A House Divided (4B): The Pacific Union Presses the Nuclear Button

 

(This is article 7 in a 9 article series by Adrian Zahid)

Pacific Union Constituency Session

Union v. GC

NOTE: The text below is a transcription, made by the court reporter who was present at the Pacific Union Conference special session. Page numbers are from that document. I have edited and presented the most common and representative statements by the delegates to illustrate their reasoning behind their decisions to vote the way they did.

BYLaws Change Vote

Existing: “All the policies, purposes and procedures of this Union shall be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the North American Division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”

Proposed: “In general, the policies, purposes and procedures of this Union will be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the North American Division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”

 Discussion regarding the change of bylaws. Passage required 2/3 (66.7 %) majority approval. Motion received 65.4% support, so it failed.

——————

Pastor Randy Roberts, and the GC delegation led by President Wilson were given opportunity to address the delegates. Their speeches are edited as well for brevity and concision.

Ordination without regard to gender vote proceedings

Pastor Randy Roberts’ Speech: You have been convened here today to cast an historic vote: to approve the ordination of ministers “without regard to gender.”

As I have listened to and read about this debate, I hear three principal objections repeatedly stated. They are:

  1. That it is contrary to Scripture;
  1. That it is contrary to General Conference policy; and,
  1. That to proceed in this direction will fracture the church.

I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to offer, on behalf of the union executive committee, a response to each of these objections.

The second objection is that to vote yes on the motion before us would be to go against General Conference policy. In offering a response to such an objection, let me begin, not with policy, but with a much more important and foundational reality: doctrine. Seventh-day Adventist doctrine.

I quote to you directly from Fundamental Belief #14, part of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, voted by the church in official General Conference Session. It is entitled, “Unity in the Body of Christ.” I quote this fundamental belief in its entirety.

Forgive me for reminding you that those are not my words, but the words of a fundamental belief voted by the worldwide Adventist church in General Conference Session.

That’s doctrine and, in the best of cases, doctrine is the foundation of policy. So now let us turn to policy. I want to read to you from the General Conference Working Policy, policy numbered BA 60. I am only going to read certain sections to you, as it is a bit lengthy, but they are representative of the entire policy. Here it is:

The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender. The church bases its position on principles clearly enunciated in the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the official pronouncements of the General Conference.

It then goes through a list of nine policies and practices which the church upholds that are nondiscriminatory in nature. I will read the opening sentence to this section and the final paragraph of the section, as they are representative of the entire section. Here’s the opening sentence:

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 skill needed for the building up of the Church…

And here’s the final paragraph:

Administrators, departmental directors, pastors, educators, local church officers, and others in positions of leadership in the Church shall uphold this position and support these principles as a part of the gospel and God’s special message for the world.

Reading through this policy makes clear the answer to the objection, would voting Yes here today be contrary to General Conference policy? is a resounding no. Absolutely not. It would actually be in harmony with studied and voted Seventh-day Adventist doctrine as well as with the overall spirit of General Conference policy.

“But,” the plea has been, “we must wait until we are all unified on the issue of women’s ordination before we can move forward. That,” it is said, “is what unity means.”

That is not the unity of which Scripture speaks. It is not even the unity of which Ellen White writes. I want you to listen to these words from her pen as she addressed the issues of unity and equality.

Do you desire a unified church? I do! Then did you hear those words—words penned by a woman—a woman—called, empowered, and ordained by God for such a time as this. Here again is what she said: The secret of unity is found in the equality of believers in Christ. To summarize: if you want unity, fight for equality.

Elder Roberts then asked some rhetorical questions, to which I give short replies/rebuttals in parenthesis in bold.

With that in mind, let me ask you: What if Moses had waited until every enslaved Israelite had agreed that God was calling them to freedom? [His brother was given the Spirit of Prophecy and Moses showed signs and wonders to convince his fellow men of his Divine Calling. They were convinced. It was Pharaoh who delayed.]

