Pastor Conrad Vine is an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister. He serves as the President of Adventist Frontier Missions, Inc. (AFM), based in Michigan (www.afmonline.org). However, since the vaccines against COVID-19 became available, Pastor Vine has become particularly well-known for his strong advocacy for those citing religious freedom as the basis for not wanting to be vaccinated.
Now, while I personally applaud Vine’s concern and strong advocacy for religious freedom, I find myself at odds with Vine’s views as to how the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as an organization, should have responded to the various state and federal vaccine mandates that followed the release of the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 (late in 2020). The SDA church had had an official statement in support of vaccines, in general, since 2015 (Link). Since this time, this particular statement hadn’t created very many waves, not even with Pastor Vine. Then in early 2022, Vine suddenly had a serious problem with this 2015 statement, arguing that it, along with the GC’s Reaffirmation of this original statement (October of 2021), should be retracted. Why?
Table of Contents
- 1 An Appeal to the Adventist Nobility:
- 2 The Naked Emperor:
- 2.1 Matthew 18:
- 2.2 GC Leadership Overriding Consciences of Adventists Worldwide:
- 2.3 SDA Church Exited the Pandemic as a “Papal System”:
- 2.4 The Demonization of AntiVaxxers:
- 2.5 Misinformation:
- 2.6 Experimental Treatments:
- 2.7 General Conference Working Policy Manuel:
- 2.8 SDA Church’s 2015 Vaccination Statement:
- 2.9 What is Religious Liberty?
- 2.10 The Vaccine Motion Rejected by the General Conference In Session:
- 2.11 Legal Analysis:
- 2.12 The Key Statement of Contention (and Conclusion):
- 3 The Condensed Version of this Review:
- 4 Bio of Dr. Sean Pitman:
An Appeal to the Adventist Nobility:
Well, according to Vine, he took issue with the Church’s 2015 statement in support of vaccines because it was released by a small circle of church bureaucrats that exceeded the mandate given to them by ordinary church members (i.e., the General Conference “in session”). Beyond this, Pastor Vine also called on the Adventist Church to compensate members who lost their jobs on account of the denomination’s refusal to grant them religious vaccine exemption letters based on the immunization statement. Vine’s initial talk, “An Appeal to the Adventist Nobility” can be seen here:
Review by Pastor David Hamstra:
In response to this particular talk, I would recommend the interesting review by Pastor David Hamstra – the Lead Pastor of the Edmonton Central Seventh-day Adventist Church and a ThD Student at Andrews University. Hamstra’s review (1/24/22) can be found here: Link
Response of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
See also the response of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the charges of Conrad Vine: Link
Reaffirmation Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
This statement “builds on the immunization statement voted in April 2015 and affirms both this latter statement and the information on the COVID-19 vaccines shared on December 22, 2020.” (Link)
The Naked Emperor:
Since this time, of course, Pastor Conrad Vine has given many more talks on this topic. I would like to personally go into some detail reviewing Vine’s latest presentation, “The Naked Emperor”, given at the Naples SDA Church, in Florida, on January 28, 2023:
This sermon was “sent to the GC leadership on Monday 30th January, with a request to meet and negotiate a way forward that sets aside the October 21 Reaffirmation Statement without incurring liability for the GC, thus following the teachings of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:15-20.”
Of course, given that the leadership of the SDA Church has already responded to Pastor Vine regarding this particular topic, and given that the General Conference In Session had voted down adding this topic to its own agenda (Link), no additional meeting was deemed necessary.
GC Leadership Overriding Consciences of Adventists Worldwide:
“Since January 2022, Dr. Conrad Vine has been appealing to the GC leadership to honor and not trample upon and assume the right to override the consciences of Adventists Worldwide.”
This is a rather strong accusation against the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church – accusing the SDA leadership of actually opposing the religious liberties and consciences of its own members. That’s quite the claim if true. But, upon what is this claim actually based? Where has the leadership of the SDA Church actually attempted to do such a thing? Well, according to Vine, the lack of official condemnation of government vaccine mandates constitutes an attack on personal religious liberty and conscience.
Yet, the official response of the Church seems to strongly support personal liberties and conscience regarding the choice to vaccinate or not:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church respects the right of each member to make the best possible decision for their health in the light of their personal convictions, health challenges, and medical counsel…
We recognize that some of our members have serious concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and are willing to lose their job, if necessary, rather than take the vaccine. Although the Seventh-day Adventist Church sees this as a public health issue, we will provide support to those of our members who see this differently. We respect their conscientious convictions and can support them in the following ways: 1) By praying with them that God will work out a solution to the challenge they face; 2) Assisting them in writing a personal letter to their employer.
The 2021 Reaffirmation states: “. . . We recognize that at times our members will have personal concerns and even conscientious convictions that go beyond the teachings and positions of the Church. In these cases, the Church’s religious liberty leaders will do what they can to provide support and counsel on a personal, not a church basis, even at times assisting members in writing their own personal accommodation requests to employers and others.”
GENERAL CONFERENCE (January 26, 2022)
Concerns Regarding COVID-19, Church Governance, and Liberty of Conscience
Personally, I don’t see how the SDA Church, as an organization, could really do otherwise? – and continue to support the advancement of the medical sciences and its own medical schools and numerous hospitals? Is it not possible to support the personal liberties and freedoms of individual members while, at the same time, holding a different opinion regarding the validity of the medical science behind vaccines and other medical treatments that an individual might refuse for reasons of personal conscience?
Note also that the law does not base religious exemptions on corporate belief, but on personal belief. Consider, this Memorandum from the US Attorney General (May, 2017):
The Free Exercise Clause protects not just the right to believe or the right to worship; it protects the right to perform or abstain from performing certain physical acts in accordance with one’s beliefs. Federal statutes, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), support that protection, broadly defining the exercise of religion to encompass all aspects of observance and practice, whether or not central to, or required by, a particular religious faith. (Link)
Beyond this, it is clearly a truism that a church cannot dictate or override one’s personal conscience either. Personal conscience is only between the individual and God. And, this fact is clearly recognized, not only by civil law, but by the SDA Church as well.
[Pastor Vine] mentions quite a few people who did not get a religious exemption, attributing the failure to the Adventists Church’s official support of vaccination. This is peculiar, as official support is not an expectation in the law. Religious exemption laws take personal belief into account, not corporate belief… This is not to deny that some dodgy employers would reject an exemption for personal belief. Yet Vine’s insistence that the General Conference should “apologize to and to make restitution to every Adventist who has lost their job” simply does not make sense… Yet Vine feels that the GC’s statement overrides the individual’s right to choose according to their conscience… He selectively cites from the statements, concluding that the church is telling its members they cannot use religious liberty as a reason to refuse vaccination. This is nonsense. The statements, in a number of places, emphasize each individual’s rights… The department will stand up for core Adventist teachings that affect a large part of the church but needn’t cater to the whim of every Adventist out there. Especially when the majority of Adventists are happily vaccinated.
SDA Church Exited the Pandemic as a “Papal System”:
We entered the pandemic as protestants, and we exited as a Papal system.” – Conrad Vine (8:32)
Here, again, Vine accuses the leadership of the SDA Church of operating with “Kingly Authority”, removing the real governing power of the Church from the actual common church members. Is that what actually happened? Not as far as I can tell. After all, the concerns of Vine and others were actually brought to a vote at the General Conference in Session. It’s just that their motion was soundly outvoted (Link).
The Demonization of AntiVaxxers:
At around the 13:00 mark in his talk, Vine quotes Dr. Nicholas Miller, an attorney and Professor of Church History and Director of the International Religious Liberty Institute at Andrews University.
“The anti-covid vaccine movement has contributed to the needless deaths of more Adventists than David Koresh ever did.” (Link)
Vine responded by saying:
“Therefore, if you stand for conscience, you, therefore, have the blood of innocent Adventists on your hands. This was a charge that was repeatedly leveled at me on social media – that I am responsible for the deaths of multitudes; that I have the blood of multitudes on my hands, personally, because I stand of for the principles of liberty of conscience and informed consent.”
My problem with Vine’s response here is not with his support of liberty of conscience or informed consent. My problem here is with the fact that Vine wasn’t simply arguing for liberty of conscience and informed consent. He was supporting and promoting the agenda of an organization known as The Liberty and Heath Alliance, which was, and still is, spreading false, misleading, and downright conspiratorial claims about COVID-19, the mRNA vaccines, and even the government itself through the promotion and sponsorship of conspiracy theorists like Dr. Peter McCullough and others like him – even giving him a platform to speak in our own churches. It is Vine’s support of those spreading such false information and conspiracy theories that most certainly influenced many to avoid taking the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. There is no doubt that this led to hospitalizations, permanent injuries, and even deaths of many who would otherwise still be here today.
The core rational for mandates was the belief that the higher the rates of vaccination the less the virus would spread. The essential belief was that treatment prevents transmission. That was the essential belief… If the treatment only protects you, but nobody else, there is no rational for a community-wide mandate…
When the first emergency use authorization was issued [for the Pfizer vaccine] the federal government knew that these vaccines do not prevent transmission. It was known from day one. Therefore, every time Dr. Fauci or any polititician or any member of the CDC or any member of the mainstream media told you that you need to get vaccinated because these vaccines prevent transmission, they were not telling the truth…
Our [Church’s] support for the mandates was based on a known lie – and that’s the truth.
Vine at 18:00 – 27:00
The problem with Vine’s claim here, and it is a key argument of his, is that there was good scientific evidence, early on, that the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 were indeed able to reduce the transmission rates of the virus.
It was quickly established that those vaccinated against the first main COVID-19 variant, the Alpha variant (December 2020), were, in fact, less likely to spread the virus to others. This was thought to be due to a reduced viral load within the respiratory tract of vaccinated people who were subsequently infected. In fact, even before the vaccines became generally available to humans, animal testing on rhesus macaques (published July & October of 2020) showed that, “COVID-19 vaccination prevented or limited viral replication in the upper and lower respiratory tracts”, giving very promising early scientific data that the vaccines against COVID-19 would result in reduced viral transmissibility in humans as well, once released to the general public (Link). And, this did, in fact, turn out to be the case.
Consider, for example, a paper published by Martinez et al., (September 2, 2021), which showed a much lower risk of viral transmission (Alpha Variant) for vaccinated people as compared to unvaccinated people (Link).
Five out of six fully vaccinated individuals remained viral culture-negative throughout their enrollment period, suggesting minimal shedding of infectious virus and little to no transmission risk. They also had either undetectable or sporadic viral genome loads in the nasal swabs. These data suggest that in 2 of the 4 fully vaccinated individuals for which both saliva and nasal swabs were collected, infection was initially established within the oral cavity or other saliva-exposed tissue site and was restricted from disseminating to the nasal passages. The total number of days that vaccinated individuals tested viral culture positive was significantly fewer than both newly vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, indicating that vaccination significantly reduces infectious virus shedding.
(Martinez et al., September 2, 2021)
And, there were many more supporting scientific studies like this, saying basically the same thing:
Forty-five studies, including six RCTs and 39 observational studies were included in this review.
