Springwood Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia Voices Concern Over GC Compliance Document

(Thomas J Zwemer) #21

Compliance is a very negative term. agreement would be much better. One can be bowing on the outside and standing up on the inside.

(Joselito Coo) #22

Yes. However, since union presidents are also members of the GC Executive Committee…

–Eugen Saffert

From the perspective of third class divisions, union conference presidents of first class divisions are behaving as if we’re still living in previous centuries of colonial control and administration. If something like equality is a matter of conscience, of justice and fairness, then it must true for everyone regardless of region and culture.

(jeremy) #23

it’s true that ‘compliance’ is a very negative term, but ‘agreement’ is a term that sounds distant, and legally technical…

i know, maybe we should be using the word ‘harmony’…maybe we should refer to the compliance review committees as harmony review committees…

(George Tichy) #24

And what about the Unions worldwide? Only a few reacted to the abuse so far. I wonder what kind of leadership they have…

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(Steve Mga) #25

I enjoyed Tom’s story the other day.
Was allowing himself to be picked on at school until he took his dad’s advice –
PUSH BACK. One Punch and he was not bothered again.
Will other Union Presidents FIGHT for those Unions that are being BULLIED and


I read your link, Eugen.

Is “binding church law” something new in Adventism? I am not familiar with this concept.

How does Adventist “binding church law” differ from the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church?

Also, I would appreciate it if you would compare and contrast the new Adventist compliance committees with the Roman Catholic Magisterium:


(Peter Marks) #27

May I enlighten you that Tasmania is one of the 6 states of Australia so it is incorrect to speak of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. It is like talking of the United States, Canada and Alaska.

(milton hook) #28

I wish that my local church had the same spine as Springwood. But there is not a whisper in opposition to the compliance proposals, no petitions organised by the local conferences or Union conferences or the South Pacific Division officers. It’s not a promising sign. I suspect our representatives at the Council Session will roll over to have their tummies stroked.
Do the laity get to know who votes for and against?

(Saffert) #29

Dear @robelle,
thank you for introducing the concept “by nature”. Let us look then at the distinctive nature of what constitutes a guideline:

A guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. Guidelines are not binding and are not enforced.

That is exactly how a guideline differs from a law which is both binding and to be enforced. You may have not realized this up until now but that is exactly what the whole discussion is about: Are we talking guidelines or laws? Are we talking individual decisions or subordination?
It is clear that I am a proponent of the latter while you are one of the former. You are welcome to prove your point by providing evidence for it. If you convincingly do so I will happily change my mind, i.e. you will have convinced me then.

Let us settle the Roman Catholic Church argument also once and for all:
The problem of the Roman Catholic Church - as I see it as a remote observer - is not that it does have a church law, but that it does not have the separation of powers that should go with it, i.e. the Pope makes the laws, enforces them and watches over them.

On the contrary, the SDA church has separation of powers. While GCC and its ADCOM may and finally should enforce our laws they are not allowed to make or change them - only GC Session is. As long as that principle stands I am absolutely certain that the SDA church will not turn into a Roman Catholic double and Ted Wilson into either the Pope or a dictator as some seem to be so much afraid of.

One final thought:
The ones perceiving a fatal concentration of power quite frequently also claim that the church’s inherent law maker, the GC Session is rigged - that it indeed is not really independent of GCC and ADCOM. Soberingly, the only evidence they can point to is the failure of their own favorite motions - I am not going to single any of them out here because that is beyond my scope. What they can barely hide, though, is their satisfaction if ADCOM’s or GCC’s own motions fail which happens equally as often - with the UOC discussion being a very good example. I will answer all of them with Winston Churchill’s famous quote on democracy:

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

As believers we are longing for a theocracy, but as long as that is not in our hands we will try to make it more likely by bringing lots of people with their individual consciences together in the sincere hope that the Holy Spirit will guide them. That is what GC Session is. That is why it was given the legislative power it has.

