Unity at what price?
With Annual Council a week away, preliminary meetings are taking place at the General Conference this week to finalize agenda items. The Division Presidents met on Tuesday and voted overwhelmingly to recomend the disciplining of unions they see as being in rebellion. Today it will be all the Division officers and General Conference officers and vice presidents (GCDO) who discuss the proposal.
What is being proposed is that the General Conference take over such unions—unions where women are ordained—and operate them as missions attached to the General Conference. That would mean that the GC would then be able to remove union leaders and replace the leadership with their own appointees. Then a new constituency meeting could be called to attempt to reverse the ordination vote.
Given that the constituency votes for women’s ordination in both the Columbia Union and the Pacific Union were approximately 80 percent in favor of ordination, it is a move that is not without risk.
To support the proposed actions, earlier this week, the General Conference Secretariat released a lengthy study document on church governance and unity stressing the authority of the General Conference. Zeroing in on “invalid ordinations,” it stated, “It is incorrect to assert that there is nothing in denominational policy to stop unions from ordaining females to gospel ministry. Such ordinations have been explicitly disallowed by a GC Session action, a decision reinforced by two other GC Session votes.”
The document goes on to say, “If everyone were to defy decisions they disagreed with, there would be no point in having a decision-making process. To take part in a process, and then to disregard it if it does not go our way, is contrary to the biblical principles of unity and mutual submission. Equality and unity in Christ oblige church members and church leaders to make decisions together and then to respect fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus by following those decisions. Communities can only function if all members agree they will accept communal decisions; otherwise there is not community, but disunity.”
So, in an unprecedented move “to preserve unity,” the General Conference is proposing to exert its own power over that of the constituencies in the unions, an action that will fracture the North American Division and other portions of the world church that are not in agreement on this church policy.
Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.
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