COVID-19 vaccination have been demonstrated to be associated with varied degrees of reduced household transmission of SARS-CoV-2, reduced incidence of asymptomatic infection, and a reduction in viral load…
Evidence from four large household surveillance studies from the Netherlands, Finland, and Israel suggests that full-dose of AZ, PfBnT, Moderna, or J&J vaccines significantly reduced household transmission of wild-type or the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) COVID-19 strain after 14 days of vaccination by at least 63%….
An Israeli study by Layan et al. conducted a case-control study of the PfBNT vaccine’s effectiveness on reduction of infection transmission of the wild-type and B.1.1.7 (Alpha) strains in healthcare workers and their households. The risk of transmission from vaccinated cases was 0.22 times the risk of infection transmission compared to unvaccinated cases… and 0.07 among household contacts who were both isolated and vaccinated (Link).
Salmon C, et. al., Clement FM on behalf of the University of Calgary Health Technology Assessment Unit. Transmissibility of COVID19 among Vaccinated Individuals: A Rapid Literature Review, Update #2. September 24, 2021 (Link)
Of course, next came the Delta Variant, which had higher viral loads within the vaccinated (as well as the unvaccinated), but showed less transmissibility compared to those who were not vaccinated (Link). Still, this reduction in transmissibility was fairly significant, despite up to 1000x the viral load compared to the earlier Alpha Variant.
During an initial infection with the Delta Variant, when people were most likely to be contagious, the Delta Variant seemed to replicate in amounts that were perhaps 1,000 times as much as those seen in people infected with other variants, defeating immune defenses in the nose and throat for many people. However, this increase in viral load wasn’t just present in those who were vaccinated, but in the unvaccinated as well. And, this is exactly what studies showed at the time (Riemersma, et. al., July 31, 2021). In fact, studies showed that those who were not vaccinated carried a higher viral load compared to those who were vaccinated.
The SARS-CoV-2 culture of nasopharyngeal swabs was positive in 68.6% of vaccinated HCWs versus 84.9% of unvaccinated HCWs with primary infections (p = 0.005, t-test). As the probability of culture positivity depends on viral load19, this was corrected for using a probit regression model with both viral load and vaccination status as predictors. Figure 1C shows the probability of a positive culture for a given viral load in vaccinated and unvaccinated HCWs. A positive vaccination status significantly decreased the probability of culture positivity (p = 0.002, Wald test).
(Shamier, et. al., August 21, 2021)
Does this, then, mean that vaccinated people were able to transmit the Delta Variant to other people? Yes, but less often and for a lesser amount of time compared to those who are unvaccinated – since the vaccine still resulted in a reduced number of infections – as well as the amount of time that an infected person was infectious.
This was backed up by another paper that showed that vaccines not only produced fairly good protection from getting sick with the Delta Variant, but also helped an infected person clear the viral load much faster.
Serial Ct values of individuals were analyzed as a surrogate marker for the viral load. The initial median initial Ct value did not differ between unvaccinated and fully vaccinated patients (unvaccinated median Ct 18.8 (14.9-22.7), vaccinated 19.2 (15.2-22.2), p=0.929). However, fully vaccinated patients had a faster rate of increase in Ct value over time compared with unvaccinated individuals, suggesting faster viral load decline:
Consider the results of the “REACT-1 Study” (August 2021) where the researchers found that “fully vaccinated people in this testing round had between around 50% to 60% reduced risk of infection [Delta Variant], including asymptomatic infection, compared to unvaccinated people. In addition, double vaccinated people were less likely than unvaccinated people to test positive after coming into contact with someone who had COVID-19 (3.84% vs 7.23%)” (Link). “Fully vaccinated people who were infected with the virus tended to have less severe illness than unvaccinated people and seemed to have smaller amounts of virus in samples, the researchers added, meaning they may be less likely to pass it on if they are infected” (Link).
Even for populations where people live together in very close spaces, such as in a prison, for example, being vaccinated was shown to be associated with lower rates of transmission. Prisoners infected with the much more infectious Omicron variant (as compared to the prior Alpha and Delta variants) were shown to be less likely to spread the virus to others if they have been vaccinated or if they had had a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection – according to a study in US prisons (Link).
In adjusted analyses, we estimated that any vaccination, prior infection alone, and both vaccination and prior infection reduced an index case’s risk of transmitting infection by 22% (6-36%), 23% (3-39%) and 40% (20-55%), respectively. Receipt of booster doses and more recent vaccination further reduced infectiousness among vaccinated cases. These findings suggest that although vaccinated and/or previously infected individuals remain highly infectious upon SARS-CoV-2 infection in this prison setting, their infectiousness is reduced compared to individuals without any history of vaccination or infection, underscoring some benefit of vaccination to reduce but not eliminate transmission. (Link)
Now, while not being 100% effective (since almost nothing is perfect), a 22% reduction in transmission rates based on a single vaccine dose, is significant. Consider also that this study was dealing with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which was much more infectious compared to the earlier Alpha and Delta variants that were around when the mRNA vaccines first became available.
And, the list of good scientific studies that show reduced transmission rates for the vaccinated as compared to the unvaccinated goes on and on…
In short, Vine’s claim here that the mRNA vaccines had no effect on reducing viral transmission to others, isn’t true. While not being perfect, being vaccinated did have a significant effect on reduced transmission rates on top of being highly protective against hospitalization and death.
As a relevant aside, a very recently published nationwide NIH Study (Jiang et. al., February 2023) showed that vaccination against COVID-19 is associated with a significantly reduced incidence of heart attacks and strokes during follow-up. So, getting vaccinated is associated with long-term as well as short-term health benefits.
Several times during his talk, Pastor Vine argues that the mRNA vaccines were “experimental treatments”. Well, that’s not exactly true either – despite this claim coming from some fringe scientists and medical doctors (like Peter McCullough).
What Dr. McCullough does not clearly explain is that the mRNA technology and other technologies behind the modern vaccines against the COVID-19 virus (to include the DNA-based vaccines) aren’t exactly “new” or “experimental”. They’ve been around and have been carefully studied now for over 30 years! – based largely on the work of Katalin Karikó, Ph.D.
Moderna was founded in 2010 to produce vaccines based on the new mRNA technology, and the company had been growing as a vaccine manufacturer when the COVID-19 virus became a pandemic early in 2020. BioNTech is a German company established to work on immunotherapies in 2008 by a Turkish couple, who immigrated to Germany. Like Moderna, BioNTech recognized the value of the mRNA technology for vaccine design years ago and licensed the technology. In 2013, BioNTech hired Karikó as a vice president and began to develop mRNA technologies for use against many diseases. BioNTech’s efforts in vaccine development greatly increased in 2018, when Pfizer joined BioNTech’s effort with a research and development agreement to develop mRNA-based vaccines against influenza. It was a natural collaboration because Pfizer, a U.S. company in New York, has been a major vaccine producer for a long time. When the pandemic began, Pfizer/BioNTech immediately turned their attention to developing vaccines against COVID-19. (Link, Link)
It’s not like there’s some deep mystery here as to how they fundamentally work. We know very well how they work (Link). And, Dr. McCullough is not against vaccines in general. He has taken dozens of vaccines himself – as he freely admits. So, what’s his real problem with the vaccines against COVID-19? Well, it’s his fear of the “spike protein”. He also throws in some possibilities of some future “cancer risk” or “birth defects”, but doesn’t explain why such risks wouldn’t have been detected well before now – given the 70,000 people involved in the original double-blinded placebo-controlled trials (not to mention the animal trials, or the hundreds of millions of people who have since been vaccinated). He does say that such risks usually require “two years” before they can be effectively ruled out for a new vaccine. Well, it’s been over two years now since the mRNA vaccines went through human trials and were released to the general public, with millions around the world having since been vaccinated – saving a great many lives and preventing untold hospitalizations and long-term injuries without the doomsday consequences predicted by McCullough. Sure, while there certainly are risks to taking the mRNA vaccines (as with any other vaccine or medication), these risks were shown to be very few compared with the much greater risks associated with an actual COVID-19 infection (Link).
General Conference Working Policy Manuel:
Regarding the General Conference Working Policy Manual, for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Vine said:
It’s actually very hard to get your hands on this. I have it locked away in my safe at home.
This is a very important document. Members are not supposed to ever get their hands on this. You cannot buy it. You cannot download it. It’s designed for those who are senior administrators who are in the know you might say. That’s the black book.
I’m not messing with you here. If you ask your conference president for a copy of the black book, you’re not going to get it. Ok? And I think that in the modern era of transperency, it’s about time we start sharing our core governing documents with every member around the world.
(Vine at 45:00)
Well, that’s not true either. It’s not like this is a nefarious or hidden society or organizational structure like the Illuminati or Freemasonry going on here. It’s very easy to get a personal copy of the GC’s Working Policy Manuel. I quickly found copies myself and have uploaded them for those who might like to read through the 800+ pages (For the 2021-2022 Version or for the 2019-2020 Version).
Quoting this General Conference Working Policy Manuel regarding the Adventist Health Care Ministries, Pastor Vine cites this passage:
Adventist health care and ministries are to promote only those practices based upon the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy, or evidence-based methods of disease prevention, treatment, and health maintenance. “Evidence-based” means there is an accepted body of peer reviewed, statistically significant evidence that raises probability of effectiveness to a scientifically convincing level. (Link)
Pastor Vine then goes on comment on this statement as follows:
Now, that’s the requirement. So we must ask ourselves, when the health ministries department supports the Reaffirmation Statement that we support mandates, were they in compliance with the General Conference Working Policy Manuel? The answer to that is no. Why is the answer to that no? Because the GC supported the mandates in the October 21 Statement over your conscience is not supported by any peer-reviewed statistically-significant evidence that supports the underlying assumptions for mandates (that is that the vaccinations prevent transmission) precisely because there never was any such scientific evidence…
Now, the General Conference may argue that they were supporting individual treatment, that they believe the treatments are good for the individual. In that case, the Statement from the General Conference, the Reaffirmation Statement, should have said, “We would recommend these treatments to our members but it’s up to your conscience. But what they actually did was that they supported the mandates, not necessarily the treatments. And, if you’re going to support the mandates, you need a statistically significant body of evidence that shows that the underlying rational for mandates (which is that the vaccines prevent transmission), that that evidence is there – and it’s not. So, therefore, we overstepped our boundaries and the General Conference Working Policy Manuel was breached, was broken. We are out of compliance.
It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it, that the GC Administration is out of compliance with their own Working Policy Manuel by issuing the October 2021 Reaffirmation Statement.
Vine at 28:48
Well, again, as noted above, not only was there good peer-reviewed statistically-significant scientific evidence to support the conclusion that the mRNA vaccines are not only effective at significantly reducing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 infections, but they also showed significant effectiveness when it came to reducing transmission rates as well. Pastor Vine is simply mistaken here – on THE key point behind his entire argument. The GC stands vindicated, not only on its original 2015 statement in support of vaccines in general, but on its 2021 Reaffirmation Statement dealing with the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 as well.
