Union Conference Presidents Declare the Basis for Their Unity

When the union conference presidents were summoned to a meeting at the General Conference on January 19 to discuss the governance issue surrounding women’s ordination, they spoke in a united voice of their support of women’s ordination while acknowledging “a significant minority of members who oppose ordaining women.”

Their statement of unity begins with the ways in which they stand united with the world church such as being fully committed to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. Their convictions on the governance issues of the church follow and the first item on that list is that “We believe the Holy Spirit calls both men and women into ministry and we see no clear biblical mandate against ordaining women.” They also acknowledge no consensus within the church on the issue. But they end by saying that the GC is dangerously overreaching its authority and potentially endangering the current and future unity and mission of the church.

In addition to the Union Conference Presidents, those at the meeting included the North American Division officers and vice presidents, General Conference President Ted Wilson, Secretary G.T. Ng, Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesan, assistants to the GC President Mark Finley, and Mike Ryan. It was described as an informal meeting, a time to listen to each other and pray together. Future meetings are outlined in the process voted at Annual Council in 2016.

The full text of their unity statement follows:

Dear General Conference Leadership,

As union presidents, we have spent much time in individual and collective prayer over the future of our church driven by implications of governance revolving around women's ordination. We bring the following assurances of our strong personal and collective unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

WE ARE UNITED WITH THE WORLD CHURCH IN THE FOLLOWING:

a. We are fully committed to all of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs b. Bringing our Remnant Message to a dying world is our top priority c. The partnership of the North American Division with all our sister world divisions is important for both the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and for our own spiritual health d. We affirm the recent TOSC "Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination" e. We affirm the necessity in finding the best spiritual/missional resolutions to the challenges of unity we face in order to remove challenges to our mission

WE AS UNION PRESIDENTS ARE UNIFIED IN OUR CONVICTIONS REGARDING THE FOLLOWING GOVERNANCE ISSUES OF THE CHURCH REGARDING THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AND MINISTRY

1. We believe the Holy Spirit calls both men and women into ministry and we see no clear biblical mandate against ordaining women

a. A vast majority of quality conservative Adventist theologians favor ordaining women b. After a lengthy study, two thirds of the General Conference TOSC concluded a way forward to ordaining women

2. We see no consensus within the church regarding women's ordination

a. after 40 years of study and deliberation, we have not found agreement on this issue b. The 2015 GC floor vote over division options to ordain, while a small majority, revealed a very divided World Church on this issue c. Prior to the 2015 GC Session, nine of the 13 divisions' TOSC outcomes stated at least some openness to the option of ordaining women

3. North American Division support for women's ordination

a. Quantified votes in some unions and conferences and our personal general observations of the membership within our unions reveal a grass roots support for women's ordination. This ranges from strong support in some unions, modest majorities in others and opposition in a few conferences b. An inclusive NAD survey taken in 2014 of conference, union and division leadership revealed a 90%-plus approval of women's ordination c. The North American Division TOSC report was presented at the 2014 Year-end Meeting and was approved with a vote of 178 yes, 6 no, 8 abstaining d. While we acknowledge a significant minority of members who oppose ordaining women, we reject the validity of surveys taken by independent ministries that claim a majority opposition exists in North America

4. Within the context of our Adventist Religious Liberty DNA we acknowledge the conscientious convictions of both sides of this issue and the need to find a way forward

a. We reject the notion that women's ordination is a simple liberal vs. conservative issue. Many deeply conservative and loyal Adventists are convicted that women should have full parity with men in ministry

5. Since the rejection of the E-60 request, we have been very distracted from mission and need to move forward

6. We believe the GC is dangerously overreaching its authority and potentially endangering the current and future unity and mission of the church (see SOP below)

a. Authorized documents and processes leading up to and during the 2016 Annual Council revealed an intent or openness to dealing with some unions with an extreme, punitive approach b. Responding to violations of policy or voted actions with similar consequences to a doctrinal violation creates a dangerous precedent that is inconsistent with Adventist/Protestant beliefs and practices and undermines the sanctity of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs, which are the foundation of our missional unity c. Non-doctrinal issues on which we have no consensus are not a basis for splitting the church d. We further believe pursuing severe punitive actions against unions will stimulate additional movement toward embracing the ordination of women (there is significant pressure in additional unions to move forward) e. The North American Division is the entity that should work with any NAD unions considered out of compliance according to existing policy

PRINCIPLES FROM ELLEN WHITE

Forced Agreement

"We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. Satan can sow discord; Christ alone can harmonize the disagreeing elements. Then let every soul sit down in Christ's school and learn of Christ, who declares Himself to be meek and lowly of heart. Christ says that if we learn of Him, worries will cease and we shall find rest to our souls" (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Release, 11, 266).

"The unity of belief in the church is not forced by the church coming together and the majority defining the creed to be believed. The church cannot define doctrine, nor make laws for itself or anybody else. The church of Christ is made up of all who obey the Lord's commands, not a body to issue commands. The Head directs, the body obeys. God speaks; each one must listen to His voice, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and no one can give faith to another. 'It is the gift of God'" (PTUK July 29, 1897).

