Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N.C. Wilson appealed to the world church family to remain united in the face of issues that threaten to create dissension and distraction.
Wilson made his appeal in a one-hour interview televised on 3ABN, a private network supportive of the church, and also carried on the denomination's official television network, Hope Channel. The discussion took place last week at the 2012 Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Acknowledging that recent actions by constituent union conferences on the question of the ordination of women are “causing considerable distraction” in the church, Wilson said he would not address that issue, but instead called for the movement to remain united.
“All of us need to show respect to each other,” he said. “We need to work together in unity and submission – submission to each other and to the Lord.”
Wilson noted that despite earnest appeals for unity from the worldwide church leadership – officers of the General Conference and 13 division presidents – several union conferences either have voted or are planning to vote actions contrary to policy established by the General Conference in Session. He said this goes against the counsel of Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Church, whom Adventists believe exercised the gift of prophecy during her ministry.
Wilson quoted White’s statement in Testimonies to the Church, Volume 9, pages 260-261: “But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered.”
He added that submission to the collective decisions of the world church is an essential part of living in unity. “We have a worldwide administration; we have working policies – agreements we abide by collectively to provide for a strong push for the mission of the church. When we don’t see unity in what we are doing, then we see a fractious and divided spirit,” Wilson said.
Mark Finley, a special assistant to Wilson and a longtime Seventh-day Adventist evangelist and broadcaster, added, “Unity comes as the church together in counsel mutually agrees, and as that mutual agreement takes place, and [we] put aside differences for what’s good for the church and the mission of the church.”
However, Wilson noted, unity does not mean cookie-cutter uniformity. “We do not have to do everything in lockstep when it comes to particular areas that may differ in certain particular situations or settings,” he said. “Unity helps us understand that definitely [in] the action of bringing us together with major doctrinal or Biblical themes, and the understanding that what I do may affect another part of the body.” Wilson urged that the entire world church needs to work together in items that are of great importance, including the subject under discussion.
The world church leader, who was elected to the position in 2010 at the General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia, concluded the interview with an appeal for unity: “We need to keep in mind the vision of who we are as a people. That God has called us to be His remnant church. He’s called us to be faithful to the Word of God. He’s called us to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14. … My appeal to the Church would be to keep that vision in mind. Look beyond just the challenges of that immediate crisis or situation.”
Following the interview, Wilson called attention to the practice of the apostolic church as described by Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White:
“The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted.
"God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." 1 Corinthians 14:33. He requires that order and system be observed in the conduct of church affairs today no less than in the days of old” (Acts of the Apostles, 95-96).