The October 9 vote by the Annual Council disproves the charge that Elder Ted Wilson is a Stalin or a pope.
If Wilson did wield vast dictatorial powers, he certainly would have been able to control the outcome of a vote. Clearly, he did not exert the authority he has been accused of possessing. The Working Policy that so many North American church leaders reject enabled them to win the day. The irony of this should be obvious to all. Wilson’s opponents, if honest, would admit that their accusations are false on the face of it.
Cruel name calling is part of a pattern of attempted personal destruction. Men and women of influence and high reputation stoop to such tactics because they lack evidence for their arguments. What they have is power, and they are using it against the very organization that gave it to them.
Wilson’s influence and good name are under assault, yet Wilson does not engage in name calling. He humbly submitted to a vote he had no control over. His reaction speaks volumes about which side in the controversy has worthy and noble motives. The elected leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church accepts his duty to work within the rules of the body. Where is that spirit on the other side?
The October 9 vote will embolden rebels to other actions against the Working Policy. Will more unions begin ordaining women pastors? Will a union ordain a practicing homosexual to the gospel ministry? As it is now, little stands in their way. Their arguments in favor of women’s ordination, for instance, are of a kind allowing anything that passes the secular test of “justice” and “equality.” But human concepts of justice and equality are worthless compared to God’s. The rebels profess to be mystified by the possibility that God has limited ordination to a tiny sub-set of males (ordination is not the right of all males, only those called). Such an interpretation of Scripture is beyond their imagination, and therefore they reject it.
When King David conducted a census of Israel, he displeased God, who punished both Israel and David. God offered David three choices of punishment: famine, devastation by his enemies, or the “sword of the Lord.” David thought it best to be punished by God, not men. He did not want to fall into the hands of man. Why? Because human justice is often deeply flawed and cruel. How often in human history has man’s sense of justice turned out to be absolute evil?
Seventh-day Adventists, of all people, should understand the rightful claims of God to perfect righteousness, goodness, and justice. The fact that the church has a Working Policy is proof of the inferiority of human wisdom. The policy keeps a sinful people as far as possible from making wrong decisions. The General Conference in session is the highest authority in the church because individual reasoning is not to be trusted. Wilson recognizes this; his opponents do not.
Why do some church leaders think they are superior in wisdom to their own organizational leader and to the Working Policy? Why do they scorn Elder Wilson? He represents the will of the church in session and is tasked with organizational compliance. The church in session votes a certain way, and he himself is bound to comply.
The opponents of church order, logically speaking, should admit to themselves that they could be wrong. However, they do not show evidence of any doubt. Assuredly, Elder Wilson struggles daily with his own heart, honestly examining his own motives and accepting his own sinful nature. This is true because he defers to the church in session. This humility is not shown by the other side. The other side covers itself with the mantle of Martin Luther and other classic Reformers. Who would dare claim that sort of greatness of spirit and discernment? Only unalloyed arrogance can account for such behavior.
Humility is an evidence of the Holy Spirit. Both sides in the current struggle cannot be right. One side is the enemy of God and His plans for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But everyone knows that God’s true servants will be humble and dependent on His grace. “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12, ESV).
Humble, teachable Seventh-day Adventists will prevail through the grace of Almighty God.
Marcus L. Sheffield is Professor of English at Southern Adventist University.