By AT News Team, updated July 21, 2015: At least two organizations from North America applied to have space in the exhibit hall in San Antonio during the General Conference (GC) Session and were turned down by the denomination’s North American Division (NAD). For one of these the NAD decision was overturned by someone in GC “administration,” sources have told Adventist Today.
The two applicants were web sites that advocate very conservative viewpoints on issues that were discussed at the GC Session: Advindicate.com and OrdinationTruth.com. The group whose request had been initially denied and then accepted was the Advindicate.com organization.
Advindicate publishes commentary that it describes as “a Christ-centered, Bible-based, Seventh-day Adventist perspective on current events and issues within the church.” It was launched in February 2012 because the founders felt that the Adventist Review is “incapable of dealing with controversial issues due to church-associated politics,” and Spectrum and Adventist Today are “antagonistic toward fundamental Adventist beliefs.” (Decidedly not true in the case of Adventist Today.)
The primary editors of Advindicate are a young couple who live in California, Shane and Mary Hilde. He has an English degree from La Sierra University and is a public high school teacher. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and works with international mission projects. The president of Advindicate is Gerry Wagoner, a roofing contractor who is an elder of the local Adventist church in Piqua, an outer suburb of Dayton, Ohio. He is an adult convert to the Adventist faith from a German Baptist background.
Advindicate is an independent ministry, a tax-exempt charity in the United States. It is most well known for launching attacks on La Sierra University for “teaching evolution,” a charge that was investigated at length by the NAD education department and the Adventist accrediting body. In general, the charge has proven groundless, although the resulting controversy did cost some university employees their jobs.
OrdinationTruth.com is a web site operated by the Council of Adventist Pastors, a private group that is not incorporated or otherwise structured, so far as Adventist Today could determine from public records. The web site states that it includes men “who cannot conscientiously support as an appropriate practice Women’s Ordination in the present situation.” It appears to advocate an approach along the lines of “male headship” theology and states that “the ordination of women to positions of primary spiritual leadership in the church is unbiblical.” A group of 56 Adventist ministers are listed as members of the group, including three widely visible advocates against women’s ordination; Pastor Doug Batchelor, a pastor in Sacramento, California, who also directs the Amazing Facts television ministry; Pastor Stephen Bohr, a pastor in Fresno, California; and Dr. Ingo Sorke, a theology professor at Southwestern Adventist University.
On May 29, 2015, a video was placed on YouTube on behalf of Advindicate. It stated: “Surprisingly, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists has denied Advindicate.com and OrdinationTruth.com ministries from booth access at the General Conference Session, 2015. Why? It seems as though it is because they stand for the already voted position of the world church.” A representative of Advindicate has told Adventist Today that the organization did not produce or upload the video.
The standard practice of the GC has been to require the approval of the division in which a prospective exhibitor is located. According to a source in the NAD staff, the original decision of NAD administration was made on the basis of the belief that the only reason that the two independent ministries wished to be exhibitors was to enable them to distribute materials advocating one side of the question before the delegates on ordaining women pastors. The initial NAD decision was not based on the fact they oppose women’s ordination. Rather, it was based on the understanding that they would be single-issue exhibitors.
The denomination has never had exhibitors at a GC Session who were there simply to advocate on behalf of an issue that the delegates were being asked to vote on. Traditionally, Adventists have had a consensus that “politics” should be kept out of GC Sessions.
According to David Read and Shane Hilde of Advindicate, no representative of their organization contacted any GC administrator requesting that the NAD decision be overturned. They said they did not know why GC “administration” directed the NAD to grant Advindicate exhibit space.
Advindicate was not included on the list of Exhibitors posted in the entrance to the exhibit hall, although its name did appear on the map of exhibitors on the GC Session website. This may indicate that the decision to give the organization exhibit space was made late in the process of preparing for the session.
An individual connected to the Advindicate video posted a comment on YouTube asking, “Why can’t Ted Wilson pull rank and say, ‘Give them booths’?” This could suggest one interpretation of what happened, at least in the case of Advindicate. Regardless of who made the decision or how it was arrived at, the precedent has been set that issue advocacy organizations can be exhibitors at GC sessions.