Southwestern Union Conference Officers Issue Statement on Annual Council

A Message from the Executive Officers of the Southwestern Union

October 25, 2018

At the recently held General Conference Annual Council in Battle Creek, Michigan, on October 14, 2018, a vote was taken to implement a new system of compliance over church entities around the world. The vote was a disappointment to many and to us, as officers of the Southwestern Union, for we feel that unity within our church cannot be achieved with the approval of this compliance policy. We are concerned about the increasing centralization of authority of the General Conference and the countering of the established local union administrative authority.

The question that many have asked is, “What happens now?” We want to assure you that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is safe in the Hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As His people, we must remain faithful and trust the Lord’s leading as He directs His Church leadership and our organizational mission. Within the next week, the Executive Committee of the North American Division will meet and discuss how to address this recent development. The Executive Committee of the Southwestern Union will also discuss and assess how we will address this newly-implemented policy as it relates to our local territory.

As it pertains to the status of women in ministry, we further affirm our position of full support of them as pastors and elders serving in our churches. The Southwestern Union Conference is privileged to have men and women as a part of our ministry team in achieving our mission “to equip and inspire the Southwestern Union territory with the distinctive Adventist message of Hope and Wholeness.”

We encourage all to pray for God’s guidance and the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit. “This promised blessing, claimed by faith, brings all other blessings in its train. It is given according to the riches of the grace of Christ, and He is ready to supply every soul according to the capacity to receive.” (Gospel Workers, p. 285)

Stay faithful. Christ is coming soon.

Larry Moore, President

Buford Griffith, Jr., Executive Secretary

John Page, Treasurer

This statement originally appeared on the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists website. Image courtesy of the Southwestern Union.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9143
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FYI ----------Spectrum Editors
Sent out by email to our church members…

Can you post it as an article?? for responses??

MYSTIFYING MYTHS
Facts and Fiction about the General Conference’s Compliance Document
by Pastor Mark Finley

If a myth is repeated often enough and loud enough a lot of people will accept it as reality. For centuries people believed the earth was flat, and the sun revolved around the earth. Even reputed scientists and scholars of the day taught and repeated the myth. A myth is a myth no matter how loud it is trumpeted and no matter who shouts it.

Myths are running rampant on social media about the document, “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions,” recently voted at the 2018 Annual Council.

Some claim the General Conference desires to control what happens even on the local church level and no one is safe from its tentacles of control. The document has been called “papal,” “anti-protestant,” and “unbiblical.”

Let’s consider seven common myths and the facts of the document.

Myth #1: The document is an overreach by the General Conference to centralize power.
Fact #1: The document actually states, “Planning for and ensuring compliance shall initially be entrusted to the entity closest to the matter” (p. 1, line 25).

The intent of the document is to allow the entity closest to the issue of non-compliance to handle the matter. Rather than a centralization of power, it encourages the opposite. It urges all issues of policy non-compliance to be solved at the local level. If that is not possible the next highest level of church organization may become involved. For example, if a local conference has a challenge with non-compliance that it cannot or will not solve, the Union Conference/Mission can become involved in working out a solution. This is true for each level of church organization.

If there is non-compliance of a General Conference Session or Executive Committee voted action, the GC Executive Committee may become involved.

Myth # 2: The document uses a non-biblical method of coercion.

Fact #2: The document does just the opposite. Here is what the document states, “Administrators dealing with any matter of non-compliance shall exercise Christian due process which will include much prayer and dialogue” (p. 2, line 35).

The document is designed to be redemptive, not punitive. It provides for a process of dialogue, prayer, and counsel to determine how best to solve the matter of non-compliance. It follows the Scriptural pattern of reconciliation and resolution as outlined in Matthew 18.

Myth #3: The document is a heavy-handed authoritarian approach to problem solving.

Fact #3: The document provides for tolerance. It allows the administrators of the entity that is perceived to be out of compliance a 60-day period to further dialogue and offer solutions to the challenging situation (p. 2, line 14).

The due process provisions in the document encourage discussion and prayerful consideration on how to solve non-compliance issues. Rather than a heavy-handed dictatorial mandate, the document assures a process of collaboration and seeks to find solutions to problems of non-compliance.

The proposed “warning” and “reprimand” are designed to enable entities to think of the seriousness of non-compliance to voted actions of the world church, and to encourage them to come back into harmony with the world church. Any warning, reprimand, or other consequences must be voted by the General Conference Executive Committee with worldwide representation.

Myth #4: The final vote of authority regarding consequences rests in Silver Spring, Maryland, with the GC Administrative Committee

Fact #4: The document clearly states, “If, after the organization closest to the matter has been unable to resolve a compliance issue and the General Conference Compliance Review Committee has recommended consequences, only the General Conference Executive Committee and/or the General Conference in session has authority to implement the recommendation (p. 3, lines 27-30).

