Spencerville Sabbath Worship and the Unity Discussions: Two Different Planets

On Sabbath (October 29), I attended church at the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland. The day before, I attended the North American Division Year-end Meeting in the General Conference building. Just a few miles apart as the crow flies. I might as well have been on two different planets.

The Spencerville church is special to me. I started attending there in the mid-1940s as a pre-school child. We met in a plywood shack. Today it is a beautiful facility and a beautiful congregation. The organ music soared. The space and the stained glass windows created an atmosphere of worship. I felt blessed. The speaker was a new, young, associate pastor, a graduate of the Seventh day Adventist Theological Seminary. A woman.

Andrea Jakobsons is the daughter of Jiri Maskala, Dean of the Seminary (He was there and beaming – as he should have been). This is her first pastoral post, and she has only been on the job a few months, but I’m guessing the apple does not fall far from the tree. Her sermon was a blessing to me, both by its content and its source.

Pastor Jakobsons told the story of how she came to be at Spencerville. She was on a different career track, planning to study for her Ph.D. Then came the invitation to Spencerville. She was not inclined to go. Through a series of events and interventions by family and friends, she became convinced she was being called by God and accepted the invitation. She actually sounded shocked that she had wound up being a pastor.

On Sabbath at Spencerville, I heard Andrea Jakobsons tell the story of being called to the ministry by the Holy Spirit. It just appalls me when antagonists think they know the will of God and what the Holy Spirit will and won’t do in the quest for souls. I think I heard reality from a young woman called by Holy Spirit.

I liked visiting this planet. Very much.

I attended the NAD Year-end Meeting the day before because I was a member of the NAD Education Taskforce. We gave our final report. I stayed around for the discussion of the action by the General Conference Executive Committee to adopt a process to achieve unity with (bring into line) those union conferences that are ordaining women.

Clearly, I was on a different planet on Friday.

What I say next is my own perspective, based on observation and conversations with many people attending the meeting. This may sound like a bit of stream of consciousness.

The atmosphere in the General Conference auditorium was palpable. The predominant mood in the room was to just say “no” to the GC. Some were ready to put a motion of the floor to tell the GC right now that there was going to be no backing up thus avoiding dragging out the reconciliation process for a year. Had such a motion been made, I believe it may well have passed.

Actually, some other unions are said to have explored whether to begin ordaining women in solidarity with the Pacific and Columbia Unions.

The conference presidents were invited to the Year-end Meeting this year to gather their views. They don’t usually attend. The word on the street is that collectively they are deeply disturbed and in opposition to the GC action.

NAD President Dan Jackson, in my opinion, got it exactly right when he said yesterday that while the General Conference says their action is about “policy,” Jackson believes their initiative against certain unions is precisely and unequivocal about the ordination of women, not policy. Amen! I firmly believe that.

Further, I fear that the term “policy” is actually a Trojan Horse for advancing the alien Headship Theology in our midst under other terminology. This is disingenuous, at best. Headship Theology is not a part of our belief system. Those who believe in it are actually outliers in our midst – anywhere they are found.

It is not coincidental that Headship Theology believers are also big on authoritarian hierarchies. That concept is part and parcel of Headship Theology. So those believers would be delighted by an authoritarian attempt by the GC.

I want to publicly thank Dan Jackson for his leadership in this situation. He handled the meeting last Friday with transparency, grace, good humor, steely grit, and frankness. We should be thankful for his presence. He is in a lonely place. We should pray for courage, wisdom, prudence and discretion for him. He sits in a very difficult spot, between the proverbial rock and hard place. He is technically a GC employee as Division President. He says he cannot and does not advocate for policy violations within North America.

Yet he stated openly, based on his knowledge of the situation – but not his advocacy of such a position – that if the unions are asked by the GC to “repent” and roll back prior ordinations of women, and to discontinue future ordinations of women, he knows the answer will be “no.” He is convinced that if the GC were to come to the NAD Executive Committee to ask them to dissolve the Pacific and Columbia Unions, he knows the answer will be “no.” He openly also stated that such a series of events would lead to a crisis, about which no one can predict the outcome.

