During the Monday afternoon session at the General Conference’s 2019 Annual Council, executive committee members were given a document with a list of recommended disciplinary actions against six unions for perceived non-compliance with church policies regarding the practice of ordination. The recommendations stem (but strayed) from a process for addressing non-compliance approved at last year’s Annual Council.
The recommendations were split into two parts: 1) That a warning be given to four unions within the Trans-European Division (TED)—the Danish Union, North German Union, Norwegian Union, and Swedish Union—for electing to commission both their male and female pastors, and 2) That the presidents of two unions within the North American Division (NAD)—Dave Weigley of the Columbia Union and Ricardo Graham of the Pacific Union—be publicly reprimanded because their constituencies voted to ordain female pastors along with their male pastors.
Discussion on both parts took place during the Tuesday afternoon session before separate votes were taken.
During discussion, several of the TED union presidents expressed disappointment about the recommendations, stating this was the first they’d heard they weren’t in compliance and that they were trying to comply with voted policies while also striving for equality.
Oregon Conference president Dan Linrud read aloud portions of current policies, pointing out the language of the policies doesn’t include a mandate for ordination. “I am missing, in my reading of this policy, a mandate of ordination and a prohibition of commissioning,” he said. “I would like clarification from GC Secretariat pointing out a mandate that conferences must ordain and may not offer commissioning rather than ordination if a minister qualifies for either.”
In response, GC president Ted Wilson cited precedent but was unable to point to any policy forbidding the commissioning of male pastors. David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research (ASTR) referred Linrud to the ASTR website for a 2017 study on the topic but did not specify the name of the resource while at the microphone.
Following discussion, the GC executive committee approved warnings for the four TED unions by a vote of 164 to 124.
NAD Union Presidents
During discussion about the public reprimands, several union and conference presidents stood in solidarity with Weigley and Graham, stating they were willing to join them in receiving public reprimands.
“I request that my name be added to the list,” said Iowa-Missouri Conference president Dean Coridan. He read Micah 6:8 and pointed out that justice demands anyone present whose organization is out of compliance in any area must be willing to receive a reprimand along with Weigley and Graham. Coridan went on to recommend a different course, citing the 1903 General Conference Bulletin. “This was the greatest reorganization the Seventh-day Adventist Church ever undertook,” he said. “Fifty pages would solve this for us (145 – 195), if we would just study it. God has given us the way forward. Let’s organize in His plan.”
Some spoke in favor of the motion, while others questioned why GC leadership had skipped steps in the process approved last year in favor of public reprimands.
“I don’t understand why, when we voted a process which begins with a warning and then a reprimand, that we’re stepping over the first step in that process in the case of these two unions,” said Victor Marley, president of the Norwegian Union. “I think this is wrong, and I also think it is unreasonable to reprimand individuals who are simply carrying out the vote of the vast majority of their constituents.” Marley then proposed an amendment to the motion that the unions be given a warning instead of their presidents receiving a public reprimand. The amendment passed 162 to 92.
After further discussion on the amended motion, the GC executive committee approved giving the Columbia and Pacific unions a warning by a vote of 190 to 94.