by Jack Hoehn

ADVENTIST HEALTH
MEDICAL GROUP
1111 South Second Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362

John B. Hoehn, M.D.
August 8, 2012

Ted Wilson
President
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904

Dear Brother Ted,

I don’t live in the Columbia Union, but as an informed church member1 in North America, I must share with you my objections to the tone and substance of the statement recently issued to that union reproduced on the Review website.2

I find the tone and assumptions of that document dangerous and discouraging for the following reasons:

1.)  Although the first paragraph correctly asserts that “disagreement…is neither fatal nor schismatic” your document proceeds to draw a line in the sand that makes it both dangerous and schismatic. 
a. The document appears to mistake uniformity for unity?   What the Columbia Union churches must do under God is no threat to unity, except if you are demanding uniformity.  
 
2.)  You and your fellow executive officers are not “senior leaders of the world wide church”.    We do have a Leader.  You dear brothers and sisters are undoubtedly chief servants of the world wide church.  Servants do not dictate to those they serve.  They do not “exercise authority” over them.3
a. None of you officers were chosen directly by God’s command.  You were voted in after prayer by us because of your administrative gifts by individual impressions made on our hearts.
b. Is this not exactly how the long prayed-for decision to ordain women as equal with men in the Columbia Union was made? 
c.  Would you ask us to believe that the Holy Spirit only worked to have us appoint you to your jobs, but not to also impel us to move forward with gender equality in Christ? 
d. If James and the churches in Jerusalem were not yet ready to freely give the gospel to Gentiles, did not Paul and the church in Antioch first get moved by the Holy Spirit to “open up that door”4?  Isn’t this the way God has always acted, moving where He is permitted to advance by the willingness of His people?  He taught righteousness by faith first in Bohemia, before it was later accepted in Germany, and then Switzerland.
 
3.) Given the choice between a serious threat to the legal and moral health of the churches in the Columbia Union, and obedience to a flawed decision to perpetuate gender discrimination in ministry by churches outside of North America; obviously Acts 5:295 trumps a demand for uniformity.

4.) The charge that obedience to the Holy Spirit’s promptings by the delegates of the Columbia Union is a “threat to church unity”, and that your officers will “determine how to respond” feels threatening itself.  May I suggest that you administrators  consider noting the action with  approval or disapproval, but recognizing the right of the church in session in every country to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit on debatable matters of practice, not central to the faith.
 

I do not expect to change your mind by my letter, but I do thank you for noting it.

Lines drawn in sand shift and the winds of time will surely blow them quite away.

Galatians 3:286 however will never blow away.

Sincerely yours,

Jack Hoehn
CC:7

Dan Jackson, NAD  Janet.Aldea@nad.adventist.org
D. Weigley, CU dweigley@columbiaunion.net
Ricardo Graham, PU rgraham@puconline.org
Max Torkelsen, NPU  max.torkelsen@nw.npuc.org
Bob Folkenberg, UCC  BobF@uccsda.org

1Lifelong member, entirely church school educated till graduate school, ordained church elder, four term foreign missionary,  I have attended several GC sessions since 1954 in my childhood that I remember as being in the “Cow Palace” in San Francisco and hearing Elder Branson’s Parkinson’s tremor voice at his retirement sermon.  I and my wife have been delegates to several General Conference sessions.
2 https://www.adventistreview.org/article/5593/archives/issue-2012-1521/21-cn-oneness-in-christ-news-story
3 Matthew 20: 25,26  “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their ‘great men’ exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you…”
4Acts 14:27  “…they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentile.”
5Acts 5:29.  “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
6Galatians 3:28.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
7This is a public, not a private letter and may be freely shared.