Principles of Proceedings, Compliance, and Conscience

The Executive Committee of the Trans-European Division met for its 2019 Year-end Meeting (TEDYEM) November 21 to 24, 2019. The business from the General Conference Annual Council (GCAC) in October was as usual an important part of the agenda. The warnings voted for the three Scandinavian unions, among other unions, were naturally part of the agenda. The TEDYEM was not streamed, and I have received many questions on what took place in the meetings concerning the warnings voted at GCAC. There is a brief report from TED concerning this item. Additionally, I find it appropriate to give a glimpse of this particular matter, from my perspective.

In my role as Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Union, credentials and employment of pastors are important parts of my task. That was an additional reason for watching the live stream of the GCAC on October 15 when the warnings of the German and the Scandinavian unions were dealt with.

Article by Elder Ted Wilson in the Executive Committee Newsletter

Just prior to the 2019 GCAC, an article by Elder Ted Wilson appeared in the October 2019 issue of the Executive Committee Newsletter (ECN) published by the GC. In the article titled “A Theology of Leadership” Elder Wilson wrote, “we build our theology of leadership and practice firmly upon the Bible.”

He refers to two highly relevant texts: Exodus 18 and Acts 15.

In these texts the following principles of practice stand out:

a) Decisions were based upon God’s expressed will (Ex 18:16; Acts 15:7-9, 14-18)

b) The cases were dealt with locally at first (Ex 18:13, 15; Acts 15:1-2)

c) The involved parties were given opportunity to be heard (Ex 18:16; Acts 15:1-2, 4-5, 12)

d) The processes were transparent, open processes

As the GC administration dealt with the matter of warning six unions in 2019, none of these four mentioned biblical principles were applied.

The online BusinessDictionary gives the following definition of “principles”:

“Fundamental norms, rules, or values that represent what is desirable and positive for a person, group, organization, or community, and help it in determining the rightfulness or wrongfulness of its actions. Principles are more basic than policy and objectives, and are meant to govern both.”

Looking for principles of proceedings for the church, the document voted by the 2018 GCAC is highly relevant as well. There was no “dialogue” nor a “clearly written statement defining the perceived non-compliance” (requirements from the 2018 document) as the GC administration took over this issue in 2019. Due process is another source of vital principles which is also referred to in the 2018 document. On October 15, as the GCAC dealt with the issue of warning some unions, Elder Lowell Cooper in his comment pointed out that due process was not applied.

Ten Missing Principles

A study of the 2018 document and due process, in addition to the biblical references mentioned, made me present the following conclusions to the TEDYEM concerning missing principles in the proceedings that were followed, as the GC administration took over this issue in 2019:

1) There is no biblical basis mentioned in dealing with the warnings of the unions, in spite of this being a basic principle (Exodus 18 and Acts 15).

2) The GC administration took this case out of the hands of the Divisions, in spite of the biblical principle of dealing with issues locally at first (Exodus 18 and Acts 15).

3) The Unions involved were not given any opportunity to defend themselves before the GC Administrative Committee (ADCOM) where the verdict was voted, in spite of principles from the Bible, the 2018 GC document, and Due Process.

4) The process in GC ADCOM was a totally closed process in spite of principles from the Bible and Due Process.

5) The GC administration did not invite the unions for any dialogue in 2019, in spite of principles from the Bible, the 2018 GC document, and Due Process.

6) There was no clearly written statement defining the perceived non-compliance, in spite of principles from the 2018 GC document.

7) No proper notice was given, in spite of principles of Due Process.

8) GC ADCOM is definitely not an independent and impartial tribunal, in spite of principles of Due Process.

9) There was no possibility for an appeal to a superior body or to a special appeal body, in spite of principles of Due Process.

10) The basis of the warnings of the German and the Scandinavian unions are based upon policy, in spite of the fact that policy contains provisions for alternative solutions.

One person present at the meetings told me afterwards that in his opinion Ted Wilson did not give any answer concerning these ten points presented to the TEDYEM.

The church has no system for setting aside verdicts of proceedings that do not follow due practice. In my country, lack of following due process results in annulling a verdict.

I am sad to say that the process we see points in the direction that there is an agenda that is governing, rather than a respect for biblical and other vital procedural principles. In his almost 50 minutes of comments to the TEDYEM, Elder Wilson particularly pointed out the importance of accepting the vote in San Antonio. The GC Session is the highest authority on earth, he reminded the TED Executive Committee.

Elder Wilson made it clear that belonging to an organization means you cannot set aside a voted decision on the basis that you “do not like it.” Forty percent of the delegates in San Antonio voted yes, and probably will say that they “do not like” the decision. But we are faced with something much more serious than what we like or do not like. First of all, we are faced with biblical principles and the work of the Holy Spirit, among other vital elements. (See my September 7, 2017 article on the Spectrum website.)

