Leadership Summit, Unity, and Biblical Basis

Theme of Leadership Summit

“The Spiritual Necessity of Church Unity and Biblical Authority to Accomplish God’s Mission” was the theme at the 11th annual Adventist Global Leadership Summit, held on February 6, 2018, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Keynote Address

In his keynote address, Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, pointed repeatedly to the importance of 1) a biblical base and 2) the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as well as 3) the Spirit of Prophecy, as the foundation of true unity:

In the process of listening to God’s will, we must have great respect for Him and His Word...”

When the Word of God is held paramount ...”

The church is governed by the leading of the Holy Spirit and the biblical beliefs and mission we accept from God’s hand…outlined in God’s Holy Word and the Spirit of Prophecy.”

The backdrop of the keynote address is clearly the current challenge of the Church after the San Antonio vote on women’s ordination in 2015.

It is definitely encouraging that Elder Wilson stresses the importance of the Bible as paramount when it comes to unity. The Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) consisting of 106 carefully appointed members, were appointed to the task of “… reviewing and analyzing data from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy” (#1 Term of Reference).

The Adventist Biblical Understanding

TOSC did not succeed in producing a consensus concerning ordination of women. What biblical understanding is then the basis for the Church in this current challenge? The introduction to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs gives vital information:

Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture” (Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, p. 162).

The 28 Fundamental Beliefs must be the starting point to find the biblical understanding of the Church. Fundamental Belief number 14 tells us that: “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.”

Fundamental Belief number 17 makes it clear that “the Holy Spirit…apportions to each member as He wills, the…abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions” including “such ministries as…proclamation, teaching, administration…” and that: “Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries.”

Male Headship Theology, which seems to be the elephant in the room, is incompatible with Fundamental Beliefs 14 and 17, and finds no support in Fundamental Beliefs 6, 7, 12, 22, and 23.

San Antonio and TOSC

In dealing with the issue in San Antonio, the biblical basis was not focused on. The question to the delegates was:

Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”

While no consensus on women’s ordination came from TOSC, a 2/3 majority of TOSC said yes to open up for women’s ordination on a regional basis. That fact was not mentioned for the delegates as the issue was introduced at the GC Session in San Antonio. TOSC did extensive studies in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. A 2/3 majority gave strong support for Fundamental Beliefs 14 and 17 as the expression of the biblical base for equal treatment of male and female pastors.

Female Pastors and Non-discrimination

Unions that have employed female pastors in line with current regulations in the Church have in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs a solid base for a non-discriminating practice of female pastors. In the Fundamental Beliefs that are described as “the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture” non-discrimination is clearly expressed.

Identifying non-discrimination of female pastors to fit Ellen White’s description of “individual” or “private independence”/“private judgement” is missing the target. The Church has taken a stand on non-discrimination, and have accepted that spiritual gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit to both males and females. Voted actions of the Church cannot overrule the enabling and the calling of the Holy Spirit.

The Adventist Church and Acts 15

More than 40 % voted yes in San Antonio. The Church is faced with an issue that is dividing the Church in two major blocks. Unless the model of Acts 15 is closely followed, the Church is facing a serious schism. Letting the Holy Spirit speak through the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas was vital in solving the crisis in the early church. The Holy Spirit has used female pastors to establish Adventist churches in certain areas of the world. None of them were invited to give their testimony when the current issue was up for discussion in San Antonio.

Do to Others as You Would Have Them Do to You

Jesus underlined the guiding principle concerning how to deal with others: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NIV). James elaborates on this principle with these words: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, (Love your neighbor as yourself), you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:8-9, NIV).

Discrimination of women is a global challenge. The GC Working Policy has a bold and clear principle: “The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender.” (GC WP BA 60 05 Basic Principles). Voted actions that are not in harmony with biblical principles alert us to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9, NIV)

Female Pastors are Vital to the Mission of the Church in Some Areas of the World

In some areas of the world, female pastors are vital to the mission of the Church. Joel’s prophecy makes it clear that God will be using both men and women in the proclamation of the gospel: “… I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28, 29, NIV).

Reflections on the words of Gamaliel might be an eye opener in the ongoing challenge:

Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men…in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:35-39, NIV).

Force is Contrary to the Principles of God's Government

Let us give heed to Ellen White’s words in commenting on the greatest of all conflicts, Lucifer’s breaking of the law in heaven: “The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God's government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened” (DA 22).

Finn F. Eckhoff is Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Union.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8582

Anyone feeling a lot of love these days?


In the 18th century John Wesley was credited with using four
different sources to do theology — Scripture, Reason, Tradition,
and Experience.

Did our Early SDAs ACCEPT John Wesley’s views of doing Theology
and understanding of the Scriptures?

Ellen and her family were Methodists. Ellen’s parents and siblings
apparently remained Methodists, although her nephew, F.E. Beldon,
a musician and prolific hymn writer was an SDA. Many of his hymns were composed
during a sermon. I understand that sometimes even the music to the
poetry was composed and sung at the close. I understand that often
the poetry was given to the pastor at end of the service as leaving the
Dime Tabernacle in Battle Creek.

