Reflections on the 2018 Annual Council Decision

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Reflections on the 2018 Annual Council Decision

Purpose of the Article: As I perused the comments on social media after the vote was taken on the General Conference Compliance Document, “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions,” it became readily apparent that not all reactions were based on sound biblical principles as the church strives to navigate through this already tense topic.[1] Just so we have a good footing of how the vote went, the count of the secret ballots was as follows: Yes 185; No 124; Abstained 2.

Initially, there were a variety of responses from wise calls for patience to tempers flaring on both sides of the issue. Thus, it seems necessary to take a step back and put everything into the perspective so we can see what is helpful and what is problematic of what is going on.

We can come at this from a multitude of angles, but from observing the responses to this action it seemed best to address four main issues: church structure, church leadership, church mission, and unity, and finally (but sadly) worldly and secular influences.

My objective is to strive for objectivity affirming positive points on both sides of the matter and sharing a few thoughts for us to reflect on as we wrestle together with some of the problematic issues as the family of God.

What the Wisdom of God Does: To be faithful to God is our highest joy and duty as Christians. That said it should be one of our most gripping tasks that we do our best “to present {ourselves} to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”[2]

The wisdom of God teaches us to access the virtues of 1) care for God’s honor; 2) a sound and faithful approach to God’s Word; and 3) correctly teaching (Gr. orthotomeo; lit. cut in the right direction, i.e., follow the right way[3]) and sharing who God is and what He is doing according to His Word.

The Need for Correct Hermeneutics and Exegesis: From the mental gymnastics and rhetorical hula hoops on both sides of the issue, it raises the question as to whether we have taken this divine counsel seriously. My area of specialization is exegesis and hermeneutics (bible study methods and principles). So, my main concern is the way that Scripture and the writings of EGW are being used (or not being used) in discussing support for or opposition against the recent actions.

Not a Doctrinal Belief: Because this issue is not a fundamental belief, it should be clear to all that this is not a test question of one’s fidelity to Christ. However, because people’s personal walk with Christ and Christian integrity is under fire on both sides it is necessary to grapple with these four issues in a way that puts the “higher powers” of reason, will, and sound judgment above the “lower nature” of emotion and feeling.[4]

The Need for a Christian Spirit: A dispassionate look at the how God, through the church,[5] actually functions is a good place to begin.[6] We should daily pray for the humility to acknowledge we could be wrong in our views or reactions to others and are constantly in need of clarity on issues at hand.

The need for patience, clarity, and understanding becomes all the more important, as we see politically charged rhetoric in recent events of church decisions put aside the gospel. The easy slide to denigrating and decimating one’s “opponent” in these matters speaks volumes about what is believed about these four issues.

The Issue of Church Structure

Women’s Ordination is Connected: Because information on ecclesiology[7] and the SDA church structure[8] is readily available I won’t repeat the well-known facts here. As the recent action at Annual Council is seen to be a direct response to the practice of ordaining women as pastors, we should be transparent and acknowledge the correlation between this and the Compliance document.

However, this brief essay is not an attempt to relitigate the various views on women’s ordination.[9] The main issue this short article seeks to address is the underlying factor that is involved in helping a worldwide church maintain fellowship, keep missional harmony as the body of Christ on an international level, and deal with disagreements about church polity.[10]

Multiple Factors at Play: Clearly, the church functions in places with many different cultures, political systems, religious majorities and minorities, and secular entities that must be navigated biblically by the church. At the same time, we should always recognize how Satan is constantly using these factors to tear the church apart from without and from within.[11]

There is a lively tension revolving around the issue of dealing with conflicts and what has been termed “non-compliance” within a broader context—loving your brother/sister and striving to maintain a cohesive body of believers for fellowship and mission.

Women’s Ordination Made Doctrinal: Unfortunately, it seems that the conflict over how to deal with varying views on topics—such as addressing “non-compliance” at the structural level and its implications for church polity—becomes tenser because in some circles women’s ordination has been raised to a level of doctrinal, or in some minds an existential significance.

According to the church’s agreed upon 28 Fundamental Beliefs no such sentiment is sustainable.[12] Thus, by keeping the discussion at the level of church polity (i. e. how the church functions missionally, as an organized body) the denunciations of apostasy or misogyny, etc. should be kept at a minimum.[13]

Israel’s Church Structure: When we consider how Israel functioned as a theocracy and then as a theocratic monarchy structurally,[14] it helps us to see the dynamics of corporate mission and covenantal harmony in the face of disagreement, perceived injustice, covenant breach, and assertions of unfaithfulness.

