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Women’s Ordination — The Intensifying Storm

RON GLADDEN | Directional Leader

Now that Annual Council has voted to approve the document UNITY IN MISSION: PROCEDURES IN CHURCH RECONCILIATION, what happens next? Will the storm continue to intensify? What will the fallout be? We at Mission Catalyst are astonished. We have three things to say:
  1. The General Conference is out of order when it tries to control the matter of ordination. According to its own working policy, it has no jurisdiction over who is or is not ordained.
  2. The GC has wasted over a million dollars in the study of the issue of women’s ordination.
  3. The church is being distracted from its mission.

Let us unpack each of these statements.

First, the General Conference is out of order when it tries to control the matter of ordination. Here’s why that is true:

According to GC policy, authority is dispersed to the four levels of the church. Those four levels are the local church, the conference, the union, and the GC. (The division is not a constituent entity and does not have authority on its own, which is why – for the purposes of authority – there are four levels of the church instead of five.)

GC policy B 05 states, “each level of organization exercises a realm of final authority and responsibility….” Notice the words “final authority”.

The General Conference has the final authority over the definition of denominational beliefs. (It has authority over other things, too, of course, but the beliefs are one example.)

The local church has the final authority when it comes to individual membership. In the Roman Catholic system, by contrast, the pope can excommunicate individual members. That’s not the case in the Adventist denomination. Only the local church can do that.

The Conference has the final authority when it comes to hiring pastors. They can hire whomever they want. They are also the final authority when it comes to whom they will hire as staff, including the conference president. The GC has no authority over that.

The Union has the final authority over who will be ordained. To quote from GC policy B 05 again, “decisions regarding the ordination of ministers are entrusted to the union conference….” The GC can set criteria for ordination (which they have done in GC policy L 50), but there is no gender requirement or limitation in the fifteen items listed in the policy.

Entity                                             Final Authority

General Conference                     Denominational Beliefs

Unions                                          Ordination

Conferences                                 Hiring of pastors and administrators

Local Churches                            Membership

This is how the denomination is structured. If the General Conference wants to exercise authority over matters of women’s ordination, it must first change its own structure. Under current policy, it has no authority over who is ordained and should not be meddling in ordination matters.

Some people quote part of a letter that Ellen White wrote to a private individual in 1875 as justification for the General Conference to dictate its will. Here is the quote: “When the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon earth, is exercised, private judgment must not be maintained, but surrendered.” (3T492)

The people who quote this statement omit several subsequent statements from the same author. Twenty-one years later, she also said, “The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as the authority in counseling how the work should be done, is no longer the voice of God.” (Letter 4, 1896, cited in Manuscript Releases 17:185 & 186)

And as the 1901 GC Session was approaching, she shook things up when she said, “The voice of the [General] conference ought to be the voice of God, but it is not.” (Manuscript 37, 1901, cited in Sermons and Talks, 159 & 160)

In response to her prompting, the General Conference eventually saw the wisdom of distributing final authority in various areas to the unions, the conferences, and the local churches. And the final authority of the unions includes deciding whom will be ordained as a gospel minister.

So it is clear that the General Conference is out of order – according to its own working policy – in interfering with the matter of women’s ordination.

Second, the General Conference has wasted over a million dollars in the study of the issue of women’s ordination. Why do we say it was wasted? The final report of the committee concluded that there is no biblical or theological support for forbidding ordination, yet the leaders at the General Conference ignored the report. Why go through the motions of authorizing such a massive expenditure of money and time if you’re going to ignore what the study committee concluded?

But there’s another reason the money was wasted. This most recent study committee was just the latest in a long string of committees that has been studying this issue since Karen Carpenter was born. She was born in 1950, and the denomination has been studying women’s ordination ever since. Another committee was appointed in 1970, and in 1973 the denomination responded to that report by authorizing continued study. In 1974, the annual council voted again to continue studying. In 1985, the GC in session voted to study it further. A similar decision took place in 1988 and yet again in 1990. And in 1995 the matter was placed on the agenda at the GC session in Utrecht.

This is like a broken record. Following the 2010 GC session, the Biblical Research Committees in all divisions were asked to conduct a study on the theology of ordination and its implications. In 2012, the General Conference Administrative Committee appointed “a Theology of Ordination Study Committee, with representation from all divisions, to oversee and facilitate the global discussion process and to prepare reports for presentation to the General Conference Executive Committee. The Annual Council 2014 will determine what action, if any, should be recommended to the 2015 General Conference Session.”

We all know what happened at the 2015 session. After 66 years, one can only wonder if appointing study committee after study committee is merely a stalling tactic. How many more study committees will convene and decide, only to have their results voided by men at a level of the church that has no jurisdiction over ordination? 

We at Mission Catalyst appeal to the powers that be to, instead of squandering another million dollars on future study committees, send it to Mission Catalyst. We’ll use it to help people find Jesus.