What if Gideon had waited to act until he had the support of an army he considered to be big enough? [My Answer: He did. It was God who told him he had too many].

What if David had waited until the entire Israelite nation was ready to crown him king? [My Answer: The correct interpretation or correlation to the issue would be David’s reluctance to take over from Saul by force. He, in fact, waited on God.]

What if Paul had waited until the entire church agreed that circumcision was no longer needed? [Here, Roberts makes a gross mistake. Paul sought the Jerusalem Council’s approval and continued within the policy framework they collectively set up.]

What if Martin Luther had waited until the bishops agreed with him concerning justification by faith? [Their hermeneutics were incompatible and it precluded any agreement]

What if William Wilberforce had waited to act until the entire British empire could be unified in its opposition to slavery? [Appeal to national movements have no relevance in our conversation]

What if Abraham Lincoln had waited to issue the Emancipation Proclamation until all the states agreed that slavery was wrong? [Appeal to Presidential Executive actions have no basis for authority in our Church]

What if John F. Kennedy had waited to act until the southern states all agreed to integrate their schools? [He moved on them by force. Not exactly the equivalency Roberts wants to make here, I think.]

And what if, in 1888, Ellen White had waited until every Adventist leader agreed that righteousness by faith was the central doctrine of importance? [She did wait on the Church. They didn’t move on it, and we are still here on earth as a result.]

Time and again, churches and governments have faced such moments. And time and again, braved-hearted followers of Jesus have taken a stand for the right. The result of that—and I implore you to hear this—the result of that has not been the demise of the church or the state but, rather, its salvation. [Here he draws parallels with national movements. However our Church doesn’t run by popular movements, administrative decrees and the threat of armed force.]…

The GC Delegation gets their chance to present the World Church’s case for waiting and participating in the process outlined by the GC.

PRESIDENT TED WILSON:  Good afternoon to each of you, and what a privilege it is to be here in California [26] with you.  I come with great respect for this body and with humility. Thank you, Elder Graham, for your invitation to be here, and also, Elder Jackson, for your invitation to be here at this constituency.

This is a very important Union in the entire organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church with about 120 unions.  The Pacific Union has long been a leader in many, many areas of activity, and I come here today because I care about items of conscience.  I care about how people grapple with the challenges that they face.  I also come here because I am very interested in unity for the church.

Many around the world are interested this afternoon in what you are doing.  They’re greatly interested and concerned about the votes that will be taken, and there are many challenges when an organization decides to proceed in a particular way that may be independent and unilateral from the rest of the body, and that type of an approach, might I say, can tend to lead towards congregationalism.

I want to share with you this afternoon just a few thoughts, because what do you do when you reach a [28] point of conflict between your conscience and policies which you perceive are not in harmony with your moral imperative?  Some have felt so moved by this conviction that they are ready to vote something that will put the Pacific Union in dissonance or in opposition to what the World Church has indicated.

I want to also indicate, before sharing some specific things, that the World Church appreciates greatly the involvement of women in the mission of the church.  It is absolutely vital that all of us are part of the activities of proclaiming the Three Angles’ Messages, as Elder Graham said, and the soon coming of Jesus Christ.

I’m not here today to comment or talk about [29] women’s ordination.  It might seem a little odd because that is one of the specifics on your agenda, but that is an item for another venue and another time, and I will share that in just a few moments.  However, I do want to share some thoughts of clarification in terms of certain allegations, certain things that have floated around through Internet and through other communications.

However, I do want to indicate very specifically at this point that the Theology of Ordination Study Committee is well on its way to functioning.  All 13 divisions have been participating so far in their biblical research committees, and soon, we will be appointing a specific committee.  I want to tell you about this committee. Some people have the idea that everything will be maneuvered, everything will be controlled, and that information will not be made known to people, whatever it might be.  I want to tell you this study committee will be something beyond what has ever happened before, for we’re going to call a group of people together who are going to spend incredible time on their knees, studying the scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy, listening to the impression of the Holy Spirit to understand how God would have us look at that subject. We’re going to have a balanced group of people, people [30] from various perspectives, gender inclusive, people from international perspectives, people from North America, theologians, teachers, pastors, lay people who are going to come together in an open setting.

