The Failings of Church Bureaucracy

I was sitting by a fire with my wife and some family members, and we were discussing the General Conference Compliance Committees created back in August, and the document approved at the 2018 GC Annual Council in October, as well as a few other bits of church politics.

We were knee deep into discussing how the findings of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) were not reported during the 2015 vote on women’s ordination, and a family member chimed in, “you know, it was so much simpler to grandpa—just believe.”

While initially I felt as though this was a bit reductive of the issues at hand, I realized that of the five committees: 1) General Conference Core Policies; 2) Doctrine, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines for Church Organizations and Institutions Teaching Creation/Origins; 3) Doctrine, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines Regarding Homosexuality; 4) Distinctive Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; and 5) Doctrine, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines Regarding Issues of Ordination, the final one is not even biblical. From these titles alone, one can gather that these committees are not made to ensure that progress is made, but rather that all conferences, unions, churches, schools, and individuals are working in compliance based on the church’s Working Policy document (and maybe the Bible).

I myself am a seventh generation Seventh-day Adventist. As far back as my family can remember, we have always been members of this church. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized more and more that many people involved directly with the church are more focused on how Christians should act, rather than Christ.

In a sense, the Bible is merely used as a preface for whatever our leadership wants to say, regardless of the context or overarching meaning of the Book. The same can be said for many members of our individual churches, where they see the Bible as the keycard to get into the social club with a cross on the top of it. When I was younger, we had just received a new pastor at our church. While he was preaching his first sermon, a sermon of acceptance, the congregation was quietly judging the pastor’s mother for wearing a certain type of earring, a too short skirt, and too much makeup. While her son was professing a gospel of acceptance for all people, the church was already shunning his own mother.

I do not wish to even hint that we should ignore the failings of our leadership in regards to these compliance committees or women’s ordination decisions, or several other points. However, I believe that the General Conference’s level of success or approval is directly related to how saved we as individual Christians are. If the entirety of the General Conference and all unions were to collapse and close, what would happen the very next Sabbath? The lights in our churches would still come on, a message would still be preached from the pulpit, and a potluck would still be served. What I mean to say is that the General Conference has no bearing on my, or your, salvation. I do not mean to be ignorant in dismissing their discrimination against ordaining female pastors, or their beliefs regarding LGBT+ members, but I do mean to say that the General Conference is not the end all.

While we should always strive to create the most Bible-based General Conference we can through votes, and the members installed, we must remember that in the end, the GC has no say in one’s salvation. It is disheartening that, as of now, the GC does not allow women’s ordination, and this should be changed. But until then, I have seen amazing women of God preaching from the pulpit, showing Christ to people, sometimes more effectively than men. While the GC has created a committee to monitor and enforce the education of creation in our schools, I have seen professors and students making great strides in evolutionary science regardless. The GC is quick to say that these compliance committees don’t enforce anything, they only investigate and recommend, but recommend what? Why create something that’s sole purpose is to examine and make decisions on what it deems “out of compliance” if it would only “recommend” to some that they are out of compliance? Statistics show that over 80% of the world unions are already out of compliance, so what other purpose would the committees serve if not to take action? While the GC forbids practicing members of the LGBT+ community to be a part of the congregation, I have met many closeted members who contribute so much to the body of Christ and suffer in silence.

In 1909, at the age of 81, Ellen White attended what would be her last General Conference meeting. The meeting was held in Washington, D.C. As the day was closing and the final meetings had adjourned, she felt as though this would be her last time to meet with the body of the General Conference’s world representatives. Ellen walked up to the pulpit, and opened the Bible lying on it. She lifted it as high as she could and told the audience, “Brethren and sisters, I commend unto you this book.”1 After speaking that single sentence, “she turned from the pavilion. Her last message to the world delegates sounded the keynote of all her life and testimony.”2

The final message of our founding prophet was to focus on Scripture. She did not remind the congregation of world church leaders that they needed to unify under the outlined and GC-approved belief system. She did not tell us to constantly affirm any single one of our teachings. The final words of a woman who guided our church from a broken band of Millerites into a passionate worldwide church was to simply focus on the Bible.

All of this is to say that I do believe that the General Conference is out of line in its votes and practices, but the writer of Hebrews had it right, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, ESV).

We must be a socially conscious people, always advocating for those marginalized and discriminated against, and forever strive for a leadership that as closely as possible imitates the perfection of Christ. But we should also remember that in the end, the General Conference is man-made, just as all non-profit organizations are.

Notes & References:


2. W.A. Spicer, Certainties of the Advent Movement, p. 202.

Hayden Scott is pursuing his Masters in Mental Health Counseling. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife, two dogs, cat, and soon to be baby girl.

Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

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  1. Doctrine, Policies, Statements, and Guidelines Regarding Issues of Ordination, the final one is not even biblical.
    I am not sure who to address but I would ask if you consider Bishops/overseers as a biblical position? 1 Tim. 3:1-7. Is there some specific aspect you are opposed to or no person/persons of authority in a congregation?

