Massive Oversight Committee System Set Up at the General Conference

What began as a single Unity Oversight Committee at the General Conference has blossomed into a network of five compliance review committees each with a different topic to oversee. Compliance Review Committees have been created for 1) General Conference Core Policies; 2) Doctrines, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Teaching Creation/Origins; 3) Doctrines, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines Regarding Homosexuality; 4) Distinctive Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; and 5) Doctrines, Policies, Statements and Guidelines Regarding Issues of Ordination.

The committees’ terms of reference were voted in July at a meeting of the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) at the same time that the document “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” was approved to be placed on the agenda for Annual Council in October. In August, ADCOM specified the topics for the five committees that they created and then populated them with the names of over 40 GC employees who will serve on the committees. While a couple of lay people are included on the committees, no pastors, or officials from other levels of the church such as union or conference presidents are included.

In the surveys and conversations that the GC has held in the past year, documents and procedures have been discussed. But this entire new layer of oversight committees has simply been created by ADCOM, without review from entities outside of the General Conference. And the committees have been established before the document that would be the backbone of the committees’ work has been approved.

Each of the committees was given eight similar terms of reference and power to act. The committees are to:

  1. Be comprehensively knowledgeable and accept as authoritative the existing officially voted beliefs, policies, statements, and guidelines of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists germane to the committee of assignment.
  2. Develop and recommend to the General Conference Executive Committee (GCC) Guidelines that explicitly describe the conduct and behavior of denominational employees as well as any individuals representing the Church germane to the committee of assignment.
  3. Examine non-compliant entities as identified and recommended by the Administrative Committee (ADCOM) of a conference and/or union and/or division and/or General Conference.
  4. Advise and serve as a resource for the organization unit(s) addressing issues of non-compliance.
  5. Periodically receive progress reports from the ADCOM of a conference and/or union and/or division and/or General Conference developing and implementing compliance plans and periodically report plans and progress through the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) and General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO) and the General Conference Executive Committee (GCC).
  6. Exercise overview, and with divisions, work with germane-committee-specific non-compliance issues that primarily are the administrative duty of unions.
  7. After evaluating the results of the implementation of the document “Regard for and Practices of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions”, recommend to the GCC through the ADCOM and GCDO, the voted compliance plan of the non-compliant unit(s) or after much prayer and consideration, recommend to the GCC through the ADCOM, and GCDO, consequences identified in the document named above.
  8. Process appeals received from non-compliant unit(s) which do not agree with the recommendations of the appropriate Administrative Committee.

This newly created review/judicial system within Adventism began with the document on “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” that outlines a system of public reprimands to be meted out on the officers of entities not deemed in compliance with GC actions. While initially organizations are expected to self-report issues of non-compliance, if they do not do so, it becomes the responsibility of the next higher organization and quickly moves to the General Conference Compliance Review Committees which may make discipline recommendations. This is also the committee that hears any appeals.

With this new review committee system, the General Conference tasks itself with being both the legislative body that makes the rules and the judicial body that determines whether church administrative units and church employees are “in compliance.” With one sweeping action, it pulls all power to the top of the organization, thereby changing the current democratic nature of the church organization, ignoring the policies and procedures already in place.

When the document on “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions” was released on the official church website in July, all of the commenters to the proposal were opposed to the action. The first person to comment said:

This document has an initial assumption that needs to be verified. The document assumes that our church has a pyramidal, hierarchical structure. This assumption is in an open contradiction with the history and foundation of our church. Even more, this was the reason, the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church were so opposed to organize a denomination, as you can verify in any denominational history book. Our church has a representative system of governing. To respect that principle the only corps that have the authority to vote a document like this is the General Conference Session, not the officials of the General Conference.

If this document is accepted, we are accepting a pyramidal hierarchical structure de facto. I call to the leaders to reconsider this procedure because the consequences will be so dangerous for the church.

The second person to comment wrote:

Representatives at the annual council are there to represent their constituent members, not their own opinions. Punishing leaders who speak for their constituents is a direct attack on our churches[sic] bottom-up structure and is a move to top down authority. This document is man’s doing, not God’s. It is against the principals[sic] of Scripture and is the product of those who seek power and control. What did the Apostles recommend when the Gentiles had differences in the book of Acts? When did God ever force the conscience of anyone? I will not surrender my conscience to any Papal edict, whether it is in Rome or Silver Spring.