I would appeal to you to allow that process to truly function.  It is going to be reported to the Annual Council of 2014, and that committee is going to have openness.  People are going to be able to express whatever they want.  They’re going to be able to look at things in a very, very critical and specific way.  The report, well, perhaps even reports, because they’re going to try to come together in consensus as much as possible, but on those items where they do not find consensus, I’m sure there will be more than one report, but that information will go to the Annual Council, and the Annual Council will make a decision as to what it would like to place on the agenda for the 2015 General Conference session.  It will be a world body, the Annual Council, with representation from all over the world that will make the decision as to how to treat the information.

Please believe that we want openness.  I want to know God’s will.  You need to know God’s will.  We are desperately asking for the Holy Spirit to lead us. I want you to know that that process will be a very open [31] and fair process.  I hope you will trust us sincerely with that.

I’d like to just read a quotation.  Elder Jackson read something from Acts of the Apostles, and I’d like to read something from page 163 and 164.  “God has made His church on the earth a channel of light, and through it, He communicates His purpose and His will. He does not give to one of His servants an experience independent of and contrary to the experience of the church itself.  Neither does He give one man the knowledge of His will for the entire church while the church, Christ’s body, is left in darkness.  In His providence, He places His servants in close connection with His church in order that they may have less confidence in themselves and greater confidence in others whom He is leading out to advance His work. There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteemed judgment of his brethren.”

Let me say, all of us are subject to that.  I am, too.  We need to humble ourselves before each other. [32]

Going on, “Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme are in grave peril. It is Satan’s studied effort to separate such ones from those who are channels of light, through whom God is wrought to build up and extend His work in the earth.” It goes on to say that, “The Lord in His wisdom has arranged that by means of the close relationship that should be maintained by all believers, Christian shall be united to Christian and church to church.  Thus the human instrumentality will be enabled to cooperate with the divine.  Every agency will be subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all of the believers will be united in an organized and well-directed effort to give to the world the glad tidings of the grace of God.”

I would like to earnestly appeal to you that the Theology of Ordination Study Committee is not just something of window dressing.  It is an opportunity for us to see the Holy Spirit work in a powerful way to help bring us together in unity.  I’m asking you to proceed by joining the World Church family in its genuine study of the scripture on this topic.

Having worked closely with the North American Division officers on various aspects that lead us to the discussion today, we have realized that as we approach this particular meeting, that we need to do so [33] prayerfully.  I want to say that much prayer has bathed this meeting, as has already been mentioned.  I have prayed earnestly, and I know you do, as well, and have.

In addition, the General Conference officers and the division presidents have carefully and lovingly appealed to you.  We do this out of a sense of unity from the church.  I hope you have read the appeal that we have made, and I appeal to each of you to not vote something that will put you into a situation that will separate you from the World family and the World Church.

The issue of working together as a church is a huge issue, and it is fundamental to how we work as a church and the body of Christ. In the recent past, some misconceptions have arisen about the authority of the Union for deciding all matters relating to ordination and, perhaps, other matters.

***Elder Cooper reading from a prepared statement made the constitutional argument regarding the GC administration’s position on the issue. He clarified the role of the General Conference in Session in relation to other entities in the Church.***

ELDER LOWELL COOPER:  Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have been asked to address a couple of points that may, to many, seem as tangential to the issue that is uppermost in our minds today, yet because this matter has been in discussion for some time in the church, and several individuals have made important contributions to [34] a clearer understanding of how the church works, I think it is important that we consider carefully how to proceed. This is an important learning moment for all of us about our church.

