North American Division Leaders Address Student Questions on Race, Gender, Sexuality and More

In the first of several planned unscripted conversations with college-age Seventh-day Adventists, North American Division leaders responded to submitted questions in a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday. The program, “Is This Thing On?” was recorded on the campus of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska before an audience of about thirty-five college students. NAD President Daniel R. Jackson and Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant answered questions submitted through social media, and from live audience members.

With live musical interludes by Deneil Clarke and the Prescott Avenue Seven band and live questions received by a five-person social media team led by NAD Digital Strategies Project Manager Jamie Jean Schneider, the ninety-minute program addressed weighty topics from racism to gender discrimination and LGBT issues in the Adventist denomination.

Racism in the Adventist Church

The first social media question came from Stephen Sigamani, who asked about racism in the Adventist Church. “Andrews University has taken a great stance at opening dialogue about racism in the church,” he said. “When will we have a (sic) NAD-wide movement on this matter?”

Alex Bryant responded first, applauding Andrews University for the position and the role the university has assumed in addressing racism. “The church is better served when we hit these types of issues head on,” Bryant said.

Dan Jackson also responded, saying the words of Jesus came to mind: “All will know you are my disciples by your love one for another.” Jackson said there is a “soft underbelly of racism” even in the Adventist Church.

A similar social media question came from Kady Edwards-Campbell in Maitland, Florida: “When is the General Conference going to address the white conference, black conference situation?” she asked.

Jackson said the divisions and unions of the church have no authority in such matters. “It is only the constituent group itself that can say we’re going to put an end to this.”

Bryant clarified the question by stating, “There is no true white conference in the North American Division; there is no true black conference in the North American Division.” He noted that all 59 conferences have diversity “to varying degrees,” he added. “No conference is closed to any other group.”

Jackson stated that the emergence of regional conferences was because of racism in the Adventist Church (something for which Lake Union Conference President Don Livesay formally apologized in 2015). Jackson stated that while disbanding regional conferences is not going to happen, he does see a need for redistribution of the NAD territory. “I don’t believe we need fifty-nine conferences,” he said. “I believe we could probably do with twenty.”

The show paused for a commercial break, after which the band invited Dan Jackson to come play drums briefly, which he gamely attempted to do.

Declining Enrollment in Adventist Schools

Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant responds to a student question.

After the break, Shaina Rantung, Enrollment Services Student Director at Southern Adventist University, asked via social media what the North American Division is doing to combat declining enrollment in Adventist higher education.

Calling the issue “a matter of constant study,” Jackson agreed that in North America, enrollment is down. He noted that the “feeder system,” Adventist academies, has suffered the closure of between 200-300 schools (274, to be precise) in the last fifteen years. Jackson stated that students in Adventist schools do as well academically as their public school counterparts, and blamed the decline in a loss of interest in Seventh-day Adventist Christian education. Jackson added that he doesn’t believe the North American Division needs 14 colleges and universities.

Bryant pointed to sociological factors: the graying of the Church in North America and fewer Adventist households with school-age children, and movement from rural areas to cities. Many schools that have closed were in rural areas.

Jackson named marketing funding and the Adventist Learning Community as two of the NAD’s initiatives to support Adventist higher education.

Women’s Ordination and GC “Unity in Mission” Doc

Burman University student Spencer Page asks about women's ordination.

The first question from the live audience came from Spencer Page of Burman University, who asked on behalf of Burman students what might be the future of women’s ordination. Page noted that two pastors at the college church are women and that Burman currently boasts many female theology majors. Page made an opaque reference to the General Conference’s document “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation,” and asked how the North American Division will respond.

First, Jackson stated emphatically that the jobs of women pastors are not in jeopardy based on anything the church does or doesn’t do regarding the “unity in mission” statement. =

North American Division President Dan Jackson Responds to GC "Unity In Mission" Statement

“I personally believe in the ordination of women to the Gospel ministry,” he said to applause from the live audience. “I have for many years.” He noted that the World Church has resisted calls to move forward with the ordination of women, though two unions in the North American Division have done so. Jackson noted that the NAD has established an initiative to increase the number of women serving as pastors, stating emphatically that “the role of the NAD in establishing women in pulpits is not a violation of General Conference or North American Division policy.”

