Columbia Union Executive Committee Affirms Statement Voted at North American Division Meeting
At its year-end meeting in November, members of the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee discussed at length the General Conference Unity in Mission document voted at Annual Council in early October. Many expressed concern about the intent, purpose and assumptions of the document, how it was processed, why it is needed, how it will impact the mission of the church in this region and what will be the consequences of noncompliance.
Dave Richmond, a member from the Pennsylvania Conference said the document blurs the lines between fundamental beliefs and policies. “It gives the impression that our policies are at the same level with our fundamental beliefs, and it places us on very dangerous ground because if someone disagrees with a policy, it makes them appear as though you are out of line with the fundamental beliefs of the church,” he said. “This is a little disconcerting.”
Members also offered suggestions about how the union should respond. “We should be prayerful and thoughtful in our response, and that has been our tone throughout the discussion,” said Marcus Harris, senior pastor at Allegheny East Conference’s Dupont Park church in Washington, D.C. “We should affirm the recommendation we made as a committee and the decision of our constituents in 2012, and we should affirm our leadership who have been spiritual, thoughtful and courageous.”
They also reviewed and voted to affirm the following statement of response voted by the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee at their 2016 year-end meeting in late October:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Three Angels’ Messages. Nothing should impede this prophetic mission.
It is thus with grave concern that the members of the North American Division (NAD) Executive Committee witnessed the passing of the Unity in Mission document at the recent Annual Council. The implementation of this document will create—indeed, is already creating—a profoundly divisive and demoralizing reality in many parts of the NAD.
While we wish to register our vigorous disagreement with the intent of the document, we do not wish to respond impulsively. Therefore, in light of this document, we move to authorize NADCOM to appoint a subcommittee to craft a thoughtful path forward.
Furthermore, recognizing that the underlying focus and context of the Unity in Mission document was the ordination of women to ministry in two Unions in our Division, we wish to once again publicly affirm our unwavering support and steadfast intent to realize the full equality of women in ministry, in fulfillment of biblical principles, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In light of these realities, we do not want the Unity in Mission document to be a deterrent to the ongoing, proactive progress toward the full equality of women in ministry in our Division.
We invite earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this process.
“The most important thing we can do is pray,” added Denise Isaac, a member of the committee from the Chesapeake Conference. “And our focus on mission has to remain constant.”