On August 19, the Pacific Union Conference (PUC) will vote a proposed bylaws change that would allow the union to ordain women and men alike. In anticipation of the special constituency session, PUC has launched a website with material for delegates and the public.
PUC President Ricardo Graham's photo appears at the top of the website alongside this message:
In the June and July issues of the Pacific Union Recorder, we reported that the Pacific Union Executive Committee has voted to authorize the ordination of pastors without regard to gender, and that a special constituency meeting will convene on Aug. 19 to amend the union bylaws to clearly permit this. Since these reports, several people have responded, mostly through e-mail messages to Pacific Union officers. In the next few pages, the officers summarize the questions received and provide information that they hope readers will find useful.
The site's several subheaders outline the topics the union hopes to clarify for those who have raised questions and concerns. Among those topics, headship and authority, whether church structure permits unions to decide whom to ordain, and a history of Seventh-day Adventist women in ministry. A "responses" page directly addresses some of the frequently-asked questions the union has received. Like the Columbia Union Conference, PUC plans to provide a live video stream of the constituency session. It will be available here during the meeting.
Those in opposition to women's ordination have begun pushing back hard, unloading their own online information caches.
A website with a short list of key endorsers, "Christ or Culture," asserts that ordaining women "presents a serious crisis that threatens to fragment our beloved church, create confusion in our homes, and cripple the progress of the three angels’ messages." The site purports to "provide biblical, historical, and church support for this position and to address the challenges of the latest effort to compromise biblical truth in favor of social and cultural acceptance." The website also encourages readers to sign a petition supporting "limitation of ordination to well-qualified men as Seventh-day Adventist pastors. Some of the listed endorsers will serve as delegates to the PUC constituency session.
Doug Batchelor, a longtime vocal critic of women pastors, offers on his Amazing Facts website a sermon entitled, "Does the Bible say women should not be preachers?" in which he makes the case that the Bible forbids women serving as ministers. Batchelor is a Pacific Union Conference delegate.
An adjunct website, also from Doug Batchelor, WomenInMinistryTruth.com, claims that it "represents the historical Christian position [and] is dedicated to supporting women in ministry according to the scriptural model." The site provides written material and media content including a sermon by Stephen Bohr titled "Mutiny in the Camp."
Arguably the strongest pushback has come from the office of General Conference President Ted Wilson. At the July 29 Columbia Union Conference Special Consituency Session, Wilson strongly appealed to delegates to reject the measure allowing gender-inclusive ordination. When delegates overwhelmingly rejected his appeal by voting in favor of the measure, Wilson responded through the Adventist News Network.
In "An Appeal for Oneness in Christ," the Wilson Administration described "unilateralism" as a "the great adversary of the unified Body of Christ." The document stated that the Columbia Union Conference is out of harmony with the General Conference Working Policy, and reiterated Wilson's "appeal to all entities, organizations, and individuals, including the Columbia Union Conference, to refrain from independent and unilateral decisions and implementing actions on issues affecting ministerial ordination." The document recommended that leaders "invest their energies and creativity in fostering a vigorous dialogue through the established process about how the Church should recognize and affirm the gifts of the Spirit in the lives of believers."
The complete statement is available for download here.
Spectrum has received many unconfirmed reports from around the North American Division that in a Thursday teleconference with union officials, Wilson plans to discuss potential sanctions against unions viewed as being out of compliance with the General Conference Working Policy.
Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following change: Stephen Bohr, not Doug Batchelor, preached the sermon "Mutiny in the Camp."