Presidential Letter Prompted by Constituent Battle

While social media outlets were abuzz on Friday with details of an October letter from the Northern California Conference President to his pastors about church regulations regarding membership of LGBT individuals, the real story was not in the details of the letter, but in why the letter was written.

The letter reminded pastors that they could be disciplined for allowing members of the LGBT community to be baptized into church membership. Then the president illustrated his point with a specific story. “In 2016,” he wrote, “the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church accepted into membership a person who is in a same-sex marriage. The pastor did not perform the marriage or the baptism of this person. NCC administration met with the pastor and a disciplinary process was instituted. Other actions may be taken in the future, if deemed necessary. The person (a retired minister) who performed the baptism is not credentialed or licensed through the Northern California Conference.”

According to a reliable source in the Northern California Conference office, there is a group of church members from the Chico area who continue to be agitated by this baptism. While they are not members of the church where the baptism took place, they continue to pressure conference officials about it. During camp meeting this past summer they asked to meet with the officers of the conference and demanded that the Chico pastor be fired, that the baptized member be removed from church membership, that the credentials be revoked of the pastor who performed the baptism, and that conference officials make a public statement in support of the Fundamental Beliefs in the Union paper.

With election for conference officers upcoming in 2018, there were also suggestions by the group that if their demands were not met, the officers would not be re-elected. Pastors of other churches in the conference also began asking the conference officials how they should respond to questions about the 2016 incident—thus, the President’s October letter.

In 2016, when the request for baptism came to the pastor, he placed the request before the elders of the Chico church and asked for their guidance. They prayed over the request for several months before informing the pastor that the important issue to them was to follow Jesus’ example and to be an inclusive church. After the pastor was told by the conference that he could not perform the baptism, the elders responded that they would take that responsibility. Within the Chico Church the decision was made to proceed with the baptism and membership. So what has evolved is members from another church attempting to overrule the actions of a sister church.

As of this writing, the pastor has not been fired. The conference has scheduled a meeting with the Chico Church Board later this month.

The letter, written by NCC President James Pedersen, is below:

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image Credit: Peter Hershey / Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8366
2 Likes

Control???The only being I know is a controller is Satan, and any member who use force, threatening others to do this or that or else, also share of the spirit of Satan, God forbids that anyone mind controls or intents to control others minds, usurping the place of the Holy Spirit, putting themselves as “God” for others, Jesus used LOVE to deter the currents of evil, “LOVE” is the eternal principle in these situation, we cannot stop people from entering our church, but if we live in the love of God, we will see 2 results: a true conversion or they will not be able to tolerate an atmosphere of unconditional love.
Our religion is based on Love for God, unconditional love for fallen humanity, every Commandments is based on Love. We keep those Commandments because the love for God, and the love of God is in us. Love is what will unite us, and love is expressed in FREEDOM, those churches and members need to study deeply the real character of God, because our last message is a revelation of God’s character, the bigger and urgent need of the world, the church do not need Uzzas to hold the ark, God is capable of holding His church without our help.

11 Likes

Excellent example of why there needs to be a separate “induction” into the SDA church, apart from baptism. No one should dare to come between someone’s conscience and church “regulations” even when they are presented as biblical doctrine. If necessary - go to a secluded lake and baptize each other. I was present when Des Ford baptized a young person at the head of the Mississippi River in Minnesota - after his credentials had been removed by the SDA church. Baptism is between the individual and God. No one is qualified to come between the two no matter what robes he wears or what degrees he has after his name.

21 Likes

One important detail and fact not revealed: What is the unnamed church where members are from who are putting pressure on the Chico church? They should take responsibility for their threatening actions.

This kind of blackmail is at the least, ungodly and unethical. Where are our denominational ethicists?

Which community will the unknown blackmailers target next?

30 Likes

It is my understanding that authority and governance of our church stands on 1. GC Working Policy 2. Fundamental Beliefs and 3. Church Manual. In reality there is a fourth pillar known as Money Factor. Of the four pillars, the Money Factor trumps all as evidence by:

Let the evidence speak for itself. When is the NCC election? We will know by then.

7 Likes

The. church which I now attend, has this wonderful, welcoming, inclusive, loving, hospitable statement
printed in EACH weekly worship,bulletin, and also on the church’s website:

ALL ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE IN. THE FULL LIFE OF OUR CHURCH, INCLUDING ALL
RACES,
AGES,
ABILITIES,
CLASSES.
GENDER IDENTITIES,
SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS

This statement was voted on many years ago, by the entire church membership, and not imposed on the congregation by the pastoral staff.

