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Report: Women's Ordination Approved in CUC

In a historic vote, the Columbia Union Conference becomes the first union in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to ordain women.

After hours of discussion including speeches from General Conference president Ted Wilson, GC vice-president Lowell Cooper, and North American Division president Daniel Jackson, the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted 209 to 51 to authorize ordination to Gospel ministry without regard to gender. With their vote, the CUC joins the Nothern German Union in enacting ordination equality. The Pacific Union Conference will vote on a similar provision on August 19.

Today's special constituency session lasted over three hours. During the meeting, both Elder Wilson and Elder Cooper spoke in strong opposition to the motion to move independently of the world-wide Church, which is currently conducting a study on ordination. Wilson predicted dire consequences for deviation from the desisions of the General Conference in session.

The meeting began with worship, during which Daniel Jackson spoke to delegates of love and of God's Spirit.

"The hallmark of the church is that we love each other," Jackson said, adding that the body's primary responsibility, personally and collectively was to God. Jackson did not directly address the issue at hand, but instead appealed to the work of God. "Either the Spirit of God was poured out in Bible times, or it wasn't," Jackson said, adding, "And if it was then, it is today."

After Jackson, President Wilson addressed delegates.

He framed the issue as one of unity or disunity: "I come to you today because I care about the unity of the church at large," Wilson said. 

Wilson appealed to his father, former General Conference president Neal C. Wilson, saying, "If dad were alive today, he would be very concerned about today's recommendation, as are thousands around the world."

The president then warned that a vote in favor of ordaining women might lead to "fragmentation, congregationionalism and a breakdown in collegaialism." But Wilson was quick to add to his warnings, "I'm not threatening you in any way, just presenting facts."

He then took issue with the idea that the vote would put the CUC at variance with the World Church, calling variance "a nice, polite word." "In reality, if voted it will put you inopposition to World Church," Wilson said. The president repeatedly used phrases such as "grave consequences" and "out of harmony" to describe the move to ordain equally.

Wilson again appealed to delegates to defer to the ongoing process of study, that he said would involved the Biblical Research Institute, an entity that thus far has been excluded.

Following Wilson's remarks, Vice-president Cooper addressed delegates reiterating the appeal to "refrain from autonomous action." Both Wilson and Cooper made political appeals, but did not address biblical or theological issues.

After Cooper, Wilson added a few more comments, saying that he was inviting delegates "to be integral part of remnant church." The clear implication was that by voting for ordination equality, they would be outside the confines of the remnant church. The president concluded by saying, "I implore you, do not vote the recommended action...we should stay in harmony with each other and not branch out independently, which could have devastating effects."

Following remarks from the General Conference leadership, members of the CUC Ad Hoc Committee that brought the recommendation to ordain equally spoke about their process.

Potomac Conference president William Miller provided a brief history of the move in CUC to be gender inclusive. He demonstrated that the process goes back to the 1970s. Miller pointed out that in the past when similar discussions arose, people predicted dire consequences, but "The earthquake didn't happen," Miller said repeatedly. Miller showed that policies affecting women in ministry were historically enacted at local, grassroots levels, and then were eventually adopted by the world church. Whenever changes toward inclusivity were made, Miller said, they were not initiated by the World Church.

"One of our favorite pastimes as denomination is to commission another study," Miller said pointedly.

Ohio Conference president Raj Attiken was next to speak. He noted that authority in the Adventist denomination has historically rested with people at local levels, and has flowed up through delegation. Attiken addressed the idea of church unity, saying that unity lies in ideals rather than church structure. "Diveristy is intrinsic to authentic unity," he told the audience.

Attiken pointed out that in 1881, the General Conference voted to ordain women, and there was no dissent from Ellen White. A little later, Attiken shared a statement from Ellen White, in which she said that "The General Conference ought to be the voice of God, but it is not."

Next, pastor Brenda Langford Billingy delivered a rousing speech in which she compared ordination to graduation. She pointed to her own prospering congregation as evidence of God's enabling power through women ministers. After dressing in a CAP and gown "of grace" to illustrate God's calling, Billingy concluded by movingly turning in her ministerial credentials.

"I brought my commissioning diploma. I will leave it on the table in hopes that as you vote today...I will be able to see our president sign his name on this diploma and choose to put X over the word commissioning and write in 'ordained.' All heaven awaits your vote," she said to loud appluase.

Immediately after Billingy finished, the motion came from the CUC ledership: "MOTION - That the Columbia Union Conference authorize ordination to the gospel ministry without regard to gender."

The floor was opened to delegates to speak to the motion. Delegates were given two minutes each to speak. Some who opposed the motion ignored the two-minute stricture and attempted to continue speaking after their time elapsed. The commenters gave the impression that a majority of delegates supported the motion, though speakers on both sides spoke equally passionately. Many speakers appealed to their families. Some appealed to unity, others to inclusivity. Some praised the action, others denounced it.

Following comments, an amendment was offered to the motion to clarify its wording. However, several minutes of confusion ensued as delegates tried to understand what they were being asked to vote. After much deliberation, the amendment was voted down, and CUC president David Weigley called for a vote on the original motion.

Delegates voted by secret ballot. After several minutes of voting and vote tabulation, Weigley called the group to order to announce the result of the vote.

Weigley announced that there were 260 votes with 9 abstentions and a few blank cards received. Of those who voted, 209 voted yes, 51 no. With an 80% margin, the motion carried. Weigley told the audience, "This is not a surprise to those of us who have been listening carefully around this union."

