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Article for publication on LINKEDin - Nov. 2014
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Resolution of Grievances in the SDA Church:  
 
What happens next after the Biblical process in Matthew 18 fails and a
flaw in the Church Manual  causes confusion that can prevent resolution.
 Study based on The Desire of Ages, Chapter 48 –  
 
 
   Jesus Christ gave instructions for resolving personal grievances and disputes which are found in Matthew 18: 15 – 18.  Christ speaks to the grieved and gives them the work of restoring the one who trespassed against them. First they go to the one that offended them in a personal appeal, if that does not work, they are to go back with one or two witnesses and it that fails they are to bring the matter to the church.
 
 The SDA Church Manual adds a procedure to Matthew 18: 17 process; which gives the Church Board the responsibility of reviewing the case to determine if it should go the congregation (see Church Manual, page 64).
 
 This article will discuss what happens when the church fails to provide the process described in verse 17 ( “tell it to the church” ) we can find this on page 60.
 
“The church should use its readily accessible and reasonably prompt process by which many differences among members can be settled. Should the Church fail to respond to a request for help in reconciling a difference . . . it should be recognized that the member has exhausted the possibilities of the biblically outlined procedure for the settlement of differences and that what he/she should do beyond that point is a matter for his/her conscience. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 698)."
Church Manual,  page 60
  
 The Church Manual, page 60 says, “it should be recognized that the member has exhausted the possibilities of the biblically outlined procedure” and then it defines the point when it failed and says what comes beyond that point. The member is released to exercise his or her own conscience.  You may ask, released from what?  The restriction placed on the grieved party not to start a lawsuit or to speak about the grievance to others (non involved in the process); but to wait patiently for the recommendation of the church. The Church Manual says it this way.
 
“Members who demonstrate impatience and selfishness by their unwillingness to wait for and accept recommendations of the Church in the settlement of grievances against other members may properly be subject to the discipline of the Church (see page 58, 59) because of the disruptive effect on the Church and their refusal to recognize properly constituted Church authority.”
Church Manual,  page 60, 61
 
 
When the Church Board or a member of the board decides for them, that the process described in verse 17 will not continue, “it should be recognized that the member has exhausted the Biblically outlined procedure” and understand what does it mean to cause the process to fail.
 
This could be complicated when the Church Board is the offending party, and in effect they would be giving the grieved member permission to sue them, but lets put this complication aside and look at five paragraphs in Desire of Ages, Chapter 48.  ( the words of Christ appear in Red letters ) . . .
 
  If one of these little ones shall be overcome, and commit a wrong against you, then it is your work to seek his restoration. Do not wait for him to make the first effort for reconciliation. "How think ye?" said Jesus; "if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."  {DA 440.2}
 
  In the spirit of meekness, "considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Galatians 6:1, go to the erring one, and "tell him his fault between thee and him alone." Do not put him to shame by exposing his fault to others, nor bring dishonor upon Christ by making public the sin or error of one who bears His name. Often the truth must be plainly spoken to the erring; he must be led to see his error, that he may reform. But you are not to judge or to condemn. Make no attempt at self-justification. Let all your effort be for his recovery. In treating the wounds of the soul, there is need of the most delicate touch, the finest sensibility. Only the love that flows from the Suffering One of Calvary can avail here. With pitying tenderness, let brother deal with brother, knowing that if you succeed, you will "save a soul from death," and "hide a multitude of sins." James 5: 20.  {DA 440.3}    
                                                                        Desire of Ages,  page 440, par. 2,3   
 
These two paragraphs establish that this as the work given to the grieved party and also set the stage for what follows. It talks about Matthew 18: 15 which is the one-on-one interview between the grieved party and the person who sinned against him. But this may fail . . .
 
 
But even this effort may be unavailing. Then, said Jesus, "take with thee one or two more." It may be that their united influence will prevail where that of the first was unsuccessful. Not being parties to the trouble, they will be more likely to act impartially, and this fact will give their counsel greater weight with the erring one. 
                                                                            Desire of Ages,  page 441, par. 1   
 
There is an interesting case that prompted this article, a Pastor told a member to stay away from his friend of many years. saying that, “he lies to you, he deceives you, and he uses you” - the grieved party was present when this was said and defended himself by saying to his friend "this is not true, these are false accusations." The grieved party asked the pastor to prove his statement because it can be described as slander. The Pastor refused to talk about it. Verse 15 failed.
 