Paul’s Thinking on Spiritual Gifts

I reminded the 2019 TEDYEM of the following Pauline texts concerning Spiritual gifts:

1 Corinthians 12

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.... 7 each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit… 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.…

18 …God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.…

27 …you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

Romans 12

5 …in Christ we… form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7… if it is teaching, then teach; 8 … if it is to lead, do it diligently...

Ephesians 4

11 ...Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

16 From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Who am I to say that women cannot be fully accepted as a pastor as well as men when this is dependent upon the gifts from God? In his lists of Spiritual gifts, Paul does not mention even once that there are certain gifts that are reserved for men only.

Female Pastors Needed in Scandinavia

In Scandinavia the church is totally dependent upon employing female pastors, as there are not enough men who are willing, or possibly do not feel that they have the gift of pastoring. This is a matter of being able to do the mission that is the task given to the church, plus the credibility of the church in our context.

In the Adventist Church we have had female pastors for decades. Elder Neal Wilson said this at the 1990 GC Session concerning female pastors in the US:

“… there were both men and women who were equally prepared, equally trained, and equally endorsed by the church, and given equal responsibilities in carrying out ministerial functions. But the men, who carried a ministerial license, could perform certain functions that the women, who did not carry a ministerial license, could not, even though they had equal training and background” (GC Session 11.7.1990 2 pm).


I belong to a church that has a long history of defending the right to freedom of conscience. In guiding me in the current issue, the following elements are vital:

a) The biblical principle of non-discrimination

• “For God does not show favoritism.” (Rom 2:11)

• “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2:8-9)

b) Fundamental Beliefs

• #14 “…differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us.”

• #17 “God bestows upon all members… spiritual gifts… the Holy Spirit… apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church… Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries…” (We find no mention of gender here!)

c) Working Policy BA 60 05:

  • “The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender...”

Discrimination of Women

As a church we have struggled with the issue of non-discrimination of women, and still do. Equal pay is one example. Still there are women doing the same job as men within the church, and receiving less pay. In the Merikay Silver case in the 1970s, the church was forced to respect the 1964 Civil Rights Act. While attorney Malcom T. Dungans was involved in this case on behalf of the church, the case was argued as a matter of religious liberty. The same argument is still used concerning the discrimination of female pastors concerning ordination. Is the church ready to meet a female pastor who asks for the equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint process, believing that the actions of the church are discriminatory?

Ellen White’s statement in Acts of the Apostles p. 68:

“‘…In matters of conscience the majority has no power’… This principle we in our day are firmly to maintain.… God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is not to be set aside for a ‘Thus saith the church.’”

Martin Luther’s statement as he appeared at the Imperial Diet at Worms:

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

All scriptural references above are from NIV, emphasis added.

Finn F. Eckhoff is Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Union.

Image: TED Year-end Meetings, November 20-24, 2019, Bečići, Budva, Montenegro. Photo courtesy of Victor Hulbert / ADAMS.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

the entire debacle we’re embroiled in as a church at the moment continues to look worse the more it is examined…this in itself is a sign that everything about it is wrong…

we need a fresh start - an extreme makeover…nothing about san antonio can be salvaged…the only way to move meaningfully forward is to own that it was a mistake to overlook the bible’s example, recorded in Acts 15, of a dual church policy with respect to cultural issues and resolve to do better in the future…

all of us make mistakes…how can it be reasonable to think that a GC vote cannot ever be a mistake…


The writing is upon the wall…will the GC leadership give heed or will they continue on the pathway of destruction in the Adventist Church regarding Women’s Ordination?


b) Fundamental Beliefs

#14 “…differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us.”

This is a simple, direct, and important Fundamental Belief. How revealing that the top church administration had led in violating this principle.


Paul says that Christ is the Head of the Church. [not the GC committees]
Christ said “Go, preach the Gospel, baptize”.
He did not say only men could baptize.
Paul himself had a number of women around the Christian world at
that time who were managing “churches”. And he was free with his
praises for them.
The Gospel [as quoted by Martin Luther] is not to be hindered by
“heads of the church – popes”, nor “church councils”
YES! The TED is at a crossroads. I pray that they stand with
the Gospel being proclaimed in their territories and that those who
proclaim it may baptize believers uninhibited by Human Rules and
Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men – said this to
the Jewish General Conference.”
In those days, the Jewish General Conference was seen to be the
Highest Authority of God on Earth.

What if Peter had said, “OK, you speak for God. We will stop preaching.”


The Christian Church in Europe, which includes the Seventh-day
Adventist church, is finding itself in decline. Fewer persons believe
in God, a declining attendance at church has been going on for
quite some time.
On the radio tonight I heard some statistics. The researcher said
over the past several of years there has been a marked decline in
the United States of church attendance. He reported it used to be
33% of regular attendance. Now it has dropped to only 18% of
Americans who attend church on a regular basis.
It appears there needs to be a change on how we meet the average
72% with the Gospel of Christ, the making of God as their “Higher Power.”
Our Evangelism techniques need to change.
Today we see the same picture that Paul did when he was preaching in
the Roman World and the Greek World.