On other websites, writers have criticized the proposed method for shaming officers of non-compliant organizations and its use of simple majority votes for disciplining entities rather than a two-thirds vote that is usual for controversial issues.

In October, the proposed document will be on the Annual Council agenda of the General Conference Executive Committee for consideration, but the committee structure is already voted into place. Annual Council meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee for the past two years have seen proposals from the General Conference leadership for some kind of disciplinary action. Each of those proposals were sent back to committee, only to be replaced by something new and significantly different. This creation of a review committee system before the new document has been considered is a move that seemingly circumvents the General Conference Executive Committee itself. Whether or not the document is approved, the review committees are in place and can begin interpreting church policies with or without the document that has been proposed. And denominational employees as well as institutions can be targeted by the committees.

The individuals named to serve on the five committees are:

1. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with General Conference Core Policies J. Raymond Wahlen, II, chair Daisy J. F. Orion, secretary Guillermo E. Biaggi Claude J. Richli Two additional members to be named Invitees: Paul H Douglas, GCAS Associate from region under review Legal Advisor: Josue Pierre Ex Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

2. GC Compliance Review Committee with Doctrine, Policies, Statements & Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Teaching Creation/Origins Artur A. Stele, chair James L. Gibson, secretary Kwabena Donkor Chantal Klingiel Ronald Nalin Suzanne Phillips Karen J. Porter Michael L. Ryan Timothy G. Standish John H. Thomas Randall W. Younker Legal Advisor: Jennifer Woods Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

3. GC Compliance Review Committee with Doctrine, Policies, Statements and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Regarding Homosexuality Artur A. Stele, chair Elias Brazil de Souza, secretary Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy Gary T. Blanchard Peter N. Landless Ekkehardt F.R. Mueller Neil Nedley Elaine Oliver Willie Oliver Kathryn Proffitt Gerson P. Santos Lori T. Yingling Legal Advisor: Thomas E. Wetmore Ex Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

4. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with the Distinctive Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for Church Organizations and Institutions Elias Brasil de Souza, chair Clinton L. Wahlen, secretary Raquel Arrais Mark A. Finley Pavel Goia Hensley M. Moorooven Jerry N. Page Heather-Dawn Small Ella S. Simmons Brad Thorp Alberto R. Timm Legal Advisor: Todd R. McFarland Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

5. General Conference Compliance Review Committee with Doctrines, Policies, Statements and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Regarding Issues of Ordination Guillermo E. Biaggi, chair Hensley M. Moorooven, secretary Abner De los Santos Mark A. Finley Frank M. Hasel Janet Page Jerry N. Page Michael L. Ryan Galina Stele Legal Advisor: Karnik Doukmetzian Ex-Officio: Ted N.C. Wilson, G.T. Ng, Juan R. Prestol-Puesan

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image credit: ANN

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8955
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Wow. Talk about top down/hierarchical and authority overreach. The quoted comment as the first one on the proposed document is spot on:

“This document has an initial assumption that needs to be verified. The document assumes that our church has a pyramidal, hierarchical structure. This assumption is in an open contradiction with the history and foundation of our church. Even more, this was the reason, the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church were so opposed to organize a denomination, as you can verify in any denominational history book. Our church has a representative system of governing. To respect that principle the only corps that have the authority to vote a document like this is the General Conference Session, not the officials of the General Conference.

If this document is accepted, we are accepting a pyramidal hierarchical structure de facto. I call to the leaders to reconsider this procedure because the consequences will be so dangerous for the church.”

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TRIGGERING PUBLIC REPRIMANDS: SIMPLE MAJORITIES ARE NOT ENOUGH

Spectrumbot

August 3, 2018

NOTES

Members of the SDA church should register their outrage at the very proposal of reprimands to anyone advocating for inclusion at whatever level of membership. Such paranoia by GC administrators needs to be stopped and nipped in the bud immediately. There should be no allowance for the germination of such thought to grow or fester. Are GC administrators that threatened and insecure that their only options considered for their hangup on control is to publicly humiliate those who think differently than they do?

When leadership is more hung-up on policy at the expense of people than using policy to elevate people/membership we have a problem of priorities. Our administrators are reverting to 4 year old childlike bulling behavior - my way or I’m going to throw a temper tantrum to blame you and make you look bad. It really is time to grow up and act like the adults we profess to be.

