Perspective: Does the General Conference Have Authority?

The obvious answer to the question is yes. But unfortunately this answer does not address the real issues generally being raised when the question is asked. What is at stake in the context of this question is in reality, “What authority does the General Conference rightly and properly possess?”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Does anyone know if the latest edition of the General Conference Working Policy L 50 (1.) still contains the following preface for criteria a. thru o. like its earlier predecessors? “Before the church sets a man apart by ordination he should have given satisfactory evidence of: . . .”

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I think the Revelations says there will be quite a few with that attitude. Could be wrong.

Trust BEing!


Dr. Gary Pattterson’s article is wise, clear and fair in telling it like it is, was, and should be in the WO afternmath of San Antonio.
For me his point number 5 is the most impressive I’ve heard from anyone on what the root proble between authority and power in the GC is.

“5. Authority in the various constituent levels of the church must be clearly defined and adhered to. No part of the church is without its constituted authority and it must be seen as operating in “a realm of final authority” in its assigned responsibilities as policy states, lest we reverse the structure of the church developed in 1901 under the leadership of Ellen White and return to the “kingly powers” error so strongly opposed at that session.”

The basic question in the comments I’ve read so far after San Antonio do NOT put it as clearly as Dr. Patterson does. What is the difference between Power and Authority? How does power compare to authority and can one be exerted without the other? Power is the ability to get things done by others. The principle of power is to punish and reward. Power can exist with or without authority. For instance an armed robber has power but no authority. Whereas authority is the power to enforce law and take command, and to expect obedience from those without authority. Authority can exist with or without power, for example a teacher has authority over the pupils but no real power. There are three dimensions of power, decision, non decision making and manipulating desires.

I believe that power and authority are not the same thing. Authority is power plus legitimacy. To have true authority the church member in the local church needs to know that you are there rightfully, i.e. legitimate, what happened in San Antonio was NOT legitimate.


There is so much here that I agree with, but there is one issue that I think is critical and wrong.

I was baptized an SdA circa 1967, and dropped my membership in 2001.

Nowhere on my Baptismal Certificate did it say I agreed to letting the GC in Session define the beliefs of the denomination. On the contrary it said quite clearly that I held the Bible and the Bible ONLY as telling me what I should believe.

At no time after 1967 did the anyone approach me and tell me that I needed to agree to letting the GC define the beliefs of the SdA.

Instead, some group of very foolish people ignored the words of wisdom about creeds, and decided to write a formal document apart from the Bible and have that document get some vote of approval by the GC.

Suckers - they thought they were merely describing SdA beliefs. They were almost immediately shown to be wrong - that people promptly grabbed this list and began to use it to measure people against.

And then people began to modify the Manual and other things, again without asking the members for permission or approval, to promote this foolish document into something normative.

And now Ted Wilson and others stand ready to use it as a cudgel.

But they are about to find out that the local members, local congregations, local conferences, and union conferences NEVER agreed to letting the GC define what precisely an SdA must believe.

Ted’s bluffing his way to kingly power. It is time to call his bluff.


Perhaps Elder Patterson could kindly comment on the following qualifications statement for ordination in the 2011-2012 General Conference Working Policy, page 397:


L 35 05 Vital Concern of Church—The setting apart of men for the sacred work of the ministry should be regarded as one of the most vital concerns of the church. The spiritual growth of God’s people, their development in the virtues of Christ, as well as their relationship to one another as members of His body, are all closely bound up with and in many respects dependent upon the spirituality, efficiency, and consecration of those who minister in Christ’s stead.

L 35 10 Scriptural Counsel—The mind of the Lord concerning the qualifications for the ministry is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Anciently the minister was known as “the man of God” (1 Kings 12:22), sometimes the man of the Spirit. Detailed instructions were given to Moses concerning the qualifications of the priesthood, with the priest’s dress, demeanor, and spiritual understanding being emphasized. Then, in order to keep continually before the congregation the high calling of those who served in the tabernacle, the high priest wore on his miter the words “Holiness to the Lord.”

Excellent, thoughtful article. I hope we institute some of what is suggested.