It has been asserted that the General Conference session, by virtue of its actions in 1990 and 1995, acted outside of its authority in expressing a decision with respect to ministerial ordination practice.  Such an assertion implies that a General Conference session, which Seventh-day Adventists recognize as the highest ecclesiastical authority in our organization, is only an authority in some things and is barred from expressing itself in other matters.  A conclusion of this kind must be seriously questioned. In its decisions regarding the content of the church manual, a General Conference session establishes policies that govern and guide local church life.

A General Conference session can also, if it chooses, determine other policies or practices that define the church as a whole. The General Conference Executive Committee has been entrusted with the development of operating policies for the church; however, it would be incorrect to conclude therefrom that a General Conference session is denied the ability to speak, out of its wisdom, in [35] matters that it deems necessary for the church.

A General Conference session does not function under delegated authority from some other denominational entity.  It is its own authority with respect to decisions it wishes to make, and its decisions are to be respected by all organizations, including the Executive Committee, which has been questioned by a General Conference session.

An illustration of the General Conference session as the highest ecclesiastical authority in the church is seen in its being the body that can settle differences among its member organizations.  A General Conference session can also render its decision in matters referred to it by other organizations.  Such was the case in 1995, when the North American Division officers and Union presidents requested approval for an amendment in ordination practice within this division. The presentation of such a request provides ample evidence that the North American Division officers and Union presidents, at the time, recognized a decision on this matter was outside their own authority and properly belonged to a General Conference session.  The session acted, in its own right, to address the request.

We have accepted the General Conference session is the highest ecclesiastical authority in our [36] denomination and that actions of the General Conference in session represent the voice of the church.  To assert or imply that the distribution of authority throughout our structure thus constrains the ability of the General Conference in session to determine the context and framework within which each organization functions, gives a misleading impression of how the church works.

In recent months, the idea that Unions are fully entitled to resolve the ordination question on their own has received widespread circulation.  Some of those who advocate this view have done important homework on the nature of our denominational structure and the processes and relationships that characterize our life together.  Unfortunately, we must observe that there is still more homework to do.  It is true that authority and responsibility have been carefully distributed throughout our church structure in such a way as to hold us together by bonds of interdependence. This is the key to the strength of the Seventh-day Adventist church as a worldwide organization. However, the idea that the authority and responsibility of one type of organization can be exercised autonomously and unilaterally is a concept alien to the ethos and practices of the church.

General Conference working policy speaks about [37] the various types of organizations as being part of the worldwide organization.  Whereas each has accepted the privilege and responsibility of representing the church in its part of the world, each is, therefore, required to operate and minister in harmony with the teachings and policies of the church, and the actions of the World Church in session.

The decision a few weeks ago by this Union Executive Committee to seek wider counsel in support for its intention to implement ministerial ordination without regard to gender is understood.  In turning to a Union constituency for this counsel in support, the Executive Committee chooses to overlook the counsel that has already been expressed by the Worldwide church.  It is out of concern for this that the General Conference officers, including all division presidents, chose to express an appeal to the Union Executive Committee.  You have received a copy of that.  The basic ideas underlying this appeal are the global church has expressed itself on the very question that is before this body today.  And secondly, the global church is right now engaged in a study of the theology of ordination and its implication for our practices.

The General Conference officers and division presidents have placed before you their appeal.  They [38] have not engaged in a debate with you about current or proposed ministerial ordination practices.  Another forum is provided for that.  Instead, they have asked that you refrain from autonomous action in a matter that is in the hands of the World Church, and further, that you engage fully in the present opportunity to review and revise, if necessary, our global thinking and practices with respect to ordination.  We believe that this is not an unreasonable request, and that to people of goodwill, it is not burdensome.  We respectfully ask that you give the process a chance.

PRESIDENT TED WILSON:  Thank you, Elder Cooper.  Elder Miranda, if you would share a few words of encouragement to our people, as well.