Beyond this, the GC’s Reaffirmation Statement did not limit individual choice, freedom, or religious liberty in this matter. It specifically noted that the decision to personally take the vaccine, or not, is a personal decision that is fully supported by the GC.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church respects each individual’s freedom of choice to make responsible decisions regarding their own health. Since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are Christ’s both by creation and redemption, we should personally seek God’s will about COVID-19 vaccinations. The decision whether to take the vaccine or not is not a matter of salvation, nor is it related, as some may suggest, to the mark of the beast. It is a matter of personal choice. We firmly believe that in matters of personal conviction we must be guided by the Word of God, our conscience, and informed judgment.
As the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists’ information on COVID-19 vaccines released on December 18, 2020, and predicated on the 2015 Immunization statement confirms:
“THE DECISION TO BE IMMUNIZED OR NOT IS THE CHOICE OF EACH INDIVIDUAL, AND SHOULD BE TAKEN IN CONSULTATION WITH ONE’S HEALTH-CARE PROVIDER. PERSONAL RESEARCH ON THE SUBJECT IS IMPORTANT. [Emphasis in original]
It seems, then, that Pastor Vine has fallen victim to simply listening to the wrong voices. He has chosen, as his advisors, those who are known for being conspiratorial and sensational in their claims on this topic. And, he, being a pastor without significant medical education or training, has few personal resources, evidently, to correctly judge all that he’s hearing and reading regarding COVID-19 and the history and nature of the mRNA vaccines, how they work, their risks, and their benefits.
Beyond this, where he should actually know better, he makes misleading claims about the statements and positions of the GC, paints the most bland and innocent things (such as the GC Working Policy Manual) as being somehow intentionally shrouded in secrecy for dark and sinister purposes, and publicly forwards very harsh accusations against those in church leadership positions that simply aren’t charitable or accurate – all of which are harmful to the church.
Ironically, Vine also accuses the church leadership of being motivated by federal funds that go to some of our schools and healthcare systems – as the likely reason for their non-opposition to the government regarding vaccines and vaccine mandates.
“When the financial needs of the institutional church for funding from the second beast of Revelation 13 cause the institutional church to effectively deny the consciences of individual members, we are crossing a red line. We are in uncharted territory.”
Conrad Vine, An Appeal to the Adventist Nobility, January 15, 2020
Yet, Vine’s own organization, Adventist Frontier Missions, where Vine serves as president, received $250,000 from the US Government in 2020 as part of the Paycheck Protection Program that provided COVID-19 relief. When contacted about the payment, Adventist Frontier Missions confirmed that the organization had received the money and kept the full amount (Link).
Now, I’m sure that Pastor Vine views himself as a Martin Luther-type figure, nailing his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door at Wittenberg. The only difference, of course, is that Luther’s Theses dealt with factually correct and very significant theological errors within the Church of his day. Pastor Vine’s Theses, in comparison, fall well short of this. What he does have appears to me to be built upon a stack of cards – with most of them missing. I mean, at first approximation, Pastor Vine comes across as intelligent and very well-spoken. However, when one carefully investigates his key arguments on this particular topic, they just crumble and fall apart.
Of course, I do sympathize with Pastor Vine regarding those who have suffered due to vaccine mandates. I’m also very sorry for such suffering and personal loss – even if it happened to be due to personal ignorance or misinformation on this topic. Regardless, however, it wasn’t the GC, EXCOM, ADCOM, or those in church leadership positions who caused such suffering and/or loss because of their public support for peer-reviewed science regarding vaccines and other medical practices.
SDA Church’s 2015 Vaccination Statement:
As previously noted, Pastor Vine points out that in 2015 the General Conference issued a Vaccination Statement (Link), voted by “ADCOM” – or the General Conference (GC) Administrative Committee (ADCOM). Then, in October 2021 the GC issued the “Reaffirmation Statement” (Link). Vine commented on this as follows:
It’s kind of a misnomer because the original vaccination statement said that the Adventist Church has no theological objection to mandates, but we leave it up to the conscience of the individual as to weather they take it. That was the original statement. So, when they issued a Reaffirmation Statement, the word “reaffirmation” implies that they’re saying the same thing – does it not? But, in fact, it says quite the opposite. The new Statement doesn’t even say that we have no theological objection to it [the mandates]. It says, “We support the mandate over your conscience”. So, they stripped us of our liberty of conscience during the pandemic.
Vine at 33:00
To support this argument, Pastor Vine cites a section of the Reaffirmation Statement that reads:
“Therefore, claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities.”
Pastor Vine went on to argue:
That one sentence changed the Adventist Church forever. It changed us from being a Protestant Church into one that looks suspiciously like a Papal System where a small group of remote echesiastical leaders have the right at any moment and at any time to say that you have no right to conscience in this issue or that issue or the other issue over there. Once the precident has been established, it will haunt us forever – – unless we push back as members.
Vine at 34:00
Note that this has long been the position of the SDA Church – well before the COVID-19 pandemic came along. The Church itself, as an organization, never recognized opposition to government vaccine mandates as an appropriate use of religious liberty arguments – and the original language of the 2015 statement did not say otherwise. Despite this, however, the SDA Church does recognize individual conscience, responsibility, and choice before God in this matter. To quote the Reaffirmation Statement here:
“We understand that some of our members view things differently, and we respect those convictions. They may at times have rights that can be pursued under the law, and we will point them towards materials and resources for doing so but cannot directly undertake this personal effort for them.” (Link)
As the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists’ information on COVID-19 vaccines released on December 18, 2020, and predicated on the 2015 Immunization statement confirms:
“THE DECISION TO BE IMMUNIZED OR NOT IS THE CHOICE OF EACH INDIVIDUAL, AND SHOULD BE TAKEN IN CONSULTATION WITH ONE’S HEALTH-CARE PROVIDER. PERSONAL RESEARCH ON THE SUBJECT IS IMPORTANT. (Link)
I’m just not sure how the GC could have done any better here? Just because the SDA Church supports individual rights, choice, and conscience, does not mean that the SDA Church, as an organization, must therefore also agree with all such individual choices regarding their use of religious liberty arguments as being ideal. That’s just not the case since the SDA Church has long been in agreement with numerous government regulations, civil laws, and mandates regarding many varied issues – to include such things as mandated speed limits or the wearing of seatbelts.
What is Religious Liberty?
Pastor Vine asks the question, what is religious liberty? He then cites the Working Policy Manual where it gives the following definition:
The use of force and coercion is inimical to life, to dignity, and to authentic religion… Religious liberty… deals… with deals with a person’s relationship with God, the Creator. Seventh-day Adventists therefore view religious liberty as the primordial human right that undergirds all human rights… Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, one of the original core departments of the Church, was initially established to promote and maintain religious liberty, with particular emphasis upon the most intimate freedom, individual liberty of conscience… the department… works for the religious liberties of individual church members. (Link)
Vine at 35:00
Pastor Vine then goes on to add:
We support you as the Holy Spirit moves upon your heart. Now, you could say that I feel moved by the Holy Spirit do commit adultery. And we would say that we’re not going to support that particular liberty of conscience because it goes against Scripture. So, we must always test the spirits against Scripture. But, as long as it is consistent with Scripture, then we honor and respec the conscience of every member…
But in the General Conference Reaffirmation Statement of October 2021, our administration unilaterally assumed the right to determine denominational beliefs and to vote to determine and override the convictions of the Holy Spirit on every Adventist worldwide, causing emense pain and suffering to Adventists throughout the pandemic.
And, just as a reminder, the definition of denominational beliefs is entrusted the the General Conference in session. It is not entrusted to the executive committee nor to the ADCOM. When we say that we have no religious liberty objection to mandates, we are defining theology for all of the Adventists in the world. That is reserved exclusively for the General Conference in session. The ADCOM does not have the right to make this kind of statement.
Pastor Vine presents a number of interesting arguments here. What is most interesting, at least to me, is that Pastor Vine said absolutely nothing about ADCOMs voted 2015 statement in support of vaccines at the time. He said nothing at all until the COVID-19 pandemic hit us and the mRNA vaccines, in particular, became available. Up until this time, Pastor Vine was, evidently, perfectly fine with government-issued vaccine mandates for those such as hospital workers, military personnel, school children, and the like. What changed?
Beyond this, is ADCOM really as limited as Pastor Vine argues? Consider the comments of Pastor David Hamstra dealing with this particular argument:
I searched an electronic copy of Working Policy, and I can’t find a place where it delimits the scope and sets the terms of reference for ADCOM in the way Dr. Vine described. Unlike EXCOM, whose role is clearly defined in Working Policy, the tasks and functions Dr. Vine presented as a list are scattered through the document. In Working Policy the existence and nature of the ADCOM are assumed, not defined.
According to this webpage, ADCOM was formed by EXCOM to look after matters that EXCOM didn’t have time for after EXCOM got too large to meet every week. In its terms of reference, EXCOM has given ADCOM “Power to act” with respect to a mandate to “consider other routine administrative issues as they arise and give general counsel to World Church entities as requested,” and thus ADCOM does not need to refer such items to EXCOM. (I suspect that the 2015 statement on immunization resulted from a request for counsel.) Dr. Vine is not correct to assume that ADCOM’s scope is limited to only those functions assigned to it in Working Policy, although Working Policy does specify certain matters to be attended to by EXCOM, ADCOM, or both.
I also cannot find a place where the question of who gets to release position statements is addressed in Working Policy. Yes, EXCOM “speaks for the world Church” (Bylaw 13.1.a), but it can be considered to have delegated some of that authority to ADCOM in the miscellaneous domain of “General Administrative Items” so as not to occupy the limited time available at its meetings.
Thus, church policy is vaguer and ADCOM’s scope appears to be broader than Dr. Vine made it out to be. One can argue that this should be clarified and delimited, as statements on issues like vaccination/immunization that seemed of less consequence seven years ago now have great importance for people’s lives and livelihoods. But based on what I have read, I don’t think Dr. Vine has made a sound case that the denominational elites violated the rules set for them by the people in the pews when ADCOM released the 2015 immunization statement.
This adds to my doubts about Dr. Vine’s claim that there is some kind of money-motivated conspiracy behind the immunization statement. (Perhaps it’s time to update the SDA Conspiracy Chart.)
David Hamstra, Assessing Conrad Vine’s Vaccination Arguments, January 24, 2022
So, it seems as though the General Conference can, according to its own bylaws, delegate authority to EXCOM and ADCOM to make various decisions and generate statements for the SDA Church. Now, of course, if something goes haywire here, it is always the prerogative of the General Conference, in session, to overturn such decisions. However, to argue that only the General Conference, in session, has the ability to make non-doctrinal decisions for the Church is simply impractical. The fact of the matter is that the latest General Conference, in Session, did entertain a motion to add the vaccine issue to its agenda. The only problem, for Pastor Vine’s position, is that this motion was overwhelmingly voted down. The vote wasn’t even close. It seems clear, then, that the General Conference, in Session, was actually fine with the position of the SDA Church on the topic of vaccinations as originally stated in 2015 and in the Reaffirmation Statement – that the General Conference, in Session, saw no compelling reason to change anything here, effectively giving an endorsement rather than a recall.
Of course, Pastor Vine recognizes this problem for his position here, but claims that the motion was only voted down because of the undue influence of the leadership of the church over the Conference Delegates – that the leaders of the SDA Church actually mislead and lied to the delegates in order to get their own way.
