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This document came to Adventist Today. It is being circulated among the delegates to the Columbia Union Conference constituency session tomorrow and evidently to delegates to the upcoming Pacific Union Conference constituency meeting. The author is a Seventh-day Adventist theologian. Adventist Today has agreed not to publish the name.

1. The letter as a whole is an argument that although the ordination of ministers without regard to gender is a matter of religious conviction for the officers and executive committee of the Co­lum­bia Union Confer­ence (pp. 2, 5, 6), they should subordinate their convictionto church pro­to­col. The letter disavows any need “to discuss the specific question of min­is­terial ordi­na­tion or to express an opinion about it” (p. 1); in­stead, it changes the subject to ec­cle­­si­as­ti­cal authority mas­quer­ading as denominational unity. Religious institutionalism pre­vails over spiritual in­teg­rity.
 

2. The letter is right that the Columbia Union Conference should participate in a denomination-wide dis­­cussion of ministerial ordination without regard to gender (pp. 1-2). This partici­pa­tion, however, does not require that it refrain from acting in harmony with what it sincerely be­lieves to be its God-given duty.The Columbia Union Conference does not ask that any other part of the church follow its example; it simply claims the freedom to function according to its own con­science. 

3. As the letter states (p. 2), the General Conference sessions of 1990 in In­di­an­apo­lis and 1995 in Utrechtdid not authorize ministerial ordination without regard to gen­der; but they did not explic­itly forbid such ordination, although the letter’s Appen­dix (p. 7) assumes that they did.

4. It is true that “as currently understood in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ordination to the gos­pel ministry is ordination to serve the global Church” (p. 2). But this has never been inter­preted to give an ordained minister the right to serve wherever one might wish; a minister must be called by a local conference to fill a specific need. Just as a com­petent confer­ence administra­tion would not call a minister to serve in place where one could not speak the local lan­guage, so it would not call a minister to serve in a place where one’s gen­der would be an obsta­cle to ef­fec­tive ministry. On examination the appeal to serving the global churchturns out to bea bogus ar­gu­ment. 

5. The letter claims that “for one entity to express and demon­strate its reasoned dissent with a global decision of the Church might appear to some as a legit­i­mate course of action. How­ever, the implications of such an ac­tion are not limited to the one entity” (p. 3). This is an example of the notoriously fallacious “slippery slope” form of argument..

6. Repeated references to “unilateral action” (pp. 1, 2, 4) and “one entity” (pp. 3, 6) in contrast to “the rest of the church” (p. 2) ignore the fact that two other union conferences (Mid-America and Pacific) in the North American Division and one (Northern German) in the Euro-African Divi­sion have already acted similarly to the Columbia Union Conference. The truth is that a theologi­cal, spiritual, and moral com­mit­ment to ordination without regard to gender has for many years been a growing reality among Seventh-day Adventists in various parts of the world. In protest against the 1995 General Conference decision in Utrecht, in 1998 an inter­na­tional fac­ulty committee at the Seventh-day Adventist Theo­log­ical Seminary published Women in Minis–try: Biblical and Historical Perspec­tives, supporting the or­di­nation of women. 

7. The letter recognizes that the General Conference Session in 1883 resolved “that females pos­ses­sing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian min­istry” (Appendix, p. 7). What the letter does not note is that 90 years later, in 1973, a group of Bible schol­ars ap­pointed by the General Con­fer­ence met for the express purpose of examining the Bibli­cal and theo­logical impli­ca­tions of minis­te­rial ordination without regard to gender. It con­cluded that there is no Bib­lical or theologi­cal ob­jection.Nor does the letter note that in 1995, after their request for au­thor­iza­tion to ordain women in minis­try was denied by the Gen­eral Conference Session in Utrecht, the union conference presidents of the North Ameri­can Divi­sion jointly declared, “While loyal to the Seventh-day Ad­ventist Church, we still firmly be­lieve in the Biblical right­ness of wom­­en’s ordi­na­tion.” Surely these scholars and these union conference presidents, along with the Semi­nary fac­ulty, are part of “the rest of the church.”

8. Although subsequent General Conference sessions have not imple­mentedFundamental Be­lief #14, adopted by the 1980 General Con­fer­ence session in Dallas, neither have theyrepealed or modi­fiedits clear language:“In Christ we are a new creation; distinc­tions of race, cul­ture, learn­ing, and na­tion­ality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be di­visive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fel­low­ship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served with­­out partiality or reserva­tion” (emphasis supplied). There is no way that an “unbiased reading” (p. 5) canrea­son­a­bly harmonize the denial of min­is­terial or­di­nation to women with this explicit affirmation of an equally explicit New Testament prin­ci­ple (Gal. 3:28). 

9. The claim that “unity is first of all a mutual commitment to how the Church functions” (p. 3) issimply wrong, based on a basic misunderstanding of the nature of unity. As a matter of fact, unity in the Church is first of all a spiritual matter of mutual trust,ex­pressed in re­spect for differ­ences of con­vic­tion or practice so long as those differ­ences do not contradict the fundamental defi­ni­tion of the church. Since the Seventh-day Adventist Church organized itself in the 1860s, the exclusion of women from its ordained ministry has never been part of its self-definition; and, as the state­ment of Fundamental Beliefs makes clear, it does not do so now.

10. The proper role of the General Conference in this situation is to encourage mutual trust and respect in spite of the existing differences of conviction and practice, rather than trying to per­suade a significant segment of the Church to refrain from living up to its spiritual and moral con­science. The Roman Catholic Church with its hierarchy of bish­ops and car­dinals is not a proper model for the Seventh-day Adventist Church with its General Conference officers and di­vision presi­dents (p. 6).The letter does not explain why the General Conference administration finds it necessary to oppose the ordina­tion of ministers without regard to gender; but it is clear thatits argument rests not on sound Bib­lical and theological rea­soning but on an alleged need for proce­dural uniformity in this regard.