General Conference Working Policy Questions and Answers

Q: Is a Church division free to pursue a course of action contrary to the will of the whole?

“It is ever to be held in mind that each division is a part of the General Conference. In the church of Christ, which is His body, there can be no such thing as one part or member independent of the whole. No division, therefore, is free to pursue a course of action contrary to the will of the whole, or to appropriate to itself the authority of the General Conference in defense of such action. Between sessions of the General Conference, the General Conference Executive Committee is constitutionally the final authority throughout the world field” (B 40 20 Divisions a Part of General Conference—GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 80).

Q: By what sacred qualifications may each local conference / mission, union conference / mission maintain organizational status?

“Organizational status is granted to a constituency as a trust. Official recognition as a local church, local conference / mission, or union conference / mission is not self-generated, automatic, or perpetual. It is the result of a formal decision by an executive committee or a constituency session at higher levels of denominational organization. Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it” (B 05 Organizational and Operational Principles of Seventh-day Adventist Church Structure – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 64).

Q: For what cause shall the General Conference Executive Committee have power to remove officers, directors, and associate directors of departments / associations / services and committee members, and to fill any vacancies?

“The General Conference Executive Committee shall have power to elect or remove, for cause, officers, directors, and associate directors of departments / associations / services and committee members, and to fill for the current term any vacancies that may occur in its offices, boards, committees, or agents due to death, resignation, or other reasons. The phrase “for cause,” when used in connection with removal from an elected or appointed position, shall include but not be limited to 1) incompetence; 2) persistent failure to cooperate with duly constituted authority in substantive matters and with relevant employment and denominational policies; 3) actions which may be the subject of discipline under the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual; or 4) failure to maintain regular standing as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (Constitution and Bylaws of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Article XIII—General Conference Executive Committee, GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 33).

Q: What documents present the collective voice of Seventh-day Adventists regarding beliefs, denominational structure, relationships, and operational procedures to all levels of denominational organization?

“The local church is indeed a genuine expression of the Seventh-day Adventist Church but its identity cannot be fully defined or viewed in isolation from its relationships with other local churches and other levels of denominational organization. The local and global elements of Seventh-day Adventist identity are expressed in documents such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy that reflect aspects of self-governance and interrelationship. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy present the collective voice of Seventh-day Adventists regarding beliefs, denominational structure, relationships, and operational procedures” (B 05 Organizational and Operational Principles of Seventh-day Adventist Church Structure – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 65).

Q: What committee is to act for the General Conference Executive Committee in the territory of each division?

“To facilitate its worldwide activity, the General Conference has established regional offices, known as divisions of the General Conference, which have been assigned, by action of the General Conference Executive Committee at Annual Councils, general administrative and supervisory responsibilities for designated groups of unions and other church units within specific geographic areas. (See C 05, Division Territories. The division executive committee acts for the General Conference Executive Committee in the territory of the respective division.)” (B 10 20 General Conference – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 68).

Q: What is to be recognized as the highest authority of the Seventh-day Adventist Church under God, by every church organization and institution throughout the world?

“All organizations and institutions throughout the world will recognize the authority of the General Conference Session as the highest authority of the Seventh-day Adventist Church under God. When differences arise in or between organizations and institutions on matters not already addressed in the Constitution and Bylaws, in the General Conference Working Policy, or in the General Conference Executive Committee actions at an Annual Council, it is proper to appeal to the next higher organization not directly involved in the matter” (B 10 22 General Conference Authority and Settlement of Differences Between Organizations – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 70).

Q: By accepting the privilege and responsibility of representing the Church in its part of the world, how are local churches, local conferences / missions / regions / field stations, union conferences / missions, unions of churches, and institutions required to operate and minister?

“Local churches, local conferences / missions / regions / field stations, union conferences / missions, unions of churches, and institutions are, by vote of the appropriate constituency, and by actions of properly authorized executive committees, a part of the worldwide organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Whereas each has accepted the privilege and responsibility of representing the Church in its part of the world, each is therefore required to operate and minister in harmony with the teachings and policies of the Church, and the actions of the world Church in the General Conference Executive Committee or in General Conference Session. While individual units of the Church are given freedom to function in ways appropriate to their role and culture, no part of the worldwide organization of the Church has a unilateral right to secede” (B 10 25 Structural Stability – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 70).

