Why Do General Conference and World Church Leaders Support Hierarchy?

The majority of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, now located in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, have been under centuries of political, religious, and family hierarchy structures, and in some places more than others, the corruption and abuse of power of politicians and religious leaders have influenced and shaped a culture that is not able to assimilate life in any other way. Our current church conflict mostly lies over an improper understanding of representative church governance1 that in practice is only a mere reflection of a culture that reflects this influence.  

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2018/why-do-general-conference-and-world-church-leaders-support-hierarchy

Thank you brother for that excellent piece of work, and for explaining a culture which is obedient even to death. I live in Mexico, but I am not Mexican, so I see what Adventist who live here don’t, which might sound strange, but when a culture is so deep habits are hard to changed. In Mexico, the pastor is like a priest, or is the priest, for me that is blasphemy. Books been dumped on the churches are very common by the publishing house, not an option, pay or face humiliation. The president of the Union visits your church,and then chastises the congregation, because they have not supporting God work. Also true, women work for the church, but better remain single like a nun because once they marry, they loose benefits, like housing, medical, school aid, etc. If you are male, nothing changes even if the gets married. Also, not very often, a pastor’s wife will get like “half pay” even though she runs women ministers which includes 169 church’s covering four states, and children ministers. Abuse is a problem, that is why female pastors are needed to counter the evil of men hiding behind a church structure, many male pastors and administrator, fear women who will expose their actions.



Let the power struggle cease and desist. Let unity flow by acceptance of diversity within the family of God.


Thank you Hugo Chinchay for your frankness.
Yes, realities/actualities can be very confronting.
It is very sad indeed when Church leadership
claims to ‘talk truth, but does not WALK truth’.


Hugo Chinchay,
Your explicit exposé of the egregious lack of ethics in some non western Adventist constituencies is disheartening.

No wonder Ted Wilson preens himself with “kingly power” when he has adoring sycophants, fawning followers, who award him papal status.

You paint an appalling picture of stratified hierarchies, where everyone has to be obsequious to his/ her superior, or face the consequences.

This cultural divide has such a deep chasm, it can only portend a schism.

The good news is that the western Adventists control the money spigot.

Facing the loss of our largesse, these patriarchal parasites will soon come,
hat in hand, wanting to be reunited with their benefactors.


we in North America have a choice. We can further this ‘open sin’, by supporting the church’s hierarchy, or find an alternative ‘storehouse’ to send our Tithes to. After the 90% feel the pinch of the lack of support by the 10%, maybe things will change.



The cultural dynamics and differences between the global north and of Latin America that you highlight in this essay are an important and often forgotten element in this discussion.

May God help us not only to know our own hearts and minds on the current impasse but also to understand and appreciate from where others are coming from to these discussions.


One more point, and I needed evidence before I made it. Because it is easy to say something, as a opinion yet not produce information. As the brother mentioned, things are done differently, even to the point that is might not seem like the Adventist way, but a communist regime. On the 10 of September 2015, at 09:00 am, Cancun, there was a General Assembly held by the Seventh Day Adventist, A.R. Now one notices that it does not mention Union or Conference, but Seventh Day Adventist Church, and this is how it was formed in Mexico. On this particular day, amendments to bylaws and statues of the constitution of about forty unions, conference and missions were made, the total amount of people who voted was maybe 25, or 30, but not more. Now in Spanish the word which may be misleading to some in church is Asociados or Associates, because that is used to prefer to someone who works for church, but in common law that would refer to any one who can vote which implies the constituency. So on the document it reads, General Assembly of Associates. This is the culture, which to what I see nobody wants to change, because there is benefits for those who turn a blind eye, and forget what Ellen White warned us against.

So what the brother is saying is very true.

The last image, it will appear as 17, states that the legal representative of the SDA church has all power over internal divisions, unions, sections and institutions. That is a very vague statement because who is this institution called SDA church in Mexico that has so much power.
Just remembered, first image there is a group of people who are called the “consejo directivo National de iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día” which mean like the National Board of Directors or Council, never heard of this before.


One can easily mark “local church budget” on the envelope, and everything will be OK. Or send it to the local Conference marked “for salaries of pastors only, in this Conference only.” They have to use it as indicated, or they have to return it to you if they don’t agree. I never heard of any money like this being returned to anyone… No wonder why… :wink:


Maybe were you live, but here never. Added some image to my response, then you might understand why it is not done here.

Why can’t you mark the envelope “local budget” and just give the money?

Well, if you have any position in the local church and stop paying the tithe as tithe, I know you will be in trouble in your culture because they constantly check the books to see if people are in “compliance.”

