by AT News Team

Update Added at the End

“The first day was marked with tensions and apprehension” stated a report released late Thursday (January 17) by the officers of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee at the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. The report included no hint as to what the issues may have been.
 
This session was focused on the primary task of establishing a theology of ordination that is consistent with Scripture and the Adventist heritage in preparation for dealing with the specific issue of gender discrimination in ordination at future meetings. “The steering committee [had] assigned certain individuals to prepare papers [that were] sent to all Study Committee members … before” the meeting, said the statement by Artur Stele, chair of the committee; Geoffrey Mbwana, vice chair; and Karen Porter, secretary.
 
After the papers were presented and discussed by the entire committee, the group broke into five discussion groups each assigned to bring recommendations back to the entire group. “We were all amazed by the similarity of the major points raised” in the discussion groups, the leaders said. “Based on the suggestions … from the … groups, the presenters will refine their papers and a second draft … will be sent out to the division Biblical Research Committees … for their input before the next meeting … in July.”
 
There was considerable emphasis on prayer and divine influence in the meeting. “We witnessed a very positive working of the Holy Spirit,” the committee officers observed. “We started each day with wonderful devotional messages and allowed ample time for prayer.”
 
Much has been invested in this committee as the way to find a solution to the debate over the role of women in Adventist clergy and preserve unity in the denomination. Three previous study groups in 1973, 1975 and 1988-89 each recommended extending ordination to women serving in gospel ministry and found their recommendations pulled back because of fear of conflict on the part of denominational administrators.
 
“This committee includes a number of people with the tools to do serious Bible study,” one theologian told Adventist Today. “It also includes members who are clearly on record on both sides of the issue. It appears that a real attempt has been made to have some balance in the group and this first statement seems to indicate that the leadership of the committee is working for integrity in its proceedings.” The statement was brief and lacked detailed information such as summaries or even the topics of the first round of papers, but it was prompt, circulated shortly after the end of the meeting.
 
Update:  On Friday, after Adventist Today posted the news story above, the Adventist Review published a report with an additional statement from the committee: "We have real hope that the church will be able to find a way to resolve the differences we have on the issue of ordination," committee chair Artur Stele … reported to church leaders worldwide via phone conference. "We left the meeting feeling very optimistic and confident that God is leading us."