Is policy rigid, inflexible or are they guidelines subject to interpretation to fit given circumstances; people groups; ethnicities; cultures; environmental circumstances, etc.
Are there universals that effectively cross cultures? Are there differences between laws, creeds, policies, guidelines, best practices?
Are policies restrictive or liberating; directive or limiting and confining?
What is the purpose of policy to an organization or institution?
I’ve talked about a timeout before; a pregnant pause to reassess purpose and function —who has skin in the game; what-for —BIG PICTURE— PERSONAL OR HIDDEN AGENDAS —FEAR — RUNNING SCARD OF LOSS OF CONTROL —ASSUMED PRIVILEGE —MANIFEST DESTINY

CAN WE BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY OF NEW, DIFFERENT, RADICAL, AND YES BETTER WAYS IS THE QUESTION.

Can history serve as a foundation for new pyridines? Can our understanding of headship, patriarchy, male dominance help us in the quest for inclusiveness for the future. What are the lessons learned, wounds inflected, scares healed, wisdom gained from our history. Can we learn tolerance, acceptance, withholding judgement? Can we learn empathy, the ability to walk a mile in each other’s shoes - suspending judgement until we have enough understanding of the other. Can we be open to growth. Can we suspend preconceived stereotypes and generalizations. Can we develop a ‘third ear’, in psychological terms? Can generations hear each other? Can we build brides not walls.

We are at stalemates now on so many levels with our defenses up ready to fight to the death. How do we break these stalemates? Why must our defaults be polar opposites? Everything is not all black or white. There are many beautiful hues in between. Colors blend beautifully when the artist mixes. Are we intimidated with retaining our individual unique colors or are we willing to be mixed and molded thru interaction, stepping out of our comfort zones and being exposed to other ideas? Exclusivity, (‘Remnant’) has its limitations especially if it closes the doors to other options. Is the ‘specialness’ we like to claim a hindrance or benefit. It does depend on perspective and who is observing.

Religions have a way of clustering. Why!!! To my understanding this was never our Saviors intent. Oneness was His constant and underlying theme; oneness with the Father and oneness with humanity and his purpose and supreme sacrifice was to restore that oneness/wholeness. This is the unity He had in mind, not uniformity. Christ found beauty in difference. Do we?

Back to the GC’s obsession for control. What is history telling us about societies and/or institutions that became insular often under the banner of religion used for controlling purposes; justifying the atrocities recorded and documented in history. Do we as a church body want to go down these paths again? Does the membership or is the membership knowledgeable enough to act in their own behalf when leadership has gone off the rails, so to speak? Revolutions occur because of the abuse of authority and the people choose to advocate on their own behalf. There are times when radical transitions become necessary and in the SDA church this is one of those times.

We are being dragged fighting and screaming into the 21st Century and our comfort zones, traditions, foundations, are being challenged and exposed. We have options and choices in these transitions that can ease the pain if we but open our minds and hearts. What is the often quoted saying, and I am paraphrasing, about we nothing to fear for the future if we don’t forget how the Lord has lead us in the past. Can we embrace change and except that it is inevitable and necessary? These are universal laws of nature. How open is our world view as it impacts the individual and society? We over time have developed into an international church. Can we remain successful as an international church without adaptation to change. How do we manage change by resisting or embracing? Where do we find balance and use that balance as a means of growth? That is the challenge for the church for relevancy is todays global society. Can we make our uniqueness, calling, mission, commission, an asset rather than a liability?
This should be the principle focus of the administration of our church.

We have a rich history which must be preserved, and not destroyed because of our unwillingness to adapt and change. Our ‘specialness’ (‘remnant’) label must be understood in light of our social responsibilities to membership and beyond. When we lose that focus and turn inward we loose relevancy. This is why we must command change in leadership. We must continue forward not backward. If this means a frontal attach on old headship and patriarchal dynamics then so be it. We are all about honoring and respecting the wisdom and experience of our elders. We are commissioned to respect them for ‘long life’, but Eli had to move on to make room for Samuel. Eli also had skeletons in the closet; his two sons. While he did a great work his time had come. Likewise we need to recognize the contributions of our elders and make their transitions as painless as possible with a firm but steady, gentle push. Many are wise, i.e., former Review editor, William (Bill) Johnsson. There is much to learn form the wisdom and experience of our veterans, but there are some that are ‘in-the-way’, entrenched in tradition and dogma that hinders progress. These leaders have strong followings who have ‘drunk the cool aide’ and remain staunchly loyal and have considerable financial and social influence. This loyalty remains to a fault. They have formed a white male fraternity that is self perpetuating through credentialing, licensing, policy, and traditions which is proving difficult to break. This fraternity must be address at multiple levels. It will not be broken easily, nor without consequences, but the depth of the resultant consequences depends on the attitudes of the parties at play. We know some will not go quietly, and are using any and all intimidation tactics at their disposal. Not to equate this to a game because it certainly is not, but it is the younger generations responsibility to out think our leaders who are unwilling to relinquish control by intimidation tactics of guilt, and bullying shrouded often in false spirituality, obvious strong armed tactics because they have been so effective in history. The claim of direct communication from God must be evaluated in light of the message and messenger, a difficult task, fraught with guilt, but very necessary, requiring much prayer, study, meeting of the best minds. Reprimanding has the potential of backfiring if used in the wrong way embarrassing the the entity attempting to impose the reprimand. That’s why God has declared, ‘vengeance is Mine’.

