North American Division Responds to GC Unity Actions: Day 4 at the NAD Meetings

The day’s business agenda began with G. Alexander Bryant’s Secretary’s Report. Originally scheduled for day one, it was postponed due to President Jackson’s longer-than-expected President’s Report on Thursday.

Bryant reported that as of June 30, 2017, the membership in North America stood at 1,243,316 members, 5,530 churches, and 833 companies. The growth of the NAD has continued to increase steadily during the past five years. Females make up 52.6% of the membership.

There have been 223,826 total baptisms and professions of faith over a six year period (2011-2016). There have been over 78,000 missing/dropped members and almost 45,000 deaths during this period, which brings the net gain to 100,631.

Bryant told the delegates that the Southeastern California Conference has been the largest conference in North America for many, many years, and continues to be so with over 65,000 members. “And it’s led by a woman!” Bryant added which garnered loud applause and amens. Florida Conference is the second largest with over 60,000 members. The Southern Union has experienced the most growth.

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, a passionate discussion ensued on how to retain members, especially young people. Important philosophical and Christian principles were offered, as well as concrete suggestions and advice from delegates who had specific approaches that worked in their congregations.

Elder Bryant discussed our mission to minister to people’s needs - not with an end-goal of baptism, but simply because we see a need and act. “Christ showed sympathy to the worst in our society, ministered to their needs, and then won their confidence. In that order."

“Sometimes people want a loaf of bread without a tract in it.” Then he added, “When people are hungry make them some soup. And don't make it vegetarian soup. Put some chicken in that soup."

One delegate took to the mic to express displeasure at the remark, saying he and his mother joined the Adventist Church specifically because of the health message, and comments like adding chicken to soup undermine that important message. But other delegates affirmed the comment, saying that though it might make us uncomfortable, ministering to one’s needs isn’t about us; it’s about the person in need.

Randy Roberts, senior pastor at Loma Linda University Church, said that in his experience, millennials are weary of programs. They long for relationships, for organic connections. "Shepherds don't make sheep. Sheep make sheep,” he said, speaking to the important role individual church members play in fostering fellowship.

Several other delegates spoke to the importance of the whole church body meeting people where they’re at instead of expecting them to just show up to a church service. “I’m a POW, a Pastor On Wheels,” said Michael Smith from the Oklahoma Conference, discussing the need to be out in the community interacting with individuals.

Even after the Secretary’s Report was unanimously approved by the body, the discussion continued right up until the lunch break. Maurice Valentine II, president of the Lake Union, commented on how encouraged he was by the number of delegates engaged in the discussion and the advice and concrete suggestions being offered.

After lunch, the discussion turned to the Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence in Church Governance document that was voted to be sent back to the Unity Oversight Committee during Annual Council. President Jackson said that when the agenda was originally set, they had allotted four hours for discussion just in case the document was voted through. Since the document wasn’t voted through, he felt they might not need the whole four hours but the body could take as long as they needed. The discussion ended up going for three and a half hours.

Jackson implored the delegates to remain respectful of each other, as well as the General Conference, which everyone did. Though the overall mood was somber, Jackson was able to lighten spirits at various points with his classic self-deprecating humor.

Delegates were given three minutes to speak, and they used their time to express a variety of concerns about the document, with many comments mirroring those expressed by the Annual Council Executive Committee during the original discussion.

Early in the proceedings, Daniel Cho, a delegate from Canada, stated that “there are many young people across the division who support the [2015] General Conference [Session] vote” and are very concerned about the lack of respect shown to the GC on the issue of women’s ordination. He then made the following motion:

In the spirit of church unity, respect for the decisions of the General Conference in session, and recognizing that the General Conference in session, with delegates from all over the world, is the highest human body that we have for settling disputable matters in divisions and their entities in the Church, we, the North American Division Executive Committee, as part of the General Conference, direct that all entities that we serve bring their practices into harmony with all the NAD/GC policies, and with the 2015 vote by the world church on ordination.

