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General Conference Documents Prepare for Action

Adventists are reading with interest two documents released on Sunday by the General Conference. According to Adventist News Network, General Conference executive secretary G.T. Ng stated, “During Annual Council this year we plan to discuss how best to address divergence from the current policy.”
“A Study of Church Governance and Unity” is a 50 page study. Section headings discuss unity, policy, diversity, authority, authority in the Spirit of Prophecy, unilateralism, and application. The shorter document summarizes the longer.
Since the General Conference vote in 2015 in which delegates forbade divisions of the Church from ordaining women to the gospel ministry, several Unions and Conferences have acted unilaterally toward the world church. A wide range of approaches have been implemented, including inflating the commissioned credential to parity with the ordained minister, the outright ordination of women, changing ordained credentials for commissioned ones, and more. All undermine the unity and mission of the Church.
The Council of Adventist Pastors recommends that readers peruse the full documents (linked to at the end of this article). We also believe that readers will be interested in our highlighting some of the material now being studied by church leaders.

“Policies provide a clear record of what representatives of the world Church have discussed and agreed is essential for the global body to engage effectively in mission and ministry” (p. 9).

“Policy also expresses our unity, for, in the succinct words of a recent statement by world Church leaders, ‘General Conference Session actions and voted policies are agreements that the body of Christ make together’” (p. 9, emphasis in original).

“When God’s people determine whether or not to allow diverse approaches among them, they should make their decision collectively and collaboratively, not unilaterally” (p. 12).

Far from being inessential, policies are a concrete expression of the unity of the Church. It is because the Church invests energy in creating policy that the Church is able to operate an effective global program, and to do so coherently. When variations are permitted, such should be determined on the basis of collective decision-making, not unilateral action.

Inherent in our system of representative, consultative, consensus-based decision-making is that organizational units and church-member representatives have input into the decisions of organizations at higher levels of structure. However, having had input, reciprocity means that there must be acceptance of the collective decision. Also inherent in the system, then, is that the authority of an organizational unit at any level is plenary in its territory, encompassing all constituent or component organizations at lower levels. The latter are bound by the decisions of the higher-level units of which they form a part, and of any executive committees entrusted by Working Policy with far-reaching authority. . . .the authority of the GC Executive Committee applies not only to divisions, but also to unions, and in consequence to conferences and missions. . . . unions are constitutionally obliged to act in harmony with GC Working Policy (p. 15).

No mission, conference, or union has a right to take unilateral decisions on important matters, or to depart from decisions taken by units at a higher level of structure with wider authority. . . Recognition as a conference/mission or union brings with it decision-making authority in defined areas and the right of representation at higher levels of denominational structure, but ‘status’ is contingent on ‘compliance with denominational practices and policies’ and ‘can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it’ (B 05, 3). (p. 16).

These are clear statements that the authority of each part of the church structure attached to the General Conference is derived from it. A decision limiting what a division can do also limits what that division’s unions, that union’s conferences, and that conference’s local churches can do. Authority is limited and derived; we are a world church.
The document also reminds us that the status of a division, union, or conference is subject to that unit’s “compliance with denominational practices and policies.” The document draws an important parallel between Ellen White’s warnings referring to the unilateral actions of J.H. Kellogg and “the current circumstances of unilateral action by Church organizational units.” The GC then says “overly independent, unilateral action poses a special danger to the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (p. 31).

When, after such a process [referring to the TOSC study and GC session voted decision. pp. 40, 41], a GC Session takes a decision, one obviously intended to apply to to the world (since variation in practice was part of the motion put to the Session), it cannot be disregarded. The decision cannot be called a matter of little significance on which everyone could reasonably go their own way. That is because we all, together, considered it, and collectively decided it was not such a matter, but one in which we should act together. The biblical principle of unity in decision-making requires compliance. Whatever our views as individuals, ‘private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered (p. 41).

If we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making—if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally—then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down. Unions would decline to follow divisions’ guidance; conferences will ignore unions when it suits them; local churches would flout conferences or missions (Ibid.).

Longtime readers of will recognize in the above statements things we have been saying since 2013. At that time the Pacific Union constituency session vote to disregard the 1990 decision not to ordain women was still fresh in our minds and the NPUC was telling members they were going to embark on a plan to “educate members” about a position on women’s ordination which was contrary to that of the world church, and then hold a special constituency session to vote on it. In other words, threatened unilateral action by the Union prompted us to act. We have engaged in a process of study and published those results in support of the world church. The sample quotations above (and there are many more in the documents) help us know that these issues are well understood and that the world church, after much forbearance, is ready to bring Spirit-led correction.
Here are the General Conference documents available for downloading:
A Study of Church Governance and Unity (54 pp.).
Summary of a statement on Church Governance and Unity (17 pp.).

5 replies on “General Conference Documents Prepare for Action”

The Church will appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. This is of course a prophecy by the Lords messenger, therefore, all these things must come to pass. I don’t believe the current crisis rises to the level (yet) of a Church about to fall. But that day is coming. Until then, we should do all in our power to hold the Church together, just as we should do all in our power to stave off the inevitable National Sunday Law. Realizing that in either case, these things must come to pass; let not your hearts be troubled while we “agitate” the questions to be raised. To bring these things before the people, to educate and enlighten.

This is a time to pray for and voice support for our General Conference leaders as they chart the way forward and seek to affirm both Biblical integrity and the cohesion of the worldwide Adventist movement. Accountability is coming. Let us encourage our leaders to muster holy boldness in this time of peril, and to recognize—as these documents clearly do—that the only true path to unity is through faithfulness to the Biblical model.
The great shaking looms ahead, but the ultimate triumph of God’s church through the departure of the apostate majority has clearly been promised by God’s messenger (e.g. 4T 89; 2SM 380; 12MR 327; 20MR 320; GC 608). This is not a time for despair or discouragement. Winston Churchill declared in that first speech he delivered as Prime Minister of Great Britain, speaking of the crisis faced by the Western powers and all humanity in view of the Nazi threat, that “if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
The finest hour of God’s end-time church approaches. May we prove worthy through His grace, is my prayer.

First I want to say Thank You to the Lord for all that He is doing and has done and secondly thank you to the General Conference for following the Lord’s guidance. How wonderful it is to be part of a world church who follows Biblical principles. May the Lord continue to guide and bless them is my prayer.

correcting a wrong practise requires a lot of prayer and fasting
look at Ezra…..he stands up in the assembly and lets them know they have sinned by marrying foreign women
But see their response!
12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. 13 But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.”
Let the conferences and divisions who realise that this practice of women ordination is not supported by scripture and not supported by previous GC assemblies come to the above conclusions,but as the text says “this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing”. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.”
in the above narration others did oppose Ezra by the way
Nevertheless ,truth triumphed,Ezra 10:16 So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, 17 and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.
in the same way Elder Wilson has to summon each Division president and investigate each case and deal with Divisions who have sanctioned a practise never voted at GC
Since the practise of ordination of women has roots in the 1970s in our church ,it means it has engraved itself in church practises that this needs time to correct and needs proper education exercises otherwise the women who were ordained will be very upset if we handle this matter with clumsiness .Handle with care even where error is…tender hands on fragile souls….these women obeyed our church authorities but our church authorities like Aaron allowed a practise not sanctioned by God s word
Over to you Elder Wilson,call the heads of each families(Divisions) as Ezra did.The rest of us ,lets continue with prayers

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