The Vaccine Motion Rejected by the General Conference In Session:
Pastor Vine discusses what happened at the last General Conference Session as follows:
I was sitting in the bleachers there and the most significant moment of the Session happened Monday morning. One of the first things that they do is that they vote to approve the agenda. And, if you want to get something onto the agenda, you need to stand up as a delegate and make a motion that says, “I make a motion that we add this item to the agenda.” That’s your only chance of getting it added. And, if somebody seconds that motion, then there has to be a discussion and then a vote. And the whole session decides weather its added to the agenda or weather its not added to the agenda. Well, on that Monday morning in June 22, the chair, Dr. Artur Stele (Vice-President of the General Conference), moved that the session adopt the agenda as presented, and a very brave religious liberty lawyer Johnathan Zirkle from Loma Linda, a delegate at large with significant experience in religious liberty matters in federal employment law, he moved an amendment to the agenda to include a discussion of the 2015 Vaccination Statement and the October 2021 Reaffirmation Statement. Many of you saw that on YouTube, and you can still see it on YouTube.
The response from Dr. Stele said:
“We appreciate your consern. But really, the GC in session deals with items of Constitution and Bylaws, items that concern our Church Manual, and our Fundamental Beliefs – such items that are coming to this level. But the issue of vaccination, we know it is a devisive issue, and actually the document that was proposed by the Administration Committee, has given a full right for everyone to follow their own conscience, so there was no push in one or the other direction. And so we would really plead with you, because we have a shortened session, that we don’t load our agenda with items that really don’t belong there, but we really appreciate your concern.”
Now, according to Dr. Stele, with extensive administrative experience, there are four items that a GC Session normally deals with. These items relate to the Constitutuion, the Bylaws, the Church Manuel, and the Fundamental Beliefs – those four things. Now, is what he said true?
Well, if what he said is true, then somewhere in the Black Book here there must be a rule somewhere that says that we can only discuss matters relating to amendments to the Constitutuion, the Bylaws, the Fundamental Beliefs and the Church Manuel – those four things. There must be a rule somewhere that says that’s the only thing that you can discuss in the GC Session. But, you can read from A through Z in this book and there’s nothing of the sort in there…
Now, if what he said was true, then he should not have simply been disallowed by the chair as being unconstitutional. He shouldn’t have allowed it to be seconded and have a vote on it. If it is not true what Dr. Stele was saying, then he was misleading the session in order to steer the vote – actually to prevent the vote.
Vine at 38:00
At this point, I would like to point out that it doesn’t seem to me as though Artur Stele was claiming that the General Conference in Session could only deal with items of Constitution and Bylaws, Church Manual, and Fundamental Beliefs. Rather, I think he was saying that these are primarily what concerns the General Conference while in Session, and that, given the shortened nature of that particular Session, that these particular issues should, in his opinion, take precedence. It just doesn’t seem to me that Stele was arguing, as Pastor Vine claims, that only such items could be brought forward as agenda items or that any such limitations were listed in the Church Manuel.
Also, I think it is a serious mistake, on the part of Pastor Vine, to attribute nefarious motives to Artur Stele here – as if he were deliberately trying to mislead the delegates or block or influence the vote via the use of misleading statements regarding church governance. Now, I understand that Pastor Vine views the vaccination issue as a “Constitutional Issue”, but I don’t think that Dr. Stele honestly viewed it as such. And, if he does, he likely honestly viewed it as having already been settled prior to the GC Session.
Pastor Vine continues with his section on the “legal analysis” of the last GC Session dealing specifically with the motion to add vaccines to the GC Agenda:
When I frist approached the General Conference in October of 2021, when they issued their Reaffirmation Statement, my first question was, “I don’t think you have the right in your terms of reference for the ADCOM to issue a statement like that. Could I see the ADCOM terms of reference?
There answer was, “No. We don’t share that.”
I said, “I’m a delagate the the General Conference Session. Surely I can see the terms of reference for a subcommittee of the General Conference Session. The answer was “No. You can’t have that.”
It was thankfully some bright pastor who was attacking me who posted it as a reference on the Alberta Conference website. It was taken down shortly thereafter. However, in that half an hour or so that it was up, eagle-eyed Adventists downloaded it and it circulated around the world. That came out by chance. But in the modern era, when we expect transperancy, we need to move to that era of transparancy in our church where every member should have access to see what the rules of the church are and how we function. It’s not right that these things be locked away so that only the insiders can ever see what these things really mean – because knowledge is power. And, if those who do not have knowledge do not know that the whool has been pulled over their eyes, how do we know when we’re being mistreated?
Vine at 45:37
Ok, if this is really what happened, and I have my doubts, given that the 2018 Terms of Reference for Compliance Committees were published by the Adventist Review back in 2018 for all to see, I’d have to agree with Pastor Vine here. Certainly, a delegate to the General Conference should be able to have access to all of the relevant governing documents and the basis for decision-making behind all official Church statements. Transparency certainly is important here.
Also, note that the posting of the 2015 Terms of Reference for GC ADCOM, in particular, by “some bright pastor” was done by, you guessed it, Pastor David Hamstra (on January 24, 2022). And, contrary to the claims of Pastor Vine, this posting was never “taken down shortly thereafter” (46:04), but is still up for all to see. I’ve also uploaded a copy (Link). Recently, Hamstra very gently corrected Vine’s account here as follows:
I am the “bright pastor” in the Alberta Conference that Pastor Vine mentions at 46:04. I would like to clarify two points.
1. I hold Pastor Vine’s work with AFM in high regard, and do not intend any criticisms of his views as an attack. I offer them in the spirit of iron sharpening iron.
2. To the best of my knowledge, my conference has not removed the GC ADCOM Terms of Reference document from my OneDrive or disabled sharing it, nor have they contacted me about taking it down. When last I checked, that link still works, and anybody can access the document. (2/20/23)
Regarding Plenary Authority of the General Conference in Session:
Now, Pastor Vine reverts back to his argument that the General Conference in Session shall have absolute or “plenary” authority to make decisions on pretty much any matter involving the SDA Church – that there is no limit as to what it can discuss (49:00). As already noted above, I don’t think anyone would disagree with this – not even Dr. Artur Stele despite the accusations of Pastor Vine against Artur Stele here. Again, I don’t see that Artur Stele ever claimed that the General Conference in Session could only discuss items of Constitution and Bylaws, Church Manual, and Fundamental Beliefs. Clearly, that was his own preference, and the preference of Elder Ted Wilson and other church leaders, during a shortened session, but he never said that this was an absolute limitation.
Yet, Pastor Vine feels free to claim that Artur Stele deliberately lied to the delegates.
Was pastor Stele telling the truth to the world church? No. Was he misleading the session? Yes, he was.
And I recognize that this is going out online. And I recognized that there may be some pushback for me saying this, but this is the truth. The truth is that the GC leadership didn’t want it to be discussed at the GC Session. The truth is not that you cannot bring this to the Session. It’s that they didn’t want it to be discussed. Hense they threw up this smokescreen of legalease. And, most members have never seen this [The Church Manual]. Most delegates at the GC Session don’t even know that this exists [holding up the Church Manual]. They go on trust. They assume, Ok, if this is what they’re saying therefore we can’t discuss it here for some mysterious reason. And it’s simply not true. The truth of the matter is that they didn’t want it discussed.
Vine at 58:00
Again, I don’t think that the GC delegates are so misinformed or so limited in their understanding as to the purpose and powers of the General Conference in Session. Sure, it seems quite clear that Elder Stele and President Wilson, and others in the Church Leadership, would have much preferred not to have to discuss the vaccines or the very contentious vaccine mandate issue at a shortened GC session. I think that’s quite clear. However, in order to achieve this end, did they deliberately lie to the delegates or try to misdirect their thinking in a deliberately underhanded manner? I just don’t think that such an accusation is fair nor is it in the Spirit of Jesus to make such accusations – accusations that assume actual knowledge of the motives of the leaders of the SDA Church.
Yet, at this point, Pastor Vine moves on to challenge President Ted Wilson. He plays a video clip of Elder Wilson urging the delegates to vote “no” on the motion to add the vaccine issue to the GC Session agenda (59:15).
In this clip, Elder Wilson starts off by noting the motion to add the issue of vaccinations to the GC Session agenda… and that this motion was seconded, meaning that a vote on this motion is in order. Then, of course, Elder Wilson presented his own personal opinion, together with the personal opinions of other church leaders, strongly urging the delegates to vote “No” on this motion. The reasons he gave for this were the same reasons that had already been given by Elder Stele – that “It is not a Constitution or Bylaws item, a Church Manual item, or a Fundamental Belief item.”
Elder Wilson then went on to explain:
Now there may be individuals who will disagree with me and others saying, “It is my fundamental right to be able to make a choice as to whether or not I wish to receive the vaccination, a vaccination, some vaccination, or not.” And the General Conference has very much stood on the position that everyone should make their own decision. The General Conference has made a statement in regard to vaccinations. In fact, I have to tell you that [regarding] the country that I served in for almost nine years in West Africa, I would not have been able to serve there had I not had a particular vaccination. In fact, there are probably about fifteen countries in Africa, and perhaps elsewhere, where without that single vaccination you would not be able to enter.
So, the debate may contain all kinds of ramifications. It has become particularly acute with the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting vaccinations that were developed, which are not exactly like other vaccinations, but are vaccinations. So, it depends upon what vaccinations you’re talking about as to what responses people give. But, the General Conference has not mandated that people take the vaccination. It has given people a choice.
So, rather than for us to become embroiled in something that is not an agenda item for a General Conference… It is an administrative item, it has been delt with, some people don’t like the way that it has been delt with. And, that is their right. But rather than for us to become embroiled in something that is not an item for a General Conference Session discussion, we respectfully, kindly, and very much in a determined manner, ask that you, the delegates, vote “No” on placing this item as an agenda item.
Thank you. It is in your hands.
After watching this clip, Pastor Vine reflects on Elder Wilson’s comments as follows:
The vaccination he’s talking about in Africa is the Yellow Fever vaccination. Now, he’s comparing apples with elephants, not just apples with oranges here. Because, if you live in America, you’re not forced to go live in [Africa]. But the mandates are saying that just to live and breath in your own home you have to take these things. So, we’re not comparing like with like.
Secondly, when he says that this is an administrative item, and it has been delt with, we must ask ourselves, “How can you possibly interpret that?” When you say that it’s an administrative item for General Conference, was it delt with by the administrators? Yes, they did issue a statement. But, the question is, did we as Adventists, when we were baptized, agree or know or have any possibility of the idea that at some time in the future administrators would pass a statement that says, to every employer in the world, that this Adventist has no liberty of conscience or religious liberty objection to a mandated treatment? The answer to that is, “No”. We have never given that authority to the General Conference. Ever! Nobody has ever said, “The Church leaders can determine what the government can or cannot do to my body. Ever!”
