STEPS OF ACCOUNTABILITY
What You Can Do
Steps of Accountability
Accountability. This is how we protect our church from worldliness creeping in. This is how we prevent people from walking out the back door because they were mistreated and no one did anything about it. This is how we bring the scores of people back to the church who have left by making our church a safe environment for everyone.
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Ecclesiastes 8:11
Perhaps you see your pastor or other church leaders being unfaithful and you have talked with them about your concerns, only to be dismissed. Instead of you leaving, they need your accountability.
These steps of accountability are in harmony with the Seventh-day Adventist GC Working Policy. (If anyone sees anything incorrect according to GC Working Policy, please notify us on the Contact form with the correct supporting documentation proving otherwise.) It would be beneficial for every church member to have a copy of the GC Working Policy that we may all understand how our church works. By calling the GC at 301-680-6000 and asking to be transferred to the office of the Secretariat, you can request your own copy of the GC Working Policy in pdf format which can be emailed to you.
If it is a personal offense:
- Pray for your heart and the heart of the offender.
- Follow Matthew 18, going to the offender by yourself and with a spirit and voice of Christian love and kindness, tell the person what they have done. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” Matthew 18:15.
- If they will not hear you, go to them again with one or two other church members. “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” Matthew 18:16.
- If they still will not hear you, bring the matter before the church. “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” Matthew 18:17. How do you appropriately bring it before the church? This does NOT mean a board meeting. It must be a business meeting. (See the SDA Church Manual, p. 57) How does a church member call for a business meeting? Request a business meeting from the pastor, elders or board.
- If the pastor, elders, and board refuse a business meeting, then request the ministerial director and/or president of the conference to call a church business meeting.
- If the issue is not resolved in the business meeting, then request further action from the conference. (See the next steps for this process.)
If it is a corporate/church issue:
A corporate/church issue is one that affects the prosperity of the whole church and will involve church leadership at some level. The church manual addresses church member discipline operating with the assumption that the leadership is a faithful leadership. But what do you do if the pastor and/or church leadership is being unfaithful to our church beliefs/positions and therefore the Bible? The following steps are guidelines on how to provide accountability in this situation in accordance with the principles of Matthew 18 and regarding public sin, 1 Timothy 5:20, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
- Talk to the pastor.
- If the issue does not get resolved, put it in writing to the pastor in order to have a record.
- If it does not get resolved, take it to the head elder and express your concerns.
- If the head elder does not or cannot bring resolution to the issue, ask the head elder to take it to the church board.
- If it does not get resolved with the church board, write to your conference president, copying the executive secretary and treasurer of the conference. (If it’s only personal between you and pastor, then write to ministerial director/secretary.) Several important points on this: a.) It’s important to have it dated and in writing so that there is a record of exactly what has happened. b.) When writing to the conference, make a specific request with a specific date (one month is fair). For example, “We request this (specific issue) be addressed by the conference by (date) and if it is not, we will bring it to the union.” Respectfully request for the president to take the issue to his executive committee at his next meeting. (In issues of church discipline, ask that the local conference request the local church to apply appropriate disciplinary action and explain why according to the offender’s actions, citing the SDA Church Manual. Only the local church can add or drop members, so ultimately the local church needs to be the one receiving such a request.)
- If the conference does not resolve the issue, write to the three executive union officers: the president, executive secretary, and treasurer. Outline all the steps that have been done with the responses. You can say something such as, “Since this matter has still not been resolved, we are bringing this matter to your attention, asking that you would please intervene. The church manual is not being followed and we are asking that you will ask this local church to apply (appropriate disciplinary action). We request this be addressed by (date), and if it is not, we will bring it to the division.”
- If the union does not resolve the issue, write to the three executive division officers: the president, executive secretary, and treasurer. Repeat all of the history and your request for the division. (Request for the division to request for the union to request for the conference to request for the local church to take the specific requested action. Include that if there is no response within one month, we will be writing to the General Conference.)
- If the division does not resolve the issue, repeat the process with the three executive general conference officers: the president, executive secretary, and treasurer. Repeat all of the history including dates, and make your specific request for the General Conference.
