Should the Church in North America be Independent from the General Conference?

I believe the time has come for North America to change its relationship to the General Conference from one of subservience to supportive independence. The vote on Sunday, October 14, at Annual Council points out the wisdom of our forebears in setting up our union conference structure, and calls on the North American Division to reassert the independence of local fields to make decisions about how to fulfil their mission. Unions were set up to make sure that one part of the world field didn’t make one-size-fits-all programs for mission everywhere.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2018/should-church-north-america-be-independent-general-conference
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The pioneers were active in condemning slavery. It can be argued that this was based on broad Biblical principles and not specific verses.

That the church leadership does not take a public, proactive stand on equality of gender is a huge failing.

We can take strong stands worldwide, irrespective of culture, on what we eat and drink, as well as a broad range of behavior but not on something as fundamental how we treat each other.

Leadership that passively does not hold high the moral banner on this issue is desperately out of compliance with the basic tenets of Christianity and the example of Jesus.

The sins of omission are often the greatest.

Jesus asks, “where were you when…”

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How does Jesus separate the sheep and the goats? It is not by doctrine but by how we treat each other. The goats are those that are too blind being “good” that they do not see God in every human being that was created in His likeness.

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Dear Pastor Brunt,

Your appropriately assertive analysis of current church affairs is right on

You mention a HUGE GEOGRAPHICAL AND CULTURAL DIVIDE. between continents that heavily contributed to the vote at AC18 on Sunday.

Anyone subscribing to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC over the years is amply aware of vast cultural dichotomies between cultures and countries.

A middle schooler should be amply acquainted with this fact

Our GC leaders, travelling far and wide to visit remote constituencies should be intimately attuned to cultural variances.

However they appear to be tone deaf on the cultural divide that was abundantly evident and present in the vote on Sunday.

THERE ARE NONE SO DEAF AS THOSE WHO WILL NOT HEAR.

As someone born and raised in Africa, I can attest to the huge cultural divide between Africa and America.

I make ZERO value judgements on the different mores and customs on the two continents.

The practice of LOBOLO or dowry in Zulu and Xhosa tribal areas is illustrative.

The groom’ s family is required to pay a minimum of eleven cows to the bridal family, before the young girl is permitted to marry.

This custom is good, because saving up to buy eleven cows, prevents hasty marriages.

I am sure that Africans view western marriage customs as bizarre, even as we view the Lobolo custom as quaint.

There is a colossal chasm, a giant gulf, an awful abyss culturally, between Adventists of different countries, even while we espouse identical theological affirmations on the Sabbath and the Second Coming.

TW has exploited and manipulated these cultural differences to achieve his aim of oligarchal autocracy.

Insisting on uniform compliance between hugely varying cultures is egregious and ethically wanting and quite frankly stupid!

This regrettable absence of intuitive insight, impels NAD to aggressively and assertivley distance itself from the church hierarchy.

Thank you for your energetic emphasis on this necessity!

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This call is wrong-headed! Yes, I fear the growing lack of trust and suspicion that this command and control model of leadership will likely engender. Yet we must be encouraged that so many church leaders are not committed to this model. And for all that, there are many who would neuter the teachings of the gospel of the kingdom.

Adventists do need to re-envision our Adventist organization and refuse to think of it as a hierarchy composed of higher and lower organisations.

Instead we may conceive of our organisational machinery according to a lateral ‘wheels within wheels’ clockwork model of ecclesial organization. We are interdependent with checks and balances to act as a break on abuse of the specific assigned authority and responsibilities.

We must learn to talk of larger and smaller spheres of influence, responsibility and authority not higher and lower organisations and entities.

As Dr Jon Paulien has indicated on his blog and at the LLUC any impact from this new policy is likely years away. It will only deal with executive committee and institutional board actions not with individuals.

The 2020 GC Session will likely intervene before any action will take place.

Take a maalox!

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Post #3 by ezbord:
“TW has exploited and manipulated these cultural differences to achieve
his aim of oligarchal autocracy”.
You’ve nailed it, Robin! It’s the unvarnished truth.

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This is, in fact, a Biblical issue. That is the reason the Annual Council voted as it did, and why the world body voted as it did in San Antonio. Remember the wording of the San Antonio motion, which mentioned the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy first, ahead of the study committee reports and anything else.

