November 3 Business Session
This past Sunday, the NAD Executive Committee discussed two requests made by the division to the General Conference. The first request includes the following points:
We respectfully request, in light of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and in harmony with the call for unity in the body of Christ in Fundamental Belief No. 14, that the General Conference Executive Committee at its 2019 Annual Council rescind the action approving the document.
We respectfully request that the 2019 Annual Council revise any policies that enable majority fields to dictate the management of non-doctrinal, non-biblical issues to minority fields (1 Cor. 12:26) and create policies that protect the interests of minority fields.
We respectfully request that an item be placed on the 2020 General Conference Session agenda calling for a statement by the world church that: (1) affirms our shared respect for the richness and variety of the multiple cultures and practices in which we minister; and (2) empowers ministry that is sensitive to the local context (Acts 15; 1 Cor 9:19-23).
The General Conference’s response to the first request was negative, the second request was deemed impractical and hard to manage, and the third request was approved. Jackson noted that it would also be helpful for the NAD to be more culturally sensitive in conversation with the world church. Ella Simons, GC vice president, further emphasized that terminology and tone are key in conversation with the world church and suggested that intercultural communication could be proposed as the topic for the leadership conference preceding the GC Annual Council 2020.
A couple comments opened discussion about the relation between the General Conference and the Divisions, which theoretically is one of equality (the divisions being representatives of the GC, not subordinates). In light of this, two questions were raised: how can a voted request of the NAD be refused by the GC (the refusal implying a subordinate rather than equal relation), and what do the warnings given at the GC Annual Council mean?
Dan Jackson suggested that the vote taken at the Annual Council was “an attempt to at least start a process.” He noted that the document voted at the Annual Council in 2018 includes three phases: warning, public reprimand, and expulsion of the union leaders from the GC Executive Committee. Jackson clarified that the General Conference lacks the authority to terminate employment of union leaders, that authority belonging only to the constituency. Only a division president, secretary, and treasurer could be affected by the GC (in session), which functions as constituency for these leaders. Sharing his perspective on the warning vote, Jackson said:
We respect and love the leaders of the Pacific Union and of the Columbia Union and their membership. They are in good standing with the North American division and will continue to be so, unless they start worshipping on Sunday. But they are as accepted as any other union and loved as every union. So, in terms of the NAD, we have no way to relate to the warning idea, nor will we…. I will never refer to the constituencies of those two unions as rebels.
Jackson also stated that Wilson does not think a two-thirds majority would vote to expel the leaders of so-perceived rebel unions. “My sincere hope and prayer is that the brethren will say ‘We’ve had enough. Let’s move on,’” said Jackson.
The most forceful comment on equality in pastoral ministry came from Marcia from the Allegheny East Conference:
I am grateful to be a part of the Columbia Union that has acted on conscience and principle and, based on the results of the votes I have seen in NAD meetings, it seems that the list of those receiving the warnings should have been longer,
…she stated. The delegate disclosed that her great-grandmother’s family was rejected from a particular SDA church due to their color and as a result they never accepted the Sabbath, worshipping in a welcoming Baptist church instead,
We will never know the full impact of our church’s decision to discriminate. It is hard to comprehend the fact that many of those decisions at that time were accepted by the church and based on what they thought the Scripture meant. It is widely accepted now that that line of thought was clearly a misinterpretation. It is even more difficult for me to understand why so many people who did not believe the same went along to get along.
Although I cannot agree with the majority vote of the GC to discriminate on the basis of gender, my issue at this point is not just with the global church. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to work to reveal truth to all leaders and members of our church who consistently vote to discriminate on the basis on gender. My issue and I say this in love, is with the leaders in this room, who believe that the GC vote to continue its discriminatory practices is wrong, but they still do not recommend women for ordination in their conferences or vote to ordain them in their unions. To know the right thing to do and not do it is a sin.
Quite frankly, and I say this in love, I do not understand how some leaders can come here year after year and talk about the discrimination against their predecessors who were not allowed to eat in the GC cafeteria, etc., or speak against the terrible acts of discrimination that they personally witness, but still go home and say that their hands are tied because they can’t go against the GC vote. The GC did not take away our right to choose to do the right things. God gave us that right, and He never took it away. I’m not oversimplifying this matter, in fact, I believe that it is a tool of the enemy to get us to believe that it is more complicated than it seems. Please continue to teach your constituents what the Bible says about spiritual gifts, unity in Christ, and discrimination. Fix your bylaws to avoid legal ramifications but hold the vote in your unions to give women ministers the same credentials that male ministers receive.
Throughout the meeting, Jackson made several statements calling for mutual love, stating that one of the biggest problems in our church is that we do not love each other. He encouraged each person to consider how they think about and treat those who disagree with them and emphasized the need to genuinely love our “bristers” (brothers and sisters).
The second request of the NAD to the GC concerned the tithe parity. Alex Bryant, NAD Executive Secretary, gave a history of the discussions surrounding the tithe parity vote, noting the historical progression towards achieving parity and the fact that the NAD’s request has never been seen in a negative light by the church leadership. This issue of tithe parity was discussed and voted on during the General Conference Annual Council on October 14 of this year. Several comments from the floor expressed appreciation towards the world church for granting NAD this request and thus supporting the work in the North American Division.
The following chart illustrates the projected progression towards parity over the next ten years. The additional 0.85% is due to the functions of major institutions such as Loma Linda University and Andrews University.
As the division moves towards parity, several items are yet to be addressed and negotiated, including mission funds, ISE expenses for NAD based personnel, GCAS cost-sharing and other shared services, as well as additional assistance on excess liability premium.