So, yes they delt with it administratively, but administration in the General Conference relates to the assets of the General Conference, not to your body. Not to your body! And, their issuing a statement that says Adventists have no religious liberty objection to employer mandates, fully aware of the fact that if you do take the medication and you suffer life-changing consequences there is no responsibility to the General Conference for issuing that statement – just as if your doctor says you must take it and you die, tough luck. And, if your employer mandates it and you die, you’re the primary bread-winner in your family, tough luck. There’s nothing that you can do about it.
So, it is not an adminstrative issue. It does not fall within the administrative remix of the General Conference ADCOM to make a decision about whether the Holy Spirit convicts every Adventist worldwide on what they put into their bodies.
Vine at 103:31
Forgive me here, but I fail to see how Pastor Vine is, himself, “comparing apples to apples”. As previously noted, there have long been many vaccine mandates in this country – not just in African or other foreign countries. If you want to work in certain professions, go to certain schools, or travel to certain places, you must accept various vaccinations in this country.
Now, one is free to simply stay at home where, contrary to the claims of Pastor Vine, there are no vaccine mandates in this country. Vaccine mandates, as with most other government laws and mandates, deal with social situations where personal freedoms affect the freedoms and liberties of others. And, when that happens, personal liberties can no longer be exercised with complete freedom of will in any orderly civil society. In other words, the real question is, where to draw the line between allowing personal liberties and protecting the noses of others from those liberties? (Link)
This is a very Christian concept actually. So, I’m not sure why Pastor Vine is so adamant that all such government mandates must be opposed by the SDA Church as an organization? Really? Based on what Christian or Biblical principle? Even the Bible speaks of God-ordained mandated quarantine laws for the Israelite nation that limited the personal freedoms of those who might infect others. Is the current situation with modern vaccines really all that different? Not from the understanding of the Church as an organization – not since its inception.
Beyond this, what’s wrong with Elder Wilson presenting his own personal opinion as the President of the SDA Church? I mean, as long as a valid seconded motion was, in fact, voted upon by the GC delegates, where’s the real problem here? – beyond the fact that the motion was soundly defeated by the vote of the GC delegates? The motion to add the issue of vaccination to the agenda was defeated, as only 203 (11.4%) voted in favor of the motion, while 1,579 (88.6%) voted against (Link).
Oh, but what about Pastor Vine’s accusation that Elder Wilson lied to the delegates? That, according to Pastor Vine, “He wasn’t telling the truth” (1:06:44)?
Now, Pastor Vine does ask, “Could he [Elder Wilson] have been mistaken?
After 30-odd years of senior church leadership administrative experience, could Elder Wilson have simply been overworked, overburdended, and mistaken? Could he have misspoken in that moment? We need to allow for this as he has an increadibly stressful job.
Well, clearly not because, later on in the General Conference Session agenda, there were two items. One was called “The Resolution on the Holy Bible” and one was there at the personal initiative of Elder Wilson called “A Statement of Confidence in the Writings of Ellen G. White”. We voted those at the Session. Not one of those is an amendment to the Constitution, the Bylaws, the Fundamental Beliefs, or the Church Manuel. So, clearly, he was pushing items onto the agenda that he knew were not one of those three or four items.
So, he knows that you can discuss other things at the Session than just those four items. Are you following the logic?
Vine at 1:07:00
So, this makes Elder Wilson a liar? Come on now… What about the possibility that Elder Wilson really did believe that the vaccine issue had already been settled? by the delegated authority of the General Conference? Again, I see it as more than a stretch, on the part of Pastor Vine, to accuse Elder Wilson of obviously lying, deliberately, to the delegates – to get his own way. Beyond this, I hardly think that such personal opinion statements by Elder Wilson would have unfairly biased the subsequent vote by the GC delegates. It seems to me that Pastor Vine has a rather low opinion of the GC delegates – that they are much more easily coercible and uninformed than they really are. I would argue that the delegates were generally well-informed, ahead of time, regarding the vaccine mandate issue, but were clearly quite strongly in line with the GC’s statements on this issue thus far. If they weren’t in line with these statements, they wouldn’t have voted down the motion to review these statements in such an overwhelming manner. And, given that there was a motion brought before the GC, in Session, regarding the ADCOM vaccines statements, the GC, in Session, effectively endorsed these statements by strongly voting down this motion.
Really, then, it’s only a minority of SDAs who have a problem with the GC’s statements on this issue. It’s just not this huge problem in the minds of most SDAs as Vine suggests… it just isn’t. That’s why the delegates voted down the motion. They simply agreed with the GC’s stated position.
Also, claiming that Elder Wilson and the other Church leaders who support him and the GC’s position and statements on vaccines are nothing but power-hungry authoritarian oligarchs who are on a similar path to that of Stalin, Hitler, and the Spanish Inquisition (1:16:22) is just too much. Even those who strongly oppose the Church’s longstanding support of vaccinations should not stoop to such malignant comparisons regarding the leadership of their own SDA Church.
Authority of the General Conference Executive Committee (EXCOM):
It can be determined from the black book here that the Session has the same powers or greater than the Executive Committee [EXCOM]. So, the General Conference meets every five years. And, in the intervening years, every Spring and Fall, there is a Spring meeting and an Annual Counsil. And note that that is the Executive Committee. And, on the Executive Committe, the people who sit on that are the Union Presidents from around the world, plus the departmental directors from the GC, and the leaders of different agencies like ADRA and Adventist World Radio, and Hope TV – alright? So, these are the Union Presidents who sit on the Executive Committee, and the General Conference delegates certain authorities to the Executive Committee.
Now, I ask you the question, if you have the authority to delegate something, does that mean that you have the authority to do it yourself? Yes. Can you delegate the authority to do something if you can’t do it yourself? No.
So, what does the GC in Session normally delegate to the Executive Committee? From that you can work backwards and deduce that the GC that delegates the power for XY and Z to the Executive Committe, it means that the GC has such power inherent for itself anyway.
You follow the logic? You cannot delegate power which you do not have.
Vine at 50:00
Pastor Vine then goes on to quote from Article XIII regarding the General Conference Executive Committee as found in the Church Manuel (51:40):
During the intervals between sessions of the General Conference, the General Conference Executive Committee is delegated the authority to act on behalf of the General Conference in session… Major items affecting the world Church are considered at the Annual Council meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee, when all the members of the Committee are invited to be present. The authority, therefore, of the General Conference Executive Committee is the authority of the world Church.
Pastor Vine then asks:
Now, would you consider the largest health crisis to hit planet Earth to be a major item affecting the world church? Yes. Churches were closed. We fired over 80 Adventist school teachers in Australia because of these mandates. We fired pastors in some parts of the world. You could go to a casino in Nevada, but you could not go to a church. This was clearly a religious liberty crisis around the world. Churches were targetted, while place of ill-repute, like gambling dens and casinos were left open in different states in the US.
While the mandates don’t seem to have been equally enforced by our own US government, it seems hard to argue that it was a good idea for churches to remain in defiance of government mandates during the height of the pandemic. At the very least, it seems wise to pick one’s battles regarding religious liberty… especially early on in the pandemic when the hospitals and medical resources in many areas around the country were being overwhelmed with the sick and even the dead and the dying.
The Key Statement of Contention (and Conclusion):
Pastor Conrad Vine took particular issue with one particular statement within the General Conference’s Reaffirmation Statement of its 2015 Vaccine Statement:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, in consultation with the Health Ministries and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty departments of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is convinced that the vaccination programs that are generally being carried out are important for the safety and health of our members and the larger community. Therefore, claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities. (Link)
This one particular statement, according to Pastor Vine, completely undermines religious liberty for all Adventist Worldwide – permanently.
In that moment, they permanently eliminated religious liberty for all Adventists…
The General Conference ADCOM never has the right to limit where, when or what the Holy Spirit convicts you of.
Vine at 1:17:35
Again, I would respond with the words of Pastor David Hamstra:
As far as I can tell, Dr. Vine’s line of reasoning that makes every health choice a matter for claims of conscience makes every potential choice into a matter for a claim of conscience, for which domain of human activity does the Holy Spirit not want to guide? And if every choice deserves protection for conscience’s sake, then no choices can be given protection for conscience’s sake because sinful human beings would become ungovernable.
In the Adventist circles I came up in, one’s private sense of the promptings of the Spirit was to be subordinated first to revelation and then to reason because we often conflate the voice of the Spirit with our own opinions. The role of the Spirit was to motivate us to follow the teachings of Scripture and to guide us in important matters that are indifferent with respect to Scripture and reason.
In my view, Adventists should not claim conscience protections for matters that we cannot ground in revelation and that we change our minds about depending on circumstances and the promptings of the Spirit, so as not to make liberty of conscience unworkable. The majority of Adventists take vaccines or not depending on their prudential judgments about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in question. Therefore, vaccination is not a religious liberty issue for the majority of our community.
This does not mean that Adventists cannot oppose vaccine mandates because of our commitment to other civil liberties that support religious liberty, like bodily autonomy. But we should not conflate them with religious liberty itself lest religious liberty be construed as everything and become nothing…
Instead, I believe we should direct such Adventists to seek exemptions by demonstrating the good faith of their conscientious claim in ways that don’t require their religious community to misrepresent its big-tent position on the issue.
Therefore, Dr. Vine’s assertion that Adventists who lose their jobs because their church won’t write them exemption letters should be compensated fails to reckon with the need to be honest about our position as a whole community and to respect the bounds within which religious liberty must operate.
I would add to this that the General Conference religious liberty lawyers are, in fact, willing to help individuals write their own letters in support of their own personal convictions regarding vaccines and other issues where the SDA Church, as an organization, may not agree with the convictions of various members within the Church. Pastor Vine’s position, on the other hand, seems completely unworkable when it comes to real-world applications – being more akin to arguments for total anarchy rather than those consistent with living within a workable civil or even church governmental system. After all, many who claim to be moved by the Holy Spirit certainly appear to be moved, instead, by what they just ate at Taco Bell. In other words, it simply isn’t remotely practical for the Church to take on every case where an individual claims Divine guidance for not wanting to follow this or that government law or mandate. That is a recipe for anarchy, not an orderly government.
For me, personally, it seems that religious liberty arguments should be reserved for those situations where government mandates clearly violate a direct command of God as written in Scripture – not simply as I feel that I’m being led by the Holy Spirit on this or that issue. We, as Christians, are not called to challenge church or civil governments over just any issue that we might not like or think to be mistaken, citing our religious liberty as a reason for our rebellion against their leadership. After all, we are told that it is God Himself who ordained both Church and Civil governments. Therefore, like Daniel and his three friends, we are called to go as far as we can in obedience to the laws of the land, even to the very plains of Dura, to the very feet of the Golden Statue – stopping only where a clear “Thus saith the LORD” tells us not to bow down and worship any other God. As Ellen White pointed out:
It is our duty in every case to obey the laws of our land, unless they conflict with the higher law which God spoke with an audible voice from Sinai and afterward engraved on stone with His own finger. – EGW, 7 Testimonies for the Church, p 361-362
Our work is not to make a raid on the Government but to prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. The fewer attacks we make on authorities and powers, the more work will we do for God…. Do all in your power to reflect the light, but do not speak words that will irritate or provoke” (EV, 173)… Let Seventh-day Adventists do nothing that will mark them as lawless and disobedient. Let them keep all inconsistency out of their lives. Our work is to proclaim the truth, leaving the issues with the Lord. Do all in your power to reflect the light, but do not speak words that will irritate or provoke. – EGW, MS 117a, 1901
The apostle plainly outlined the attitude that believers should sustain toward the civil authorities: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” [1 Peter 2:13-17 – EGW, Acts of the Apostles, p. 522
But what about those who are convicted that vaccines will harm their bodies? – the very “temple of God”? Like Daniel and his three friends who remained true to God’s health principles at the risk of their own lives, is this not a clear religious liberty issue? For the individual, it might be, while not being such an issue for the Church as an organization or for most members of the Church. I would remind such people, however, that Daniel and his three friends asked to be put to the test regarding their convictions, for short time, to see if they were right or wrong. Also, I would question these individuals with regard to the consistency of their reasoning and actions – with further discussion along these lines noted here: Link
The Condensed Version of this Review:
The SDA Church, as an organization, recommends useful modern medical therapies, to include vaccines, while, at the same time, recognizing and supporting personal convictions that might be opposed to vaccines – if these reasonably allow for the liberties of others.