Alex Bryant chimed in saying he disagrees with the world church on ordination. Bryant described the NAD “building block,” begun in 2010, to increase women in pastoral ministry. The goal, Bryant said, has been the doubling of the 107 women pastors (out of 4,000 total the NAD employs) over five years. The program incentivizes local conferences to hire women pastors by providing funding for those positions. 2017 will be the program’s 3rd year, and the goal has been half met. $450K has been invested in the program, Bryant said.

Pacific Union College student Taleah Tyrell asks for clarification on ordination vs. commissioning.

Nicqelle Godfrey, La Sierra University’s student body president asked why the decision is not a local, division-by-division decision as opposed to a General Conference decision?

Jackson responded noting the San Antonio 2015 vote on that very question. “The World Church said no,” Jackson said flatly.

Jackson pointed articles by George Knight and Gerrry Chudleigh on the authority of unions to govern ordination practices. The local congregation responsible for membership; conferences are responsible for employment; and unions responsible for ordination, Jackson said. He admitted that some believe ordination “is property of the General Conference in session.” Positioning the North American Division as a part of the World Church, Jackson stated that he disagrees with his brothers in India, Africa and the Philippines (who oppose ordaining women), and stated his belief that change will come when there are 400, 500, 1,000 women pastors in North America.

Pacific Union College Student President Taleah Tyrell asked Bryant and Jackson to clarify what ordained pastors can do that unordained pastors cannot.

Women are allowed to be commissioned, Bryant said, and noted that commissioned pastors can do everything ordained pastors can except for the following four things: organize a local church, disband a church, ordain local elders, and become president of a church territory. Jackson added that ordained pastors can be paid the same.

NAD Associate Communication Director and conversation moderator Julio Munoz called attention to the implications for leadership made unavailable to women.

Bryant said the North American Division has asked for variance—for change in policy—to give commissioned ministers the right to be conference presidents. The North American Division voted that policy, but it was overturned, Bryant said.

LGBT+ Issues in Adventism

Union College student Laryssa Schnell discusses Adventist treatment of LGBT+ people.

Laryssa Schnell, a Union College senior and audience member called attention to “our LGBTQ+ friends,” pointing to the biblical passage that describes Jesus followers being known by their love. “I don’t feel like that’s what’s happening,” Schnell said. She asked what the church can do to be more accepting.

Every human being, how they identify themselves, is a child of God, Jackson responded. “To damn another person or to say I’m better than another person disconnects me from Gospel of Jesus,” he said. Jackson tried to strike a balance, stating his belief that the church cannot move away from teachings of Scripture with an insistence on “not damning people.” He called LGBTQ people children of God and said that when he doesn’t understand another person’s experience, his default response is compassion. He related a story in which he told a lady with a lesbian daughter in a same-sex marriage he hoped the daughter, her partner and their children would find fellowship in Adventist Church. “They will not find membership,” he said,” but they’re not looking for membership.” He suggested that most people today want community and fellowship, not membership. However compassionate the church wants to be, Jackson stated, “I don’t have the right to turn away from God’s word.” But quoting the words of Jesus, “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out,” Jackson said that includes the LGBT+ community.

Hannah Ashburn from Union College asked whether the NAD has undertaken any initiatives to protect LGBT+ students—especially transgender students—on college campuses?

Jackson responded “we almost need a covenant that we will treat people in godly ways.” He said such a covenant is incumbent upon all administrators, and upon all boards and committees in the church. “God doesn’t give us rights to bully, to ostracize, to damn and condemn,” he said. He added that every college campus should be a safe place for every LGBT person.

Hope for The Adventist Church

Oakwood University student Josiah Taylor asks about the future of the Adventist Church.

Oakwood University political science student Josiah Taylor got the last question and noting that peers are leaving Adventism, asked where to look to find hope for the future of the Adventist Church.

