@Sean Pitman: As a practical matter, the first levels to …

Comment on Northern California Conference Votes to Act Independent of the General Conference by Brent Stanyer.

@Sean Pitman: As a practical matter, the first levels to determine a conflict between the NCC constitution and bylaws and the union or GC constitution and bylaws was the executive committee when then adopted a resolution, and the constituents who approved the resolution. Of course, if the union, division or the GC thought otherwise, any one of those entities could initiate the policy provisions to ultimately adjudicate the question. Ultimately, though, under Working Policy, rescinding a policy believed to be in conflict comes back to the conference constituents to vote a removal. I don’t think that any other entity can do that on their own. So, in the end, the constituents determine a conflict and its resolution.

I don’t see a conflict here. My view is that the union and the conference are simply exercising the authority given them under Working Policy and the applicable constitutions and bylaws. Conferences have authority to recommend pastors for ordination. Unions approve those ordinations. Gender is not a stated basis in GC policy for determining qualifications for ordination. Instead, we have tradition of not ordaining women – a tradition that is no longer as widespread as it was in the past.

Sean, this describes why I think unions can make a good faith argument that they are not in conflict and are acting within the roles approved by policy, which itself was approved by GC Session.

I know that the GC has a different argument. So, either this matter is resolved through some agreement or joint policy development, or the GC Administration seeks to disband the union. That starts us down the road requiring approval of the GC Executive Committee and GC Session. If successful, then the issue comes back to delegates in the union’s area. Disbanding a union wouldn’t make null any decisions of the disbanded union. Rather, new constituency delegates would have to address the question again. Same question, same geography, same general attitudes among the membership, a different result?

Brent Stanyer Also Commented

Northern California Conference Votes to Act Independent of the General Conference
@Sean Pitman: Sean, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic, and thinking through this in a public forum. Your update, the original post, and the comments, have prompted me to clarify my own thinking on the organizational challenges ahead.

Your point about the Adventist organizational structure and how authority is dispersed among entities (GC, Union, and Conference) is key. These entities each have their own constituencies, and exercise final authority over matters in their jurisdiction. Decisions within that jurisdiction are made by them, not for them. Yes, the GC has its own jurisdiction, and makes its own decisions through its Executive Committee or GC Session, but it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to overrule the decisions of other entities acting within their jurisdiction. The tensions inherent in that system seem to cause much of the dispute over how some unions and conferences are exercising their independent jurisdiction over ordination. There are tensions between the policy jurisdiction of the GC versus the pastor and ordination decision making of the Unions and Conferences. Current policy is not as clear as opponent to WO argue that it is. Several other tensions are also at play – one’s view on whether women should be pastors (even though this is settled in GC policy), whether ordination should be male only, and preferences for local or centralized authority, etc. will make this matter a difficult challenge.

Often left out of the discussions, is that while all of the disputes and debates are occurring, and study documents and policy changes are considered, women are effectively working right now as pastors – blessing their congregations and communities with their service. Let’s enhance the ministry of all pastors – men and women – with our time, talent and money, instead of the nuclear options.

Northern California Conference Votes to Act Independent of the General Conference
@Larry Kirkpatrick: Yes, Pastor Kirkpatrick, time will tell. And, every administrator, pastor, delegate, member in NCC and the Pacific Union are every bit as much part of the church as you or I. Claiming separation is simply your rhetorical attempt to dismiss them based on your disagreement with them. It might mean something to you, but has no effect on who is part of the church or which conference and unions are part of the sisterhood of unions and conferences. All of us are working through these issues together as we determine how to handle our differences. I trust that God will bless us in that endeavor.

Northern California Conference Votes to Act Independent of the General Conference
@Sean Pitman: @Sean Pitman: Oh, how fragile those bonds of unity as we each do what is right in our own eyes.