The North American Division Executive Committee has just voted to accept a document in response to what was voted at Annual Council last month.
Their Document is ponderously entitled “North American Division 2018 Year End Meeting Response to the Regard for and Practice of the General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions.”
The NAD document is indented. I have interspersed my own commentary (in italics) throughout.
November 6, 2018
As the North American Division Executive Committee, we, along with our brothers and sisters around the world, wholeheartedly affirm a shared commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Based on the Bible and the 28 Fundamental Beliefs, this faith is expressed through the church’s worldwide mission and prophetic role in fulfilling the commission to proclaim the gospel “to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev 14:6, ESV; see also Matt 28:18-20; Rev 14:6-12).
We also affirm a shared commitment to oneness in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13, 27). As a global church family comprised of all generations, we belong to each other, care for each other, and are called to treat each other with respect and trust (John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:7-8, 11-12, 20-21; Eph 4:2, 32; Col 3:13). As Ellen G. White wrote, “There is no person, no nation, that is perfect in every habit and thought. One must learn of another. Therefore, God wants the different nationalities to mingle together, to be one in judgment, one in purpose. Then the union that there is in Christ will be exemplified” (Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 137.1).
We also affirm that structure and organization bring value to advancing the mission and message of the church (1 Cor 14:40).
And yet, despite all their high-flown rhetoric on unity and organization, the NAD is dead set on flouting a General Conference Session vote that it participated in because . . . well, because they don’t like how it turned out.
When the body of Christ functions as God intended, as exemplified by the early church, it derives its authority from Christ, the head of the church, who led through service (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Eph 1:22; Col 1:18; 2:10). Servant leaders express and foster Christlike forbearance and humility (Matt 20:25-28; John 13:1-17; Phil 2:1-5). Such leadership creates healthy structure, which gives voice to all members of the body and respects the priesthood of all believers (Ex 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9).
The forbearance already shown the NAD, which for over three years has flouted a GC Session vote, is beginning to drift into license and chaos.
The structure of the church is characterized by unity and diversity, as stated by Paul in 1 Cor 12:12: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (ESV). Such unity in the body of Christ reflects a reality for which He prays in John 17. Honoring diversity in implementing the Seventh-day Adventist mission allows for effective response to specific conditions while still maintaining global values and identity, as exemplified in Acts 15.
That’s the argument that the NAD and other developed world voices made in the lead up to San Antonio, and on the convention floor. That argument did not carry the day.
We recognize Christ as the head of the church (Col 1:18). We are guided by the Bible as our only creed, the Holy Spirit who inspired and interprets it, the writings of Ellen G. White that shine light on it, and a resulting spirit of Christlike forbearance. As such, we are compelled to reject the spirit and direction of this document voted at the 2018 Annual Council (hereafter indicated as “the document”), as it is not consistent with the biblical model of the church. We simply cannot, in good conscience, support or participate in the implementation of the process outlined in the document, as it is contrary to the culture of respect and collaboration taught in the Bible (Zech 4:6; Rom 14:13; 15:7; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 2:5; Eph 5:2).
The NAD rejects all attempts to encourage it to conform to the vote of the worldwide SDA Church in world session. They claim the Bible is against discipline and order in the church.
Furthermore, we believe that the document moves us away from the biblical values proclaimed by the Protestant reformers and the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and, in so doing, moves us toward a centralized power and a hierarchical system of governance that overrides the policies and procedures already in place (1 Cor 12:12-27). We are alarmed that, in this document, church policies and voted actions are equated with Scripture. We are also deeply concerned by the use of shame as a punitive measure, because it is in violation of the spirit of the gospel (John 8:3- 11).
The Protestant reformers were not at all opposed to discipline and order in the church. The lesson of the Protestant Reformation—of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and so many others—is that if you have a non-negotiable scriptural difference with the mother church, you leave and start your own church. You do not try to stay within the mother church and flout its systems of government and discipline.
Additionally, the document moves us away from the principles behind the 1901-03 reorganization, endorsed by Ellen G. White, which decentralized denominational authority.
The world church has to be in agreement as to what policies are within the purview of the union conferences. The union conferences cannot decide on their own what policies and doctrines of the world church they approve or disapprove of.
The voicing of our objection is in alignment with the 1877 General Conference voted action, which allows for questioning any General Conference vote “shown to conflict with the word of God and the rights of individual conscience” (Review and Herald, October 4, 1877, p. 106).
Show me where not ordaining women “conflicts with the word of God.” The shoe is on the other foot, which is why the pro-female ordination faction generally does not like to discuss doctrine or Bible passages. Whether to ordain women is not a matter of individual conscience. The church must be in agreement regarding the requirements for ordination, and we should agree on the requirements set out in 1 Tim. 2:11-3:7 and Titus 1:5-9.
Ellen G. White, in response to an 1888 General Conference Session vote she had counseled against, later wrote, “It was not right for the conference to pass it. It was not in God’s order, and this resolution will fall powerless to the ground. I shall not sustain it, for I would not be found working against God. This is not God’s way of working, and I will not give it countenance for a moment” (Letter 22, 1889, pp. 10-11). We believe the church should take heed of this counsel at this moment in our history.
We agree that the General Conference should not pass anything contrary to the counsel of Ellen White but, having been dead for a century, she did not weigh in on the San Antonio vote. Her extant writings are clear that ordained ministers are to be men.
Requests for Action
1. We respectfully request, in light of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and in harmony with the call for unity in the body of Christ in Fundamental Belief No. 14, that the General Conference Executive Committee at its 2019 Annual Council rescind the action approving the document.
“Take it back! Take it back!”
2. We respectfully request that the 2019 Annual Council revise any policies that enable majority fields to dictate the management of non-doctrinal, non-biblical issues to minority fields (1 Cor 12:26) and create policies that protect the interests of minority fields.
Non-biblical issues? There is much relevant Scripture on sex roles in God’s church.
3. We respectfully request that an item be placed on the 2020 General Conference Session agenda calling for a statement by the world church that: (1) affirms our shared respect for the richness and variety of the multiple cultures and practices in which we minister; and (2) empowers ministry that is sensitive to the local context (Acts 15; 1 Cor 9:19-23).
When the local context is full of Sunday-keeping Christians, let’s be sensitive to the local context and try to downplay the Sabbath doctrine. [Note: sarcasm]
It is our sincere hope that the future will be characterized by continual prayer and open dialogue, empowered by “him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20, ESV).
The document was approved by a vote of 176 to 48.