In our continuing coverage of the North American Division vote to reaffirm the E 60 policy that allowed women to serve as conference and mission presidents, we offer the perspectives of four church leaders who were present during that Year-end Meeting session.
Frieda Roos (Southeastern California Conference Executive Committee Member)
The issue was framed by Dan Jackson as broader than just women's ordination however most people went right to that. At the beginning of the entire session (Friday AM) he had appointed two young ladies who could stop the proceedings at any time and call for prayer. We started this session with prayer in twos, had another prayer session part way through and then Dan Jackson prayed before the vote count was revealed. I believe that approaching with prayer made a difference in the tone. All comments were made in a good spirit. Some were a bit convoluted but none were directly opposed to women in leadership.
Dan Jackson did a masterful job keeping the comments germane & reasonably short. To me it seemed there was underlying agreement that women can be and are called by God to serve in a variety of ways. The questions seemed more about whether this particular motion was the vehicle to affirm this, whether the NAD was the appropriate body for such a motion and so on.
The response began with some applause which quickly died down. I believe it was muted because people realized how momentous it was and those who had prevailed felt it was the work of God. I personally felt that quiet awe was more appropriate than applause. Personally, I am very happy about this vote, but have to remind myself that it is still only a baby step. This issue has been kicking around most of my adult life and it seems to me a very long time to be convinced that Paul meant what he said that in Christ there is no difference in value regarding race, ethnicity, or gender, etc. And that God calls whom He will. We should be willing to recognize God's call in an individual's service realizing that our own predilections to discriminate are a product of culture rather than theology. I am happy that our young adults can see a little light in this area if they are even looking anymore.
Rajmund Dabrowski (Former Communication Director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church)
Two memorable quotes from Dan Jackson from the NAD discussion regarding E 60 policy: "In moments of change there is always pain." And, "It puts us in a bit of a tension with the GC." Observers noted Jackson's even-handed leadership. He clearly made distinctions as to what was up for consideration and vote. There were plenty of moments in prayer, and a few hymns, a cappella--an atmosphere of "spiritual angst," but also resolve that the Spirit of God prevail.
Jose Vicente Rojas (Director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries for the North American Division) via Facebook:
“I've been serving at the General Conference, in the North American Division, for 18 years. I have never in my career experienced a meeting so Spiritual. Even though the issue was very contentious, all agreed that the Spirit of God was mightily present in the discussion.
Today we saw a resounding vote, in a deeply Spiritual session, affirming the right of women called to ministry, to serve as a Conference President in North America. [Hoy vimos en un voto muy solido, en una sesion sumamente espiritual, affirmando el derecho de mujeres llamadas al ministerio, de tener la oportunidad de servir como Presidente de Campo en Norteamerica...]
Gordon Bietz (President, Southern Adventist University) via his blog:
Just after 11:30am today, the North American Division Committee voted 162 to 61 to reaffirm the E 60 policy voted by the 2010 NAD Year-end Meetings. That policy allows individuals who are commission ministers to serve as Conference Presidents. As Dan Jackson pointed out it is not really about the ordination of women but it does open up the last male bastion of church office to women. The General Conference Committee a few weeks ago (October 11) after four hours of debate declined to authorized a variance to the model constitution to accommodate the North American Division by inserting “ordained/commissioned” when referring to local presidents. This debate has illustrated the difference of opinion in our world church on the place of women in leadership. So the reality now is that the actual difference in convictions on this issue is manifest in a policy difference between the GC and the NAD. In my opinion the unity of the world church need not be dependent on absolute policy uniformity on issues that are not considered fundamental beliefs.
And in another post: I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but adding “commissioned” to the list of those who can be elected as Conference or Mission Presidents (rather than just ordained) means that qualified women may now serve in those positions. When the issue came up on the floor there was a lot of discussion and not one member of the NAD Committee spoke against it. The general consensus was so strong I think we might have passed a resolution to ordain women if one would have been proposed, ... maybe at some future time.
Photo credit George Johnson Jr./NAD