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No Taxation without Representation


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In the 1700s, the settlers of the Thirteen Colonies in the Americas decried the taxation of the British, because the American settlers had no representation in the halls of parliament. “No Taxation without Representation” became a rallying cry and one of the major reasons for the American Revolution.

The phrase presents a prophetic question within Adventism, as the General Conference moves ever so stealthily to isolate the unions that have voted to ordain women. Early this year, the Unity Oversight Committee sent out a survey to the division and union presidents, who comprise about half of the General Conference Executive Committee, asking the questions in simple yes/no manner that they have been trying, but failing, to get voted at the last two annual councils.

In essence, can the General Conference discipline unions and their representatives for not complying with voted actions of the General Conference in session? The specific discipline mentioned in the survey questions was taking away voice and vote from representatives of entities not “in compliance” with those session votes.

In the tabulation of the survey results that was shared this week with the world church, only the votes of the union conference presidents are identified, not that of the divisions. But along with the breakdown of the percentages for each yes and no vote, the percentage of the world field represented by that vote is listed.  For example, question 4 of the survey was, “Should presidents of unions not in compliance with voted actions of GC Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee be allowed to speak at meetings of the Executive Committee?”

The yes vote technically won with 50.3% of the vote, but the report then says that the percentage of the world membership residing in those unions is only 34.3%. While the no vote got 44.4% from unions whose percentage of world membership is 60.9%. There were 8 union conference presidents who did not answer and their votes represented 4.9% of church membership. How does the committee read those statistics? Any way they want?

What we see in this form of tabulation is that not all votes are equal. First, in choosing to whom the survey would be sent, half of the GC Executive Committee was excluded; only union and division presidents received the survey. Then, in reporting the results, it essentially weighted the votes based on the percentage of the world field the vote represented. A vote from the Inter-American Division thus carries more weight than one from North America.

This weighting of the vote raises many possibilities as well as questions. What would the vote look like if it were weighted for tithe dollars or baptisms? Why is the question that comes back again and again, because the weighting of the vote, frankly, just makes the General Conference look manipulative. And the length to which the General Conference seems willing to go to get a vote to punish other church leaders is almost as astonishing as the agreement by so many unions to be punished.

But beyond the machinations of the vote, the question is really this: how long will church members in a union that would be potentially disciplined by taking away the voice and vote of their representatives continue to send their tithe and offerings to an organization where they have no voice or representation?


Further Reading:
Unity Oversight Committee Survey Results
General Conference Re-asks the Questions of 2017
Unity Oversight Committee Releases Statement Regarding Way Forward
Unity Oversight Committee Continues to Gather Data


Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash.


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