EDIT-- OUR problem with Paul is that we DO NOT UNDERSTAND him as a person. He says
he attempted to meet people where they were – “I am all things to all people – uncultured,pagan, barbarians; Greeks, Romans, Jews, slaves, women, rich, poor, slaves, slave owners.” He was writing to assist ALL these persons to have a relationship with Christ and God no matter who they were, their background, their nationality, their social status, their circumstances in life.
First Century World.
Let’s face it – it has only been since 1863 that America was FORCED to face the issue of OWNERSHIP of another person, and did give it up. But for many, the color of one’s skin – White, Black, Brown still has an influence on how people are perceived and treated.
Let’s face it – in the United States it has only been since around 1900 that women have moved UP from being LESS than Men. Even in the SDA church it took the Government to FORCE the SDA church to give Equal Pay for Equal Work. And that is in my lifetime.
2018 and the SDA church has NOT caught up with the WORLD of moving women UP from being LESS than Men here in the United States, and is worse in the 3rd world.
this is 118 years since 1900.
If our “RELIGIOUS” Men [and WOMEN] REALLY understood Paul they would know that Paul would have been on the forefront of ELEVATING Women way back in 1900.
Paul would have been on the forefront of eliminating the Slave trade in England when that happened. Would have been on the forefront of eliminating the “One Human OWNING another Human” way back in the 1850’s, 1860’s, been against Jim Crow, Klu Klux Klan, hangings, segregation. Other evils.
Is what paul called it. 1 Corinthians 13, and in other places. The whole of the 66 Books are filled
with the COMMAND to Love – Love God, Love self, Love others.
NO! We do not understand God. We do not understand God’s word in either the Old Testament, nor in the New – Jesus in the Gospels, God’s commands to LOVE from Romans to Revelation, and HOW that is to be expressed.

There is NO CASTE SYSTEM with God!
What MORE could Paul say about the Equality of the Human Race?? "There is neither Male or Female [men, women], Jew or Gentile or Pagan – ALL are ONE before God and he treats them without partiality."
Even in the Christian Church, for over 1500 years, those in Power have told Paul, YOU are a Liar!
WE have MADE a Caste System between Men and Women. And it continues today even in the
Seventh day Adventist Denomination–Religion.


Elder Eckoff… as you know the TOSC committee that met in the US was not a representative body for the entire World Church; as the Annual Councils would be. Additionally, the majority of the TOSC committee agreed that the bible does not substantiate women’s ordination. However, as you know, the “third option” was inserted at “the 11th hour” and those (about 1/3 of the body) who went with the third option agreed that an exception can be made, despite no biblical authority. The truth is, as I understand it, if those who sided with the third option did not have the third option as an option, they would have been more inclined to go with the side that was against women’s ordination. Also, you are only partially posting the question placed before the delegates at San Antonio. The part you are leaving out is: After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and;

After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission…

This is important because it stresses "your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White… and then “the reports of the study commissions”; in that order! Were I a delegate, I would not have needed to find out “what TOSC thinks” in order to reach a conclusion. Also, notice that it said, “Study Commission(s)”; plural, not singular. As you know there were study committees throughout the various Divisions. How do you know that the delegates did not give the greatest weight to the findings of their home Divisions Study Committee?

Finally, let me ask you this Elder Eckhoff… You and I are supposed to be watchmen. We are supposed to not only immerse ourselves in one issue… but look down the road and see if these issues are leading into something else. Since I see that you have written for Spectrum Magazine… a website that is fully engrafted into playing the role of facilitator in bringing acceptance of Homosexuality into the SDA Church; so that it is no longer seen as a sin… what position do you take on that issue? Is homosexuality wrong? Do you see these issues (WO & Gay Acceptance) as “joined at the hip” or “mutually exclusive” of each other?

"Female Pastors are Vital to the Mission of the Church in Some Areas of the World"

In “Some Areas” why not ALL areas?
It is a simple fact that we cannot live and exist well independently of others, we are interdependent beings. Solidarity looks upon this interdependence as something good, something positive, a thing to be cherished. The image Paul gives us of the Body of Christ (that we are all individual parts that together make up the Body of Christ) gives us a visual way to think of this. Gender discrimination in the Seventh-day Adventist church cannot continue.

We need to build relationships and help and support those who are wanting to be in solidarity for equal treatment of ALL women in ministry in different parts of the world. So many all over the world have begun to feel a desire for solidarity with those calling for the church to respect our women pastors. Solidarity for our fellow women ministers is simply the demand of fraternity, that we treat each other as brothers and sisters with the love and respect that God gives to all of us.

We are all one family in the world. At the foot of the cross there is only level ground. Building a community that empowers men and women in ministry to attain their full potential through each of us respecting each other’s dignity, rights and responsibilities makes the world a better place to live.

