Editorial: Is the Women’s Ordination Issue about Unity or Uniformity?
by J. David Newman
The issue of whether women may be ordained as pastors which has been simmering for fifty years has finally boiled over, splattering a wide area of the world church. The first union to vote for ordaining women pastors received little notice. At the fifth constituency session of the North German Union Conference, meeting in Geseke on April 22 and 23, the delegates voted approval of ordination for women serving in pastoral ministry. The resolution was approved by more than a two-thirds majority of the delegates.
But when the Columbia Union of the North American Division voted on July 29, 2012 to ordain pastors without regard to gender a veritable blizzard of objections from the General Conference blanketed the landscape. As reported in a special edition of the Adventist Review, August 10, 2012 four separate documents or interviews have been published. Dire consequences are being threatened for these actions. However, no details have been forthcoming about what these consequences might be. (https://us.mg6.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.rand=8lpe6k6lvpo5q)
The Pacific Union Conference is taking up the same issue at its special constituency session August 19. This article will explore the following points: (1) How is the General Conference defining unity? (2) What is unity? And why the issue of women’s ordination is actually a uniformity issue. (3) Did the church make a mistake when it decided that women’s ordination must be a world issue? (4) What is the importance of policy? And when can we differ from a set policy? (5) What does Ellen White say about rigidly following policies?
An appendix records the full report and recommendations from The Council on the Role of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This council was authorized by the General Conference Executive Committee and convened September 16-19, 1973 at Camp Mohaven, Ohio. As you read this report you will wonder why we are still studying the issue when it made very clear recommendations on the role of women and their ordination. Twenty-six papers were presented and nothing new has come to light that would change their recommendations. Yet, we still keep appointing study commissions.
General Conference Definition of Unity
World Church Leaders recently issued a document entitled Questions and Answers Regarding Current Issues of Unity Facing the Church. Question number ten asked, “What is the difference between unity and uniformity?”
There is much that could be said in answer to the other questions the document lists but this article only deals with the subject of unity. Here is how the General Conference defines unity and uniformity: “The difference between ‘unity’ and ‘uniformity’ is in how these words end. They both start with ‘uni’—a Latin prefix meaning ‘one,’ but it is what comes after that ‘one’ that explains the oneness. Unity is ‘the state of being one, being united, as of the parts of a whole,’ but uniformity is ‘the state or quality of being uniform,’ that is, in form being one, but not in heart, mind, and soul.” (Definitions from dictionary.com.)
It is noteworthy that neither Webster’s nor the Oxford or Random House dictionaries were quoted, but a poor online equivalent. Note that the definition for uniformity is ‘the state or quality of being uniform,’ which tells us absolutely nothing about the meaning of “uniformity” since it is defined by itself “uniform.” It still begs the question: What is uniform?
So we begin with an unclear definition of the difference between unity and uniformity. The document then states that diversity is important. “As evidenced from the Creation account to the story of the Earth made new, God is clearly a God of diversity. He did not make only one kind of animal, plant, flower—or even human. Instead, He created the diversity that we see in the world around us. … But God is not the author of confusion, nor did He intend the world to be fragmented and divided. The purpose of Creation was to give Him glory, and the purpose of the Church is to point people toward God as revealed in His Word.”
This is a good statement with which I agree but it does not help us detect the difference between unity and uniformity. The document then goes on to refer to the words of Jesus in John 17. “When Jesus prayed, ‘That they all may be one’ (John 17:21, NKJV), it was in the context of purpose and mission for those who believed (and would believe) in Him. He pleaded with His Father to ‘Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth’ (vs. 17). Regarding mission, He prayed, ‘As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world’ (vs. 18). Summing up the unity Jesus desires for His followers, He prayed, ‘And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me’ (vss. 22, 23).”
Again, this is a wonderful statement and if we only had this paragraph we would assume that unity is being one in “purpose and mission for those who believed (and would believe) in Him.” But the next paragraph blurs the distinction between unity and uniformity. “Our goal is to work unitedly toward the realization of the kingdom of God. This is accomplished as a worldwide body of believers by coming together in belief and practice.”