Does this convince you?
Take care and God bless.

(Saffert) #30

Dear @niteguy2,

thank you for quoting quite an important verse from Isaiah 8:20. As long as we do not have a theocracy (God’s rule on earth), though, I am afraid that I have to remind you that it does not apply directly to human organisations.

That does not mean that we should not heed it in our hearts. However, until Christ’s second coming we will need to complement

  • God’s spiritual law ruling our individual behaviors
  • with human law ruling our organizations.

I admit that is a daunting task but trusting in God’s grace we can give it our best efforts.

Besides, what I am advocating here are not mere laws but their underlying principles. You might have heard of things like:

These principles - often hundreds or even thousands of years old and pondered by much wiser men than me - are far more important than any particular law because they provide the foundation on which the framework of individual laws is built. As the house built on sand does fall with its foundation in Christ’s famous object lesson, so will all of law fall if we allow its foundation principles to be eroded which in our case is their binding character or that we may obey them at our own discretion.

I hope that helps your understanding.
Take care and God bless.

(Steve Mga) #31

Peter-- That is OK. Since the Continent of Australia is SOOOOO BIG, I didn’t want
little Tazmania to feel excluded from my list.

Cassie – Good to see you! Nice to see you are still in great form!
A good comparison made.
But I think Eugen is discussing NOT Religious Gatherings.
I think, from what he has presented, he is thinking MORE CIVIL COURTS and Litigation.
I don’t believe he sees the messages of the Scriptures as the basis for Church Policies
and Procedures, and that this should be standards of dealing with Church Issues.
Had it been, there never would have been a Mary Kay mistreatment at Pacific Press.

The Parable of the Grape Pickers. Matt. 20:1-16 would have prevented Mary Kay
from being less than men for the same work. ALSO the mishandling of female
spouses working for the Denomination.

(Robert Lindbeck) #32

We are most definitely talking about guidelines. There is no concept of subordination in the Adventist church except man’s subordination to the will of God.

Separation of powers occurs in different ways. The Catholic church does not have it. Civil administrations are divided horizontally between Executive, Legislative and Judicial bodies of equal rank. The Adventist church has a vertical separation of power, not horizontal as you have suggested. There is no differentiation between GC in Session and the GCExco or ADCOM. These three bodies are closer to the US legislative body - the Senate. GC in Session = Full Senate, GCExco and ADCOM are subsets of this , similar to Senate Judiciary Committee or Senate Defense Committee, and as such there is no separation of power. Any separation of power in the Adventist church territorial - Who has the power to do what?

Local churches decide membership.
Conferences decide who will be ordained.
Unions decide who can be ordained.
GC in Session decides doctrine.

Each level of the organisation has responsibility around employment.

Local church - church officers
Conference - Conference Officers, including local church pastors
Union - Union officers
GC - GC officers

In both of these lists I have left out the Divisions because they are part of the GC. Unions sit within a Division but are not responsible to the Division.

What we are seeing at the moment is one church body trying to grab power that does not belong to it. The methodology for doing this is to write “laws”, which it actually cannot enforce. Writing and threatening to enforce the “laws”, enacting the “laws” in no way legitimises the actions.

Which brings us right back to the key question you asked - are we talking guidelines or laws? Are we talking individual decisions or subordination? We are talking individual decisions. Every church member has to decide for themselves - sola scriptura or …

(Saffert) #33

Dear @Cassie,

thank you for giving me the chance to clarify anything left ambiguous in my earlier writings.

Perhaps most importantly we are not talking about religious law here. No ethical or moral codes, teachings or the like are concerned here. Many confuse this when the term “Church Law” is used.

We are talking about human law just as e.g. the US tax code, German immigration laws or Chinese tariffs on steel imports. Churches are human organizations which - because most jurisdictions provide religious liberties - are mostly free to establish their own rules of conduct. The process of generating those rules is called law making and is the authority of the so-called legislature.

The ‘binding’ characteristic of a law simply emphasizes that all people to whom that law applies are bound by it, i.e. they are not free to choose anymore, but have to obey it. You may want to read another comment of mine that discusses the difference between laws and guidelines.

In summary, as long as the SDA church has adopted a Church Manual and/or a Working Policy these documents have been SDA church law and and the rules contained therein have always been binding for all members of the church including its leaders and administrators. So it is definitely not new.

As I have said earlier the SDA Church Manual is not a religious law as e.g. the Roman Catholic Canon Law. So the two are very different. However, I am no expert on Canon Law so it might well contain some rules that are comparable to those in the SDA Church Manual or Working Policy, but I am not aware of that.

Finally, are the new SDA Compliance Committees in any way comparable to the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church? The short answer is: No - not at all.
They are not the church’s authority on the interpretation of Scripture. That authority fully remains with the GC Session as it always has been. Some (2) of the five committees do check against our Fundamental Believes but they do not change nor update them. That authority rests again solely with the GC Session.

Indeed, the Compliance Committees are much more like deputy sheriffs checking speed limits in your town. They did not decide on the speed limits, they have no authority to put up new signs or change existing ones. All they do is check against a fixed set of rules that supposedly applied all along anyway.

I hope that was helpful and you had some fun reading through it.
Take care and God bless.


Thank you, Eugen!

I’d appreciate your clarifying the following for me, as all this is new to me:

  1. What specific official material qualifies as SDA Church Law?
  2. What specific official material qualifies as SDA Church Policy?
  3. What specific official material qualifies as SDA Church Guidelines?

Tausend Dank! :slightly_smiling_face:

(Saffert) #35

Dear @Cassie,

as much as you are welcome and I am trying to be helpful your request is clearly beyond the scope of this forum. I would suggest that you go on the long and stony road of internet research.

However, here are a couple of things to get you started:

  1. Laws are binding and should be enforced, so I see the Church Manual and the Working Policy in this domain.
  2. Policies merely guide actions toward those that are most likely to achieve a desired outcome. (I just learned that from Wikipedia.) So perhaps part of the Working Policy is indeed policy rather than law. Indeed earlier I called it a bylaw which is kind of a lesser law.
  3. Guidelines as you have hopefully learned from the other comment of mine (which again was from Wikipedia - so mostly I do not produce knowledge, but rather present it) are neither binding nor enforced. There are possibly thousands of rules of the different SDA institutions in this domain.

Just read whatever manual you are interested in. You are well equipped now to make your own informed decisions. Good luck.
Take care and God bless.


I’m trying to understand your message to us here, Eugen. I think it’s important!

Please help me.




Please help me understand how your position comports with the perfect law of liberty in James 2, Eugen.


(Steve Mga) #38

Cassie –
Eugen sees the Policies and Procedures NOT as Policies and Procedures,
but sees them as LAWS – which have a very different context and meaning.
Policies and Procedures == LAWS.

(George Tichy) #39

Well, that will require a lot ox explanation, and possibly distortion as well… :wink:

(Saffert) #40

Dear @Cassie,

this is really and I mean REALLY simple.

God can give you freedom of choice because he took it away from Christ.
Christ had to die so you might live.

This was about salvation.
What now follows is pure human law.
No God, no salvation, no divine intervention.
Just plain legal reasoning.

If you ride a bus and you do not pay the fare you are in violation of a human law - a binding human law, a human law that will not give you freedom of choice.

You once had freedom of choice when deciding to hop onto the bus or let it go. However, after you had made your choice by hopping onto the bus you have also yielded your freedom. Now you owe the fare, now you are under the binding law of the fare collector but you decide to dodge the fare.

But wait - there is another option - you could actually pass a law that bus rides are free. Why didn’t you do it? Well, it was complicated and tedious - dodging the fare was the simpler choice. And how great that felt to have a choice again - well, a bad choice really, but a choice - freedom of choice rules.

You got my message?