I hate to be a broken record, but why is the GC Working Policy not freely available online so that members can see what guidance our leaders are using to make decisions? Is it possible for anyone with enough authority, who reads this, to encourage making it available online? I like to believe my leaders are doing what is best for the church, but without access to the working policy, I feel like I am partly in the dark.


While I think Elder Patterson’s article is well written and insightful; and I think his suggestions to address how to make church business more functional is excellent. I’ll disagree with his suggestion that the vote in San Antonio on women’s ordination did not mean no.

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

The delegates voted that it was not acceptable for women to be ordained. Any attempt to say that no didn’t really mean no, is sophistry. Make no mistake. Unions or Divisions that say they will continue to ordain women are doing so against the vote of the GC delegates.

Please note, I favor WO. I think that the GC delegates made a mistake based upon their cultural understanding. That women as ordained ministers is not anti-biblical any more than women elders are. I also think that without efforts to bridge the cultural gap to lead to place where tolerance to allows others diversity in their viewpoint will lead to a further schism.

Elder Patterson’s suggestions to streamline the operation of the GC would perhaps be better accepted if they stood on their own and did not appear to be an end-run around the GC’s vote on women’s ordination.

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"I think 2"
The Key Words are — DIVISION Committees…make provision.
This is just a ONE subset of – Local, Conference, Union, Division, General Conference subsets.

The QUESTION Did Not mention Unions.
1600 did not want to say YES to large regions.
They WERE NOT allowed to Vote on Small Regions – Union autonomy.
UNIONS still have autonomy as to YES for Women. AND those Unions saying YES to women can make agreements to accept moving women back and forth just like Unions do in moving men back and forth.

You are either mis-reading 1. The Question itself. 2. The actual Vote.

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This article reminded me of the word tossed around during the hippie days of the late 1960’s-early 1070’s…antiestablishmentarianism.

I think the comments by eyethink2 get to the heart of it. A former head of our German College suggested “Unionism” when what he really wanted was congregationalism, etc, etc.

Those unhappy with the vote have all kinds of suggestions to change the church, call it illegitimate, or do this or that, just because the vote was NO. And we know none of this would have been said if the vote had been YES. In fact, just the opposite, with praise given to the delegates and the GC for their great insight and wisdom! Actually THAT is quite troubling. We all at times have to accept that our view will be not the view of the majority. Graciousness in defeat is a rare jewel that needs to be valued as it really is, a sign of true Christian humility.

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Sorry Brother,

You are going to get the same reply here that you did everywhere else you brought this up. The chirping of crickets.

It was antidisestablishmentarianism.

Dear Holy Spirit:

Mere earthlings have a message for You: You have been defeated. Be gracious and humble.

1300+ Voters and Delegates at #GCSA15


You’re right, the Question isn’t very explicit. I think it could have been clearer because it’s really hard to catch. But if you look a little closer at the meaning of “territories” in the Question, you’ll eventually recognize it can only be referring to the Division’s Unions and Conferences (etc). Here below is a good example of this fact:

NAD’s “Mission: To help Adventist leaders within North America reach throughout the territories of the Division in fulfilling the vision and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church effectively, with integrity and in adherence to the organization’s strategic business objectives, standards, and Christian principles.”

NAD’s “Territory: Bermuda, Canada, the French possession of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the United States of America, the United States territories of Guam and Wake Island, the Federated States of Micronesia, Johnston Island, Marshall Islands, Midway Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau; comprising the Atlantic, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Columbia, Lake, Mid-America, North Pacific, Pacific, Southern, and Southwestern Union Conferences; and the Guam-Micronesia Mission.”