I am convinced personally, based in part on conversations with those in a position to know the back-story, that this looming confrontation is the work of one man, the President of the General Conference. I believe there are many GC people who are opposed to the proposed course of action. They got steamrolled. While the proposed process has been adopted on a split vote of the GC Executive Committee, I believe it is one man’s initiative and he owns it. Yes, it was voted by a majority, by those Divisions who oppose women’s ordination. But I believe the initiative came from the President. I believe his motivations are theological, political (in terms of world church dynamics), and personal. It is baffling to me why he would precipitate a crisis, especially with policy as pretext. There must be something deeper. There must also be an antidote.

I think I saw at work on Friday a determination on the part of leaders and laymen from across the NAD to protect a principle enshrined in our structure since 1901. The principle is that when times arise where there is an overreach or a power play by one or a few people, our organizational structure will allow us to just say “no.” I believe we are at just such a point in time. The principle may be tested. My reading of the tealeaves is that when the test comes, the union conferences in the NAD will stand in unity against the overreach. I could be wrong. I hope not. I want to belong to a fellowship, not a hierarchy.

The planet I visited Friday felt dark. There was tension in the air. There were a bunch of people meeting in a room who were feeling aggrieved by the man upstairs a few floors. It was like the meeting was occurring in alien space. (I got a tour of the new NAD offices while in town.) They were sensing the darkness too. It was like being in a threatening atmosphere, a place of coercion.

I believe in my heart that most of the NAD delegates to the meeting Friday would prefer to be on the planet I visited Sabbath.

The planet I visited Sabbath felt light. I felt blessed by a women minister who appeared to be in awe of the fact that God called her. She appears to want to respond with her best contributions in His service. Let us not stand in the way of her reaching her full potential in God’s calling.

Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant, president of The Reifsnyder Group, and senior vice-president of FaithSearch Partners. He and his wife Janelle live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have two daughters.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7726

Interesting perspective and an excellent essay describing the present (paradoxical) reality in the SDA Church. I think you are right: this is to a great extent the result of the present GC president’s convictions and his utopian dream of ‘shaking’ the global church into submission. Or is he just a political opportunist?

What is encourageing, though, is that the SDA civil society, at least in the global north, is heading to the streets in protests. Kudos to NAD. My hope is that the unions will employ their constitutional power to to stop TW et.al’s illegitimate power-attempt to hijack the church.


Headship is part of the Dominionism/Re-constructionism false theology that is gaining the upper hand over the false teaching of The Rapture. The agenda is to take over our government and to install a Theocracy. Part of the male leadership’s attraction to other men is the “headship” thing! Quiverfull is another aspect…as is Homeschooling. Total control over the wife and children…so appealing to just the “right” kind of man!

We have suffered off shoots for ever and always in the SDA church. Men that grow their beards, woman that never cut their hair… long dresses and “modest” attire. No salt served or even water while you eat… there are so many patrols that are involved with this mindset. The dress patrol, Sabbath observance patrol, the no worldly entertainment, and certainly the food patrol. And the overpowering point that they all have… it that the man is the master…the one in complete control. His little wife…browbeaten and silent… You have all seen this at one time or other. Gone to school with a child that came from that sort of home. I sure did. During the 40’s and 50’s there were a lot of them. But, I’m betting that there are more now!