Are there solutions to our current dilemma? What are ‘best’ solutions with the least fallout? We have choices. Will we choose to exercise them?

What is hoped to be accomplished by reprimand? To what and who’s benefit in the short and long term? Are we elevating the institution or are we massaging someone’s insecurities for power and control; to what end? Again it comes down as to who has ‘skin in the game’. Can personal conviction be separated form benefit of the group? Whose church is it? These are questions members must be constantly asking administration. God’s of course, but beyond that relationship in human form, who’s Church’s is it?

It has always been God’s Church. Our relationship to it over time has changed. We have attempted to usurp the ownership that is rightfully God’s, resulting in the need to control for our own security. Therein lies the problem, because we set our own perimeters which are often self serving.

I am rambling now. Time to step back and evaluate and see where we go from here. I am laughing at how childish the concept of reprimanding is. Who do TW and his cohorts thing they are that folks are going to bow down and kiss the ring. GROW UP!!! It’s like you going to whip your 16 year old son for some alleged infraction for which you do not have all the facts and you jump to nuclear options and your son, who is 6’4 220lbs, playing linebacker on the football team, laughs at you. If you have not gained his respect by this time it is hopeless. Your 5’0, 100 lbs wife has a better chance. There are better ways. Why the escalation to nuclear options? Is TW that intimidated and insecure?

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This is outrageous!

May God intervene in this plan that centralizes control at the top. This is a massive change in governance that needs study and lots of input.

This proposal essentially changes the entire organization’s structure from top to bottom. Good-bye democracy, hello compliance.

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Thank you, Bonnie!

At the beginning of what will be a long and usually fruitful discussion, I venture to make several oblique comments.

(1) The fact that the editor of “Spectrum,” and perhaps other websites or journals, have received the relevant documents should remind us that not everybody at the General Conference applauds these measures,

(2) There can be no doubt but that a small group of leaders at the General Conference is determined to take control of the denomination and steer it where they honestly think best.

(3) The current top leadership of the church continues its efforts to solve these issues by intensifying its use of administrative coercive power.

(4) This method will not work

(5) This development announces that this small group of leaders at the General Conference has for all practical purposes lost confidence in other General Conferences endeavors to foster theological unity and integrity such as the International Board for Ministerial and Theological Education and, perhaps, the Biblical Research Institute,.

(6) The “strong leadership” which some at the General Conference are now exercising is a greater threat to the Divisions in the Global South than it is to those in the Global North. This is because they often have fewer resources, financial and otherwise, with which to resist General Conference pressure.

(7)This kind of leadership will not spit the church. Its long range consequence will be more administrative and financial discretion in the Divisions, Union Conferences and Conferences and congregations and less in the General Conference.

(8) No pastor could lead a congregation the way this small group of leaders—and it is small–is trying to lead the denomination.

(9) This makes me wonder how much pastoral exposure and experience this small group of leaders has had.

(10) It is very important that all denominational employees adhere to established denominational procedures. One should not answer questions which do not reach one in the proper way and this is through one’s immediate supervisor. For example, I should refer all inquiries which I might receive from this small group of General Conference leaders, or anyone else, to my Dean.

(11) I had anticipated that a Compliance Committee would be populated by specialists on the different topics from different backgrounds and perspectives who would help the noncompliant entities and the General Conference find messured, balanced and mutually acceptable solutions. This has not happened. A CC will function more like a Task Force with a specific assignment with members who for the most part, but not in every case, are chosen for their willingness and ability to help it accomplish its mission. In the long run this will hurt the top leaders of the GC by depriving them of the wide range of considerations that would enhance their decision making.

