’Unity in Mission’ Will Fail and Here’s Why

Just as a prescription is as good as the diagnosis, solving an administrative problem depends upon an accurate understanding of what it is.

My best guess at this time is that "Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation" will fail. This is because it rests upon a misreading of the continuing tensions among Seventh-day Adventists about ordaining women in ministry. This document construes the problem in two related ways. On the one hand, it depicts the difficulty as tension between unity and individuality. On the other, it portrays the discord as tension between authority and nonconformity. Each of these accounts makes some sense but not enough.

Neither those who oppose the ordination of women in ministry nor those who favor it primarily account for their positions in these terms. Those who favor it disagree with the suggestion that they are excessively individualistic and defiantly rebellious. Meanwhile, albeit less vigorously, those who oppose it would rather explain their position in the first place without regard to contentions about church unity and authority.

This deserves a pause. A process of reconciliation will not make much progress if one party feels that its position is misunderstood. If both parties feel this way, it will not even get started. This is where we are with "Unity in Mission." Although one party feels it much more intensely than the other, neither of them is totally happy with how it is being portrayed. This is an unpromising way to start.

Those who oppose the ordination of women in ministry want most of all to be understood as being faithful to Scripture. They have repeatedly studied it from cover to cover, discussed it thoroughly and respectfully and prayed to be led by the Holy Spirit. They believe that they have been blessed in this way and that now they are duty bound to be faithful to the conclusions that they have reached.

Their minds are not closed but they are settled. It is disrespectful to ask them to revisit these materials and to consider revising their conclusions. In any case, asking them to do these things won't work.They cannot in good conscience honor these requests and they won't. They won't yield no matter what happens to them, even if they are fired or banished. For them, the issue is not primarily about unity and authority. It is about integrity. Underestimating their moral resolve about this issue is a big mistake. After all, their very souls are on the line!

Those who favor the ordination of women in ministry want most of all to be understood as being faithful to Scripture. They have repeatedly studied it from cover to cover, discussed it thoroughly and respectfully and prayed to be led by the Holy Spirit. They believe that they have been blessed in this way and that now they are duty bound to be faithful to the conclusions they have reached.

Their minds are not closed but they are settled. It is disrespectful to ask them to revisit these materials and to consider revising their conclusions. In any case, asking them to do these things won't work. They cannot in good conscience honor these requests and they won't. They won't yield no matter what happens to them, even if they are fired or banished. For them, the issue is not primarily about unity and authority. It is about integrity. Underestimating their moral resolve about this issue is a big mistake. After all, their very souls are on the line!

Attempts to bring about reconciliation by seeing our current tensions as anything other than a tragic encounter of groups with equal integrity will make things worse. To miss this is to misunderstand everything.

No amount of additional prayer, Bible study, discussion and consultation on any other premise will make positive differences. Neither will any actual or threatened use of coercive power. The more of any of these there is, the more resistant and resilient the overwhelming majority on both sides will become. To do anything else would be to compromise their integrity.

Our leaders can deepen and widen our denomination's wounds by continuing their misunderstandings of our situation and prolonging the use of their current methods. They have not worked. They are not working. They will not work. Nothing less than a better understand of the problem has any chance of healing them.

Every attempt at reconciliation must begin with genuine gratitude much praise for the integrity of people on both sides of this issue. It must promise not to try to change anyone's mind about ordaining women in ministry. It must pledge not to use or threaten to use of coercive administrative power. It must commit itself to respecting the decision made by the 2015 General Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The task is to find a way forward that keeps all three promises.

Many will dismiss this way of understanding and handling things this way with a scoff that it is impossible. Others will be more cautious and want more time to think about it. Still others, recognizing that nothing else has worked so far, will be willing to give it a try at this point.

Much depends upon how many there are in the third group, who they are and how effectively they share their enthusiasm for trying something very different.

This will require much administrative creativity; however, sparking the imaginations of people in all walks of life is one of the Holy Spirit's specialties. Once again, Jesus said it well: “Let those with those with eyes really see and those with ears actually hear!"

