Schisms Then and Now

I was just a teenager when the North American Division, in league with the General Conference, produced a document titled Issues: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Certain Private Ministries (published 1992. -Ed.). As I recall, the document condemned, along with other things, the acceptance and use of tithe money by self-supporting ministries in violation of General Conference policy.

To my family and other friends within the wider self-supporting community, this threatening missive was no better than a papal bull. We considered it to be further confirmation that the denomination was in deep apostasy. At the very least, we suspected there were Jesuits calling the shots at the General Conference. If this wasn’t persecution, it was at least the precursor to persecution, we thought. What would the General Conference do next? Try to disfellowship everyone who worked for or sent tithe money to a self-supporting ministry? Suddenly, the more to fear from within than from without persecution scenarios were coming to life! Yet, we believed we were following our convictions and standing up for the right. The church was in apostasy and did not deserve our tithe. After all, hadn’t Ellen White once sent her tithe money to retired ministers for whom the denomination had failed to properly provide?

Fast-forward a few years to 1994, the year that I entered Hartland College (one of the proscribed self-supporting institutions) as a first year pastoral evangelism student. Hartland was (and still is, I presume) a very spiritual place. My time there was filled with good memories, wonderful friends, and many spiritual highs. My appreciation for the Bible and the writings of Ellen White was deepened. Granted, there were some imbalances (e.g., some faculty tended to major in minors, and salvation as a gift wasn’t emphasized like it should have been), but it was a spiritual stepping-stone on my journey with God that I do not regret.

Is an Apostate Church the Voice of God?

During my four years at Hartland, I listened to chapel talks and class lectures and immersed myself in books in which college faculty emphasized that the General Conference could not be the voice of God as long as the church was in apostasy. Speakers at self-supporting convocations proclaimed that it was possible for the General Conference to be the voice of God, but that it was not the voice of God as long as things like female elders, celebration churches, and false doctrines about the human nature of Christ were in vogue among mainstream Adventists.

Therefore, it was taught, the “storehouse” into which to bring our tithe was not primarily the church but rather any self-supporting ministry that was doing the real work of proclaiming the undiluted, historic Three Angel’s Messages. One self-supporting ministry leader argued that not only did independent ministries have the right to receive tithe money, they must take tithe if they were to be obedient to the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.

While many self-supporting ministries (like my alma mater, Hartland College) have recently fallen into line with General Conference policy and no longer ostensibly receive or solicit tithe, there is no question that many Adventist church members currently divert their tithe money to independent ministries deemed more worthy than their local conference. (It’s also an open secret that many “supporting” ministries who do not publically solicit tithe funds actually receive donations of tithe money – unwittingly, they would argue).

In the 1990’s, most of the conservative historic Adventists I knew weren’t concerned about following the General Conference as the voice of God. If General Conference policy required them to violate their conscience, they would gladly stand on their interpretation of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy above any man-made working policy or church manual (and perhaps rightly so, I would argue). Calls for church unity were fine, but unity could only be achieved if it was based on Bible truth, they argued, not on a man-made policy that contradicted what they believed the Bible taught.

The North American Division and the General Conference responded in kind by publishing their book Issues, and what followed was basically the severing of any working relationship between these “rebellious” institutions and the worldwide church. The result? Self-supporting ministries grew and flourished. Instead of silencing or destroying them, these institutions felt emboldened to do the work of God in the face of opposition and reproach. They were Elijah, maligned and persecuted, fearlessly proclaiming an unpopular message to an apostate church.

The New Schism

Fast-forward to 2016. Another schism is taking place in Adventism. This time, the divide is not between self-supporting ministries and the organized church but within the denomination itself. Some of the union conferences have chosen to allow the ordination of female pastors. They have done this because their constituency believes that the Bible not only allows for this but that it compels them to recognize the gifting of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life regardless of their gender. They argue that it is a violation of their conscience to do otherwise. Sound familiar? But in this more recent schism, the roles have been reversed. The “conservative” General Conference is accusing the “liberal” union conferences of rebellion against the voice of God. The argument is that since the General Conference voted in session against allowing the divisions to choose whether to permit ordination of female pastors, unions that are ordaining females are rebelling against General Conference policy. Thus, these unions are rebelling against the very voice of God on earth.

