Following three hours of respectful study and discussion, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist world church voted to approve a “Statement on Church Polity, Procedures and Resolution of Disagreements in the Light of Recent Union Actions on Ministerial Ordination” on October 16, during the Annual Council of world church leaders held in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
The vote was 264 in favor and 25 opposed.
Delegates read the statement before later voting to approve it by a margin of 264-25. [photos by Ansel Oliver]
The move comes after three local unions – the North German Union in the Euro-Africa Division, and the Columbia Union and Pacific Union in the North American Division – separately voted this year to permit ordination “without respect to gender,” something the Adventist Church as a whole has twice rejected in votes at the movement’s General Conference Sessions, which are held every five years.
The voted statement expresses disapproval of the independent actions of the unions, appeals for all Church units “to consider thoughtfully the impact and implications of decisions” made independently of the world community, and affirms the role of women in the Church’s life and ministry. The document also points toward continuing studies on the theology of ordination, the results of which are expected to be ready in 2014, ahead of the following year’s 60th General Conference Session. No sanctions are applied, or suggested, in the document.
“This statement deals with Church structure and procedures. It does not address the question of ministerial ordination practices per se,” the statement said. “The central issue is one of Church polity – how the Church defines its organization, governance and operations.”
“Decisions to pursue a course of action not in harmony with the 1990 and 1995 General Conference Session decisions (with respect to ministerial ordination) represent not only an expression of dissent but also a demonstration of self-determination in a matter previously decided by the collective Church,” the statement said. “The General Conference Executive Committee regards these actions as serious mistakes.”
The statement text continues, “The world Church cannot legitimize practices that clearly contradict the intent of General Conference Session actions. … Accordingly, the world Church does not recognize actions authorizing or implementing ministerial ordination without regard to gender.”
But the statement is also clear in stating the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s position on women: “The General Conference Executive Committee specifically affirms the important roles that women fill in the life of the Church. Their giftedness and commitment is a blessing to the whole Church and a necessary part of its work in mission.”
The measure passed on a secret, paper ballot after the day's discussion, which began with comments from Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson, Seventh-day Adventist world church president. Wilson expressed the hope that the world church's units would continue "focusing on the mission of the Church, uniting in Christ, even though we will face some differences and disagreements."
Wilson was followed by noted evangelist and retired General Conference vice president Pastor Mark Finley, who spoke about the question of how the early church made decisions and worked in unity. He referenced three incidents in the book of Acts.
Adventist world church General Vice President Lowell Cooper reads the statement before the vote.
"The essence of unity is not uniform action; it is respecting one another enough to listen carefully, respond thoughtfully and decide together," Finley said. "Insurmountable difficulties were resolved as early church leaders met together, prayed and surrendered their personal opinions to the decision of the larger corporate body."
During an extended comment period, Pastor Daniel Jackson, North American Division president, sought to reassure world church leaders that the division supported the Church's mission, despite the polity question discussed in the statement.
"We want to make it abundantly clear that the NAD without any hesitation expresses our unity with the world church," Jackson said. "We are not just an adjunct to the world church; we are brothers and sisters with every person in this room."
A pastor in the NAD’s Atlantic Union Conference, Dedrick Blue, told his fellow delegates that “the process deals with the mechanism, but the effect is just as important as the process. What we are grappling with here is the effect of our decision as a world body,” adding, “Don't get involved with process to neglect justice and mercy.”
While he voted in favor of the statement, North Pacific Union Conference president Pastor Max Torkelson II said he hoped younger Adventists wouldn’t get the wrong message from the action. He spoke with a reporter following the meeting.
“I’m concerned that, particularly our younger church members have less patience” to wait for the world church to act, he said. “And we’re asking them, we have been asking them, for years, to be patient, and now again we’re asking them to be patient. I admire them to the degree that they are, but I’m wondering how long we can presume that they will be patient. I’m afraid that we may disappoint them.”
Following the vote and before prayers by Adventist university leaders from three continents, Wilson said he appreciated delegates’ careful approach to the matter.
“Thank you for your confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring unity to God's Church,” Wilson said. “We're not at the end of the road, we still have a journey to complete, but by God's grace, let's do it together.”
