UPDATE: General Conference Considers Taking Over “Rebellious” Unions

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Published:
September 30, 2016

A rewrite of the proposal to discipline the unions that have voted to ordain women was requested in the committee known as GCDO—General Conference and Division Officers—after about an hour of discussion on Thursday. According to reliable sources, the rewritten material will come back to the committee early next week for reconsideration.

Both the Pacific Union and the North American Division have declined to comment on the ongoing discussions.

The proposal is that the General Conference take over such unions and operate them as missions attached to the General Conference. That would mean that the GC would then be able to remove present union leadership and replace them with their own appointees. Then a new constituency meeting could be called to attempt to reverse the ordination vote. Given that the constituency votes for women’s ordination in both the Columbia and Pacific Unions were approximately 80 percent to 20 percent in favor of ordination means that this is a move that is not without risk. 

The legal process for such a move will undoubtedly be debated and lengthy. While “A review of organizational status may be initiated by a decision of the executive committee in any higher level of organization that was involved in granting the type of status in question,” according to the GC Working Policy (Section B 75 30), “When the entity under consideration is a union conference/mission or union of churches, the decision to adjust status shall be made, AFTER appropriate consultation with the entity concerned and the division executive committee, by the General Conference Executive Committee at a Spring Meeting or Annual Council.”

Section B 95 15 of the Working Policy deals with Dissolution and Expulsion of Unions. It spells out a lengthy process for such a move that begins with the division. The General Conference Executive Committee is consulted at step three to consider whether or not another union constituency meeting should be called. At step four, the recommendation from the General Conference Executive Committee is referred to the next regular or specially called General Conference Session for consideration.

Whichever section of the Working Policy the proposal under consideration is functioning under, the process, it would seem, cannot be limited solely to a vote of the General Conference Executive Committee. Other committees, specifically the Division Executive Committee, would be required to concur.  

To support the proposed actions, earlier this week, the General Conference Secretariat released a lengthy study document on church governance and unity stressing the authority of the General Conference.  Zeroing in on “invalid ordinations”, it stated, “It is incorrect to assert that there is nothing in denominational policy to stop unions from ordaining females to gospel ministry. Such ordinations have been explicitly disallowed by a GC Session action, a decision reinforced by two other GC Session votes.”

The document goes on to say, “If everyone were to defy decisions they disagreed with, there would be no point in having a decision-making process. To take part in a process, and then to disregard it if it does not go our way, is contrary to the biblical principles of unity and mutual submission. Equality and unity in Christ oblige church members and church leaders to make decisions together and then to respect fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus by following those decisions. Communities can only function if all members agree they will accept communal decisions; otherwise there is not community, but disunity.”

 

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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