- You truly love all of those involved and desire their good.
- Always speak and act with all Christian courtesy, tact and humility.
- All of these steps should be done in writing to have a record.
- How to write an effective letter? It should be brief and respectful. Identify the facts. Make sure there is no speculation and no judgment. Make a specific request. What do you want to happen? Refer to the SDA Church Manual for what an appropriate course of action should be in your request. We encourage you to download the church manual here. It is a wonderful resource. Click here for a sample letter to give you an idea of what is appropriate.
- Follow all of these steps in their respective order. Otherwise, it makes it more difficult and time consuming to resolve.
- If the issue is at a union level or division level, that is where you would begin to resolve it. For example, if you are concerned about the actions of a division president, the next level to take the issue to would be the General Conference leadership and the Executive Committee. This is the case in the current issue of Church Unity and Women's Ordination.
What Happens When This Process is Broken?
It’s clear after this past 2017 Fall Annual Council that the accountability system in our church is broken. It seems like the few faithful leaders we have are trying to provide Biblical accountability to bring our church into unity and faithfulness, however, they are outnumbered in committees by those who would rather choose to rebel. So what do we do when this process of accountability is broken?
We as lay persons need to vote new leadership.
“If, after being tried, men prove to be failures, let them be relieved, and others chosen in their place, not ministers only, but men who can give counsel, and devise plans and methods which will be for the advancement of the work of God.” Lt88-1896
Our church is not set up as a monarchy or dictatorship (and thankfully so). Elder Wilson was right when he said in Annual Council that the General Conference cannot remove union officers and conference officers. If a union is out of compliance, the General Conference can request for the union constituency (a body delegates voted by the churches in a union) to remove the union officers who are out of compliance. If the union constituency does not do so, the entire union is declaring itself to be out of compliance and therefore can be disbanded by the GC. But that of course would be an extremely difficult and painful thing to do. Hence, that option has been labeled the “nuclear” option.
So really there are only two options of how to deal with unfaithful union and conference leaders because of the way we are organized as a church. Union/conference officers can only be removed either by:
1.) Union/conference constituency
2.) GC leadership by disbanding the entire union since the union’s constituency is supporting the rebellious acts of its leadership (the “nuclear” option)
So if we don’t want our unions to be disbanded, or we don’t want to see our unions continue in rebellion, we must take responsibility for allowing these persons to get into these positions in the first place and vote in new union and conference leaders.
To do that, we must eagerly volunteer to fill delegate positions in the conference and union constituency meetings. And then, we as faithful delegates must speak up at those meetings and vote in unity with the other faithful in attendance.
Something that sadly often happens in these meetings is that people who know parliamentarian procedures will pull political, unfair moves which silences an important discussion or vote.
This happened at this last 2017 North American Division year end meeting when a young man Daniel Cho put forth a motion to bring the NAD into compliance with the 2015 world church decision on women’s ordination. While calling the attendees to small group prayer, Dan Jackson, the chair, and three GC officers instead had a whispered conversation. Then one of the GC executive officers, Juan Prestol-Puesân, made an illegal motion to table Daniel Cho’s motion. The chair, Dan Jackson, illegally accepted the motion. No discussion was allowed. Juan Prestol-Puesân’s illegal motion passed. (To “table” cannot be used to drop or suppress a motion. The proper motion would have been to “postpone indefinitely.” General Conference Rules of Order, p. 7, cf. p. 3 But postpone indefinitely requires debate. No debate was desired. Karnik Doukmetzian was one of the three GC officers who colluded together and he is actually serving as the GC and NAD Legal Counsel. Very sad.)
To prevent this from happening, we should become familiar the General Conference Rules of Order. It’s only 12 pages long and not complicated. You can read and download the General Conference Rules of Order here. Learn these rules as well as you can and bring a copy with you to all constituency meetings you attend. In meetings such as these, if something is done that violates the General Conference Rules of Order, any delegate can go to the microphone and call “Point of Order” and state why. This will prevent illegal moves such as these from being carried through.