Bio of Dr. Sean Pitman:
Dr. Sean Pitman is a pathologist, with subspecialties in anatomic, clinical, and hematopathology, currently working in N. California.
29 thoughts on “Review of “The Naked Emperor” by Pastor Conrad Vine”
I appreciate your thorough response to the article by Conrad Vine. Points I can make in the realm of medical peer reviewed studies. As a Critical Care RN with 32 years experience in Teaching Hospitals I’ve experienced the new modalities of treatment as based on reviewed medical science. Sometimes it can take many years to see the full effect of treatments, be it positive or negative. Many of the treatments we’ve initiated, in the short term, have brought people from the brink of death, in the long term the consequences led to debilitating chronic conditions for the time they had left in life. As I’ve grown in my knowledge of the natural health sciences, I’ve seen that many who adopt these remedies avoid the serious complications that arise from serious illness. The rub is our medical institutions are bound by medical reimbursement based upon standardized medical practice. Essentially you can lose reimbursement if you don’t follow the guidelines set by the medical governing bodies. This is the plight of Adventist health today, upwards to a $20 billion dollar ball and chain that limits what we do and how we do it in order to get reimbursement. In essence government/medical coercion.
From the stance of religious liberty as an institution I hope we can reflect on the choices during the pandemic and sincerely reflect on whether we were doing the right actions based on reason or based on fear. I know in our conference Adventist Risk became the governing body and coerced the local churches with threats that if potential legal issues to local church boards occurred as a result of not shutting down during the pandemic that they would not be able to support them if litigation occurred. Where is the Liberty of Conscience there?
As far as the GC session, correct me if I’m wrong, you didn’t mention that Conrad Vine was removed as a delegate prior to the GC session. Re: Elder Wilson’s remarks, he is in his purview to speak as any delegate would. In my experience as a Board Chair it is sometimes wiser to be silent in that position as your comments can ( knowingly or unknowingly) have a coercive effect on delegates decisions. I believe it was a mistake for Elder Wilson at that moment to speak.
The shortened session, delegates removed, issues with the zoom feeds at crucial votes can paint a questionable picture to inquiring minds.
I’m not here to judge and am hopeful a sincere dialogue can reflect back as we move forward into a prophetically more ominous future. “Press Together”!
Donald LeBlanc(Quote)View Comment
I’m all for effective natural remedies as well (Link). However, there’s also a time and place for various medications to heal or save lives in acute situations where there are no known better options. Regarding vaccines, in particular, they are not without their risks. However, the risk/reward ratio for the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 heavily favored the reward side of the equation for most people and communities – particularly during the height of the pandemic. Of course, at the current time, now that most have been exposed to COVID-19, one way or another, the case for vaccines is still positive, but I would say it’s less of a slam dunk decision (Link).
Yes, Pastor Vine was removed as a delegate prior to this last GC session. I don’t know all of the details, but I assume it was because he was so outspoken and harsh against the leadership of the Church, and because he was promoting conspiratorial organizations that were spreading false and/or misleading information about COVID-19 and the mRNA vaccines. Was it a good decision to remove him from being a delegate for these reasons? Well, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s often best to allow as broad a spectrum of delegates as possible. On the other hand, there does come a point at which a particular delegate becomes so disruptive to the process of church government that it is best to remove that delegate.
As far as Adventist Risk becoming the “governing body” during the initial period of the pandemic, this is what legal council does – it advises members and churches as to the legal consequences of their actions. Sure, there were some churches that defied government and well as their own conference mandates to close their doors. Did they do the right thing? Personally, I don’t think so since, at the time this happened, they came across as being rebellious against reasonable requests by government and conference authorities to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, before the vaccines were available, so as to help reduce the burden on our national medical system. I know, that, as head elder in my own church, I supported the temporary closure of our church doors during the quarantine period for this very reason. It seemed to me as the most Christian thing to do given the situation we were in. We simply put our services online – which was a blessing.
As far as Elder Wilson’s remarks, I actually agree with you that it would have been better if he hadn’t said anything at this particular point… and just sent the motion to vote without any personal comments. In his position, I do think it would have come across better for him to have remained above the fray. That being said, he was still within his rights to make a personal comment along with the other delegates during the time of open discussion before the motion was sent for a vote.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I am a recently retired, RN, MS who led in hospital programs and nursing education in academic and clinical settings. I now volunteer as a medical missionary gospel worker.
I greatly appreciate your analysis as it calmly articulates my response to these narratives which have widely captured the sentiments of sincere members in the local churches where I serve. I have personally found the continuing ramped up rhetoric inflammatory, exaggerated and divisive. Sadly, the views have been taken up by local leaders and the videos widely shared, fanning the flames of disunity, discontent, and even anger in some instances. The results that I have witnessed, are taking the focus off the grand truths of the three angels’ messages and everlasting gospel and the critical events that will usher in Christ’s second coming.
I do believe sharing in the manner that you and Pastor Hamstra have done are helpful. It gives me a rational reference to share with others of differing viewpoints when the topic comes up.
May God bless your ministry.
J. Bess Kelley(Quote)View Comment
I can appreciate Pastor Vine’s knowledge and experience but I have to say having listened to his sermons (Audioverse, Granite Bay website), if I’m going by the fruits of the Spirit, he seems very morose (a morose temper is the opposite of meekness per EGW) and has a pattern of trying to instill fear (and not fear in the biblical sense), and I don’t think his attack on the church is of the right Spirit. This is sad because I was financially supporting AFM but have decided to withhold for now.
After watching an AFM underground video of the work missionaries are doing in the earthquake ravaged area of Turkey I would hope you would reconsider. It wouldn’t be Pastor Vine suffering from your withdrawal of support.
Donald LeBlanc(Quote)View Comment
In the fallout of a pandemic, just as in war, not everything will be perfectly fair and perfectly indemnified.
The main goal was to defeat the enemy and minimize the loss of life. Now it is time to move on.
I always felt the loss of a life was a far greater concern than the loss of a job. Sad though it is, a lost job can be replaced with another. And im pretty sure most of those lost jobs have been replaced by now.
A lost life can never be replaced.
The fact is, many of the “Liberty of Conscience” people whom I spoke with seemed to be in complete denial of the fact that during the peak of the Covid pandemic the vast majority of severe illness and death occurred among the unvaccinated.
There were many red flags but this was the largest one for me.
Nathan Greene(Quote)View Comment
Also, there are numerous examples of Rhetorical spin in “The Naked Emperor”.
For example, no one would believe that “standing up for Liberty of Conscience leads to the deaths of multitudes”. It was standing up for Dr. Peter McCullough and other spreaders of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding the dangers of COVID vaccines which scared many Adventists away from taking them. As a result, some of those people did experience more severe illness and even death. “Multitudes” is probably a word Conrad supplied for dramatic effect, but many people did die who would otherwise still be with us. Some of them were my friends. This is what I find the most inexcusable. And, that Adventist church pulpits were used to promote this narrative in the name of Religious Liberty and Liberty of Conscience is even more inexcusable.
I guess bias, just like love, is often blind.
Nathan Greene(Quote)View Comment
Our ignorant, inadequate response to the pandemic along with the high majority of indolent, unhealthy people in our once great nation caused more deaths. We’ve forgotten that “God is our ever present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). We give more heed to Babylon and Egypt than to God’s Word in response to health crisis. “Look and live” Numbers 21:8.
Donald LeBlanc(Quote)View Comment
Again, the health message is a wonderful gift to us that needs to be widely shared. However, this does not eliminate the usefulness of vaccines. Several family friends of mine who were very healthy SDAs, living according to the health message, were killed by COVID-19 because they were not vaccinated – and many more were hospitalized and almost died.
In short, we are called to take advantage of all of the useful science and medical knowledge that God has given to us.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
General Conference has not mandated that people take the vaccination. It has given people a choice. (No choice — Forbids SDA members from using the name Seventh-day Adventist in a religious conscience document — unless you call that a choice — “we want you as members, but do not mention that you are our member.”)
Detail omitted: Attorney Zirkle was presenting for over 25,000 concerned SDA professionals who wanted to “reason together” about the experimental vaccine (for which the CDC had to change the definition of “vaccine.”). 25,000+ shut down.
Detail omitted: Electronic voting was not working correctly. Seconds to Attorney Zirkle’s motion did not register with the moderators’ table. Also, comments during GC2022 where delegates asked if electronic voting, especially remote electronic voting, was working since the number of votes was much lower than the number of delegates. Request to investigate electronic voting ignored.
Details omitted: Concerns about the deceptions surrounding the experimental mRNA — DailyClout.io website publishes reports about Pfizer’s tests of mRNA hidden from the public including on pregnant women (study Pfizer promised still not released). Pfizer wanted test results hidden for 75 years — judge said “no” and required the test results in 8 months. DailyClout’s volunteers of 2,500 medical professionals and 200 lawyers analyzed the documents the judge ordered released. Very disturbing.
Details omitted: Concerns about adverse reactions and sudden death ignored. GC does not want to look.
I know that people are becoming settled into their truth. Time of the church’s shaking is happening. Church as a family cannot even “let us reason together” as evidenced by GC2022 heavy handed tactics in illegitimately and secretly producing the Vaccine Statement and attitude towards questions. So we are left with the fact that GC/ADCOM/Dr. Hart’s Vaccine Statement is non-negotiable since the tithe-employed patriarchs of the family have stopped their ears towards a large segment of the non-tithe employed church family.
Enjoy your “truth” settlement. I am settled elsewhere.
Jody Johnson(Quote)View Comment
This isn’t true. Those writing letters of personal conscientious objection as their reason for refusing to get vaccinated are free to mention that they are Seventh-day Adventists, or not. It’s just that the SDA Church, as an organization, while not inherently opposed to vaccinates, recognizes that conscience is always an individual matter, not a corporate matter.
Zirkle was representing a minority of the members of the SDA Church. The overwhelming majority of SDA Church members have no problem with vaccines – not even the vaccines against COVID-19. And, Zirkle’s motion was, in fact, seconded, and brought to a vote. It’s just that his motion was definitively voted down.