When God was directly over the people as King, the nature of justice and community discipline functioned corporately.[15] In other words, God allowed His people to go through the process of deciding situations that would inevitably develop within a diverse body of believers. Often the nature of the issue or disagreement was assessed as a community and judgment rendered in light of God’s revealed will in His word.[16]

The Divine Structural Balance Given to Israel: There were certain instances when the structural role of leadership was questioned, and again, there was a process to prevent tyranny on the one hand and a rogue spirit on the other.[17]

This does not mean that a rubber stamp is given on decisions just because of organization, but organization is a helpful buttress against complaints of tyranny as well as assertions of rogue behavior. This balance was the divine design and plan to ameliorate difficult decisions. Disagreement or agreement with the outcome should not lead to the demonization or deification of the process.[18]

New Testament Church Dynamics To Adventist Organization: In the New Testament, we see the dynamics of the development of community issues, on the individual as well as corporate level.[19] Moving forward 18 centuries, our pioneers wrestled with the issue of structure, as the organic bible-centered Advent movement grew.[20] Admittedly, their concern for tyranny and popery was a big part of the tension surrounding organization.[21] Thus, it was determined that organization was necessary to promote harmony and to protect the body.[22]

The Church’s Role in Choosing Leaders: Ellen White was given clarity on the way to bring about the church’s role in decision making regarding choosing leaders, commenting that

I saw that in the apostles’ day the church was in danger of being deceived and imposed upon by false teachers. Therefore, the brethren chose men who had given good evidence that they were capable of ruling well their own houses and preserving order in their own families, and who could enlighten those who were in darkness.[23]

Popery and Authoritarianism Uncalled for: Thus, because the church does not follow a hierarchical model, but one of a spiritual trust for the whole body, one wonders why attacks including designations of “popery” and “authoritarianism” are being marshaled. Indeed, her argument was against false teachers, so theological and practical godliness was a prerequisite for leadership, and that responsibility is put into the hands of the church.

Pastors, educators, administrators, devout men and women who are seeking to nurture and protect the flock make up the various committees to avoid top-down tyranny and self-proclaimed rogue leaders. While they may not agree on points of structural dynamics (i. e. women’s ordination), to assume the church leaders are in rebellion because they affirm it or are tyrannical because they may not agree with it, is what makes the issue of “non-compliance” such a problematic issue.

Little Clarity on the Church’s Function: I believe church leadership is striving to keep missional and structural cohesion on a worldwide basis, but it seems for all the ink spilled there is little clarity on how the church should function globally in a world vastly different than what the Old Testament, New Testament, and early pioneers encountered.[24]

What the vote shows is that a minor majority of the elected representatives of the worldwide church body agrees upon the function of the body when it comes to church polity and compliance, as necessary for missional church harmony.

Need for More Study and Prayer: I believe we still need to pray, study, discuss, and continue to revisit the methods of dealing with disagreements over church polity. Hopefully, this representative corporate perspective clarifies that these issues are being addressed in a manner where brothers and sisters in Christ are allowed to share their biblical views and cares, concerns, and perspectives about the direction of the church.

The Issue of Church Leadership

The nature of leadership flows together with this dynamic of church polity. Before we ask the question, how should we deal with varying views? We need to ask the question, who is primarily responsible for dealing with these varying views?

Three Types of Ministry: In the early church, the issue of leadership was significant in light of its burgeoning growth.[25] Robert Johnston clearly delineates that three main types of ministry were functioning in the first century: charismatic, [26] familial, and appointive. His description is in harmony with what can be seen in the Old Testament.

The prophet Amos would fit under the charismatic mold as one divine called directly by God, not part of the structural system.[27] He yielded the same authority as the structural prophets—holding the people of God accountable for their covenant life.

We see the type of familial leadership in the priesthood and kingship.[28] And we see in the lives of Moses and Joshua an appointed leadership.[29]

In a Diverse Church—All Voices Heard: The point is that there is a dynamism of leadership that is consistent across the Testaments. So, when the church is dealing with issues, all voices should be recognized. But do all voices carry the same weight in terms of church polity?

