The Use of Pillory and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church

(Spectrumbot) #1

The General Conference Administrative Committee voted on July 17, 2018 a document called “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions.” The document was prepared by the Unity Oversight Committee as a suggested way of dealing with Unions that do not follow voted actions of the Church (regarding women’s ordination).

The immediate backdrop is a document presented to the GC Annual Council in 2017, a document that was sent back to the committee. This new attempt will be sent to the General Conference and Division Officers Committee before it eventually reaches the GC Annual Council in October 2018.

One of the suggestions that is included in the document goes like this:

Public Reprimand—… the president of…unions…that have not complied with General Conference Executive Committee actions…may be given a public reprimand. Each time the union president exercises his right of voice to address the General Conference Executive Committee, the members will be informed that the speaker has been given a public reprimand.” (Emphasis added.)

What is the thinking behind such a proposal?

  • Is it an attempt to hinder members of the GC Executive Committee to use their right of voice?
  • Is it an attempt to have the other committee members disregard what is said — like a judge telling the jury to disregard part of what has been said during the legal process in a courtroom?

There may be other reasons for this suggestion. The two reasons suggested above do not give the impression that the committee has based the way of handling a dispute in the Church on a biblically based principle.

If it is to attempt hindering committee members to use their right of voice, it must be based on a thinking that involves shame and public humiliation. Are we back to the age of the pillory?

According to Wikipedia, the pillory was in use in the United States until 1901. “Governor Preston Lea finally signed a bill to abolish the pillory in Delaware in March 1905.” Wikipedia makes it clear why the pillory was used: “the main purpose in putting criminals in the pillory was to publicly humiliate them.”

Regardless of what the committee used as a rationale for this suggestion, it will be interpreted as an attempt to publicly humiliate a person. “While the pillory has left common use, the image remains preserved in the figurative use, which has become the dominant one, of the verb ‘to pillory’…meaning ‘to expose to public ridicule, scorn and abuse,’ or more generally to humiliate before witnesses.” (Wikipedia)

As a Church, do we find it acceptable to be associated with reintroducing a form of punishment that has been abolished by democratic governments? Do we find that Jesus used such a method during his ministry?

The New Testament asks us to be cautious in judging our fellow men. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, we find Jesus giving this advice:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ —John 8:7 (emphasis added).

Ellen White’s words in commenting on the greatest of all conflicts, Lucifer’s breaking of the law in heaven, seems to have been overlooked in the process of making the current document.

The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened” (DA 22).

Finn F. Eckhoff is Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Union.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons /

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Default Christianity
(Sam Geli) #2

I can see a day in the not too distant future where this verbal reprimand/disclaimer being suggested, could become a badge of honor. It seems that by labeling our loyal dissent we have begun to own it and begun the process of elevating it more than what it deserves. The Bible teaches us that if things/ideas come from God they will stand the test of time…whatever happened to:
“The best way to substantiate truth is to question it” ?


Finn E Eckhoff, Executive Secretary of the Norwegian Union

We love Norwegian Airlines with their stellar service and unbelievably low fares and travel with them frequently!

Your Norwegian analysis of the current brouhaha/brawl/ imbroglio in Adventistism is right on. Your pillory analogy is apt and apropro.

Women’s ordination should never have become a theological issue,since its underpinnings, pro and con, are fragile/frail/feeble/flimsy.

Misogyny versus respect for women is a cultural issue, pitting modern western peoples championing equality/egalitarianism/eqal opportunity, against African and South American cultures mired in machismo/patriarchialism…

Regrettably, our GC President, consumed with his heinous, heretical “headship” dogma, aligns himself with the tribal demographic.

What should have been a “storm in a teacup” has been whipped up into a foaming frenzy and has become a turbulent tsunami.

The optics of these abysmal antics do not play well to observers from other denominations.

The Methodists have been ordaining their women pastors since 1956!


Well, the Amish practice shunning. Other than that, what Christian denomination in the 21st century systematically reprimands their leaders in a planned fashion? Maybe this will become another “unique” tradition of the Church. Fundamental Belief number 29: the sacrament of penance and reconciliation? Oh wait, that one is already taken… and it’s even done in private.

(jeremy) #5

i don’t think the suggestion of a public reprimand is going to get very far…even the idea of stripping union presidents of their voice and vote, when all they’ve done is do their constitutional duty and follow their constituents’ votes, is a bit much, although i can see it passing AC2018 if nothing else materializes…

i think the best idea, heading into october, is the compliance review committees recommended by UOC, and voted affirmatively on july 17…what needs to happen is to have san antonio stand, but then have WO unions receive an exemption…the compliance review committee is the mechanism to do just that…

i don’t see much potential for a slippery slope with the compliance review committees…i think these committees would be mature enough to distinguish between non-compliance over a policy vs. non-compliance over an actual biblical doctrine, which i think would need to be handled differently…

(Peter) #6

Seems similar to childish name calling or boasting to me. What an immature way to deal with differences. What good will it accomplish? Certainly not “compliance”!

It reminds me of the “Scarlet Letter” story by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850). (In this story a woman is made to a wear scarlet letter meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity. The letter’s meaning shifts as time passes. Originally intended to mark the woman as an adulterer, the “A” eventually comes to stand for “Able.”)