I was in a situation like that years ago when I lived in Brazil and decided to do that. But I didn’t keep any position in the church so nobody could do anything.


I tried that and discovered ofter a year via a friend, that all I have for a special project went to the conference. And true they live to visit people and reminding them to give tithe, that is so pathetic. When I was elder, and visited members, I never spoke about money or sin, rather about how they were doing, and being a friend.


This is a most essential truth to be delivered in ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom’ which ‘shall be preached throughout the world as a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.’

Sounds like I’d better make funeral arrangements. What’s more, I’m sure that this type of ‘Mission Story’ has not been told on Sabbath mornings in North American SDA churches during ‘Mission Spotlight’, or whatever its called now.

"Let this mind be IN YOU . . . . IN YOU, not outside of you.
Jesus said not to look here nor there for the Kingdom of God, because it is ‘WITHIN YOU’.
God told Moses to 'Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell IN THEM, not merely ‘among them’.

If there is any hierarchy in the true ‘Kingdom of God’, then it exists wholly WITHIN each individual mind and heart that submits to that King Who, alone, submits to washing the dirty feet of His friends and subjects. . . . This truth ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ been at the core of ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom’ – not ‘democracy’ – that SDA missionaries from North America and Europe took to South America, Africa, Asia . . . . But, as we know, it was not, and now we are ‘reaping the whirlwind’.

Even still, North America-based SDA ‘evangelists’ apparently spend much more time and effort showing off their ‘Biblical prophecy’ skills to an adoring public in admiration of the ‘Metal Man’ hierarchy of hierarchical world kingdoms (all of them fallen or about to fall) than they do discussing that ‘stone cut out, but not with human hands’-- Christ, who as King washes dirty feet – that is about to replace the filthy feet and toes of the union of clay-priestcraft and and iron-statecraft that is currently torturing the whole world with the blessing of the ‘world economy’. . . . even Mark Twain saw this happening in the 1888-era as his ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ was first being read by the public, but SDA evangelists and Bible prophecy experts, with Ellen’s and Jones’ clear warnings, still refused to fully present that ‘Stone’ Solution to their audiences ?

The SDA GC has a long tradition of rejecting Christ, and we all know when this tradition began in earnest. Yet, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock . . . .’ This line, spoken by Christ in the message to the Laodicean church to which Paul had also written in ‘Colossians’ (regarding hierarchy), like so much of the book of Revelation, is taken from the rest of the Bible, in this case the Song of Solomon:

"I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying , ‘Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.’

“I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” ~ Song of Solomon 5:2-3

(But King Jesus, who had knocked at the door of her ‘heart’ also washes feet and will clothe ‘Laodice’ with ‘white raiment’ . . . .)

Then she – ‘Laodice’ – describes how she finally got up out of bed to answer, and finding her Lover gone, she went about the city (Jerusalem ?) looking for Him, only to have the watchmen beat her up and the ‘keepers of the wall’ – ‘wall’ meaning ‘law’ in the parables – remove her ‘veil’. This is a living parable of SDA GC history as the church was run by leadership in North American – not South American – headquarters which hierarchically-controlled Christ’s SDA church, worldwide, according to their own ‘law’-infatuation, post-1888. Like Israel in Hosea’s times, the SDA GC leadership sowed to the wind, by not letting ‘King Jesus’ serve them, and wash their dirty feet, and like Peter, they denied Him as ‘weak’ while claiming to fight loyally for Him, forever. And, so, like Peter, we reap the whirlwind.

I won’t waste time looking up the address of the Ellen quote where she said that we will never know how deeply Jesus – ‘God with us’, not God far from us – was hurt by the GC rejection of Himself, in preference for ‘law alone’, circa 1888 . . . ‘We have a law !’, they told Pilate, ‘And by that law this man deserves to die, because He made Himself the son of God . . . .’ And, Like Father, like Son.

You can’t sow the ‘gospel’ of the Judaism-of-Caiaphas to the winds of the world without reaping the whirlwind of the ‘man of sin’ whom Paul predicted to the Thessalonians, and his priestcraft mingled with statecraft – feet and toes of clay and iron – through that revived ‘order’ which went underground into ‘wilderness’-secrecy around 1814, just as the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 was returning into the public eye from that same ‘wilderness’-secrecy, and the Great Advent Movement began . . . .

Surely even SDAs in South America are allowed to read the Bible, and to learn the history of that ‘religious order’ that has both secretly and openly formed their economic and political hierarchical social structures? !

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Wonderful…we have an ecclesiastical version of a banana republic dictator who plays to, and derives his power from a base of fawning sycophants from all over the world. He is moving to consolidate his power on the same basis. And, he turns a blind eye to whatever abuses and power structures in those regions that are totally out of compliance with Christ, his Spirit, and the NT, never mind compliance with humanly constructed church policies. The whole system and way of doing business is corrupt, a self generating feedback loop of dysfunction and dare I say it, evil.

What is the cure for disunity in this denomination? It’s not going to come from SS quarterlies and articles pinning the problem on the church membership’s disobedience and worldliness. It certainly won’t be realized through bogus compliance committees…a religious joke. It will begin when this type of organizational corruption on every level is called out, and leadership is held accountable for not walking in line with the truth of the gospel…just as Paul did with Peter in Antioch, when Peter’s actions created division and disunity in the early church. It will begin when institutional admission, repentance, and reformation truly happens, beginning with an overhaul of corrupt leadership, its practices, and the re-grounding of all of it in the NT vision of what Christ like servant leadership is.

Without this, we don’t have a prayer.




Excellent analysis–two suggestions: 1) Include Australia with the the NAD and Europe among territories that respect representative government. 2) Remember that North America is not entirely in sync with NAD leadership. Regarding funding, I suspect most major donors within NAD territory enthusiastically support the compliance mentality. As for personnel–whereas present NAD leadership favors WO, future demographics favor pseudo-conservatives as North American congregations continues to lose egalitarian-minded young adults (and older members as well). With many pastors and administrators soon to retire, GYC-oriented young adults are eager and available to fill pastoral and eventually administrative roles. Beyond all that, consider the carnage that compliance may inflict upon our unions, conferences, universities and ultimately our congregations. Summarizing: present GC leadership is favored by wealthy supporters in North America, and future NAD pastors and leaders will unquestionably reflect their mindset. If you disagree (and I wish you are correct), please explain why the One Project died while GYC is flourishing.


While the examples the author gives are dismaying, I think a deeper issue is simple amoral opportunism.*

While I would never label people “useful idiots,” it seems likely to me that people groups are being used to that end by amoral opportunists of all stripes.

Clue: Look at the Merikay Silver case, where Neal Wilson vigorously strove (in vain) to convince the US government that Adventist criticism of Roman Catholicism and church structures had been consigned to the dustbin of history and that Adventist employees were exactly analogous to cloistered nuns.

In the same vein, trace the money trail of SDA Ordination policy through the IRS vs GC struggles:

How Money Got Us Into Trouble

A Very Surprising (and Interesting) History About Women’s Ordination *

By C. Mervyn Maxwell, PhD

Former Professor of Church History, SDA Theological Seminary
Author, God Cares

As you read this story, do remember that administrators are human, like the rest of us, and need our prayers. Remember too that the money they attempted to save at a crucial point in this story was God’s tithe; it was not their own money.

It is a story that shows how the NAD [North American Division] leadership came to the position that (a) ordination is merely a matter of church policy, not of sacred obligation, and (b) commissioning is equivalent to ordination.


See also:

The Internal Revenue Service and the Redefinition of Adventist Ministry


For more than 100 years, Seventh-day Adventists held that the functions of the licensed and ordained ministry were different. We claimed the support of scripture and of Ellen White for our position. By the 1970’s, however, this traditional policy was changed in response to new IRS regulations. This paper shows the context and development of the change.


WO has a very checkered history in the Adventist church, as the money trail demonstrates.

Attempts to make a spiritual silk purse out of this sow’s ear depend on the ignorance and apathy of the Adventist people.*

*See above

Hierarchy is a method to consolidate power among the elite. It is an end in itself.


Excellent and helpful comment Martin. Gill Ford

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This is precisely the subtext underlying the Battle Creek flavored Autumn Council, attempting to get rid of women pastors, pressuring of The One Project, emphasizing dress, eliminating reading anything outside Adventist authors, and attacking Christian Contemporary Music (CCM).

These donors and their money are exceedingly out of touch with how God is moving in His church. CCM is today’s generation’s language of Christ. Music is their constant companion. Women have baptized and performed their wedding ceremonies.

The taste, flavor, optics, and thrust of this AC2018 is a church roaring backwards and ignoring its youth and their ability to lead and their love of service and missions.

Their absence shows the hierarchy’s distrust of its youth and its desire for them to delay as long as possible joining the ranks of church leadership.

At the least, chaplains and student leaders from our universities around the world could have been showcased at this event to be inclusive. This is their church.


wow…i’m really glad i don’t live in south america…


We better just hope those wealthy supporters don’t include the Koch brothers, et. al.

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