The Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee has rescinded a policy that provided separate credentialing tracks for men and women that made commissioning and ordination functionally equal.
In March of this year, the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) voted a policy that clarified the role of commissioned ministers (generally women) who serve within the conference. UCC leadership clarified that going forward, commissioned ministerial credentials in the conference would confer the same responsibilities and privileges as ordained ministerial credentials, the key difference being that men would be ordained in UCC and women would not.
The move rankled several conservative congregations within the conference, and they mounted a campaign to pressure conference leadership, threatening to hold a special constituency session as provided in conference constitution, unless leaders rescinded the policy. On July 19, the conference, in the face of the threatened action, voted to rescind the policy. This evening, Paul Hoover, president of the Upper Columbia Conference, issued the following statement on the conference's website:
SPOKANE, Wash., July 22, 2016 - Our Seventh-day Adventist mission is to go to every nation, language and people group with the good news of Jesus Christ and His imminent return. And, our desire within the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) is to encourage each of our members to use their spiritual gifts toward the fulfillment of this mission.
With this goal in mind, our Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee voted a revised Commissioned Minister Policy in March 2016 that underscored the equal calling of men and women pastors. This vote was taken after significant dialogue with our conference pastors and Executive Committee members who represent our conference members.
Unfortunately, the new policy created significant concern among some of our members who felt that it placed our conference beyond the parameters of the Church Manual and the North American Division policy for commissioned ministers. Our conference leadership received notification from seven churches that revealed intentions to request a special constituency session, permitted in our constitution under certain conditions, if the policy were not reversed. When it became evident to us that rising contention among some of our membership had begun to overshadow our focus on mission, we determined to revisit the policy.
Therefore, following a lengthy dialogue during our Executive Committee meeting on July 19, 2016, the committee voted to rescind the recently voted UCC Commissioned Minister Policy. We will continue to use the Church Manual and North American Division policy (referenced below) for our commissioned pastors, in the hope that we can focus more intently on mission.
We understand the diverse reactions this latest decision will invoke throughout our conference and beyond, but we remain committed to affirming the spiritual gifts of each of our pastors—men and women. We will foster an intentional dialogue with our pastors and churches to correct any misunderstandings and strengthen unity of purpose within our common mission.
The Upper Columbia Conference will use the North American Division and Church Manual:
NAD Working Policy 2015-2016
L 32 Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Positions—Role and Status
L 32 10 Authorized Ministerial Functions
1. A commissioned minister is authorized by the conference to perform substantially all the religious functions within the scope of the tenets and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the members in the church or churches to which the minister is assigned and elected as a church elder. A commissioned minister who serves as an institutional chaplain, and has been ordained as a church elder, may also perform these functions for persons served by the institution. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a church Uniting churches Ordaining local elders and deacons
2. A commissioned minister may perform wedding or baptismal ceremonies outside of his/her pastoral district if authorized to do so by the conference president. If the ceremony is to be conducted in the territory of another conference, it will require the approval of both conference presidents.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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