The motion was seconded, and discussion then turned to the motion. Several delegates spoke out against it and one delegate spoke in favor. Then, before conversation could go further, Juan Prestol-Puesan, GC treasurer, made a motion to table Cho’s motion. “The point that is brought to us by this motion, is one that is probably not even necessary. This is an issue that is troubling the world church. It’s not an issue of the General Conference. It’s an issue of the world church. And it belongs at the General Conference, in the Annual Council meeting,” said Prestol-Puesan.

When a motion is made to table, a vote must be taken immediately with no additional discussion. Using their electronic voting devices, the delegates voted 186 in favor of tabling, 25 against, and 3 abstained from voting.

With the motion tabled, the discussion on concerns about the document continued. Brenda Billingy, from the NAD Ministerial team shared a heartfelt statement:

I stand here today to represent the women who are called by God. And it’s a difficult position because they want to obey God, but on the other hand, the church that they love is not supportive...The women I speak to on a daily basis, they are hurt. They are called names that I cannot repeat. They are degraded in their positions. Some of them are actually removed or there are attempts to remove them from their positions. It is a tough struggle...These discussions are fine, we have to have them, but at the end of the day we have to report to God for what he has asked us to do...As women of the word, we are not trying to tear down this church. We are trying to do mission.

Alex Bryan from Walla Walla University Church echoed Billingy’s concerns, reminding the body that this “isn’t about policy, it’s about people.” He spoke of the growing concern he felt reading statements from women across the world these past few weeks who told their stories of sexual assault, abuse, and rape using the hashtag #MeToo on social media:

I was moved deeply...reading colleagues of mine, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, women who wrote about ways they’ve been treated inside this church by brothers...And as I was reading those #MeToo testimonies, I flipped over and saw what’s happening in Hollywood. Where the most despicable abuse has been going on for decades and everyone remained silent. And now we’re in an era where more and more stories are coming forth...And it struck me, where we allow the degradation of women anywhere, we are complicit in a way, everywhere. And where we contribute to a culture that allows women to be treated as second-class citizens, we are culpable where women are allowed to be sub-human anywhere.

William Cox, president of Allegheny West Conference, spoke to the disconnect between Fundamental Belief 14 which says the church believes in gender equality, and the fact that women are not allowed to be ordained.

President Jackson explained saying, “The General Conference, in its policy book, talks about non-discrimination. And then it says, ‘the General Conference will not discriminate, male or female…’ and then there’s a bracket in the policy that says, ‘with the exception of positions that require ordination.’”

He said that it seems the Pacific and Columbia Unions are out of compliance with their decision to ordain women because they are going against a church policy that tells them they must discriminate. “And that’s an exact rendering of the policy. I’m not going to interpret, I’m not even going to comment. I’m just saying there is a sense in which a policy was broken. Not everyone agrees with me on that, and not everybody has to agree with me on that.”

Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union, was quick to disagree. “It's my understanding that existing world church policy states, relative to ordination, that final authority rests with the Union. Am I remembering that correctly? Has that policy been changed?” he asked Jackson.

Jackson agreed that Graham was correct. Graham continued, “So the present world policy says that final authority for ordination rests with the unions. If that is the case, how did that authority get usurped and placed somewhere else?” He also reminded Jackson about the Pacific Union’s constituency meeting in which 79% of the body voted in favor of allowing local conferences to decide on ordination for men and women.

“I feel like I’m on trial here, but yes, you’re correct.” said Jackson, garnering laughs from the audience.

Graham ended stating, “The officers of the Pacific Union follow the direction of the people who have placed us in position...I, as President, my other officers with me, have no authority to change anything the constituency has voted...My people in the Pacific Union, we believe it is important to recognize Total Member Involvement. Total Member Involvement means everybody. We recognize God’s gifts for everybody.”

Jackson replied that he thinks the core of the debate is not who has the right to administer ordination, but rather who holds the right to create the policy that directs.

After a couple more delegates brought their questions and comments to the floor, Donna Jackson, President Jackson’s wife, brought forward a motion. She started by saying, “I hope this won’t affect our marriage” to which the President replied, “Well, I’m waiting to hear!”