Myth #5: This document changes the culture of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and inhibits freedom of conscience.

Fact #5: What will change the culture of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is if the votes of the General Conference in Session and its Executive Committee are not respected. If each entity from the local church to local conferences, Unions and Divisions do not respect the decisions of the corporate church, the church will be led into organizational chaos, fragmentation, disunity and congregationalism.

The issue before the church is whether it desires to remain as a united worldwide body, valuing the collective decisions of the General Conference in Session and its Executive Committee or whether it will become a loosely connected body of organizational entities.

Myth #6: The General Conference does not have any entity to oversee its activities and actions.

Fact #6: The General Conference is answerable to the GC Executive Committee. This is why regular reports are given during the Spring Meeting and Annual Council. In addition, the General Conference is regularly audited for financial compliance by the independent and well-respected auditing firm, Maner & Costerisan.
During the 2018 Spring Meeting, representatives from Maner & Costerisan, reported that the General Conference was in compliance with GC Working Policy regarding financial matters.
Also during the 2018 Spring Meeting, as part of the financial reports, GC Finance presented the “Accountability for Use of Tithe” report.
This, along with the report from Maner & Costerisan, can be read in the May 2018 GC Executive Committee Newsletter.

Myth #7: The document is not biblical. It places policy above Scripture and therefore is contrary to the Protestant Reformation in that it violates freedom of conscience.

Fact #7: Church organization is a fundamental principle of New Testament teaching. The church is held together by the Holy Spirit through a common commitment to Christ, a shared belief in Biblical teachings, a passion for mission, and a worldwide church organization. If any one of these is subtly undermined, the entire church is in danger.

The policies of the church never dictate or supersede the individual’s conscience. Every believer is free to follow the dictates of their conscience. There will be times when honest people see things differently. Policies are agreements about the way the church will operate. They determine how an international, global family will function.

Here is the point. Policies do not dictate what we believe but they should govern the actions of church leaders. Church leaders have an ethical responsibility to abide by the decisions made jointly by the representatives of the world church at a General Conference Session.

Policies are not unchangeable biblical teachings, and should never be elevated above biblical truth. They are operating principles that delegates to a General Conference Session or Executive Committee can change and at times have changed. If change to any policy passed by the General Conference in Session or to Executive Committee actions is made, it should be made by the same body where it was voted.

Where the Battle Isn’t
Myths never serve us well. They lead us to operate from fear in a world of illusion. Worst of all, they deter us from the mission of the church to live and preach the gospel to fulfill the mission of Christ.

Believing myths causes us to fight where the battle isn’t rather than focusing our spiritual energies and attention on reaching lost people to prepare men and women for the coming of our Lord.

May the living Christ so fill our hearts and guide our thinking that we focus on the thing that really matters: souls saved eternally for His kingdom.

Pastor Mark Finley is a well-known evangelist, author, and retired General Conference vice-president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Pull Quote: “Policies do not dictate what we believe but they should govern the actions of church leaders. Church leaders have an ethical responsibility to abide by the decisions made jointly by the representatives of the world church.”

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Well, if that doesn’t give me great confidence!!! LOL. If the GC Executive Committee makes a mistake, they will be responsible for identifying it and making the correction. I am soooooooo relieved.

Thanks for sharing that message from M. Finley. @gideonjrn.

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Let’s start with a clarification,

Does your Union Conference support ordination of women?
____ YES … … ____ NO

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Myth buster merely confirmed a power grab at the GC level. The best yes but essay posted to date.

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This “Myth” statement will be of value only for people who do not see what is happening around them.
Finley’s declaration of what the “facts” are must be checked against what we see actually happening. Do they match???

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The issue was not address merely the defense of policy as a tool to accomplish a bigoted conclusion.

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Isn’t this just how ‘we’ got where we are, now, with the SDA GC ?

What makes one SDA committee any more trustworthy – either toward Christ, or toward His own – than another ?

What ? They’re going to set up ‘prayer rooms’ and ‘pray for the Holy Spirit’, too,
just like at the SDA GC ‘Annual Council’-and-‘Great Divide’ ?

The time to have addressed this ‘recent development’ – if the ‘Holy Spirit’ was to truly be valued – was long before this ‘Great Divide’.

As a construction worker that is paid to mo-o-o-o-ve, not z-z-z-z-z-z, I would long ago have been fired, let alone hired, if I was as sleepy on my feet as ‘functioning’ SDA leadership. So, the ‘development’ to be ‘addressed’ now, is

‘How, when, and why did we all miss this coming at us, when even ‘Spectrum’ repeatedly tried to warn us ? And why didn’t we react sooner than ‘later’ ?’

. . . or, is it the ‘Holy Spirit’ that is truly that slow to react, and therefore to blame, again, as It is still ‘blamed’ for being ‘wrong’, 130 years ago ?

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Haven’t Mark Finley, Doug Batchelor, Danny Shelton . . . had enough ‘air time’ leading up to this mess ?

