In a unanimous vote today, the Southern Africa Union Conference (SAU) Executive Committee rescinded the 2004 action to ordain Paul Charles, thus voiding and revoking his ordination. Charles had been the subject of a seven months-long investigation into allegations that he had for years presented fraudulent academic qualifications (degrees). He resigned his position as Director of Communication, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists (SID), SAU’s parent organization, after being suspended on November 8.
Charles was one of two employees of the SID to be accused of academic fraud. Paul Ratsara resigned as division president on May 31 after it was discovered that other SID leaders had a hand in the completion of his doctoral thesis at the University of South Africa.
The move to revoke Charles’ ordination followed a report by an SAU subcommittee tasked with investigating Paul Charles’ academic qualifications.
SID Executive Secretary Gideon Reyneke was present during the report of the subcommittee that made the recommendation and during the subsequent vote. Reyneke presented the counsel of General Conference Executive Secretary G.T. Ng that the SAU did not have jurisdiction over Charles' ordination. However, Ng’s assertion (previously made by General Conference President Ted Wilson) was contradicted by General Conference Legal Counsel.
A from General Conference legal counsel to SAU leaders dated June 27, 2016 pointed to General Conference Working Policy section L60 25, which dictates that credentials pertain to the organization that employs a worker, but ordination pertains to the entity that carried out the ordination.
The SAU EXCOM also voted to formally ask SID Administration to institute an objective investigation into the fraudulent behavior of Paul Charles in obtaining his claimed graduate degrees (a master’s degree and multiple PhDs).
Charles remains under investigation by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training for possible academic fraud, which is a legal offence in South Africa.
The SAU’s somewhat extraordinary decision to rescind Paul Charles’ ordination stemmed from false information Charles provided to be ordained. Given the evidence for Paul Charles’ ongoing deception, the union felt the revocation of his ordination was warranted.
During the meeting Reyneke noted that “Paul Charles resigned from the SID as Comm Director, not as a minister of the church, thus leaving the door open for him to be employed elsewhere as a minister.” The SAU action makes his being hired elsewhere less likely.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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“Reyneke presented the counsel of General Conference Executive Secretary G.T. Ng that the SAU did not have jurisdiction over Charles’ ordination. However, Ng’s assertion (previously made by General Conference President Ted Wilson) was contradicted by General Conference Legal Counsel.”
Has the Wilson administration become completely unhinged from its moral and legal bearings? It seems more obsessed with its own power over ordination than with defending the ethical interests of the church. If Charles’ ordination was–in fact–within General Conference’s jurisdiction, why had it not launched its own investigation and already taken action against his credentials? Perhaps it would rather put a laudatory message in the Adventist Review, as it did with Ratsara, and cover up all traces of wrongdoing?. Enough! It is time that Wilson’s knowledge of and possible inaction regarding the Charles and Ratsara scandals be investigated. There is enough evidence here to at least suspect that the Wilson’s administration has been involved in trying to minimize, if not cover up, the very serious ethical breaches of Ratsara and Charles.
It takes the legal arm to correct the violations of integrity overlooked and winked at by General Conference personnel. Thank God this blatant violation of ethics has been corrected and the SAU can move on with the mission of the church with “qualified” and ethical employees who are true and honest and who “stand for the right though the heavens fall.”
This restores confidence in the integrity of the church’s processes.
No doubt we will hear from UNISA regarding Paul Ratsara’s dissertation and whether the investigation turns up fraud in his case. The wheels of justice sometimes move slowly.
Thank you, legal counsel and those academics who wrote the letter holding the church to ethics and integrity.
Finally. It is revealed that TW falsely claimed a policy that his own counsel ruled as illegal. Remember that when the threats continue as it has already been ruled that the emperor has no backup covering for his words.
Without Pastor Ted Wilson publicly admitting his error in judgement, one can only imagine how many more of his decisions on church matters were based on personal opinions and not on biblical, theological or organizational principles.
As a leader of a world spiritual church, it is his obligation to be certain that his word carries credibility. It reflects badly on all of us church members.
What is worse than an ordained minister who lies? An ordained minister who lacks a phallus. The former can retain their credentials and be defended by Ted Wilson himself (until the heat seriously turns up), whereas the latter can be stripped of their credentials and thrown under a bus by Ted Wilson.
So why would a simple anatomical feature–like skin color or presence of a phallus–be a more important criterion for spiritual leadership than character? Is God really so fickle?
Ted Wilson is developing a reputation for Nixonian lawlessness. Despite the clear provisions in the GC Working Policy that would ordinarily address concerns about various unions ordaining women, he got enacted at the recent Annual Council the Unity in Mission policy, which overrides those clear provisions. (See Mitchell Tyner’s 10/10/16 essay published on the Spectrum Website). Wilson changed the rules that pertain to governance in an effort to achieve his desired outcome. He was able to change the rules by getting particular African and South American delegates, who engage in bloc voting, to continue their loyal and unquestioning support of anything he desires to do. And notice the rich irony, in that he did this while arguing that the unions that have ordained women are violating the GC Working Policy, the same GC Working Policy that has proven to be malleable, as malleable as silly putty, in his hands. Wilson’s demonstrable ability to change policy on a whim is dangerous.
