by Sam Millen, July 20, 2015: The debate on women’s ordination at the General Conference Session was never intended to address the question of whether it is theologically appropriate or not to ordain women to the gospel ministry. That was done in the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC). Dr. Artur Stele, a GC vice president, shared a number of helpful insights in a press conference after the historic vote (you can watch the press conference here: https://vimeo.com/133036522). He reminded everyone that church members have strongly held convictions on both sides of the issue and that we cannot change the convictions of others. He said that the delegates were only voting on a possible solution to the women’s ordination debate by giving the Executive Committees of the 13 Divisions of the World Church the latitude to make decisions on women’s ordination based on what they deem appropriate for mission in their regions.
During the debate on the floor, re-elected General Conference President Ted Wilson urged the world church to remain united. His comments were interpreted by many as an appeal for uniform practice in every area of the world church. Around 60% of the delegates at the General Conference Session voted against variance in policy between Divisions as a possible solution to the women’s ordination debate. Their vote simply stated qualified women should either be ordained in all 13 Divisions of the world church or in none of them.
It is important to remember that the 13 Divisions are part of the organizational structure of the General Conference. Therefore, decisions made by the delegates at a General Conference Session are authoritative for Division Executive Committees. However, Unions are independent organizational units, and the delegates at Union Constituency Meetings can make separate decisions regarding women’s ordination for their Unions. I am thankful that I work in a Union where God’s calling to pastoral ministry is fully recognized without regard to gender. For those of you who are members in Unions where this is not the case, I urge you contact your Union leaders. It’s time for the Unions to act!
Sam Millen is an Australian serving as an Adventist pastor in Virginia. His self-imposed North American exile has now reached its 17th year.