Her motion was as follows: “Because the document is so severely flawed, in my opinion, I move that this body, the North America Executive Committee, express their strong disagreement with it.”

The motion was quickly seconded. A question was raised on whether Mrs. Jackson has voice and vote (she does, as she’s an associate director in the NAD Ministerial Department), and then discussion on the motion commenced.

Elder Kibble made a motion to amend Mrs. Jackson’s motion. The amendment stated that the NAD would choose a group of representatives to discuss with the GC Unity Oversight Committee the concerns expressed about the document by the body.

After Celeste Ryan Blyden from the Columbia Union expressed her concern that the Unity Oversight Committee’s chair has recently stepped down and there are no women on the committee, Spencer Page, student association president at Burman University, made a motion to amend the amendment by Elder Kibble. Page’s amendment was that when the NAD representatives speak with the Unity Oversight Committee, they request that a female minister be added to the committee.

The following votes then took place:

A vote on the amendment to the amendment passed with 138 in favor, 49 against, and 4 abstained.

A vote on the amendment passed with 158 in favor, 41 against, and 5 abstained.

A vote on the amended motion passed with 114 in favor, 20 against, and 2 abstained.

The drop in the number of delegates involved in the last vote was due at least in part to a short break that was taken between the second and third votes. It was not clear before the break that a third vote would be needed. When the meeting resumed, it was 4:45 p.m., and many delegates had left for other meetings and obligations.

The last item on the agenda for the Sunday business session was the Oakwood University Report. President Les Pollard shared many exciting items from the university including:

  • 369 students from 5 schools and 47 programs graduated in 2017
  • 40 classes serving 500 students were launched online through Oakwood Online University
  • The Aeolians of Oakwood won the prestigious title "Choir of the World" during a competition in Wales
  • Current students can now earn career certifications through the “Career Pathways” program
  • A new app called "GEMConnect" offers career advising, alumni mentoring, and more for students

The report was unanimously accepted by the body, and the delegates were dismissed.

You can watch the business sessions on the North American Division’s Facebook page.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8351

As important as the issue of gender equality in our ministry is I am very disappointed that it seems to have overshadowed our church’s response to other major issues facing our church. This report and the meetings at the NAD have yet to address the severity and urgency of our opioid catastrophe. Most people seek help from their faith community, clergy or pastoral ministers when they are impacted by alcohol or drug dependence. Galatians 6:2 calls us to bear one another’s burdens as a tangible demonstration of our obedience to the law of Christ to love others. Second Corinthians 1:3-5 teaches us that God even uses our own afflictions not merely as an ends but as the means of stepping into the suffering of others to bear their burden. More to the point, bringing the gospel into these contexts of suffering and need lies at the heart of Jesus’ message. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus declares that he is the one who brings true and lasting freedom. Often times, we lose sight of the basic but profound truth that the gospel of Jesus is light in the darkness of this world. One of the darkest domains a human can inhabit, drug addiction needs the light of the gospel.

We need a church global response. We need to save lives now. What we need is not the detached appeal for punishment and police action, but rather heartfelt compassion for those stuck in addiction and their loved ones. Unconnected from those who are suffering, advocating these tired policies is easy until you come face to face with the problem.

How many of those attending the meetings have friends, family members or are themselves trapped by the opioid epidemic? Ordaining wome in our church is long overdue. We need to move on to other issues that are destroying our homes and our churches.

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Ha! Ha! As difficult as IT IS TO BELIEVE IT I Do Believe It!!
Such an uproar in a Division Presentation about ministering to the homeless, the hungry over having a little chicken [or beef] in an item served.
Chicken Soup with vegetables and noodles.
Spaghetti with a rich flavorful sauce with enough hamburger to see [if not using a tasty meat substitute].
A POINT TO REMEMBER – NOT ALL our members who bring food to an SDA sabbath potluck are Vegetarians – Just Vegetarians ON THAT PARTICULAR SABBATH.
[Chuckle] [Chuckle] [Chuckle], AGAIN!