Speaking of helping people find Jesus, here is the third thing we have to say: The church is being distracted from its mission. For the sake of the gospel, I appeal to the powers that be to leave ordination to the unions (where it belongs), to accept the results of the various study committees (which concluded that the Scriptures do not forbid the ordination of women in ministry), and to let the Holy Spirit decide whom to call to ordained gospel ministry. It’s time to move on.

We at Mission Catalyst see ourselves as partners with you in helping people find Jesus. We are not part of the denomination by choice. We operate parallel to the official structure instead of inside it so that we have more freedom to reach the lost, but the stakes are too high to get embroiled in this discussion.

See our policy on the ordination of pastors

At the church council in Acts 15, the leaders were not willing to compromise the gospel, but they never forget that the great commission was all about mission. When the discussion died down, when the dust settled, they said, “Let’s make sure we never get sidetracked from helping Gentiles turn to God. Don’t erect any barriers that will make it harder to help people find Jesus.”

Please, we appeal to the leaders of the church, get back to the mission of the church and stop trying to control that which God is perfectly capable of controlling.

[Special thanks to Gary Patterson, retired GC Field Secretary, for allowing me to summarize some of his writing. If you would like to receive six short documents authored by Patterson on this topic, email info@missioncatalyst.org and we will send them to you.]

September 2016 News

“That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!”
RON GLADDEN | Directional Leader

What can we learn from Popeye about leadership, innovation, and helping more people find Jesus?

Bill Hybels calls it the “Popeye Moment”. We remember Popeye as a lovable cartoon character who morphed into an unrestrainable superhero whenever his arch rival Brutus kidnapped Popeye’s sweetheart Olive Oyl. At the moment of greatest danger, when the tall and skinny damsel in distress seemed irretrievably in Brutus’s arms, Popeye had had enough. “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!” he shouted as he slid a can of spinach out from under his shirt and – no can opener needed – squeezed the contents into his mouth. Popeye’s muscles bulged, Brutus surrendered, the young lady was saved – and half the kids in North America decided to give spinach one more try. 

Brave non-conformists cannot accept the way things are. They are curious. They dream of how the world might be better. They tolerate Brutus for as long as they can, but they reach a tipping point, a Popeye moment when enough is enough. “That’s all I can stands,” they decide. “I can’t stands no more!” They grab a can of spiritual spinach, seize the initiative, and set about to make wrong things right. 

Speaking of brave non-conformists, you may already know of Jonathan Penner. He and his wife, Teresa, had a Popeye moment when it became impossible to ignore God’s promptings to reach spiritually disconnected people in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. They prayed like crazy, talked up a whirlwind, and eventually took the leap. It didn’t take long for a couple hundred people to start checking out LIFE+APP (lifeapp.ca). 

“Last week a pastor asked me why we decided to work with Mission Catalyst,” Jonathan says. “Here it is: Mission Catalyst is the only church planting organization in North America that I’m aware of that brings these two critical factors together. First, they understand and hold a deep value for the advent movement, and second, they continually bring together the most innovative ideas in ministry. The blood that pulses through the veins  of Mission Catalyst is innovation.”

“It takes incredible innovation to break down the walls that religion has erected in North America – the barriers that have separated people from the love of Christ. Every week, we’re blessed with coaching from an in-the-trenches innovator, someone who continually takes in new and fresh ideas. Helping us see what priorities are most important right now, what we’re overlooking, and what God is doing somewhere else that could make us more effective here, has been extremely helpful. But having a coach who is perpetually expanding his awareness of innovative ministry ideas, taking in workshops from some of the world’s most revolutionary churches, and proactively developing personal friendships with an ever expanding number of North America’s most effective church leaders, is beyond helpful. For us, it’s been essential.”  

Jonathan took a deep breath, looked me straight in the eye (over the phone) and continued his rant, “Ron, what you’ve created is an innovation incubator.  Not only do I feel like you frequently add value to what we’re trying to do. You also encourage us to try new things, things we might never test or try without your encouragement. Personally, I think Mission Catalyst needs to send you to even more conferences and churches on the front lines, so you can continue to help us be even more innovative and successful.” 

I’m all for that. Maybe I’ll talk with the directional leader of MC and see if he agrees. (Wait a minute, that’s me. And I agree.)

Mission Catalyst wants to be an innovation incubator for you. To provide the spiritual spinach that energizes your dreams. To help you create the environment where the dreams God has laid on your heart, can come to life. To help you selectively abandon the past, and to pour fuel on the kingdom fire that God ignited in your soul. 

WDYT?

August 2016 News

Here. It’s Burning a Hole in Our Pockets.
RON GLADDEN | Directional Leader

If you’ve been pondering the notion of starting a church outside of the system, We have some money to help you get started. It’s not a fortune, but would $30,000 help?

Every one of us wishes for a church in the neighborhood that is healthy, unselfish, and growing. A church that we can’t wait to attend and where we’re proud to invite a friend. And preferably one that shares our theological niche. 

