In separate votes in October 2015, Washington and Oregon Conference executive committees exceeded their authority. Both approved policies that inflate the commissioned minister credential to practical equivalency with the ordained minister credential in their territories. And yet, on July 8, 2015, in San Antonio, Texas, the General Conference session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted NOT to permit regional ordination of women. The intent of that vote was that each section of the church NOT go its own way. Oregon and Washington Conferences are acting independently. The voted actions these conferences have taken is simply congregationalism at the level of the conference. These administrations and their executive committees are creating a spirit of disunity.
The policies adopted explicitly contradict the Church Manual. For example,
- The new policies permit commissioned ministers to organize churches. This responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 37).
- The new policies permit commissioned ministers to unite churches. This responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 40).
- The new policies permit commissioned ministers to ordain local elders. However, this responsibility is limited to ordained ministers only (Church Manual, page 72).
(For the Washington policy, see here. For the Oregon policy, see here.)
Will these Conference administrations be pleased if local churches also pick and choose for themselves which parts of the Church Manual they comply with?
The voted action of the Washington Conference policy even directs “That both commissioned and ordained pastors be allowed to serve in any position of the Washington Conference including conference president” (See Washington Conference Policy). But the world church requires that conference presidents, who stand “at the head of the gospel ministry in the conference,” be “ordained pastor[s] of experience” (Church Manual, page 32). “Ordained pastor” in the Adventist Church always means a spiritually-qualified male. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long maintained its practice in harmony with Scripture, recognizing only persons meeting this specification as called to positions standing at the leadership, or “head” of the work.
The Oregon Conference voted its policy in October and has yet to publish this action to its membership in print.
It is highly inappropriate for Conferences to adopt policies which explicitly contradict the Church Manual and the approved policies of the world church. Such action will almost certainly be perceived by broader church membership as divisive. No local conference has authority to create policies and practices contradicting the Church Manual or the General Conference Working Policy.