It seems that the General Conference leaders are defining unity as being united in the mission and purpose of the church which involves belief but then they add the word “practice.” And then comes the final paragraph in the document which only continues to muddle the differences.
“Nowhere is this more evidenced than during every quinquennium when the worldwide church comes together in a General Conference Session to pray, worship, fellowship, and conduct the business of the church. It is here, with the input from a wide diversity of representatives from every part of the globe, that the voice of the entire church is heard. It is here where our statements of belief and practice are voted. It is these beliefs—based on the truth of God’s Word and the practices that outline how best to accomplish our mission—that guide us and keep us united as we move together in mission.”
The part about “practice” refers, in the main, to the revisions voted to the Church Manual. It is common knowledge that changes come from the grassroots not from the top down. A local church or mission or conference finds a better way to achieve the mission of the church different from what the Church Manual says. They report it to the Church Manual Committee who then decide what changes to recommend to the next General Conference in session.
This document has not explained how diversity takes place in the church. It states the principle of unity but then insists that everyone follow the practice of not ordaining women pastors. It is actually insisting on uniformity.
What Is Unity?
President Ted Wilson made an impassioned plea to the delegates of the Columbia Union Conference on Sunday, July 29, that they vote down the proposed action to ordain pastors without respect to gender. He predicted dire consequences if the union conference voted the recommended motion. However, he did not specify what those consequences might be.
Wilson’s main plea was for unity. He quoted from the prayer of Jesus regarding the need for unity, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity” (John 17:21-23, NIV).
Wilson explained that the unity of the church was at stake. However, what he was appealing for was uniformity, not unity. According to the dictionary uniformity is “identical or consistent, without variation in detail.” Unity, on the other hand, is “the state of being one, a whole or totality as combining its parts in one, as of the parts of a whole.” (Definitions from The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, second edition unabridged. 1987. New York: Random House Reference.)
In John 17 we find that Jesus is not talking about uniformity, which is what Wilson was advocating. Yes, Jesus and his Father were one, but they were not uniform, they were not identical. Jesus was a physical being. His Father was not. Jesus had physical limitations resulting from being human; the Father had no human limitations. Jesus could experience physical pain; his Father could not. Jesus could die; his Father could not. Jesus and the Father were one, but they were not uniform.
The English Standard Version Study Bible notes to John 17:11 says, “this is to be a reflection of the unity that has existed eternally between the Father and the Son, namely, the unity of a common mind and purpose, an unqualified mutual love, and a sustained comprehensive togetherness in mission, as revealed in the Father-Son relationship characterized by Jesus’ own ministry … The kind of unity that is central to Jesus’ high priestly prayer is not organizational but is an all-encompassing relational reality that binds believers together with each other and with their Lord—a unity that can only be achieved through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Given such an understanding, to even suggest that not moving together on the subject of women’s ordination is disunity or even rebellion is a trivialization of the need for unity.
In Genesis 2:24 (NIV) it states, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Adam and Eve were united, but they were not uniform. They were separate people with differing characteristics, but they were united in purpose. The General Conference and the Columbia Union Conference are united in taking the gospel to the world, but they are not uniform in how to do that. This is illustrated in the debate on circumcision at the Jerusalem Council. Some conscientious believers came from Judea to Antioch and insisted that circumcision was mandatory for salvation (Acts 15:1).
Paul and Barnabas vigorously opposed them but no agreement could be reached. So the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas along with some other believers to consult with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. The leaders called a church council. The issue was debated from both sides. The conclusion was not what you might expect. No decision was made for or against circumcision. The council did not say you did not need to be circumcised. It did not say you had to be circumcised. What it did say was that we don’t want to make it difficult for people to become Christians (Acts 15:19) and then listed four agreements that they did reach a consensus on.