Weigley went on to akcnowledge the leaders from the General Conference and the North American Division who attended, and asked NAD president Dan Jackson to close with prayer. Following Jackson's benediction, the congregation sang together "Blest Be the Ties That Bind."

On August 19, the Pacific Union Conference will be the second union within the North American Division to hold a special constituency session related to ordaining equally. The PUC will be voting on changes to the GC model constitution in order to allow for a previously approved policy permitting ordination without regard to gender. Because delegates will vote to change the constitution and by-laws, that vote will require a 2/3 majority for passage.

Photo Credit: Columbia Union Conference Visitor

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To the Messianic church Alli, they never adopt this. 

@Alli - Though I do not support women ordination like Crisan and some other members here - I would be worried to leave the SDA church. As I agree with the main beliefs we have and believe in Ellen White. anyway - I would never leave unless 100 percent convicted by God. Doubt it will happen. Am thinking - no church is perfect hey? but the SDA church does hold the main truths yes? like ten commandments including Sabbath, manner of Jesus 2nd coming, three angels message etc... state of the dead... so on... I think I would stay though don't agree with everything! I agree with you - stay with the SDA church!

I am having a struggle with staying.  How do you stay with a church that is teaching what I consider biblical error?  As a member, I am a representative of the church.  How do I tell my friends, those I come in contact with, that I belong to a church that teaches the Bible only except for this one point where we go our own way?  How do I face God knowing that I am part of an organization that does not want to serve Him no matter what?  And I know that those who believe it is okay with God disagree.  But to me, if you are a member of an organization, you are saying that you stand for what it stands for.

To me, it is no different than saying well, I'm going to this church that keeps all of the Bible except we go to church on  Sunday.  I know ordination is not in the 10 commandments but serving God is.  Or going to a chuch that keeps the Sabbath but teaches another error.  Truth and untruth can't exist together.  And if you don't believe your church is teaching truth, then how do you stay with it?

@ Dorothy - the thing is - doesnt every church have some fault of some kind. anyway - I have no idea where there is a church to go to other than the SDA. I wouldnt know where to go - and is there one in the city I live in. How do I know that the new church preaches all the right things! it's all a bit much! but I get what you are saying!

I have been surfing the net for years..for SDA sites, for info etc etc..and NOW I am finding that some of those sites claiming to be SDA are in fact not..and/or teaching error..such as the 2520 prophecy.

One minute I am overwhelmed and confused..the next I am mad...and the next I just make a decision to re study all of our teachings and find totally REAL SDA sites.

I have never seen such splintering of beliefs in a church...but I realize that it must be satan..trying to get at the few in the world who actually try to learn how to follow Jesus for real.

@ Alli M - yes for sure - Satan trying to mess up God's true church! we must not give up!!

@Alli

The fact that everyone doesn't always agree should prophetically speaking tell you that you are in the right place.. "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" that is what is happening here.. We are entering the time of the shaking, because many are standing for the straight testimony now, world wide and there will always be factions among the church that would rather serve self than God and will not take the testimony.. It will be a rough ride for sure, but well worth it..

Take comfort dear sister in the knowledge that this is just a sign that we are going home soon, and will be free of the chains of this world and all it's venom..

Hi Dorothy,

The first thing that I want to point out is that the church does not teach that women should be ordained as pastors. The CUC has taken a unilateral decision to step outside of the sisterhood of churches and go their own way. Unless you are a member of the Columbia Union Conference you have not agreed to this.

So, let us be very clear. This is a rebellious act by one union (so far) which has placed itself outside of the mainstream of SDA. They care nothing for the thoughts and feelings of the millions of SDAs across the world and have decided to separate from the rest of the world over this issue. If you are separating from the SDA Church over this then you should be very careful. The majority of SDAs agree with you. Don't judge the church by a vocal minority.

The church may appear that it is about to fall but it will not, it will go through to become the church triumphant. Those in rebellion will leave the church, it just depends how much of a shaking it will take for them to fall out.

Please remember, WO is promoted by a small minority, however, it is a very oppressive minority that promotes their errors through lying, misrepresentation and dissembling. They are not the SDA Church, they are those who are troubling the church. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

The problem is that I am a member of the Columbia Union Conference.  Which is why I feel that I have to take a stand for right.  And which is why I wonder what are the ones who are part of the Columbia Union who don't believe in this decision supposed to do.

I could be wrong, but for 209 CUC members to make an unbiblical decison on behald of thousands others is demonstration that this is a false move. It is still possible that had the matter been put to vote by all CUC members it would have been defeated. But even that is no guarantee; Jesus was hanged by a democratic decision by majority vote, Barrabas the murderer was released. ironically, meaning that Jesus paid the price for Barrabas' crime too.

But that's water under the bridge. CUC members who are opposed to this decision can write to the GC, sign a petition (there's one already), or physically move out of the union conference (not the Adventist church). I'll repost what a friend keeps saying: Never let a hypocrite get between you and God, coz that makes them closer to God than you.

You guess correctly,Crisan.

I know absolutely nothing about the Messanic church or if they exist in this area or if it is a denomination that is widespread.  But do they believe in Ellen White and our view of the sanctuary message, etc?  There are parts of adventism that I believe strongly in, that I believe God wants us to have.  Maybe it is because of growing up adventist.  I've always thought that most adventists that leave the church do not convert to another church but leave God behind totally like some of my siblings.  It isn't that I don't believe the church was always perfect before but that I could believe the message we taught....and now I can't say that.

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