David R. Larson is Associate Scholar at the Loma Linda University Center for Christian Bioethics and Professor of Religion and Ethical Studies at Loma Linda University's School of Religion.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7705
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It remains difficult for me to envision how both sides of the debate over something as polarizing as women’s ordination will be able to coexist. One can respect the others as members of the same family, but it is another thing to be tolerant when each side is fully convinced their position is right. Time will tell.

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Another factor to consider the inevitable failure of TW’s initiative is the fact that the search for God is an individual spiritual journey, fueled by the growth and maturation of the brain and mind. To stifle and muzzle a DNA process is not anymore different than stifling and muzzling God’s creation. A guaranteed failure. Ask any parent how successful they have been in stopping the separation and individuation phase of their children’s development. That should give anyone a clue.

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Since, apparently, the immovable object has met the irresistible force, it appears that only divine intervention will prevent a major split in the church. Who would have thought that “The Shaking” would involve something besides a major pillar of our faith.

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This issue has been bandied about -studied - prayed about - argued - studied again - for more than fifty years - and here we go again as it’s being “tabled” and studied yet again. At this point this has involved at least a couple of recent generations and more. Do we really think that we have to endlessly badger God in order to have a resolution?

Since there is no consensus, maybe we should ask - WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN IF ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER WINS? HOW IS THE GOSPEL BEST SERVED? IS THE GOSPEL DISHONOURED, COMING FROM THE LIPS OF WOMEN?

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I see no indication that our leaders accept the possibility of a better understanding. What we have now is the fulfillment of what Ted Wilson announced publicly in 1995—his firm objection to equality in ministry as unbiblical and his warning against variance as the devil’s intention:

“The request before us from the North American Division is a very potentially divisive proposal. The request could even be more difficult than the actual subject it wishes to address. This request could set in motion widespread factionalism within the worldwide church at a time when we must look for unity in Christ. To allow one or two divisions to deviate from the world church on a major matter could lead to widely varying church doctrine, belief, and practice. Personally I have held for many years that the ordination of women as local church elders and as gospel ministers is a theological issue and that the Scriptures do not support this practice. The subject is not about equality. There is no question that men and women are equal. I believe that we are heading into the very last days of this earth’s history. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is coming soon. The devil would like nothing better than to divide and conquer this church. We know from biblical prophecy and the Spirit of Prophecy that this will not happen. Christ, the unifying power through the Holy Spirit, will lead this church on to complete victory. I implore and ask every delegate here to consider carefully the difficult consequences of splitting this church. I would respectfully urge every delegate to vote against this request from the North American Division.” —TED N. C. WILSON

Source: http://docs.adventistarchives.org/docs/GCB/GCB1995-07.pdf (pg 30)
[edited to replace inactive link]

Transcript of the Thirteenth Business Meeting, Fifty-sixth General Conference session, July 5, 1995, 2:00 p.m. also at:
http://remnant-online.com/smf/index.php/topic,15706.msg169862.html?PHPSESSID=ab9oh61063dapucbv9pa0uo2s6#msg169862

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Because they do not understand the real nature of the central issue, the GC is desperately trying,

  1. To push down into our throats their own personal views about the value of women in church and in society. Male dominance over women is a phantom production in the minds of males who suffer the disease of “exerting power and control over women.”

  2. To put a lid on the issue stamped “spiritual,” when it has nothing to do with spirituality. It is a mere matter of human decency, of respect for other human beings. But, in order to exert their psychological need (thirst) of power and control, the advocates of female discrimination have to make all that jugglery in order to reach their malevolent goal.

