Many individuals are convinced that the primary cause of the Civil War (fought from 1861-1865), from the perspective of the North was the issue of freeing the slaves, whether or not states should be allowed to continue enslaving human beings. However, from the standpoint of the North, the preservation of the union was the primary interest, which is evidenced by the fact that slavery was the law of the land in both the North and the South. Notwithstanding, many individuals on either side were fighting over whether or not men should be regarded as men or property, like cattle or pigs. In 1860 and 1861 eleven Southern States, the Confederate States, seceded from the Union and started their own country to protect the institution of slavery which resulted in the initiation of the war. Without going into further detail, the end of the war resulted in the preservation of the Union and the abolishment of slavery; however not without incalculable casualties and damages on both sides. With this backdrop, one has a better understanding and appreciation for the following statements written by Ellen White during the Civil War:
"God is punishing the North, that they have so long suffered the accursed sin of slavery to exist… God is not with the South, and He will punish them dreadfully in the end. Satan is the instigator of all rebellion” (1)
“God is punishing this nation for the high crime of slavery. He has the destiny of the nation in His hands. He will punish the South for the sin of slavery, and the North for so long suffering its overreaching and overbearing influence…I was taken off in vision and shown the sin of slavery, which has so long been a curse to this nation…God's scourge is now upon the North, because they have so long submitted to the advances of the slave power. The sin of Northern proslavery men is great. They have strengthened the South in their sin by sanctioning the extension of slavery; they have acted a prominent part in bringing the nation into its present distressed condition.”
“God had this nation in his own hand, and would suffer no victories to be gained faster than he ordained, and no more losses to the Northern men than in his wisdom he saw fit, to punish the North for their sin.”
Since the 2015 General Conference Session vote on women’s ordination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been embroiled in an escalating and volatile civil war of its own. As with the United States’ Civil War, many individuals honestly believe that the issue is over biblical principles, to allow women to be pastors or not to. They do not realize that the primary issues are General Conference policy, authority and preserving the General Conference as it is, not whether or not it is biblical for women to serve as or be ordained as pastors. As the results of the 2015 vote were announced, rapturous applause rang out across the auditorium and many conscientious Seventh-day Adventists rejoiced that the vote had (in their minds) averted the church sinking deeper into apostasy and rebellion against God’s Word. But a careful look at the facts reveal that like the Northern states during the Civil War, the General Conference has strengthened the North American Division in its rebellion and push to ordain as many women as it can in the following ways: Firstly, the General Conference leaders support the existing policies that allow women to be ordained as elders and commissioned as pastors; secondly, the Theology of Ordination Study Committee conclusion that the issue of women’s ordination is not a biblical one; thirdly, the compliance document that has nothing to do with biblical principle and everything to do with voted policy; and finally, if the 2015 vote had affirmed the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, the General Conference leaders would have supported it as they have stated on numerous occasions. This shows that the issue of ordaining women to pastoral ministry is not a biblical issue for the General Conference leaders; for them it is a matter of voted church policy.
The aforementioned points are some of the main reasons that North American Division President Daniel Jackson defiantly stated the following at the North American year-end meeting: “Our women in the North American Division who serve as pastors and leaders will be protected by the North American Division and every conference and union president in this place… [The male-headship theology] was never Seventh-day Adventist, it is not Seventh-day Adventist, and it’s not going to become Seventh-day Adventist. We will continue to pray that God’s spirit will lead the church so that our women will not be held back or limited by glass ceilings that we have created in order to protect our own positions. We will not pull back. We are not going to quit hiring women pastors… We will not stop. Furthermore, we will continue to agitate for the ordination of women for the gospel ministry.”
There are many confirming evidences that the mounting controversy between the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and the General Conference really has nothing to do with biblical principle and everything to do with voted policy. Let us start with the vote itself. Firstly, if the issue was based on biblical principle from the perspective of the General Conference, it would not have even been considered as something to be voted upon because of the possibility of something unbiblical being voted into policy and practice. Furthermore, what was actually voted upon was not whether or not ordaining women is biblical, but whether or not regions had the authority to ordain women in their respective territories. The ballot that was voted upon reads as follows: “Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.” It is evident that those advocating unity and compliance are not contending for the faith once delivered to the saints but they are contending for adherence to policy and authority.
