This week at Annual Council (AC), delegates voted to send to the 2015 General Conference session the following question:
After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and; After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission, 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? Yes or No.
In voting this recommendation, Annual Council has not left the question to stand only at “Shall separate divisions be permitted to make the women’s ordination decision for themselves as they see fit,” but rather, on the basis of the inspired writings of the Bible and of Ellen G. White, they have asked does the church consider it appropriate for division executive committees to make provision for women’s ordination? Thus, the decision is placed squarely at the question, What do the inspired writings say?
Present at AC was Ms. Sandy Roberts from the Southeastern California Conference. Last Fall, against the teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, members there voted Roberts “president” of that conference. However, because her placement in that office is contrary to the practice of the world church, her name does not appear in the SDA Yearbook as president for SECC. Conference presidents in the division in which an Annual Council meeting are held are invitees to AC meetings and are permitted to function as delegates with voting privileges. Thus, this year the NAD conference presidents participated but Ms. Roberts attended only as a guest. (This paragraph has been corrected from an earlier version.)
The core of the Adventist approach is to seek out the divinely revealed will and adhere to it. We don’t ask people to become Adventists because a committee likes the idea of the Sabbath, but because the Bible by divine authority teaches the observance of the seventh day.
Should the 2015 GC session in San Antonio vote “Yes” on the AC-approved motion, Imagine how damaging it would be to evangelistic outreach when we ask that people embrace the Sabbath on the basis of biblical authority, but when it comes to other questions we permit each section of the church to decide based on local cultural preferences!
The North American Division sent out a report on AC including this statement:
A vote on women’s ordination could put an end to—or further prolong—a decades-old debate that has threatened to divide the denomination, according to those on both sides of the issue (NAD NewsPoints, October 15, 2014).
Here the NAD indicates that should the world church refuse to accede to NAD’s insistence on women’s ordination, the Division might reject that “No” answer, prolonging the debate.
The fact is that whatever the world church decides, Yes or No, on women’s ordination, its decision is the last word. The Council of Adventist Pastors rejects any notion that after the GC in session has spoken, units will be at liberty to proceed independently of the world church.
Furthermore, the headline title of the NAD NewsPoints article was misleading. By titling the article, “Annual Council Asks Session to Consider Letting Divisions Decide on Ordination,” the NAD is making it sound as if the Annual Council is asking the GC Session to approve a request from the Annual Council that divisions be allowed to decide. That is false of course (please reread the motion quotation at the top of this article). Headline titles do not change the facts on the ground.
We remain confident that the process now under way will lead to a final resolution of the question in San Antonio. Members should study the questions surrounding women’s ordination as the world church has directed: with special reference to what is revealed in the Bible and writings of Ellen G. White. Advocates of women’s ordination, with renewed energy no doubt, will insist their arguments for WO are Scripturally sound. Such claims should be closely tested, as no other denominational group has yet successfully canvassed them. We are a Bible people. God has these matters in hand.