(12) The denomination’ s many checks and balances are there to make it very difficult for any small group to impose its will on everyone. Much to the frustrations of a small group of General Conference leaders, they have been working very well. This will continue.

(13) Because the General Conference has direct administrative control over only a few of the denomination’s organizations, I’m not sure how the small group of its leaders who are implementing these procedures plan to enforce compliance to them. This has been a challenge for them all along and it still is.

P.S.: I have been in error about the number of anticipated Compliance Committees. My recollection was that there was to be one. This is not correct. There were to several which would be named and populated in August. This has happened.

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I believe the Autumn Council has the authority to overturn the non-compliant creation of these committees, and the Autumn Council could perhaps also take appropriate disciplinary actions for those involved.

But don’t worry! After seeing the winds of change at the last Autumn Council, this “power grab” will only intensify those winds and potentially result in the “shaking” of the very leadership of the General Conference.

Dare we even imagine a surprising domino effect that starts a Christ-centered “revival and reformation” of the Church?

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Wow, not very Adventist. There is only one head, and that is Jesus Christ our God. So why create a pyramid structure if not wanting to replace the head, with a knew man made version. This must be rejected, at all cost, because this authocratic system only leads to injustice and abuse. How sad for a church which promoted a representative of a church structure, to that of a dictatorship. This is the work of Satan, no other way to express my sadness.

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This is what happens when an institution believes it is the only avenue to salvation. What happened on a hill outside of Jeusalam is a mere object lesson. We have the blueprint let us guard it with every means possible. Control is the new Gospel.

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It is high time to reconsider an open request from some of distinguished members of the GCEC to start a vote of confidence to the GC administration. Young members of the Church, intellectuals and especially those concerned for the future of the Church are leaving this denomination. And where are they going? Nowhere. Because there is no other Adventist Church for them to join to. After all the idea of splitting of the Church is not even so bad. If there would be another organisation which would meet their expectations of a Christian Adventist Church they could happily become its members. I mean that the experiments made by the incumbent president and his cronies do much more harm to the Church than a reasonable and peaceful break up.

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Desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is brilliant! Finally some accountability (hopefully).

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Yes, you’re right. And that “desperate measures” is doing away with this extremely conflicting leadership in Silver Spring.

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“Brilliant” as @pagophilus proclaims! I would strongly suggest the “9th term” be the “nazi salute” before and after every meeting of these committees. This should complete the total GC takeover.

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What difference will that make when the GC in session voted to disallow WO three times only to receive the middle finger salute from North America, Europe, and Australia?

If every division, union, and conference feels they have the right to do what is right in their own eyes rather than respectfully submitting to what the entire church has mandated at a GC session, then why shouldn’t opposing entities and individuals do likewise when they disagree with the outcomes of future GC sessions?

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Maybe they never read the Great Controversy, because each time a " power" ( church power) came into being and persecuted the believers, they killed many, but many more were willing to die, because of the faith of those faithful myrtes. If this was so important to God, why did Jesus Christ not do it, why did He not persecute those sinful people, kill those who broke the traditions of the day. The Jews of Jesus Christ’s day, were to fight and kill anyone, He had an army, but God came to reveal to is a better way. A way of inclusion, which breaks down the wall of separation, and gives freedom to the oppressed. God came to restore that which was broken, yes, restore our relationship between fellow human beings.

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Thank you, Bonnie, for this report. We should know what they’re doing up in the belfry. I read it first in disbelief that then turned into stunned amusement. Those who wrote this document have written themselves into irrelevance. As Dave Larson said, “This won’t work.”

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I worked in a security services of a count, and we had so much policy and rules, and when we received a order, we complied with it. It was not a democracy, compliance or one gets charged. I had no problems with complying, because the rules and regulations were subject to a judiciary system. The church is not a military organization, so don’t order me around.

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Can someone please translate into Spanish. I will post on Facebook.

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You seem to forget what Ellen White said about “KINGLY POWER” at the GC - which led to the formation of unions and conferences. This proposal is nothing but regressive.

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Why do you not know that LEGAL documents give the power of who to ordain to the Unions?
I urge you to refrain from false accusations.

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It’s not kingly power. The committees have a good number of members who come from varying backgrounds.

It continues to surprise me that those who don’t believe in church teachings not only want to be members of the church but want the church to be a free-for-all where everyone can do what they want, especially so in teaching and leadership positions.

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