Yes I am using strong words to define what those anti-WO are doing and their motivation for that. Discrimination of women should be abolished immediately from any Church, so that “the world” could see that Christians are not discriminators. But, unfortunately, some actually are…

  1. To change the structure of the Church in order to increase their power of imposing on the members their discriminatory policies. It’s public knowledge that Unions were created to avoid exactly what is happening now, the GC trying to hijack the power into their own hands and impose their ideas on the real church. The GC is not “the real church,” (or even a church) it exists to serve the Church, not to abuse it. I hope the Unions will affirm and defend their rights established long time ago with full approval of EGW. If she lived today, Wilson would have to resign immediately. Which he should do anyway at this point of the WO scandal.

  2. To increase their power to most probably bring in a change of doctrinal content. This GC has no consideration or any respect for the Church’s theologians. None! For none of them! They want to define theological issues for the Church themselves (or should I say “himself?”) The heresy of perfectionism has tryed to penetrate the SDAC several times in the past, having been always clearly repudiated. Now it appeared again but under a fancy name, LGT. The LGTarians are manipulating the crowds and infiltrating the heresy into our barracks. They are targeting most the youth, those who do not know much about SDA history or doctrine. Those are the most vulnerable to brainwashing, the perfect target.

Has Ted Wilson followed the example of prior GC Presidents in denouncing this heresy? Not at all! Actually, he supports satellite ministries that teach the heresy to their victims, and the GC contributes monetarily with those heretical groups. Tithes financing heresy, isn’t way too much???

The question is, “If the GC acquires full power by massacring and beheading the Unions, will it then take the role of defining theology for th Real church and impose the LGTarian heresy?” It looks like. It has become obvious that TW has serious tendencies for and psychological needs of pursuing a dictatorial style for his governance. The Unions are the only power in the Church’s structure to stop this kind of maneuver. Maybe this is why he is trying to destroy, eliminate them.

  1. The 50-page document was suddenly given a one year period of grace. My suspicion is that suddenly someone reminder the GC that Missions send no money upstairs! This is the Church’s rule, and has always been. This certainly generated a panic at the GC’s Treasury, so “grace was extended to the rebellious a Unions.” Isn’t it nice???..

Well, let’s keep talking about unity in th Church, while Ted Wilson keeps reminding people about the “grave consequences” of not bowing down to him.

Isn’t it past due for TW to go, before he actually reaches his goal of splitting the SDA Church???
=============

What is this, a confession of an intent?
I was always suspicious that a certain group wanted to “spit” out those who disagree with them. Apparently you know something we don’t and you are leaking a clue on it. Thanks for letting us know our destiny…

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It has been mentioned previously that when the Christians and Jews were in disagreement about certain rites that were necessary, the Holy Spirit did not impose absolute agreement but gave the apostles authority to allow the two groups to decide which course was best for each, and they were not the same.

Also, Paul wrote in several places “let people be convinced in their own minds”–and this was on observing Sabbaths!

Today when conformity is being forced under the banner of “unity,” Paul and the apostles’ decisions when there was a potential split of the church in its very beginning, is forgotten.

As there are thousands in the NAD and western Adventists, who are not willing to conform to this administration, this is THE hill on which they will not surrender their own morality. Is this administration willing to sever its members for total conformity? If they are willing to risk the inevitable, it will surely come.

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“Those who favor the ordination of women in ministry want most of all to be understood as being faithful to Scripture. They have repeatedly studied it from cover to cover, discussed it thoroughly and respectfully and prayed to be led by the Holy Spirit. They believe that they have been blessed in this way and that now they are duty bound to be faithful to the conclusions they have reached.”

What is interesting and really pretty important here is that both of these sides are not faithful to scripture. There is no ordination in Scripture. You could say one side is trying to be faithful to tradition however. The tradition founded by the Roman Catholic churches attempt to restrict Christian churches freedom in an attempt to uphold a hierarchy structure. So even if we allow women to hold the position of enforcing hierarchy structure and authority we really won’t solve the basic underlying problem. When tradition is pretended to be Scripture, nothing becomes any better even if it becomes more PC.

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He bears almost sole responsibility for making this as divisive as it is. Had he pursued a peaceful coexistance this would have been almost a non-issue.

