church and who pay the bills – have strong views. You could never have hoped to achieve your objectives by punishing union conference leaders for positions taken in good faith by the constituents of those unions. Doing so would only deepen differences, pitting union leaders against their members. You are actually fortunate that the GC Executive Committee did not vote to accept your document. The Church may have dodged a bullet by not antagonizing large numbers of constituents. I hope you will pay attention to all of us out here. The Church superstructure and its various levels of leaders are not the Church. The members are the Church. We have historically been a bottom-up church, and you seem to have been fighting against that history.

Theology

You have not been very forthcoming as to your personal theological views about the ordination of women, but the available evidence strongly suggests that you support male headship. That raises the question of whether you may actually support Headship Theology, a theological construct that is foreign to our belief system. Actually, the closest thing we have to a settled belief on the subject is gender equality, which we broadly publish for the world to see. I plead with you not to theologically get ahead of, or attempt to maneuver, our fellowship by taking policy positions based on your own doctrinal positions, positions that may not be supported by our published, settled beliefs.

Authority

I am deeply concerned that you seem to display authoritarian tendencies. It seems that we have come to a moment when 35 years of gradual attempts toward accretion of authority at the General Conference have come to a head. Maintaining a balance of power has been a struggle for our denomination most of its life. The balance is delicate and easily threatened. I trace the current trends back to when your father and Robert Pierson gave depositions in the Merikay Silver case to the effect that we are indeed a hierarchal church. Since then, we have seen model bylaws and various votes seeking to assure compliance with GC policy. The whole tenor of things feels like there is a long-term move to aggregate power and influence at the GC. This feels especially marked under your leadership. Many of us out here are diametrically opposed to this tendency. I urge you to exercise extreme caution in feeding the beast of power seeking. “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”

Personal Feelings

At Constituency Meetings of the Columbia and Pacific Unions, you made a personal plea to the constituents to not vote for the ordination of women in their territory. You also warned ominously of consequences if they did. They voted to ordain women in the face of your urgings. It would be quite human if you were still smarting from being so publicly rebuffed. If you are, I certainly understand that. I urge you, however, to examine whether your personal feelings could be a factor that colors your leadership and your decisions.

Damage to the Church

It may be myth, but it has been said that you are willing to see significant losses to the Church if it will somehow cleanse the Church and accelerate the second coming of Jesus. If this is true, your efforts to date have struck me as a strange way to “purify” the Church, by going after those who have a strong disagreement with a policy they believe stifles mission. These people you would shake out are putting mission effectiveness and the calling of women by the Holy Spirit above policy. Does the Church really want to dampen that reality? Is policy really more important than mission and the work of the Holy Spirit? Further, why would you be immune from the injunction of Jesus to his disciples against pulling up the tares? I pray you will examine any attitude that would cause damage to the Church in order to purge it under your own terms. Great mistakes could be made. I urge you to use your influence to pull people along, not push them away.

So Where To?

I urge you to look for solutions that lie outside of seeking uniformity and compliance. I hope you look in a different place than where you have been looking. The reality is that there are just too many of us among the laity, clergy, and Church leadership who have already decided what we think is right on the subject of women in ministry. It is here to stay. It will only grow. So I urge you to seek solutions that recognize this reality. Otherwise, conflict will only deepen as authoritarian solutions are sought. Remember, we are volunteer members out here. We are not under your control, and maybe not even very much under your influence. We take that priesthood of all believers stuff seriously.

I want you to be my GC President too, but I feel that members with my views are outside the circle you have drawn.

May God bless you, lead you, and give you uncommon wisdom as you contemplate next steps.

Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant. He and his wife Janelle live in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Image Credit: Mylon Medley/ANN

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8312
9 Likes

This expresses wise counsel. Thank you for giving respectful but direct leadership advice. Wouldn’t it be great if Elder Wilson became a statesman?

19 Likes

Great letter, I hope you will actually send this to him via mail or email. He needs to read it more than we do😎. We all need to formulate our thoughts not just for Ted Wilson, but for others as well, like Tom Lemon.

14 Likes

Depending on how you construct the bucket, you couldn’t cram all the members in my local church into it, let alone all the Adventists within 50 miles. How can you hope to cram the entire global membership into any but the most flexible of buckets?

17 Likes

Really now…how much of this advice & infighting trickles down to meaningful action at the local church level?
What makes any Adventist qualified to give Ted Wilson or GC advice?

I quadruple dare any reader, SS teacher, Elder or Pastor to conduct a survey, at your local church , on what % of members have read the whole bible once…or…usually read (if not study) their weekly SS lesson.

Most SDA members spend less than 3% of their 7000 weekly waking minutes …at church or involved in spiritual devotions.

Here is a description of those who are giving this advice.

"They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them."
1 JN 4:5 NLT

Anyone notice any bible verses in the article above?