More recently, the word ABILITIES was added, to the list, by voted acclamation, so as to include the HANDICAPPED.

Needless to say, this loving, compassionate, all inclusive welcome will NEVER appear in any Adventist church weekly worship bulletin, since harsh, cruel, acrimonious, pitiless judgement prevails.in SDA congregations…

Apparently Adventists do not believe that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that our churches are not there for the saints, but for the sinners.

Wear lipstick, or jewelry to some SDA churches and be the recipient of negative body language or overt, caustic, cruel, taunting criticism.

Splendid Daneen Akers, our church s stalwart advocate for the marginalized Adventist LGBT community. ( she is heterosexual so has no
personal axe to grind ) had this pertinent and provocative observation on this latest travesty in the Northern California Conference:

She points out, that the very church fundamental belief #23, (. about marriage and the family ) quoted in this conference letter,
ALSO states that Adventists are prohibited from marrying outside the Adventist faith and that divorce,should be on the basis of spousal infidelity ONLY

Daneen, justifiably asks :
SHOULD WE EXPECT A LETTER LIKE THIS,
TO ALL PASTORS ALSO REMINDING THEM THAT DIVORCED AND REMARRIED HETEROSEXUALS,
WHOSE FIRST SPOUSE WERE NOT UNFAITHFUL,
SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED INTO CHURCH MEMBERSHIP,
AS THE CHURCH OFFICIALY TEACHES THAT THEIR MARRIAGE IS ADULTEROUS ???

I would,further add:
Should Adventists married to an “outsider “ be struck from the church rollls since they are not in compliance with church teaching?

This highly arbitrary and selective reading of the church’s teaching on marriage and the family, is despicable and hypocritical.

If the Northern California Conference is so consumed with compliance to the Chirch Manual,
let us see them enforce the doctrines uniformly!

Otherwise they open themselves up to justifiable denouncement of bigotry, intolerance and narrow mindedness.

Why single out one marginalized group and not apply this pitiless, punitive, puritanical punishment to ALL sexual sinners ??

Most psychiatrist would have a field day, diagnosing the mental mindsets of those self righteous, pharisaical, sanctimonious,
hypocritical members in. Northern California , so consumed with hateful homophobia that they would go to extraordianry lengths to meddle
in another church’s membership ,rolls.

As Shakespeare so aptly said : Methinks you protest too much

In other words is this overblown, ,pompous, ,pretentious protest about one lesbian couple in another congregation .
a possible,cover for their own perceived but closeted homosexuality ?

Let our own resident psychiatrist Elmer Cupino, pontificate on this!

25 Likes

Was the thief on the cross baptized.

15 Likes

I believe this issue should be resolved between the church and the conference. The other “sister” church should stay out of it, it’s not their business. Unfortunately I have experienced something similar where one church wants to tell other church what to do. May God give them wisdom.

8 Likes

Good for Chico church. Where is the G C’s devotion to fundamental belief #14. Unity in the body of Christ. “The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.”

10 Likes

Thanks, Bonnie, for the background on Elder Pedersen’s letter. I am ashamed of the pressure from another church to prevent true seekers after God from joining our church. What a terrible message this sends to other LGBTI members and their families and friends. How can we expect our churches to grow and bring in new members when such an attitude is displayed. I believe Jesus is weeping in disappointment when He sees this kind of happening.

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Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat to the civil liberties of the SDA pastors in the Northern California Conference. It clearly articulates that negative actions will be taken against pastors who even mention their opinion, publicly or in private to one individual, regarding the SDA church policy regarding church membership for LGBT individuals. It seem this leader is taking a page from the GC leadership who seemed hell bent to get everyone in a duckie line behind anti women’s ordination, to the point of pushing for rote signatures of compliance demanded or else. These are not the actions of sound leadership. Amazing Grace is beginning to sound a bit like it was written in a minor key. Will this be the legacy of Adventism?

15 Likes

Proof positive that Pharisaism is alive and well in SDA church. Some members choose to play the role of the Holy Spirit and the taste sours in one’s mouth.

