At its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 17, the Mid-America Union Conference executive Committee welcomed six new members, received a variety of reports, approved a preliminary 2017 budget, and voted two statements.

Early in the day, vice president for administration, Gil F. Webb, presented membership numbers indicating that from information submitted 24 percent of our union membership is between the ages of 40-59. Also, 55 percent of our membership is female, with 44 male and 1 percent unspecified.

Troy Peoples, vice president for finance, pointed out highlights of the financial report, stating that the union will be tapping reserve funds in 2017 for a union-wide Ministerial Retreat. The MAUC is still building reserves for the 2018 division-wide teacher’s convention. Also, there has been a slight increase in insurance costs, due to replacing the roof at union headquarters that was badly damaged during a hail storm last May. Peoples then presented the 2017 preliminary operating budget, stating that after the 2016 tithe figures are received a revised budget will be brought to the March executive committee meeting.

A report by Dr. Vinita Sauder, president of Union College, stated that in its annual comparison of colleges, U.S. News has once again designated Union College one of America’s “Best Colleges.” This year, Union is ranked number 32 in its category of Midwestern colleges. This is the eleventh consecutive year Union has earned a spot on the publication’s top-tier.

Following these reports, the committee discussed the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference executive committee at their Annual Council last October. Several committee members expressed deep concerns regarding potential implications of the “Unity in Mission” action, pointing out that it would open the door for a departure from the currently established structure for church discipline whereby each level of church entity works with the level adjacent to it without skipping over other levels. Following a lively discussion, the committee voted the following response:

   The Mid-America Union Conference executive committee, after reviewing the “Unity in Mission” document voted by the General Conference executive committee at the 2016 Annual Council, wishes to express the following thoughts about this action: 

  • We share the need for and pray for worldwide unity and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
  • We affirm the document’s call to mutual listening, consultation, and prayer as we work together over differences.
  • We, as a Protestant organization, believe the true authority of our church lies with the local members comprising our churches. Furthermore, we recognize our working policies delegate authority to our constituencies as voted by our church members.
  • We believe all members and entities in the church should be held accountable when needed by the constituencies to which they are responsible, as has been outlined by our church’s working policies. We see this as paramount, because to do otherwise would be a departure from our Protestant heritage. By staying with and following our long-held policies for accountability, the appearance or threat of kingly power is held in check.
  • We express grave concern with the Unity Document’s establishing working policy as on par with our fundamental beliefs. Whereas policy is made for the organizing of our church for the purpose of mission, our fundamental beliefs speak to the Biblical truths we hold as a people. 

   We are alarmed by the “Unity in Mission” document and object to the direction it is taking our church. True unity will not be achieved based on voted policies, but rather through showing our spirit of “Christlike forbearance,” as Ellen White counsels us to do.

“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 a perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance.” (MS 24, 1892)

(Read the NAD’s response to the Unity in Mission document voted at their Nov. 1 executive committee meeting.)

Preceding the discussion and vote, MAUC president Gary Thurber presented a detailed historical timeline of the many reports and recommendations regarding the ordination of women that have been presented in the Adventist church over the past 20 years from various committees, including the 13 division study reports and the General Conference’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee, both of which favored by a 2/3 majority allowing divisions to decide whether or not to permit ordination of women in their territories.

Before adjourning the MAUC executive committee voted the following statement in reference to their March 2012 action:

We affirm our prior voted action regarding our support of women in ministry and believe there is no biblical barrier for ordaining women.

“These are serious times,” said Thurber. “And right now it is important for us to speak our concerns. God has a plan and a way forward. I don’t know what it is yet, but He has a plan.”