The Church We Love, Serve, and Lead

This past week has been a very rewarding and inspiring experience. I was one of a group of some 30 people who met for a few intense days in a hotel near San Diego. I was honored to have been invited and to be able to interact with a group of theologians, male and female pastors, and present and former church leaders. Our theme was not only a convenient slogan, but was the very soul of what this meeting was all about: “The Church We Love, Serve, and Lead: Best Practices and Strategies for the Future.”

The meeting was a follow-up on the Unity Conference that was held last year in London, England. During that conference a series of papers was read that touched on some of the major issues the Adventist Church is currently struggling with. Its special focus was on the response of church leadership at the highest level of the denomination to the fact that some church unions in the United States and elsewhere have ordained female pastors, or have expressed a strong dissidence with the continued gender discrimination in the Adventist Church. The General Conference maintains that ordaining women for pastoral ministry goes directly against the decisions of the world church and is evidence of a serious kind of non-compliance that must have punitive consequences.

This has given rise to all kinds of questions that were, either directly or indirectly, addressed by the speakers at last year’s Unity Conference. Some of these have to do with the authority of the unions and of the General Conference, respectively. In the view of the General Conference the ordination of pastors is not solely in the jurisdiction of the unions; the General Conference maintains that it sets the criteria for ordination. Another aspect that was high on that conference’s agenda was the true nature of unity and the vital question of whether this requires full uniformity.

Since that conference was held, new developments have taken place. During the meetings of the full Executive Committee of the General Conference (during the 2017 Annual Council) proposals were introduced to enforce compliance with the rules of the church that forbid the ordination of women pastors. A document was introduced that caused much consternation, and in the end was rejected by a significant majority of the committee. It contained the idea that all committee members would henceforth be required to sign a loyalty document, with the explicit stipulation that they would comply with all decisions of the church. It was further suggested that presidents of organizations that were “non-compliant” could be denied voice and vote in committee meetings, as long as their organizations are non-compliant. The manner in which this document was produced and sprung upon the committee members caused great dismay and many felt that there had been an intolerable amount of manipulation by top church leadership.

For many around the world it was a great relief that the proposals outlined in this controversial document did not pass. But this is not the end of the matter. A Unity Oversight Committee has been set up by the General Conference, with the clear intent of preparing a new proposal for the October 2018 Annual Council, that will, once again, focus on what action must be taken against non-compliant unions. Our meetings in San Diego of the past few days dealt with our serious concerns about this matter. We asked ourselves what can be done to steer the church away from this non-compliance trajectory and to ensure that the church will no longer be sidetracked by the power struggle around non-compliance, but can, once again, give all its attention to the mission it is charged with.

During our meetings in-depth discussions took place about how certain processes took place in past years. It was felt that there is a need for a publication that reveals some very questionable processes and debunks some myths that have evolved. We spent hours talking about possible ways to disseminate vital information to the members of the approximately 350-member Executive Committee of our church. Our work was not some kind of conspiracy, but an honest attempt to contribute to solutions and to help bring about full gender equality in the church, with the understanding that not all church entities world-wide would deal with these issues at the same speed and in the same way.

I learned a lot in these past days. Some issues became much clearer to me and my desire to be involved with supporting my church received a new impulse. I thank the initiators of this week’s event for having invited me to this positive and decidedly spiritual event, and I pray that our work will bear fruit and will prove to be a blessing for the church we love, serve and lead.

Reinder Bruinsma is a native of the Netherlands who retired in 2007 after a long career in pastoral, editorial, teaching, and church leadership assignments in Europe, the United States, and West Africa. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Newbold College and a master’s degree from Andrews University, he earned a bachelor of divinity with honors and a doctorate in church history from the University of London. He recently interrupted his retirement to serve as the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belgium and Luxemburg. He has authored more than twenty books, in Dutch and English, and a large number of articles. He has also translated various theological books from Dutch into English. This article first appeared on the author’s blog and is reprinted here with permission.

Image: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8844

There is a hymn that should be the bed rock of denominational ethos. The Church Has One Founation The idea that Either Ted Wilson or Ellen White says is a serious detractor of the Gospel.

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I am not sure if the GC is taking this stand because they wish to maintain church authority. I eroted, they reason, what could come next? Same sex marriage? Or is their determination based on the belief that the Bible gives no room for women’s ordination? Thus, as church leaders, they are conscience bound to obey Scripture. Maybe it is a little of both?

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Secret Ballots. Sometimes small changes make big differences. I believe that such a change, which would appeal to everybody no matter what their views on particular issues happen to be, would be to shift to secret ballots for virtually all the votes at the Annual and Spring Councils.

When this had to be done by hand, it was too clumsy and time consuming. When it could be done electronically, setting up the equipment was expensive and inconvenient. But now there are Apps which make it possible for every person to cast a secret vote on his or her mobile phone with the results immediately displayed in numerical and graphic form on a huge screen. There is now no logistical reason for not always using secret ballots.