ELDER ARMANDO MIRANDA:

I must also sadly say that hundreds of Adventists are leaving the church, so the shaking is starting.  This is a great truth.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  Today, more than ever, we must be united in prayer and supplication and witnessing in favor of God’s cause.  I will humbly encourage you, my dear brothers and sisters, to, number one, strengthen the unity of the church, not taking actions that are contrary to the World Church.

Number two, maintaining loyalty and respect for the policies of the church because it is clear that our authority just come from the policies. When we do not respect the policies, we lose some authority and we destroy the system by which God blesses [40] His people in our mission.  If we don’t respect the policies, there’s going to be a curse.  It’s going to be terrible.

Number three, working together when we have differences in issues.  It’s normal that we have differing opinions, but let me tell you, brothers and sisters, that there are places and levels where we can discuss and decide together as a global family on issues that affect the global church and come together, finding solutions, even, if necessary, we can change policies, but let’s do it together and in the corresponding level because, as you know, the policies protect the church.

And fourth, keeping the trust in the system of governance that the church has and that is directed by God for our global family.  And remember, that God will take His church to final victory, but today, more than ever, we need to act and work together.

The GC Delegation was given an opportunity to address to delegates. Pr. Wilson started and ended with some extensive remarks that I’ve edited. He and Elder Cooper took the opportunity to make the constitutional arguments. Pr. Wilson was interrupted by a delegate point of order but he was allowed to continue by the Chair.

PRESIDENT TED WILSON: I’d like to briefly and respectfully share some information to clarify some incorrect information that’s been circulating, and much has to do with how we work together and what the church structure is and working policies are all about.

Women’s ordination — and people indicate there might be some variations in this.  We have the same approach around the world, and we’re trying to keep us — we’re trying to keep the World Church together in terms of how we approach that.

Other points that have been made, that the Union is the final authority on all matters relating to [43] ordination.  That is not so… That entire section, as everything in this book, was voted on by the Annual Council, which is the Executive Committee of the General Conference, about 330 people representing the world field, including the president of the Pacific Union, now, that voted the L section. Now, in L 45, it talks about the procedures in authorizing ordinations, talks about the Conference, then the Union, goes to the Union for counsel and for approval.  It also talks about the division of the General Conference when they have people that they would like to see ordained. They do not have to refer to the Unions.

Now, in B 05 of this policy, it has something that has kind of confused things because it talks about the realm of final authority and mentions the Union and ordination, but this, in no way, is implying that the criteria for ordination is to be the purview of a Union. It is the approval process.  In fact, that particular section of B 05 really has an emphasis on ascending [44] liability and really has nothing to do with trying to determine who it is at the Union level that has final authority on the criteria for ordination.

In terms of the aspect of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, the Executive Committee, when it reviews this subject in 2014, will, again, understand that the World Church has the authority to determine the criteria and qualifications for ordination.

You see, it’s interesting to note that the particular policy that is specifically addressing the qualifications for ordination — and some will not like this, but this is the way it is — it is very specific about gender. Now, some might say, well, you know, the Tenth Commandment says that a man is not supposed to covet his neighbor’s wife, but it doesn’t talk about a woman coveting her neighbor’s husband.  So what’s that supposed to mean?

Let me assure you that there is no confusion in the policy of L 45 or L 35, specifically, when it talks about the ordination being gender specific.  Let me illustrate it as well.  In the last 15 to 20 years –

DELEGATE KAANAANAPoint of order.  We have a lot on the agenda we have to stick to.  I would like to get to our business. [45]

ELDER RICARDO GRAHAM:  A point of order, according to the General Conference rules of order by which we operate, does allow for interrupting a speaker, and I do recognize you, Ellie, and the desire that you have demonstrated and support you have for that.  We do have a lot of business.  May I ask you to allow Elder Wilson to come to completion, please?