Before the 2015 General Conference session vote, many church administrators including the General Conference President Ted Wilson and Mark Finley, urged members to adhere to the voted policy whatever the outcome and regardless of personal opinions. In the words of Mark Finely:
“Whatever your viewpoint is on the ordination of women…There comes a point where you say, ‘We will accept the decision of the corporate body, namely the General Conference session…and move on with our mission.” (6)
From Ted Wilson: “Wilson, who opened the morning session with an appeal for all church members to abide by the vote’s outcome, underscored both then and after the vote that decisions made by the General Conference in session carry the highest authority in the Adventist Church.”
Consider the following carefully as it relates to the U.S. Civil War:
“There are commanding officers [in the North] who are in sympathy with the rebels. While they are desirous of having the Union preserved, they despise those who are antislavery. Some of the armies also are composed largely of such material.” (8)
It is a fact that many of the Northern leaders and soldiers who were fighting for the preservation of the Union during the Civil War, were pro-slavery, likewise, many of the General Conference leaders and laity who are publicly appealing for unity in the church are in favor of women’s ordination deep within their hearts. Many have confessed the same behind “closed doors” and like the Northern leaders, they have disdain for those who are calling the issue of women’s ordination a Biblical one and calling out the hypocrisy of the General Conference. Continuing the statement from Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1: “Some of the armies also are composed largely of such material; they are so opposed to one another that no real union exists among many regiments.” It was very difficult for the union to be preserved because their was opposition among the ranks of Northern men. In like manner, it will be very difficult for unity to be achieved in the Seventh-day Adventist Church on this issue because among those who support the General Conference’s stance are supporters of women’s ordination and sympathizers with the North American Division; and a house divided cannot stand.
Another reason that voted church policy and not biblical principle is the main issue regarding women’s ordination from the General Conference’s perspective is the policy already in existence in Seventh-day Adventism that allows women to be ordained as elders. From a biblical standpoint, an elder and a pastor carry the same responsibilities. Why then has there been no outcry over the ordaining of women as elders from those so outspoken about ordaining women as pastors. Carefully read the following from Ted Wilson on the official website of the denomination in response to the following question: “Has the ordination of women as local church elders ever been approved by the General Conference in full worldwide session? Is it provided for in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual?” The following is Ted Wilson’s response: “At the 1975 Spring Meeting (a meeting of some but not all members of the GC Executive Committee) voted: ‘That in harmony with the spirit and intent of paragraph 3 of the Annual Council 1974 action the greatest discretion and caution be exercised in the ordaining of women to the office of local elder, counsel being sought in all cases by the local conference/mission from the union and division committees before proceeding.’ 1984: Annual Council reaffirmed the 1975 Spring Meeting action that women can be ordained as local church elders in those divisions which make provision for it. This vote also included guidelines to be followed ‘in the selection and ordination of women as local church elders: a. The concept should be carefully examined, discussed, and properly accepted at the local church level. b. If a church contemplates such an action, the entire matter should be discussed and approved by the conference committee after the conference administration has sought counsel from the union leadership. The negotiation between the church and the conference should occur in advance of the final decision and vote by the local church. c. The action to elect and ordain a woman as a local church elder must not be taken unless a clear consensus exists that the ministry of a woman elder is desirable and even essential to the spiritual well-being of the local church family. It should also be the consensus of the church that a woman elder will be respected as a spiritual leader and soul-winner. The church should also express its belief that there are dimensions of spiritual service and counsel which cannot be properly fulfilled by a male elder. d. A clear majority of the voting members of the local church must be in favor of the action. The matter should be considered at a specially called church business meeting. Every church member should be given the opportunity to vote on this issue rather than only the few who might be present at a regular meeting where routine items of business are on the agenda. Although preliminary study could be given to this question by the church board, any final action should be taken by the church in a business meeting. e. Whatever the decision of the church, it should result in unifying the members and not be the source of divisiveness or alienation. The body of Christ, the Church, must not be tarnished in any way. In this important issue, as in all things, the name of our Lord and Saviour must be exalted.” Hypocrisy? Disingenuousness? Need we say more?