These agreements centered around the immorality so prevalent in society at the time and food, how Jews and Gentiles could eat and fellowship together. The Council asked Jews to be willing to sacrifice most of their laws regarding uncleanness and they asked Gentiles to be willing to adopt two of the Jewish standards: refrain from eating meat from strangled animals and refrain from eating meat with blood. (In other words, the essence of a "kosher" diet.) And they asked both groups to not eat meat offered to idols (Acts 15:20).
Each group could decide what they wanted to do with circumcision but could not enforce either belief on others. Circumcision was not a theological doctrine. It was a practice, or policy if you like, of the community of God. The challenge for us in deciding what is part of unity and what is part of uniformity is to determine what is an absolute that cannot be changed. God exists as an absolute. Not worshiping idols is an absolute. Salvation by grace alone is an absolute. But sometimes we have difficulty separating culture from God’s absolutes.
Paul addressed this issue when writing to the church at Corinth. “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23, NIV).
Paul says that to win people to Jesus Christ, we must climb out of our comfort zones and become like the people whom we are trying to reach. “Wait a minute,” someone may say, “you mean that we must drink and smoke and gamble to be like the people we are trying to reach?” Absolutely not. Paul makes it clear in this passage that it is not a free-for-all in winning people to Jesus. Paul said that while he would become like one not having the law to those not having the law, he was not free from law. He is still under Christ's law. What does that mean?
Paul makes a distinction between that which is moral, eternal, and absolute and that which is cultural and relative. He will do whatever it takes to win people as long as it does not violate moral absolutes, such as the Ten Commandments. It means that one will look at things from other people's points of view, from other perspectives. One should try to understand the other person before trying to be understood.
Here is an example directly from the life of the apostle Paul. He participated in the Jerusalem Council, which decided that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to become Christians. Church leaders then sent him with others to announce this decision to the churches (Acts 15:22-31), to let people know that circumcision was not required.
However, when Paul traveled to Lystra and met Timothy, he decided to take Timothy with him on his missionary journey. There was one small problem: although Timothy’s mother was Jewish, his father was Greek, so he had never been circumcised. I am sure that Timothy was relieved that this was no longer a requirement. But Paul wanted to witness to Jews who still believed in circumcision. So true to his philosophy to live under the law with those who lived under the law, he told Timothy that he would have to be circumcised since they would be witnessing in Jewish territory. Timothy probably lost much of his enthusiasm for missions at that moment. But he agreed, so as to live as they lived (Acts 16:1-3).
On the other hand, Paul resolutely refused to circumcise Titus even when pressured (Gal. 2:1-5) because, while they traveled to Jerusalem, Titus’ responsibility was in Crete in Gentile areas. He identified with the people he was trying to reach.
Paul also was willing to disagree with the strong stance of the Jerusalem Council on meat offered to idols. The Council voted four behavioral requirements one of which said that believers were not to eat meat offered to idols because pagans would think they were worshiping the idol. But in writing to the church at Corinth, Paul says that it is clear to believers that there is only one God and eating meat offered to idols really means nothing.
He writes, “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8). But then he gives a caution, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (v. 9). He goes on to explain that if someone who does not know about the true God as well as you sees you eating the food offered to idols they might think you are also worshiping the idol. But if there is no one around to see you then it is not an issue.
The Jerusalem Council, however, did not make any exceptions. Yet, Paul’s disregard for what had been voted did not split the Church. And so today, ordaining women will not split the church, especially since we are not dealing with a doctrinal issue but one of policy.
How does all this relate to the subject of unity? Is the ordination of women pastors a unity question? Is it a moral absolute? Will the church fragment if different parts of the world are allowed to make their own decision in this matter? The answer is clearly no because the decision to allow each division to decide whether to ordain women elders in their territory did not fragment the church.
