The Family of North America — NAD Year-end Meetings Day 4


(Spectrumbot) #1

The fourth day of the 2018 North American Division Year-end Meetings, on Sunday, November 4, began with the much-anticipated discussion on the General Conference Annual Council, and specifically the voted compliance document on “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Executive Committee Actions.” But those holding their breath, waiting to see how the NAD will respond to the GC will have to wait a little longer.

NAD President Dan Jackson set the tone for the discussion right away, reminding the delegates whether we agree or disagree, everyone is to be treated with dignity and respect. "This discussion this morning is a family discussion. We are part of the Seventh-day Adventist world church family." It’s not about any one person getting their way, it’s about what’s best for the North American Division, he said.

Jackson said the NAD officers had discussed bringing a prepared document to be voted today, and many had encouraged them to do so, but he continued, “We don't believe in coming before you as leadership and saying ‘WE decided and let's pray and vote.’” He tasked the delegates that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they would come to a conclusion on how to move forward.

He suggested a writing committee be formed who would record the suggestions discussed and then create a proposed recommendation based on those, returning it to the body later in the week for vote. This motion passed, and then discussion on who should serve on the writing committee commenced, with Jackson recommending that representatives from each level of governance serve (unions, conferences, churches, lay persons, higher education). The following recommendations were voted:

Kyoshin Ahn, NAD undersecretary John Freedman, North Pacific Union president Celeste Ryan Blyden, Columbia Union vice president Sandra Roberts, Southeastern California Conference president Leslie Pollard, Oakwood University president Daniel Honore, Northeastern Conference president Ashton Hardin, La Sierra University student president Randy Roberts, Loma Linda University Church senior pastor Debbie Jackson, lay member from Denver, Colorado

After voting that speeches by delegates be kept to two minutes, the discussion began.

Gordon Bietz started things off by reading a statement from the college and university presidents:

Several individuals including Southern Adventist University President David Smith and Nevada-Utah Conference President Leon Brown expressed concern over the impact on the church’s youth, who are witnessing disagreements within the church body and unchristian responses to conflict, and are choosing to walk away because of it. “I’m concerned about our young people. We need them more than ever before and this document sends the wrong signal,” said Brown.

Matthew Hanson, Southwestern Adventist University student president, appealed to the delegates to listen to the youth of the church, and to learn from them: “We did not only send men; we did not only send women [as student delegates]. We sent men and women of diverse backgrounds working together to not further the work of our denomination, but to be the ones to finish it.”

"What can I tell my students who are leaving our schools or changing their majors because they don't see their future in the church?" asked Burman University student president Tchiana Augustin.

Many talked about the discrimination against women within our church, and the fact that this is a matter of conscience. Larry Blackmer, NAD vice president, pointed out that whether you agree with ordination for women or not, the GC’s compliance document is being used as a weapon against ALL women in the church: women elders, pastors, secretaries, etc., are being asked to step down because of the way the document is being used by some within the church.

Debbie Jackson, a lay member who was also a delegate at Annual Council, said it was striking to her the lack of women who were on the GC Executive Committee. "I'm not speaking for all women, but I'm speaking for the women who have contacted me... they feel very oppressed...very hurt." I always tells my granddaughter she can be anything she wants to be — ANYTHING, Jackson continued. "I don't want to have to tell her she can be anything she wants to be, unless she wants to be an ordained minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church."

Columbia Union President Dave Weigley called the fact that the church allows women to be pastors, but only ordained pastors (men) can be conference/union presidents “pure discrimination.” I never planned to lead a union that would go against the world church body, but my union constituents voted in 2012 to ordain women, he said. “Unions are responsible for their mission...we will continue to advance mission in the Columbia Union, and we will do what is right.”

Still others spoke to the need to return to the mission of Jesus Christ, and that this discussion on unity and non-compliance within the world church body was distracting from what we are called by God to do, which is lead souls to Christ. Dan Linrud, Oregon Conference president countered by saying, "There is no place for human caste systems in the ministry of service….This is not a distraction from mission, this IS our mission...we have been called to this time, this place, for this purpose" to support equality.

Ron Carlson, president of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference, said that though this started as a discussion on women’s ordination, it has now turned into an entire structural discussion — we have slowly moved from a bottom-up system of governance to a top-down hierarchical system, and we need to return to our original constituency-based model, where authority rests with those in the pews.