Akin to the previous point, if the issue was about biblical principles why then have women been serving as elders and pastors prior to the vote. The Bible in no way sanctions women as elders or pastors from Genesis to Revelation, ordained, commissioned or neither. After the 2015 vote, General Conference President Ted Wilson stated that the current policy would not change. “General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson said Friday that a vote this week on the issue of women’s ordination meant ‘we maintain the current policy.’ Wilson told delegates at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that Wednesday’s vote simply barred the church’s world divisions from making decisions on the ordination of women. He said the vote has nothing to do with women being ordained as local elders, a practice based on church policy that has been in place for several decades. Furthermore, he said, the vote was not related to commissioned ministers, who can be male or female under the church’s policy. The issue is clearly the authority of who can ordain women.” From the mouth of the General Conference President himself, the issue of women’s ordination, is not a biblical one; it’s about voted church policy and who has the authority to ordain. Again, the General Conference, like the Northern states, is actively strengthening the rebellion of the North American Division and other unions.
Additionally, we cannot overlook the final conclusion of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), which in essence was an agreement by those comprising the committee that the Bible is inconclusive on the issue of women’s ordination which resulted in three varying positions. You can view the conclusions of the report here https://www.adventistarchives.org/final-tosc-report.pdf.
While there are more evidences that could be brought out showing that many church administrators are zealous for voted policy, authority and control and not the Word of God, we will bring out one more evidence—the 2018 compliance document. At the 2018 Autumn Council, the General Conference Executive Committee approved a compliance document to which there has been much uproar and talks of an NAD secession, withholding tithes and continued rebellion against the General Conference’s voted policies as it relates to the ordination of women. First of all, it must be noted that not one Bible text is presented in the entire document, whereas “policy” appears all throughout. The “noncompliance” referred to in the document, is not noncompliance or disobedience to the Word of God, but rather to voted General Conference church policies. The standard for resolving issues of non-compliance is not the Bible, but existing working policies. You can view the full document here https://imsda.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/113G-Regard-for-and-Practice-of-General-Conference-Session-and-General-Conference-Executive-Committee-Actions.pdf
Many entities within the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination have not been in compliance with the Word of God in many areas as it relates to ecumenism, music and worship, unclean foods in the church, LGBT activity, false doctrines being spewed from the pulpits, singers and ministers from Babylon leading out, the celebration of pagan holidays, dress, the list could go on and on, and yet there has been nothing done to check these areas of blatant apostasy. However, when an entity is out of line or rebellious toward voted policy (whether biblical or not from the perspective of the General Conference), a non-compliance document is swiftly drafted, approved and implemented.
Back to our analogy of the American Civil War being compared with the war raging in Seventh-day Adventism: The North was not to be commended because of its allowance of slavery and sympathy with the south; and neither must the General Conference be commended in the matter of the ordination of women, as it was clearly shown that the General Conference leadership also sanctions women’s ordination and is concerned with preserving “unity” and control via voted church policy. And certainly, the Confederate States deserve no commendation but rather stern condemnation. In like manner, the pro-women’s ordination movement, the rebellious unions and divisions are doing the biddings of Satan and are outside of scripture and should receive no approval. As stated in the opening quotations from Ellen White, that God punished not only the North but also the nation for the high crime of slavery, it is clear that Seventh-day Adventism is being punished for its allowance of unchecked apostasy which includes the practice of allowing women to assume positions that God intended only for men to fill, that of pastors and elders. The aforementioned statements by Ellen White also indicate that it was the North that strengthened the South in its rebellion, and we can see that the rebellious unions and divisions within Seventh-day Adventism are emboldened because of the inconsistencies of the General Conference on the issue of women’s ordination and because of its support of the same when in agreement with voted policy.
Although the outcome of the Civil War resulted in the slaves being freed, it was not without numerous casualties; and though we do not know how Seventh-day Adventism’s civil war will conclude, we can say that it will not be without casualties—individuals manifesting the spirit of anarchy, resisting the present truth, and ultimately losing their salvation.
1. White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church (1855-1861), Volume 1, Page 359
2. White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1 (1855-1861), Page 264
3. The Review and Herald, August 27, 1869 par. 9
8. White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1 (1855-1868), page 255