Dear Church Leaders, I Don’t Want Your Unity.

Dear Church Leaders,

I’ve been following the recent events of the Seventh Day Adventist General Conference very closely; and I’m not talking about the great things happening in Adventist education, healthcare, or ADRA.  I’m referring directly to the issue of church unity that has come to the forefront of the debate on women’s ordination.  While I was frustrated with the GC decision regarding women’s ordination, I believe your current approach to maintaining “church unity” is what will finally push myself and every other gen-X and millennial away from the church.

First let me tell you at my core I’m an Adventist.  I’m a third generation Adventist with both my father and grandfather being Adventist ministers.  Most all of my family has attended Andrews University.  I personally chose Andrews over other private and public schools I was admitted to because finding a spouse who believed in Adventism as I did was most important.  This is why your actions regarding women’s ordination and church unity are so hurtful to me.  I don’t see any of those things as being a reason why I’m Adventist.

The issue of women’s ordination and the subsequent fall-out are cultural issues, not doctrinal or even salvific.  When you’ve got people from literally every country on the globe as part of your church there’s going to be disagreements like this.  Should church greeters kiss, bow, or shake hands?  Who cares?  Yet for some reason in 2016 we approach our differences like the Pilgrims telling Native Americans to put more clothes on.  Church unity means making everyone the same.  Why?  Whatever does that have to do with where I spend eternity?

See To me and almost all the people who are mad at the church and/or leaving the church, we care about two things.  The first is something Jesus said (go figure).  Jesus said to love God and love your brother.  That’s it.  How much does our church show love?  Love to people who are sick, hungry, ex-cons, single parents, divorcees, refugees, mentally ill, black, white, gay, lesbian, transgender, or have had abortions.  LOVE EVERYONE!!!  And second only to the love everybody thing is community.  Because you can’t have community without love and acceptance and tolerance for our differences.  Because in the messed up lives we live in we want to know our church will love us and accept us despite our flaws.  When you have love as Jesus asked then community falls right in place.  And notice what comes at the end of community.  UNITY!

Unity comes when we take a step back from pointing out each others differences and start appreciating them.  We then leave the judgement up to God.  After all, he’s going to do a lot better job at it than any of us.  When we lose sight of what Jesus actually told us to do, we put ourselves in his place. It’s almost like we don’t trust Jesus anymore.  It’s 2000 years later and we think we’re smarter and know what he was talking about better than he did.  After all He didn’t have the Ellen White Library or the Seminary to guide Him.  And if you don’t trust Jesus, you don’t trust the people in your church to follow his command.  You don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can talk through anyone but yourself and the people who agree with you.  But if you don’t trust people, you’ll never have unity.  And that’s not something you can bring about with a vote or board action.

Church unity is something every pastor and church leader has preached about since Paul.  It’s an annual staple right up there with the Christmas sermon and that year end sermon about giving.  If you listen to those sermons (and I’m sure you’ve preached a couple too), then you’ll remember every one of them references I Corinthians 12.  The body of Christ is made up of many different parts and you can’t expect them all to be the same.  Yes, I agree with unity in the church, but in the respect that we are all unified through Jesus who created each of us uniquely marvelous.  However, your approach to church unity more closely resembles to Torquemada and the inquisition than it does to Jesus and the woman at the well.  And that’s a big problem.

Unity isn’t everyone agreeing on the same thing.  Unity isn’t about drawing a line in the sand and telling everyone to choose.  Unity is letting the tide wash away the line and enjoying the beach together.  It’s about finding the common things we agree about not trying to eliminate each other’s differences.  It’s about living Jesus lives and trusting him to change the hearts of men and women so His kingdom can be built, not ours.

So I’m begging you right now to take a step back from what you’re doing.  You hired the Barna group to tell you all the numbers about the next generation leaving.  This thing you’re doing right now is one of the reasons why.   Look around and you’ll find members are literally on the edge of their pews right now ready to get up and walk out; never to return.  Even giving a “year of grace” to come in line and repent won’t work.  It will only delay the inevitable.  Instead, follow the advice of Gamaliel.  Let this go.  If it is of man it will fail.  But if it is of God you won’t be able to stop it.  You’ll simply wind up with a bunch more empty churches.

