With a new third option being put forward to members of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee at its last meeting this week, the concluding vote taken was a complicated one.
In the final vote (being termed a “survey”), which ended the TOSC’s four meetings, held over the past two years, 40 committee members voted for the ordination of women—with the caveat that no area would be forced to adopt the new policy. (This was Proposal 2, presented to committee members by Barry Oliver.)
Thirty-two committee members voted against the ordination of women in all cases. (Proposal 1, presented by Don Macintosh.)
And a significant minority of 22 voted for the new third option, which had been proposed by committee members Nicholas Miller and David Trim; a vote for the third option meant you are willing to see ordination of women in the denomination, although you still have concerns that God’s “pattern” is male headship. Basically, you believe that sometimes God works with “second best,” so we should allow women to be ordained.
A total of 95 ballots were handed in, including one blank ballot. In practice, this translates into a count of 62, or two-thirds of committee members, willing to accept a new church policy of ordaining women in those areas where constituents favor it.
The vote, or “survey,” is not binding in any way—it just represents the views of the committee members as they are being presented to the General Conference.
Further complicating the survey, committee members were allowed to vote for more than one option. They were asked to rank their preference, first voting for their preferred option, then listing the second or third option if they felt they could endorse any other than their first choice.
After the vote, General Conference President Ted Wilson spoke to the TOSC committee members about how the Adventist church will move on from here, promising that the process will be “very open and very fair,” a committee member said.
In previous TOSC meetings, papers were presented as being in favor of women’s ordination or against it. In the draft papers on the way forward that were presented at the January meeting of the committee, the paper in support of ordination acknowledged the differences that remained between the two sides and advocated that divisions be given the option of deciding how the issue would be handled in their territory, similar to the way that women elders were approved.
The anti-ordination paper suggested that the action regarding women elders be revoked and that a totally separate track for women be established at Adventist seminaries; it stated that while women are equal to men they must not be ordained.
When the formation of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee was announced in 2011 along with the list of names of those who would serve on the committee, the possibility of a split decision was anticipated by some, who suggested that while a report on the committee’s work would be given to the Annual Council in 2014, there might not be a consensus, and a minority report would be possible
The next step is for the TOSC final reports to be given to the General Conference Executive Committee, and then to the General Conference Annual Council, which will decide what goes on the agenda for the General Conference Session in San Antonio in summer 2015.
Read the ANN report of this week's TOSC meetings here.
TOSC June 4 Papers