by AT News Team
Last week the executive committee of the Pacific Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church reaffirmed its “strong commitment to the ordination of women” who serve in pastoral ministry. The vote came after “nearly two hours of discussion and prayer” said Gerry Chudleigh, communication director for the regional judicatory of the denomination that covers California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii.
What steps might be taken based on this basic position will be considered at the next meeting of the governing group on May 9. “The committee agreed that the next steps will require careful planning,” said Chudleigh. “In the interim, union administrators will work with local conference administrators to develop proposals for specific actions.”
On May 12, 2010, the committee “affirmed a statement made by the same body 15 years earlier, supporting the ordination of women and their full and equal participation in all phases of ministry,” according to an article in the June 2010 issue of the Pacific Union Recorder. The article quoted the action of the General Conference Session in 1990, stating that an in-depth theological study by the denomination’s leading Bible scholars and administrators “does not have a consensus as to whether or not the Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White explicitly advocate or deny the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, it concludes unanimously that these sources affirm a significant, wide-ranging and continuing ministry for women, which is being expressed and will be evidence in the varied and expanding gifts according to the infilling of the Holy Spirit.” The body did not approve ordination for women because of its expressed fear of “the possible risk of disunity.”
This is the third union conference governing body to take a similar stand in the last couple of weeks. Adventist Today has been told by several sources unwilling to be identified that the same topic is under discussion in other union conferences. At the same time, an unsigned blog entitled “Adventist Voice” has published a stating that the Mid-America Union Conference “rebels against God and His church.” The vote taken by the executive committee in that union “goes against what God has taught in His Word,” according to the unidentified blogger. “The Bible is crystal clear on the teaching of gender roles. … Let’s stop trying to twist the Bible to say what we want it say.”
This week the president of the Mid-America Union Conference, Pastor Tom Lemon, released an update on the organization’s web site. The vote by his executive committee “unleashed as much misunderstanding as understanding,” he wrote. “We voted our consciences … but we did not vote to ordain a woman.” He pointed out that what was voted by the governing committee was an expression of support to the North American Division of the General Conference and assured his constituency that his union conference would not take any such action until fully authorized by the Division.
Pastor Lemon described the committee’s discussion as a deeply spiritual activity. “It is impossible to convey via the printed page the experience that pervaded our committee room. It was a wonderful, heartfelt and honest discussion and a firm resounding vote.” He expressed the wish that “our conferences … feel free to discuss the matter in an environment of safety and openness. We prayerfully desire to achieve a working consensus.”
Two comments posted on the web site in response to his statement reflect that division of opinion on this subject. Engel Yoder writes, “The reason the world church is reticent to approve the ordination of women” is due to “God’s established order of authority for the human family.” Ed Samuel then writes, “divine order [makes] the husband head of the home not head of the church. … Shame on a church founded by a woman that denies women the opportunity to serve as clergy.”