Proverbs 6: 16-19 lists six things the Lord hates http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/3604/ and the seventh is an abomination to the Lord. The seventh is  “he that soweth discord among brethren.”  Which is what the pastor did.  A phone call to the pastor was able to arrange a meeting (verse 16) where the pastor would explain what he did mean to the parties involved and this step in the process required a witness. A minute before the meeting, the pastor changed his mind and canceled the meeting (verse 16 failed).
  
  If he will not hear them, then, and not till then, the matter is to be brought before the whole body of believers. Let the members of the church, as the representatives of Christ, unite in prayer and loving entreaty that the offender may be restored. The Holy Spirit will speak through His servants, pleading with the wanderer to return to God. Paul the apostle, speaking by inspiration, says, "As though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 2 Cor. 5:20. He who rejects this united overture has broken the tie that binds him to Christ, and thus has severed himself from the fellowship of the church. Henceforth, said Jesus, "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." But he is not to be regarded as cut off from the mercy of God. Let him not be despised or neglected by his former brethren, but be treated with tenderness and compassion, as one of the lost sheep that Christ is still seeking to bring to His fold.  {DA 441.2}
                                                                                   Desire of Ages,  page 441, par. 2

When the grieved party brought the matter to the church board, an Elder refused to consider it and the Pastor refuses to speak to the grieved party.  The grieved party is not an Adventist and he was told that Matthew 18 is for Adventists only and a non-member has no standing or right to bring a grievance to the church.
 
Here is where it gets interesting, the non-Adventist Christian asked the church board to follow the Church Manual and recognize what this means to cause the Biblical process to fail.
 
The church Manual has a section, ‘Reconciliation of Differences’ starting on page 59 which talks about avoiding civil litigation. “While there are, in the modern world, occasions for seeking decrees of civil courts, Christians should prefer settlement within the authority of the church . . .” The manual goes on to give examples of situations, (such as custody of minor children, estates, property boundaries) that are outside the jurisdiction of the church. Even the paragraph on “recognition” mentions this as reasons why the request can be denied. Lets look again at the paragraph.
 
 
“The church should use its readily accessible and reasonably prompt process by which many differences among members can be settled. Should the Church fail to respond to a request for help in reconciling a difference, or if the church acknowledges that the nature of the case is such that it is not within its authority, it should be recognized that the member has exhausted the possibilities of the biblically outlined procedure for the settlement of differences and that what he/she should do beyond that point is a matter for his/her conscience. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 698)."
Church Manual,  page 60
 
 
  There appears to be something missing in the Church Manual. We see what comes next when a member brings a grievance to the Church Board and asks the church to follow Matthew 18: 17 – but there is nothing to address the same request coming from a Christian who is not a member of the SDA church.
 
 
It says,  Christians should prefer settlement within the authority of the church . . .” and then three paragraphs later, it says “process by which many differences among members can be settled”  leaving the Christians who are not Adventists but who show that they prefer resolution within the church by following verse 15 and 16; and when these fail and they bring their grievance to the church, they are left hanging out on the limb with no written process for them to resolve their difference within the SDA church. 
 
The question: Can a non-Adventist bring a grievance to the church has stumped the conference Executive Secretary for over three months, but he will not seek advice from the union conference which is written into the Church Manual, page 20.  He has ignored arguments from Scripture, from SoP and from Chapter 7 in the Church Manual. The Pastor of the church involved refuses to accept hand delivered letters trying to resolve the situation citing that the conference administration instructed him not to respond to any message. So he does not even accept them.
 
The Church Manual says, Christians should prefer settlement within the authority of the church, how can this statement make sense unless there is a process where Christians who are not members can get settlement within the church. Therefore, the discrepancy, as some call it, is actually an error of omission, the Church Manual says what to do when the church fails to respond to a request from a member and causes the possibilities of the biblical settlement to be exhausted; but it does not say what to do after the church fails to respond to a request from a non-Adventist Christian who is seeking to follow the instructions of Christ.  
 
This omission in procedure is fine if a non member has no standing or right to bring a grievance to the church, if so the problem with the church manual is in the words “Christians should prefer settlement within the authority of the church” This could be changed to Adventists should prefer settlement.  Of course, the conference leaders are not able to change the church manual but they can interpret the Matthew 18 instructions found in Scripture and say if a non-Adventist Christian can bring a grievance to the church in accordance with verse 17. This could get the grievance resolution process back on tract at this local church.
 
  I brought this question to the conference on July 20th and the Executive Secretary responded on July 24th saying that he would deal with this upon return to the office on Aug. 7th 
 
E-mail from Henry Beras             Reply to # 2   Received:   July 24, 2014
 
Dear Brother Mario
 
   I received your email, I am currently out of the country for 2 weeks and as soon as I get back, I will try to do the best I can to cooperate with this situation. God Bless you.
 
