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Letter to GNYC - August 2014 (Amend request I made in July )
Message to Henry Beras, Executive Secretary of Greater New York Conference
                                                                                                                Message # 21
 August  26, 2014
Dear Henry Beras:
   This is an important message because it amends the request I made to the Conference on July 19th and then directly to you on July 23, 2014.  What I first thought was easy now appears rather difficult in regards to Matthew 18 – I have sought advice from Amazing Facts, and from SSNET.org and other on-line Forums for Adventists and I am realizing that many Adventists don’t know if Matthew 18: 15-17 is for everyone or if it is only for Adventists. Therefore, I have decided to divide my original question and ask you to concentrate on the issue of OPEN Communion, and to ask that you seek clarification from the Atlantic Union Conference regarding Matthew 18.
Church officers and leaders, pastors and members should consult with their conference for advice pertaining to the operating of their congregation or on questions arising from the church Manual. If they do not reach mutual understanding, they should consult their union conference/mission for clarification.
Church Manual,  page 20
I believe that the Atlantic Union Conference can help you reach an answer to the question:
Does Matthew 18: 15-17 allow non-members to bring a grievance to the church for resolution or is Matthew 18: 15-17  for members of SDA church only?
This will postpone your decision on the tough Matthew 18 question, and give you time to concentrate on the question about Open Communion, however, I am amending that issue to include a suggested remedy as you will see below.
 My new request is based on this quote in the inspired writings of Ellen G. White about  'Christian Unity'  ( see http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/3463/  )  This letter will present two quotes from her message. The first one is . . .
Those who are appointed to guard the spiritual interests of the church should be careful to set a right example, giving no occasion for envy,  jealousy, or suspicion, ever manifesting that same spirit of love, respect, and courtesy which they desire to encourage in their brethren. Diligent heed should be given to the instructions of God's word. Let every manifestation of animosity or unkindness be checked; let every root of bitterness be removed. When trouble arises between brethren, the Saviour's rule should be strictly followed. All possible effort should be made to effect a reconciliation; but if the parties stubbornly persist in remaining at variance, they should be suspended till they can harmonize.
 Testimonies, Vol. 5,  page 241, paragraph 2
Who is EGW writing to when she says, “Those who are appointed to guard the spiritual interests of the church. . .”?  You may be uncomfortable if I say this is written for your benefit or that the appointed guardian is local conference administration, so, lets look elsewhere. We could view this EGW quotation about how to set a right example as addressing the Elders and leaders of the local church as the appointed guardians, and apply this quote to the situation at Ridgewood Church and see if it fits. Remember that these inspired 'Testimonies for the Church' are God's gift to provide wisdom and counsel that will help the church to avoid problems like variance in the practice of Open Communion; and solve problems like, is Matthew 18 only for Adventists; which are the two issues I brought to your attention on July 23rd .
 So the first question is: Have the Elders of Ridgewood church been careful to set the right example ?
The best example to look at is the example that Christ gives to us. There are several examples given to us in the communion service which celebrates the Last Supper described in John, Chapter 13. There is the example of humility found in the foot washing service, and the example of who should be served is found when Christ “set the right example” when he served Judas at the original Lord’s supper.  He knew what Judas was about to do (see John 13: 21 to 27).   The Bread is the emblem of Christ’s body, the wine is the emblem of his blood, and the person serving these things are more than servants of Christ they are emblems of Christ also. They should be “manifesting that same spirit of love, respect and courtesy to the person wanting to receive communion.  
When Elder _____ decided not to serve me communion, there was a reason, if he was manifesting animosity or unkindness” then it should be checked, if it was bitterness, then it should be removed.  The reason he gave, that I was not a member; was not the real reason, because he served other non-members that day and at other times. But this is the reason he gave and a second elder said that Communion is only for members.
 In the book, “Seventh-day Adventists believe . . .” published by the General Conference Ministerial Association, we find “The Lord’s Supper” is a fundamental belief. Chapter 15 of this book has ten pages devoted to The Lord’s Supper, I will only quote from page 203. “Christ, our example, rejected exclusiveness at the Supper. Though open sin excludes persons from participating (1 Cor. 5:11), Jesus Himself shared the meal with Judas – outwardly a professed follower, inwardly a thief and a traitor.  What marks who are qualified to participate in the Communion Service then, is the condition of the heart – a full commitment to Christ and faith in His sacrifice, not  membership  in  any  particular church . . .”
 I believe that Christ was grieved when Elder _____  decided not to serve me the bread and caused his serving partner not to serve me the wine. I was grieved by this also, and what does the quote say when trouble arises . . .
“. . . When trouble arises between brethren, the Saviour's rule should be strictly followed. All possible effort should be made to effect a reconciliation; but if the parties stubbornly persist in remaining at variance, they should be suspended till they can harmonize.”