Gender roles are the product of a sinless world, as the apostle Paul states so clearly (I Tim. 2:12-13). The primacy of the male gender in matters of spiritual leadership was demonstrated immediately after the Fall, when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God and God called to Adam first (Gen. 3:9), even though Eve had been the first one to sin (verse 6).

It is for this reason that the apostle Paul designates Adam, not Eve, as the one through whom sin and death entered this world (Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:22), and why the Second Person of the Godhead came to earth as the Second Adam, not the Second Eve.

This is why the order of gender authority in spiritual affairs is traced in the New Testament to the Godhead itself (I Cor. 11:3).

The issue in Acts 15 was not whether people were permitted to practice circumcision. Rather, it was over whether circumcision was to be required—of anyone, anywhere—as a test of Christian fellowship. The decision of the Jerusalem Council was global, not regional. Nowhere could circumcision be required. Whether people chose individually to be circumcised or have their children circumcised was not the issue.

The verdict of this year’s Annual Council was both decisive and historically pivotal, as it was taken in the face of a blizzard of protest—much of it extreme and intemperate—from opponents of the compliance document. The world church has indicated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the global Adventist body will not be intimated by these flourishes of outrage and appeals to culture.

All Biblical issues in Adventism are also issues of policy. Adultery is a Biblical issue, but if someone falls into adultery and this becomes known, it is also an issue of policy. If someone in the church were to advocate racial injustice, that too is a Biblical issue, but it would also be a policy issue once the disciplinary process was applied to the offending party.

We are a global body with a collective, coherent witness which cannot be compromised for the sake of local culture, scholarly speculation, intellectual fashion, or personal experience. Those choosing a different theological worldview may very well decide to do what the author of this article is suggesting. But as the Bible says, “They go out from us because they are not of us.”

A great shaking is coming. God is purifying His church. The question is whether we will adhere to the written counsel of God above all else, or whether we will seek to temper that counsel with fabrications of our own making. That is the great issue God’s church presently confronts. The stand taken on Sunday in Battle Creek was and is a welcome affirmation of the Sacred Word for the striving faithful throughout global Adventism.

In the words of the modern prophet:

“We cannot purchase peace or unity by sacrificing the truth. The conflict may be long and painful, but at any cost we must hold fast to the Word of God” (HS 197).

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I respectfully disagree.

  1. I watched the LLUC presentations. If individuals are not going to be targeted, then why are higher ed teachers being required to sign a “compliance” document? Science and religion professors have been on TW’s radar for some years.
  2. As Dr. Brunt and others have pointed out, the GC leadership’s reliance on Africa and South America delegates to support the GC will more than likely cement the actions taken at AC2018. It is a far better strategy for NAD and other divisions affected by this action to proceed with alternate strategies, including separation from the GC organizational structure and/or alternate tithe options for those who do not wish tithe to go to the GC.
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kevindpaulson, post:7, topic:17036"]
“All Biblical issues in Adventism are also issues of policy.”

Of course GC has more or less stated this ‘back to front’,
i.e. all policy issues are biblical issues. Really!?
You give the example of adultery in trying to make your case.
OK, so why has the GC done nothing and completely turned
a blind eye to clear evidence of corruption, fraud and misappropriation
in specific Divisions of the Church, but selectively targeted people that
are non-compliant in areas that are GC ‘hobby-horses’?
According to your argument, aren’t corruption, fraud and misappropriation
also an issue of policy? Why aren’t these matters on the compliance list?
Your brief answer would be appreciated. Thanks.

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This is at best, a guess. No one really knows.

If it is years away, what an excruciating predicament to force unions and divisions to place their missions and strategic plans on hold and at the mercy of those continents away. The sooner the better. To force the church to blow in the wind for years is an atrocity and such a deep wound for women clergy called of God, young university women theology majors, and to the church at large.

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Neither two or a multitude of wrongs make a right. Whenever and wherever the written counsel of God is violated, church discipline is in order. Merely because one area of wrongdoing is ignored, if indeed it is being ignored, doesn’t mean other areas merit the turning of a blind eye.

What saddens me about theological liberals in the church is their obsession with what they perceive to be hypocrisy in the articulation of church standards or the application of church authority. Hypocrisy is very wrong, most assuredly. But one person’s hypocrisy in the application of Biblical issues is never an excuse for another person’s disregard for the counsel of God.

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The compliance document is shaking members to their toes. Whether it is actually “THE Shaking” has yet to be seen.