Elders versus Pastors
Back in the 1970 a very strange decision was made. Key leaders decided that world divisions could decide whether women could be ordained as elders but not ordained as pastors. The Council on the Role of Women in Ministry appointed by the General Conference Executive Committee to conduct a study of this topic was very clear that there was no theological reason why women could not be ordained as pastors (see below).
The 1973 Annual Council voted to accept the report of this study but took no action except a request that the divisions study the report. At the 1974 Annual Council a cautious approach was begun. The way was opened for women to be ordained as local church elders. But no decision either for or against women being ordained as pastors was made.
The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia reports that, “The 1974 Annual Council of the General Conference Committee opened the way for women to be ordained as local elders: ‘To request the President’s Executive Advisory to also arrange for further study of the election of women to local church offices which require ordination and that division committees exercise discretion in any special cases that may arise before a definitive position has been adopted.’ (Annual Council Actions , p. 14)
“Divisions then began cautiously allowing women to be ordained as local elders. A definitive position was voted at the 1984 Annual Council: ‘To advise each division that it is free to make provision as it may deem necessary for the election and ordination of women as local church elders.’ (ibid.) More than 1,000 women serve as elders in the North American Division, and many more serve other divisions of the world.” (“Ordination,” The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 1996. Review and Herald Publishing Association.)
Elder Robert Pierson led the leadership of the church to decide that while divisions could make their own decision regarding women elders the world church had to agree on whether women could serve as ordained pastors. The reasoning went something like this: Local elders are appointed by the local church and can only serve in that church. Pastors, on the other hand, are appointed by the conference and should be available to serve anywhere in the world. If women are ordained as pastors in the local church in America, but other parts of the world will not accept them as pastors, then that will cause a problem.
This reasoning forgets one important point—there is no difference in the Bible between an elder and a pastor. In fact, the word pastor only appears once in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11. The term “elder” as it applies to local church leaders appears ten times. The original Adventist understanding of this is captured in the tradition of addressing ordained ministers as “Elder So-and-so.”
It is true that an elder serves only in the local church. But if he or she moves to another church they may be appointed an elder in that church without being re-ordained (according to the Church Manual). If they move to a part of the world that does not recognize women elders then they will not be called to that position.
It is the same with pastors. Yes, he or she serves a whole conference but they cannot serve outside that conference unless called by another church entity. A pastor cannot travel from America to Africa and raise up a church without the conference in that area calling him or her to do so. If an area of the world does not approve of women pastors they will not call a woman pastor. Just as if a local church does not approve of women elders it will not call a woman to be an elder.
This decision to make women’s ordination to pastoral ministry a world decision neglected to consider the role of culture in making such a decision. One of the delegates to the Columbia Union Constituency Session said that he had served in three of the world divisions. In one division the husband always walked some four steps ahead of his wife. The culture would never dream of a woman becoming a pastor. So why would they vote for women’s ordination? It makes no sense to them. If the world church had decided that pastoral ordination would receive the same consideration as elder ordination there would be no issue in the church today.
Ellen White on Unity and Diversity
Ellen White spoke directly to the issue of different understandings. “One man may be conversant with the Scriptures, and some particular portion of the Scripture may be especially appreciated by him; another sees another portion as very important, and thus one may present one point, and another, another point, and both may be of highest value. This is all in the order of God. But if a man makes a mistake in his interpretation of some portion of the Scripture, shall this cause diversity and disunion? God forbid. We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists of viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement.” (“Love, the Need of the Church,” Manuscript 24, 1892; published as Manuscript Release #898 in Manuscript Releases, Vol. 11. 1981. White Estate: Washington, D.C., p. 266.)
Yet that is exactly where the church is today. Leaders are demanding that everyone move or not move at the same speed because the church has voted a particular policy. Which leads to a discussion of policy.
The Role of Policy
The Adventist church is run by “working policies” and there is nothing wrong with that. Policies save us from having to think through the same issue over and over again. For example, churches have established a policy on how to nominate new officers. If there were no policy each year countless hours would be spent trying to figure out the best way to nominate new officers. A policy helps things go smoothly and with a minimum of time spent.