Henry Beras
Executive Secretary, Greater New York Conference 
 
 
  He has ignored 50 e-mail requests and a dozen phone calls and what you see above is the last message from the conference regarding this matter.
 
Praise the Lord for revealing this discrepancy in Church Manual, page 60, it could be the way provided by the Lord to bring this issue beyond the local conference level and ask the Union Conference for a decision. The Union does know the right answer.  Now for the last paragraph from the Desire of Ages, Chapter 48 . . .
 
"But Christ’s instruction as to the treatment of the erring repeats in more specific form the teaching given to Israel through Moses: "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in anywise rebuke thy neighbor, that thou bear not sin for him." Lev. 19:17, margin.  That is, if one neglects the duty Christ has enjoined, of trying to restore those who are in error and sin, he becomes a partaker in the sin. For evils that we might have checked, we are just as responsible as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves.  
 Desire of Ages,  page 441 par. 3      Read entire chapter Desire of Ages, Chapter 48

This is in harmony with 3T 265 par. 1, 2 and also 3T 269 which appears in the Church Manual, page 58
 
Church Manual,  page 58
“But God holds His people, as a body, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them. If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins.” – Testimonies, Vol. 3, page 269  

 
Desire of Ages, page 441.2 says, “If he will not hear them, then, and not till then, the matter is to be brought before the whole body of believers. . .” And now we see this is a duty enjoined by Christ himself and the pen of inspiration says that if one neglects this duty they become a partaker of the sin and for the evils that might have been checked. A person who does this becomes responsible for the sin as if they were guilty of the act themselves.
 
This is what should be recognized by the Church Board and by the congregation, this is what it means to cause the Biblical process to fail, when the instructions from Christ is clear, to bring it to the church, the church is not to block this part of the grievance resolution process.
 
So who is neglecting their duty? Is it the grieved party? Is it the members of the Church Board who are preventing the matter from moving forward?  Is it the church members?  The answer is found in MR #1158
 
 
Follow Christian Methods in Dealing with the Erring

MR # 1158  
http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/2720/ 

 
It is time for the Church Board to “recognize” what it means to cause the Biblical process described in Matthew 18: 17 to fail. It is in the Church Manual, but the manual is confusing because it says “members” when it should be in harmony with  "Christians should prefer settlement . . ." To be in harmony either Christians could be changed to “members” which means Christians who are non-members have no right to bring a grievance to the church. Or the word "members" in the recognition text can be changed to “Christians” which would provide a process for non-members who bring a grievance to the church and the church causes the Biblical process to fail.
 
It is the goal of this article to show one important aspect which is, that the sin or sins that these church leaders are preventing from being resolved by the Church are charged on them. In this case it is a sin that in an 'abomination to the Lord.'  What are they doing, they are rejecting my letters and my efforts to inform them of the seriousness and warn them of the danger of what they are doing. For this reason I have published this article and ask anyone concerned, especially those who know the Greater New York Conference Administration to urge them to allow the pastor to accept, and read my letter and talk about resolution of the grievance.
 
I hope the reader can realize the importance of the Church Manual, and for it to be clear when it describes church policy  and proper procedures.  This article is presented as an example of how a discrepancy  or omission in the church manual like this can cause serious problems for the church and the image of the church to other Christians. We should not have a Church Manual which allows the local church to excuse sins or protects its members from discipline when non-members seek to follow the biblical procedure.
 
I have already started bringing this to the attention of members of the local Church where the incident occured and some are looking for guidance from the conference on this matter.  On October 25th the Associate Pastor told me that someone in the Conference Administration spoke to him, this is the reason why he will not accept my letter. This is interfering with the Biblical process (Matthew 18: 17) by telling the Pastor something that has caused him to refuse to accept my letters on Oct. 15th and again on Oct. 25th – that is worse then neglect of duty it is misconduct in the eyes of heaven.  I am asking the Executive Secretary nicely, if he told the Associate Pastor something that is causing him to reject the very information he needs to have regarding the sin of neglect and the sin that will be charged against him because of this specific kind of neglect.
 
In conclusion, the leaders of this local Church need to recognize what it means to refuse to follow the instructions of Christ given in the Matthew 18: 17 process, their refusal has caused the biblical process to fail. They should understand that it is  regarded as wrongdoing, an ungodly act, and sin in the sight of God. And the reader should understand the importance of the Church Manual to be able to clarify what is the proper procedure so that the church administrators to follow it and bring glory to God.

To express your concern, contact Henry Beras,
                                         Exec. Secretary of Greater New York Conference  
                                         hberas@GNYC.org