Who is in charge of the real church-body of believers…Jesus or some worldly churchianity
professors?

You didn’t answer the question. I asked “what” not “who”?

Beats me…I am not one of the GC executive committee voters

I would ask Ted the same question. What qualifies them?

Way to go Frank! You can always be counted on to post your hobby horse Pharisee accusation and also get several “likes” from the lip service nominal SDA worldly fanatic anarchists.

My advice would be for JERRY PAGE and the GC Sabbath school secretary.

My advice to Ted is to make 100% of pastors and Sabbath school teachers all women…to make up for 2000 years of gender discrimination/oppression.

Then we would never hear any complaints about sermons or SS classes.

When is this Spectrum site going to have "Dislike " choices too?

Frank,

You appear to have a serious case of Institutional Adventitis.

2 Likes

“What makes any Adventist qualified to give Ted Wilson or GC advice?”

There are plenty of Adventists that are qualified to give TW advice…in fact, I am positive that he uses a coterie of advisors just like US presidents and other leaders do. Perhaps the issue is more with whom Ted Wilson chooses to surround himself with and how he takes advice to begin with.

19 Likes

What made Ted Wilson qualified to be the GC President? Could it have been the politics and interest of his father, Neil Wilson?

11 Likes

Excellent. Thank you very much!,

13 Likes

Having attended the GC Annual Council last year - I saw exactly what Kim Green has highlighted in her last sentence. There are key advisors that TW chooses to surround himself with. When they speak - he listens and acts. It was clear who was pulling the strings. Crystal clear.

I cannot help but reflect on the repeated usage of “Total Member Involvement” as a slogan in his sermon that Council, and the irony that in fact it really means only the males in practice.

Great letter which resonates well with the average member in the pew. Leadership for Jesus was all about service - not status. I suspect it has become inverted.

17 Likes

Thanks Ed! What Adventists desperately need at this critical juncture, post Annual Council 2017, is for a new model of mission and ministry incorporating a “collegiality of all believers.” It could bring new life to our belief in women in ministry.

In accepting the collegiality of all believers, not just of clerical leadership we will be disposed to accept a lateral model of churchly structure, not a hierarchical model of the same. Specifically, we will accept a model of churchly leadership that conceives of its entities and institutions as a family of entities nested within each other, much like Ezekiel’s vision of wheels within wheels. There is little hierarchy within such a model. Each wheel within the whole has its own specific role and its own sphere of influence. Some have a wider sphere of influence and responsibility than others. The General Conference has the widest sphere and the most embracing influence and responsibility.

The collegiality of all believers also means exactly that there is not a two or three tiered caste system of believers. Some church structures have only two tiers - clergy and laity. The clergy category has as much baggage, as does the term ‘ordination’ itself. God wants the whole people of God to be indivisible. We all belong. We are all part of the laos, the people of God. The gender of a person must not be reason for establishing a third caste either. As Jesus said, “All of you are brothers and sisters.”

The biblical teaching of the collegiality of all believers fully recognizes that the calling of God to each believer is enfolded within the various giftings of God to individuals. All believers are called to ministry and mission. Some are called by their particular gifts to serve in leadership of the flock. The church will wisely discern who those individuals are and call them.

Elder Ted Wilson may yet accept this teaching of a charismatic collegiality of all believers! I am praying for this. Adventist church policies may still reflect this teaching and thus provide policies that are inclusive, permissive and flexible, giving permission for things to be done a variety of ways within general guidelines, and not mandating a host of strictures.

Adventists must face the fact. San Antonio 2015 told us that maintaining our old model of church leadership and extending that model to become more inclusive of women in ministry in contexts where this is appropriate is not an option. Annual Council 2017 has now told us that refusing to embrace women as full partners in ministry and leadership, and seeking to punish entities seeking to do this is also the wrong way to go. To my mind, this leaves us the option of developing our global Adventist policies to embrace our belief in the collegiality of all believers.

May God open the eyes of Elder Wilson to the enormous potential and possibilities for good within his reach!

11 Likes

Surely you have heard the story of a mother chastising Johnny who then asks him “Do you think I’m stupid?” From outside the bedroom his sister yells “Don’t answer that, it’s a trick question!”

Pastor TW, do not be seduced and make the big mistake of polishing the document just because it was returned to the committee for revision. It’s a trick. Instead take note of the magnitude of the vote, 184:114. That is total repudiation of your managerial skills and is an opportunity for you to rectify your failures and give you a chance to salvage your reputation and legacy. At best, you should kill this idea of “punishment” and rally your base in embracing WO. The time has arrived.

Be presidential. I’ll be praying for you.