It’s obvious that our president wants to be the one to bring about some kind of shaking. Would that it would be over good and evil, not over who is qualified to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. That is a tragedy and a definite attack on our mission.

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Ordaining women to the Gospel ministry is neither a liberal nor conservative issue.

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Whatever label you put on it, the blurring of spiritual gender role distinctions is a departure from Bible truth in the name of culture and personal experience. As such, it cannot be tolerated in a church that adheres to Scripture as its supreme authority.

This has nothing to do with who is qualified to preach the gospel. Anyone, regardless of gender, is qualified to preach the gospel. It is administrative headship in matters spiritual that the Bible has reserved for men (I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-25; I Tim. 2:12-13).

When I served on the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, I had lunch one day with leaders of one of the African Divisions. These men spoke of the success of their evangelistic outreach, how in their territory four new Unions were in the process of being established, and how men and women actively labor together in their Division to advance the mission of the church, filling their complementary Biblical roles while doing so.

Both men and women are imperative for the success of the mission of the church. This is true in the home, first and foremost. The roles of father and mother are equally imperative and important to the success of a healthy home. But these roles are not the same.

If you read the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the end-time shaking, false theories and the counter-presentation of the straight testimony are among the causes of this purifying process (see EW 270; TM 112). The popular notion in certain circles that nothing human beings do is supposed to cause the end-time shaking is as erroneous as the theology which teaches that proactive cooperation with divine grace on the part of human beings plays no role in their salvation.

That might be a good solution!

@harrpa @petersomerset, I think we will see something within 12 months. You don’t go seeking this type of clout if you don’t intend to use it. Results or actions from these committees will form the plat form for TW’s “Five more Years” campaign. The notion will be “If I can produce these results in two years, imagine what I can do in five!”

I also think we will see prominent individuals going through the process. This will clean out potential alternate nominees and leave only the truly committed as successors.

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A spilt would be good for both sides of this debate. Those who wish to stay on the course toward a mainline protestant church can continue in that direction and those SDA’s with a 19th century, we don’t need any of that fancy book learning mentality, can continue their U-turn to a narrow-minded sect and end up with, I don’t know, perhaps 45 Fundamentals.

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As a theological matter, our spiritual authority is the biblical text. Therefore, as an ecclesiastical matter, spiritual authority rests with those who best understand the meaning of the biblical text. Biblical scholars (and hermeneutists) are those particular Seventh-day Adventists who best understand the meaning of the biblical text.

The question is not whether the NAD should be independent of the GC. The question is whether the NAD should exercise its spiritual authority over the GC and how that can best be done.

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We sure don’t need to travel in the direction of mainline Protestantism, which has long ago discarded the authority of Scripture and has made room not only for sexual sin, gender confusion, and the Darwinian view of origins, but has also made room within its ranks for denial of the deity, virgin birth, and bodily resurrection of Christ.

When the Bible is chained to the car of culture, scholarly speculation, and the vagaries of experience, this is the kind of spiritual oblivion you invite. Adventism doesn’t need it. Our pioneers, guided by an inspired prophet, built a foundation of strict Biblical faithfulness and brought before the world the Biblical summons to total commandment-keeping and the exemplifying of our Lord’s sinless character before men and angels (Zeph. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Peter 3:10-14; 1 John 3:2-3; Rev. 3:21; 14:5).

Alongside these bold colors, the pale pastels of the nominal Christian world fade and fray to irrelevance. But if those gifted with the heritage of the Advent movement honestly find those pale pastels preferable to the destiny of history’s final generation of Spirit-empowered victorious saints, they should have the integrity to bid us farewell, as this article suggests.

I believe there is no system perfect enough to manage any organization. There will be always be outliers that would require leadership creativity and that is where our leaders have failed us. The process of vetting GC officers is antiquated in addition to being impractical and senseless. I had the privilege of speaking to the individual who asked that TW’s name be referred back to the committee and he gave me very troubling reports why he did so. It would be unfair to blame TW for all this trouble without including the committee that basically set him up to fail too. Your model of “wheels within wheels” will surely fail too should another person who is limited and compromised with rigid and inflexible personality traits be “elected” as GC president. We need proper vetting to include psychiatric and psychological professionals the likes of Dr. Tichy @GeorgeTichy with our new “Emerging Remnant” church.

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