4 September 2019  |

At its June 16 constituency session, the membership delegates of the Dakota Conference took a stand against the GC-recommended wording for their constitution, passing changes to the constitution by a strong margin.

The constituency voted to strike the words, “all purposes and procedures of this conference shall be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the North American Division.” It adopted a line that said, “This conference shall pursue the mission of the church as stated in the 28 fundamental beliefs,” striking out the words “within the doctrinal guidelines adopted and approved by the General Conference in its quinquennial session.”

Though a few members have accused the Dakota Conference of exercising “kingly power” (a reference that Ellen White made to overreach by General Conference leaders) in making this recommendation, conference president Neil Biloff explained that “the goal of the adjustments are meant to give more voice to members in the Dakotas.”

In the Dakota Conferences newsletter, Biloff quotes Ellen White saying, “There should be no Jerusalem centers… for we are just as much under the control of God in one part of his vineyard as in another.” Her concern, says Biloff, was with whether the church would “have a protestant governing mindset or would it be more papal/hierarchical with all authority resting at the top?”

Dakota is only the latest in a series of conferences that have either rejected the top-down, GC-dominated model constitution, or refused to adopt it when it was pushed by the GC. The conference retained in its constitution the reference to the authority of the Mid-America Union Conference and the North American Division.

Though the union conference was for a long time argued to be dispensable, the last decade has seen a growing preference by NAD members for this to be a more authoritative level of governance. This was asserted most strongly when Pacific Union and Columbia Union constituency sessions voted to ordain women serving as pastors within their territories, against the direction of the General Conference.

The move has been labeled by critics as a move toward congregationalism.

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