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Let’s Think Strategically


Human affairs and physics ain’t the same. But with respect to the recent compliance proposal vote at Annual Council, there is a good chance that Newton’s Third Law will apply. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

I don’t know about your reading of the tea leaves (Is Postum made from leaves?), but mine says it is unlikely that the NAD and certain European divisions/unions will merely say, “Okay, we will abandon our principles,” thereby resolving all differences. The implications of the new compliance measures are so damaging to our understanding of Protestant Christian fellowship and our historical roots as a church that there will quite likely be some reactions that are more or less “equal and opposite.”

Now is the time for the formulation of strategy as to what responses will be employed. This piece is meant as a discussion generator of a variety of possible actions that could be taken by dissenting divisions/union conferences. It can also function as a totally non-scientific polling mechanism that will have no statistical validity, but may point in directions.

Here’s how it will work. Below there will be a list of possible actions by dissenting divisions/unions/conferences. After reviewing and contemplating the list, if you then click on Continue Discussion, you will find that the first set of comments will be by me. Each of my comments will simply be a repeat of one of the potential actions listed below here. I invite you to review them, and then click “Like” for any of the potential actions you think dissenting divisions/unions/conferences should pursue.

Here are the options. Please feel free to suggest others.

1. Simply comply with the new compliance process and whatever results it yields and be done with the whole thing. Stop being dissenters. Fall into line.

2. Those unions that are ordaining women stop doing so.

3. Dissenting divisions/unions/churches withdraw from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and form a new denomination.

4. Reduce the percentage of tithe the North American Division sends to the GC from the current 6% to 2% to adjust the NAD’s tithe contribution to the same level as other divisions.

5. Dissenting unions/conferences immediately take action to begin ordaining women in their territory if they are not already doing so.

6. Dissenting divisions/unions refuse to engage in any way with the GC compliance committees and processes. Just say no.

7. Dissenting divisions/unions/conferences/institutions set an example to the world of greater transparency and accountability based on enhanced constituency functionality. Create constituency processes to create greater accountability for compliance with Church Core Policies. Each constituency will have a lay-led audit committee (expert audit committees are considered governance best practice) that will interact with General Conference Auditing Services to understand financial and policy issues, and then report to and make recommendations to all constituents. This places accountability and compliance where the authority for electing officers resides, not in the bureaucracy. 

8. Utilize external experts (such as Miroslav Volf, Yale Center for Faith & Culture, Yale University) to guide an objective, structured, world-wide reconciliation process (similar to processes used in Rwanda after the massacres) to bring about greater global understanding of differences and how to acknowledge those differences while working together in mission. 

9. Dissenting divisions/unions engage in an aggressive communications initiative to tell the story of why they have taken the positions they have, and why they propose moving in the directions they take.

10. Comply with the new compliance process under protest and work for change.

I invite you to discuss the upsides and downsides of the options. I invite you to propose additional options for the dissenting divisions/unions/conferences. I invite you to think and speak strategically, and not engage in venting. I invite you to be thoughtful and wise about your voting choices.

This is an opportunity for those of us who don’t have seats at the organizational table to have a voice to express our views about next steps. 


Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant. He and his wife Janelle live in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

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