What a delightful exchange between President Ricardo Graham and President Jackson.
The CONFLICT in the Church Policies.
ONE POLICY says the Union have the RIGHT to Ordain WHO THEY WILL.
ONE CONFLICTING POLICY stating that Women of the SDA church are allowed to be appointed to ANY POSITION [EXCEPT an ordained pastor] THIS Policy conflicts with the RIGHTS OF THE UNIONS.
There is apparently NO ONE to make a motion to GET RID of the 2nd Conflicting Policy. No group of MEN willing to VOTE to remove this Conflicting policy that is AGAINST the Rights of the Unions.

WHY ARE THESE SDA MEN FEARFUL???
Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of human opinion is like a disabling trap.
Proverbs 16:12 – Good leaders abhor wrong doing of all kinds. It is a horrible thing for a leader to commit evil. His right to rule is built on justice and fairness.
Proverbs 16:11 – The Lord demands business be conducted honestly in the work place [the Church]. He established this principle. He wants fairness in all your dealings.

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Do you know what’s wrong with our church? When a woman speaks up - like in this article is mentioned - Donna Jackson, people (men) question if she even has a voice (and vote). That reminds me an observation shared by Bill Johnsson how his wife Nolene was treated - only woman in a room = she is just a secretary here taking minutes. As the membership report says, females make up 52.6% of all of us, but we only let 47.4% of able bodies to pastor to our communities. God has to be wondering why we operate with efficiency below 50%! Lord, have mercy!

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It’s encouraging that it is proposed that NAD people meet with the Unity in Mission Oversight Committee. Before they meet with them they must themselves be able to agree whether the GC or the Unions set the selection criteria for ordained individuals including any gender clause incorporated within same. This proposed group must also have a set of concrete proposals in mind that they consider will move the Committee’s work forward. i expected that such proposals might well have arisen in the course of discussion. Denying the role of the GC in setting the selection criteria for ordained persons is a sure fire way for any delegation to be laughed out of the UMOC.

Beyond the play and coumterplay of the two GC votes (San Antonio 2015; Annual Council 2017) and the defective failures of process on both occasions I still accept both votes to represent the hand and voice of God to us. San Antonio said in effect that we must find global and united solutions to the issue. Annual Council said that heavy handed punitive strategies in dealing with policy compliance were not to be front and centre of any forward strategy.

Reading between the lines then we may still acknowledge that we have unfinished business in the design and implementation of credentialing policies.

May I suggest that the following foundational principles may be helpful as we turn our attention to this unfinished business.

  1. Decisions will flow on a two way street between the GC and other church entities. Our church organization is not designed with a top down flow of authority altogether. Nor with a bottom up authority flow entirely. Each entity has it’s own sphere of influence and responsibility nesting within the whole
  2. A vigorous global partnership and collaboration is essential in regard to theological discussion and debate on the role of women in ministry. Consensus on these things must be pursued. Beyond this, an effective educational process about the same must be begun at the grass roots level. There must be a truly biblical contextuaization of the gospel in every culture.
  3. Adventists must eschew any theology that asserts a man’s right to be head of a congregation or entity just as vigorously as we reject the assertion of a woman’s right to lead. Any terms such as these express little more than status-seeking. Above and beyond such theology we must simply be guided by a deep conviction that God has a divine right to choose whom he will gift and call to Adventist leadership roles whether they be male or female.
  4. We must embrace a truly biblical anti-clericalism that dispenses with the two castes of laity and clergy. These terms, in the way they are used in most ecclesiastical circles today, are laden with as much medieval baggage as the term ‘ordination’ is.

Having accepted such fundamental principles and their implications, we may confidently move ahead with the necessary policy development.

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Excellent reporting, Alisa. I’m happy to hear of the meetings, and happy to have missed them. :wink:

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We operate at an even lower efficiency. The professional clergy likely makes up less than 1% of our membership; yet the professional clergy dominates sessions like the Annual Council and the GC.

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I have a suggestion: Stop promoting debunked ideas.