However you may choose to reconcile Ellen White’s various statements about the General Conference being God’s voice on earth, one thing that I’ve noticed is that most of us tend to use those statements selectively and as a club to batter those with whom we disagree. When we happen to agree with a General Conference policy, it’s the voice of God. When we disagree, most of us appreciate a little latitude to be free to believe and practice the truth as we see it revealed in God’s word.

Which brings me to my point: The self-supporting tithe rebellion of the 1990’s should be instructive for conservative Adventists today whose fortunes have been reversed and now find themselves “in power.” They should be cautious to join a bandwagon that seeks to quash a movement of conviction just because it goes counter to their beliefs and, coincidentally, counter to General Conference policy. If they do join the bandwagon, they should at least be honest about whether their concern is really about following General Conference policy (which, by the way also allows for female local church elders and female commissioned pastors) or whether it is simply about using their newly acquired power to quash the convictions of others and advance what they believe is the truth.

If the Bible clearly defined “the storehouse” or told us “thou shalt not ordain women or let them do pastoral ministry,” then by all means, we should take a stand and, if necessary, split the church over these issues. But the Bible doesn't say these things so clearly, so perhaps we should learn from our history and give others a little latitude on issues that God has left to individual conscience.

Once upon a time, long ago, another movement of conviction challenged the status quo. Those in power moved to quash the movement, but a wise man said the following: “I say to you now, stay away from these men and leave them alone. If this teaching and work is from men, it will come to nothing. If it is from God, you will not be able to stop it. You may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39, NLV).

Steve Allred graduated from Hartland College and subsequently "baptized" his heretical bachelor’s degree at Andrews University, where he received a Master of Divinity. He served as an Adventist pastor for 14 years before recently stepping down to be a stay at home dad and practice law part time.

Image: Hartland Institute (formerly Hartland College) in Rapidan, Virginia and the new North American Division Headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7784

Come to nothing?

How about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Communism?

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What many self-supporting ministries do now is contribute for influence, advancing their own particular theological aims.

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All this reminds me of the attempts to broker a cease fire toward the end of the Viet Nam war. A debate ensued and continued for a long time - the issue-the shape of the negotiation table.

The skirmishes within and without the church, are all about whose is the authoritative voice, basically about control - and, oh yes, who gets the money.

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The Layman Foundation ministries [school, sanitariums] and Outpost Centers Inc, Wildwood Institute.
All of the programs associated with these have always encouraged donations NOT TO BE TITHE monies.
At Little Creek and Laurelbrook the group has always encouraged the staff to give a tithe of their cash salaries. Actually, I recall one year when the Pastor [a former missionary pastor] on staff announced that there was a growth in the Tithe given from one year over the previous.
And everyone was joyous over the news.
The Layman Foundation and Outpost Centers, Inc always had a good relationship with Ga-Cumberland Conf.

The skirmishes within and without the church, are all about whose is the authoritative voice, basically about control - and, oh yes, who gets the money.

The REAL actual control is with the giver. The member is free to give to whatever religious or charity he wishes; otherwise there are no “free givers” but simply equated with tax payers.

In the Hebrew economy established with the Levitical priesthood, only the priests received the tithe and were supported by the other tribes, as they offered sacrifices to God for the people. When Christianity began, there was no special classes of priests, but all had direct access to God and were able to share the Gospel.

There was not a tithing system established by the founders of the Christian church, but only offerings: "As long as the readiness is there, a man is acceptable with whatever he can afford; never mind what is beyond his means. This does not mean to to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves; it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they many have something to share that will supply your own need (2 Cor. 8:12-15).

There is no designated storehouse in the NT; the church has designated the church administration as the “storehouse” and where and how it should be used and the portions are determined each year.