I doubt very much that the outcome would have been what it was at the last Autumn Council if the crucial vote had not been done by a secret ballot. Yet I fear that this change is so undramatic and seemingly insignificant that no effort will be made on its behalf. My own view is that this change would accomplish more than all the other ones combined.

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Deleted by Dennis Hofer

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Are there any websites or links available we can tap to read and learn what all happened during these meetings?

Where in the scriptures do they base their conscience that their own appointed committee TOSC found none?

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While I applaud the intent of this conference in San Diego
(and in London, last year),
the OPTICS of the coercive/arrogant/strong-arm/steam roller tactics
of the GC and its despotic president at the last several church councils have become quite indelible, and difficult to erase.

Leads many of us who espouse egalitarianism to vote with our feet!

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The Church We Love, Serve and Lead is the title of this article. But can I ask this question, Does the governing authority of the SDA Church love the membership ? Are these individuals willing to listen to the membership and to implement policies and practices which will respect the rights of the membership or are we in for a rude awakening? Are the leaders willing to serve the world church , as the Scripture records- ‘in love serve one another’-or is this a play for authority?
Eternal watchfulness is the word. I dare say eternal boldness to stand up where necessary and speak out against any attempt to manipulate ,coerce or do any thing’underhandedly’ so as to have an advantage of the membership of the church is needed.
We as members must be on alert! On high alert as to what transpires at the General Conference on a daily basis.

It seems to me that the best approach to foster best practices and strategies not only for the future , but for present is to listen to the people who comprise the church- that is to include the views of those who may have some ideas or input that can benefit the entire church as a whole. It is also right to pray, and pray for God’s wisdom to govern fairly,unbiasedly and in a manner that is cognizant of the rights of all members of the church.
Underhanded tactics will not work. They will be exposed and may lead to unexpected and unwanted consequences!

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This was attempted at the last GC and many delegates from the south (who didn’t want it) kept insisting the voting machines didn’t work, while all tests on them showed they were working. As reported it was rather fishy and likely a politically/culturally based move.

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Doesn’t the ad hominem attack on Pastor Wilson describing him as “despotic” violate the basic rules of Spectrum?

Consider the way he has conducted himself and you get the answer.

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If someone says that TW is opposed to WO because he’s so ugly, we have an example of ad hominem. If someone calls him despotic because he behaves like a despot, that’s an evaluation. Calling attention to despotism in the church violates no rules.

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How does one define a church.? By doctrine? bymembership? By Leadership? How about the recent Michigan Conference? Then there was the Clarmount Church decades back. Or the Hill Church and Ted Heppenstall. Or is it the 28? We now know that popery is not limited to Rome. I vote for a forum that makes church an assembly that expresses brotherly love. A place where the burdened and heavy laden can find rest.

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Deleted by Dennis Hofer

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Unless Ted is here posting, I think ad hominem is not possible, as it means attacking an opponent in a conversation, such as the one here.

But as he is a public figure, a leader, yes it is appropriate to openly criticize the merits of his leadership - what he says and does, and what he doesn’t say or do.

Leaders open themselves up to criticism - and they should seek out, appreciate, and carefully consider that feedback.

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Secret Ballots
REALLY Secret Ballots.
Would undermine people the Votees are Beholden to.
REALLY Secret Ballots allow people to VOTE THEIR CONSCIENCE irregardless
of what their Union or Division leaders WANT THEM TO VOTE.
There would be NO WAY to castigate attendees after by the Union-Division Leaders.
REALLY!!! – THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN in the SDA Church movement.

By “Holding Up the colored Fans” it allows everyone to SEE WHO is opposed, and
to pressure them later to “GET IN LINE”, or FORCE them and PREVENT them from
voting their Conscience.

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Secret Ballots. For all reasons niteguy 2 lists and more, I think that Secret Ballots are worth advocating. They will benefit each person no matter what his or her view is about any matter under consideration. This is the only way to benefit from the collective wisdom of the group. All that it takes is for someone to make this motion part of it being that vote on itself be taken by secret ballot, somewhat else second it, there be some discussion and then vote it up it down. No problem! It’s so easy that I fear it won’t get the attention it deserves.

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David –
It has ALWAYS been a great idea. Worthy of acceptance.
But we see what happened at GC2015. A small BLOCK of persons were
able to put the Secret Ballot program out of the way quite easily.

WHO would be “Crazy” enough to Voice a motion??
WHO would be “Crazy” enough to Second such a motion???
Certainly, NO BODY would vote for it. Not if they wanted to have any power
in that group – for ever. Might even be VOTED OFF the group.
A lot of intimidation can go on – even among Christian Seventh-day Adventists.

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I do not accept the reasoning which attempts to justify the continued ad hominem attacks on Ted Wilson.
“Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.”

What reasoning is it you refer to? My post didn’t contain any reasoning, and instead just a statement of reality.

In any case, as @Harry_Elliott stated above, “If someone calls him despotic because he behaves like a despot, that’s an evaluation. Calling attention to despotism in the church violates no rules.”

Stating someone is a greedy person is an attack on their character. Saying that somone’s actions appear to be motivated by greed is an observation.

BTW, what’s your name?

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