1 Like

The church vote is not reflective of the church, whose membership is at least 60%, perhaps much more, women.
The voters are mostly men since women have been ruled ineligible for positions that require ordination (to make sure their voices are muted).

Youth are also underrepresented as voters.

No vote that does not represent the entire church body of the church is not representative of the membership around the world.

Hopefully, this will change soon so the Holy Spirit can move in a mighty way in selecting leaders regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, etc. It’s past time.


I am no expert last time I looked at the fundamentals was at baptism
I am surprised 14 fundamental has no clear reference to the BIBLE
CHRIST is the word and UNITY in the word - its like the 14 fundamental wasn’t even thought of properly
then you have fundamental 7 nature of created humanity

bit weird

They need to be warned and, if needed, reprimanded. The GC is violating #14. They should be disciplined!


I hosestly feel the church in the western world may be losing the plot. In Africa we are busy with evangelism & growing at a phenominal rate. This preoccupation with female ordination must surely rest. The church voted, it was narrow decision, nonetheless it was a decision. Lets respect it. In future we ll review it & vote again. For now lets proceed. For those regions with few ordained males in the ministry, we have an abundance of male pastors in Africa. When missionaries established the church in Africa, it was all white males & their families, we have since grown, thank you & its now time we re-evangelise you back. The shortage of males cannot be used to justify reversing a decision already decided by a GC vote.

What vote are youy referring to? Please clarify.

It’s the first time ever that I see the “shortage of males” being mentioned as an argument. Because the issue is not availability of males, it’s the calling to the ministry that women may feel and are denied to respond to because of males who are discriminators and keep the power & control in their male hands.

I applaud that busyness. But that does not make the Church in Africa superior to the Church in other places, does it? Just look at the corruption and fraud that the Church has been involved with in so many places in Africa! That should disturb the flock much more than any discussion about women’s ordination.

“Must?” Hmmm… Says who???
This sounds really dictatorial. Therefore it’s not an acceptable tone for continued conversation on women’s ordination. It’s almost like saying, “Discrimination of women is OK, let’s rest the discussion about it.” Sorry, this is not the way we deal with issues on this side of the globe.

I know people in Africa like Ted Wilson a lot. He has been successful in his politicking in Africa. But what we need now is a GC President who is NOT a discriminator, and who is NOT a LGTarian. Discrimination is an abomination, as is also the heresy of perfectionism (aka LGT).


The article clearly points at the procedural failures of the “warnings” and once again lists the dilemma some regions are in…

Sorry, but the Scandinavian and North German Union were NOT warned for female ordination - because they do NOT ordain females, in order to be in compliance with the world field. They were warned for not ordaining males (but rather blessing them in their calling and commissioning them - just as their female collegues).

Okay … name three pastors in your region who are willing to learn Norwegian, overcome visa restrictions and live above the arctic circle and adjust to the Scandinavian culture sufficiently to be heard there. I am sure the Scandinavian Unions are willing to listen. Would be nice, if things were that simple.
HOWEVER, what I really resent is the insinuation that churches in Europe do not grow, because we do employ female pastors. It simply is not true.


You said, “When missionaries established the church in Africa it was all white males and their families.” I’m glad you acknowledge their families. In some cases the wives were better missionaries than their husbands or at least as good as. We have never given the wives the full credit they deserve. If you want to argue from church history you will have to admit that success came by the united efforts of Spirit-filled men and WOMEN. The Spirit does not recognize gender.


It’s the first time ever that I see the “shortage of males” being mentioned as an argument. Because the issue is not availability of males…

“In Scandinavia the church is totally dependent upon employing female pastors, as there are not enough men who are willing, or possibly do not feel that they have the gift of pastoring”

So there you are, using shortage of men. I rest this one.

What vote are youy referring to? Please clarify.

“Elder Wilson made it clear that belonging to an organization means you cannot set aside a voted decision on the basis that you “do not like it” "…

I applaud that busyness. But that does not make the Church in Africa superior to the Church in other places, does it?

The church in Africa is not superior, infact quite the opposite is true.

Hello Bhinikwa,

Welcome to the conversation.

Having said that, I will respectfully disagree with you. Not about what is happening in Africa. I am glad it is going well for you (although some of the reports about issues with some of the Unions and Div. in Africa are troubling).

I will disagree in that it feels like you are making a bit light of something that many of us feel is important. In many ways it feels similar (but not the same) to the rights (and lack thereof) that blacks have had in America, both in general society as well as within the church. Also, while I am not from South Africa so I apologize if this analogy is incorrect or offensive, in the era of Apartheid, there was both legal structures that insured that blacks within South Africa had less power and there were also operational structures (how things ran) that insured that blacks were second class within the country.