Currently, for many denominational employees it is not freely given but a form of tax or union dues which must be paid or—.

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ISLAM seems to be doing pretty well right now.
I fear for the safety of my daughter and grandchildren, living in LONDON England, where the most common name for newborn boys in England is now
MOHOMMED. Most of Europe will be Islamic in the next several decades, as migrants enter by the millions and generate multiple offspring.

I help my elderly sister with her income taxes and sorting her voluminous mail.
She is a retired Adventist academy teacher. She gets numerous demands for money from a plethora of Adventist self supporting ministries. My generous sister, bless her heart, gives several checks a year to each entity.
So these ministries do siphon off valuable funds from the local congregations.

We have been CONNED into believing that the General Conference is the depository/recipient for our tithes. I find no biblical nor scriptural reference that tells me that either the GC or the Adventist church should be the recipient of my hard earned money.

I generously give to my local Adventist congregation, the Methodist church I attend on Sundays (for their highly spiritual messages from the senior woman pastor and their SPLENDID music program) and to Doctors Without Borders and other charities.

Nowhere do I find an injunction that the GC should profit from my largesse, more particularly when they demean, denigrate, disparage, demote half the church membership, our superb sisters in the faith!

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first off Hartland was established by the most caustic of the critics of Des Ford. second off self supporting means no tithe. Romans 5 is very clear on the nature of Christ. He is the new Federal Man without the taint of original sin. Ordination under any other postulate is heresy. From glacier View onward, Adventism has been in a defensive posture ever since. Pastor Wilson is pushing it into a frank cult. tZ

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“Voice of God” language from Ellen White is too often confused with the “authority/infallibility” of God on earth. This was not and could not have been Ellen White’s intended meaning, and she later corrected herself on several occasions that called for it. To begin with, her phrase (referring to the GC in session) “the highest authority of God on earth” did not exclude the possibility of error in that authority. She would not even ascribe such perfect authority to the Bible itself as seen in SM. Clearly, the community of believers needs to have an orderly process of decision-making by its trusted leaders, who are its servants in the Lord, and not its masters. Conversely, the trusted leaders need to engage the community of believers when it senses that the gospel message is being manifested as the power of God for salvation in the experiences of the churches and conferences and unions which see women’s ministry and leadership as divine leading. It has never been the teaching of the SDA church that God can only “reveal” his will through the GC in session. Our own history belies it.

Yes, the GC does have authority over policy, but policy only “may” (or “may not”) be the revealed will of God, especially when it uses coercive means to tell the believers that what they have witnessed as God’s promise and fulfillment and experienced for themselves, is antithetical to the will of God. In the words of the gospel hymn (referring of course to the worship service and now taken out of context) "Tread softly, tread softly, the Master is here. . . "

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Some of those free ministries have now become Opus Dei in SDA Church. They enjoy the president’s blessing and the president welcomes their comeback (especially the financial one). His first great appearance after becoming the new president of GC in 2010 was at a huge gathering of ASI. It is no secret that their agenda is also his. Poor SDA scholars have no word in presence of rich (read it payed) arguments.

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Steve!

I do not know you or your situation and thus I am not commenting about your particular situation! As a general principle, I am concerned when I see people hoping in and out of gospel ministry at will. In my part of the world (the SPD) it is rare that anyone who has elected for his own reasons to step out of full-time service in gospel ministry, ever to be taken up again. It seems to me that gospel ministry is a calling that can and should be put on hold only rarely and for extraordinary personal and family needs.

The South Pacific Division has always had a very different attitude to independent ministries than has been adopted in the North American Division. They exist here and with official blessing, but the ecclesiastical environment here is much less encouraging to them than in other regions of the world. And they tend to be smaller, less viable outfits than in other parts. The South Pacific Division, to my knowledge doesn’t liaise with the independent ministries within its territories through an organization such as ASI!

Perhaps this is one reason why there appears to be a greater respect for the official line in the South Pacific Divisions. (Close family members have been on SPD Boards and Executive Committees and as Conference and Union Presidents here for more than 40 years now). It is also a big reason why the SPD is not likely to move in its own direction independent of GC direction, as far as ordination policy is concerned.

