Adventist Laymen Call for Special Session of UCC!
On March 29, 2016, the Upper Columbia Conference executive committee VOTED a “Commissioned Minister Policy” placing the practice of Upper Columbia in opposition to the practice of the world church. Because of the decision of the committee, responsibilities which the world church reserves only for the ordained minister have been unilaterally granted to commissioned ministers.
The 2015 General Conference session rejected the proposal to let each division set its own criteria for the ordained minister. Instead, the world church decided to maintain biblical qualifications for ordained minister criteria. Therefore, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not practice the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. (Women and men can and should minister for God in numerous ways, but there is no necessity to grant every person the “ordained minister” credential.)
And yet, just five months after the GC session, the chair brought to the December executive committee a proposal to create a “Commissioned Minister Policy” contradicting both the Working Policy of the North American Division and contradicting the Church Manual voted by the General Conference session. This matter was kept on the agenda and became VOTED policy on March 29, 2016.
Contradicting the World Church
To vote a policy which sidesteps the decision of the General Conference in session is spiritually dangerous and untenable. The act exceeds the authority that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has delegated to conference committees.
If a Conference can ignore the Union, Division, or General Conference, then why cannot a local church ignore their own local Conference?
When the Upper Columbia Conference Lay-Advisory Committee met on April 10, 2016, attendees were not asked for their advice about whether such a policy should be implemented. What happened was the opposite: the committee was told about the policy that had just been voted.
Upper Columbia Conference president, Paul Hoover, stated at the April Lay Advisory meeting, that there was no difference between the new commissioning policy and ordaining, just a matter of semantics.
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Upper Columbia Conference want to be in harmony with the world church. We want leaders who will set an example of faithfulness and unity with the General Conference.
We have assurance of being able to trust how the Lord leads the General Conference:
I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man's judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work, and to say what plans should be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body . . . . God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing, is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church, in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work (Testimonies, Vol. 9, pp. 260, 261).
Proposed Special Session to Reverse
The Constitution and Bylaws of the Upper Columbia Conference includes built-in checks and balances. It contains a mechanism by which church members can overrule executive committee decisions. Article 7, Section 3, C, of the Bylaws states that “Special sessions may be called by: . . . C. Petition at any time by fifteen (15) percent of the constituent church boards determined as of December 31, of the previous year.”
There is a grassroots movement underway that is taking the steps needed to follow this provision. For example, if in the process of a Board Meeting or properly called Business Meeting, the majority of the attendees vote “Yes” to a motion moved and seconded to call for a Special Session, the voting church then informs the Conference of the decision, and in so doing adds its voice to the petition by other churches for a Special Session. Some of us met after the Lay Advisory meeting to discuss our concern over the matter.
At that time, we did not really know what could be done, but we knew that there was a proper way of addressing this issue. The aforementioned petition is the means by which this is to be done. During our discussion, we felt helpless, but we now know that we have a voice and a responsibility. Not everyone realizes that individual churches have a voice. If they exercise it, they do.
So, we are getting the word out about what we can do in light of this insubordinate action. If a conference can define for itself what authorities are given in credentials, in spite of God's plan for governing the Seventh-day Adventist Church, what then will happen when other matters of disagreement arise with the world church?
Tomorrow is coming! Culture will press us into its mold by small steps if we do nothing. Our good intentions, if not closely informed by Scripture, will lead us astray. We know that we must take action and not fear the risks, especially as we consider this timely counsel:
There are ever to be found those who will sympathize with those who are wrong. Satan had sympathizers in heaven, and took large numbers of the angels with him. God and Christ and heavenly angels were on one side, and Satan on the other. Notwithstanding the infinite power and majesty of God and Christ, angels became disaffected. The insinuations of Satan took effect, and they really came to believe that the Father and the Son were their enemies and that Satan was their benefactor. Satan has the same power and the same control over minds now, only it has increased a hundredfold by exercise and experience. Men and women today are deceived, blinded by his insinuations and devices, and know it not. By giving place to doubts and unbelief in regard to the work of God, and by cherishing feelings of distrust and cruel jealousies, they are preparing themselves for complete deception. They rise up with bitter feelings against the ones who dare to speak of their errors and reprove their sins (Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 328.).
Please be very prayerful and careful as you enter into this matter. Pray for those who are facing this issue within this conference and others where this same action was taken. There are many who sincerely do not see why the women’s ordination question even matters. Let us think honestly—and then let’s act.