Johnston rightly notes that the latter type prevailed over the former as the church grew and the ethnic, social, and spatial dynamics of the church grew.[30] The type of church polity we have today is ethnically and geographically diverse because of the spread of Advent hope and mission terrain and thus demand representation.

The Need for Organization: Living in these times of great demographic change, most people wisely see a necessity for thoughtful organization to encourage order, while working according to Paul’s authoritative word about what it means to be in Christ.[31]

Misuse of Ellen White: Generally, when it comes to issues of authority, some Adventists are functioning by Ellen White’s statement:

When the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon the earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained, but be surrendered.[32]

Statements such as this are usually replied to with other statements that declare,

The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as authority in counseling how the work should be done, is no longer the voice of God.[33]

Two years later she observed,

It has been some years since I have considered the General Conference as the voice of God.[34]

And later wrote,

The voice of the conference ought to be the voice of God, but it is not.[35]

Ellen White Not Inconsistent: I find it interesting how these quotations are wielded as weapons to justify perspectives we either agree or don’t agree with. I bring this up to make two points. 1) God’s intention is for the church to exercise authority, but that authority is always morally exemplary, derivative and conditional; this is in harmony with what we see in Scripture.[36] 2) it is unnecessary to see a conflict in the statements or make Ellen White seem inconsistent, which is what usually unintentionally happens.

We Must Start with the Bible: It is imperative, when it comes to issues of leadership, that we start with Scripture. Randomly grabbing quotations out of context without starting with biblical principles may indicate a misunderstanding of the authority of the Spirit and Scripture in assessing any decision that is made. Again, this balance can help us recognize the danger of tyranny as well as the individualistic, self-serving spirit.

Church Leadership Representative: Church leadership is to be representative of the local church. What no one is really talking about is whether or not local church members around the world are in harmony with these actions. In a duly elected or selected system, we have to acknowledge that if the membership were uncomfortable with the direction of the church, they would decide in the voting process from local leadership up to the GC.

The Issue of Church Mission and Church Unity

Mission is a Calling: The Word of God has set forth His mission for the church.[37] The mission is not a job or merely a vocation; it is a call to live out the ethical virtues of what it means to follow Christ.[38] Sadly, in many of the discussions I’ve read, seen, and heard, there seems to be little care for the unifying ethic of mission with those of a different mind on the issue.

Unity is not Uniformity: The saying that “unity is not uniformity” works both ways. On the one hand, in our unity, we should not be reflectors of other men’s thoughts. On the other hand, it should be apparent to the world that we are unified and have mutual non-negotiables (e.g. Christ is God, Lord, Savior; Advent Hope, etc.) as the family of God.

Unity in the Spirit: Paul’s exhortation to unity in the Spirit acknowledges the diversity of gifts, yet it is fellowship with God, faith in Him, being baptized into Him, and being called by Him to one hope that brings about the bond of peace.[39]

Ministry is a Gift: What follows is the purpose of the grace given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Is it possible that because we have become so consumed with who is fit to minister—how and where—that we have forgotten that no matter who and how, it is a gift and this no one should stand as if God chose them because they are (fill in the blank)? What I mean is that we lack unity because we are putting conditions upon church unity that the Word does not advocate.

Benefits and Detriments to Church Discussion: As a teacher, I can testify to the reality that no two people look at the same issue in the same way. In fact, I often see similar viewpoints come from antithetical starting points. Thus, I believe the biggest blessing of these events is that it encourages discussion. Aside from Sabbath School and sermons, when do we really get to hear what our fellow brethren and sisters think and how they come to those conclusions?

The largest downside of these decisions is that mission and unity often seem less directed by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, as personally correcting our hearts and views towards each other and moving together. If any lasting impression has been left on me it is that we need each other to bring a vast wealth of wisdom and perspectives as Proverbs states,

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22).

for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6).

Once Satan convinces us that we don’t need each other to do the work you can be sure that a whirlwind of problems will develop.[40]

The Issue of Worldly Influence

Social Problems Impacting the Church: There are occasions where a cultural, social, and communal problem radically impacts church polity. The Compass Magazine has thoughtfully addressed an issue more germane to the United States—that of race relations[41]—that has radically impacted church polity.[42] The issue of the racial animus in the U. S., in general, provides a good example of the varied dynamics of worldly influence, church polity, and the need for constant study, repentance, reformation, and prayer.