Good article. I find it a good description of the “power test” going on between the NAD and the CG. However, following the same analogy of the author, there are many planets, and only one universe. I am personally in favor or women ordination in the SDA chuch. It should have been voted long ago. But I am opposed to disrespect for the vote of the majority. Had it been a differet point and the NAD would be in favor, what would be the position? We can maybe survive as a collection of World Divisions, with independet structure. But if we are to be one structure, then all must submit to the will of the majority expressed by vote. That is democracy. I repeat I see women ordination as possitve. This is not the only point nor even the main problem we should deal with. But for now, the NAD should wait until the majority votes again. It would be a real pitty to see a Division depart from the World Church for such a non-issue. There are great challenges to be faced together. This is only a minor point. NAD should submit and keep on doing good work until a next opportunity to convince the majority.
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There are two significant factors involved in being fixated during the child’s developmental growth. Either the child’s needs were over met causing him to refuse to leave his “Garden of Eden” or his needs would not have been met properly and failed to develop the necessary psychological tools to progress to the next level. The resulting adult personality traits could give a clue as to what developmental stage they failed to master. Someone who would have failed the first stage would regress to oral behaviors when under stress such as overindulgence. Someone who would have failed to master the second stage would resort to rigid and controlling behaviors and who would demand respect for authority. Someone who would have failed to master the third stage could struggle with gender identification. Somewhere in this scheme could give a clue as to what that “something deeper” would be.

The antidote? Either the organized church splits or TW and the whole GC EXCOMM resign from their leadership positions. I will be praying for them that all make the right decision that would benefit the best interest of our church, not theirs.


There is no evidence to suggest this is some unilateral decision by “the man upstairs.” Why is eveyone buying this theory? Emotion, not evidence. The author says a vote decided the outcome at GC session, but suggests that the vote was somehow manipulated buy one man. This is an opinion piece with no evidence. If God is the one who calls us, then why make accusations on a man called by God without evidence. If those who are in support of WO spread conspiracy that only causes further division, how can they claim to stand on some moral high ground? We are all brothers and sisters. We also share something else in common. We are all flawed. We are all in need of a savior and whether we support WO or not God is our judge, not each other’s.


I really find it difficult to ascribe the present predicament with regard to the “Unity in Mission” policy to the one man at the top. As I understand it he assigned the development of this policy and the backgrounding studies to the care of Mike Ryan, the GC President’s special assistant. I would expect that Mike gathered a small team around him. Mike has long been noted for his positivity toward the ordination of women.

As is clearly evident, nothing concerning consequences for policy non-compliance happened between the 2015 San Antonio GC and the 2016 Annual Council. Neither, is it likely to happen before the 2017 Annual Council when a revised and completed policy concerning policy non-compliance will likely be voted. As likely as not, I should say, the consequences of policy non-compliance will follow along the lines of existing policy. I would be surprised if they break new ground.

Perhaps the best thing for those who are chiefly concerned with the outcome of this policy development is for them to develop their thinking on a possible way forward, as the NAD have promised to do. Then it may be wise to submit that to whoever is found to have been asked to lead out in the policy development. I doubt that that person will be Ted Wilson.

I would be very careful. If the NAD makes more light than heat on this issue, they may find that attendance privileges of the NAD Conference personnel to the Annual Council are severely curtailed. And especially so, if the NAD withdraws itself from Silver Springs. Afterall, no other Division on earth is granted attendance privileges for non GC Executive Committee members at the GC Annual Council like the NAD conference personnel.

I appreciate the fact that Andrea Jakobsons testimony gave you and many others like you fresh courage.

In 1997 Alden Thompson suggested that the 1995 GC Session vote in Utrecht not to authorize women to be ordained in the NAD was perhaps a providential detour allowing us opportunity to develop a more biblical paradigm concerning Adventist leadership, ministry, mission and ordination. This opportunity has not been taken up in close to twenty years. The way to begin this is to study again the hermeneutical principles that Adventists should use to decide this question. As David Ripley noted at San Antonio in 2015, one’s interpretative framework for deciding such issues ultimately determines one’s attitude to the ordination of women. It is also true that one’s interpretative framework at this point will also enable or detract from the development of a more Biblical paradigm of ordination. The East-Central African Division in their Biblical Research Committee have already noted the need for a more biblically adequate paradigm concerning Adventist leadership and ordination. They have also freely acknowledged many of the unhealthy nuances that adhere to the existing ordination paradigm in the African context. They wish to shed these, through the adoption of a more Biblical adequate paradigm. Perhaps if the ECD can acknowledge this, the NAD and every other Division can also acknowledge that unhealthy nuances have developed in their understanding of ordination also. The way to cleanse the denomination of such unhealthy things is to deconstruct the notion of ordination, and then to build it again. In the NAD I am yet to see such a willingness to engage in the hard work of thinking outside our cherished emendations to the current ordination practices.