27 Likes

i can’t believe i’m reading an article of this kind in a public forum…it’s so vindictive, and all but dripping with condescension…it’s incredibly disrespectful…if TW is human, and reads this, it will only isolate him in his mind, and in the end antagonize him…it definitely introduces a risk that he’ll initiate something he wouldn’t have considered without this article…

this isn’t the way to build bridges during a difficult leadership moment…like trump’s “little rocket man” comments, some thoughts are best left unexpressed…i think this article virtually guarantees the nuclear option if it is at all possible…sad…:disappointed_relieved:

5 Likes

Guess who Jesus had the most problems with? Outside of the party of the Saducees, it was the people of the book. The Torah scholars and practitioners/Pharisees, who had Leviticus memorized at 3 years old. Who knew the scriptures better then you, me, anyone on this thread, or in the.GC giving Ted Wilson advice.

Reading the bible through, studying the SS quarterly are fine. Just stop making that into the root cause of, or solution to, every problem in the church. One can know the scriptures, and still not know Jesus and his self giving love. One can also know the scriptures and be filled with spiritual pride and condescension over it, as well. “I thank you God that I’m not like other men, especially these Adventists who don’t know their bibles?”

Frank

@gideonjrn

Gideon…

You don’t seem realize just how reductionist your view of church, its problems, and solutions seems to be. You also don’t seem to own the condescension that comes dripping through every post, always harping on one issue. If you wonder why I responded as I did, and have, this is why. If knowledge of the scriptures was the solution, then why did Jesus have the most problems with the ones who knew it the most, and who spent their lives studying it and trying to apply it to every aspect of life?

Frank

17 Likes

I’m a little confused by the title of this screed. Did the author request to have a conversation with President Wilson, and Wilson refused?

1 Like

Remembering his dad and the Desmond Ford fiasco. Something’s seem similar. Seeing the immense blessings of women in ministry in DRCC and other organizations I have supported makes me sad for my old friends and church.

15 Likes

Mr Reifsnyder

The most apt and astute observation in your extremely perceptive piece about our current GC president:
“ I cannot recall a single moment when you have played the statesman. “.

Our GC president wields enormous clout / prestige / influence but he chooses to brandish this power as a cudgel rather than exerting winning, winsome diplomacy.

I doubt that we can change his authoritarian ways they are so entrenched.

As a former South African ( I left that benighted country 56 years ago ) I laud and applaud the greatest statesman in recent history : NELSON MANDELA.

Mandela rose above persecution, imprisonment and sordid treatment, to forgive his enemies and adversaries , and consolidate a concord between bitter opposing elements in South Africa. TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION !

If only TW could emulate Mandela, and lay aside his pettiness and peevishness and lead the denomination into a new harmony and accord on the several areas which divide us.

If only TW could be a BISHOP TUTU !!

18 Likes

Only if I COULD
There are 18 million adventist
Why you or I ?

All TED WILSON can do
Look to bible IT IS WRITEN
and BLESSED ARE POOR IN SPIRIT

Service is passing on presedency to next president with policies that cant be changed.

As far as law suits
How can anyone sue church for anything if there role changes and they keep same wages.
Did TED WILSON hire or ordain these women ?
Its like franchise LAW
It would be like a fast food giant or drink label with a working recipes and individual regional franchise decided to do there own make own recipe.
It comes down to who and why those who ordained them in the 1st place out side policy, these individuals are responsible.

Thanks Ed for a well written article full of good advice for Elder Wilson. I would also think it good advice for all our leaders at all levels in the Church.

12 Likes

Jeremy, I found it just the opposite, I found it hopeful that TNCW could gain insights from the votes. - without name calling that has marred other writers. -Assuming TNCW really cares about the church. Much could have been said about his violating normal parliamentary procedures, hiding the doc til the last minute-making it difficult to examine and form a statement that had to be carefully crafted to get it into 2 min. Taking up much precious time with the comments of his team. Not allowing one to speak who would be most affected by the motion. Making statements about people who weren’t ordaining women because they were not ordaining men. What policy says we MUST ordain men? Worrying about how people found out he used highly irregular and unethical voting procedures to get his motion to the floor. The list of inappropriate actions could have been quite long but the writer spoke as one reasonable person to another. Disagreement is not disrespect now any more than it was when Nathan called David on his wrong actions with Bathsheba or Daniel spoke to Nebuchadnezzar.

What our GC president did this week was WRONG. If the GC doesn’t change it’s attempt to destroy the structure the stately steppings of God that Ellen White said influenced our leaders to set up unions to limit the dictation of the GC in 1901, it will obliterate most of what can be accomplished as a church in most or all the world. Even if they cannot bring themselves to accept the gifts God sends us in the forms of women, the anti-WO can cease attacking and trying to rid the church of those who will no longer tell God “No” because it upsets the GC president and some of the people.

18 Likes

Those who sacrifice principle upon the altar of compromise are unfit to lead God’s people. History is strewn with the sad examples of the sons of Seth, Aaron, Eli, Saul, Solomon, Jereboam, Ahab among others. May Elder Ted Wilson persist in his politically incorrect, Biblically faithful leadership of our church.