PRESIDENT TED WILSON:  Thank you very much, and I respect your point of order.  I did ask the chair, prior to the meeting, for ten minutes more, and I think we will complete that within the time requested.  I respect you for your point of order.

I will not go into much greater detail, but I would draw your attention to the fact that there are many items which have only been shared from one perspective in terms of policy, and that policy appears to, in some way, mitigate against a clear progress for mission.  I want to assure you that the church is extremely cognizant of the fact that policy must not stand in the way of the mission of the church, but that the policy is there to guide us and to bring us to a safe conclusion.

Now, in summary, Brother Chairman, I would like to indicate that the proposal that you have of the words “in general” that are being recommended to this body [46] constitute a real challenge to the source of unity for the church, for if you say, “in general,” it actually is placing the Pacific Union above the authority of any other organization or body, and it places you in the driver’s seat as to whether or not you wish to accept or reject policies which your family around the world have agreed upon, and so I would strongly appeal to you to not vote in favor of changing your constitutional wording.

I want to thank you for the opportunity that I have had to be with you, and on behalf of your World Church family, I humbly ask you and beseech you and request you and implore you not to vote for the recommended measures before you.  I do that with humility and I do that with earnestness of heart.  I ask you to stay close to your church, to see the bigger picture, to understand that the church is a family and a unit.

I believe, as has been mentioned, that we are living in the very end of time.  Jesus is coming soon. The great controversy theme is unfolding before us as predicted, and God calls for unity in all things.  He calls for us, as the Spirit of Prophecy has indicated, to press together, press together, press together.  We are not to allow anything to separate us. [47]

I humbly ask you, in simplicity and earnestness and a prayerful appeal to use the process of the church and to not vote something in opposition to your World Church family.  I appeal to you with all of my heart on behalf of the World Church and its leadership. I have earnestly prayed about this, and I will be praying for you and ask that you will pray for your World Church.  I appeal to all of you and to Elder Graham, who is a member of the World Annual Council, our Executive Committee, to all of you, with respect and humility, I beg you not to vote the recommendations.  I ask you to stay in harmony with the biblical, spiritual, moral, and structural harmony and unity of your World Church, and I thank you for your time.  May God bless you in your decision.

 

Pacific Union Constituency Vote Part 2

Delegates in their own words

This part reflects the delegates in their own words. I’ve edited the record to show the delegates that raised constitutional issues as well as some who were in support of the Union unilateral action.

***The second delegate on the record brought up the constitutional question. Unfortunately, his suggestion was dismissed on a technicality without a full discussion of the issue.***

DELEGATE LEON:  Hugo Leon, Executive Committee. I have three problems with the motion that we [114] currently have on the floor.  Number one, since we did not change our bylaws, this motion would put us in conflict with our own bylaws.  Number two, this motion would put us in conflict with the GC rulings of 1995. Number three, as was stated by our General Conference officials, we really don’t have the authority to change the criteria for ordination at this level. With all of this in consideration, we really shouldn’t be voting on this issue.  We should defer this to the General Conference.  Therefore, I would like to make a motion that we table this motion to ordain women and refer it to the General Conference.

ELDER GRAHAM:  The parliamentarians have informed me that to table it is out of order.  It’s only appropriate to table it during the same session.  That would not be a motion to table it to refer it to the General Conference.  Table for later for this body to deal with would be appropriate.

DELEGATE CHONG:  Yvette Chong, elder of Fresno Asian and Community Church, former Pacific Union women’s [116] ministry director, current Central California Executive Committee member. Mr. Chairman, in view of Romans 16:1 to 2, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church at Cenchrea, that you receive her in the Lord as becometh saints.”  In Greek, “saints” means she was a minister of that church. Acts 10:34, Peter, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”  That does not show favoritism. But, however, for the sake of the unity of the church, I would like to urge this Union to wait until GC session of 2014, but if the GC session do not concur, we will go ahead.