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Gender is not the issue central power is TZ

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Way back in 1995 Ted Wilson was laying the groundwork for predicting and actually facilitating the prediction. For the Gospel to come from the mouth of a woman (as it did from the Woman at the Well, Phillip’s daughters, Junia, and Mary who was given the commission to go tell the “Good News” to the disciples) is going to create widespread factionalism? Quite the opposite. Look at the Church in China.

Is this true of polygamy? Differing payscales? Variety in tithe percentages returned to the Divisions? (Mid-America Union)

#UnityInDiversity

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We are VERY GOOD about castigating the Catholic Church Fathers for
Elevating Sunday Worship [the Resurrection] and diminishing Saturday Worship [the Creation of the world].

However we do NOT say a word about also bringing in Ordination, and the successive Ordination with pedigree down to the time of St. Peter.
However we do NOT say a word about what the Leaders did to WOMEN who also wanted to have a part in the Gospel Work. The Men talked the Women into thinking their Highest Calling was Prayer. So they Con-ed them into going into castles, covered head to toe in black – only faces and hands showing --, locked the doors. They were VERY successful in shutting these women who wanted to share in their work away, con-ed them, locked them up, so their voices were NEVER heard again.
However there were a few Rogue Women in Northern Italy, in Southern Europe who were preaching. They were chased from town to town all their lives in an effort to silence them. We have copies of their writings today for meditation and understanding their beliefs. And one can read why they were disliked. Promoting a true one-ship with Christ. One that did NOT require the use of a Male Priest in order to meet God face to face.

Yes! The Church History we present in grade school, Academy, University is NOT the WHOLE Truth. It is very Selective Truth. If it was Whole Truth, we would no longer have Ordination. We as SDA would no longer have an ALL-Male Priesthood. And Women would be Free to leave the Convents and Preach the Good News, equal with men preaching the Good News.

David – Thank you for your reply regarding “Social Disobedience”. Yes, counting the “cost of discipleship” needs to be done prior to beginning The Apprenticeship With Jesus Program. But
in the Case Of Women Ordination being tried in the SDA Courts, there was NO PUNISHMENT
Listed for any Offense. It is ALL Being Made Up in the Future. — One Year From Now.

Regarding President Wilson and Company. They have been LOOKING for the “SDA Shaking” for a long time now. One of the Cardinal Signs of Jesus Return. So there is NO Reason for them to WANT to discourage a large leaving from the SDA Church. That is just Prophecy Fulfilled. Ellen Vindicated. Jesus coming soon. The ability to hand over the Leadership of the SDA Church to Jesus.
I know this sounds sarcastic. Is NOT meant to be. Is meant to voice a Truth as seems to be seen.

Bronwyn – Richard, in his book, The Naked Now, pg 91, says “that Paul means the word EGO when he uses the term “flesh”. The ONE THING the Ego hates is CHANGE. One will do ANYTHING, even acting against their own best interest than Change. EGO is just another word for Blindness. To succeed, EVIL has to look like Virtue.” The whole chapter – Change Your Mind – is about the problems of the EGO. Keeping us from Maturity. Keeping us from Transformation. All EGO does is give us different behaviors, beliefs, belongings. Does NOT offer us a Different Mind.

Elaine – Failed test 3 times. Perhaps the person needs assistance with Studying for the Test in a total NEW WAY.
Doing the Same Thing over and over and Expecting Different Results never has worked. LOL!!!