Adventist leaders and administrators everywhere must acknowledge the deep divisions existing in the pragmatic and policy areas and equally in the biblical hermeneutical areas. If the NAD is serious about preventing the triumph of a hardline on the pragmatic/ policy route toward a resolution of the current ordination issues and the much desired unity, it will give much greater attention to the biblical-hermeneutical route to unity.

Please can you email me! petersomerset at gmail etc.

I wish you would write an email to me, Hopeful! petersomerset at gmail etc.It is much easier to communicate when I know who you are. You critique me for suggesting that the NAD has not embraced the providential detour that was provided by the vote in 2015 to get it right. Our ordination practices like those of the Salvation Army tend toward the creation of institutionalisation and clericalization.

Were we to deconstruct the notion of creation and then build it again to make it a lateral model of affirmation and authorization of Adventist leadership rather than a hierarchical creation of a Adventist global clergy class then we would have achieved something very worthwhile!

The East Central Africa Division and the Trans-European Division appear to have seen this. We still await the time when people within the NAD will see it in large numbers. People like Alden Thompson and Darius Jankiewicz have seen the light. Alden saw it in 1997. Darius has seen it. Have you?

I was greatly encouraged when a real majority of TOSC people appeared to have accepted an advance in the way we state our theology of ordination. But it is one thing to have basic principles somewhat correct and another thing to use such principles to guide the design and implementation of ordination practices that conform to this theology.


Fidel –
“NAD should submit and keep on doing good work until a next next opportunity to convince”

This sounds like trying to be at the North Pole and the South Pole at the same time.
WHAT do you see is “keep on doing good work”???
The WORK of the church is Matthew 28:18-20.
“I have given [you] all authority in heaven and on earth.
Therefore go and make disciples [people who follow Jesus] of all the nations.
Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.
Teach the new disciples [people who follow Jesus] to obey all the commands
I have given you [all the Red Letters].”

In the Gospels we read of at least ONE NON-Disciple who was calling to repentance and BAPTIZING in the name of Christ. Jesus said that “Was Good”. So what do we make of that?

It seems that as a Church, our Views of WHO can Preach, WHO can Baptize, WHO can call to Discipleship is TOO Narrow. That we have been influenced too much by TRADITION. Traditions from our Catholic, Anglican, Methodist forebearers. And perhaps by other Denominations whose members have become SDAs who have this Male-Only view of who can perform the Commands of Matt 28 [because of their Traditions by way of their Catholic forebearers from who they came out of].

Perhaps the North American and European Division need to become Demonstration Programs as to what can be done when ALL THE Church Members are allowed to answer the Call of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
I dont know where you live, but here in Georgia there are many areas [counties] where there are NO SDA presence as such. NO BODY putting on the work of the Church to be a Healing Church. Healing of Body, Mind, Spirit.
Jesus had a TOTAL PROGRAM. If you read the Gospels you will see. His TOTAL PROGRAM was Healing. Healing of Body, Healing of Mind, Healing of Spirit. And Baptizing into Newness of Life.
THIS is the Demonstration Program the NAD and the European Division should Demonstrate through its men AND women – equally.

Jesus never said to WAIT for the Pharisees and Saducees to accept me, THEN you can do what I have Commissioned you to do. No. He said to do it, IN SPITE of their Opposition. We need to follow the example of Jesus. the word of Jesus — GO! DO!

Edit-- Jeff
MAYBE the Gunpowder in the Cannon [no teeny, tiny bullet] hasn"t been lit yet.
It did take a while to decide to fire on Ft. Sumpter. But it did happen.
Maybe members, for now, are avoiding Ft. Sumpter.


Thanks for a refreshingly candid article. Adventism is at a cross-roads. The battle lines are being drawn, and becoming increasingly ominous. The GC President and two thirds of the world church do not support WO. His role is to ensure compliance of the San Antonio’s vote to not grant Divisions the right/authority to have women ordained as pastors in their jurisdictions.

