North American Division Seeks Higher Ground, Votes Statement on Civil Discourse

(system) #1

SILVER SPRING - The North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee unanimously adopted a statement that encourages “respectful, Christ-like dialogue” between Christians, particularly in regards to the upcoming 2015 General Conference Session vote on women’s ordination.

The motion stemmed from a concern expressed earlier in the division’s Year-end Meetings. NAD President Daniel R. Jackson and many of the attendees expressed concern about the tone of the debate that has been raging at various levels of the Seventh-day Adventist world church. But as Christians, Jackson reminded delegates, we are called to discuss issues with the understanding and compassion modeled by Christ.

“I don’t think it’s part of our mission to start attacking each other just because we don’t agree,” Jackson said during Sunday’s discussion on the ordination of women. “I’m not saying for a moment that we don’t have the right to disagree, but God has given us the responsibility to share His love.”

In response to Jackson’s call for civility of discourse, the delegates approved a statement that includes the following guidelines:

1) We resolve to encourage expressions of disagreement that are honest and open based upon a sincere desire to arrive at truth as expressed in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy;

2) We resolve to first communicate with those with whom we disagree and listen non-judgmentally to their positions so that we can represent those positions accurately before critiquing them;

3) We resolve to avoid the use of sarcasm, cartoons, anecdotes, parody or any other form of insinuation to diminish the reputation or personhood of others;

4) We resolve to refrain from sponsoring or countenancing online or offline dialogue that vilifies or depreciates the good name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in general or the reputations of its individual members in particular.

We, therefore, resolve to avoid participating in, or being party to, all forms of unhealthy and demeaning discourse. Our aim is to govern our communication according to the high standards of Christian conduct found in the guidelines this statement so that God may be glorified in all we say and do.”

Jackson asked that the North American church members seek “higher ground” during these challenging times while the discussion about ordination builds up as the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas approaches.

This report from North American Division Newspoints bulletin for 11-4-14. Julio C. Muñoz is Associate Director for the Department of Communication.

Photo courtesy Dan Weber / NAD

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

Adventist theology, at its core, only allows a superficial facade of good will toward other Chritian faiths. It was born out of Methodism with a Roman administrative mind set.It missed Pentecostalism by hair. There is an increasing momentum toward congregationalism, particularly om the West Coast. President Jackson’s happy face is a tonic that may well carry all the way to Texas… Tom Z

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

Jesus as He portrayed Himself in the Sermon on the Mount is our model. The risen Christ is our Redeemer. In accepting His gospel of Grace, we we also accept the role of witness to His proper humanity. At best we remain imperfect representative of His Holiness. So our message is look up, for your Redeemer drawth near. Tom Z

(jeremy) #4

this is a good move by nad…for some reason, the subject of women’s ordination sometimes brings out the worst in people…

(@mackenzian) #5

(Expanded from a Facebook comment)

I understand why the division seeks to limit truth to what’s "expressed in Scripture and in [Ellen White’s writings… because let’s be real. That’s what they refer to when they write “Spirit of Prophecy”]. I wish they hadn’t done that though. The only possible outcomes are binding the church by what is there or anachronistically reading back into it what we wish were there. Just this morning I saw the headline “Why [American] evangelicals believe [American] democracy comes from the Bible.” C’mon folks. This is where we end up.

I also think Adventist Caricaturist, the author of Barely Adventist, and any other Adventist artists need to co-publish a thorough defense of satire and visual parody. These genres have a long, respected literary history from Jonathan Swift to the present day, especially as a tool of those without/with less power and influence in a system. Art and writing are ways for the margins to speak to the center and they always have been. They need not be stripped from those whose ability to be heard is already limited.

So I’m not in favor of the church admin characterizing these genres wholesale as uncivil or demeaning. Furthermore, I can only see this provision being used to measure members’ communications. Had the GC president’s last few speeches been run through these criteria, I cannot see how they would have passed.

(Elaine Nelson) #6

What is civil about the attitude of Adventists toward both Catholics and Protestants as they have been described in Great Controversy? Labeling them the “Harlot of Babylon” and the "Daughters of the Harlot? Not only has it been uncivil, but downright despicable to claim to be THE remnant and the only ones who keep all the commandments and in addition have the spirit of prophecy that gives them exclusive rights to be identified.

I most certainly agree with mackenzian: When we are unable to laugh at ourselves we are lacking in humor and the ability to appreciate how others see us. There is a very long history of excellent satire extending back to the Greeks. When humans lose their sense of humor and playfulness they have become to serious and joyless to associate with.
Lighten up folks, after all, religion is laughable with its deadly seriousness.

(Adventist Caricaturist) #7

Who dares disturb my slumber? This had better be goo… What? There’s an official statement banning the use of cartoons? That does it! Time to write the definitive Apologia of the Adventist Use of Satirical Images to Make Serious Points.

(@mackenzian) #8

Lol! Thank you! I look forward to reading it.

(Elaine Nelson) #9

A a lover of satire and caricature, you will have a great audience and buyers; even a few hierarchy who will seek them “under cover.”