  • Stop trying to tell young people that the world is 6,000 years old.
  • Stop insisting on a literal flood that covered the entire world.
  • Stop making up reasons why Jesus hasn’t returned (he has not been in heaven reading through some sort of book of souls for the last 150 years. That makes no sense.)
  • Stop obsessing about the second coming. Christians have been predicting it will be soon for 2,000 years since Paul. They’ve all been wrong.
  • Stop saying women are inferior to men and cannot be ordained pastors.
  • …and so on and so forth.

You (church leaders and pastors) look stupid when you promote ideas like this.

My daughters and their friends do not appreciate any of this. They prefer their friends’ churches because the people are happy and friendly. I’m pretty sure they’re on their way out of the SDA church; they and their friends are leaving in larger numbers and earlier in life than the generation past (mine), perhaps because the church is more out of step with the reality they see than it ever has been before.

I liked “eschew any theology that asserts a man’s right to be head of a congregation”, but did you really mean we should “reject the assertion of a woman’s right to lead”? What? Did you mis-type that word? Did you mean “accept the assertion”? That would make sense, but what you wrote is vile. Of course women have the right to lead. People have the right to lead.


Well stated!

Yes, this is a travesty brought on at least in part by the church which steers members away from that vocabulary and basic knowledge of science and (ironically) an honest and in-depth study of scripture, including its true history and intended/best use.

The church today is reacting with the same impulse as the Catholic church’s reaction to Galileo. A thoughtful analysis of that reaction shows they were truly fearful. They thought that if the earth was not the center of known reality, their universe, it would cause a crisis of faith among the believers. This was precisely because they had taught for centuries that the Bible indicated that the earth was the center of creation and that everything that existed was created by God for humanity.

Somehow Christianity survived and prospered, even though we now know that not only is the sun not the center of the universe, neither is our galaxy, nor our local galaxy group, galaxy cluster, or even super-cluster. We are in a universe so big that despite its 13B year existence we still can’t see things that are far away as their light hasn’t gotten here yet.

Fun read!: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

It is challenging, but it didn’t cause the collapse of faith. It does, however, demand a review of faith.

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@website_editor

Would Spectrum be kind to publish an article explaining “how that authority get usurped and placed somewhere else?” Please?! Thank you.

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Regardless of the topic that was discussed, this willingness of President Jackson to allow as much time as needed to discuss it . . . well, that’s what I want God’s church to look like, and I suppose that God likes it that way, too.

When people go to the trouble of taking time and/or travelling to meet together, why should such opportunities increasingly be ‘edited’ to suit the shortest attention span ?

For instance, most SDAs know that the Sabbath lasts for about 24 hours. Then why is it so common in Sabbath School group lesson studies for leaders to exclaim in exasperation,
while eyeing a clock ,
'It’s already ________ o’clock, and we’ve only gotten to Monday’s lesson !'
The Sabbath sun doesn’t set at 11:00 a.m., does it ? Of all days, and of all people, SDA’s should be the last to let the clock replace people. God has already spent at least 6,000 years trying to assemble a remnant of ‘saints’ They can call ‘patient’.

In an age of faster and faster ‘food’, machines, computers, . . . it is best to remember that humans were created in the ‘image’ of those Creators who still take a whole day out of each 7, simply to savor the most worthwhile things. If our meeting agendas edit such humans, then those agendas need editing, or what use is it to meet ? Let the machines meet, instead.

And, if we are too impatient to simply scroll down a computer screen for more than a ‘sound bite’ coming from a continent away, we might try imagining what it was like to communicate over such long ‘realspace’ distances in the days before the ‘Pony Express’.

This is pathetic:
Parliamentary procedure and a clock were used to ‘edit’ voices that needed to be heard in order that an intelligent, informed vote could be made on women’s ordination at the 2015 General Conference. And what has been the result ? ‘Order’ ? Or, have the ‘edited’ voices simply metastasized and multiplied ‘without the gate’ ?

Its so much easier – and ultimately faster – to slow down and do things right the first time around !

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Sam,
You state:
Gender equality seems to have overshadowed other major issues facing our church.

I strongly disagree, since the WO ordination issue is paramount in causing dissension .discord, disharmony, division and disruption in our church body.