Q: Does any part of the worldwide organization of the Church have a unilateral right to separate from the Church?

“While individual units of the Church are given freedom to function in ways appropriate to their role and culture, no part of the worldwide organization of the Church has a unilateral right to secede” (B 10 25 Structural Stability – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 70).

Q: If an organization refuses to operate in harmony with denominational policies and constitutional requirements, what is the responsibility of the higher organization?

“If a situation arises where it is determined by the higher organization that the majority of members of a conference, a mission, a region, a field station, a union, or a union of churches are in apostasy, or that the organization refuses to operate in harmony with denominational policies and constitutional requirements, and is in rebellion, the higher organization has a responsibility to act for the protection of its loyal members, and the good name of the Church. Every effort should be made to avert the need for dissolution by counseling with the leadership and members, seeking to bring healing and reconciliation, and to preserve the organization as a witness for God and His saving truth. If conciliatory efforts fail and discontinuation appears to be the only solution, the higher organization shall have authority to act as set out under B 95 10 and B 95 15” (B 95 05 Discontinuation of Conferences, Missions, Regions, Field Stations, Unions, and Unions of Churches by Dissolution and / or Expulsion – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 110).

Q: If an organization continues to refuse to operate in harmony with denominational policies and constitutional requirements, what further steps shall the higher organization take?

“If, in the opinion of a division administration, a union / union of churches appears to be in apostasy or rebellion, and the procedures outlined in B 95 05 have been followed, but have proved unsuccessful, the following steps shall be taken:

1. The matter shall be considered by the division executive committee at a duly called meeting of the committee, at which time all the relevant data shall be shared. The division executive committee shall then determine whether or not the union / union of churches is in apostasy or rebellion.
2. a. In the case of a union mission / union of churches with mission status: If the division executive committee determines that a union mission / union of churches with mission status is in apostasy or rebellion and should be dissolved, it shall take an action to dissolve the organization, and shall recommend to the General Conference Executive Committee the expulsion of the unit from the world sisterhood of unions.
b. In the case of a union conference / union of churches with conference status: If the division executive committee determines that a union conference / union of churches with conference status is in apostasy or rebellion and should be expelled from the world sisterhood of unions, the division shall refer the matter to the General Conference Executive Committee with the recommendation for expulsion from the world sisterhood of unions and the reasons for it.
3. The General Conference Executive Committee, in consultation with the division, shall use its discretion to decide whether another union conference constituency meeting should be called and, if so, at what point in the procedure.
4. The General Conference Executive Committee shall consider the recommendation of the division executive committee at its Spring Meeting or Annual Council. If it approves the proposal for expulsion, the General Conference Executive Committee shall refer the recommendation to the next regular or specially called General Conference Session for consideration.
5. If a General Conference Session concurs with a recommendation to expel and votes to expel a union from the world sisterhood of unions, the division shall exercise direct responsibility for the conferences and / or missions / regions / field stations affected by the expulsion and shall, through its executive committee, take an action to attach them directly to the division until a new organization can be established or a rearrangement of territorial boundaries effected. Disloyal conferences / missions / regions / field stations shall be dealt with in harmony with the principles set out under B 75 10. In the event that a union of churches is expelled from the sisterhood of unions, the division executive committee shall vote to take into the care of the division all churches of the union of churches until
reorganization or a redistribution of boundaries can be arranged. The division executive committee, functioning in place of the expelled union of churches constituency, shall have authority to disband any local churches which prove to be disloyal and to redistribute remaining churches by territorial adjustment and / or reorganization.
6. In the event of the dissolution of a union mission / union of churches with mission status and / or the expulsion of a union / union of churches with conference status from the sisterhood of unions, audits of the financial records of the union conference / union mission shall be conducted. All assets remaining after all claims have been satisfied shall be transferred to a legal entity authorized by the division, or dealt with as specified in the expelled entity’s constitution and bylaws or operating
policy.
7. If, with the passage of time and efforts toward healing and restoration, it seems desirable for the nurture of the members and for the mission of the Church to reorganize the union / union of churches, the process outlined under the relevant section of B 65 shall be followed” (B 95 15 Dissolution and / or Expulsion of Unions / Unions of Churches – Organization and Administration GC Working Policy 2016-2017 p. 112).”