by AT News Team

Last week the executive committee of the Columbia Union Conference voted a response to the comments released by the General Conference (GC) officers following the four to one vote of the union’s constituency delegates in July to end gender discrimination in ordination to the gospel ministry. The statement was released in the last 48 hours.
 
Acknowledging “the concerns and questions” raised by the constituency action, and expressing regret “that some have misunderstood our motives and intentions,” the union conference leaders expressed their “unwavering … solidarity with our worldwide church family in faith, belief, doctrine and mission.” Appealing for understanding, the elected governing body of the eight-state region said, “We were compelled to act on our conscience … because we believe it will and already is having a positive impact on our churches, ministries and mission; we believe it is morally and ethically right; we believe that God calls whom He chooses and our responsibility and privilege is to fully recognize His proven calls; we want to see new generations of members unabashedly engage in the mission of our church and … hasten the promised return of Christ.”
 
The statement points out that the Columbia Union leaders are not pressuring other unions to go along with their position. “We accept, respect and understand that practicing inclusive ministerial ordination would not work well in all parts of the world and … we in no way wish to force others to take this step.” It simply pleads for others who may disagree to “understand our need and the opportunity it provides us to grow God’s kingdom in our part of the vineyard.”
 
Such public statements both from the GC officers and the union conference leadership are unprecedented in recent decades. With rare exception in the early 1980s, such disagreements have been discussed privately by denominational administrators and policy-makers.
 
“If those who disagree around the world cannot provide some room for Adventists in areas of the world such as this one to ordain women pastors, then this could become a serious disruption of denominational unity,” a retired church administrator told Adventist Today. “This is a simple plea of the type that has been made on many, many occasions with less publicity. ‘Please let us handle this in our own way.’ We really cannot have a global church with such multicultural diversity as we have unless we are prepared to provide this kind of latitude and understanding.”
 
Others, especially certain independent ministries and more conservative voices, fear that if the GC permits flexibility on the issue of ordination it will result in pressure to give in on more fundamental standards. “Where do we draw the line?” asked a retired Bible teacher who sent an Email to Adventist Today.