ELDER GRAHAM:  I don’t know if she has the gift of prophecy, but she’s spoken.

DELEGATE BRUNT:  John Brunt.  I’ve pastored the Azure Hills Church for the last ten years.  I’ve worked with 18 associate pastors, 14 men and four women.  I have watched Pastors Alex, Carmen, Maria, and Marlene minister with all their hearts and souls and accomplish things that I don’t think any man could have accomplished.  I would stake my life on the integrity of any one of them.  And they ministered without caring in the least what they were called or how they were [117] recognized.  But I do care because I know that for my ministry to be recognized in a way that theirs is not is wrong, and I know it because the Bible tells me so.

The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons.  He doesn’t play favorites.  When Peter caught that message, he ordained Cornelius on the spot without waiting for any church council.  That came several years later.  And then Peter had a bit of relapse because certain people came from church headquarters and intimidated him into not sitting down and eating with Gentiles.  Paul said, “I withstood him to his face for he stood condemned, for he was not walking straight with the truth of the gospel.”

I pray that today we will walk straight with the truth of the gospel and vote to recognize the call and ordination that God has already given to women like Alex and Carmen and Maria and Marlene and so many others.

***This next delegate brought up an important precedent from Adventist history demonstrating a historic answer to a policy query.***

DELEGATE BOHR:  …I want to read you a statement that is found in “Signs of the Times,” January 24, 1895.  It’s been suggested that women’s ordination was approved at the 1881 General Conference.  I would wonder, then, why this was written by the editor of the “Signs of the Times.” The question is who should be church officers, and this is the specific question.  “Should women be elected to offices of the church where there are enough brethren?” Here’s the answer:

“If by this is meant the office of elder, we should say at once, No.  But there are offices in the church which women can fill acceptably, and oftentimes there are found sisters in the church who are better qualified for this than brethren, such offices, for instance, as church clerk, treasurer, librarian of the tract society, et cetera, as well as the office of deaconess, assisting the deacons in looking after the poor, and in doing such other duties as would naturally fall to their lot.” [119]

***Another legitimacy of the vote question raised. Turned down due to procedural issues with the point of order***

DELEGATE CANO:  Ramiro Cano, Central California Conference. Mr. Chairman, before you start me on my clock, I’m up here to speak about point of order. I also recognize that I could have come to the front of the line, but in deference to my brothers and sisters, I want to hear all of them.

Anyway, if we had not voted down the bylaws, I would not be here, but I’d like to point you to the Recorder of the June 12th, which made the notice. “Process:  Voted approval for the following process: Because the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee is committed to following denominational procedures and processes and to facilitate the involvement of the entire Union constituency, a special constituency business session will be called to consider amendments to the Pacific Union Conference bylaws to clearly authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender.”

This is why we were called here. Now that the bylaws have been defeated, we can no longer do what the notice says.  We can no longer authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender because we are not changing, clearly changing, the bylaws. Now, further down, it says that “Both the study [125] committee” — and I will have to agree with this — “Both the study committee and the Executive Committee made it clear that they are committed to following the established church processes and procedures.”  Yes, I agree with that. So, Mr. Chairman, point of order.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you. I’d like to ask Jon Dagget to speak to that.  I think, clearly, what Brother Ramiro Cano has said is that since we have voted the bylaws change down, it is improper to take a vote on the second item, which is ordination of women.

  1. DAGGET: Thank you, Brother Cano. The notice is not deficient because, if you look at the bylaws in Article 5, it actually says the notice of a special session will be given in the same manner as a regular session. The only reason the bylaws issue was specifically included is because there’s another article in the bylaws that say if you’re going to amend bylaws, that actual amendment has to be spelled out in the notice, but that notice does not limit what can be put by the Executive Committee on the agenda.