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7855
8 Likes

This statement gives me much hope and represents the best in our church as we see our leaders stand for what their conscience tells them is right. I hope it is a sign that we will someday be able to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, while accepting that we are all at different places in our journey of faith.

23 Likes

I call this unity! Whether you agree with or like this statement, how can you deny that it demonstrates unity? Praise God for this hopeful development. If Elder Wilson (I still want to refer to him respectfully) ignores this it will be a tragic mistake. I would not be surprised, though, if he finds this statement / development inconvenient. To ignore the unity of the NAD union conference presidents would be a very divisive choice, I believe. I pray for Elder Jackson because appears to be in an extremely challenging position between Elder Wilson and his NAD unions.

How much longer must this issue continue to distract the church in North America and the GC leadership? Elder Wilson now has a clear answer and it seems that the choice to support or deny/defy unity is put to him. I wonder who on his “team” will see this unity in the NAD and "stand for the right though [Ted Wilson] disagrees, even at their own risk.

24 Likes

Wow! I stand corrected! Here I thought (even though i know Pastor Dan Jackson and that he is a man of integrity) that the NAD would eventually acquiesce to the tight fist of the GC. Like Daniel they took a stand and called out the GC for how they have been behaving: Like the right fisted legalistic, my way or the highway Sanhedrin of old. Good on them.

“Non-doctrinal issues on which we have no consensus are not a basis for splitting the church”

That says it all. As 1) there is no concensus (not even with the TOSC documents) and conservative and liberal alike in the church stand on both sides of the issue and are not polarized and 2) ordination is not biblical and 3) that there is no discrimination in the Bible in Christ rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile) therefore the GC has no right to make this an issue to crucify ‘dissenters’ and split the church. To do so is nothing more than stubborn resistance to anyone challenging Ted Wilson, as well as continual pressure from patriarchal countries and divisions in our church who’s culture interprets the way the Bible should read instead of making this an issue that should be decided division by division.

Now the gauntlet has been laid down, though I’m sure this was not the NAD’s intention. Nonetheless, I cannot see the GC backing down from this. They’d lose too much face. What will their reaction be? Christlike or Sanhedrin. This could get messy

20 Likes

Yes!!! We have a statement from all the union presidents!

Kudos to them for using straightforward evidence, documentation, and common sense. They are all together.

The union presidents put the responsibility for divisiveness directly on the shoulders on the G.C. president. If the church divides, it will be because he pushed it.

@kd5lnn

Tim,

I read your posting below with great interest. It seems you’ve picked up somewhere that when women use their spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, they are somehow being worldly. How can that be?

It has already happened. Spirit filled women of God have been affirmed by their congregations and authorized in the name of Jesus to serve using their pastoral gifts.

Study the ordained women in China and their Spirit leadership that have brought thousands and thousands to Christ. You would never want to accuse them of being worldly when their entire lives, passions, talents and gifts are poured out in Christ’s service, would you? Thousands and thousands of precious souls in China lost? I can’t grasp that you would wish that.

Study EGW’s career as an ordained pastor. She said the Lord Himself ordained her. She was gifted by the Holy Spirit also with gifts for a geographic area at a special time in history.

Let’s NOT hold back the Spirit in these last days.

Wonderful sisters of yours are already serving Christ in selfless surrender to Him. How could you disparage them and discourage their gifted service?

@DV2000,

You call discrimination against women proof for God being a God of order?

23 Likes

It is heartening to see the North American Union Conference Presidents stand shoulder to shoulder with the seminary faculty, several American SDA university religion faculties, the South Pacific Division, the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee,the Friedensau Adventist University administration and faculty, the Norwegian Union Conference, the Upper Columbia Conference,the Netherlands Union Conference, the Swedish Union of Churches Conference, the Belgian-Luxembourg Conference,the Czecho-Slovakian Union Conference, the Franco-Belgian Union, and others…

25 Likes

Thankyou Union Conference presidents for your wisdom and your courage!
You are standing tall!
I hope that Elder Wilson will see the light before he does irreparable harm to my church.

28 Likes

This is one of the best statements I have seen on this issue in a very long time. Praise God! We must not allow ourselves to be distracted. Our focus is to be on evangelism and mission. Hopefully, as this issue gains resolution, we can all get back to doing God’s work as men and women who are called according to His purpose.

18 Likes

Bonnie states – “Future meetings are outlined in the process voted at Annual Council in 2016.”

