Work of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee resumed this week as the 106-member committee gathered for its second session of the year near Baltimore at the Maritime Institute of Technology Conference Center.
On Tuesday, a vote was taken on a general consensus statement regarding a theology of ordination. Originally presented to the Committee in February, the document then was revised by a reading committee in May. Slight revisions were made this week before the document was approved by a vote of 86 to 8.
The significant addition to the statement made by the reading committee is material about the meaning of the word ordination. “English versions of the Scriptures use the word ordain to translate many different Greek and Hebrew words having the basic idea of select or appoint that describe the placement of these persons in their respective offices. Over the course of Christian history the term ordination has acquired meanings beyond what these words originally implied. Against such a backdrop, Seventh-day Adventists understand biblical ordination simply as the action of the church to publicly recognize those whom the Lord has called to and equipped for local and global church ministry.”
In the final version, "biblical ordination" was changed to read "ordination, in a biblical sense."
This background information about the word ordination replaced sentences about the election and call of individuals coming from the Lord and that “ordination is an act of commissioning that acknowledges God’s call, sets the individual apart, and appoints the person to serve the church in a special capacity.”
The reading committee that made the revisions will also be reviewing the documents and statements that are scheduled to come from the thirteen world divisions this fall. It was created and members were chosen by the Steering Committee for the TOSC “in order to be as transparent and open as possible.” Five people who support women’s ordination— Bill Knott, Kwabena Donkor, Randy Roberts, Teresa Reve, and Darius Jankiewicz — were selected, plus five people who do not support it— Doug Batchelor, Ray Holmes, Laurel Damsteegt, John Peters, and Phil Mills. The vice chair of the TOSC, Geoffrey Mbwana, was selected to chair the reading committee.
The consensus statement as originally drafted and revised uses gender inclusive language to leave open the question of the ordination of women to the ministry and not to support or oppose it, according to a note at the top of the document.
Originally, it described the gospel ministry as “a special calling from God who in His grace chooses individuals and equips them with gifts in order to lead and nurture His people. . . The quality of the life of such individuals evidences the fact that the Lord has called them to gospel ministry, and the church acknowledges this calling through the rite of ordination. Therefore, ordination is an act of commissioning that acknowledges God’s call, sets the individual apart, and appoints the person to serve the church in a special capacity.”
All versions of the statement include numerous Biblical references as support for key concepts. The revised statement adds some texts not included in the first: Num. 11:16-17; Acts 6:1-7; 13:1-3; 14:23. Later in the document it adds Deut. 3:28, Acts 14:26; 15:40. Then Matt. 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; John 13:1-7.
Adventist Review Editor Bill Knott, who is also a member of the TOSC, said that “If the church can reach consensus on a common theology of ordination, it offers hope that it may also find a solution that honors the strongly held convictions on both sides of this issue.” Just what that issue is, the Review article did not mention. But the next item on the agenda for the committee to consider is the ordination of women. Consensus may be harder to find on that.
The steering committee planned some historical presentations regarding the issue and then to provide equal time for both groups, pro and con, to present.
A significant amount of historical material about women’s ordination has been placed on the website of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics and Research. With this latest vote, it can add a new historic document to the collection.
Read the Review report here (includes a link to the consensus statement).
Read Bonnie Dwyer's last report on the work of the study committee here.