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Photo of Walter Carson by Ricardo Bacchus

What Does it Mean to Be “Warned” By an Annual Council Vote?

Story by V. Michelle Bernard

“To be warned is better than to be publicly reprimanded,” said Walter Carson, vice president and general counsel for the Columbia Union Conference, at the November Executive Committee meeting, talking about the Annual Council’s recent actions.

Carson explained to the group that a 2018 Annual Council action in Battle Creek, Mich., adopted a compliance document (link to it) that imposed sanctions or discipline on entities found to be in violation of various church documents or actions taken by a General Conference session.

The four disciplinary steps in the document were outlined:

  1. A warning would be issued for a violation of working policy provision for an entity not in compliance
  2. A public reprimand would be issued to an organization not in harmony with a voted General Conference action
  3. For those who failed to change their conduct, an action for removal for cause
  4. A dissolution of the organization

In 2019 at the General Conference Administrative Committee, world church leadership presented a document to the floor with two categories of discipline. The Danish, North German, Swedish and Norwegian unions were to be warned “because of conduct they were engaged in that wasn’t in harmony with policy regarding credentials of pastors,” said Carson.

The second disciplinary action called for public reprimand, which included a public shaming of the presidents of the Columbia Union Conference and Pacific Union Conference. If this action would have happened, the presidents would have been listed in Annual Council documents as “reprimanded,” explained Carson. “In effect, it would have been a scarlet letter whenever they would appear at an Annual Council session.”

Carson added, “The public warning or the warning itself doesn’t have the consequences that the public reprimand would have. … If the warnings don’t result as a change, other results might follow, but at the moment we are in the category with the Danish, North German, Swedish and Norwegian unions in being warned.”

The proposal presented at the 2019 Annual Council was amended so that the Columbia and Pacific unions were warned, rather than publicly reprimanded.

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