Sincerely,

Ben

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39 thoughts on “Dear Church Leaders, I Don’t Want Your Unity.

  1. Love your honesty. Would you let me translate it to Spanish and share it? I think many of us can use your voice to express the same issues. May God continue blessing your life.

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  2. This is the letter I wish I could’ve written, so I’m glad you did! As a young-ish, ‘born-and-bred’ Adventist, this sums up my thoughts as well. Thank you, Ben, for expressing your insights. I’ve shared this 3x.

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    • I just wanted to add to my previous comment:

      Even though our church’s General Conference is making difficult decisions, and it doesn’t seem like it will go well either way, please let’s not allow ourselves to be ‘pushed out’ on that basis. I know, it’s hard… and so painful when we don’t agree with how things are going. However, by God’s grace, I plan to stick around, and I hope you will, too. We need the diversity, and we need every person’s input. If young people leave, we won’t have future decision-makers and game changers. So, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and His mission, not the organisation. We’re all broken vessels. Each of us needs to repent and seek after the infilling of the Holy Spirit. That’s the only way any of us can get through the times ahead.

      May God bless you, Ben, and everyone who reads this.

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  3. So many are carried away with this ecumenical misconception that unity comes from find common ground. Church unity only through the working of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit all our efforts and maneuvering would not bring about church unity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What you wrote sounds like what the sanhedrin would say to Jesus when He told them “your house is left to you empty”; biting and hypocritical. Good luck with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For many years I traveled the seas off the north coast of Dutch New Guinea (now Irian Jaya) and Papua New Guinea. Sometimes in national canoes, my own 28 foot Indonesian style fishing boat and our Mission owned 45 foot ships. Many times during the West monsoon season we sailed through wild storms, rain and lightening and waves crashing on us. Even when, on one occasion the engine bilge pump and the hand bilge pump had failed and the generator and aux generator left us without ship or running lights, no one, but no one, had any thoughts of abandoning ship because we were experiencing multiple problems. We all worked together, hoisting little kerosene running lights. Then for hours in the dark and stormy night used buckets, passed from hand to hand from engine room bilge up to the deck and over the side while our little 45 foot ship reared and plunged and bucked its way through the storm and the dark.
    No one left the ship till we arrived safely at journey’s end. Working through problems and difficulties together brought success – not jumping ship! Dear Max, my friend of yesteryear, God grant us the grace to stick together and work to resolve any challenges. The strength and wisdom is His to guide His church, not our feelings or convictions. Maranatha.
    Sincerely your friend in Jesus, Lionel Smith (the senior one)

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  5. Beautifully said, Ben. I recall a statement by H.M. S. Richards in which he states that it is best to reach across the abyss and clasp hands with the brethern – we have always considered this to be a wise, Christ-like plan. God bless you for your boldness!

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  6. Bravo, Megan!
    I have no real idea of what the GC is doing right now–but I do know, that if everyone leaves, being heard will never happen. I’m starting to see changes after all the years I have been patiently waiting–the older Gen Xer’s are starting to get into positions to change things up. I follow Jesus, not an organization. But my local church family is very important to my spiritual walk.