And WO is a.MORAL issue with proponents of WO strongly asserting and believing in the priesthood of ALL believers and in the egalitarianism that relentlessly increases in our society ( the ME TOO movement dramatically demonstrates how modern western women feel about their rights ).

I was surprised to,see that women comprise only 52% of the NAD demographic of membership. I would have expected more.
My perception over many decades of visiting churches, both Adventist, and Pretestant, and Catholic, is that there is always a preponderance of women in the pews.

In any event, since women are in the majority, subjugating them, suppressing them, ignoring and curtailing their aspirations and abilities is going counter culture and will surely result in a further erosion of our millennial membership.

Yes, opioid *addiction is a huge crisis for our country.
It is fueled by the pharmaceutical companies who aggressively market legal,
prescription opioids, and the myriad of doctors who dispense them like candy.

Two points:
This is a government issue, not one the church can effectively deal,with. Donald Trump is aggressively addressing the problem., including trying to seal our southern border over which flows a food of heroin and potential,terrorists coming in “unvetted “. “

SECONDLY:
New information is emerging that those states where marijuana is legalized, have a much lower opioid crisis. In fact, REHAB management of opioid addiction is facilitated by substituting pot for the opioid — marijuana is a much less damaging substance, and lacks the severe addiction element.

So would you be in favor of this approach ??

I live in a state, Oregon, where pot is legal. I have never used it but I am so happy it is available as I would use it in a heartbeat, should I be experiencing severe, crippling terminal cancer pain, unrelieved by narcotics…

And if I had a child/family member at risk for an opioid overdose, I would be in favor of substituting the lesser evil for the greater, since that seems to be the most speedy solution for the rehabilitation, and the avoidance of the overdose epidemic sweeping the country…

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I suspect the 48/52stats. It would be interesting to see the studies which were conducted, and how accurate they might be (or inaccurate by design!) Perhaps the butcher has his thumb on the scale!

Whether the number of men is intentionally inflated, ostensibly so that the discrimination seems lamely justified–or unintentionally (for instance by counting baptisms and not back door escapees), we are not unlike other faith communities. In the west, (edit to correct) PEW reports 39% male/61% female membership, Barna reports 40/60.

I suspect more men leave, than women. I also suspect the church has many more female workers (including volunteers) than male workers-except in the top positions. Both of these points increase the disparity. When midweek services are included in the polls, the numbers rise even more.

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Why is this so overlooked in discussions by those who are saying, “Let’s dump the WO discussion. Let’s get on with the mission of the church”? Including women and Millenials IS the mission of the church. Why do anti-WO buy into the idea of let’s move on when including women pastors would double the workforce and multiply connections with women, children and Millenials? Why are we blind to this? How can the scales come off our eyes?

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As a 31-year-old who was raised in the church and worked for the church, all of the things you’ve listed are primary reasons I’ve left. Perhaps even a generation ago, many of these beliefs would have still been accepted by many people, but with the rise of the internet and easy access to information–it’s simply no longer as easy to convince young, educated, thoughtful people to believe things which do not conform to observable reality.

At the same time, I recognize that the SDA church will not, at least in my lifetime, change most of those beliefs in your list. I honestly do not see how the church can continue holding to beliefs like YEC and expect to be able to hold onto young, educated Christians. The discrimination, legalistic environments, and unwelcoming congregations may all contribute in various ways to membership loss, but at the core is a conflict between authoritarian belief structures which demand belief without evidence, and observable evidence which contradicts at least some of those beliefs. More and more people are beginning to question these basic belief and thought structures, and when they cannot resolve their questions (and many church members do not even have the basic vocabulary or knowledge to have the conversations) they simply leave.

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Matt,

Do people in your age group have an issue with EGW? Has the internet influenced how people view her, as opposed to how she is presented in the SDA church?