I DO NOT SEE that ANY FURTHER meetings are needed!!. The Unions have spoken. They
stated their Religious [bible and Ellen White] Reasons for their United beliefs.
For me, There Is NOTHING more to say to the General Conference Brethren.
Perhaps, Adios Amigos.
Time for the Union Conference and the North American Division Presidents to go back to work.
If there is a repeat call to meet, send them the the Bible Text – We are TOO BUSY to come down.
It is also an AWFUL WASTE of member hard earned Tithe Monies.
Monies from persons on a very limited income. Persons sweating, working at minimum wage and
only 29 hours a week paying their Tithe. It is an INSULT to them to WASTE THEIR MONEY making any further fruitless meetings to D.C. when they could be done by Internet.
And they could have group prayer on the Internet.
[they just wouldnt be able to stand in a circle and hold hands]

23 Likes

The response of the Union presidents very much reminds me of the “Protest of the Princes” chapter of the Great Controversy. . . May God strengthen these men who are willing to “Stand for the right though the heaven’s fall.”

23 Likes

TW will be GC president for 3+ more yrs…it’s almost certain that someone pro-WO will be nominated to succeed him…if TW launches punitive measures against PUC, a very lengthy court case will certainly exceed 3+ yrs…this means a new GC president can come in and call a halt to court proceedings before any verdict is finalized…

honestly, i’m not losing sleep over anything that’s happening in our church…what one president can do, the next president can come in and undo…after-all, look at all the changes trump is bringing in that undoes what obama did…all NAD has to do now is kick the can down the road long enough for a new GC president to come in…

3 Likes

Except…except for the damage done to individuals in the interim. I fear for the young, and for the inexperienced, to whom all the flapping and twirling in the gales of controversy is just so much worthless energy wasted. They have better things to do with their time and energy than give any more to such a venture.

So, yes…I do lose sleep over the whole issue.

However, I’m encouraged over this unity from the Union Presidents. They are standing in the authority granted to the Unions, for which the Unions were formed in 1901. May God strengthen and encourage them!

25 Likes

Thank you Bonnie Dwyer for your excellent work. After checking other Seventh-day Adventist sites online, I did not see any similar report about this dramatic and impeccable Statement. I am reminded once again why I donate to Spectrum.

22 Likes

This is a beautiful thing.

11 Likes

We admire your honesty and courage, Union Conference Presidents! Thank-you, and Godspeed.

14 Likes

First of all this is a statement, not just a collection of platitudes (after a rather ritualized opening). Friends and foes can read what the unions stand for in all desirable clarity.

Secondly it is a confession of faith of sorts, akin to similar confessions of the reformers who where summoned by the one and only church then - which also was seeking nothing but unity.

Thirdly - and this is where many will disagree, it is a document of faith, hope and love, standing firm in belief, opening new perspectives for all believers (male and female) without falling into the temptation of belittling, deprecating or demonizing those who have different views.

27 Likes

I dont understand…there is something fishy about this statement…something doesnt sound right…the way you are reporting this I feel is a little deceptive. You have mentioned Pr Wilson as if he was involved in this document at the meetings and he agrees with it…he does not. You have not indicated which Union Presidents these are but we know it was just the NAD presidents which then begs the question of the integrity of the document. Wilson would never be a part of this.

Forced Agreement

“We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. Satan can sow discord; Christ alone can harmonize the disagreeing elements. Then let every soul sit down in Christ’s school and learn of Christ, who declares Himself to be meek and lowly of heart. Christ says that if we learn of Him, worries will cease and we shall find rest to our souls” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Release, 11, 266).

“The unity of belief in the church is not forced by the church coming together and the majority defining the creed to be believed. The church cannot define doctrine, nor make laws for itself or anybody else. The church of Christ is made up of all who obey the Lord’s commands, not a body to issue commands. The Head directs, the body obeys. God speaks; each one must listen to His voice, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and no one can give faith to another. ‘It is the gift of God’” (PTUK July 29, 1897).

Dont you just love EGW quotes? There is always one for every situation.

“The church,” Ellen White wrote, “may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place.”

Well its inevitable so go ahead.

3 Likes

This truly is an extraordinary statement, made by courageous men who were raised, encouraged, and supported by faithful women. The day will come–if we remain on the earth another decade or more–when we will refer to such statements coming from courageous men and women.

I really cannot fathom a more compelling, powerful, and concise statement. The word “inspired” comes to mind. I am going to pray that Elder Wilson opens his heart to the Holy Spirit and sees how his own blind ambition and single-minded determination comprise the greatest threat to the Church’s unity.

By the way, we need to pray for the courage and wisdom of our university presidents, who are under intense pressure as well to bend to their knees at the behest of Elder Wilson. Things are pretty serious right now.

26 Likes

This whole imbroglio has all the trappings of a medieval duel.
The Union Conference presidents have “thrown down the gauntlet”.
The next step is for TW to pick it up.

Let the jousting begin!
I feel like I have checked in to the EXCALIBUR hotel in Vegas, with its throwback to the Middle Ages!

Because TW and his headship band of brigands, want to push us back to medieval times when women were mere chattels, scullery maids, and washer women!

Macho TW loves to don his medieval armor. His breast plate is EGW and his helmet is emblazoned: HEADSHIP.

But trusted monk Dan Jackson, the ROBIN HOOD of our era, will hold the brigands at bay and save our women folk from being held hostage.

18 Likes