The Executive Committee desired to put both of these issues on the agenda so that you’d have the opportunity to discuss and vote on the ordination issue regardless [126] of what happens with bylaws, as the highest authority in the Union being the constituency. So my legal opinion is that the notice is not deficient because Article 5 and, I believe, it was Article 6, make clear that it does not have to include the second agenda item.

DELEGATE CANO:  And with all due respect, Mr. Attorney, it is an opinion that you give to this body, and we have, also, an opinion to accept or reject personally as we vote. However, in the second letter that we received — or in the letter that we received from you, I’m still speaking to this, you basically said that we could go ahead and vote on the ordination and it is fine.  We can take — we’re still on point of order.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Well, I think I have a ruling here, and I rule that the discussion is appropriate. That’s the ruling of the Chair.  Thank you for respecting it.

DELEGATE CANO:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Ramiro, I think –

DELEGATE CANO:  Am I understanding that you want me to cease?

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir.  Thank you. Yes, ma’am.

DELEGATE ROBELLA:  Sometimes unity is used to hinder and to avoid important topics because policy or tradition dictates it.

We are thankful for the Theology of Ordination Committee, but it is not the only voice that can communicate to the Annual Council or to the church leadership.  This vote is important today because it will also send a message to the Annual Council that this is a topic that needs to be brought up again to the World Church.

There is confusion between what is policy and church doctrine, and I do thank Randy Roberts today for clearing that up.  I’m not disappointed that that first motion failed because I am now reminded that we’re operating in accordance with Galatians 3:28.  We’re operating in accordance with the church doctrine and with the Fundamental Belief Number 14, and we’re operating in accordance with GC Working Policy BA 60 on equality. So this vote today actually is not a policy issue.  This is affirming how we are really in policy [138] with church doctrine and what God wants us to do.

DELEGATE WISBEY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Randal Wisbey, La Sierra University, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Pacific Union Conference.

As a church that longs to effectively pass faith on to the next generations, I, today, ask my fellow delegates to reveal to all those who are watching that here, in the Pacific Union, we are no longer willing to merely speak with our words, our core beliefs, and commitments today.  We will act.

***After a delegate made a comment for the record, she called question.***

The Vote:

ELDER GRAHAM:  Just before we vote, remember that what you’re doing by your vote is you’re instructing the Executive Committee on what you want them to do.  All right.  Brad, would you read the wording of the motion for us again, please?

ELDER NEWTON:  So many papers move around here. It’s going to take me a second to get back there because I want to do it right.  That makes it easy. “That the Pacific Union Conference approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.”

(Vote taken.)

ELDER GRAHAM:  Voting is closed. (334 approve; 87 disapprove. [p.149]  79 percent voted yes; 21 percent voted no.)

Applause & Cheering

ELDER GRAHAM:  Now, before we leave, I wish that maybe we had not applauded that way because I don’t think that this is necessarily, quote, a win, but we have expressed our opinion through our vote.  The most important thing we have to determine is how to stay together and to move forward.

Analysis:

Looking at the transcript record of the vote here, it is clear that both the administration at the GC and the Union were anxious that delegates hear their point of view. Unfortunately, we see that delegates were unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure and despite raising compelling issues, they were turned away on technicalities. We need our laity to be better trained on some of the procedures, as you will see on the GC vote record as well. However, the leadership should consider the issues being raised and provide a way to answer directly.

The GC administration tried their best to communicate that the decision to move unilaterally would have profound consequences and take the Church into uncharted territory. The Pacific Union delegates voted down the change to the Bylaws by a narrow vote. They upheld the motion to approve ordinations without regard to gender.

The General Conference Session would hold a Vote at the 60th General Conference. We will analyze that transcript as well to see if the Pacific Union or any other Union made the constitutional case at the World Session.

Most recently in August, the Pacific Union executive committee tried again to bring about a change to the Bylaws vote, this time amending the dissolution clause to distribute the assets not to the level of Church government above the Union but to the level below the Union. The measure failed, narrowly.

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