Laura Alipoon Leads Discussion of Lowell Cooper’s Recommendations for Policy Development

“I am the Adventist church. You are the Adventist church. This is not North Korea. Nobody is elected for life. Things will change. Don’t let anyone push you out!”

These are the words with which Laura Alipoon concluded the discussion she led on September 9 at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) about a paper on church policies which Elder C. Lowell Cooper recently released.

The title of Cooper’s paper is “General Conference Working Policy: The Challenge of Enforcement and the Opportunity for Development.” Spectrum published it (Volume 45/Combined Issues 2- 3) and spectrummagazine.org posted it (September 29, 2017).

Cooper long served as a vice president of the General Conference and Chair of the Board of Loma Linda University. Alipoon serves in two administrative capacities at Loma Linda University. She is the chair of a department in the School of Allied Health Professions which offers fourteen different degree programs. She also serves the entire campus from central administration as a specialist in academic assessment. The Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School meets each week in Loma Linda, California.

Alipoon provided a detailed summary of Cooper’s paper which those who cannot read it in full will find helpful. She separated her own views from the paper’s message as completely as anyone can. If I couldn’t watch the entire video, I hope that I would make time for the first half.

Among many other things, Alipoon highlighted Cooper’s convictions that Adventism deserves his loyalty, policies can be blessings, more theological study will not settle the issue, positive changes typically begin at the local level and that the denomination’s leaders might meet new circumstances not merely by enforcing the old ones but by developing new ones.

Alipoon presented what she apparently took to be the three most important of Cooper’s seven recommendations, each of which he articulates much more extensively:

#1. Discontinue the practice of ordination altogether.

#2. Suspend the issuance of ministerial licenses and credentials. In their place use the Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential.

#7. Recognize that permission for women to serve without restriction in ministerial roles does not constitute obligation to do so.

She lingered over the way Cooper arrived at these and his other four recommendations. This is my summary in my words of her summary of Cooper’s thinking:

Major Premise: The differences between being ordained as a deacon, elder, or pastor are not substantive but functional.

Minor Premise: The functions of male and female ministers are almost identical and where they aren’t the remaining differences are not gender specific.

Conclusion: Because their functional responsibilities are so similar, to ordain men pastors but not women pastors violates the self-evident norm that equals in relevantly equal circumstances ought to be treated equally.

My own thoughts and feelings about the Unity Conference in London at which Cooper and others presented papers are mixed. On the one hand, I am happy that some of the retired presenters have finally said in public what they have probably believed all along. On the other hand, I wonder why some of them have been so late, why they have said so little, and why they have risked nothing. Flying to London after one has retired to trade papers with friends with whom one agrees is not what we needed. We needed much more from them and we needed it much earlier.

WATCH: Laura Alipoon on "General Conference Policy: Enforcement and Development" by Lowell Cooper

Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.

Image Credit: Video Still

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8284

Bravo to David Larson for encouraging our prolific authors and orators to reflect on how they needed to muster the guts to speak and write about their convictions nuch sooner than they have.

“Flying to London after one has retired to trade papers with friends with whom one agrees is not what we needed. We needed much more from them and we needed it much earlier.”

Excellent article and analysis, and the same words could be said after many study committees, forums, seminars, and pre as well as post (soon to come) “autumn council” meetings. Speaking as a retired pastor, missionary, administrator, and chaplain is so much easier for me now that I am not employed by the church. Many times I have to reflect on the reality that I should have spoken out long before and that I will be held accountable. The hand that fed me needed to be bitten many times. Having said that, I am still glad that many former employees do speak out eloquently as they seem to be doing.

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my feeling is that if retired presenters had spoken out earlier, or even much earlier, it wouldn’t have made a difference…this is because opposition to WO isn’t about a lack of information, or clear arguments…we just have to recognize and accept that vast swaths of our church are encased in prejudice, which they’ve conflated with spirituality…they simply cannot move forward…only the holy spirit can reach them…

this is such an important message…in a way, it really shouldn’t matter if the whole church is wrong, as long as we know from the bible and our conscience that we’re right…if we leave the church because we can’t take all the people who are so wrong on WO, it only means god has fewer people through whom he can fix the problems in the church…we’d be letting god down…

I am the church. You are the church. This is not first class divisions. Nobody is elected to minority rule for life. Things have changed.

Fact of the matter is current GC Working Policy provides for the issuance of Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential.

216-17G EMPLOYEES IN MINISTERIAL/PASTORAL ROLES - POLICY AMENDMENT
Commissioned Minister Credential—Issued to the following unless they hold ministerial credentials and except as provided in E 05 15; associates in pastoral care; Bible instructors; General Conference, division, union, and local conference/mission treasurers/chief financial officers and departmental directors including associate and assistant directors; institutional chaplains; presidents and vice presidents of major institutions; and auditors (General Conference director, associates, area and district directors). directors); and field directors of the Christian Record Services, Inc. These individuals should have significant experience in denominational service (usually five years or more) and demonstrate proficiency in the responsibilities assigned to them. It is recommended that an appropriate commissioning service be conducted when an employee is granted a Commissioned Minister Credential.
Commissioned Minister License—Where applicable, issued - No change
Licensed ministers are on the path toward ordination to the - No change