George, Elmer I see a “Friend Indeed” here.

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Who we are as followers of Jesus has much to do with whether or not we are willing to accept any church structure that reeks of injustice or lack of mercy. There is a stark difference between those who are complicit with injustice and those who are willing to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes”. Our status as saved persons is not in jeopardy by decisions of the General Conference, but our status as saved persons does demonstrate itself in our (in)ability to accept those decisions.


Thanks for the clarification.
Biblical overseers/bishops are biblical positions of responsibility. I just think sometimes we damage our credibility by generalizing statements of non “biblical” often to support our particular issues. As a bystander, I don’t see where the GC has gotten the power to make edicts for the whole world…which still doesn’t negate the need for local leadership and “some authority” associated with it. Even that authority might be called upon at times to disfellowship but that doesn’t affect one’s ultimate salvation which is only One’s to give.


What a fine way to begin Sabbath. Thank you!


Misleading piece
In the end can our church ADMINISTRATION . Then let me use a medical term administer error . If there (GC) conscience and fear of god to keep to GC VOTE vs own will.

Egw situation was a flip off the coin
So if egw went to NAD meeting and protested by holding up the BIBLE .

We like to paint a image in these articles to how we want to see the situation

Sorry if i offended anyone

I will add PAULS advice to TIMOTHY to get circumcised.
My thoughts are this could hinder our world outreach to biggest cities in the world and they a patriarch systems compared to our west culture.

Ps I used circumsission just a parable

Simon, you did’t offend us because we couldn’t understand what you were saying except you didn’t like the article. By contrast, I thought it was great. Hayden Scott for G.C. President!


Hayden Scott
Are few starting a campain . Why someone from NAD why not ZAMBIA africa

I can live with people who can disagree with me, as long as we still are family. In my family, we are five brothers, two “non believers”, one reverend, one Muslim and one Adventist. We all as different as it can be, yet we are brothers.
It is true that all the rules in the world, can’t change the heart of a person, just as God is the most power being in the universe, yet God cannot and will not coerce people into being good or following Him. Our primary source of inspiration is the example of Jesus the Christ ( God ), what was He about and how did He go about doing it. He included everyone who was willing, not only the clean but also the unclean, young and old, male and female, yet many people ignore this, because it means that God is merciful and compassionate, and that is just not kosher.
Now I challenge everyone, especially those who are not from NAD, to ask their union and conference for their constitutions, then see how little authority the constitutency has, actually almost none, and then read that our church was found on a principal which God gave EG White, separation of authority, each component section is responsible to their constitutency, and none can force the others hand.


Amen. Those who say or do nothing are just as guilty. I worked in the South African Security Forces during the apartheid regime, it was difficult, but I did my best to help and treat people with dignity and respect.


I’d have to be able to figure out what you mean in order to be offended. Perhaps if you edit your post to use correct syntax and punctuation it will be understandable and then we’ll be offended.


Sure, why not?! But I don’t think we know what you’re writing about. Someone for what?


Yes, it is very unfortunate that the GC is out of compliance with the rest of the Divisions.
It is my understanding that their original primary focus is the world mission field.
Once the GC recognizes it is too bureaucratic the better it will be for the spread of the gospel.
Point well taken that by and large if there was no GC the rest of the church and its entities would
function without it except mission employees and institutions under their jurisdiction, but no doubt they can be
absorbed into divisions and unions.


As the story of creation goes, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” [Gen. 3:1


Try to consider the General Conference President as the conductor of a large orchestra. He sets the tempo of music written by a composer maybe centuries before. He tries to bring that alive not rewrite it. Chopin is still Chopin. It seems that Ted views himself as a composer not a conductor. What a discord he has produced. Seems he prefers the brass and horns. KHe would be thrown out of even a disco.
My guess is that soon people will be trearing up their season tickets.


We have 2 theological views based on conscience without going to deep.

Education on the situation
I listened to this yesterday

As you know, Elder Ted Wilson is not that much different to several of the last GC Presidents—Elder Robert Pierson, Elder Neal Wilson, Elder Robert Folkenberg. They were all traditional. They each sided with the right-wing agitators in the denomination and were against doctrinal advancement. Despite evidence of traditional error and a need to be honest and truthful, admit we were wrong and change our preaching and teaching, these men were never going to change the brand of Adventism one iota. Ted has just gone further than the others and openly associated with the right-wing traditionalists, whereas his forebears only supported by correspondence.Ted is likely to be replaced eventually with someone similar. This has always been the way in Adventism, and there is so much support that it is difficult to see that it can change humanly speaking.


As in the article on the EXCOM, I am sure there ADCOM is not representative of the world membership. If both were reorganized on this basis, south and interamerica and Africa would comprise the majority. It then makes sense to locate the GC in a low cost area of these with support staff from same. Righting the imbalance would result in tremendous savings in personnel costs at the GC. Other than in terms of tithe, NAD is just a minor part of the SDA church with negligible role and influence.

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GC presidents should not come from the NAD in the foreseeable future! Only from Africa or central or South America.