Yet, the main point you make that history is repeating itself with the boot on the other foot is well made.

I trust that we can in some way engender a deep unity of spirit in our kingdom mission to the world. One important part of this kingdom mission is indeed how we appoint and authorize our leaders to serve. Hence the ordination issue among Adventists is no side issue. Our theology of leadership is an important part of a much larger and urgently needed theology of the indivisible ‘whole people of God.’ An understanding of the role and function of every individual believer as a person who has been called into ministry and service is an important foundation for revival and reformation.

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_ I have a problem with the statement that the GC is God’s voice on earth. This sounds to me as being very catholic oriented. The Pope is God’s voice on earth and so is the GC president? Why just him and not all dedicated ministers whom we call men of God. _This term, in reference to the GC, in my opinion, should be stricken from our vocabulary. As I see it , it is a privilege to serve and be a servant to the people as Jesus was. Are we forgetting who our God is?

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From the information below, it seems clear that the General Conference resolution of 1877 gives room for not abiding by a GC resolution if it goes against one’s individual conscience and that Ellen White herself disregarded an 1888 General Conference resolution for that very reason. So I find it hard to condemn those today who will not accept the 2015 General Conference vote on women’s ordination when they say it goes against their individual conscience. And rather than rebelling against a GC resolution they actually appear to be in compliance with GC policy accordion to the 1877 vote with accommodates non-compliance under certain conditions. Just a thought.

RESOLVED, That the highest authority under God among Seventh-day Adventists is found in the will of the body of that people, as expressed in the decisions of the General Conference when acting within its proper jurisdiction; and that such decisions should be submitted to by all without exception, unless they can be shown to conflict with the word of God and the rights of individual conscience. SIXTEENTH ANNUAL SESSION GENERAL CONFERENCE OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS September 20, 1877; FOURTH SESSION September 28, 4:30 p.m.

1888 General Conference Resolution 23. RESOLVED, That we recommend, as far as reasonable, a practical experience in the canvassing field before persons are encouraged to enter the Bible work or the ministry. (F. E. Belden, Nov. 1). TWENTY-SEVENTH ANNUAL SESSION GENERAL CONFERENCE OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS HELD AT MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, OCTOBER 17 TO NOVEMBER 4.

Ellen White’s response to Resolution 23 at the 1888 General Conference Session (91 Delegates Present) - Another resolution was passed that might have been laid upon the table, i.e. The one in reference to training all licentiates in the canvassing work before permitting them to enter the ministry. This was to be an absolute rule, and notwithstanding all I had to say against this resolution, it was carried. It was not right for the conference to pass it. It was not in God’s order, and this resolution will fall powerless to the ground. I shall not sustain it, for I would not be found working against God. This is not God’s way of working, and I will not give it countenance for a moment.—Letter 22, 1889, pp. 10-11. (To R. A. Underwood, January 18, 1889.) {2MR 62.1 }

Ellen White’s retrospective in 1894 in reference in action taken in 1888 - Let us consider the proposition presented at the Minneapolis meeting. Some who did not receive their counsel from God prepared a resolution, which was carried, that no one should labor as a minister unless he first made a success in the canvassing field. The Spirit of the Lord did not indite that resolution. It was born of minds that were taking a narrow view of God’s vineyard and His workmen. It is not the work of any man to prescribe the work for any other man contrary to his own convictions of duty. He is to be advised and counseled, but he is to seek his directions from God, whose he is, and whom he serves. If one undertakes the canvassing work, and is not able to sustain himself and his family, it is the duty of his brethren, so far as lies in their power, to help him out of his difficulty, and disinterestedly open ways whereby this brother may labor according to his ability and obtain means honestly to sustain his family.—Manuscript 34, 1890, 2. (Testimony 4, August3, 1894.) {2MR 62.2}

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The majority’s vote does not automatically mean it to be morally right, that small fact gets lost all too easily. John Stuart Mill’s quote helps shed some light: “But was there ever any domination which did not appear normal to those who possessed it?” Of course the GC will try to retain their power, opps I mean authority, they have become what many people rightly fear, professional politicians. This all echoes a classic power struggle just painted to look different and under the guise of women’s ordination. If they really were family geared there would be more openness to differing views, not rehashing a past vote. Tradition is our beloved church’s biggest issue, we seemly can’t get over ourselves. Who’s up for reformation round two?