If you have such a church nearby, be thankful. And do your best to unleash your spiritual gifts, your passion, your resources, and your time on making it even more influential. 

If you don’t have such a church nearby, why not create it? 

It’s not cool to be unduly harsh, so let me be duly harsh and state the obvious: Most churches are a disappointing shadow of the church Jesus had in mind when He died on the cross and you might be attending one right now. But with God’s help, you can change that.

So the big idea of this letter (to repeat myself) is: We have some money to help you. If you think you might be the one to start and lead the church, get in touch. If you know you’re not but you know someone who – it seems to you – is probably wired to be the leader, pick up the phone and call or text them. Or do a Facebook chat and let them know that $30,000 is burning a hole in the Mission Catalyst pocket. 

A couple of cautions: 

  • The bar is high. We invest in leaders with high potential. 
  • Church planting is the extreme sport of ministry.
  • Starting a church is more difficult than you think. 

It’s easy to start the conversation. Just call our office at 360-624-7271 or send an email to my personal inbox: rglad@missioncatalyst.org. Or if you would like to do some research click here.

And whether or not you’re ready to start a church, how about helping Mission Catalyst financially? We want to keep pouring fuel on the right fires, and to see more and more churches started that live out the transformational good news of the gospel!

Will you join us in Jesus’ mission to restore relationships with ourselves, others and God? 

P.S.  Let me be unduly enthusiastic and thank you for helping Mission Catalyst financially. God will multiply your gift

July 2016 News

How to Make an Unchurched Neighbor Cry
MIKE LARSON | Teaching Pastor, Epikos Church

What would it take to bring an unchurched neighbor to tears? In a good way, of course. Tears of joy and appreciation. 

In a letter to Titus, the apostle Paul gave him this important advice: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14). 

Since its start in the fall of 2008, the people of Epikos have passionately followed this advice, especially in serving the village of Ntandi, Uganda. This past month, we engaged in our first home renovation project as part of a vision to replicate the success we’ve had in Uganda in our own backyard.

Our first project involved serving one of our own. Over the past four years, Shelley, a regular attender at Epikos, has battled with multiple myeloma cancer as well as administering her own dialysis treatments. Her medical regiment left her exhausted and unable to take care of her daily needs at home. She needed the bathrooms updated to make them more accessible, new flooring that made maneuvering and cleaning easier, and a variety of other touch ups to create a cleaner and safer home environment. 

Right away, we knew we had to make sure Shelley was taken care of. The big challenge was getting the expert guidance we needed to tackle this project. An initial estimate priced the project at above $30,000 and we knew this would be a daunting endeavor if we didn’t get many discounted materials and services volunteered, as well as expert advice to prioritize our repairs. We needed someone with the skills for the project, but also with a heart for the mission. 

When lead pastor Tim Geisler shared our 3-year vision for Epikos at a vision night meeting, God brought us the perfect fit: Alison Lovell. A member of Epikos and local business owner with her husband Don, Alison shared our concern for the community and for Shelley in particular. They both eagerly volunteered to help. Teaming up with Joe Stotz, a capable and compassionate local contractor, we created a game plan that would bring the necessary renovations while slashing the budget to just under $7,000. 
 
During the last weekend of June while Shelley stayed in a hotel, over 25 volunteers, including 10 young people, went to work on a variety of tasks: washing walls, shampooing furniture and carpet, replacing the flooring, installing new toilets, fixtures, and a doggy door, trimming trees, weeding the beds, and power washing outside the house. 

True to the words of Paul, the project was productive. Of course, there were the obvious results of a home that looked and felt new and provided Shelley with security she needed to go about her daily tasks. Thanks to the help of so many volunteers, we used only a fraction of the $7,000 we had budgeted. 

But it was so much more that that. All of the efforts and donations assured Shelley that she wasn’t alone, that her Epikos family stood with her no matter what she faced. There was the new relationships formed from those who had seen each other across the aisles at church, but got better acquainted and even became friends as they served side by side. There was Shelley’s unchurched neighbor, Rudy, brought to tears to know that a church community would come together for a project like this. For those of us who got to be the hands and feet of Jesus through this act of kindness, seeing this kind of kingdom impact was as good as it gets. 

As he sat with Shelley, shook his head and wondered at this expression of love, Rudy offered a final heartfelt word of encouragement: “God bless you,” he said, still holding back tears.  

Thank you, Rudy. God definitely has!

I’m so glad that God called us to start a church that reaches people who need Jesus while obeying His call to help those who can’t help themselves. 

So here’s a question: What about you? What is God calling you to do? Maybe it’s inspiring people to do something bold in your city. Perhaps He’s  prompting you to start a church that changes the story for hundreds of people. Or maybe He wants you to make a donation that changes the game for Mission Catalyst. Are you willing? Thanks for saying Yes!

Pumped up for the Kingdom,

Mike Larson

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