Story by North American Division Communication Staff
After three hours of discussion, 2016 North American Division Year-End Meeting delegates voted on two motions pertaining to the General Conference (GC) Unity in Mission document. The discussion was broken into two segments, one on Oct. 28, and the second on Oct. 31.
The first motion was made near the conclusion of the Oct. 28 session. Randal Wisbey, president of La Sierra University, commented on how the GC has not included Sandra Roberts, president of the Southeastern California Conference, in the church’s yearbook.
Wisbey’s statement reads: “The attendees of the North American Division Year-End Meeting respectfully request that the General Conference provide Elder Sandra Roberts, president of Southeastern California Conference, the same rights, respect, and privileges of office as any other conference president within the North America Division who has been duly elected by an official and legal constituency meeting of that conference. This will include inclusion in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook as president of Southeastern California Conference, and being provided with regular and official credentials at General Conference meetings, such as Annual Council, the same as any other North American Division conference president.”
A second motion was brought forth by Randy Roberts, senior pastor of the Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church, during the second half of the discussion on Oct. 31.
It reads: “The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Three Angels’ Messages. Nothing should impede this prophetic mission.
“It is thus with grave concern that the members of the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee witnessed the passing of the Unity in Mission document at the recent Annual Council. The implementation of this document will create — indeed, is already creating — a profoundly divisive and demoralizing reality in many parts of the NAD.
“While we wish to register our vigorous disagreement with the intent of the document, we do not wish to respond impulsively. Therefore, in light of this document, we move to authorize NADCOM to appoint a subcommittee to craft a thoughtful path forward.
“Furthermore, recognizing that the underlying focus and context of the Unity in Mission document was the ordination of women to ministry in two unions in our Division, we wish to once again publicly affirm our unwavering support and steadfast intent to realize the full equality of women in ministry, in fulfillment of biblical principles, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In light of these realities, we do not want the Unity in Mission document to be a deterrent to the ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.
“We invite earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this process.”
Ivan Williams, director of the NAD Ministerial Association, addressed the purpose of the motion after it was made: “I rise on this last day of clergy appreciation month to recommend that, as a part of our response to the GC Executive Committee, they no longer remain silent about its support of our current and future pastoral employees who are female. It has spoken loudly about their limitations, but has said nil about their appreciation for those who are working as employees who just so happen to be female.
“I rise because many of our pastors cannot wait another year to educate their congregations about this. . . . Instead of using the word ‘noncompliance,’ people in our pews are using the word ‘rebellion.’ We must have something to say to our workers, to our constituents. I stand in support of this motion.”
After a discussion period, delegates voted by electronic device: 163, yes; 35 no; one abstention.
Earlier in the day, the North American Division Executive Committee expressed their continued support for the mission of the world church. A motion was made from the floor that the NAD transition to paying two percent of their tithe to the GC, just as the other world divisions. This would have called for a reduction from the current 6.85 percent that is currently paid. Many delegates spoke against the motion, expressing their concern that such a rapid reduction would hurt the work of the church around the world, as the majority of the General Conference budget comes from the North American Division. The motion was voted down by a vote of 64 yes; 121 no.