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So do I. This cherry picked quote from EGW has been used by the denominational leaders to abuse power, plain and simple. The SDA church has boogeymanned the Pope and the RCC for so long, it’s become just like it in exercising its authority.

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Those who are against WO have typically attempted to defend their position with reference to certain passages in the highest moral authority recognised by the Church, the Bible. The Bible writers often penned their narratives which reflected extant social and political realities of their time, many of which were far from what we now consider to be ideal. Looking at the opposition to WO issue, I cannot see any compelling logic from those against WO. I do see a substratum of unstated concern, by men, for the traditional hierarchical composition of the nuclear family, with nominal male headship. The male role could then easily be regarded as “properly” supportive of, rather than being superior to , the female role if WO were to become the norm, for what other occupation can supercede preaching the WORD, winning souls , and so on.Further, it makes no sense that women are unworthy of serving the SDA Church in a pastoral role, because of gender. NO MAN can have had a closer mental or physical relationship with Jesus than his mother. In fact Jesus displayed in his Ministry many of the characteristics deemed typical of females, lack of desire to go to war, lack of desire to engage in violent testosterone -fuelled acts against “enemies”, willingness to forgive. IN fact even though suffering greatly from male-inflicted wounds on the cross Jesus still prayed for his tormentors " father forgive them for they know not what they do".

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Tithe is just one more subject for which we read modern distortions of Bible instructions back into the Scriptures. “Increase” was a of farming metric, and it related to produce, livestock, etc. If a tenth of an individual’s wages were being called for, the designated target would have been the “treasury”.

Income tax ALWAYS breeds waste. Just like a standing army always breeds aggression and centralized authority always breeds corruption–and incompetence.

It’s argued that there were no ordained women pastors in the NT, therefore they shouldn’t be tolerated today. Well, let’s be consistent: There was no New Covenant tithe, no privileged clergy, no hierarchical church organization, etc. (And nobody believed that he was the boss of God’s highest authority on earth!)

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Thanks for making that connection Steve.
There has indeed been a reversal of fortunes! (Just like in American politics)
Somehow you and I find ourselves on the wrong end - every time!!! :grin:
Sam Millen

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“Once upon a time, long ago, another movement of conviction challenged the status quo. Those in power moved to quash the movement, but a wise man said the following: “I say to you now, stay away from these men and leave them alone. If this teaching and work is from men, it will come to nothing. If it is from God, you will not be able to stop it. You may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39, NLV).”

We shall soon see. I’ve noticed that if church members of vocal attributes would accept the plain
writings of EGW says on many of these issues that there wouldn’t be this division, but we
don’t. it’s always been that way with the bible and her writings being simple and to the point have been
ignored or twisted to fit a narrow ideological idea of man’s devising.

EW very clear on how tithe is to be handled, as well as the issue of ordination. It’s ignored.

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The most popular boys name in the UK (as pubished 1 December) is Oliver. Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular girls name is Olivia. Mohammed is, undoubtedly a very popular name, especially among Muslim’s that make up 4.6% of the UK population. If a very large percentage of a small minority all call their child the same name it will rise up higher in the grid than the general population who go for whatever name strikes their fancy. As with the interpretation of scripture, it is always wise to look at context.

As to the migrants entering by the millions 1) not all are muslim 2) a number that are muslim are loosing their faith on the journey and 3) many are highly educated professional people and don’t fit into the ‘generate multiple offspring’ picture. You might equally be surprised by the number that are discovering Christ. You could consider it an opporunity for mission rather than a cause for fear.

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