Let the Holy Wars continue…

7 Likes

More documentation that same sex orientation is THE CARDINAL sin of all sin in the Adventist Church. As was pointed out you can divorce and remarry, have hetero sex, children out of wed lock, abuse your wife or husband, don’t pay tithe & offering and STILL be accepted as member in full and regular standing . Come right on in. But be of a different love style and it is considered the ULTIMATE sin of Adventism. Stay away, stay away. It makes no sense.

11 Likes

How dare they baptize a sinner into the Church and welcome the sinner in their midst.

13 Likes

This seems a terrible letter. It exhibits a rather inarticulate homophobic attitude and shows a considerable lack of logic.

The opening paragraph, after the initial greeting and reference to prayer, is telling. In one sentence God’s love is called out and then modified by calling upon us to stay true to “the policies and practices” of the SDA church. Not, mind you, our beliefs. Or scripture. Or the teachings of Jesus. Policies.


Regarding point #1, which reads in part, “the official position of the SDA church is that we do not receive into membership anyone who is in a practicing homosexual relationship.” And then references #23.

  • Fundamental belief #23 does not say this. It describes several things about the desired type of family, including that marriage (presumably church and not legal marriage) be between a man and a woman, that you cannot divorce and remarry except for infidelity (so if your husband beats you I guess you just put up with it), that you should only marry where you “share a common faith” (which is undefined), and so on.

  • Nearly every point in #23 is habitually ignored or put aside whenever convenient.

  • The prescription that indicates women should remain in an abusive relationship is immoral.

  • Among the various points, to call out the “union between a man and a woman” as supremely important is disingenuous, especially when at the same time ignoring the other points even in that sentence: “a lifelong union between a man and a woman in a loving companionship.” I am very aware of many marriages within the church that are neither lifelong nor loving. No church leaders are writing letters to the pastor about those marriages.

  • Regarding, “practicing homosexual relationship”, how is anyone to know? Even in this case of two married women, how is anyone to know if they are practicing? What if they’ve “seen the light” and stopped practicing? Then what?


Regarding point #2, which reads in part: “there are still potential consequences when a congregation accepts someone into membership that does not follow the teaching and practices of the church.”

  • If you can find me an Adventist that can recite from memory, even in bullet points, all of the teachings and practices of the church I will send you $1.

  • If you can find me an Adventist that not only knows all of these teachings and practices but follows them, I’ll send you $10. I’ll bet that no such person exists.

  • In any case, this suggests a requirement that members know and follow all of these teachings and practices and that pastors can be “disciplined for not…”

Regarding #4, which reads in part, “You may not agree with everything the church does or decides, but what you say publicly in your preaching or even in conversations with individuals can have consequences… to your ministry…”

  • '#2 insists that all members know and follow all church teachings, but #4 indicates that even pastors may not in fact do that. It almost assumes this to be the case.

  • This is an open invitation to pastors indicating that it is OK to not agree with the church and its teachings but that they should publicly pretend to. Which is an invitation to lead a dishonest life and conduct a dishonest ministry. Which I see as classic Adventism. Unfortunately. I’ve seen it my whole life, often only when pastors retire and then start to say what they really think. It’s tragic.


I will posit that the vast majority of homosexual SDA’s are born into the church, are baptized when they’re about 12 - 14, and remain in the closet for many years. The church has always included homosexual people. They either just didn’t know, or pretended to not know.

Do you really think those “old maids” from yesteryear to lived together because they “didn’t have a man” were all heterosexual? Do you really think all those “confirmed bachelors” of yesteryear were straight men that just couldn’t bring themselves to settle down? If you do, think again.

The church has not even defined what it means when it uses the terms “man” or “woman” or “practicing homosexual relationship.” For example, does it define gender by genome or by physical presentation? How about a person who has underdone a sex change? Which gender does the church assign to that person? Who can they marry? Can a person born a man, who now identifies as a woman (sex change or not), marry a man? If not, then can she marry a woman? Can a married couple, after one completes a sex change, remain married? If not, then what are the grounds for divorce if neither commits adultery?

What does “practicing” mean? Is being in love practicing? If not, then I guess two men can love each other and not marry and everything is fine as long as they just blow each other kisses from across the room? I doubt they mean that, but you just can’t tell.

What about the ~1% who are born neither fully male or female? Do they have to decide their own gender? And if so, can they change their mind? Who can they love?

