By AT News Team, April 30, 2015: Some of the most respected and senior leaders of the Adventist movement released statements today asking delegates to the General Conference (GC) Session in July to vote “Yes” on the question allowing world divisions to make decisions about ordination. A web site includes written statements by six leaders and a short video with three of the six.
“It is now clear that there is not a biblical passage or a statement from Ellen G. White that clearly commands or opposes the ordination of women to the ministry,” said Dr. Angel Rodriguez, one of the most respect Bible scholars among Adventists. “The delegates do not have a unanimous biblical mandate on which to decide. … This is not about rejecting or modifying any of our biblical doctrines … but a matter of tradition.” He has served on the staff of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) for nearly three decades, much of it as director.
“We have clear evidence that the Lord has been leading the church to ordain women to the ministry in to the ministry in places where this is indispensible,” Rodriguez wrote. “I am specifically thinking about the church in China. This is an important case, in that this decision cannot be considered to be an act of ‘rebellion’ … It was rather the work of the Spirit leading the church in China to make its work more effective.”
“My prayer is that we will say Yes,” stated Dr. Jan Paulsen, who served as a Bible teacher in Africa and Europe and retired as GC president at the session in 2010. “If we do not, both history and the Lord will, I fear, judge us severely. … Serious damage will be done to the global unity of our church if we do not allow those parts of our global family, for whom time and culture have come, the right an authority to grant women equal access with men to the ministry of our church.”
“As it nears the end, the [church] will conform more and more to the liberating rule of Christ,” said Pastor Charles Bradford, retired president of the denomination’s North American Division (NAD). “Where ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).” Bradford retired in 1990 and is now in his 90s, but still active in Bible study, writing and preaching. He was the first African American to serve as NAD president.
“As I preach the gospel in different countries around the world, I rejoice in seeing the diversity of our worldwide family,” stated Pastor Alejandro Bullon, the noted evangelist from South America. “For that reason I support the ‘yes.’ I am in favor of allowing each division to decide if they should or should not ordain our sisters.” Bullon is likely the best known Adventist preacher in Latin America.
Dr. Calvin Rock, who served as a GC vice president from 1985 until he retired in 2002, pointed out that Joel 2:28-29 has been considered an important text for the Remnant church and suggested that women who experience the call to the gospel ministry may be a fulfillment of that promise “of intensified ‘last-day’ gospel proclamation.” A yes vote “does not alter any of our 28 fundamental beliefs,” he wrote.
Recalling his own journey with the issue of women’s ordination over the past 40 years and the steps that the church has taken on this topic, Dr. William Johnsson, a Bible scholar who served from 1982 to 2007 as editor of the Adventist Review, concluded, “I have reached a settled conviction: we need the involvement of women in all phases and at all levels” of the ministry of the Adventist denomination.
The current GC officers have agreed not to take sides on the question in order to give the delegates freedom to vote their consciences, although sources have told Adventist Today that privately many, if not most, agree with these elders of the Adventist movement that a “yes” vote is the right choice. A three-page PDF can be downloaded at the Web site and easily printed out and copied for distribution in local churches, and the five-minute video can be shown in study groups and classes.
The full statement is available at www.adventistelders.com.