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  7. I like your final comment, “If it is of man it will fail. But if it is of God you won’t be able to stop it.” I do believe that at our most recent GC Session that the worldwide church prayed and asked God to help us make the best and right decision for our church on the matter of ordination of women to pastoral ministry. In fact, we were all praying months and years before in preparation of that decision. Consequently, with much prayer, deliberation and world-wide representation, a decision was made that was against the ordination of women to pastoral ministry.
    I’m bewildered as to why individuals that favour women’s ordination have chosen to ignore God’s leading and the decision of the world wide church. We did follow the advice of Gamaliel (as you suggested) but it seems that you and others have rejected it and allowed for disunity to prevail. There are unions that have chosen to do the same. They have placed the GC in the most difficult position for it is the GC’s voted and entrusted role to ensure that policy and practice is upheld.
    Brother’s and sister’s, I ask you to rightly give place to God’s leading. Please follow His counsel… “Many have the idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and their experience independent of Christ’s acknowledged body in the world. Here will be, among the remnant of these last days, as there were with ancient Israel, those who wish to move independently, who are not willing to submit to the teachings of the Spirit of God, and who will not listen to advice or counsel. Let such ever bear in mind that God has a church upon the earth, to which He has delegated power.
    Men will want to follow their own independent judgement, despising counsel and reproof, but just as surely as they do this, they will depart from the faith, and disaster and the ruin of souls will follow. There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port” (2 SM 390, 2MR 158, 15MR 130)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your response. At the end of the day, the issue of women’s ordination is just the final overture of many frustrations from young Adventist Christians. We were equally as bewildered as to why is the issue of women’s ordination even an issue? It is not salvific in any manner. It’s rather confusing that a church whose primary founding leader was a female would not embrace the ability for a woman of God to be able speak gospel truth and minister in the same capacity as her male counterparts. Making it an issue of Biblical truth is what is most frustrating because the issue is inherently cultural; relevant to the culture in which you are born and raised in. Frankly it should have never been a vote. Just let each union do as they see best in the eyes of their constituents.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ll find that the vote was not on whether we should ordain women, despite all the activity around this, but about whether individual unions should be allowed to choose individually which way they would go.

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  8. The only thing I will say is that the ordination of women is not the issue. Women can and should be ordained. The issue is doing things which are in direct conflict to the word of God. When you ordain a man as an elder you quote scripture. There is no scripture in the word of God that authorizes giving a woman that position in the church. Is it a salvation issue, NO~!!. Should it be done?? It a person is dead to self, and Christ is in them, this is not an issue!! This issue is nothing more than a liberal, worldly mindset within the church. If Sister White did not seek to be an elder, that should be all the answer for any person. Let us stay to the strictures of the word of God and this is not an issue!!!

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  9. And another point. A ministirial license is different than ordination as an elder. The gift of teaching or pastoring is different than being an elder. Paul was not an elder. The elders had authority within the church. Eldership is about biblical ordained authority. The bible set criteria for that. Why did the bible clearly say that it was to be a male? Furthermore, it was to be a married male. Because in order to perform the functions of the Elder properly, marriage was needed to guide the person in how to deal with conflict. And most of the single males and females were filling missionary roles. It falls back to letting the bible decide these issues, not modern man!

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    • If strict biblical direction is so crucial to the argument of ordination, why do we as Adventists not follow other very specific commands in the Bible? Furthermore, regarding marriage how is it that the church is so accommodating to accept divorced individuals as elders and pastors? The answer is that as time moves by and our understanding of Biblical context and appropriateness increases we see how some issues are not as applicable today as they were in biblical times.

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  10. I find it very troubling that the GC has chosen to double down on the issue of women’s ordination instead of following the example of the leaders of the early Christian church. When the issue of circumcision came up the church leaders sought council from God and He showed them that it was a cultural thing and should not be required of the Gentiles. Women’s ordination is similarly a cultural issue. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that prohibits ordaining women other than the culture of the time in which it was written. In The Acts of the Apostles, Ellen White states: “In his ministry, Paul was often compelled to stand alone. He was specially taught of God and dared make no concessions that would involve principle. At times the burden was heavy, but Paul stood firm for the right. He realized that the church must never be brought under the control of human power. The traditions and maxims of men must not take the place of revealed truth. The advance of the gospel message must not be hindered by the prejudices and preferences of men, whatever might be their position in the church.” – {AA 199.3} I agree with Ben that this issue should never have been put to a vote. It’s something that each Conference or Union should have jurisdiction over and decide according to the will and culture of their constituents.

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  11. You have written this heart felt message wisely but I don’t see the church and it leaders changing their ways. I and my wife were members for many years and heard the same concerns. We have left the church many years ago and do not regret doing so . Attending the adventist church was a miserable memory. I no longer will step foot in an Adventist church. I will never forget the mean spirited members we came in contact with.

