A 78-member committee consisting of General Conference and Division officers will recommend that Annual Council approve a document specifying a two-part process for dispute resolution. The document is not directed only at the ordination issue, but is a general approach to conflict resolution.
After an informal, smarmy preamble, the document details part one of the two-part process:
"After much prayer, consultation, and discussion, it is RECOMMENDED,
- To adopt the following steps of reconciliation with entities that appear to have overlooked or ignored the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the Church:
- Listen and pray.
- This step begins when the executive officers or governing body become aware of an apparent reason for concern regarding a subsidiary entity’s actions. The executive officers should then meet with the leaders of the subsidiary entity. This will provide an opportunity to pray together, and listen to each other.
- Consultation with wider groups.
- If it is found that there is reason for further discussion, the executive officers of the next higher organization should, after consulting with the entity, establish a wider group to discuss the concern. This group—including lay people, pastors, and administrators from the entity and the broader Church—should meet at least twice over a period of six months. This will provide an opportunity to listen to each other, pray together, and study God’s will from His Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. Every effort should be made and sufficient time be given, for personal visits, open consultations, meetings, and forums for dialogue.
- If the matter is one with critical time sensitivity (such as an entity preparing to take out an unauthorized loan that could not then be reversed), the executive committee, in consultation with their next higher organization, could authorize an amended timeframe.
- The executive officers who established the larger group should provide regular updates on the discussions to their governing body and to the executive officers of their next higher organization.
- Write pastoral letters.
- If after six months of discussion the matter has not been resolved, the executive officers of the next higher organization should write pastoral letters encouraging the executive officers and the governing body of the entity to lead their organization to be faithful to the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, and working policies of the Church.
- Listen and pray again.
- If these letters still don’t resolve the matter, the executive officers of the next higher organization should again meet with the executive officers and the governing body of the entity concerned to urge and encourage them to reconsider (unless an amended timeframe has been approved in step b. above). They should also request an opportunity to meet again with the group that has been addressing the matter.
- Start phase two of reconciliation.
- If, for some reason, the above process of prayer and consultation does not resolve the matter, the executive committee of the next higher organization will need to consider the conflict resolution procedures referred to in recommendation 2. below.
- For the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs or voted actions and policies of a worldwide nature, the General Conference will become involved."
- Listen and pray.
Remember, that was just part one. How will the General Conference "become involved" and what will it do? That part, which is part two of the two-part process, has not been worked out yet. The document states:
RECOMMENDED, 2. To request the General Conference Administrative Committee to recommend to 2017 Annual Council procedural steps to be followed in the event that a resolution of the conflict is not achieved under procedures identified above.
So another committee is going to recommend to next fall's annual council a procedure to follow in the event that part one of the conflict resolution plan does not resolve the conflict.
And we know it certainly will not. The unions and conferences that are ordaining women, and have a woman as a conference president, have dug their heels in, correctly calculating that they will meet with no effective resistance.
Will discipline be possible next year? No. No, it will not. If you read the second recommendation carefully, you will note that the GC Administrative Committee will not recommend a punishment to be imposed on the rebellious unions. Rather, it will recommend certain "procedural steps to be followed" to get to a resolution or to arrive at a punishment if no resolution is achievable.
So if the pastoral approach fails--and it certainly will, and has already--then next year's Annual Council will adopt a procedure for the GC to follow when it has to "get involved." So, presumably, the GC will not have exhausted that yet-to-be-determined procedure and be ready to impose discipline until Annual Council 2018.
We all heard that Annual Council was considering "a Year of Grace." The reality is much worse. We now appear to be headed not toward a year of grace but toward two years of thumb twiddling.