(Tim Teichman) #7

No. Nor do I find it acceptable to be associated with a church that discriminates towards women on WO, and has in other ways for many decades until forced (screaming and kicking) by employment laws to stop, even while trying to claim in court that such laws don’t apply to them. In once instance the judge laughed at church attorneys and threatened them with contempt of court if they continued with such idiot arguments.

I’ll try not to let the door hit me on my way out.

(Harry Elliott) #8

The heart of our problem is the pretense that NT Christianity took the form of an heirarchical organiization or in any way authorized such. There is no evidence that Christians in one location had ecclesiastical authority over Christians in another. Where would they even get the idea? There was no Roman Catholic Church yet to imitate.

A factor in our unfortunate experiment with heirarchical despotisim is the widespread misreading of Acts 15 as the occasion of a church council in which Pope James decreed that Gentile Christians were not subject to the Old Testament Law (vs 24). His decision was correct theologically but not ecclresiastically. His announcement and letter promised that members of his congergation would cease “troubling” the diaspora with nomanism, not a papal bull giving them dispensaion. He denied that he had ever pretended to tell them what to do.

There simply was no “church council”-which would have implied some sort of obligation of uniformity and control–no invitations, no mention of delegates, no participants in the discussion except locals and Paul and Barnabus and a few Gentile converts they picked up along the way .

This all reminds me of an unhappy Roman Cathiolic priest who observed that Jesus had NOT said,
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have OBEYED one to another.”

(Thomas J Zwemer) #9

His father was conning but the federal courts got him and Glacier View Haunts Him. The son is just crude but not as Cunning, but he will either destroy the church or the church will destroy him. Imagine the church without the North American Division. it has already lost Europe.
He sure ain‘t going to get any Middle East oil money even though he did a tour in Egypt. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. SA will be a greater disappointment than 1844.

(Steve Mga) #10

Tom –
Maybe to use the words of FDR – “Infamy”!!

(2nd Opinion) #11

I am sickened by this proposal. It deserves to be defeated by even larger margins than the previous one for two reasons. 1) The use of public shaming has absolutely no biblical precedent or justification and is completely counter to the Spirit of Christ. It is a shameful suggestion that should be brought down by the GCEC with a resounding “No, never!” 2) The “research” on which this document is based is seriously flawed. Someone like David Trim, a former research fellow, is far too bright to do this sort of shoddy work. Time to return to you War Studies, David!


Like many of you I find this troubling especially as Church leaders should know better than to do this when so much warning and counsel has been provided against this type thinking and action.

Fundamentally such policies are born out fears such as loss of identity or ideological rightness, or control. This and other recent actions have all the earmarks of Moral Panic on the part of various individuals within the Church leadership.

What is the root source of this fear I wonder, is it the fear of losing cherished beliefs, fear of cultural forces that have caused many to reexamine these beliefs, loss of identity, loss of control over the level of thinking of members and which types of topics are the cause?

One thing is sure such actions have been taken by other churches in the past to control the clergy or others who have voice. Such reactionary policies tend to only harden the leadership, inflame passions and cause disillusionment. If there is suppression of opinion, open dialog, and examination of beliefs as new understanding of Bible truth comes to light from various sources, historically this causes reformation though not without casualty.

(reliquum) #13

When the Knower asks of you your soul, will the answer
“we religiously whited our holy sepulcher/church” be acceptable?

(Steve Mga) #14

“Unions receive an EXEMPTION from the GC”.
To accept THIS means one is Accepting the Idea that the GC has Control of
the Union!
Unions are autonomous and answerable only to their constituents when it comes
to certain issues.

(Allen Shepherd) #15

I am a bit surprised by then objections to this policy.

First, a verbal reprimand is sometimes required. I would do it as a last resort, but the Unions have been publically disregarding the vote of the GC in session, so a public reprimand really would be an appropriate first step

Second, the left, at least here in America has been using public humiliation for some time. Think of the name calling and disruption of of speakers on campus whom the left deams unacceptable. And the calls of “Shame! Shame!” that some Trump administrators have had to endure. And let me tell you, those on the right often hide their thinking for fear of reprisals.

So, why should not the GC use this quite effective strategy?

(Allen Shepherd) #16

The GC in session is the ultimate constituency meeting! The whole church is responsible to it! It took a vote, and some are ignoring the voice of the constitutents! So, what to do with those who refuse to go along with the constitutents?

What would you do with a group or person that refused the voice of the constituents?

(Allen Shepherd) #17

Jesus did say, if you love me you will keep my commandments. But what if members choose not to keep his commandments? And who decides what commandments are to be kept, and how?

I Cor 5 gives an example of commandments that were not kept and the result was one was asked to leave. I think it is a bit more nuanced that you make out.

(Tim Teichman) #18

Right. His commandments. There are two:

  • Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
  • Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

There’s just the two. Keep both.

Corinthians does not contain any commandments of Jesus.

(Allen Shepherd) #19

Paul reprimanded the church for not kicking a man out who had taken his step mother as wife. Liviticus 18. So, expelling one is not something that is out of bounds. And, Jesus mentioned such action in Matt 18.

And Jesus gave more commands than just the two you note. (Do as the Good Samaritan did, etc., Be servants to one another etc.)

(Tim Teichman) #20

You refereed to Jesus commandments.

The two are the ones widely considered Jesus commandments. Other statements made have generally not been put in the same category.