Racism in North America: The church in North America was slow to follow the biblical mandate for racial equality and the emphatic counsel by Ellen White on the matter. Sadly, a crisis developed that shifted the operating procedures (separate local conferences) in the U. S.

Now, this did not become a policy change for the church worldwide because it wasn’t an international problem that should change church polity, and structurally it could cause more unnecessary division.[43] The record of history testifies that the actions of the church in the U. S. were out of harmony with Bible and Spirit of Prophecy teaching on unity in Christ.[44] For the church, the issue of equality is a part of the gospel[45] and thus demands attention.

The reason why I bring up worldly influence in this regard is that I find it hard to believe that this non-compliance document would have been written and applied to any complaints of structural racial prejudice in the past. As Michael Nixon has documented, that instead of dealing with issues as brethren in Christ for the sake of unity, division was chosen.[46]

Andrew University and Racism: The long legacy of racism in America’s history and its impact on the church shows there seems to be a reticence to even engage on the topic at all. Andrews University recently held a reconciliation forum and responded to students concerns about this issue that has led to substantive change.[47] Though initially forced, the outcome of has been fruitful because it has forced the institution to look at its history and approach to the issue.

What can this teach us? That the more we avoid these issues and the dynamics that come into play regarding them and try to legislate change a better way, we can actually create more problems than we anticipate.

Moving Forward: Approaching this honestly and transparently in terms of what is something healthy, I believe our world church should do the following, from a biblical perspective:

  1. Deal with the real issue of how the sacred trust of leadership is using its authority at every level,[48] no matter how painful;
  2. acknowledge the influence of secularism, false teaching in Christianity (e. g. Curse of Ham, manifest destiny, prosperity gospel, word of faith movement, etc.), and its impact on Christianity; and
  3. how the political, historical, and cultural influences of the past are factoring into decisions that are being made.

At this point, there seems to be an impasse on the issue of women’s ordination. I don’t think it is a doctrinal issue, and if it continues to be promoted as such, it will sever trust for leadership at every level in our church.

We are living in times of great political exasperation and ideas are starting to float about as to how to punish dissent. This is not Christ’s method, and I don’t think it is a healthy way of dealing with this issue.

Understanding the cultural, political, and religious climate of his day, Paul asserted, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”[49] People often forget that before he wrote this, he counsels on how to be a true Christian to brothers and even a perceived enemy.[50]

______

Notes.

[1] I found Pastor Mark Finley’s article “Mystifying Myths: Facts and Fiction about the General Conference’s Compliance Document,” to be a helpful read.

[2] 2 Timothy 2:15.

[3] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, & Danker, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Logos 8: Digital version), p. 722.

[4] Consider the counsel of EGW, “The body is to be brought into subjection to the higher powers of the being. The passions are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control of God. The kingly power of reason, sanctified by divine grace, is to bear sway in the life. Intellectual power, physical stamina, and the length of life depend upon immutable laws. Through obedience to these laws, man may stand conqueror of himself, conqueror of his own inclinations, conqueror of principalities and powers, of “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and of “spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12” Ellen White, A Call to Stand Apart (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 2002), p. 56; emphasis supplied.

[5] “God has made His church on the earth a channel of light, and through it He communicates His purposes and His will.” Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1911), p. 163; cf. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1901), p. 9-13, Acts of the Apostles (1911), p. 9-16.

[6] I in no way think this is the final word on the topic, yet I cannot help wondering if we are all on the same page on these issues.

[7] See: https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/church/

[8] See: https://www.adventist.org/en/world-church/

[9] For a helpful historical review, see: https://www.adventistarchives.org/seventh-day-adventists-on-womens-ordination-a-brief-historical-overview.pdf