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For how long will we, the church members, continue being the target of the abuse imposed by the GC on women?
For how long will civilized people tolerate the insanity of those who insist in keeping the mentality in church running at a stone age level?
For how long will the church leaders be allowed to misrepresent its members by making absurd statements like, “We do not discriminate,…BUT…,” pretending they are true Christians?
How long will it take to vote this dictatorial administration out and replace it with people who really understand and respect the beings created by God?
For how long will church members continue paying the salaries of discriminators who misrepresent ALL OF US as being discriminators too?

Well, I am not a discriminator, and those impostors do not represent me! Do they represent YOU?
@harrpa @elmer_cupino

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I believe what we are witnessing is the vis-a-vis tearing asunder of what God put together, a defacto slow divorce between the unequally yoked. On the one hand, one andro-centric spouse wants a church so peculiar, so holy, so particular that it becomes irrelevant and of no earthly good. It seems to relish in fabricating its own peculiarity, ostensibly so it can, in some spiritual sleight of hand, lay exclusive claim to being the remnant-on the basis of its spectacular peculiarity. Policy and power are sharpened and honed over and over, to create and maintain this whited sepulcher.

The other spouse, egalitarian and empathetic, desiring most to serve the widows, the orphans, the disenfranchised, the “not wanted in my church” rejects such policy and machinations. Choosing people over policy, this spouse is about to be excised with the sword above-and those standing in the gap-the Jacksons, the Paulsens, are trying to serve two masters.

Can one serve two masters, and walk together? One master, policy. Policy hell bent on exacting painful punishment, with no compunction for compassionate compromise. Braying loudly, as it is graying.
The other, a compromising and compassionate people-focused group, being asked to put up with more “waiting and praying”, trying oh so hard to conform to the institutional and policied polity. Bleeding, and praying for balm.

Yet, when principle confronts inimical policy, should principle be dissected by the scalpel?

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Dear sisters in Jesus, Brenda Billingy and Donna Jackson, may our merciful heavenly Father continue to bless you both and give you the courage to stand true, though the heavens fall. You are so absolutely correct that as women of the word, we recognize the gifts God has gently bestowed on us, and the responsibility that comes with those gifts. And it will be to God that we will go, and it will be God who will accept our humble gifts of service. Love is His motive for gifting us, and it will be His love that holds you together when one sentence in Fundamental #17 is being used in an attempt to snuff out the fire He lit in you. Go dear ladies, while there is still time to share the good news of grace, faith, hope, love.

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I like that a woman was able to reel in a discussion from getting progressively diffuse and gracefully nail it down to a simple action plan (motion). Which after an obstruction attempt, was then fine-tuned and quickly voted.
I suspect she has a wealth of wisdom from being married to someone who has decades of leadership meetings as he rose to head the NAD. And that she has the heart of ministry to be willing to keep sitting in these meetings speaks volumes. I got disgusted after only a couple of years of seeing how the sausage was made in my local church and struggle to even desire to sit in the pews anymore.
How many women that have that God-given wisdom along with a desire to be part of ministry have we deprived ourselves of through the years?!? It strikes me to be of the same spirit of those that would ignore Jesus as unqualified to teach just because he was a teen.
We so freely throw stones at the false Catholic dogma and traditions instead of using it as a lesson for self-reflection, repentance and correction.

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I’m hesitant to speak for my entire age group, I’m sure there’s a range of views. That said, I would describe my belief in EGW from childhood as “halfhearted.” I remember wondering, at age 8 or 9, why it was that she only began seeing visions after massive head trauma. That seemed like an obvious naturalistic explanation for her visions, even as a child. As a grew older I began to hear the stories of other “prophets” of the modern era, including Joseph Smith and others, and realized that, frankly, humans are credulous idiots. The conflicting claims of spiritual knowledge from these sorts of characters could not all be true, yet all had followers. That told me that we’re not very good at sorting out truth from what we wish to be true. Once I began to read contemporary accounts from witnesses to her visions, some of which pretty clearly gave naturalistic explanations for the events, I lost all belief in the general truth of her writings. That happened long before I left the church or lost my faith, so I wouldn’t point to EGW belief as any kind of a metric for overall membership loss. If God exists, he’s surely bigger than one passionate but mistaken prophet.

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