Remember those disciplinary committees that were established last year and approved at Annual Council? Remember all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Adventist Left? This modest movement toward the possibility of discipline for administrative units who were defying the San Antonio Session decision was condemned as signaling the catastrophic implosion of the entire known universe.
The news from Silver Spring is that ADCOM, the governing committee that prepares the agenda for Annual Council, has voted to discontinue the disciplinary committees that were voted into being last autumn. This news comes from a notoriously Leftist Adventist website, and I have not independently confirmed it, but if true it signals the defeat of the latest attempt to impose discipline on those Unions who continue to ordain women in defiance of the San Antonio vote.
This means there will be no discipline prior to the 2020 session. A GC Session vote will have gone unenforced for five full years.
In 2016, I noted that the GC’s “year of grace” was essentially deferring the possibility of discipline for at least two years.
In 2017, discipline was deferred again. Elder Wilson tried to pass a measure that would specify certain largely symbolic penalties—such as forfeiting committee member privileges—for advocating for non-compliance with the GC session vote, and called for all Annual Council members to sign a statement in which they would agree to abide by GC working policy. This was derided as a “loyalty oath” and the measure went down in flames, 184 against, 113 in favor.
And, of course, last autumn the “disciplinary committees” were voted, but now comes the news that they were never operational, and ADCOM has voted to dissolve them.
Last year I stated that no real discipline would ever emerge from these committees; committees are where complaints go to die, not to be acted upon:
“He [Wilson] failed to imposed symbolic discipline, and I think he would fail if he attempted to impose a more stringent discipline, such as converting unions to missions and firing the officers. This problem is not going to be solved by administrative or political maneuvering. The votes simply are not there at this time to impose discipline on the ordination issue. Setting up a bunch of new committees isn't going to help, because the same old people will be on those new committees.
“Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘first you win the argument, then you win the vote.’ Elder Wilson isn't trying to win the argument. He isn't making the argument. He isn't using his bully pulpit to promote male headship in the church.”
“Elder Wilson isn't doing anything to change the climate of opinion in the church. All the official organs of the church--the Review, Adventist Journey, the Sabbath School Quarterly, etc. are all in the hands of people who favor female ordination. That being the case, the climate of opinion will never change to favor male headship.”
“I assume . . . that Elder Wilson understands he's being toyed with. He knows the San Antonio vote is an unenforceable nullity, and that there's never going to be any discipline for unions that continue to ordain women. It must be very galling to him. He needs our prayers.”
After the news of ADCOM’s vote leaked out a few days ago, a friend telephoned me to tell me I called it correctly. But, in fact, I was too optimistic. I assumed that the committees would at least be constituted and hear cases, but they were never even functional; they never got to the point of receiving a complaint.
In my defense, it is difficult to be adequately pessimistic about today’s Adventist Church—the official, tithe-supported church, that is. The independent ministries are increasingly principled, conservative, and Bible-centered. The Scott Ritsema video we posted here shows figures such as John Bradshaw, Steve Wohlberg and Doug Batchelor boldly marking out a refreshingly clear pro-life position for the Adventist Church. The same people, mostly adult converts to Adventism, are also clear about the scriptural doctrine of male headship in the church.
Sadly, however, the official church is mired in pusillanimity. The few official church employees who oppose female ordination are terrified to discuss the issue publicly, not wanting to risk their careers. But even the pro-female ordination crowd seem too timid to defend their position, even though they’re in a solid majority in North America. They seem content with tertiary argumentation over the Trinity directed at one insignificant argument employed by some who oppose female ordination.
Everyone is walking on eggshells, trying to the avoid the reality of the looming schism in the church. It is a pathetic situation.
What does it mean that the San Antonio vote to not ordain women has, in effect, been converted into a non-binding resolution because of the GC’s inability to enforce the vote? Time will tell, but it cannot be good.