August 31, 2015: A survey among Adventist young adults predicts a very large negative impact due to the vote against ending the exclusion of women pastors from ordination at the General Conference (GC) Session in San Antonio. The survey was conducted by a research team based at Andrews University prior to the Session and is reported in a special report from the Beyond Beliefs study of Adventists from the Millennial Generation, defined by the project team as age 18 through 32 this year.
A total of 86 percent of the young adults indicated that they agree with the ordination of women clergy, while only 14 percent disagree. About the same response was given to a question about how they would respond if the GC Session did vote yes on women’s ordination; 85 percent said they would respond positively and only 15 percent said they would respond negatively.
This is quite a different picture than what was suggested during the discussion on ordination at the Session by Natasha Nebblett, the president of the conservative young adult organization, Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC). She spoke against extending ordination to the women among Adventist pastors, but clearly did not speak for her generation broadly.
What is now the most relevant item in the survey is the question about how they would respond if the GC Session voted no, as it did. Three out of four indicated some degree of negative response and only 26 percent said it would not affect their perception of the denomination at all. In fact the most damaging result of the vote may be the degree to which Adventist young adults are simply disconnecting their faith from the denomination’s activities all together. Despite the very negative response to a no vote on women’s ordination, only 16 percent said it would result in their withholding tithe.
Is the next generation of Adventists more liberal? Another item in the survey indicates that it is not that simple. Asked if they identify as conservative or liberal, the majority of respondents said “I am a bit of both” (43 percent) or “I don’t like these labels” (16 percent). Only one in four actually identified their perspective, with 15 percent liberal and 10 percent conservative.
The explanation embraced by most of the experts that Adventist Today consulted is that the Millennial Generation refuses to buy into the “culture war” between conservatives and liberals that has so engages their parents in the Baby Boom Generation. The Beyond Beliefs project is focused on exploring the understanding among today’s young adults of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist denomination. More information is available on line at www.beyond-beliefs.com and reports can be purchased from Amazon on line.