by Monte Sahlin

By AT News Team, June 2, 2014

Three potentially controversial resolutions were on the agenda for the delegates to the May 18 constituency session of the Northern California Conference (NCC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. To the surprise of some, the delegates voted not to consider the proposed resolutions, referring the agenda items to the conference executive committee for possible study, reported local newspapers.

The three proposed resolutions were on topics currently being discussed by Adventists around the world: evolution, sexuality and whether clergy ordination should be extended to women employed as pastors as it has been in China, two union conferences in North America and a number of places in Europe. The proposed texts were distributed to delegates in advance in a package of constituency meeting reports and materials.

The proposed resolution on evolution stated that the NCC would "register strong disapproval of any employee, ministry or institution supported by its tithes and/or offerings which (1) does not teach, promote and full support the official [denominational] belief in creation; and (2) promotes the Darwinian model of natural origins (in theistic or other evolutionary theories) as a factual explanation for the origin of the natural world."

The proposed resolution on sexuality focused on homosexuality, suggesting that delegates "register unqualified disapproval of any employee, ministry or institution … (1) which favors, endorses or suggests the acceptance into church membership or employment individuals engaged in homosexual practice; and (2) fails to actively seek to restore [such] individuals to transformed, victorious lives according to God's original design." There was no definition of this final phrase, although it evidently was intend to mean celibacy on the part of church members with an LGBTI identity.

The proposed resolution on ordination directed the NCC to "refrain from pastoral ordination … without respect to gender … until such time as the Delegates of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists … approve a bylaw, policy, rule or regulation which allows for such ordination." In other words, discrimination against women serving in pastoral ministry would have to be maintained.

All three proposals were submitted by Pastor Larre Kostenko on behalf of three local churches in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range north of Sacramento. The Oroville Church has 268 members. The Brownsville Church has 100 members. The Golden Feather Church in Yankee Hill has 57 members. Kostenko is currently listed as the pastor of two of these churches and the third has no pastor currently named.

The meeting was uneventful. Pastor Jim Pedersen, who has served as conference president for four years was re-elected "virtually unanimously," according to local newspapers. This will be his third two-year term in office. The proposed resolutions were quickly disposed of without debate.

The NCC is one of four conferences in the U.S. State of California. It includes 140 congregations with a total of more than 40,000 members in 30 counties north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

"There are undoubtedly others who want denominational units to take a strong position on these issues," a retired church administrator told Adventist Today. "This event makes it clear that a strong majority of the pastors and the lay leaders in local churches are not interested in this kind of controversy because the conflict results in members dropping out, reducing their involvement and support, and the younger generations being turned off about Adventist faith in general."