(Ole Edvin Utaker) #10

Vaclav Havel once claimed that “a strong civil society is a crucial condition of a strong democracy”. The SDA Church also needs a strong civil society as an integral part of its constituency. And, it should not be controlled by the institutional Church - but free from institutional coercion. Both consensus and conflict is part of this relation. Conflict can sustain the Church just as much as consensus. Civility is an important element, though, but there is good reason to caution against an idealism that ignores conflict. Consensus and uniformity should never be brought to bear in a manner that neutralizes diversity.

(Rheticus) #11

This does not attack the techniques, it attacks particular uses of the technique.

Makes one wonder why the use of sermons, prayers, public speeches, and articles in the Adventist Review are allowed methods of diminishing the reputation or personhood of others - surely those should have been listed also!

I wonder whether this forum is going to pass this test,

I think I see this statement as a statement of good intent rather than a legal contract, and expect most of the players to believe that their attack ads are ok but the opposite viewpoints ones violate this statement.

(jeremy) #12

i’m reminded of someone i knew from years ago who persuaded her new husband to enroll in conflict-resolution classes - “to prevent disaster in case of a disagreement”, she said…some time later, as they filed for divorce, all that talk of discussing things amicably kind of flew out the window…

i guess we’ll have to see what happens with this statement in san antonio when one side of the debate on wo realizes it’s lost…

(@mackenzian) #13

You may be right, Bevin, about the “particular uses”. I’d hope so.
Your line about AR materials being permissible made me smile. :smile:

(Adventist Caricaturist) #14

I could be wrong, but I think that the specific image responsible for the ban on all things humorous might be from my blog post entitled “Ewww! Headship! Literally!” And if that’s true… It means…We’re kinda famous!

And just because some people were offended by it when I posted it doesn’t mean that I’m not funny. Deep down I know I’m funny. I’m funny right guys? Guys…?

(Elmer Cupino) #15

"We resolve to avoid the use of sarcasm, cartoons, anecdotes, parody or any other form of insinuation to diminish the reputation or personhood of others;" But what happens if there were nothing else to diminish?

This kind of defensive maneuver is funny. It reminds me of when our children were still at home with us. Remember those days when your children would meet you at the door after returning from work preempting everything by saying “I did not break the window?” Well, it’s “Deja vu all over again.” I thought this only happens when infantile children are around.

I do solemnly agree to abide with the NAD’s “Civility of Discourse.” Anybody else who cares to come and join me? Especially those with alias handles?

Is this what happens when the committee agenda ends with still enough daylight around?

(Phillip Brantley) #16

The Committee should have added this guideline: “We resolve that our communications about what we believe be honest and clear. We reject obfuscation, dissembling, and sophistry in our representations about what we believe.”

I offer this guideline, because my judgment is that opponents of women’s ordination have not been forthright and honest about their beliefs. It is sophistical to say that you believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as currently codified and understood while claiming that Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father. It is fraudulent to say that you believe that women are created in the image of God while arguing that God has assigned women a sphere that is lower than the sphere assigned to men. It is misleading to say that you believe that Jesus is the Head of the church while arguing that He is in essence a figurehead who has delegated His authority to ordained men. It is misrepresentative to say that Jesus is the Savior of women while deducing from the story of Adam and Eve that without the leadership and protection of men women cannot be saved. It is incoherent to say that you believe in the doctrine of the sanctuary while claiming that the OT priesthood points not to Christ but to an exclusively-male church pastorate. It is unclear to say that women can be disciples of Jesus while inferring from the gender of the original 12 disciples that women cannot be ordained to preach, teach, baptize, and do everything else Jesus authorized the original 12 to do. It is absurd to say that the salvation of women is not vicariously attached to the salvation of their husbands and fathers while deducing from the story of Adam and Eve that the Creator did not endow women with the ability to differentiate right from wrong away from their husbands’ respective sides.

No one should hide what male headship theory is all about. Opponents of WO should clearly confess the following: “We have tried to cohere the whole of Scripture, including the story of Adam and Eve, to our interpretations of a few Pauline texts. We stand by our interpretations of those Pauline texts. Accordingly, we reject the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church insofar as they contradict our interpretations of those Pauline texts.” I think such a candid admission would be quite refreshing.

(Terry Whitted) #17

Of all times when we need good humor … it is now.

(Elaine Nelson) #18

Several countries today demonstrate the fear of humor and apply censure, even capital punishment for those who use satire or disagree and refuse to live exactly as the authorities demand.

As the church moves closer to dictatorial policy, the intellectuals move further from the church. Leaders always fear those who can capture attention through the press or the freedom to protest.

(Bill Garber) #19

Exceptionally well put, Phil.

(Bryan Ness) #20

I am a wee bit puzzled. A good half of Jesus’ parables and answers to questions from the Pharisees constituted sarcasm, caricature and satire. These approaches do not constitute lack of civil discourse, but rather are often a way to turn back the irony of the opposition back onto itself. If those who argue against women’s ordination were not a bit disingenuous at times, these techniques would not be effective anyway.