Neil Biloff, president of the Dakota Conference, and Dean Coridan, president of the Iowa-Missouri Conference, echoed Carlson’s sentiments with an appeal to a return to our Protestant roots. "I suggest the document is usurped authority. The General Conference had no place to even discuss it,” said Coridan.

Marc Woodsen, Northern California Conference president, and Randy Roberts, Loma Linda University Church senior pastor, both expressed their concern that people are conflating policy and votes with the Bible. Woodsen read the entirety of Fundamental Belief 14 which speaks to the equality in Christ of men and women. Roberts said, "There is an increasing tendency to conflate policy, Bible doctrine, and votes... to equate these is deeply troubling." He continued, saying, “A document like this cannot create spiritual unity. It may create organizational structural uniformity, but it will not create spiritual unity.” Roberts then said he counted the number of times the word “compliance” appeared in the 3-page voted document (25 times). He then searched the Bible for that word, and found it wasn’t used even once. He decided to search the Bible for the word “comply” which he found does appear once: "Mordecai refused to comply," read Roberts from Esther 3:4.

Stewart Pepper, Pittsburgh Church pastor, also read a portion of FB 14 and said we shouldn’t have a policy in place that contradicts our fundamental beliefs.

Todd Pascoe, a lay member from the Oregon Conference, said the fact that God chose a woman to lead this church as its prophet should lead our decisions going forward. God could have given the Spirit of Prophecy to William Miller or James White, or any other man, but he gave it to Ellen, said Pascoe.

Vanessa Pujic, vice president at Maplewood Academy and former pastor, said it is shameful for church leaders to continue to inflict wounds on a portion of the church body that is already so disenfranchised. “It is time to let the scales fall from our eyes and bear witness to the Spirit of God falling on our sons and our daughters.”

Dave Ferguson, senior pastor of Collegedale Church, said it fills him with shame when members of his congregation ask why they were not visited by a “real” pastor (when visited by a female pastor), and he feels complicit when he has to explain the difference between commissioned and ordained. “I’m not ok with that,” he said. He named the women leaders who had been instrumental in his education and pastoral work, and then spoke directly to the female theology majors at Southern Adventist University. “You are my equals,” he said, and then appealed to his two daughters to please be patient with the church. “I would lay down my life for you, and I would lay down my ordination for you.” We’re at a tipping point in this church, where when we look back we may see that our young men and our young women left because we discriminated in a way that was ungodly, he concluded.

Across the board, delegates struggled with staying within their allotted two minutes, and several were overcome with emotion at the personal impact this vote has had on so many.

After all who wanted to were able to state their case, Jackson called for prayer and then allowed individuals one minute to come back up to the mic and succinctly state a specific action they’d like to see included in the recommendation the writing committee will create. Over 30 delegates came forward with ideas that reiterated what had already been discussed. Juan Prestol-Puesan, GC treasurer, appealed to the committee to be very careful with wording and “go slow with language that may indicate separation.” He reminded the delegates that he served in the NAD for 25 years before taking his position at the GC. “I voted for women’s ordination three times,” he added. Jackson assured Prestol there would be nothing in the written document that talked of the NAD separating from the GC. That will not happen as long as I am the president, said Jackson.

Undersecretary Ahn asked when the writing committee was expected to return with its recommendation, and Jackson asked them to try for Monday afternoon.

After the lunch break, the afternoon session was taken up with brief reports from Adventist Review Ministries, Literature Evangelism, Multilingual Ministries (including Muslim, Jewish, Hispanic, and immigrant/refugee ministries), Philanthropic Services for Institutions, and a report on the Future of Adventist Higher Education Summit that was held this past summer. But the delegates didn’t seem to be able to recapture the energy of the morning.

There are two full days of meetings left, and the major item on the docket for Monday — in addition to the writing committee’s task — is the Treasurer’s Report, which could lead to a discussion on creating tithe parity between the NAD and the other world divisions.

WATCH the Sunday morning discussion on compliance at the NAD Year-end Meetings:

More videos from the NAD Year-end Meetings available on the NAD website here.

