A Letter to the 2016 NPUC Constituents

By admin On September 20, 2016 Under Seventh-day Adventist Issues


I’m sure you have heard the accusation of insubordination (or rebellion) that some have leveled at our conferences and unions. I believe this is because of a misunderstanding of church policy. The church has never made a gender qualification for ordination, and decades of church-sponsored research on the theology have found no prohibition. There is no policy against unions authorizing the ordination of women pastors. Neither is there any policy requiring unions to ordain anyone. It follows then, that Unions are free to consider women as well as men.

Those in doubt about Seventh-day Adventist gender policy need to take a closer look at Fundamental Belief #14, “Unity in the Body of Christ.” In part it says, “In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation…” This Fundamental Belief is based on Galatians 3:28, Joel 2:29, and Revelation 1:6.

Our pioneers knew this and actively defended the ministry of Ellen White and women, preaching against those who argued that church leaders must be the “husband of one wife” and that women should keep silence in church.

Ted Wilson said that the vote taken as San Antonio on the issue of women’s ordination meant, “we maintain the current policy.” He said the vote has nothing to do with women serving as pastors or being ordained as local elders, a practice based on church policy that has been in place for several decades. Furthermore, he said, the vote was not related to commissioned ministers, who can be male or female under the church’s policy.

There is a good reason why SDA Divisions, Unions, and Conferences vote their own policies. If a single policy were voted from the top and no variations were permitted, then our local policies would be mere redundant paperwork. We would have no flexibility to adapt to our own situations. Each Conference, Union, and Division, while keeping general harmony with General Conference policy, makes adjustments to suit their local needs, and the authority to do so comes not from the GC, but from the constituencies (and their representative committees) who vote policy. Here we must remember that harmony is not unison; unity is not uniformity.

Some of the confusion in the minds of those shouting “insubordination” may come from the inconsistency in our non-discrimination policy (see Martin Hanna’s comments below). It would be beneficial to admit that our current policy on non-discrimination is a policy at war with itself and step forward to do something about it.

What NPUC (and its constituent conferences) has proposed concerning the commissioning of women is only a minor adjustment of policy within their territory unless your theology prohibits female leadership. Yet this theology has never passed a GC vote. Consequently, I believe what the Scandinavians have done by discontinuing ordination because it focuses more on power, position and authority than on humble self-giving service, as well as our own movements toward commissioning women in the US are legitimate attempts, not only to resolve current church inconsistencies, but to maintain our time-honored women-inclusive practice in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Taking these things into consideration, I don’t see how anyone could say that what Scandinavia or the NPUC (and their constituent conferences) are doing is insubordination or rebellion. Nor, on these grounds, can anyone legitimately disqualify John Freedman from being considered as NPUC president.

In Christ,



Martin Hanna, Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Andrews University, states the following:

“Our existing church policy on gender is inconsistent. If we take an unbiased look at what our policy on nondiscrimination actually says, we can’t help but see the contradiction.

“Policy BA 60 10 states, ‘The world church supports nondiscrimination in employment practices and policies and upholds the principle that both men and women, without regard to race and color, shall be given full and equal opportunity within the Church to develop the knowledge and skills needed for the building up of the Church. Positions of service and responsibility (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry) on all levels of church activity shall be open to all on the basis of the individual’s qualifications.’” (emphasis mine)

The exception clause nullifies the whole point of the paragraph. How can we be non-discriminatory and yet discriminate in regards to ordination? We can’t. It is discrimination, bold and clear.

The vote we took at San Antonio was just as inconsistent. Again, I quote Martin Hanna:

“We already ordain women as elders and therefore it is inconsistent to deny the ordination of women as pastors. All the biblical arguments people propose for rejecting female pastors are based on texts that refer to elders. So if we already agree that these texts on elders allow for female elders, then how can we use these same texts to reject female pastors?

“If we wanted to remove female elders we should have made the vote about that. We did not do that. We wasted the time of the church on a vote that did not address the elephants in the room. We already have female elders, and we ordain them. We already have female pastors. And we have a policy that admits that we discriminate against them.”


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