“I never get discouraged about the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when I’m around young people,” Jackson said. “I just get discouraged when I’m around people my age.” His message to young Adventists, “You are not the future of the church, you are the church.” He said silence and giving up can kill the church. “God didn’t call my generation to finish the work of the church,” he said. “God called your generation.”

Bryant agreed, saying “You guys have peeled away the traditions of the church from the essence of the church.”

Other students asked about how the church and its young adults can meet needs in their communities, about training student missionaries could receive to avoid being “neo-imperialistic,” and about the need to balance humanitarian concerns (mentioning Flint Michigan, for instance) and ecological concerns with doctrinal concerns when thinking about mission.

Watch the full 90-minute broadcast here.

Jared Wright is Southern California Correspondent for Spectrummagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7920
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Let’s do this kind of thing more often. Dan Jackson is on the right track here. Holding discussions, listening to people’s thoughts and attitudes, and he’s an SDA leader… Imagine!!

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I applaud this sort of attempt to connect and communicate…I just wished there were some better answers (or any at all) to some of the issues:

"Jackson stated that while disbanding regional conferences is not going to happen, he does see a need for redistribution of the NAD territory. “I don’t believe we need fifty-nine conferences,” he said. “I believe we could probably do with twenty.”

A classic way to deal with some thorny issues. Could very well “integrate” the “Black/White” conferences but I have yet to see them “merge” colleges and that has been discussed for years now. No need to talk about the Women’s Ordination issue as that will never fly with the Adventist world church communities.

“They will not find membership,” he said,” but they’re not looking for membership.” He suggested that most people today want community and fellowship, not membership. However compassionate the church wants to be, Jackson stated, “I don’t have the right to turn away from God’s word.”

For sure they will not find “membership” but unfortunately they won’t find community or fellowship as well. This is the real problem that needs to be addressed and it hasn’t been yet.

"He said silence and giving up can kill the church. “God didn’t call my generation to finish the work of the church,” he said. “God called your generation.”

Yes, silence and giving up won’t help anything- but is this the real reason that the SDA church is dying in the NAD? Perhaps this could be the last young generation to “finish the work of the church”…but this may be optimistic.

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Having recently attended a public awareness for LGBT issues in my county, I found that they are not content with acceptance or providing safe places. Their agenda is to create a public attitude of “celebration” when one comes out as Gay or “passes over” into new gender identification. Maybe, sooner then we think, we will be sending Hallmark Greeting Cards to cross-dressers or gender-variant, even married individuals, who make a public announcement.

I foresee a time when LGBT rights, for full inclusion, will become a GC issue. Anything short of nuclear war with North Korea, this is inevitable. What is fashionable in society will become custom in church creed. Just consider what happened to our past position on divorce and remarriage. My parents were dis-fellowshipped, lost their jobs at the R&H, over an unhappy marriage and divorce. Today their membership would be safe. O how culture changes our theology.

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Jesus

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I commend Dan Jackson for doing what he has done in holding discussions.

I note the closure of 274 schools in NAD, but I wonder, if Adventist are arguing all the time about what they believe, how many people have turned away. How many young people growing up have become disillusioned with the church and stopped coming to church.

The church has become a fighting ground and you can’t help but wonder that the 2 (school closures & SDA infighting) have a connection.

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Fellowship NOT Membership.
WITHOUT MEMBERSHIP THERE is NO TRUE FELLOWSHIP!!!
Without membership one would NOT BE ALLOWED to have any church office.
Would not be ALLOWED to assist with Sabbath School, be called to the platform,
be allowed to be a Deacon, Deaconess, Elder, Sabbath School Leader, either Adult
or in Children’s Division.
FELLOWSHIP sounds good to these inexperienced teens and early 20’s. But
THAT is not the real world when put into practice in the Local church setting.
What is the purpose of attending a church that only allows one to warm a pew
for 180 minutes on Sabbath??? And that is all until 7 days later.

When the Sunday church down the street Welcomes FULL Inclusion in ALL Activities.
AND for each of the 7 days in the week.