The simple answer to our predicament is found in Ephesians 4:11,12. Since Pastoral ordination is not one of the 28 fundamental doctrines of the church but a policy, it should be abolished altogether since it has become such a traumatic bone of contention threatening to split the church almost down the middle. If it was such a good thing why has it caused so much heart ache in the church for so long. We may differ about all sorts of things, amongst ourselves, and that’s OK, but never has such a small word caused so much pain, wasted so much of our time, resources and discouraged so many members before.

Once ordination is out of the way, and since the quoted passage is neither gender specific, nor does it mandate ordination, both men and women can be paid to do pastoral work which is simply to equip the saints to do the work of Ministry.

The beautiful outcome in sticking to Paul’s instruction is THE UNITY of the body of Christ, which is both a biblical teaching and the burden of Jesus’s last prayer before He was crucified.

About time we stop lampooning each other and start embracing each other in the bonds of love, going about extending God’s Kingdom, both men and women pastors, in the hearts of men, women and children around the globe. Then Jesus promises to come again (Mat 24:14). Even so, come Lord Jesus!


I am surprised to learn that there has been no obvious downward turn in NAD tithe giving following the 2015 San Antonio vote–and not even in the “rebellious” conferences:


Looks like TW and the GC have dodged a bullet thus far.

Edited 11-2-16

This is a good question that I have been mulling over the past few weeks with a friend. We wonder whether “the world” refers to the evangelical community, which has become an increasingly dominant political force in the U.S., or the more liberal elements in our culture. Certainly “the world” we have been taught will one day turn against Sabbath-keepers is the former. By pushing headship theology, legislated morality (against abortion and homosexuality), and other issues, could we be matching the description Ellen White gave of an unfaithful church that looks more and more like evangelical worldliness?

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I have been thinking about this exact idea and praying how my response privately should be. The problem is that our system is so complicated with what we call “tithe” is that by withholding tithe to my conference because of my inability to support the actions of the GC ultimately hurts my conference and Union which are standing up for what I believe is biblical. Because this is their sources of operating resources and eventually puts in jeopardy the workers that are in the field.
On the other hand if I continue to support with my “tithe” the GC continues to get my economic support which I have a moral problem with.
I would suggest that interpreting “tithe” trends can be used by all sides in this matter for claims of supporting their thoughts but unless one goes back to the individual tithe givers one will have a problem in knowing the true reason.


It is my opinion, Javier, that the current situation has been initiated by our President to follow through on his statements to the constituencies of the Pacific and Columbia unions that there would be consequences if they voted to ordain women. My opinion is bolstered by the observations of people who work in the GC and have watched the process unfold. The document was indeed adopted by the General Conference Executive Committee, but the President knows he has the votes of certain Divisions before he starts. I didn’t say the vote was manipulated by one man. Those are your words. He initiated a process, has the votes, and uses that to accomplish his objectives.


An excellent essay, The ground substance of. christainity is that it is neither denominationally nor gender bound. TW is President of a corporation period. Thus. The issue at best is a policy issue, not a divine ordinance. The foundational unit disagrees with that policy. One of two things should occur–Change the policy or change the CEO. To defy the foundational unit is to dissolve the whole. TZ


Peter, I appreciate your carefully considered comments. I agree that we have not done the “hard work of thinking outside our cherished emendations to the current ordination practices.” That may be viewed as a risky enterprise that could open the door to different thinking. Dangerous!

Leaders set the tone and agenda for organizations. I believe we are witnessing that. May I quote you? “…he assigned the development of this policy…”


Everyone knew what the Annual Council vote was about. The attempt at gaslighting was transparent.

On the other hand, I think it was, ultimately, about policy, because most of the headship agenda iceberg is submerged.

Yes, the vote was obviously a response to WO “violations,” but this is merely a wedge issue to get policy in place to make headship ideology normative in Adventism.

Headship ideology creates monstrous voting blocs; it creates a political machine.

Exactly right, I think.

Thinking this crisis is the work of one man is where we get on dangerous ground, I think.