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  12. BEN I guess that you probably are missing a little bit how God’s work, and how’s his nature and character. He’s not Santa Claus. He’s a Lamb but also He’s a Lion. There’s no gray areas for Him, so either you’re right and knows better than the leadership choose by God or you’re wrong murmuring against the leadership in other words, you’re saying that God lost control to lead his people. In the past “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” God did something pretty similar and may resembles to Torquemada and the inquisition. The people that the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up probably have a good and sincere intentions to make it better for everyone, but guess what, God didn’t choose them to lead his people. If you are a real believer be confident and be certain that if you pray for a real answer to your concern, God may answer to you probably immediately.
    Before writing your next blog, Try it.

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  13. BEN I guess that you probably are missing a little bit how God’s work, and how’s his nature and character. He’s not Santa Claus. He’s a Lamb but also He’s a Lion. There’s no gray areas for Him, so either you’re right and knows better than the leadership choose by God or you’re wrong murmuring against the leadership in other words, you’re saying that God lost control to lead his people. In the past “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” God did something pretty similar and may resembles to Torquemada and the inquisition. The people that the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up probably have a good and sincere intentions to make it better for everyone, but guess what, God didn’t choose them to lead his people. If you are a real believer be confident and be certain that if you pray for a real answer to your concern, God may answer to you probably immediately.
    Before writing your next blog, Try it.

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    • And how do you know I didn’t spend my time in deep prayer seeking God before writing my post? How do you know I haven’t agonized seeking God’s guidance to understand what is happening in this church before vocalizing them to the world? If you’re assumption that everyone who disagrees with yourself or the church leaders is not connected with God I would encourage you to read your Bible as well sir, to see how frequently the appointed of God challenged Him or did not follow through on His commands. Moses was denied the promised land for disobedience. Were Aaron and Eli’s sons not appointed of God? What happened with them? Nathan was sent to David to correct him, a man after God’s own heart. Were the Sanhedrin not elected by God to minister to his people? Why then did Jesus rebuke them time and again? The Holy Spirit moves amongst all people whose heart is open to hear his calling on them. It isn’t limited solely to those who have earthly authority over manmade conventions. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog, and I don’t really care if you disagree. But please, don’t challenge myself (or anyone else who comments here) on their connection with God. Especially if you don’t know them personally enough to know how they got to that point.

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      • I can’t say I’d you pray or not I wish I can. But according your comments and a topic or issue already voted and settled down I don’t think that God is gonna change his mind because his will doesn’t fit in what we think is better. Don’t forget that the people chosen by God who leading the world church are anoited, and probably you’re not talking against them, against God. May God lead us in every aspect of our lives. Because if He’s not, someone else is.

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  14. Excellent, EXCELLENT message, Ben!!! My heart weeps for the damage that is being done by the current actions of the GC – these actions most certainly will not promote unity! And it is interesting that often times those who make comments supporting the GC actions include statements of judgment and condemnation in their remarks – such attitudes are not what Jesus preached and will only serve to create division.

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  15. Please do not leave. The Good Ship Zion is God’s ship. He is at the helm no matter what it may look like.. We older folks NEED you to carry on God’s work. I am so sorry for any of you who have had bad experiences. Our church is a loving church filled with wonderful people. It is true we do not all think alike or agree. You will find difference of perspective in the home and in the workplace. We are all just people with different backgrounds. To all you beautiful young people, Please do not leave. Stay and work out the solutions. Keep your eyes on Jesus not on people.

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  16. The Church, while have a definite social aspect, is not simply a social structure. It is a spiritual entity, the “Body of Christ” with many “Members.” But, it is not limited to “Members”alone, it specifically means gifts as delineated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:6 and onward and in other places. The issue is that there is a faction in this body, as well as every other homogeneous organization, exerting great effort to impose their version of social justice where it should not be imposed. There was an issue in post-fall Eden resulting in the mother of our race being told “…your desire shall be subject to your husband(margin) and he shall rule over thee.” There is no declarative statement in scripture, implicit or implied, countermanding this directive from God, spin it as one may.