I suspect the church has never attempted to clarify these sorts of things because they correctly fear that any such attempt will cause others to more clearly see how ridiculous and nebulous their policies are; how difficult they are to explain in a precise way. If the church is going to have a policy on marriage, then it needs to take into account everyone, including cases like the ones above. The current policy does not even attempt to do so and also includes provisions that are widely ignored while the church continues to pick from it particular phrases to suit their current need.


@Dixiemom14

Yes! Marginalizing and excluding someone from their faith based on who they are (compared to what they do) is devastating. So much so that it is known to lead to suicide.

“Then the king [prior verses: The Son of Man] will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord [king/Son of Man], when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family [or my brothers], you did it to me.’” - Matthew 25

11 Likes

On point is Ellen White’s counsel about whether Dr. Osborn, a recidivist user of tobacco products, should be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Manuscript Releases 12:285. She rejects the legal formalism argument (such as that expressed in number 1 of Pedersen’s letter) in favor of a consideration of all relevant factors. Those factors she discusses are the following:

  1. The absence of authority of accusers is relevant. She observes that the accusers of Dr. Osborn have no authority to agitate against him. 285.1.
  2. The attitude of the accusers is relevant. She writes, “The ruling, driving storming spirits need to take their hands off and turn their attention to themselves. Their own destitution of the Spirit of God is the reason of their unquiet, censorious, condemning spirit.” 285.2.
  3. Sanctification takes time. We should not expect that church members will eradicate their lives of all sin in a certain time period. 285.3.
  4. The reasonable expectations of how the accused will respond to a particular course of action are relevant. Ellen White finds significant that Dr. Osborn became “harsh, severe, and unyielding” as a result of how he was mistreated. 285.4.
  5. Historical practice is relevant. She writes that the historical practice has not been to cast tobacco users out of the church. 286.1.
  6. Forbearance has its own safety valve, in that a particular sin that is not overcome may cause the church member to become “lax in other things” for which the church can take action. 286:1.
  7. Church discipline should not be done in haste. 286:1.
  8. The entire local church should be involved in any discipline that occurs and “wise counselors” (which we today can say would include conference personnel) should be consulted. 286.1.
  9. Whether the accused is presently evidencing sanctification in his or her life, doing good work, being a good witness of his or her faith, making financial contributions to the church, etc., are all relevant. 286.2.
  10. Reasonable expectations for what the accused may accomplish for God in the future should also be considered. 286.3.
  11. That other people may be hurt and may themselves separate from the church because of what has been done to the accused is relevant. 287.2.
  12. Christ Himself may very well be advocating on behalf of the accused. “His hand is spread over them [the accused] as a buckler. No man or woman can wound them without smiting that hand.” 287.3.

There are no doubt additional factors we can set forth that should inform our decision whether someone in “a practicing homosexual relationship” may become a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But inasmuch as the use of tobacco products is not dispositive on whether a person may become a member of the Church (as per Ellen White, notwithstanding p. 62 of our present-day Church Manual), one’s same-sex sexual conduct should also not be dispositive on whether one may become a member of the Church. Again, all relevant factors should be considered.

8 Likes

Has anyone ever thought about the consequences of their actions? By kicking out the baptized member for being gay has anyone thought about the trickle down effect this would have? I sincerely think not. What happens when an SDA church becomes so engrossed in legalism that loses it’s ability to be fair minded and loving? I ask these questions because I have faced the legalism of some of our churches. We are all sinners and must not forget that we serve a God who is loving, just and fair. Those who are upset with the Chico church’s policy of membership need to take a good hard look at themselves. Sadly, these types of people cannot see the how their actions can be most devastating to a congregation. Baptism is not a means of church membership. The person is voted into the congregation after they are baptized. Who is man to turn away one of God’s children when they are seeking after him. I don’t think I want to face my God and have Him ask me where the person is I voted to turn away. We place too much emphasis on the legalities of the church rather then following scripture. Pray for understanding, pray for love toward our fellow man and pray for each other.

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timteichman, you make such good points. Re your offer of a $1 or $10 if there is “just one” among us, I had to laugh. And I doubt that any conference or any church has ever been “audited” regarding compliance of its members as individuals or operations of its local churches. Reading a couple of weeks ago that the GC reported far less than 100% compliance with its financial policies within the audited units, I can only imagine the far less than 100% compliance with the FB’s referenced in this situation.