[10] This last point, “church polity” is necessarily emphasized because it seems there is confusion about the nature of how a church functions vs. what it means to be a church. The former is related to the latter, but specifically addresses how the church is to function, which deals with mobility (centrifugal vs. centripetal), centralization (Temple, synagogue, house-church, etc.), missional role (priesthood, disciple, elder, pastor, prophet, etc.). The latter is more of an existential and ontological concern, to which the NT is filled with designations and descriptions including: the body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:12); church, which means “an assembly of people who have become followers of the Lord,” referred to as an assembled people (1 Corinthians 11:18), either in a local sense (1 Co­rinthians 1:2), a regional sense (1 Corinthians 16:1), and a universal sense (Ephesians 5:23); saints (Ephesians 1:1); and a kingdom (Acts 8:12). The distinction is necessary because conversations often conflate the two and ontological status is given to missional roles, which the NT and Adventist refute. This is problematic because apostasy can discontinue any missional role. Consider the history of Albion Ballenger. Calvin Edwards and Gary Land, Seeker After Light: A. F. Ballenger, Adventism, and American Christianity (Berrien Springs, MI: AU Press, 2000).

[11] 2 Corinthians 2:11.

[12] General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 28 Fundamental Beliefs, 2015 ed. This statement by Ellen White is corrective to us in terms of the pillars of our faith: “The passing of the time in 1844 was a period of great events, opening to our astonished eyes the cleansing of the sanctuary transpiring in heaven, and having decided relation to God’s people upon the earth, [also] the first and second angels’ messages and the third, unfurling the banner on which was inscribed, ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’ One of the landmarks under this message was the temple of God, seen by His truth-loving people in heaven, and the ark containing the law of God. The light of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment flashed its strong rays in the pathway of the transgressors of God’s law. The nonimmortality of the wicked is an old landmark. I can call to mind nothing more that can come under the head of the old landmarks. All this cry about changing the old landmarks is all imaginary.” Manuscript 13, 1889; in Counsels to Writers and Editors (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1946), p. 30–31; emphasis added.

[13] I say minimum because, in a sinful world, church members may hold positions based on ungodly thinking and dispositions. The nature of apostasy functions on a personal and corporate level, but apostasy is against God and thus one should be weary of assigning doctrinal or ethical rebellion to an issue of disagreement over church polity (cf. Jer 2:19; 5:6; Hos 14:4). For example, Paul’s rebuke of Peter and Barnabas was based on both as he stated, “when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all…” Galatians 2:14.

[14] Christopher J. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical of the Church’s Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), p. 19–146.

[15] cf. Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 16:18–17:20.

[16] This is why I believe is it necessary to continue the dialogue on these issues. The church is always growing in its understanding of how to function and how to live together in light of those beliefs. But the dialogue should not become the focal point of mission.

[17] cf. Numbers 11, 12, 14–17. I’m not saying disagreeing with the decision in this instance is akin to rebellion. My point is that God allowed a process, and to conflate the process with tyranny or popery is inconsistent with what we see God doing in Scripture.

[18] There are occasions when polity must change. An excellent historical example is on the questions of race and representation in the church. Ellen White acknowledged that the present system [in her time] was not God’s ideal situation and she noted “Let the colored believers be provided with neat, tasteful houses of worship. Let them be shown that this is done not to exclude them from worshiping with white people, because they are black, but in order that the progress of the truth may be advanced. Let them understand that this plan is to be followed until the Lord shows us a better way.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1909), p. 206. Note the missional focus taking precedent over righting all the societal wrongs. She makes similar comments about interracial marriage in her day. After acknowledging “that whites, blacks, and all human beings are free and equal, and should not become cowardly before the world and intellectual beings of heaven,” she noted that [in her day] mixed-race children would suffer “humiliation” and “disadvantage”, so it is irresponsible for parents to subject them to such treatment. Also, that it could create “controversy” and “confusion.” She advised that “time is too precious to be lost.” Selected Messages, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald, 1958), p. 342–343. Presently, in America there are no more laws against interracial marriage and it is generally accepted in the church today. So, in this instance, as in others, the historical context for divine counsel must be taken into consideration.

[19] Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5.

[20] See Barry David Oliver, SDA Organizational Structure: Past, Present and Future, Andrews University Seminary Doctoral Dissertation Series, vol. 15 (Berrien Springs, MI: AU Press, 1989).

[21] Herbert E. Douglas, Messenger of the Lord: The Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1998), p. 182–193.

[22] See J. N. Loughborough, The Church: Its Organization, Order and Discipline.

