The Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists (TED) has unanimously voted a strong request to the General Conference that consideration be given to issuing a single credential for those in ministry or to alternately amend existing credentials making them more inclusive.
TED President Rafaat Kamal convened an extraordinary session of the TED Executive Committee Wednesday specifically to draft a formal response to the General Conference’s “Unity in Mission” document. Committee members convened in person and by conference call for the all-day session.
During its 2016 Annual Council, the General Conference Executive Committee voted 169-122 to endorse a three-page document titled “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” that outlined a multi-step procedure for dealing with entities of the World Church seen as being out of compliance with denominational policy. Though leaders denied that the document focused on women’s ordination specifically, its implementation has targeted territories of the World Church that ordain women ministers.
Using the steps in the “unity” document, the General Conference has taken what it characterizes as conciliatory steps with North American Division union conferences the GC views as being out of compliance with GC policy on the issue of women’s ordination.
The Trans-European Division Executive Committee during its 2016 Year-end Meeting in Montenegro determined that “particular issues and circumstances within Europe need sensitive understanding from the larger body of Adventism.” The equal treatment of women was chief among those issues during a discussion of the division’s response to the “Unity in Mission” document. According to a report from the TED News Network, the TED Executive Committee looked to Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council as a model for finding a win-win solution for two groups at an impasse. Swedish Union President Göran Hansen suggested that leaders work toward solutions and reconvene the full Executive Committee in February 2017. Hansen suggested that giving more time to discussing, listening, and consulting with policy experts would help the division move toward consensus. Netherlands Union Conference President Wim Altink recommended that TED officers, working with the division executive secretary, draft a careful, well-reasoned response to the “unity” document to be discussed, amended, and accepted at the extraordinary session. The committee overwhelmingly approved the proposals from Hansen and Altink, and February 15 was chosen as the date for the committee to convene.
TED Executive Committee members deliberate during Wednesday's extraordinary session.
The TED request included a preamble pledging to respect and uphold decisions made by the General Conference in Session with recognition that decisions made at the General Conference level of administration must always be implemented in a local context.
TED leaders noted that the ordination vote at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, has had unintended and, at times, problematic consequences: women pastors and women elders have been told by church members that they may not speak in churches, for instance. Since San Antonio, the TED and constituent unions have deliberately worked to affirm women in ministry, combatting misinformation that arose from the ordination vote. The Executive Committee called the time and energy consumed by dealing with the San Antonio’s aftermath vote a distraction from the church’s mission and said the issue alienates young church members, hurting the church’s credibility with a largely secular public.
The request voted unanimously by the TED Executive Committee states:
Recognising that the current system of ministerial credentials (ordained) and commissioned credentials function for most of the church, and wanting to respect the decision made by the General Conference in Session in San Antonio, we would request that consideration be given to:
A single ministerial credential which is issued to all who are engaged in pastoral ministry, so bringing Working Policy in line with Fundamental Belief 14. This would entail amending Working Policy by deleting the parenthesis and footnote to BA 60 10 and/or amending/deleting E 60 to reflect a single credential.
TED Executive Secretary Audrey Andersson said the request is well within voted policy. “We cannot create a new credential ourselves, but we can recommend to the GC,” she said.
The Executive Committee saw other potential solutions available to the GC. The GC could also enhance the role of commissioned ministers to acheive gender parity.
TED President Rafaat Kamal said of the request, “It opens the door for positive dialogue and solutions.”
Images courtesy Trans-European Division / Victor Hulbert.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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