There were serious problems with the electronic voting system at the 2015 GC Session, so much so that it had to be abandoned in favor of voting cards. However, while there were some minor glitches, this wasn’t a significant problem for the 2022 GC Session (Link).
In short, Zirkle’s motion did, in fact, receive “seconds” via electronic motions. And, because his motion was clearly seconded, it was brought to a deciding vote – which went strongly against his motion. Now, just because the vote was “much lower than the number of delegates” doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a valid vote as delegates often abstain from voting on various issues. There were 203 (11.4%) who voted in favor of the motion, while 1,579 (88.6%) voted against. The total number of votes cast here were 1782 – out of 2,671 voting delegates at the 2022 Session. As another example of this, consider that a total of A total of 1,715 votes were received regarding the motion for Elder Ted Wilson to be reelected to a third term as president of the General Conference (GC). That’s very close to the total who voted on Zirkle’s motion regarding the Vaccine Statements.
Come on now. DailyClout is the website of long-time conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf (Link). She just isn’t a remotely credible source of information.
As far as Pfizer’s data, nothing surprising was found – despite the claims of conspiracy theorists to the contrary (Link, Link)
The claims about “sudden deaths” due to mRNA vaccines, especially among athletes, aren’t valid. Again, you’re getting these false claims from conspiracy theorists who aren’t basing their sensational claims on valid scientific/medical investigations:
This doesn’t mean that the mRNA vaccines are without all risk. They do have known risks. And, the GC is well aware that vaccines are not without risks. However, the risks associated with COVID-19 infections were far far greater than the risks associated with the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 – with the benefits of vaccination far outweighing the risks. This was true for every age category and for every type of risk.
The 2015 Vaccine Statement and the 2021 Reaffirmation Statement were not produced in secret nor were they “illegitimate”. And, if the GC, in Session, had wanted to revise or remove these statements it could have done so during the 2022 Session. The fact that the GC voted down the motion to add these Vaccine Statements to the agenda means that the GC, in Session, effectively endorsed these Vaccine Statements. That’s the reality of the situation for the SDA Church as an organization. It’s not that the GC leadership has stopped their ears to your concerns. This was the vote of the GC delegates themselves, not the church leadership. It simply indicates that the GC delegates, representing a broad spectrum of church members, doesn’t agree with you…
Like me, I’m sure that you’re just trying to help people. There are a lot of just-so conspiracy theories flying around, and it can be hard to sort through them all, especially for someone without a medical background. Just ask yourself if this or that claim is subject to testing with the potential of falsification. If not, it really isn’t a useful “truth”.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
This is the part of the statement from GC that employers are using against Seventh-day Adventists who want a religious exemption.
“Therefore, claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities.”
This should be removed. If not, the church needs to have a discussion on it like it did with women’s ordination and then a vote taken.
EJ Clark(Quote)View Comment
As noted in my article, religious liberty is not based on corporate, but individual convictions. It really doesn’t matter what the Church’s position on vaccines or any other topic might be. That’s irrelevant. All that matters are the religious convictions of the individual.
The SDA Church is only giving recommendations to its members regarding vaccines and what it feels are the best use of religious liberty claims. The SDA Church is not dictating what church members may or may not believe or do regarding this topic. Again, one may or may not agree with the advice of the SDA Church here. That’s entirely up to the individual. Legally, it makes absolutely no difference since employers have no legal basis against the religious liberty claims of an employee based on what the Church says or doesn’t say.
Beyond this, there has been much discussion on this issue, with a motion for further discussion. It’s just that the GC delegates clearly thought that further discussion was pointless on this topic, voting instead to effectively endorse the previous statements of the SDA Church regarding vaccines and the recommended appropriate use of religious exemption claims…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
“ Legally, it makes absolutely no difference since employers have no legal basis against the religious liberty claims of an employee based on what the Church says or doesn’t say.”
What nonsense. Tell that to the people who’ve lost their jobs because of the GC statement. See what kind of reaction they give you. If this were true then there would be thousands of lawsuits going on right now.
Had to post this here because you didn’t leave a reply option for your last post.
EJ Clark(Quote)View Comment
You’re mistaken. No one has lost his/her job because of the GC statement who wouldn’t have lost his/her job anyway – regardless of what the GC had said or didn’t say regarding vaccines and vaccine mandates. That’s just not how the legal system works with regard to religious liberty issues. Check with an actual religious liberty attorney if you don’t agree with me. Or, consider this Memorandum from the US Attorney General:
Again, note the statement here that religious liberty rights are supported and protected on an individual basis regardless of if one is or is not a member of a church or part of a particular religious faith.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I wish I could leave this in the proper place. Your WordPress must be malfunctioning.
“Again, note the statement here that religious liberty rights are supported and protected on an individual basis regardless of if one is or is not a member of a church or part of a particular religious faith.”
Who cares what is written in the law. When Biden passed the “emergency mandates”, so called, the law meant nothing. And GC followed lock step with the government. I have friends who are pastors who sent letters to their conference ministerial directors telling them that if mandated to take the covid shot they would resign from being a pastor. Where was the GC leadership when this was happening? It ended up SCOTUS saved the day, not GC leaders. That’s just really sad.
EJ Clark(Quote)View Comment
I fail to see where you have convincingly supported your claim that the GC leadership contributed to the harm of anyone’s personal religious liberties? – given that the GC leadership does not and could not override personal religious liberties in this country, nor substantively change the outcome of those who lost their jobs over various vaccine mandates. That’s just not how it works here in this country. Religious liberties are personally derived. Again, they simply are not based on a corporate or church position, but rely solely upon individual convictions – regardless of what the church may or may not say or do.
Yet, you say, “Who cares if it is written into law”? You should care. Everyone should care. It’s a very important law in this country. The idea that the organized church could have changed vaccine mandates simply isn’t true – particularly given the nature of certain types of jobs dealing with the most vulnerable in society (such as health care workers for example).
Beyond this, the GC Leadership did, in fact, write in support of personal religious convictions on this topic – and there are GC lawyers who have and continue to write personal letters in support of personal religious convictions (even if these personal convictions are at odds with the position of the church on a given topic). Just because the GC leadership also supports the advances of modern medicine doesn’t mean that the GC leadership cannot support individual convictions at the same time. Both are possible. This is not an inconsistency.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Character of Jesus is that of a counselor. We are to have the character of our God. Attorney Zirkle represented 25,000+ professional SDAs. You say Zirkle was representing “minority” of the church. Jesus did not ignore “minority” family members who were hurting and requesting “let us reason together” because character of Jesus is counselor full of compassion. There are hard skills, which you show in abundance, then there are soft skills that Jesus came to earth to show in abundance.
Character of Wilson displayed hard skills of tyranny towards a hurting “minority” of SDAs to keep the meeting moving by steamrolling the “minority.” Vote was taken after Wilson ordered delegates to vote “NO” with no other discussion allowed. GC2022 was an exercise in hard skills; your answers are an exercise in hard skills — both shut downs to dissent.
I am so happy that Jesus is a God of soft skills, and understands the “minority.” I was a counselor for 31 years. My job was to help the “minority.” I have a feeling that the Pandemic is being used as a test of who calls themselves God’s people. As the “minority” came to Pharaoh, the requests of the “minority” caused hardness of heart (hard skills only) — no compassion (no soft skills displayed). Moses made requests to Pharaoh for the “minority” that were refused. Zirkle made requests to Wilson for the “minority” that were refused. What if Wilson would have stood up and said, “It is best that we face this issue to discuss since there are so many in our SDA family that are upset and stressed about the Vaccine Statement. I ask you to vote “YES” so that we can set up a committee to research and discuss the world wide consequences of the Vaccine Statement.” That would have been a soft skills statement to reflect our leader Jesus.
Continue with your hard skills smashes of every dissent. Families cannot smash down dissenters without consequences reflecting back on the quality of the family unit and quality of each individual within that family unit. I am newer SDA; joined a church I thought reflected God’s character; and am seeing that all that glitters (highly educated SDAs) is not gold, or even nice.
I agree that the character of Jesus is that of a protector of the vulnerable. And, when it comes to infections and diseases that can injure the vulnerable, who do you think it was who set up the “hard” quarantine laws mentioned in the Bible? Were these laws not set up by Jesus Himself? Were these laws harsh against the minority of those who were infected with transmissible diseases? Were they lacking in compassion toward the infected minority? Were they open to the claimed personal liberties of those who didn’t agree with such harsh restrictions on their own personal liberties?
Sure, Jesus is very compassionate toward minorities, but also toward the majority at the same time. Of course, He would love to explain every detail to those who might not understand or initially agree with His commands that might limit personal freedoms in various situations. What about the Christian principle, set up by Jesus Himself, that one’s personal liberties become quite limited when they negatively impact others? At some point, any functional civil society must enforce laws for the good of that society – even if some don’t understand and continue to disagree with those laws. It is God Himself who sets up civil governments with the power to make and enforce civil laws for the good of society as a whole – despite there always being those who don’t understand and who don’t agree. And, the SDA Church has always recognized this Biblical principle – as long as civil laws don’t directly counter a direct unambiguous command of God.
Now, regarding Zirkle’s motion, in particular, it’s not that the voice of Zirkle and those he represents was ignored. His motion was, in fact, considered by the delegates of the GC in Session, but was voted down – effectively endorsing the previous statements of the SDA Church on vaccines. This wasn’t my decision or even Elder Wilson’s decision. It was the decision of the GC delegates in Session. And, it’s not like they had no compassion for Zirkle and those he represented. The Church does, in fact, support those who think differently on this topic, upholding their own personal religious convictions here.
Again, it is possible for the church to disagree with your opinions on this topic and yet still support your personal religious liberties here.
Elder Wilson simply gave his own personal opinion, as did many others. He didn’t have the power to “order the delegates to vote no”. He simply told them his opinion and then, as he said, “left it in their hands” to decide. Again, it was the delegates who decided how to vote on this issue, not Elder Wilson.
That would have been fine too, but, again, the actual decision here was completely up to the delegates. The SDA Church is not a dictatorship. The delegates are not under Wilson’s thumb nor are they forced to follow along with his opinions on any issue. You just don’t like what they decided, so you’re blaming Elder Wilson and saying that he forced the vote – which simply isn’t true. The delegates have intelligent minds of their own and Pastor Vine is mistaken to suggest that they really aren’t well-informed and therefore they simply follow, like ignorant sheep, whatever Elder Wilson tells them to do. That’s just nonsense.
I have no problem with peaceful dissent. Why do you think I publish dissenting comments and points here in this forum? It’s just that dissenters cannot always have their own way. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean that you can dictate to the Church as an organization to do things your way. It’s not that your perspective hasn’t been carefully considered. It has been very carefully considered indeed. It’s just that, after very careful consideration, the delegates didn’t agree with those who share your opinion on this particular topic. The delegates clearly thoughht it best to support the long-held position of the Church in support of useful medical therapies and treatments, to include vaccines, while, at the same time, supporting the individual right to disagree based on personal religious convictions.
