As we previously reported, on January 19th, officials from the General Conference met with North American Division officials and union presidents, to discuss the latter's non-compliance with General Conference working policy and the vote of several General Conference sessions regarding the ordination of women. According to the Adventist News Network, the joint statement that emerged from that meeting was as follows:
The General Conference officers and the officers and union presidents of the North American Division met on Thursday, January 19, to discuss unity in mission as it relates to church governance and women’s ordination. The group affirmed their commitment to Christ through the Holy Spirit, the 28 Fundamentals Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our prophetic end-time mission and worldwide church organization. After a candid and open discussion with frank interaction, the group agreed that there will be ongoing consultations to seek positive solutions to the challenging issues that the church faces.
It is our prayer that the church will move forward in unity and focus on mission to prepare the world for the soon return of our Lord.
Yesterday, a possibly spurious letter purporting to be a joint statement of the union presidents within the North American Division was published at the liberal website Spectrum. So far as we have been able to determine, the letter was not published by any official Seventh-day Adventist website, such as the Review or the Adventist News Network, nor any official union website, nor is the letter signed, nor has any union president publicly endorsed it. Our publication of it is not to be construed as our affirmation that it is genuine or that it is what it purports to be.
The letter reads:
"Dear General Conference Leadership,
As union presidents, we have spent much time in individual and collective prayer over the future of our church driven by implications of governance revolving around women's ordination. We bring the following assurances of our strong personal and collective unity with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
WE ARE UNITED WITH THE WORLD CHURCH IN THE FOLLOWING:
a. We are fully committed to all of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs
b. Bringing our Remnant Message to a dying world is our top priority
c. The partnership of the North American Division with all our sister world divisions is important for both the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and for our own spiritual health
d. We affirm the recent TOSC "Consensus Statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination"
e. We affirm the necessity in finding the best spiritual/missional resolutions to the challenges of unity we face in order to remove challenges to our mission
WE AS UNION PRESIDENTS ARE UNIFIED IN OUR CONVICTIONS REGARDING THE FOLLOWING GOVERNANCE ISSUES OF THE CHURCH REGARDING THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AND MINISTRY
1. We believe the Holy Spirit calls both men and women into ministry and we see no clear biblical mandate against ordaining women
a. A vast majority of quality conservative Adventist theologians favor ordaining women
b. After a lengthy study, two thirds of the General Conference TOSC concluded a way forward to ordaining women
2. We see no consensus within the church regarding women's ordination
a. after 40 years of study and deliberation, we have not found agreement on this issue
b. The 2015 GC floor vote over division options to ordain, while a small majority, revealed a very divided World Church on this issue
c. Prior to the 2015 GC Session, nine of the 13 divisions' TOSC outcomes stated at least some openness to the option of ordaining women
3. North American Division support for women's ordination
a. Quantified votes in some unions and conferences and our personal general observations of the membership within our unions reveal a grass roots support for women's ordination. This ranges from strong support in some unions, modest majorities in others and opposition in a few conferences
b. An inclusive NAD survey taken in 2014 of conference, union and division leadership revealed a 90%-plus approval of women's ordination
c. The North American Division TOSC report was presented at the 2014 Year-end Meeting and was approved with a vote of 178 yes, 6 no, 8 abstaining
d. While we acknowledge a significant minority of members who oppose ordaining women, we reject the validity of surveys taken by independent ministries that claim a majority opposition exists in North America
4. Within the context of our Adventist Religious Liberty DNA we acknowledge the conscientious convictions of both sides of this issue and the need to find a way forward
a. We reject the notion that women's ordination is a simple liberal vs. conservative issue. Many deeply conservative and loyal Adventists are convicted that women should have full parity with men in ministry
5. Since the rejection of the E-60 request, we have been very distracted from mission and need to move forward
6. We believe the GC is dangerously overreaching its authority and potentially endangering the current and future unity and mission of the church (see SOP below)
a. Authorized documents and processes leading up to and during the 2016 Annual Council revealed an intent or openness to dealing with some unions with an extreme, punitive approach
b. Responding to violations of policy or voted actions with similar consequences to a doctrinal violation creates a dangerous precedent that is inconsistent with Adventist/Protestant beliefs and practices and undermines the sanctity of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs, which are the foundation of our missional unity
c. Non-doctrinal issues on which we have no consensus are not a basis for splitting the church
d. We further believe pursuing severe punitive actions against unions will stimulate additional movement toward embracing the ordination of women (there is significant pressure in additional unions to move forward)
e. The North American Division is the entity that should work with any NAD unions considered out of compliance according to existing policy."
The letter then quotes two passages from Ellen White.
As it stands now, the letter qualifies as nothing more than anonymous pro-women's ordination propaganda. It displays all the characteristics of propaganda, including a generous use of half-truths and outright lies.
For example it states that "a vast majority of quality conservative Adventist theologians favor ordaining women," but the term "quality" introduces subjective opinion and renders the rest of the statement meaningless.
It states that two-thirds of the "TOSC concluded a way forward to ordaining women," but it is also true that a large majority of that committee found in Scripture a clear model or pattern of male leadership in the church.
It acknowledges that the 2015 General Conference session vote went against female ordination, but then argues that "a very divided World Church" somehow exempts the NAD unions from complying with the Session vote, which is palpable nonsense.
It argues that NAD member opinion favors female ordination, but no scientific opinion poll has ever been taken. Our unscientific poll--generically referred to in the letter--found a majority in the NAD did not favor female ordination.
There are reasons to believe that this letter is genuine, and reasons to believe it is spurious.
The reasons to believe it is genuine include:
1. It has been up at Spectrum for over 24 hours. Presumably if it did not represent the views of the union presidents, they would demand that Spectrum remove it, and Spectrum would accede to their wishes.
2. If it is not genuine, Spectrum, and editor Bonnie Dwyer, are sacrificing whatever journalistic integrity they might ever have had in return for propaganda of short-term value in the women's ordination debate.
3. Ordinationtruth.com seems to believe it is genuine, and comments here.
Reasons to believe that it is not genuine include:
1. It is not signed. Hence, even if some union presidents agree with it, it might not represent the views of all of them. The term "we" could be grammatically correct if only two of the union presidents, say Dave Weigley and Ricardo Graham, had endorsed it. The term "we" could be the "royal we" if only one union president endorsed it, and believed it fairly represented the views of the others.
2. It is sourced only through Spectrum, a publication whose raison d'etre is undermining the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, turning the church into a social club for cultural Adventists who have long since ceased to believe the doctrines, and providing an echo chamber of mutual reinforcement for the grievances and heretical musings of apostates who long ago left the SDA Church. It is difficult to believe that any union president would consider Spectrum to be a suitable outlet for an official or quasi-official church statement.
3. The letter signals that the union presidents are inflexible on women's ordination and will ignore the General Conference Session votes, the Annual Council vote taken last October, and all other attempts to have a unitary church policy on ordination. The letter is signaling overt contempt for the General Conference session votes, for the world church, and for the concept of world church unity and order. It is difficult to believe that all of the union presidents in the NAD would agree with such defiance and rebellion.
4. The letter is a Fort Sumter moment, the opening of hostilities in a civil war within the Adventist Church. Anyone who signed this letter, or agrees with its sentiments, is telegraphing an intent to soon begin the dissolution of the current structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Again, it is difficult to believe that all the union presidents in the North American Division are already in hostile, open rebellion against the world church.
So, dear Fulcrum7 reader, make what you will of this "letter from the union presidents." We pray it is not genuine, but fear it is. If it is genuine, it signals that our church is entering a civil war and, likely, momentous changes to its structure.