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Regrettably, Christians today are having to confront Paul’s miserable
misogyny, which gives ample ammunition to those in patriarchal cultures who want to “keep women in their place “. Without Paul’s misogyny our denomination would not be in its current conflict over WO.

Paul was the same individual who gave exuberant endorsement to human trafficking : “slaves obey your masters “, thereby giving cover to generations of slave owners and slave traders…

If Paul were alive today, he would be most uncomfortable in Western culture, living in London, Paris, or New York.

Any fair minded observer would agree that Paul’s preferred current abode would be Riyadh or Mecca, with its harsh Sharia Law, miserable misogyny and horrific homophobia.

Meanwhile, modern egalitarian believers have to contort themselves in trying to explain away Paul’s inappropriate and politically incorrect pronouncements.

QUESTION :: If God was truly omniscient why would He not have predicted the huge future conflict and harm caused by Paul’s pernicious pronouncements, and have edited these hurtful, harmful hermeneutics out of Holy Writ ??

Or are we to believe that God really does believe half of His created humans are second class citizens, and that He continues to endorse human trafficking ?

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“a website that is fully engrafted into playing the role of facilitator in bringing acceptance of Homosexuality into the SDA Church…”

Why, pastor, must you suddenly swing from discussing WO toward an accusatory (seemed like that to me) generalization/stance about Spectrum? A fair study of Spectrum articles would demonstrate to you that the majority of Spectrum articles are not about homosexuality. However, are you aware that homosexuality is much more a topic in our churches in North America than it was even twenty years ago?

Regarding TOSC, I ask you this: Who determined the membership of TOSC? If it was not representative as you assert, who is responsible for that? Can you deny that Ted Wilson had a great dealt of responsibility for that, but has chosen to ignore the results of TOSC because they were not what he wanted?

I doubt women in ministry will ever disappear in North American Adventism unless it splits the church!


Well thought through and presented, Elder Eckhoff.

The most important and relevant takeaway from Acts 15 is that there was no vote and no need for one. It is to the credit of your Norwegian colleague and just previous president of the General Conference that he assessed the situation and publicly said he would not call for a vote by the General Conference, either 2005 or 2010, I don’t remember, regarding Women’s Ordination because it was still a divisive issue.

What is happening, by the estimate of some, is not a careful consideration of how best to support one another as Seventh-day Adventists across the cultures of the world. Instead, some believe that the paternal/colonial treatment of the ‘mission field’, which now outnumbers the old ‘homeland’ 20:1 is coincidentally coming home to roost, as the saying goes, as the church is addressing Women’s Ordination.

As San Antonio proved, Voting, as so well explained by Sister White, is impotent when it comes to unifying the church.

James saw and built on what unified the church, and it was not circumcision, this issue at hand. It was the Holy Spirit. The counsel report to the churches did not mention circumcision. There is no question that the present and true unity of the Seventh-day Adventist church is impermeably universal across the 20-million-member denomination.

It is within Elder Wilson’s hands but not yet in his heart to declare the unity that he has seen around the world first hand, and to be on about building up rather than tearing down as God’s proven method of sustaining and growing and, yes, perfecting the church.

And Elder Wilson does not have to call for a vote to lead the church forward in every possible way. He if fully authorized by his appointment as General Conference President.

Asking for votes along the way on touchy issues is not only a denial of Sister White’s wisdom but a public acknowledgement that he does not trust God to lead the church through him. And if so, is it not his duty to the church to resign his position?


You might enjoy reading this book about Paul. I certainly learned a lot from it. https://www.amazon.com/First-Paul-Reclaiming-Visionary-Conservative/dp/0061430730

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Actually, Ted Wilson’s objective is that “the church” shall be governed by an authoritarian’s pretenses.

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It is the sole responsibility of MAN to rule upon the face of the earth; and it is equally the responsibility of a MAN to ensure the happiness and safety of his wife and children. For this reason, it is written, “As in Adam (not Eve) all die, so in Christ (not the church) all shall be made alive.”

The covenant of promise was made with Abraham (not Sarah); and it is written about Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen. 18:19)

The covenant was made with David (not Bathsheba), as it is written of him after he had repented, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed (i.e. Christ) after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12-13)

And so forth.

The problem of man’s inhumanity to man does not lie at the foot of Paul or God; but at the foot of men who (abandoning God in their hearts) ill-treat women and children; and who, lacking the maturity of holiness found in God alone (John 13:12-17), think that power equals ruthless subjugation of others. These are christian hypocrites, the unlearned, the atheists, the communists, the wicked and those who turn their backs on their Creator.

There is a way that seems good to man but the end of it is sorrow, pain and death. And there is a way that seems good to a woman, but the end of it is an abandoned generation that never knew the joy of the ever present God in their lives through her. And there is a generation that curses its father and mother; and in the vanity of a vacuous mind, talk a lot of nonsense.