I can remember when getting divorced was the “worst” sin in the small churches I attended. Now most have adjusted and we’re focusing on the next sin that seems the “worst”. I guess many forget that we will all be in heaven together only because of God’s grace, and that we are equal at the foot of the cross.

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Very Interesting comments, but I would disagree with most of them (No surprise, I suspect…)

  1. The sister church. All are obligated to visit a sister or brother that seems to be going astray. If you will not, then you are guilty of their blood (Ezek. 33:8). This must be done as per Matt. 18 as well. If the sister church did not go to Chico FIRST, then they did not follow Matt. 18. But if they did, and then went to the conference, then they have met the obligation that God puts on all of us to save those that are erring, the “nicest” (meaning most delicate) work one can do for another.

  2. Threatening Conference officials with loss of office. We are a representative body, and the conference is responsible to the members. But this does seem a bit crass. This is more along the line of gay couples threatening bakers when they refuse to bake a cake. “We will destroy you.” Hmmm.

  3. Inclusivity as the paramount virtue. This idea is clearly from a church (Robin’s) that has drunk deeply of the wine of modern culture. As I recall, Jesus said the way was narrow and straight. And few were they that found it. So, if you are being really, REALLY inclusive, likely your are preaching the broad way. Just saying…

  4. Daneen, Robin, and church inconsistency. I find it almost funny that she and Robin accuse the church of inconsistency, and then want MORE inconsistency. A call to consistency is proper and right. But to righteously ask the church to sin more in this regard is, well, ironic to say the least. If they were worried about consistency, they would not have spoken as they did. And by the way, the Church Manuel does not forbid pastors from marrying an Adventist to a non-Adventist. It is strongly discouraged, but not forbidden (See Spectrum, April 24, 2009, article by Siebold)

  5. Civil liberties of Pastors. I believe the conference has a right to expect its pastors to preach the message of the SDA church, or expect to be fired. They were hired to preach it. To not do so is to, at the least, deny the reason for your hiring.

  6. The Cardinal sin. Homosexuality? Really? I preached on it twice in 12 years. No, the real sin of the SDA church is not listening to the call of God. Homosexual practice is small potatoes to that.

  7. Professor Kent:
    “How dare they baptize a sinner into the Church and welcome the sinner in their midst.” Sinners are expected on baptism to follow Christ and the teachings of the church. Now you may have another view on that, but as far as I can tell, that is what we pastors are called to do. we even have that anachronism of anachronisms, “Baptismal l VOWS”! Wow, talk about throw backs! Joining a group means accepting the groups teachings. MacDonald employees do not wear Burger King shirts to work.

  8. Tim and his objections: The church as made statements about homosexuality. Here is one voted in 2012: “For these reasons Seventh-day Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships.” The church teaching on the matter are clear. The NCConference may not have been completely clear in its letter, but the teaching of the church are, and they are well known, even by the world. The NCConf. is acting in accord with those beliefs.

  9. Legalism. Dixiemom 14:

“Who is man to turn away one of God’s children when they are seeking after him. I don’t think I want to face my God and have Him ask me where the person is I voted to turn away.”

Some feel that we should baptize whoever asks for it. Others feel a person should be “indoctrinated” first. I followed the later on the principle that I would not want to have the candidate surprised at some latter date and say, “You never said anything about that!” (which I have heard that some have said to others). I think people should go into this with eyes open.
So if this lesbian is asking for baptism, I would certainly ask if she understands the teaching of the SDA church on the matter, and does she intend to abide by them. If she did not know, I would refer her to places where that can be found out. If she did know, I would ask her is she is planning to abandon that practice, as it is against the teachings of the church. If she said she was not, I would ask her why she was joining a group that did not believe as she did, which seems a bit unusual, as there are plenty of churches that do accept homosexuals (I mean, why put yourself through needless hassle).
I don’t think this process unreasonable.

7 Likes

In my experience such things are born out of a long ago, deep seated antipathy rooted in disagreements sometimes long forgotten between individuals. We generally use the euphemism “church planting” to describe this event, when in reality it is just plain hatred within a congregation that got so heated that the congregation split apart. Decades later you can still see the dislike and hatred brewing, generally on the part of one of the congregations, and directed toward the other.

My guess would be that this is they dynamic at play here as well. It is those old, hard feelings still bubbling to the surface, attempting to exert control.

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