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come on guys, where is the question on evolution? we got racism, homosexuality, women ordination but nothing about origins:( that’s the only thing missing here…:slight_smile:
Happy Sabbath

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I don’t know: Is it worth it for me to spend an hour and a half watching the GC placating NAD SDAs who are questioning 19th century exclusivism? I doubt it.

Obviously Dan and Alex are foils. They cannot DO anything without TW’s authorization, bodily functions excluded.

Come out of her My people, that ye be not partakers in her sin.

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Frank, please share the source of your information from the meeting you attended. I assume they cited a survey or study. And who sponsored / conducted the meeting? What was their agenda - what was their desired result? I’ve taught critical thinking and writing skills to university students for years, and I always require more specifics than you’ve given here before I would consider their paper / speech credible. You know what the Bible says: “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” So providing documentation for your assertions is important.

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i think dan jackson is perfect for this kind of setting…all the students seem happy to have the opportunity to talk to him, and be heard by him…obviously this is something that should be done on a regular basis…

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Thanks, @JaredWright.

Please:

• What was the purpose, or were the purposes, of this event?

• How was this group of a dozen participants put together, and the topics, or questions, that the leaders would address determined?

• Why wasn’t the group larger?

• How concretized are plans for similar events at other SDA schools, or other SDA sites?

Thanks, in advance.

HA

Our schools are Sister schools , not Church schools . The enrollment would be up if we allowed all S.D.A. children FREE admission, That is a church school. Members pay into the church in order that their children can go to school for free. Today, It’d pay as you go. Can’t pay, you stop going. It does work in other area / denominations . Will the church allow SSM ? Will we change our stand on homosexuality ? While social forces are pushing at the church, the Land Markers set by Christ still stand. When we decide to move them, the church will split down the middle. Can we still be called the Seventh-day Adventist Church, if we start to worship on Sunday , allow gay marriage , and allow individual conferences to do their own thing ? Social issues are now starting to distract us from our gospel mission. It is the Spirit of Christ that brings unity. To go against the GC Ruling -2015 , says something about us . Young people , God has called you. Please answer His call. Look up Raising Men Lawn Care Service , in Huntsville , Alabama . A group of young people answering the call to Christian Service . There are hard and difficult days ahead for the church. Young people , Hold on to Jesus.

Dan Jackson,a fine example of enlightened self interest. A vote doesn’t change right from wrong. orwrong from right. Of course each candidate needs vetting not a physical exam.

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I consider our changes on divorce/remarriage as indicative of growth in scriptural and spiritual understanding. We did some cruel things to people with broken marriages. Church publications explored the issue and, thank God, there’s been improvement. You write as if you regret that we no longer punish as your parents were punished.

It isn’t dishonesty, it’s knowledge of Adventist church structure. Divisions don’t control the ordination of local pastors. The NAD can neither authorize nor prohibit Unions on ordination.

A good explanation of how Adventist church authority works:
“Who Runs the Church?” https://session.adventistfaith.org/uploaded_assets/454468

You’re apparently not understanding the relationship. Unions are part of the NAD, however they have their own constituencies and bylaws. The different entities hold different authorities. This is why the GC hasn’t been able to simply force Unions to do things differently on ordination, and an attempt to do so would involve litigation. Read the resource I linked above.

Then you’re not aware of how membership is the authority of the local church. The GC cannot force a church in declining or disfellowshipping members, and these attempts have been made. Unique authorities of the different entities. We have a representative system, not a hierarchy. Again, I recommend the resource I linked above.

Btw, your response to me to “Just stop it!” is not appropriate adult to adult communication. I hope this isn’t how you deal with church members.

So you double down with a multi paragraph rant because someone reasonably objected to the inappropriate command, “Just stop it!” I truly hope your ability to respond to congregants is different than what’s displayed here. It’s a legitimate concern because, for better or worse, we do tend to be consistent in our behaviors across settings. I’m sorry that the needed feedback was upsetting to you.

Again, yes, there is a connection, but membership is the authority of the local church and ordination is the authority of the Unions.

For example, member discipline is under the authority of the local church, not the GC. See pg 65 of the Church Manual which states that the discipline of a church that accepts members under censure would be the function of the “conference constituency,” i.e., requiring a constituency vote by the members of the conference. If it were the GC’s right, they could do it directly without any constituency involvement.