John Prine and John Denver, speaking:

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Dr. Tichy,

It’s 1am here and I was about to go sleep, but I just read one of the scariest things ever in my life and now I can’t sleep…

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would read something so misguided and transparently evil by Mark Finley…

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Didn’t I say several times that the whole GC team must be either impeached (possible???) or voted out asap (2020).
Those people must be sent to pastoring a local church, a small one in the middle of nowhere - like Ratsara is doing now!..

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i have no confidence in mark finley at this point…he was at the vanguard of those pointing out, in the year leading up to san antonio, that Acts 15 and its record of the council of jerusalem should be our guide…what has changed since then…certainly not Acts 15, and certainly not the record the council of jerusalem has left us…

mark can talk all he wants about myths surrounding the document approved at AC2018…what no-one can argue is the fact that our GC has veered from the apostolic model in Acts 15 by instituting one side of a cultural question as our world policy, whereas the council of jerusalem found a way to authorize and accommodate both sides…in addition, the GC has elevated that policy to doctrinal status by punishing
non-compliance in the same way doctrinal non-compliance would and should be punished, which is something else the council of jerusalem did not do…this is on top of the fact that a majority of our biblical experts have come down in favour of WO, and well before san antonio…

what the GC has done is exactly what the council of jerusalem did not do…it’s as if the bible was thrown out, and the machinations of the u.s. senate, in its confirmation of justice brett kavanaugh, was adopted…this is wholly unforgivable and unacceptable…no amount of explanations from mark, or anyone else, is going to change this conclusion…

go home, mark finley…i, for one, will not be listening to what you have to say anymore…

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Well,… what if Kevin comes up with a “right interpretation” for that conclusion?.. :innocent:

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conservatives are in over-drive trying to explain away what we can all see with our own eyes…the council of jerusalem resulted in a dual-policy, not a single policy, which is the spin kevin is now peddling…and the point is that the council of jerusalem didn’t put up conviction for a vote, and then punish the losing side, like our GC has done…

i think it’s clear that had circumcision been put up for a vote at the council of jerusalem, it would have passed overwhelmingly…it definitely wouldn’t have produced a relatively thin winning majority…but the apostles had the wisdom and the common sense not to do such a thing…

but church leaders at that time led…they didn’t hide behind delegates who they knew would do their bidding…honestly, the more i think of this whole situation with WO, from even before san antonio until now, the more angry i become…nobody can listen to the likes of sandy roberts, chris oberg, hyveth williams, elizabeth talbot, and many others, and not come away with the conviction that the holy spirit has given them a message and is using them in a big, important way…

all of this obstruction, parading around as a call of unity, that our GC is foisting on us, has to be swept aside…it’s time for ordinary church members to lift up their voice like a trumpet and call a spade a spade…even if we applied the gamaliel test, and gave things time to see whether they last, or fizzle out, and then make a determination, how many decades have passed since WO was first agitated…how many studies have been commissioned, how many millions of dollars have been spent, trying to discredit it…and how many times are we going to look at texts like Joel 2:28 and Galatians 3:28 and not get the point…what’s more, how many times are we going to think of egw and not put two and two together…

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Kudos to the Southwestern Union Conf. Officers in at least voicing their concerns, etc., over the Compliance Committees, etc. I appreciate your support of the Pastoral Women but do wish that you would come out in favor of ordaining them.

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Quite frankly, George…as conservative as this conference is (where I live)…I am pleasantly surprised that they did even this much!

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He has obviously become a bona fide “company man”…and who knows- may have bought into the misguided LGT (most likely).

Hi @gideonjrn, thanks for your question. We do our best not to publish articles that contain lies, falsehoods, or half-truths, so no, we will not be publishing this article by Pastor Finley (who currently serves as Assistant to the General Conference President, though his author bio at the end of the article neglected to mention that fact). We will, however, be publishing responses to his article, so we encourage readers to keep an eye out for those in the coming days, and post their comments there.

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HI Kimmer, you know as these diffferent Conferences, Union and Divisions who come out with these position letters explaining their individual takes on the GC’s very obvious power grab with these over site committees it makes for interesting reads but for me don’t do a whole lot. TW and the executive leadership are not unintelligent individuals. Great care was taken to make sure they had all their ducks in a row before implementing this plan for unity through compliance.

Pastor Finley who dispelled all those myths out there said that part of the implementation of compliance involved heavy amounts of talking and prayer. How many times I heard " we prayed about it" when a decision was given amounts to far to many to count. One would be led to believe that God only talked with those in leadership. It’s no wonder why women should not be ordained. I guess God just doesn’t speak to women…

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To me, Mark Finley’s missive is an encouraging sign that the GC and its operatives may be starting to listen and may be worried that their plans to purify the church will not be accepted as positively and as whole-heartedly as they had hoped.

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