Just because the country had laws that made apartheid legal, did not make it right or moral. In fact it was immoral.

Some of us believe strongly that it is immoral to accord women a second class status within our church. That we allow women to be pastors, but do not credential them the same way, pay them the same or allow them the same opportunities as men. A vote to institutionalize this behavior (San Antonio) is not right, but rather a legal covering for an immoral situation. To be clear, the San Antonio vote was not to force Africa or South America to ordain women, but to allow those of us in other Unions who feel it is the moral choice the right to do so. Instead, the various divisions in the world church felt that they must force their beliefs upon us.

The European Unions, in a gentle and Christ-like attempt to find a solution said that within their Unions only they would no longer ordain anyone and simply give the same “commissioned” credential to all ministers. The GC has decided that this means the Unions are acting in bad faith and are “warning” them and threatening to punish them (and as the article extensively noted are doing so in a way that is neither Biblical, nor is it following the fundamental belief’s of the SDA faith).

I appreciate you want to focus on spreading the gospel. You should do that. But, I hope my comment gives you some understanding that if in 3 or 5 or 10 years from now, large portions of the denomination choose to separate from the General Conference because we do not believe that they are acting within God’s will.



Greetings In Christ’s Name

I ll ignore the African Unions other problems since thats not our focus, l feel its unfair to raise it as a side issue, to score an easy punch. Every division/union has its issues. I ll also ignore the S.African apartheid reference, since in my view its disconnected.

The issue at hand is that in your own words the equality of women to men that you draw upon is based on secular view of gender equality. Thw biblical view is similar yet fundamentally different. We teach that women are equal yet given different roles to men. Just because lm an ordained elder does not make me superior to the womens ministries director or S/School superintendent. A married man is not superior to his wife, his role as head of the family is a functional one not one of gender superiority. Big difference. In secular society, they understand that differently. As the remnant church we hold a unique biblical of equal yet different roles. More like trinity roles. Co-equal but different roles.

The preoccupation with this dispute is rather unfortunate as it points to organised diobediance to church authority. The church manual challenges members who are opposed to unity & those who refuse to co-operate as being unfit for office (page71). If GC votes at a session, the resolution binds us all. We do not then find other ways of pushing through our agenda but rather wait for next opportunity without employing near-world political methods.

The approach of some western regions smacks of unilateralism. Some churches wld rather pull off from the sisterhood of fellowship than accept to lay down their tools

This is the Headship Heresy. It is not what “we teach.” It is based on the devaluation of Jesus in the Trinity (Neo-Subordination). This heretic theory says since Christ is no longer an equal to God in the Trinity, women, therefore, are not equal to males. They are a level below.

You can read about the Headship history that came into Adventism in the 1980s here:

A History of Headship in the Adventist Church


Indeed. The preoccupation of the SDA administration with pushing women out of spiritual leadership, women whose gift from the Holy Spirit is obvious to local congregations, is the source of disunity. Women pastors are gifted leaders, ordained to the Gospel of Jesus and leading some of the largest churches in our denomination, especially in China.

To go against the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin. Grieving the Spirit is a deadly sober thing. Brethren (most of the voting members for policies in our church) do not realize that when the Holy Spirit empowers an individual, whether male or female, it is a sober thing to block those gifts from being expressed. That kind of action creates disunity and pushes the “male only” agenda which is worldly, tradition, and anti-Christ.

What an army of men and women we have through the Holy Spirit to finish God’s work, empowered to move forward. Those who block any of God’s children from their purpose and God-given missions will have much to answer for on Judgment Day.


This headshi thing is indeed an issue that we never heard of until the 80’s. It was just invented out of desperation by males who were terrified with the possibility that women would be treated as equal in the Church. Discriminators could not live with it. So they introduced this convenient heresy.


Greetings my fellow African. I think you are failing to see something important here. Maybe we as a church should revise our way of making decisions. The voting system has its problems, chiefly that it can be rigged.

For the record, I do not fully understand the the matrix of WO but still having listened to my Western friends about the challenges in their region. It is an open secret that the majority of those who vote against WO are from Asia and Africa and having been in the voting processes of the church, chicanery cannot be ruled out. Our brothers (and sisters) are saying the current position is hurting them and their work and it is not fair for us to try to muzzle their discontent. I think we are better off listening to one another instead of dwelling on conspiracy theories.

As for being busy with evangelism, well, I agree numbers are there but my brother if you are honest enough you will agree that people in our region respond to welfare ministry because most basic needs are lacking. We are also experiencing a greater number of those who leave the church because as a church we are happy with statistics instead of nurture. That’s sad in my opinion.