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Issues in Adventism: Notes on the NCC Constituency Meeting

While the election of conference officers is always the first business of conference constituency sessions, in Northern California Conference (NCC) it has also become a time to address the current hot button issues of concern to church members.

According to the conference bylaws, each delegate has the right to place items on the agenda. Of course, the delegate does need to get approval for their item in the form of a vote from their home church in a business session.

There were seven items on this year’s agenda submitted by the delegate/churches, and they included concerns about women’s ordination and credentialing, representation of the ethnic coordinators on the conference executive committee, fundamental belief number six, an accountability structure for pastors and faculty on three items of church orthodoxy, discounted tuition fees in conference K-12 schools, and conference structure.

Election of the conference officers was handled swiftly and without extended comment. President James E. Pedersen, Secretary Marc K. Woodson, and Treasurer John D. Rasmussen and all the departmental directors were returned to office. But after lunch, the lines at the microphones grew as each agenda item was considered.

First up was an item from the Auburn Church on equal credentials for women pastors, written before the General Conference statement that women’s ordination would not be on the agenda for Atlanta. An amendment was thus introduced requesting that instead of requesting the General Conference to take an action, that the union conference be petitioned instead. Union Conference President Ricardo Graham told the delegates that the Union Executive Committee had just voted last week to reaffirm its support of women’s ordination. Immediately after that the next speaker at the microphone suggested that the topic was too divisive and moved to table the motion and that is what the people voted to do.

When the topic of Fundamental Belief Number Six came to the floor, there were passionate speeches about the need for more specific language. One speaker quoted Fritz Guy as saying that the wording of Fundamental Belief Number Six had been purposely written in a vague manner to allow for multiple explanations. The constituents voted 252 (yes) to 133 (no) to ask the General Conference to rewrite the belief.

However, on the next item, that was also from the Oroville Church, and associated with the creation dilemma, the people voted differently. The item “resolved that the NCC institute structures for accountability that will ensure that the pastors in our churches, and the faculty in our educational institutions adhere in their teachings and lives to the Biblical principles expressed in the Church Manual, especially:

  • A literal Creation in 6 days according to Genesis {#6}, culminating in the seventh-day Sabbath, a sign of allegiance to our Creator and Redeemer God {#20}.
  • The prophetic authority of the Spirit of Prophecy {#18}, and
  • Biblically appropriate sexual relationships {#23}.

The item also stipulated that the NCC would report back to the mid-term constituency meeting with specific actins taken, as well as recommend to the union and the General Conference the adoption of similar actions.

Pastors were the first in line at the microphones to protest this “inquisition” and it went down to defeat 249 (no) to 112 (yes).

Concern about education seemed to be high at the meeting. The constituents sent the Nominating Committee back to work to include a K-12 educator on the Conference Executive Committee. And it was voted to give to anyone who is a member of a church that supports a school the member’s only tuition rate–even at any other Adventist school in the conference.

However, when it came to the question of requiring churches within a 25-mile radius of a church school to be constituent churches of a school, the voters choose not to approve the item. Freedom for churches seemed to be prized even more than freedom for individuals.

Voters also were not in a mood to enlarge the executive committee with the ethnic coordinators. That request was turned down.

As the day wore on, the interest in lengthy discussion waned. The two items considering the reorganization of conferences and unions were quickly combined and voted to be addressed by the NCC.

With that, a long day of participatory democracy, Adventist-style, came to an end.

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