[23] Before this quote she wrote that, “I saw that the church should feel their responsibility and should look carefully and attentively at the lives, qualifications, and general course of those who profess to be teachers. If unmistakable evidence is not given that God has called them, and that the “woe” is upon them if they heed not this call, it is the duty of the church to act and let it be known that these persons are not acknowledged as teachers by the church. This is the only course the church can take in order to be clear in this matter, for the burden lies upon them. I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut. I inquired of the angel how it could be closed. He said, “The church must flee to God’s Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected.” This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith.” Early Writings (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald, 1882), p. 100-101.

[24] Two issues I personally struggle with is that 1) the NT rarely gives us what happened in light of Paul’s letters and 2) how the church in North America seems far behind the world in discussing and dealing with issues of race, culture, and ethnicity. Regarding the first issue, there was definite communication between Paul and people at Corinth and it gives us a sense of how Paul understood his role as a shepherd of the people of God (1 Cor 5:9; 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 2:1–11). His humble responses to the people, his theological reasoning, and his superb “love chapter” in 1 Cor 13, makes the idea of disciplining brothers for non-compliance on a church polity issue, where the vote shows a relatively minor majority, is just as problematic to me as working outside the bounds of a church decision made together at the General conference gatherings for the last two decades. In the second issue, it is problematic that the church in North America seems relatively comfortable with racially split conferences while in the main advocating for the worldwide church to accept female pastors. Of course, this issue is more complicated, but I see a lack of consistency in terms of church mission and unity.

[25] Robert M. Johnston, “Leadership in the Early Church During Its First Hundred Years,” Journal of Adventist Theological Society, 17/2 (Autumn 2006), p. 2–17.

[26] Johnston clarifies, “I am using the term “charismatic” not with the modern connotation, but in the original sense based on Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.” Johnston, “Leadership in the Early Church” (2006), p. 2.

[27] Amos 7:14.

[28] Exodus 32:25–29; 2 Samuel 7:12–17.

[29] Numbers 12:6–9; Deuteronomy 31:1–8.

[30] Note that as the rapid growth of the church brought increasingly heavy burdens upon those in charge, EGW commenting on Acts 6-7, states that “[no] one man, or even one set of men, could continue to bear these burdens alone, without imperiling the future prosperity of the church. There was necessity for a further distribution of the responsibilities which had been borne so faithfully by a few during the earlier days of the church. The apostles must now take an important step in the perfecting of gospel order in the church, by laying upon others some of the burdens thus far borne by themselves.” AA 88–89.

[31] 1 Corinthians 14:40; Galatians 3.

[32] Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1875), p. 492; emphasis supplied.

[33] Ellen White, Letter 4, 1896; in Manuscript Releases, vol. 17 (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1990), p. 185, 186.

[34] Ellen White, Letter 77, 1898; in Ibid., p. 216.

[35] Ellen White, MR 37, 1901, Sermons and Talks, 159 & 160

[36] Deuteronomy 4–6; cf. Joshua 1:1–9; Isaiah 8:20; 1 Peter 5:1–11

[37] Matthew 28:18–20; Ephesians 2–3.

[38] Ephesians 4.

[39] Ephesians 4:1–8.

[40] cf. 1 Corinthians 3.

[41] See “Video Categories Race Relations,” Compass Magazine.

[42] This is not to say that racism is a localized problem here in the States, but in the context of church structure, in the U. S. it is unparalleled on this issue. Of course, other issues such as tribalism, classism, effects from colonialism, etc. plague the church elsewhere.

[43] I mean that others could begin to cite their localized isms as reasons for separating conferences.

[44] Of course, other countries suffer from other heinous isms that set up hierarchies within Christianity in general and impact the SDA church. See especially, Ciro Sepulveda, Ellen White and the Color Line: Race in a Christian Community.

[45] Galatians 3:29.

[46] Michael Nixon, “. . . Not As I Do,” Compass Magazine, March 03, 2015.

[47] See https://www.andrews.edu/diversity/itistime/

[48] It’s interesting how some believe the GC is “ruling in an authoritarian manner” but rarely ask the question of whether the same criteria of assessment are applied to the other levels of church structure, regarding other issues (e. g. money). I also wonder if pastors see their decisions over their local church in the same light. In other words, what is it that makes actions deemed tyrannical?

[49] Romans 14:5.

[50] Romans 12:9–21.

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Jerome Skinner, earned his Ph.D as an Old Testament scholar at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. He focuses on the Psalms and Wisdom literature and on practical Christianity. Jerome is active in following American Christianity and social issues.