Do we really need “Perfect Agreement”? Re: Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation

“Upon the approval of this document, even though the full process has not yet been fully identified and approved, entities are authorized to implement the process where there are matters of non-adherence regarding biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the Church and provide a report through the division, or in the case of a General Conference institution through the General Conference Administrative Committee, at the next Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee”1.

The just voted Annual Council’s church policy on noncompliance in the Adventist church may have some few weaknesses (in my opinion):

First, the policy is necessitated by a response to the so-called deviant Unions shunning the vote on Women Ordination. These unions may feel as the targets on the grounds of the policy, though the policy is explicitly characterised as general.

Second, the policy does not specify the consequences arising as a result of failure in the reconciliation process. What will happen to the matter or the Unions?

Third, about 90% of the commentators on the proposed policy called for a reconsideration.

Fourth, the imminence of the procedure, which looks like one year process, confirms an earlier leaked-threat from the GC to rescind the Unions involved into Missions after one year of grace.

Fifth, the policy seems to force unity, force conformity and force uniformity. This can result in adverse consequences in the future. There is no provision of action in the case whereby the noncompliant has a point that needs consideration.

Ellen White explicitly speaks concerning what we should do in situations like this:

“One man may be conversant with the Scriptures, and some particular portion of the Scripture may be especially appreciated by him; another sees another portion as very important, and thus one may present one point, and another, another point, and both may be of highest value. This is all in the order of God. But if a man makes a mistake in his interpretation of some portion of the Scripture, shall this cause diversity and disunion? God forbid. We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. Satan can sow discord; Christ alone can harmonize the disagreeing elements. Then let every soul sit down in Christ’s school and learn of Christ, who declares Himself to be meek and lowly of heart. Christ says that if we learn of Him, worries will cease and we shall find rest to our souls”2.

In all instances of noncompliance, we can still rely on Gamaliel’s advice:

“So in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone. Let them go! For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:39).

It’s good to have church policies governing the organisation of the church. Because of human fallibility, policies keep us from too much confusion. They also give us a sense of common purpose. However, when compliance fails, it becomes our duty and part of the mission to seek after reconciliation. Noncompliance cannot be solved by political procedures. This reconciliation process needn’t to be formal since each case may demand different approaches. We may comfortably accept this policy today as a general policy. Nevertheless, we cannot down play its immediate context. The situation before the church needs enough patience and forbearance. It may take two or three years, or even more in certain cases, unless we’re in error, we’ll need patience and forbearance to continue the dialogue. And as Ellen White said, we cannot “establish perfect agreement” by resolutions.

  1. Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation, p. 3  
  2. Ellen G. White, Manuscript Released, no. 11, p. 266  
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Pastor/PhD Student
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor designate for the Adventist Fellowship Geneva in Switzerland, and studying for a PhD at the University of Geneva.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi
- 2 months ago
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi