By Monte Sahlin, July 8, 2015: It is important that everyone is clear about what is being voted today. Many false impressions have been widely published, and no matter which way the vote goes, it is likely that many fictional claims will be made about it after the vote.
Here is the item exactly as it appears in the agenda: “Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”
It is not a doctrine. It is not a policy. It is not a bylaw. It is not a rule or guideline. If anyone claims that the vote has the force of any of those things, they are not telling the truth.
It is an attempt to find a middle path to end the debilitating debate. It is already true that Seventh-day Adventists are ordaining women pastors in some places and they won’t stop unless they are driven out of the denomination. Is that the mission to which God calls the Remnant Church?
If the No vote is the majority, that does not establish “male headship” theology as the doctrine of the Church. If such a doctrine is to be established, it must go through the same process that the 28th Fundamental Belief went through. That process has been voted as the only process by which the theology of the Church on any topic may be changed.
If the Yes vote is the majority, that does not establish women’s ordination as a requirement throughout the Church around the world. It will very likely not change the practice at all in the vast majority of local fields. It does not make women’s ordination a doctrine of the Church. The same process noted above would be necessary to do so.
A “Yes” vote is a vote for unity in a very diverse, global, multicultural movement. A “No” vote is a vote for division and continued bickering, propaganda and counter-propaganda, more studies, more delays, more broken relationships, more accusations of “rebellion” and throwing Spirit of Prophecy at each other. It takes us away from our mission and it dishonors God.
Delegates, examine your conscience before you vote. No matter what you think the Bible teaches on women’s ordination, our Bible scholars have said it is inconclusive. What is your real duty at this moment?
Monte Sahlin served at the General Conference as part of the North American Division staff from 1987 to 1998, and then as vice president of the Columbia Union Conference until he returned to the Ohio Conference in 2007. He retired last year after 44 years as an Adventist minister and now works part time as chief executive officer and executive editor of Adventist Today.