A high-level committee consisting of world and regional officers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted on Oct. 6 for a document detailing actions to be taken in response to certain entities of the world church that are not in compliance with an action voted on by more than 2,000 representatives of the 19.5 million-member denomination at its most recent General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas from July 2-11, 2015.
In a vote of 1,381 to 977, the delegates from more than 200 countries and territories rejected a proposal that would have allowed for regional variance in ordination practices. Currently, only males are ordained within this Protestant denomination. However, in some regional areas of the world, church entities have gone outside of voted church policy by ordaining women.
The recommendation — titled “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” — that was approved by the 78-member General Conference and Division Officers Committee at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, on the evening of Oct. 6 will be sent to the 343-member Executive Committee for discussion and a vote on Oct. 11. The Executive Committee is the highest governing authority outside of a General Conference Session and meets every October for its Annual Council.
If passed, the action will address the non-compliance issue in a two-step process that begins with multiple consultations at various levels of church structures, followed by pastoral letters urging compliance with voted church actions, and much prayer. If the matter is not resolved and relates to the Fundamental Beliefs or voted actions and policies of the world church, then phase two, which will be developed by the General Conference to be brought to the 2017 Annual Council, will then be implemented subject to its vote.
The preamble to the recommendation underscores the importance of unity for mission.
“When any one entity decides to ‘go it alone,’ the whole church body suffers and is diminished,” it says. “If not addressed, these actions can lead to charges of unfairness, and can undermine the church’s united mission.”
The goal of the process is to be redemptive, Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson said.
“It is our fervent hope that all entities of the church will recognize the sacred importance of being united in mission as well as the policies that guide us toward that goal,” Wilson said. “We should always be engaged in a redemptive process, seeking for the unity that Christ longed for in John 17:21.”
This year’s Annual Council will also review the church’s finances, consider church membership trends, and hear reports about the church’s work in each of its 13 world divisions and the Middle East and North Africa region. A major three-day conference on Adventist education took place immediately before Annual Council.
The Oct.7-12 Annual Council is not only business meetings. The church will release a film depicting its history. On the afternoon of Oct. 8, Wilson and other church leaders will visit homes around the church’s headquarters to pray with residents and distribute religious literature.
Wilson said church leaders were setting an example for members to follow. “We long for everyone to be involved in God’s mission of reaching the world for Him,” he said.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a presence in 215 countries and territories, and operates more than 8,200 schools, colleges and universities, and hundreds of hospitals, clinics and other health-care institutions worldwide.
Download a PDF of the document: “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation”