During their 2016 Annual Council, the General Conference Executive Committee voted to approve a document titled Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation. The three-page document establishes procedures the church can follow when an administrative body fails to follow “biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the Church.”
After a lengthy discussion from the floor, the document was accepted by a vote of 169 to 122. Below are links to the voted document, longer documents created by the General Conference Secretariat that served as precursers to the voted document, responses to the documents from the North American Division and other church entities, and several other items that provide additional context to the discussion surrounding church unity and how authority at differing levels of the church is designed to function.
- Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation (10/6/16 edition) - 3 pages
- A Study of Church Governance and Unity (Initial Draft) - 54 pages
- Summary of A Study of Church Governance and Unity (Summary of Initial Draft) - 17 pages
Responses to Voted Document
- NAD Statement on GC Vote on "Unity in Mission" Document
- An Open Letter from Dan Jackson to Female Pastors in the North American Division
- Video: NAD President Addresses Church in North America Regarding "Unity in Mission" Document
- NAD Voted Actions Taken at their Year End Meetings in Response to "Unity in Mission" Document
- NAD Union Presidents Respond with Joint Statement on Unity
- Andrews University Theological Seminary Response to Governance and Unity Documents
- Loma Linda School of Religion Response to Governance and Unity Documents
- Norwegian Union Response to Governance and Unity Document
- Mid-America Union Response to "Unity in Mission" Document
Supplemental Material Relevant to Topic
- The Role of Union Conferences in Relation to Higher Authorities (George Knight)
- The Antiorganizational People Organize in Spite of Themselves (George Knight)
- Perspective: Does the General Conference Have Authority (Gary Patterson)
- Six Points on the Ordination of Women Issue (Gary Patterson)
- Who Runs the Church (Gerry Chudleigh)
- Analysis: The Use of General Conference Working Policy in the Case of Unions That Ordain Women (Michell Tyner)
- Church Manual Updated After Inadvertent Omission
- ANN Article: Ted Wilson's Facebook Q&A Regarding Church Policy and Kingly Authority
- Ted Wilson's Facebook Q&A Regarding Ellen White's Ministerial Credentials
Iowa-Missouri Conference Executive Committee Votes Response to "Unity in Mission" Document
During a regularly scheduled meeting at Sunnydale Academy on April 9, 2017, the Iowa-Missouri Conference Executive Committee approved the following response to the General Conference's "Unity in Mission" document:
After much prayer and reflection, the Iowa-Missouri Conference Executive Committee wishes to communicate the following thoughts in response to the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference Executive Committee during the 2016 Annual Council.
- We affirm the need for the church—at every level of organization—to be unified for the mission Christ gave us, in answer to His prayer found in John 17:11, 20-23.
- We affirm the call to actively listen, consult with one another, and spend time together in prayer as we discuss any differences that arise.
- We affirm, as stated in the “Unity in Mission” document, that “God is our infallible Leader” and “His followers won’t always get it right.”
- Because God alone is infallible and His followers don’t always get it right, it is dangerous for us to elevate man-made policies, procedures, and voted actions to be equally binding with our fundamentally held biblical beliefs. There must be flexibility in policies to accommodate regional cultures and customs (i.e. one size does not fit all).
- We are perplexed by the document’s omission and disregard for the Protestant organization of our church. The reorganization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the early 20th century reaffirmed not only the protestant principle of sola scriptura, but also the protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers (in this context a decentralized form of governance in which the people in the various fields hold authority—in subjection to Christ alone—over their own territories, with the freedom to make decisions that are best for their fields without outside interference or mandates).
- The document clearly ignores steps already in place for dealing with a union, local conference, or church that is suspected of “being in apostasy, or that . . . refuses to operate in harmony with denominational policies and constitutional requirements, and is in rebellion” as outlined in existing GC working policy. The “Unity in Mission” document supposes to supplant the procedures outlined in section B95 by giving new, unprecedented authority to the General Conference to bypass the divisions to deal directly with unions and, presumably, conferences and churches—in any way it sees fit. This is clearly not a Protestant view, but rather an exercising of “kingly power” that cannot go unchallenged.
“In matters of conscience the soul must be left untrammeled. No one is to control another’s mind, to judge for another, or to prescribe his duty. God gives to every soul freedom to think, and to follow his own convictions. ‘Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.’ No one has a right to merge his own individuality in that of another. In all matters where principle is involved, ‘let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind’ (Romans 14:12, 5). In Christ’s kingdom there is no lordly oppression, no compulsion of manner. The angels of heaven do not come to the earth to rule, and to exact homage, but as messengers of mercy, to co-operate with men in uplifting humanity” (DA 550).
May God continue to guide and lead us as we prayerfully seek to fulfill His mission for our church.