Sarah, that is not appropriate at all. Please stop insulting people because they disagree with you. Per Matthew 7:5 maybe you should pray for yourself before your pray for your brother?
Sarah is not right to respond in such a way. All she has done is make an insulting remark against a brother. There is no Christian value to her post whatsoever. It does nothing to further the discussion all it acheives is an alienation of that brother. It does not display the love of God towards sinners but follows another spirit. Rather than make a positive contribution to the thread she has chosen to make a post that is personally insulting to someone else because he holds a different understanding to her.
Unless you are saying that Alexander is evil I do not understand how you could class her response as rebuking evil. It wasn't even a rebuke - just a simple insult. Are you suggesting that Alexander should not be able to express his opinion, or that he be dismissed as "clueless" because he has an alternative view?
No, it was a nasty post with no redeeming merit. It breaks the site rules, is a good example of the type of posts that we are asked not to make and could be construed as trying to bully someone into not posting an alternative viewpoint. Applauding such behaviour will only serve to encourage others to think that it is acceptable to insult another poster rather than making a reasoned, Christian response.
John it was not insulting....You have been insulting to those who disagree with you, and simply are better at it than most.
Next time ask for clarification FIRST if you are not sure....Matthew 18 actually works.
Really, Sarah? "He is clueless"? You really want to argue that is not insulting?
I don't think that you trying to hide behind my behaviour makes it any better.
You got jokes....
He's clueless...Pray for him.
What you said was insulting by any standard. It breaks the following rules of our Site Rules & Guidelines:
1. Be loving. Discuss issues with Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters here.
4. Don't call names, make personal attacks, or use negative stereotypes against other people or groups of people.
5. No belittling of individual people, their character, their beliefs, or their motives.
6. Only rebut issues, NOT the people who write them. Do not negatively characterize others' positions or beliefs with your own value judgment. Simply state how you think the belief is wrong and what you believe the correct interpretation is, while giving your basis for your belief.
14. If you ever feel justified for being negative or antagonistic toward another person... prayerfully see rule #1 and DON'T.
Personalized negative comments about other members has no place on Adventist Online. It will not be tolerated.
May God shine through us as we interact with others.
I believe that this has already been addressed....
A few days ago.
There is a difference between jokes and scathing sarcasm..
It's pretty sad that even though I am mildly autistic which is supposed to impair me in areas such as empathy, and social behaviors I can still see what you were doing.. That being said it leaves little to no room for excuses..
Ezra, My response was to tell the person to stop wasting their time trying to convince someone who just doesn't get it--nor wants to. Pray for them and move on...
I really do not care who disagrees with me here anymore; it is clear that the Adventist name on the web link is not reflected in the core group that posts. Based on the posts for more than a year, too many live in a world that is not relevant to the needs of the people living in the 21st century to bring them to Christ--and the "appear " to be content with it. Until God changes them, it is what it is. My prayer is that this will change very soon, in Jesus' Name.
BTW, You are quick to misquote application of scripture, but fail to follow what is crystal clear...Like Matthew 18. Next time ASK FIRST! SMH
He's clueless...Pray for him.
Don't worry people. Sara is an idiot. May God help her.
Did you see what I did there? Yes, I made an amazingly offensive and inappropriate statement. I did it about another member personally. It added nothing to the discussion other than antagonize. That statement breaks our rules and is never appropriate. I cannot figure out for the life of me figure out how it can be defended. I can't defend it.
Likewise Sara, your statement is not appropriate in any way. Please never post in this manner again. You can see how offensive it is.
Blessings and prayers,
PS. I do not think Sara is an idiot in any way. I do know that her statement breaks our Site Rules & Guidelines. My statement above is making a point by mirroring the statement made by the member.
PPS. Me posting this offensive example is perhaps completely misguided. My only goal is to point out how offensive this type of comment is. These comments have no place on Adventist Online.
I have explained exactly what I meant....I am sorry that you took it that way. I also was not offended by what you stated--whether as an example or not. I know who I am in Jesus Christ.
@ Clark P. Thank you for posting that!! Insults whether obvious or hidden get a person know here.