Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, addresses delegates at the special session of the Pacific Union Conference, August 19, 2012.
To the constituents of the Pacific Union Conference,
I spent the hours of the Sabbath in Visalia. I went there ignorant and I came away praising God. I was at the IShare Convention and to be honest I was “blown away” by what I experienced. As testimony after testimony was given as to the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of many individuals I carefully studied the reactions of the young people in the audience. I watched our youth sitting on the edge of their chairs in eager anticipation. I actually saw several react to these “salvation stories’” like someone had just scored a touchdown or had won an Olympic gold medal. I have never been in such a place before. I pray that the fire that I saw burning yesterday will explode throughout our Division. And I say all of this in order to praise God for the leadership, the membership and the youth of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
God, through my church has invested a lot in me and I praise Him for that. As a leader in the church many have called me, emailed me and written me – from both sides of the discussion – and have called upon me to make my position clear and thereby to influence the decision of the “Body.”
1) In response to the desire for me to direct this discussion allow me to say that in matters of conscience it is not the right of one man to direct another. To do so is based upon a pre-supposition that the one receiving the direction does not have either the potential or the ability to listen for, to hear or to implement the direction of the Holy Spirit. To give counsel, to focus attention to the Scriptures, to challenge assumptions and to explain pertinent facts and/or policies is the core responsibility that we as NAD administrators share with our General Conference colleagues – and we have the right and responsibility to do that.
2) Secondly, from my perspective, leadership involves more than just clarifying one’s position – even in a crisis. Mediation of the truth is often as important as the truth itself.
3) Thirdly, and as already stated, the North American Division officers are here this afternoon as counselors. The initiative that you have undertaken is the property of the Pacific Union and its’ constituency – even though the impact of any actions that you take this afternoon will be felt throughout the North American Division as well as throughout the Seventh-day Adventist world. And while it is an honor for us to be here with all of you and to openly acknowledge our commitment to you and to affirm that you are a significant and cherished part of the North American Division family the fact is that you are only a part of the family and we are privileged to represent ALL of the family regardless of their stance on a wide range of issues.
Having said all of that I believe that it is only fair and honest that I respond to the many requests being made and to share my thinking on the matter at hand and the situation that we are now encountering in the church. Recognizing the power of words to influence I humbly submit this statement – not to direct you – but rather to share my own journey as I stand here this afternoon.
There are two intensely competitive values/understandings that are influencing me. I believe that both have foundations in the Scripture. They are both very dear to me.
1) I have believed since the mid-1980’s that the church needs to fully recognize the contribution that women have made, are making and will make in the future to the missional objectives and ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This acknowledgement should come as a simple recognition of the “gifting of the Holy Spirit” in the life and ministry.
2) I have believed for well over forty years in the reality that God Himself called the Seventh-day Adventist Church into existence. That our church has emerged out of the scriptures and is a sacred institution. To destroy it or to damage it is a major problem.
The Church is the creation of God. He gave birth to it through Jesus, gave His life to save it, appointed it to demonstrate His grace through actions and proclamation, and intends to redeem it at the end of the age. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear when he says:
“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, Who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:8–11
The church is God’s possession. Therefore, it is not ours to use as we would use our vehicle or our house. Being a member of the church, It is not like belonging to the condominium association. It is not ours to modify – without regard to the Holy Spirit or one another – because we think this way or that --- nor is it ours to maintain – without regard to the Holy Spirit or one another – just because we have done things in the same way for 149 years. It is God’s Church and it is precious to Him. He calls it “…the apple of His eye.” Zechariah 2:8
Only one man, whose term transcends all of the elections of men - who will be forever identified with humanity throughout all eternity – is the head of the Church. I am speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ. He thought enough of the Church to lay His life down on the altar of sacrifice – before men and women who hated Him – in order to establish it as an agency of His grace.
Furthermore, according to the New Testament model the Holy Spirit is to be the chief administrator of all of the actions of the Church. When we fail to recognize this or when we minimize this Biblical statement we are blaspheming just as though we were cursing God. Failure to respond and submit to the counsel and the authority of the Holy Spirit is blindness and has dire consequences according to the Scriptures. Through that same Spirit we have been informed that, “all things are to be done decently and in order.” So the church creates policies which are, in effect, the agreements we make with each other as to how we will work with one another. However, we must insure that all policy is guided by that Unseen Influence for the advancement of God’s mission on earth. For a world organization this is a significant challenge and requires patience as well as care.
To rip and to tear away at the fabric of the church; that is, “to tear at the reputation and character of fellow believers - is an insult to God and to His Church. Paul says: “you are God’s field – God’s building.” 1Corinthians 3:9. He furthermore says:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred and you together are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17
So regardless of the theological, ecclesiastical or philosophical position you and I may hold in this current issue or on any other issue for that matter – tearing at one another is an insult to God and His church. It is not just a matter of being polite and kind it is a matter of holding the present and the future of the church in our hands. God has placed it there – WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH IT?
If you and I are not willing to give our life for the church this afternoon then we should not be here. If you and I cannot look at everyone in this room as brother or sister, as annoying as we are to one another at times, then we should just quietly get up from our seats and leave because we have no business doing the business of God’s Holy temple if we have “attitude” toward one another. This is true for ALL OF US not just for those who disagree with our position. This is God’s Church – it has emerged right out of the pages of Scripture. Let us treat it as Jesus did!
I want to remind us all of two final inspired statements that are significant to our discussion this afternoon:
“Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.” Acts of the Apostles
We need His transforming power here this afternoon so that He may demonstrate through every person here what the ‘theatre of grace’ looks light. Let us hold ourselves to that high standard.
“The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God's plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency.” Acts of the Apostles
Let us never forget that regardless of the outcome of this afternoon’s discussions our primary purpose as a church is to reach out to one another and to our world with redemptive actions and words. In all that we do we must reflect God’s fullness and God’s sufficiency.