But policies are not set in concrete and there can arise situations when an exception needs to be made to the policy. For example, at the church where I used to pastor we have a policy that families who request the church school subsidy need to be members, contribute financially on a regular basis to the church, and be involved in a volunteer ministry. However, we had a family join our church who tried to become involved in a ministry but by the time of their application had not found one to be part of. As we looked at this case we decided to make an exception and waive part of the policy. Of course, it can be dangerous when you make exceptions because other people claim they are an exception also.
There is no doubt a tension concerning how rigidly you apply policies. Some people will make no exceptions while others are generous. When I came to pastor in America my family was held up in New York for five days longer than we had planned. Staying in a hotel was expensive and eating in restaurants was even more expensive. The conference had agreed to cover all our expenses. When I turned in my expenses to the conference treasurer he explained that the per diem for one person was six dollars but the per diem for a family was eleven dollars. (There were four people in our family. I was never able to figure out how four people could eat cheaper when in a restaurant together than if they ate separately in restaurants.) But the treasurer said, “We want you to feel welcome in this conference and we will reimburse you the full amount that you spent.” He made an exception to the policy.
It is only a policy, not a doctrine or Biblical principle, that ordination of women has to be a world decision. Why is it so difficult to make exceptions to that policy? Ellen White has written about the dangers of adhering to policy too closely. In the first statement below one can detect a decided tension. It could be used to prove that the church should adopt no policies but then how could it organize itself? What is Ellen White saying here?
“In the commission to His disciples, Christ not only outlined their work, but gave them their message. Teach the people, He said, ‘to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.’ The disciples were to teach what Christ had taught. That which He had spoken, not only in person, but through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament, is here included.
“Human teaching is shut out. There is no place for tradition, for man's theories and conclusions, or for church legislation. No laws ordained by ecclesiastical authority are included in the commission. None of these are Christ's servants to teach. ‘The law and the prophets,’ with the record of His own words and deeds, are the treasure committed to the disciples to be given to the world. Christ's name is their watchword, their badge of distinction, their bond of union, the authority for their course of action, and the source of their success. Nothing that does not bear His superscription is to be recognized in His kingdom.” (Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, 826.)
“There is no place for tradition, for man’s theories and conclusions, or for church legislation.” Ellen White is making a distinction between that which is eternal and absolute and that which is temporal and subsidiary. Policies are not to be made tests of faithfulness.
But policies have been voted by the world church therefore they must be of God. “The committee prayed for God to guide them” some will say. This is an interesting point. The Columbia Union Constituency Session also prayed and believed that God gave them a different message than that which produced the policy.
Ellen White writes that conscience must come before policy. “God did not prevent Daniel's enemies from casting him into the lions’ den; He permitted evil angels and wicked men thus far to accomplish their purpose; but it was that He might make the deliverance of His servant more marked, and the defeat of the enemies of truth and righteousness more complete. ‘Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee’ (Psalm 76:10), the psalmist has testified. Through the courage of this one man who chose to follow right rather than policy, Satan was to be defeated, and the name of God was to be exalted and honored.” (Prophets and Kings, p. 543; emphasis added.)
The Columbian Union Delegates believed that they were dealing with a moral issue, that what was before them was a clear case of discrimination based on gender. It had become a moral issue. They had “to follow right rather than policy.”
Ellen White also speaks to the issue of equality. “Then as the children of God are one in Christ, how does Jesus look upon caste, upon society distinctions, upon the division of man from his fellow man, because of color, race, position, wealth, birth, or attainments? The secret of unity is found in the equality of believers in Christ. The reason for all division, discord, and difference is found in separation from Christ. Christ is the center to which all should be attracted; for the nearer we approach the center, the closer we shall come together in feeling, in sympathy, in love, growing into the character and image of Jesus. With God there is no respect of persons.” (Selected Messages, Vol 1, p. 259; emphasis added.)