I advice everyone to go and read the quoted statements for themself. They are selectively cited here (as almost usual in Spectrum articles). One has to be honest, in the first place. And honesty is not what I read here. The 1901/1903 quotations for instance, pertain to the printing and publishing work when of the 6 Review board members 4 were GC EC board members, a concentration of power in the hands of “one or a few men”. And they pertain to Battle Creek wanted to dictate how the publishing and literature evangelism should be done in “china”. What EGW basically said is that it is not advisable to have such concentration of power and still demands that the GC has God given authority. To drag this quote to underwrite what has happened on the 8th of July, is introducing fallacy into the debate. Not fair, not sound, not honest and not Godly. So before you Like, look up the citation in it’s entire context on the EGW writing website, should take you some valuable minutes instead of letting your head messed up with. And of course authority does not convey inerrancy, but truly in line with their objectives, Spectrum is reversing the evidence here… a true fallacy. Lets view it from another angle: Suppose God spoke 10 times already on this issue, what does that say about those who keep on pushing to get the ONLY answer they want to hear? That praying in earnest does not mean the prayer is pleasing to God and answered, does not disqualifies the person who prays for every minister will acknowledge the words of Scripture that says that we know not what to pray for and all our hearts are deceitful and that often we pray not to have our voices heard in heaven, but to make God the donkey that run before our kart. God speaks through the majority - we have no Urim an Thummin, and that’s the way we agreed on making corporate decisions in our Church. The minute we question this, the minute the house begins to crumble. Before the voting process on the 8th it was outlined on which condition it would take place - what a YES and a No would mean and that compliance would be needed from EVERYONE after the results are in. Whoever does not agree with the condition should not have voted to begin with, for by participating in the process you have submitted yourself to the conditions and by that to the outcome. For who has now the authority to say that God has not spoken? certainly not Spectrum for they don’t have a hot line with heaven as neither or us. So given the whole process of 35 years (from 1974 - 2015) - and indeed it was no beauty pageant - it is sounder to give in than to keep on rebelling. One might be powering with God! Besides, those striving would want members to comply with the voting on other less volatile issues, would you not? Besides we would not have this debate, when the answer was YES, would we? What does that say about the honesty of those who now contest the outcome? Or were the pro-WO advocates pretty sure they had the YES in the pocket even before the ballots were cast and is it that the NO is very, very hard to swallow? Stop acting like little whining children. Grow up! (Excessive. - website editor) Isn’t it good that God does not always give us what we want? Does that gives us reason to disqualify His leading when he doesn’t? Who can say that he/ she knows that foul play is in place in this outcome? Beware, speaking against the Holy Spirit! (Inappropriate. - website editor) We prayed, didn’t we,some of us fasted, or does Isaiah 58:3 applies here? If Yes, can the writer of this article tell me why God did not answer, since he seems to have insights in of the heavenly council?

No, not “just because the vote was NO.” To begin with, that wasn’t really the vote that mattered most—that vote wasn’t taken (because TOSC has determined the theology behind the matter). But issues with this administration have been brewing for a long, long time. Dissastisfactions with the Wilsons’ two administrations are well-known, and only during Paulsen’s management did political life calm down. What happened in S. A. was the tipping point. Nothing “just” happened there: the evolving use of instant, streaming, internet-based communication brought to light the ugly, manipulative side of strong-arm politics. Leadership knowingly allowed an “Us and Them” mentality to prevail, allowed one side to rejoice in apparent success and inadvertently encouraged the “other side” to find a way to make that irrelevant, at best. The Neal Wilsonian tactics of the 1970s didn’t work in 2015. I imagine that senior leadership now are more than a bit nervous and girding their loins for this fall’s meetings, which will be more telling, probably, than this summer’s.


@webEd - This is about as an inappropriate comment as I have ever seen here. Is this going to be allowed?

(Thank you for calling my attention to this. I have reviewed it carefully. Yes, it is going to be allowed. I realize you are going to see it differently but I think the comment has a constructive purpose and it attacks no one, not even the Holy Spirit. Nor is it blasphemous, although you likely would disagree. The point is being made in an unusual fashion but there is a substantive point there nonetheless. - website editor)

Dear Holy Spirit,

Finally someone has taken your side!! And recognized that the NO folk had no part with you, and must have been of the devil. (Allen, this last statement is an invalid conclusion from what harrpa wrote. Read it carefully. You are now being reactionary which isn’t surprising given the somewhat provocative way the comment was structured. But try to step back and get the bottom-line point please. - website editor) I am so relieved that you have finally worked this out.

Allen, who would have voted YES, but THOUGHT he saw You in the vote.

PS, Some of us need a way to determine which side your are on. Harper has managed, but it is just not that clear to me. Maybe a sign in the sky, you know, or tea leaves or something. Just a suggestion.

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