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    • But remember that the “church” as we know it today is not a construct of God, but of man. It’s rituals, orthodoxies, doctrines, and structures are manmade post-Christ. Adam and Eve didn’t have a church. Abraham didn’t have a sanctuary. They met God in the cool of the day and under trees and along roadways. They worshipped Him with their lives and followed his voice when he spoke to them. So who is to say those other factions and organizations are not following God’s voice speaking to them? Who is to say God only speaks to those in leadership?

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  17. Pingback: Dear Church Leaders, I Don’t Want Your Unity. — Thinking & Driving | Chats With God

  18. Excellent post. Unity is not, nor does it require, uniformity. I also was a born-and-bred, third-generation (on both sides) Adventist. While the circumstances are somewhat different, your post rang true in so many ways to my own experience. In my case, my eventual, and painful, decision to leave came after a number of years of spiritual struggle led me to finally seek – and receive – God’s permission to worship elsewhere. I want to encourage those who find they do need to leave, that the Adventist church is not “God’s true church,” but simply a part thereof. I worship more happily and freely elsewhere, and am immensely grateful to God for His leading in my life. This is my story and my experience. It will not be everyone’s.

    There is no perfect church and no perfect denomination, but I believe God has a right local church for each believer and this may change at different times in our lives. I want to encourage those who may feel the need to jump that God will catch you if you ask Him to. (He may even be the one pushing you.) He will plant you in healthy soil where you can grow into all He wants for you, if you let Him. God has caught and replanted me a number of times when I have had to change churches or even countries for various reasons. Life is messy and religion is messier, but God is GOOD. After all, the cross was about destroying religion and establishing relationship. As my father used to preach, the only thing that will matter in the end is your answer to the question, “What did you do with Jesus?”

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  19. “It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God. As they cherish the thought that Christ is their Companion, a holy awe, a sacred joy, will be felt by them amid all their trying experiences and all their tests. They will learn how to pray as they work. They will be educated in patience, kindness, affability, and helpfulness. They will practice true Christian courtesy, bearing in mind that Christ, their Companion, cannot approve of harsh, unkind words or feelings. Their words will be purified. The power of speech will be regarded as a precious talent, lent them to do a high and holy work.” (EGW, Testimonies for the church, volume 6, p. 322).

    The Holy Spirit prepares both men and women to become pastors. Very clearly said. I don’t hear this quote from those who believe that Ellen White was a messenger of God and yet reject women as pastors (whether ordained or not).

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  20. The fear I have heard voiced over and over which to me is a bogus argument is that women’s ordination will lead to accepting the LGBT agenda. Fortunately we are not left in doubt about the unacceptability fo homosexuality. The bible calls it an abomination, and those who participate in the activity as participating in detestable acts.
    Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
    Romans 1:21-32 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. [24] Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [26] For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [:2] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.[28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; [29] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, [30] Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,[31] Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: [32] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    Jeremiah 16:18 And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.
    Ezekiel 5:11 Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.
    Ezekiel 7:20 As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.
    Ezekiel_11:18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.
    Ezekiel 11:21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.
    Ezekiel 37:23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. Sin is sin, women’s ordination and LGBT issues are apples and oranges. God saves His people out of abominations, He cleanses them from sin. But they must turn from wickedness. I just don’t see Women’s ordination as equivocal.

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    • Hello Randy, Thank you for taking the time to respond. I haven’t heard that comparison before and would agree it’s misplaced. However, many who are arguing against women’s ordination use biblical text just as you did to show that women’s place is not in leadership within the church. For millenials and young adults the issues of women’s ordination and homosexuality are not issues we feel are important to our personal salvation and spiritual growth. The post was meant to point out that what the church considers unity is no longer unifying. Whether it’s women’s ordination, homosexuality, health message, or state of the dead, should we not let Jesus as our great advocate handle that as he pleads before the throne? After all, have not all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?

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  21. The truth is not popular, and righteousness has always caused division. I am not saying that we should seek to divide ourselves, but rather that we should wholeheartedly seek righteousness, no matter what the consequences; even if it should mean division. The truth divides, it causes controversy, but in the end it unites God faithful few to Him. Righteousness should not be sacrificed on the alter of unity. The Bible proposes a male priesthood, male eldership, male headship. It’s God’s order, if holding to it divides the majority, God will hold the faithful few together.

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