There are women serving as pastors who are ministering in the same way as male pastors. They are recognized in exactly the same way by the laying on of hands. They receive the same salary but they cannot receive the same credentialed recognition. The church did not consider them equal. Once the church had decided that women could be pastors (finally voted at the 1990 General Conference Session) it should have been a non issue whether women could be ordained.
“In each country a man should be appointed to work in the general interests of the cause. He need not be a preacher, and he must not be a policy man. He should be unselfish, a man who loves, who honors, and fears his God. His whole time should be devoted to the work. He should plan unselfishly, and in the fear of God. Let him be general agent for that country, and let him be connected with a council composed of the very best men, that they may counsel together, and attend to the work within their borders. There should be businessmen appointed to do the same in the different states in America.” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 321; emphasis added.)
There is a very interesting background to this statement. Ellen White is writing from Australia. “In the night season I was listening to one who spoke with authority. Words of counsel in regard to the responsibilities that are to be borne in the sacred work of God were spoken. The Teacher said, There should be no haphazard work. Much of this has been done. Men have assumed authority, but the people should not depend upon poor, finite, erring men. They should put their entire trust in the wisdom that finds its strength in the wisdom of God. The inconsistency of centering so many responsibilities in Battle Creek has been presented many times, but the counsels have not been acted upon. The reproofs and warnings from the Lord have been evaded and interpreted and made void by the devices of men. There has been counter working against God, and the judgment of men has been received.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 319)
Ellen White writes on the same page, “In Battle Creek you have evidence that men who have had the most to say are not walking with God. There is abundant activity, but not many are working in partnership with Christ; and those who walk and work apart from Him have been the most active in planning and inaugurating their methods.”
Now I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not suggesting in any way that the General Conference leadership is corrupt or not following God. What I do want to state is that just because certain actions come from the highest levels does not automatically mean that they have clearly heard the voice of God.
Probably one of the most famous statements of Ellen White is the following. “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” (Education, p. 57.)
Yes, there will always be tensions. Tension is part of life. Without tension between velocity and gravity planes could not fly. They would either remain on the ground or shoot off into space but when there is the right balance, the right tension between opposite forces (or points of view) progress is made.
Whatever solutions we come to we must be centered on a growing experience with Jesus. It was Jesus who explained that the real test of who are his followers is not how united they are on doctrine or on policy but on how they love each other. “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]” (Amplified Bible).
J. David Newman is the editor of Adventist Today. He just retired as senior pastor of New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church near Baltimore and is former Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and former editor of Ministry.
By action of the General Conference Committee
Convened September 16-19, 1973
at Camp Mohaven, Ohio
Report and Recommendations
In recognition of the growing evidence of the imminence of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the consequent demand for the utilization of every personal resource available to the Church in fulfilling her commission, the council was led to the following positions.
1. With due recognition of evident individual differences, the equality of all believers was established by creation is being restored through redemption in Jesus Christ (Gen. 1, 2; Gal. 3:28; 3T 484).
2. Redemption of believers in Jesus Christ is shared by them with others through the proclamation of the gospel, in which all believers participate. To aid in this sharing role the Holy Spirit has seen fit to pour gifts upon all (Joel 2:28, 29).
3. As a further aid in carrying out its mission, the Church by divine appointment bestows on certain members specific functions and recognizes the divine calling by ordination.
4. In harmony with the following statement, we see no significant theological objection to the ordination of women to Church ministries: “Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister, but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. This is another means of strengthening and building up the church. We need to branch out more in our methods of labor. Not a hand should be bound, not a soul discouraged, not a voice should be hushed; let every individual labor, privately or publicly, to help forward this grand work. Place the burdens upon men and women of the church, that they may grow by reason of the exercise, and thus become effective agents in the hand of the Lord for the enlightenment of those who sit in darkness.”—RH, July 9, 1895.