Further Reading:

Day 1 NAD Year-end Meetings (President's Report)

Day 2 NAD Year-end Meetings (Secretary's Report)

Day 3 NAD Year-end Meetings (Sabbath)

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org

Image: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9179

(jeremy) #2

this is obviously a difficult moment for our division…i think the fact that the GC rep, juan prestol-puesan, appealed to the committee to avoid wording suggesting separation means that this very definitely is what some are thinking…and DJ’s assertions to the contrary, the idea of separation may be out of his hands…


(Elmer Cupino) #3

I would suggest to the contrary. The wording should reflect the full and unapologetic intent of the NAD mission, not what will appease the GC. These are two different animals. Once the positions have been staked, then negotiations can begin in earnest. Otherwise, what is there to negotiate?


(jeremy) #4

you’ve got a point, elmer…and if staking positions clearly reveals that there isn’t enough to negotiate, we’re probably better off knowing that sooner, rather than later…


(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

NAD stands for North American Division. The word division now has double meaning. Wonder of wonders that gender would be so divisive. The life they lead, the words that they share, the commitment they demonstrate, the education they have received and the life they have dedicated. Are the reason they should receive the recognition by the laying on of senior hands, gender aside. Gonadal theology is bunk.The proper issue is not who but what.


(George Tichy) #6

I fully agree. This is not a moment for any representative form the GC to come and warn the NAD with language like this, "go slow with language that may indicate separation.” What did he mean with that, that there could be “grave consequences?” Or did it indicate his (the GC terasurer) concerns with a possible cut in funds from the NAD?

There is no room for “going slow.” There is actually an urgency to “go fast,” because the GC is most probably working on a very aggressive plan of attack, ready to start a true inquisition.

By the way, the GC never follows that rule of “going slow” with their language, or their politicking. Why are they recommending it to others? Just another case of hypocrisy???


(Pierre-Paul Legault) #7

Fascinating. Of the nine members of the “writing” committee, seven are paid employees of the church. Tithe dollars at work writing reports, letters, memoranda and position papers. The fictional Sir Humphry Appelbee as permanent undersecretary for the Minister of Administrative Affairs couldn’t have done better.


(Peter Marks) #8

This was a discussion worth having! The tone of the discussion was very acceptable. The chairmanship was superb. Dan Jackson very neatly laid out the perimeters of the whole thing and the tone was set in an expert way.

Several things disappointed however.

  1. Though I see huge deficiencies in the document under discussion there was little attempt to encourage those who felt more positively toward it to feel secure. Perhaps if there had been one dedicated microphone for those in support of the document they may have felt more able to speak and less intimidated.

  2. The writing committee did seem so heavily weighed with those who have proved themselves champions of the majority view of the document. Perhaps if qualified individuals with the required literary skills could have been found to give voice within the writing committee to the view of a sizeable but near silent minority (or so it seems) in the NAD, then the finished product would carry more weight with the GC.

  3. When the NADYEM 18 is compared with the GCEC 18 discussion of the document, I feel I detect that the NAD discussion was the less wide ranging and less comprehensive. (I appreciated the overall tone of the NAD discussion much more but I doubt that it was as heavy hitting as the GC discussion. Perhaps there was more passion expressed in the NAD Meeting).

The overreach of the GC with this new policy was only lightly touched on. Ditto, the hierarchical and authoritarian and centralised nature of the system it creates.

The writing committee need to produce a document that accurately represents the mood and the best thinking of the NAD.

But more important than this we need a document that appeals to the world field to see the issues from the NAD perspective. An acknowledgement that the NAD is not a monolithic block on this issue needs to be made.


(jeremy) #9

i think DJ is walking a bit of a tightrope…as division president, he is obviously a GC vice president, supposedly committed to GC policies…so if the writing committee produces something that suggests or threatens separation, and he signs it, i don’t think TW would hesitate to remove him…

as i understand it, divisions have no constituency, and DJ wasn’t elected…i don’t think he has any protection from TW…he could be facing unemployment…he could be the first casualty from battle creek…

i’m also starting to think that juan prestol-puesan, being GC treasurer, may have been sent to NAD’s YEM to keep NAD’s tithe in the GC fold…


(Elmer Cupino) #10

There are other possibilities. Should DJ be terminated by TW, NAD could hire him as a consultant. No reason to have a person with all the wisdom and knowledge like DJ go to waste, assuming he takes to heart the mission of the NAD. He will have to cut clean his umbilical cord to the GC.


(Peter Marks) #11

I think your comments contain a great deal of speculation. Can we stick to facts please.

The fact is that Dan Jackson did little wrong in the NAD discussion.