Both are possible at the same time – which is the best the Church can do since you’re never going to have perfect agreement on any topic that the Church, as an organization, votes to promote. I mean, I personally don’t agree with everything that the delegates have voted to promote either. But, I’m still here – part of the process since I believe that the SDA Church is under God’s special guidance and care and I want to be part of that.
Again, this doesn’t mean that your personal convictions aren’t taken seriously or supported by the SDA Church. Religious liberties are not determined on a corporate basis, but upon an individual basis. You really don’t need the Church, as an organization, to agree with you on any topic before you can take a personal stand based on your own personal religious convictions. And, the Church will support your right to take such a stand – even if it happens to disgree with your stand. How is this not being Christlike?
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I very much appreciated all of your efforts educate truth in the face of such blatant lies about the COVID vaccine and sophist logic. You present clear data supporting the effectiveness of COVID vaccines to prevent serious illness and death. There is also some very good data on all cause mortality and vaccine status that shows that those vaccinated are not dying of other causes and in fact have lower rates of all cause mortality; likely because they make other good health choices. As you note, Elder Vine has no medical training and perhaps as important no training in statistics. As I talk to his followers, it seems to me that there is a kind of absolutist belief in what a vaccine is supposed to do. If one gets infected, then the vaccine is worthless. Understanding of percent differences in hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status seems to not be understood or perhaps not believed. I receive articles from the Falun Gong newspaper (Epoch Times) to back anti vaccine points. It amazes me that these individuals believe a religious cult and not Adventist medical researchers. It also seems to me vaccines are being viewed as a kind of evil satanic potion that threatens salvation. I have had a number of those opposed to COVID vaccines tell me that even if COVID kills them, they want to meet Jesus unvaccinated. That view just amazes me. At the same time there is a trust in medications that have no demonstrated effect on the COVID virus. I have not figured out a way to have a rational conversation with individuals who will not look at the best of observational science and who take isolated cases and make them the universe and who believe a discredited non-Adventist physician and information form a religious cult. I admire your efforts to do this. Some have listened to you and I believe you have saved many lives.
Duane McBride(Quote)View Comment
Thank you very much for your comment here and for your encouragement and support. I really appreciate it very much! I also appreciate your work for the Institute for the Prevention of Addictions and for the Center for Drug Policy Research. (Link).
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I am delighted to see Duane McBride share his thoughts in this discussion. I have a great deal of respect for his wisdom and judgment.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from the recent political and pandemic events, it is how easily people can be deceived. We have witnessed the power of confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect on a spectacular scale.
In the aftermath I can’t help but wonder if this is just humans being human, or could there be another more sinister spirit at work? I usually choose the natural explanation before the supernatural, but now I’m not so sure. Now I wonder what may be on the horizon? More than ever we need rational, intelligent, discernment to distinguish truth from error.
Nathan Greene(Quote)View Comment
Thank you. Learned. Soft skills non-existent.
Allow dissenting opinions because it is a love of argument that fuels your fire.
Wishing you and Duane McBride many happy experimental mRNA boosters as your SDA Health Message.
Is it not even remotely possible that I might simply be trying to save lives? You offer me absolutely no benefit of the doubt here? No charity at all? Are these “soft skills”? How are you so confident in your understanding of my motives? that I love nothing more than argument? How are you so confident in your ability to stand in moral judgment here? – on top of your very strong confidence that you know the “truth” regarding vaccines? You seem so certain that it’s all so obvious that no honest rational person could possibly see things differently – not even the significant majority of medical scientists and doctors around the world who’ve been so clearly blinded to the otherwise obvious “truth” that you know so well. Even the significant majority of the GC delegates are completely blinded to the “truth” that you know so well. Impressive… really impressive.
But, honestly, do you really think that your consistent appeal to conspiracy theorists that have shown themselves to be completely wrong over and over again is going to convince very many highly educated rational people that you’re right? If you really want to make an impact in support of your position, you’re going to have to do a lot better at providing good reasons to believe what you have to say… reasons that actually have the weight of independently verifiable empirical evidence to back them up. I mean, I’m not opposed to taking on minority positions myself – positions that run very much against the mainstream opinion of the vast majority of highly-educated scientists around the world. I am, after all, a biblical creationist who strongly opposes neo-Darwinism. It’s just that I strive to present empirically-based arguments to support my positions that are generally available to all and that are, potentially at least, falsifiable. Where have to done the same in support of your position here?
Anyway, I’m sorry you feel the way you do, as I’m sure you’re a very sincere person. I wish you all the best and great health for you and yours.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Well, since my name was mentioned, I am very happy with my decisions and strongly believe that my decision was consistent with the Adventist Health Message with its emphasis on prevention. I am still very sad that too many of my friends listened to the same fables Jody listened to and died or are suffering from long COVID. I am very thankful that at least one of those friends realized that he had listened to deceitful fables and has now stopped listening to these false pastors! I continue to pray for Jody and all of those so deceived by false prophets and pray that they will cease listening to these false messengers.
Duane McBride(Quote)View Comment
Jesus is a counselor with kindness, empathy, compassion. Jesus modeled the way we are to treat others.
Ted Wilson, ADCOM members, and Dr. Hart do not model Jesus’ counseling skills.
“Let us reason together” from over 25,000 professional SDAs is a reasonable request given the world wide impact of the Vaccine Statement created by such a few.
Wilson could have said: “I realize that the Vaccine Statement has caused distress in our Adventist family. I suggest we assemble a committee to provide transparency, discussion, and resolution to enable our church family to heal and move forward.”
Jesus is a perfect blend of hard (technical, God’s law) skills and soft (empathy, compassion, understanding) skills. This website’s soft skills equal zero. For your information, to see an example of a physician with a blend of hard and soft skills, watch —
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20).
There is a spirit in the SDA Church that is breaking reeds and putting out wicks.
Not an example of who we say is our leader.
Again, it wasn’t Ted Wilson nor the members of ADCOM who voted down Zirkle’s motion – nor did they force or unduly coerce the vote of the delegates in Session. Also, it isn’t true that the vaccine issue hadn’t been adequately discussed for the benefit of the delegates – or that the delegates didn’t have already enough information to make an informed decision. I’d say that they were much more informed on this topic than Pastor Vine gives them credit for.
Now, I’ve very sorry you feel like you do and I can understand your honest confusion since what you’re hearing from anti-vax conspiracy theorists is truly scary stuff. However, the voices that you’re referencing truly are misleading you – telling you things that simply aren’t true. Your latest example of this, from Dr. James L. Marcum, is no better than Dr. Peter McCullough. He makes many claims that are simply false or misleading. Now, Dr. Marcum certainly comes across as very caring and kind, and I’m sure that he is. The only problem here is that he’s wrong – flat out wrong in what he’s telling you. And, this has resulted, no doubt, in a great many long-term injuries and deaths that could have been avoided. Kindness and sincerity isn’t enough here. True kindness will take the time to carefully investigate the actual weight of currently available scientific evidence and present it in an honest even-handed manner. That’s not what Drs. McCullough and Marcum have been doing – not at all.
In short, when your health and life are on the line, would you rather have a doctor with a wonderful bedside manner who isn’t giving you the best available information, or a doctor who may not be as smooth or delicate with his/her words, but who is actually giving you the best available information?
You see, I’m not trying to be mean or harsh here. I’m just truly trying to save lives and prevent long-term injuries. That’s what I’m trying to do. And, I’m sure you’re trying to do the same thing, and I appreciate that. It’s just that you don’t have good scientific evidence to back up your position…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Thank you for posting an intelligent and appropriate response to Dr. Vine’s video (Also many thanks to ‘the bright’ David Hamstra). The data you prepared is much appreciated, though too easily dismissed by politics.
I am a retired Anesthesiologist who now resides in Naples and I attend the North Naples SDA church, which, for the record, rents the facility and its broadcast equipment from a Lutheran group; and is administrated by a conference approved VLP (so far). I must make a couple of comments on behalf of myself and others in the congregation who are concerned with certain spiritual aspects of Vine’s presentation. The video with our attached label (Naked Emperor) speaks for itself.
Admittedly, Vine presented a well-researched defense of his accusations suitable for a courtroom, but this ‘sermon’ took place during our Divine worship service, exposing children, families, and non-sda visitors to accusations that do not reflect the Merciful God that we worship nor the concepts of brotherhood that I believe Jesus calls us to. Had Satan presented perceived sins of everyone present in the room with his own audio-video feed, I doubt he would have done better. We also had many visitors that morning from surrounding SDA churches, reflecting a significant support for VIne. My wish is that his thoughts would better have been discussed in a town meeting setting, but the horse is out of the barn.
A couple of morning exerpts not on tape: the mysterious ‘black book’ commentary regarding the Working Policy Manual, was quickly exposed by a teenage friend who immediately downloaded the entire 500+ pages from the internet and showed it to me. We did inform Vine after his ‘sermon’ about the easy availability of the document. No comment, but apparent balloon deflation noted. I asked the question, “What if the GC actually approached the Vax issue by the avenue he might legally approve, how many years would it take to produce an appropriate statement (noting in my own mind the ongoing theological issue of women’s ordination).” Again, no comment. Then I asked a more pointed question “If there was absolutely no comment at all by the GC on vaccine, what would no-vax SDA’s say to their employers?” My position is that God in Jeremiah 17:5 says “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” Wasn’t he (Vine) calling people to do just that, to rely on the Conference and not on God to protect them? Again, no comment except that he felt the Conference statement clearly hurt people more than no statement at all.
One final comment. Prior to ‘worship’ service, Vine was also given the Sabbath School period for informing us about His foreign mission role and the work being done. It was truly a wonderful presentation of the church’s worldwide efforts (especially in the 10/40 window). That video can be seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pKuMcYl3EA. I have one disappointment with VIne around 38.58 minutes, Vine had been talking about the ‘spiritualism’ encountered in some pagan religions. Those familiar with EGW’s statements regarding the Protestant/Spiritualism combo will understand the question put to Vine, especially in view of the Church’s commission in the 3 Angel’s messages identifying Babylon and our call to educate. The question to Vine was, would he characterize what is going on in the Pentecostal Church as in the same category as Spiritualism? Paradoxically, or so it seems, he produced a cautious look stating that the discussion was being streamed live, wasn’t it? Suggesting maybe we shouldn’t speak openly on tape against another church. I note this because what’s going on in charismatic circles seems obviously contrary to the significant Biblical message our church should be shedding light on about the true work of the Holy Spirit; and he seemed very determined not to make an un-Ecumenical statement. Yet he was so willing to call on our congregation to agree with him that Wilson is a liar. That’s the paradox to which I refer.
Anyway, having personally spoken with him, I was impressed that Vine sincerely feels that he’s doing the right things. I was actually looking forward to hearing him speak, having viewed some of his less political sermons. I’ve spoken my opinion here, mostly so others will know that not everyone at North Naples is happy that this video has our name attached to it. I know that the FL Conference had asked for it to be removed from this Youtube platform. The Church Board decided (and not unanimously) that since the video was already out there, to leave it be.
I’ve said enough. I’m sure I will take flack for my comments. God bless you, Sean. Pray for us as we are praying for you.
Guy Sciortino(Quote)View Comment
Thank you for this update. I really appreciate it and the courage it took to post this…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment