Time For The Nuclear Option?

This article is the first of a two-part series on tithing—in the wake of rebellion occurring in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  

If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do? – Psalm 11:3

The Adventist Church appears to be on track for a split.  The symptoms are hard to ignore.

The recent events playing out at the October GC Annual Council in Battle Creek, followed by the defiant and rebellious response at the NAD meetings in Maryland provide exhibit A.

For a third time, the representatives of the world church, in the kindest and most civil terms, admonished the Conferences and Unions persisting in ordaining women to cease and desist.

The response? The next day, the NAD issued a defiant letter saying they not only refuse to stop, they are in fact determined to ordain 1,000 female pastors as soon as possible.

This was followed by a carefully orchestrated parade of protest and vitriol from many NAD, Union and Conference leaders at their annual Council meeting (November 3-7) streaming from their new 30-million dollar NAD headquarters. It was followed by a tirade from the President of the North American Division, which left no doubt just how deep defiance runs in the NAD.

 So now what?

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Perhaps it’s time for the grass-roots members to initiate the nuclear option. After all, who is it really that pays the salaries of these rebellious church administrators who are thumbing their noses at the world church?  Yes, I’m talking about tithes and offerings.

Of course, members should never redirect their tithes and offerings just because there is a bad apple in the Conference office, or a local church experiences some scandal. But the situation we now see unfolding represents a much more serious scenario.

We can, and should pray for unity.  Historically, God does not force people to change their minds when they are settled on a certain course and reject the plain teaching of Scripture. Regretfully, unresolved pride and rebellion can move a person beyond the point of repentance.

“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

As long as the regular members continue to empower and finance the defiant divisions, nothing will change.

Yes, it appears the time has come for the nuclear option. If the leaders refuse to listen to or recognize the legitimate vote of the majority, maybe they will listen if we vote with our wallets.

 Here are 4 principle reasons:

 1.      We have clear biblical and divine counsel that we should always support the organized church with our tithes and offerings. But when an element in the church openly renounces the theology, policy and authority of the world church—all ratified by legitimate vote—they should not be encouraged with tithes and offerings to continue their rebellion. The NAD has openly stated they have a new mission, to appoint 1,000 female pastors (and eventually ordain them—whether members want them or not) as soon as possible. Is this the new SDA mission?

 2.      The NAD has already resorted to a form of ecclesiastical blackmail, threatening that if the poorer fields of the world do not support these Unions in their rebellion, the NAD will cut back on forwarding your tithes to these struggling countries. 

 3.      If you knew your bank was about to be robbed, would you make a big deposit? The NAD is clearly on a path to separate from the GC. This is one reason they recently moved out of the GC building into their own facilities. Through legal action and mediation they plan to take as many of the church assets and institutions with them on their way out.

 4.      Another reason to redirect tithes away from these rebellious entities is to avoid the displeasure of God by becoming an accomplice with them in their mutiny.

When some of the leaders rebelled against God in the days of Moses, the great lawgiver said to separate from the rebels.  “And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins” (Numbers 16:26).

The Bible specifically says we should not support those who ordain people that are not qualified or we are sharing in their sin.    “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).

God asked Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you” (2 Chronicles 19:2).

What To Do

 By all means, you should continue to return to God your tithes and offerings. Don’t interrupt your cheerful giving.

Send it to worthy ministries still preaching the Three Angels Messages and winning souls with the truth. Send it to mission fields that are struggling. Increase your giving to faithful churches and Conferences.

But here’s the key, to avoid causing accounting problems for these missions and ministries, you may not want to mark your donation as tithe. Unlike the Mormons, the Adventist Church does not believe in policing how individuals pay tithe. That of course, is between you and God.

Ellen White states she redirected some of her tithes, and that of friends, to other needy ministries.

“I have myself appropriated my tithe to the most needy cases brought to my notice. I have been instructed to do this; and as the money is not withheld from the Lord's treasury, it is not a matter that should be commented upon; for it will necessitate my making known these matters, which I do not desire to do, because it is not ''meat.

Some cases have been kept before me for years, and I have supplied their needs from the tithe, as God has instructed me to do, And if any person shall say to me, Sister White, will you appropriate my tithe where you know it is most needed, I shall say, Yes, I will; and I have done so. I commend those sisters who have placed their tithe where it is most needed to help to do a work that is being left undone” (2MR 100).

The Spirit of Prophecy would never encourage people to send tithes and offerings to a Church organization that was encouraging separation from the main body and rebellion towards the General Conference.

It is highly probable that were Ellen White alive today, she would strongly advise against financially supporting entities of the church who refuse to abide by the legitimate rulings of the General Conference and its authority—and threaten to cease (or greatly reduce) supporting the world field. Or hijack millions of dollars in assets as they reorganize under another corporation. Otherwise we are subsidizing very bad behavior.

The loving and redemptive thing to do is to send a strong message to these defiant divisions and cease empowering them as they hijack the institutions of the Church. Among other positive outcomes, this will encourage the Church structure to select supportive leadership.

It’s not just that defiant Church entities are thumbing their noses at the rest of the world church, there is a deeper problem—namely forsaking the foundations. The argument over women’s ordination is simply the poster child for a much deeper hermeneutical problem.

The question of how we read the Bible, and how it will yield its instruction to us has separated into two distinct schools of thought among us. This has opened a liberal faction of our Church up to the following consequences:

1.      No longer believing in the inerrancy of the Word of God.

2.      Doubting the literal 6-day Creation.

3.      Believing God saves us with our sins and not from our sins.

4.      No longer having confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Spirit of Prophecy.

5.      No longer preaching the Sanctuary message and rejecting the significance of 1844.

6.      Rejecting that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the Remnant Movement of Bible prophecy.

7.      Rejecting biblical lines of distinction in the roles of men and women. 

8.      Rejecting reverence in Worship in favor of the loud pagan worship styles and music used by other churches.

9.     Downplaying the health message as legalism.

10. Advocating for full acceptance of homosexuality in several of our NAD Universities.

11.   Laxness in keeping the Sabbath holy. Holiday instead of Holy Day.

12.   Performing abortions in Seventh-day Adventist health institutions.

13.   Inviting Sunday-keeping ministers from Babylon to preach to Adventist congregations.

If we continue to blindly subsidize this bad behavior will there ever be reformation among us?

Summary 

Three things are clear.

  1. Tithe is to be brought into the Lord’s treasury to be used to sustain the gospel laborers in their work. 

  2. We have an obligation to ask how the tithe is being used. “It would be poor policy to support from the treasury of God those who really mar and injure His work, and who are constantly lowering the standard of Christianity” (3 Testimonies p. 553).

    “The churches must arouse. The members must awake out of sleep and begin to inquire, How is the money which we put into the treasury being used?  The Lord desires that a close search be made.  Are all satisfied with the history of the work for the past fifteen years?  Where is the evidence of the co-working with God?  Where has been heard throughout the churches the prayer for the help of the Holy Spirit?  Dissatisfied and disheartened, we turn away from the scene” (Kress Collection p. 120. 1900).

  3. We are to give these offerings from a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).

The ironic thing is, as soon as leaders from the NAD read this article they will protest, “Not sending us your tithe is against policy.”  

It is time to “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: . . . Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?  Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people” (Joel 2: 15 & 17-18).

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(Stay tuned for another article on this topic that draws from the SOP. That article will deal with the question, will redirecting tithe affect faithful pastors in my Conference?).