Martin Weber, D.Min. — Director of Communication, Mid-America Union Conference
Elder Dan Jackson has brought an unprecedented quality of leadership to North America, in my opinion: visionary, inspiring, courageous and compassionate. Thus I am saddened by his apology that accompanied the reversal of Policy E-60 related to women in leadership. To quote: “. . . We were doing so under the assumption that the North American Division had a constituency separate and distinct from the General Conference. Unfortunately, we were wrong and we sincerely apologize.”
Denying conference leadership to women is a profound setback in itself, but this statement indicates a much deeper and systemic loss: the disabling of North America’s ability to interpret and administer global world policy within its own territory. This imperils not only outreach to post-chauvinistic society but also the ability to retain our own young adults, committed as they are to gender equality.
A foundational theological issue is also sacrificed: functioning as the incarnate body of Christ within post-chauvinistic North America. Jesus was incarnate not only in human flesh but in human experience within His own culture as a Palestinian Jew. He tailored His teaching and methods to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The needs of North America are different from those of Africa or other parts of the world where gender sensitivity is not an issue. So E-60 involves more than the suppression of Adventist women in fulfilling their divine calling, serious as that is. The NAD has suffered an ominous loss in its capacity to exercise leadership, conduct outreach and connect with its own members. And this happened not for the sake of biblical principles but to satisfy the strictures of denominational policy.
The question must be asked: Why does the NAD even have its own executive committee if it is supposed to be merely a regional implementation channel for General Conference leadership? Must the NAD be deprived of even the limited authority that a union or local conference has?
I pray that in our disappointment we do not blame Elder Jackson and the excellent team of leaders he has assembled. They need our prayers and support as they make the best out of a potentially perilous loss of leadership authority.
Warren C. Trenchard, Ph.D., — ONE in Christ http://www.one-in-christ.com
ONE in Christ is disappointed that the North American Division felt it necessary to reverse the action it took in the fall of 2011 to extend the responsibility of serving as a local conference president to persons who hold commissioned minister credentials. This would have included both men and women. Commendable as this would have been, it would not have been sufficient. It would not have dealt with the root problem—the continued failure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to recognize the right of both men and women not only to function in the gospel ministry but also to receive full ecclesiastical authorization and rights.
However, in his letter of January 31, 2011 announcing this reversal, NAD President Dan Jackson clearly supported not only women in ministry but also called for expanding their presence and influence. Most significantly he declared, “The North American Division and its Unions and Conferences (as local circumstances permit) must become more intentional in the development of pathways to ministry for female pastors.” Of course, ONE in Christ believes that only those “pathways to ministry” that include the full authorization that ordination alone provides will enable “female pastors” to fulfill their divine calling.
Although on one hand this is a setback, on the other hand it is a challenge and an opportunity. Local conferences have their own constituencies and executive committees that can enact policies and launch practices to bring about the ordination of all pastors without regard to gender within their jurisdiction. To encourage and empower this outcome, beginning with the Southeastern California Conference, is the mission of ONE in Christ.
Trisha Famisaran — Director, Women's Resource Center
I am disappointed that the North American Division was compelled to retract the E-60 policy that would have permitted commissioned pastors to serve as conference presidents. The E-60 policy was a step in the right direction for Adventists in recognizing that God calls individuals to serve the church without regard to gender. Elder Jackson’s letter, his report of the revocation of the E-60 policy, presents a number of important issues that need continued consideration. I commend and am encouraged by Elder Jackson’s challenge to continue supporting local conferences in moving toward equal practices for women pastors. There is no reason for us to wait for a policy or new theological study before we continue and even strengthen the support we should give to women pastors and seminary students, give them the proper credentials when they are qualified, and celebrate the gift of their leadership and ministry. Recognizing that this issue is difficult and often frustrating for the worldwide church, I pray that the Spirit be especially effective in stirring our hearts to do the right thing for our future.
Linda Wysong Becker — President, Association of Adventist Women
The Association of Adventist Women is profoundly disappointed that the General Conference has chosen to respond to the North American Division action in Policy E-60 by applying pressure to change the action. Policy E-60 would have allowed qualified, talented women who are spiritual leaders to contribute to the church in the North American Division in the same way men with similar characteristics have done since the church was first organized. With this forced change, that contribution is now silenced.
We need the ideas, creativity, and leadership skills that both men and women can contribute. Recent research shows that when there is a lack of equity in an organization, the whole organization suffers. It would seem to be mission critical for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to create an environment where every possible idea for evangelism, method of outreach, and avenue for showing God’s love can be employed. With this forced change, the church will miss the positive outcomes that inclusion and affirmation bring. Dozens of young women with a notable call to and passion for ministry will feel the exclusion and seek elsewhere to express their God-given gifts.
The church around the world has everything to gain by including women in leadership and ministry. Currently, the majority of church members are women, yet their wisdom, knowledge, talents and ability are missing at the table where decisions are made.
Abraham Lincoln recognized that so long as slavery was allowed, the nation would not become what God intended. Is it possible that the church will also miss the blessings that God can bring to an organization that fully recognizes the Biblical place of each person within the body?
Elder Jackson’s thoughtful letter demonstrates his deep understanding of the need to affirm and strengthen women in ministry and leadership in the church. AAW is grateful for the leadership Elder Jackson brings to this important discussion. AAW is praying that God will work within the hearts and minds of our leaders to effect major change and growth in the Adventist church through equitable inclusion.
We invite the women and men concerned about this issue in North America and around the world to set aside a day of prayer on May 1.