“The acceptance into membership of those under discipline is such a serious violation of Church policy that an offending church may be subject to discipline by the conference constituency.”

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dis·in·gen·u·ous.
[ˌdisənˈjenyo͞oəs

ADJECTIVE
not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
synonyms: insincere · dishonest · untruthful · false · deceitful · duplicitous · lying ·

mendacious · hypocritical

The stance by the NAD leadership on ordination with the disingenuous argument that Unions
are not part of the division is ludicrous.

During the time that the number and size of independent schools have grown in huge numbers, most of the church’s explanations for the decline of numbers of Adventist schools are not valid.

The best way to combat declining enrollments is to turn many of the schools into “mission” schools and open the doors to non-SDA students. If that is too far, try marketing to the local community. There are thousands of families in each community wanting a good quality, moral education for their kids.

There are thousands of Asian students with money, for example, looking for quality elementary and high school education.

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Hopeful…

I am appalled at your “that’s not appropriate adult to adult communication” comment. That’s what you expect to hear out in the world… coming from the “PC Police” who determine what is and what isn’t appropriate. To my dismay, you have the backing of Admin… who deleted my comment; undoubtedly respondent to your outrage.

I don’t fully remember all that I wrote… but my purpose for saying “just stop it” was to say “you are an informed person and know better than what you are asserting.” Hence, you ought to quit that line of reasoning".

This is the second time I have had a post deleted on this site; when I have seen blatantly strident comments remain. If one post is deleted… then all replies to that post should be deleted as well. Admin. decided to keep the “characterization of my words” posted, without keeping “my actual words” posted; so that others can decide for themselves whether my words were “appropriate adult to adult communication.” It leaves a “Wow, he must have said something really bad” effect.

This is totally unfair!

To boot… the added “I hope this isn’t how you deal with church members” comment is very personal… going beyond dialogue related to the issue we are are discussing and strikes me as being unduly and personally pointed. “Just stop it” has nothing to do with how I “deal with church members”. To draw such drastic applications to “Just stop it” goes way beyond the pale and, I would argue, is a comment that should not be allowed to remain posted on this website. I hope that admin. will show me the courtesy of having my thoughts about what “hopeful” wrote remain posted; as well as my thoughts on how this was handled.

Robert King’s comment…

… is very much in line with what I was asserting… in that everyone knows what the vote in San Antonio meant… but many have promulgated a “different take”; in saying that the vote was only applying to decision-making at the Divisional level… but not the Union level. That’s why I said, “Just stop it”…because the argument that has been continuously promoted on this website has not been asserted (although clearly allowed to fester and grow) by the leadership of the NAD. The comments by Dan Jackson and G. Alexander Bryant speak clearly against the notion that women’s ordination is up to Unions to decide. By giving life to George Knight’s and Gerry Chudleigh’s writings; the NAD is allowing the “Unions are empowered” idea to fester; while they assert church policy to the contrary. There is no ambiguity in their words on the video in question.

Dwayne, your previous comments were deleted because they violated our commenting policy. Please see specifically this line of the policy: “limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation.” The full policy appears at the end of each article on Spectrum. Thank you.

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I haven’t heard this many politically correct answers in a long time. We as a church continue to dance around these issues. no wonder the church is loosing ground

Part of the world church disagrees with the other. The NAD is/was on the losing side of a (possibly fixed) vote on WO in 2015. What do we do who believe the “world church” is wrong?

What do we do when the unintended consequences of that vote include the demotion of women as elders at Ted Wilson’s own son-in-law’s Pastorate in Hendersonville, NC?

Jesus “broke” the Sabbath for a reason (and yes, He broke Sabbath rules. Compare John 5:10,16,18 with Jer. 17:21-22.).

Jesus answered those who sought his death for breaking the Sabbath by stating unequivocally “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Jn 5:17 NIV

There’s a lesson there for those who will hear. The real question is whether there are leaders in the church (such as Karl HaFFner) who will provide Godly direction.

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