On the basis of the above positions, it is
1. Ordination Roles
a. That qualifications for church offices which require ordination (example, church elders and deacons) be listed without reference to sex. (The ordination of women to such offices does not seem contrary to the spirit of the gospel nor to the specific counsel of Ellen G. White, given above).
b. That, while Inspiration provides no explicit directive in this matter, yet in the view of the principles and the recommendations above, and the fact that the authority for selecting ordinands to the gospel ministry has been vested by God in His Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
(1) A pilot plan be formulated by the General Conference in Annual Council, enlisting qualified women to pastoral and evangelistic ministry in selected areas;
(2) Ministerial licenses be granted to the participants with the possibility of later ordination as the pilot plan may evidence its growing acceptance by the members of the church.
(3) As evidence is provided by the pilot program, the ordination of women to the gospel ministry be considered, if possible, by the 1975 General Conference Session.
2. General Roles
That, since the function of the Church involves the utilization of all its resources for the completion of its tasks, the eligibility of qualified women, representative of the women in the Church, to participate with men in leadership and administration roles at all levels, be recognized by the church.
3. Home and Family Roles
a. That while we are advocating some wider roles for women in the Church, we reaffirm the primacy of the home and family in the upbuilding of the Church and as a soul-winning agency, and the significant roles of mothers and fathers in their responsibility of maintaining the sanctity of the home in fulfilling its purpose and high calling be fully appreciated:
b. That, in the family context, the husband-and-wife team called to the gospel ministry be recognized as an effective agency in the ministry of the Church on the terms of the counsel contained in MS 43a, 1898 (Gospel Workers 452, 453).
The Minister's Wife
“The minister is paid for his work, and this is well. And if the Lord gives the wife as well as the husband the burden of labor, and she devotes her time and strength to visiting from family to family and opening the Scriptures to them, although the hands of ordination have not been laid upon her, she is accomplishing a work that is in the line of ministry. Then should her labors be counted as naught?
“Injustice has sometimes been done to women who labor just as devotedly as their husbands, and who are recognized by God as being necessary to the work of the ministry. The method of paying men-laborers, and not paying their wives who share their labors with them, is a plan not according to the Lord's order, and if carried out in our conferences, is liable to discourage our sisters from qualifying themselves for the work they should engage in. God is a God of justice, and if the ministers receive a salary for their work, their wives, who devote themselves just as disinterestedly to the work, should be paid in addition to the wages their husbands receive, even though they may not ask for this.
“Seventh-day Adventists are not in any way to belittle woman's work. If a woman puts her housework in the hands of a faithful, prudent helper, and leaves her children in good care, while she engages in the work, the conference should have wisdom to understand the justice of her receiving wages.”
4. A Program of Education
That the General Conference initiate a program of education of the Church, which will provide a wider understanding of the principles and recommendations of this Report.
5. Areas of Further Study
That, as a result of the Council’s work, a number of areas calling for further study be recognized, such as:
a. A fuller theology of the entire concept of ordination,
b. A fuller study of the lay ministries of the Church,
c. A fuller study of the professional ministries of the Church.
Implementation of Pilot Program
To implement Recommendation 1-b of the “Report and Recommendations” from the Council on the Roles of Women in the SDA Church, it is
1. That, where the “climate” in the field would appear receptive to a pilot program for women in pastoral and evangelistic roles, Conference/Mission committees in consultation with Union and Division committees take the initiative in appointing qualified women to pastoral/evangelistic responsibilities on a two-year basis, with the expectation of renewal upon evaluation of the pilot program.
2. That ministerial licenses be granted to the appointees in the pilot program.
3. That the General Conference Ministerial Association, Department of Education, and Ministerial Training Advisory Committee be asked to give study to any implications which the pilot program might have for the training of women at all education levels for pastoral/evangelistic roles.
4. That the General Conference Ministerial Association monitor the pilot program and prepare an interim report on it for the 1974 Annual Council, as a basis for any recommendations concerning the ordination of women to the gospel ministry which would require consideration for the 1975 General Conference Session.