Editor’s Note: The Swedish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists released a statement on December 1, 2019 in response to the Annual Council vote on October 15 to warn this Union, along with several others, for taking “actions that are not in harmony with Working Policy and practices on credentials.” Read more about the vote by clicking here.
The following statement originally appeared in both Swedish and English on the Union’s website. The official version in English is provided in full below:
Statement on the Warning
The Swedish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has received a warning from the General Conference Executive Committee for the Union’s endeavour to achieve equal treatment of men and women in pastoral ministry in our territory. In light of the warning, the Union leadership and the Union Executive Committee wish to affirm our position in the following points.
At Annual Council 2018, the General Conference Executive Committee voted on a process for dealing with non-compliance with the Church’s Working Policy. In accordance with this process, the Swedish Union has been in dialogue with the Trans-European Division (TED). The purpose of this dialogue has been twofold: to identify which aspects of the Union’s decision regarding pastoral equality are in non-compliance with Working Policy, and to find alternative ways to proceed. The conversations have been conducted in a positive and constructive spirit. In June 2019, the General Conference administration unexpectedly requested that the TED report any non-compliance and recommend sanctions for the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish Unions. The unions were also requested to respond with their views on these reports and recommendations. The TED and the unions in question considered it too early to draw any conclusions from their conversations and recommended that no sanctions be given at this stage.
Therefore, the unions in question were taken by surprise at Annual Council 2019 when the General Conference administration recommended that they be warned for being in non-compliance with Working Policy. The unions were informed of the proposed warning the afternoon before it was to go to the floor. In addition, the proposed warning did not specify what non-compliance issues were being addressed. Therefore, the Swedish Union was not given the opportunity to defend or explain its position before a decision was taken, except for a brief four-minute statement after the recommendation had been presented. During the negotiations, General Conference President, Elder Ted Wilson, explained that an ordained pastoral ministry is fundamental to the Church’s organization. The warning has been issued because the unions in question have ceased to ordain pastors. Instead, pastors are given the alternative credential offered within Working Policy.
The warning has been appealed due to the legal uncertainty of the decision. The process decided in 2018 had not been completed. Consequently, the General Conference Executive Committee did not have sufficient background information to make its decision.
Clear policies and organisation regarding the credentials of pastors are important to the Swedish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. However, these policies can ensure the Church’s ability to fulfil its mission only when they are based on fundamental biblical teachings regarding church leadership and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and when they meet the needs and conditions that exist where the Church operates.
Equal treatment of male and female pastors was voted by the Swedish Executive Committee in March 2016 and confirmed by the Union Session in July 2017. In view of the warning, the Swedish Union Executive Committee wishes to make the following affirmations:
1. We affirm the Bible’s authority and its clear call to all Christians to fulfil the Great Commission;
2. We affirm the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, its Fundamental Beliefs, and its prophetic role in proclaiming the three angels’ message of an eternal gospel, true worship of the Creator, and righteousness by grace through faith;
3. We affirm that God in His Word makes no difference between men and women in the calling to fulfil the Great Commission. We base this on the Old Testament prophecy that God in the last days would pour out His Spirit upon all – men and women, and on the New Testament teachings on the gifts of the Spirit to the Church, the priesthood of all believers, and the examples of women in all the roles of the Church;
4. We reaffirm the temporary order adopted by the Swedish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to equate the pastoral ministry within the framework of the Church’s Working Policy and in accordance with its Fundamental Beliefs on “Unity in the body of Christ” (no. 14) and “Spiritual gifts and ministries” (no. 17). The divergent order is temporary until the Union and the General Conference have found a satisfactory solution regarding the credentials of pastors;
5. Finally, we affirm all the men and women, employees and members, who respond to the call to serve God in these last days and in the community in which we live by making Jesus known and loved and His second coming a desired event. We do not allow tensions or differences between us, in different parts of the world or within the congregation, to prevent the Spirit of God from using us as members of Christ’s body.
The Executive Committee of the Swedish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on December 1, 2019.
Official Statement in English:
Official Statement in Swedish:
This statement, in both Swedish and English, originally appeared on the Swedish Union of Church’s website.
North German Union Responds to Annual Council Warning, October 18, 2019
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