If we think this is the work of one man, the mood will be to solve the problem by deposing the man, and the danger of flash conflagrations, with uncontrollable chains of consequences, is great.

I hope the next year will be spent quietly taking the measure of the headship Trojan horse, which, to mix metaphors, has been developing a root system in Adventism since the 1980s.

A good place to start, I think, is with the late Gerry Chudleigh’s free ebook:


“The principle is that when times arise where there is an overreach or a power play by one or a few people, our organizational structure will allow us to just say “no.” I believe we are at just such a point in time.”

I appreciate your candor and just ask that you examine where you stand in relation to the testimonies pertaining
particularly with the shaking and the underlining issues EGW tells us about that time in our future. This particular
quote is troubling and just one of few in your article that raise serious questions about prophetic events that
would occur in the church. Are you standing to the law and the testimony? Are you not being pulled emotionally
into a direction that is of an unknown destination to yourself and others on the WO issue? Please examine how
this issue is dividing up in the church along two very distinct separate lines of reasoning. This was foretold in
the SOP this would occur and that one group would come to see things as the world does. Do you think that
the GC is operating as the world? I think you give expression to that in your article and I think it would be
best to examine this more closely in relation to the testimonies.

Robert, thank you for your concern for me. I appreciate it. It is always good to examine one’s motives.

Having said that, you seem to assume several things which I don’t necessarily assume.

  • You assume that the women’s ordination issue is seeing things as the world does. I don’t assume that. I see it as calling upon the spiritual gifts and abilities of the women of our church, the majority of our members.

  • You seem to assume that “the testimonies” would be contrary to the ordination of women. Assuming you mean the testimonies of Ellen White, I don’t make that assumption.

  • You seem to assume that it is the proponents of women’s ordination going in a “direction that is of an unknown destination to yourself and others on the WO issue.” I’m not sure what you mean by that, but it seems to imply that I am headed in a bad direction. Why is that when the subject of the shaking comes up, there is usually an assumption that it is the progressives that will be shaken out, who will be on the wrong side of things? I don’t assume that. In Jesus’ day, it was the conservatives that got shaken out, the ones who wanted to maintain the status quo. In 1888, it was the conservatives who stood on the wrong side of the issue of righteousness by faith. I’ve always seen those examples as sobering realities.

  • You seem to assume that the GC has the proper perspective, and asked, “Do you think that the GC is operating as the world?” I have questions about that in this instance. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.”



“NAD should submit and keep on doing good work until a next opportunity to convince the majority.”

The “majority”…those of whom you speak of are historically culturally in favor of males being in control and it could be a thousand years or more before their culture may or may not ever change in this regards. NAD understands that this may never happen and are tired of “waiting” when the Lord calls women to minister. One should not stand in the way of the Spirit.


cincerity Kim Green, allow me to put things in correct context. You seem to refer by using “historically culturally in favor of males being in control” to countres outside of the NAD territory. This could not be further from the truth. The US has never had to this day, a woman president. Maybe in a wekk that could be different. But for now, no woman has led the country. Now look at so many countries outside the Us with women presidents. Corry aquino y in the Philippines. Viloeta Chamorro in Nicaragua. Michlle Vachellet in Chile. Vilma Rousef in Brazil. Benazir Buhtto in Pakistan. Golda Meir in Israel. Indhira Ghandi in India. The list continues. Neither history nor culture can be used to back your comment. No need to wait thousand of years, well, maybe except in the US, territory of the NAD.

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I wonder if this was her first sermon…so possibly was her introduction to the congregation. But the article says that she has been there a few months.

How long was the sermon? Was it mostly her testimony?

I think this is the case in most churches…what goes on at the higher levels (WO battle) is detached from what takes place at the local church level.

I would benefit that congregation if this new pastor would apply:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Tim 4:2-5

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Cor 4:5

“Their (pastor) responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Eph 4:12

OK Ed, I saw your reply. I posted the verse because of what I have experienced listening to testimonies during sermon time. The article did not give a good clue as to what the “content” was.