SEPARATION — For SOME reason Kevin has been pushing the Separation Issue. The Division of the Seventh day Adventist Denomination into TWO Seventh day Adventist DenominationS. He has been sounding BAPTIST for quite some time. This is what they have done in the past. AFTER the Civil War the Baptists split into the Southern Baptists. I believe Methodists shared the same idea. Split over CULTURAL ISSUES.
It has been an interesting Issue to have watched here in Macon.
The Issue of Mercer University. Mercer had been a Baptist educational institution since founding in 1833. A few years ago the president, Pastor R. Kirby Godsey, had allowed the formation of a GLBTIO Club on campus. The Southern Baptist Convention got wind of it. Ordered Godsey to disband it. He refused.
The Southern Baptist Convention booted Mercer University out of the Baptist Church. Took away Godsey’s Baptist Minister credentials.
The interesting thing is, Mercer University STILL prepares pastors for ministry. Has a strong theological department.
2nd thing. Since the separation from the So. Bapt. Convention, Mercer is REALLY Thriving financially. Has had to have an aggressive building program because of increase student population. Working on a $400,000,000 endowment fund program.
Mercer is a Huge Voice here in Macon and is responsible for promoting making Macon safe. Making Macon a great place to live.
FREEDOM has unintended consequences. It was thought to PUNISH Mercer U and Pastor Godsey. It only ALLOWED for the ability for Freedom in God, Freedom to fulfill its Purpose in the World.

Edit–
Bevin – I think you are absolutely right. The GC is attempting to take us back to the 1890’s when a few men ran the world church and THEY decided ALL the local issues by their Decrees.
The Few Men in Silver Springs would LIKE to have Unions and Divisions in NAME ONLY. No Authority on their own, Just NAME ONLY. Central Power in Silver Springs.
The GC No Longer SERVANTS or SUPPORTERS, but MASTERS. No longer just Facilitators, but now in Control like a Parent – “My House, My Rules”.
Germany 1930’s. Little by little.
Rome 200-500. Little by little.

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the only solution i see is allowing the san antonio vote to stand, while issuing exemptions to unions and conferences that request them…undoubtedly this will not be received with favor by those who feel they won in san antonio and that everyone else should yield, but it will allow our church infrastructure and even superstructure to continue intact, and minimize if not eliminate disruption in employment for some church workers…it will also obviate unavoidable and long, expensive law suits that will only compromise our image if it hasn’t been compromised already…i actually think this is the solution that is hinting at strongly in the GC secretariat’s “A Study of Church Governance and Unity.”

there is also the reality of the trajectory of a dwindling vote against women’s ordination that should be given unimpeded scope to complete its natural course…issuing exemptions allows the church to remain intact until headship self-implodes through a future GC vote…issuing exemptions would be the way to lift management of this situation from a short term perspective, to a long term one…

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Wow! What a perfect reasoning!

Every attempt at reconciliation must begin with genuine gratitude and much praise for the integrity of people on both sides of this issue. It must promise not to try to change anyone’s mind about ordaining women in ministry. It must pledge not to use or threaten to use coercive administrative power. It must commit itself to respecting the decision made by the 2015 General Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The task is to find a way forward that keeps all three promises.

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As Christianity evolved in the centuries following Jesus’ death and resurrection, it naturally drew ideas from the surrounding Mediterranean culture. Roman and Greek mythology and philosophy used a great deal of Promethean, heroic, ascent images. The ego is naturally attracted to heroic language. To the ego, heroism feels like the way to go to God. No wonder Christian martyrs were immediately canonized. We placed our focus on the heroic instead of the transformative, on achieving rather than serving.

If the Promethean is heroic expression, stoic spirituality is heroic repression. We thought depriving ourselves or doing something contrary to nature, will, or body would somehow please God, whereas it only made us feel “strong” and significant. Jesus never advocates either asceticism or heroism. In fact, Jesus says, “John the Baptist came along fasting and living an ascetic life and you were upset with him. Now I come along eating and drinking and you don’t like me either” (see Matthew 11:18-19). Jesus is neither a rigorist nor a legalist. He is scandalously free from these ego games!

We must acknowledge that much of Christian spirituality comes from other sources than Jesus’ teaching. That’s not necessarily wrong, but we have to admit when we’re listening to Western culture rather than Jesus. The ideas and practices we usually associate with religion are not at all what Jesus emphasizes. Jesus is the most unlikely founder of a religion. Religion normally begins by making a distinction between the pure and the impure, the good and the bad. Yet Jesus does the opposite: he finds God among the impure instead of among the pure! He entertains the lost sheep instead of comforting those who think they are not lost.