On a cheerier note, I observe that the SAU action is a helpful precedent that further establishes that unions possess authority with respect to who can be ordained.
this is a very sad ending to the paul charles’ saga…but the fact that it is SAU which delivered the death blow must mean that they feel they have good cause, which the apparent absence of a threatened lawsuit by charles, who has demonstrated that he isn’t shy about issuing such a threat if he believes he’s in the driver’s seat, appears to vindicate…i feel that this action by SAU is definitive, and should be respected…it is vastly different than something emanating from a group of concerned outside academics weighing in…
this is the crux of why our GC can no longer be considered the voice of god to the people…tactical regional domination, which was on sad display at both san antonio and october’s annual council, is every bit an exercise of kingly power as is the case of rogue individual domination…
but what accounts for the fact that the unusual hope that so many felt at TW’s election in 2010, particularly, has now morphed into disappointment and a sense of betrayal…was it the case that TW presented one face in atlanta in 2010, but was secretly camouflaging another, or is it the feeling of unlimited power that has transformed him into something he actually wasn’t before, or is it the inevitable trajectory of LGT-headship adventism, given the opportunity…or is it a combination…
That the SAU took this step is highly commendable. It took a lot of courage from SAU leaders to oppose the SID (during the term of Paul Ratsara) on the Paul Charles matter. It is sad to note that although the evidence was overwhelming (that the academic degrees from Paul Charles were fraudulent, his claim to have a 2nd PhD - even aired on Hope Channel- was a lie…) the SID leadership did not see any need to act. Paul Charles himself was requested by SAU and by lay people to explain his degrees, but he refused. If someone were to ask me about my qualifications, it would take me only a few minutes to explain how I acquired them. Paul Charles has been refusing to explain himself since around 2012/2013. He kept arguing that he was being persecuted, a weird argument to make if someone has nothing to hide. Although this revoking of his ordination might be the closure of this sad Paul Charles matter (and he will not serve as a minister in the SDA Church), it is sad that he never clarified the matter of his academic degrees. His suspension by SID and his subsequent resignation was on the basis of another matter (possible financial and business fraud as Division director. The matter is still being investigated). He did not even respond to the questions from SAU which were seeking clarity on his academic degrees during the course of the work of the Union subcommittee which finally recommended that his ordination be revoked. He has never told us his story. After 4 years of being asked and one does not have an explanation, I guess the only conclusion we can come to, is that Paul Charles fraudulently (in my mind…he paid money for these) acquired the Masters and PhD from a bogus “Freedom Institute of Theological Research” in India in the late 1990s. The evidence is overwhelming. The Church in South Africa also failed to do its work of verifying his qualifications in the 1990s when it employed him. There were voices already as way back as 2005, that were claiming that his degrees were fake. But in spite of these voices, we still made him Union Education Director in 2005 and then Division Director in 2010. I hope we have learnt some lessons from this.
What is wrong with the leadership of your church when they continue to protect those committing fraud, and the better question, why do you allow them to continue in office? This really has to be the limit, and speaks to a rottenness that permeates to the very core. You’ve been hijacked by a corrupt ecclesiastical caste intent on protecting their ill-gained privilege at the expense of all else. The ultimate good-old-boy cronyism wrapped in sanctimonious garb. Wake up!
This kind of behavior has long been considered unacceptable in the secular world, and rightly so. I am amazed that GC leadership finds this to be appropriate behavior, particularly given ordination is now what is being protected despite egregious behavior. What exactly does an ordained minister of the SdA Church have to do these days before their ordination is revoked? It is somewhat heartening to see that at least the leadership of the SAU is willing to do the right thing.
If I hadn’t already left the church, this would be my out the door moment. Why would anyone want to belong to an organization that shows this level of corruption at the very top?
To my mind, there is only one reason for Ng to counsel that the SAU didn’t have jurisdiction over Charles’ ordination. And that is to prevent pressure from coming for the revocation of Paul Ratsara’s ordination.
This move for the SAU to revoke Charles’ ordination is undoubtedly the correct thing to do according to policy.
However, it may also be forcefully argued that to give the initial ordaining body such jurisdiction over the ultimate fate of that ordination is wrong-headed theologically. The policy is in error theologically in that it would suggest that ordination is a gift bestowed by the initial ordaining body. This is a very sacramental understanding of ordination.
My study and research of this topic indicates that ordination is merely a confirmation of the divine call to serve as a minister of the gospel and the concomitant authorization to serve in that capacity with the affirmation and blessing of God’s people. The ordinand consecrates himself or herself for that task of service.
Ordination is not some indelible mark of authority stamped on the individual by the original granting entity which is what the present policy so readily implies.
Once again Adventists should find themselves questioning the reigning theology of ordination.
“A letter from General Conference legal counsel to SAU leaders dated June 27, 2016 pointed to General Conference Working Policy section L60 25, which dictates that credentials pertain to the organization that employs a worker, but ordination pertains to the entity that carried out the ordination.”
It does not necessarily follow that revoking an ordination is a common/accepted practice. Revoking credentials is an administrative task. I wonder what the history (if any) of revoking ordination has been? Anyone know?
The word “unanimous” struck me. It is a powerful statement in this case, much needed. But it raises new questions, of course. Why did it take so long? Was the executive committee convinced NOW or did they know for a long time? If the latter … what made the difference now? etc. etc.
As to the position of the SID and the GC it is part of … Well, let me put it this way: if this would have happened in the real world, there would be some resignations offered as a consequence of the utter mishandling of the whole case.