The Road to Yes or No
May 2015 Editorial
The Road to Yes or No
Editorial by Rob Vandeman, Dave Weigley and Seth Bardu (pictured)
When delegates convene this July for the General Conference (GC) Session, they will be faced with this question: Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry?
Along the journey that led us back to this question, two very important things happened. First, the church came to a consensus on a Theology of Ordination that underscores ordination as the formal acknowledgement by the church of God’s call on the life of an individual for ministry. This acknowledgment neither supersedes God’s call nor enhances it. God’s chosen person accepts the call and God’s people affirm it. Many think this theological perspective alone gives ample basis for answering yes to the question we face.
Like the early church leaders in Acts reacting to the clear evidence of God’s leading in the lives of gentile believers, recognizing God’s prior activity preceded any formal decision. God revealed His will in a marked way regarding Cornelius, and Peter could do nothing but say, “Who was I to think I could oppose God?” (Acts 11:17, NIV). James, the brother of the Lord, said basically the same thing to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).
Today the church follows carefully structured policies related to the preparation for ordination. These include lengthy educational requirements, development of certain core competencies, experience in a wide array of ministerial functions, evidence of a fruitful ministry and, most importantly, the clear call of God in the candidate’s life. A yes vote does not negate this careful process of preparation and examination.
The second thing that has happened is that, after a worldwide study on ordination, the church was unable, once again, to come to consensus. Like the North American Division (NAD) study commission stated unanimously: “We believe that an individual, as a Seventh-day Adventist in thorough commitment to the full authority of Scripture, may build a defensible case in favor of or in opposition to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, although each of us views one position or the other as stronger and more compelling.” That is why they set forth their recommendation—with overwhelming support by the NAD Executive Committee—to let each division consider, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the most appropriate approach for their territories.
We believe a yes vote is the most appropriate response to the reality that faithful Adventists can come down on either side of the issue without jeopardizing unity. Our unity is in Christ and His mission. Our 28 Fundamental Beliefs mark the boundaries of our theological unity because they are based on a clear consensus of what Scripture teaches. Our unity exists within a wonderful diversity of age, ethnicity and gender. A vote of yes keeps the decision-making authority—established at the 1901 GC Session—at the union level, which will best enhance the mission of the church in it’s specific, localized context. A worldwide mandate on the issue is neither practical nor necessary.
—Your Columbia Union Officers