Humans are so hardwired to think dualistically, to divide the pure from the impure, that in spite of Jesus’ clear example and teaching, Christianity went right back to the same old pattern. The ego desperately wants to feel pure, saved, moral, significant, and superior. We cannot allow God to come down to us, which is the meaning of the Incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-8); we think we’ve got to go up to God. We’re usually going up the down escalator! And we miss Jesus on the way—as he de-escalates into our so very ordinary world.

Richard Rohr

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0ne way forward might be to do some reading about the theory and history of civil disobedience. It was developed for situations like this one when a group of people by their consciences are morally required to break a law while also respecting it and the principle of participating responsibly in a law-abiding community.

This theory at minimum calls for two things. The first is a public, courteous and orderly violation of the law which includes an explanation of why the law is being broken.

The second is a public, courteous and orderly acceptance of a pre-established punishment for violating it. It is useful if both the violation and the punishment for violating it are widely understood so that no one need be surprised or take offense.

Although I wince when I say so, I believe it to be the case that those of us who favor the ordination of women have wanted to violate the law while wholly escaping any punishment for doing so. So far, we have done just that and it has been neither right nor widely admired. Those who view us as spoiled elites who will do whatever we think we should without regard for the common good aren’t entirely wrong.

We must violate the “law” of San Antonio; however, we must also willingly accept a pre-established punishment for doing so. The trouble is that as far as I know we don’t have one. We apparently know how to create Union Conferences and how to destroy Union Conferences but we don’t know how to deal with big differences within and between them.

The pre-established punishment must be severe enough to cause people to think very carefully before violating a law, doing so only as a very last resort, without destroying those who violate the law because they are often among the group’s most valuable members. Banning them hurts the group more than it hurts them.

Instead of trying to get the non-compliant to comply, I think that the next several months would be better spent with all sides working together to create an effective “ecclesiastical disobedience” protocol for this one issue.

Everything that I have said presupposes that General Conference President Elder Ted N. C. Wilson wants to lead us to a workable solution. Some say that he has no such desire; rather, they say, he and his closest colleagues have long been looking for an issue that will enable then to drive all SDAs who are less than traditional than they are out of the denomination.

If so, they might have found their issue; however, millions of us around the world believe that their expression of Adventism is one but only one authentic version of it and we are not voluntarily leaving. We believe that our expression of SDA life and thought is just as valid as theirs and that they have no more right than we do to impose one expression of Adventism on all SDAs. We have no intention of letting that happen without a struggle. It would be a big mistake to underestimate our moral resolve regarding this.

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There is no way to keep the three promises. I agree that minds are made up. No one’s will be changed. A separation with dignity is the only solution as far as I can see, although I have seen God come up with some pretty creative measures. Sirji is right, this has been going on for 40 or fifty years. Compromise by anyone is the surrender of integrity. And we are a people of integrity, if anything. I think we should just start working on a plan of separation.

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I do not agree with you! Elder Ted Wilson is a man of God, he is lead by the Holy Spirit, and based on the Scriptures. NAD Leaders are liberal, proud, culturally-oriented, not biblical… etc. Let respect the decissions taken in San Antonio 2015. You must repent NAD !!! God bless you!!

I do agree with you, Allen…the issue (integrity) has been pushed as far as the it can go. The tension in this too taut religious wire is palpable and will, at some point, snap. Not sure that the “Powers that Be” are willing (or smart enough) to call a truce and work on a plan of formal separation so I expect that things will go on and become bloodier and bloodier.

The only real pity is that the wire did not have to be pulled so taut…but what has been done is done. There can only be so many times that the wire can be stretched before it breaks. The church culturally/spiritually is where it is and this same state of affairs has happened in many other Christian churches with schism being the natural result. Unfortunately it would appear that the Adventist Church Administration (TW) has not/will not do anything to prevent this from happening.

Nonetheless…God is not stopped by the stupidities of Humankind.

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