Pastoral Letters: Faith in the Context of Equality and Respect for All People

Pastoral Letters: Faith in the Context of Equality and Respect for All People

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Published:
October 12, 2016

The document voted by the General Conference Executive Committee on October 11, 2016 outlined a process intended to create conformity with the General Conference's oppositional stance on Women's Ordination. Part of the process outlined in that document is the writing of "pastoral letters":

"If after six months of discussion the matter has not been resolved, the executive officers of the next higher organization should write pastoral letters encouraging the executive officers and the governing body of the entity to lead their organization to be faithful to the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, and working policies of the Church." 

While the document calls for "pastoral letters" from church administrators, pastors at every level of the church should be included in the process. The church is the people. The following letter was written by a pastor in the Pacific Union Conference the day of the vote. -Ed

Every time the General Conference comes out with another statement or takes another vote against equality, my soul is damaged. I love this church and am saddened by the direction it is taking. I, and many of my family members, for multiple generations, have given their lives to serving God through the church. These votes and documents do not remotely reflect the faith of myself or my family, and I wholeheartedly object to the decision today and at the GC Session in 2015. 

Each time these decisions are made, I contemplate how much longer I can work for a denomination which blatantly practices discrimination. I know many of you are also wrestling with the decision of whether or not you can remain in the church. Let me share why I'm not leaving anytime soon but will remain a pastor and fight even harder for equality in the church. 

I am staying because of all the women in ministry who are still serving despite these repeated attempts to deny their calling. 

I am honored to have an amazing boss in Sandra Roberts who has exhibited grace (far more than I could) through this entire experience. She is a gifted leader and an amazing person who is clearly called by God. If she can stay (despite being the number one target of the GC), I surely can. 

There have been several amazing female pastors I have had the pleasure of working with at Azure Hills including Patty MarruffoDanielle Marie Foré, and Marlene Ferreras. Each of them has done incredible pastoral work and stayed committed to ministry despite these decisions that take their toll on their hearts. Our new Senior Pastor, Tara VinCross, is incredibly visionary and has big plans for Azure Hills that I know will come to fruition with her deep commitment to Christ and leadership skills. If they can stay, I surely can.

Most importantly, my mother, Norma Osborn, served for 25 years as pastor before retiring. She continued to be a pastor despite receiving death threats at a congregation ( a whole other story not related to women's ordination) and stayed focused on helping kids and families learn about God. If she stayed, I can. 

My encouragement to all of us is to stay and model for the world how beautiful faith is when it is practiced in the context of equality and respect for all people. Instead of leaving, let us become even more focused and committed to teaching our kids that we are all created equal and that no one is better than another. Let us serve our communities with even more passion, especially focusing on groups that society marginalizes because we know how damaging marginalization is to all of us. We will not change everyone's mind, but I believe there are many people in the middle who can easily be won over by seeing the fruit of our faith. 

In the future, there may come a breaking point, and all of this may change. I do not know. But this is my commitment for now: I will continue to be, and now even more publicly and vocally, a voice for the marginalized in our church. If you are a woman in ministry, a member of the LGBT community, someone who doubts more than they believe, struggling with mental health challenges, in an interfaith relationship, or whatever marginalized group you may be part of, I will fight to ensure you are treated with dignity and respect. I will provide you with pastoral care in the best way I know how and hopefully help you experience a more abundant life. 

The delegates at Annual Council are no more "Adventist" than I am or you are. We are the church. Let us get to work and be the church. Our world needs us.

 

 

Trevan Osborn is Associate Pastor at the Azure Hills Church in Grand Terrace, California.

 

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