The other fact is that the writing committee have a duty to produce a document that has power both to present the NAD majority perspective on the document as well as being able to persuade the world field of the appropriateness of their concerns.

DJ was elected by the GC Session. The GC Session Nominating Committee is composed of 13 Division caucuses which recommend their respective officers to the full committee which ratify the names before these names are presented to and voted on the floor of the GC Session.

The NAD has no constituency of its own for it is part of the GC constituency, as is every other Division. The South Pacific Division (formerly known till 1985 as the Australasian Division) was organised circa 1950 from the Australasian Union Conference which was based on the home fields of Australia and New Zealand but also included the island nations of the Pacific. From circa 1950 to 1990 the Division had its own constituency session. This was an anomaly.


(jeremy) #12

but not by a tithe-paying constituency…


(Thomas J Zwemer) #13

His father fought against challenges to Dan 8:14 and Challenges to Ellen White. Now the son draws a line in the sand over gender. Believe it or not, Colin Standish agrees with Ted. Viewed by a bystander it is folly but not funny.,


(Peter Marks) #14

The GC constituency is a tithe paying constituency. The percentage of tithe that the GC receives is used for the work of administration and also it is redistributed to needy fields.

Each Division has Year End Meetings around this time. People from GC Presidential, Secretariat and Treasury fan out in 13 different directions to attend these meetings. That is why Dr Stele, Juan Prestol etc attend the NADYEM’s. It makes sense that Prestol should be assigned to the NAD as he was serving in the NAD office for so many years. Specific individuals from the GC Officer teams are also assigned to specific Divisions for the quinqennium.

If my sources are correct the GC Treasury has been anticipating a sizeable tithe loss for several years now and are well prepared for it.


(George Tichy) #15

I bet you are 99.9999% sure of this, as I am, right?.. :wink:


(George Tichy) #16

IF ONLY…

If only we had the GC leadership in the hand of people who are not supporters of discrimination of women, who are not thirsty of total control of power, who are more committed to the Church & the Gospel than to their own EGOs… If only…

Just imagine how different the scenario in our Church could be right now. The Church is as disturbed as our country. All because of disturbing leaderships! Will it ever change? What do the readers think?


(Sam Matthews) #17

For those who think the “Writing Committee” has come up with something groundbreaking, it is really just a summary of what was said by some on Sunday. If you listened to what Randy Roberts said, he pretty much just wrote it down. No talk about separation but some language about exploring options if compliance committees actually take action - because the truth is nobody really knows how they will work.

It basically echoes the Pacific Union statement and carries no more weight than a resolution. It’s actually shorter than I thought it would be.

Nothing about LGBTQ rights but that’s to be expected from this body.


(jeremy) #18

this is the first time i’ve ever heard this…i’ve always heard that the GC and its divisions, unlike unions and conferences, don’t have their own tithe paying constituency…that’s why the GC and its divisions are dependent on tithe being forwarded from local churches through conferences and unions…

lol…why else was prestol-puesan at NAD’s YEM…he made a strong point of the fact that he was a NAD employee for 25 yrs, and that he voted for WO three times, as if we’re not supposed to notice that he’s now the GC treasurer…

i honestly will be very surprised if NAD doesn’t reduce the percentage of tithe it forwards to the GC…it’s the only hand we have left…i’ll also be surprised if the writing committee doesn’t come up with something that hints at separation from the GC…the combination of san antonio and battle creek has been too egregious for everything to go on as usual…


(Peter Marks) #19

Jeremy,

The G.C. Session is the constituency meeting of the General Conference just as the respective Union Conference Session is the constituency meeting of the Union Conference and likewise for Conference constituencies. Conferences tithe to their Unions and Unions to their Divisions. The Divisions tithe to the General Conference. The General Conference disperses its tithe for its administration and some also to the world field. I don’t see what you are getting at.

The constituents of the world field are at one and the same time are constituents of their Conference and of the General Conference, and also of their respective Union.

Divisions are all aggregates of the G.C., so they have no constituencies of their own.

Those who propose that the Divisions join in a lose confederation of regional Adventist churches are just adding one more layer of hierarchy. This is completely unnecessary.


(2nd Opinion) #20

As we have now seen, Prestol fumbled the ball badly, insulting the committee and all but ensuring the vote for equalization in 2-3 years. The GC has yet to understand what it has unleashed. Any move against Jackson at this point would certainly split the church right in two.