Testimonies, Vol. 5,  page 241, paragraph 2
Three Elders at Ridgewood Church say that I have no standing, because I am not part of the “brethren” - but I claim that because Communion is open to any follower of Christ who wants to partake, that I actually become part of the brethren during the communion service; and therefore any trouble that arises at the communion service allows me to ask for “the Saviour’s rule to be strictly followed.” Of course, we are talking about Matthew 18 which is how to deal with trouble between brethren. But this time I am not asking you to decide if a non member can bring a grievance to the church, I am applying this only to the communion service, which is open to all Christians. You can’t throw Matthew 18 out totally, because it is clear this applies to resolution of grievances, it just shifts the question to the meaning of “brethren” at the communion service.  This is a specific circumstance and although this is unusual that a non-member would do what I did, however, I am a disciple of Christ and as a follower the Fundamental Belief in open Communion gives me the right to participate with the brethren. The Lord’s Supper is a Fundamental Belief of the church and this gives more references to draw from like “Christ, our example, rejected exclusiveness at the Supper.” and other statements which I can add later to help you realize this point.
We read that “all possible effort should be made to effect a reconciliation”  and this is in harmony with the Church Canual, page 59, but if the parties “stubbornly persist in remaining at variance”  what is the inspired counsel to the church, it is to suspend the person until he can harmonize.  The variance I bring to you is that a ‘server of communion’ at Ridgewood Church does not practice open communion, and this variance seems to be condoned by local church leadership.  Elder ______ told me that Communion is for members only and he stubbornly persisted in refusing to talk to me when I tried to show him his error. Elder _______ (different elder) told me that Communion is for members only and there was a witness present who heard this. I am not asking that both Elders be suspended from serving communion, only the one who actually intentionally withheld Communion from me. I hope that he will quickly come into harmony with church policy. Therefore, I have decided to amend my request to make it easier to resolve. 
  I am asking the conference for a statement about open Communion and to recommend a remedy to the local church. The remedy I ask for is a recommendation to Ridgewood Church to relieve Elder _________ of his duties to serve communion until he acknowledges that the SDA church practices OPEN communion and he is willing to serve communion in accordance with the church Fundamental Belief that communion is open to Christians.  This would resolve the first issue, but the next issue involves the reason why he withheld communion to me, this exposes a more serious problem at Ridgewood Church.
 On July 23rd I requested a statement from you about Matthew 18 which would correct Elder _______  and Elder __________ who say Matthew 18 is only available to members of the Adventist church. I understand this is a difficult question so I am now asking you to request clarification from the Atlantic Union conference. I am asking you to concentrate on the issue of Communion at this time and to send a request for clarification to the Union Conference which will help you to reach a decision.
  I believe the issue of who can be served communion is more important for Ridgewood Church to resolve quickly because it will grieve Christ further if this variance with a church Fundamental Belief is allowed to continue at another communion service. These three elders are setting a wrong example and this is a considered a great sin . . .
“. . . Whoever by willful deception or by a wrong example misleads a disciple of Christ is guilty of a great sin.  Whoever would make him an object of slander or ridicule is insulting Jesus. Our Saviour marks every wrong done to his followers.”
Testimonies, Volume 5,  page 244,  par. 3 
Notice the words 'disciple' and ‘followers’ are used and the elders claim it should be ‘members only’ - but EGW wrote in English, there is no possibility for an error in translation.
At the next communion service, more people can be grieved by this variance with church policy and I may experience a repeat of what happened on July 19th – Please concentrate on the Communion issue and let the Union Conference clarify Matthew 18 and offer you assistance on this question which seems to have stumped you for the last month.
 My request regarding the communion issue is based on ( 5T, 241 ) quoted on the first page, and I can supply additional support if you agree to consider my proposed two part solution. It is now over a month since you acknowledged that you received my message about the incident at Ridgewood Church, and it is 21 days after the date you gave me that you would deal with it. I would like you to do the same with this message, please acknowledge receipt of his message and state your intention to consider the amended request.
  I have withheld bringing this request to Ridgewood church leaders hoping that you would make some statement that can help resolve this, in fact, I have stopped attending worship services at Ridgewood Church (July 19th was the last service I attended) and minimize the chances of an escalation of the grievance.
I also delayed the remedy portion of this request in my first message because I believe that this will escalate the problem and I am trying to resolve it. However, if escalation is necessary to get a response from you, then so be it. I believe his new request is in harmony with the inspired counsel quoted from the testimonies about  'Christian Unity' ( see http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/3463/ ).  I prefer to hear from you rather than for me to go to Ridgewood Church again without some statement from you which will help us to more toward resolution. I also want to see if you are willing to let the Union Conference get involved and help you with the Matthew 18 issue.
So I am expecting to hear from you soon.
In God We Trust
Return to Message to Carlyle Simmons - August 17, 2014