The Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee issued a statement Thursday supporting a favorable vote to authorize Seventh-day Adventist Church regional governing bodies, called divisions, to decide when and how to handle the question of women’s ordination. The vote comes in anticipation of the 60th General Conference Session called for July 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, where nearly 2,700 delegates will be asked: “Is it acceptable for division committees, as they may deem appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”
Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference, believes an affirmative vote would strengthen the unity of the church and further the mission in some areas of the world where appropriate, especially in the North American Division where he serves. “As I understand it, this is one of the options proposed and supported in a straw poll by 62 out of the 95 attendees at the final meeting of the General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee,” he said following the union’s week of Year-end Meetings, which ended today. “They spent 18 months trying to find consensus around our practice of ordination, and I believe that poll, though unofficial, provides a practical indicator of the best way forward for our church at this pivotal moment.”
November 20, 2014 On the Question of Women’s Ordination:
We Stand in Support of Mission, Unity in Diversity and Healthy Christian Conduct
The Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee is comprised of pastors, administrators and laypersons who love and are committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and who unwaveringly stand in solidarity with our worldwide church family in faith, belief, adherence to the Word of God, doctrine and mission. We sincerely desire to do all we can, locally and globally, to promote hope and wholeness through Jesus Christ, proclaim the three angels’ messages and complete the Great Commission. We adopted the practice of inclusive ministerial ordination in 2012, and while we have no way of knowing what is right for other fields, we can report that including women in ministry is advancing mission and enhancing ministry in our field. We appreciate the worldwide study process that engaged members and leaders in healthy dialogue, led to the development of a theology of ordination, found no biblical roadblocks to the practice of ordaining women to the gospel ministry and will culminate in a vote at the 2015 General Conference Session.
Whereas, Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:17-20 say that in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit on sons and daughters who will prophesy in His name; and
Whereas, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was co-founded by a woman, Ellen G. White, who contributed greatly to its development and the advancement of its mission during 70 years of public ministry; and whose legacy we continue to recognize and experience organizationally, prophetically, fundamentally and measurably; and Whereas, numerous women, as documented, and untold scores of women have contributed to the growth and advancement of Christ’s mission in biblical and modern times; and
Whereas, many of the faithful members and leaders in the Columbia Union Conference, having studied the Bible, support the ordination of women to local church and pastoral ministry, and delegates to the 2012 Columbia Union Conference Constituency Meeting voted it by a margin of 4 to 1; and
Whereas, the North American Division Committee in 2013 voted the recommendation of its Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), 182-31-1, to “affirm the conclusion that all people, men-2-and women, may receive ordination as an affirmation of the call of God” and to support, as a plausible way forward, “the authorization of each division to consider, through prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, its most appropriate approach to the ordination of women to gospel ministry”; and
Whereas, two of the three groups within the General Conference TOSC proposed that the best way forward is to allow the divisions to decide whether to approve women’s ordination—albeit for different reasons—and a straw poll conducted at the final meeting in June 2014 drew support from 62 of the 95 participants;
Whereas, the GC TOSC recommended and members of the October 2014 Annual Council voted a theology of ordination for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which states that “Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global Church ministry”; and “While ordination contributes to Church order, it neither conveys special qualities to the persons ordained nor introduces a kingly hierarchy within the faith community”; and
Whereas, the General Conference also issued a call for members and delegates to “study and prayerfully consider what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission”; and
Whereas, the North American Division Committee at its November 2014 Year-end Meeting voted to “ask that the unions, conferences, and institutions in the North American Division inform all delegates of the vote of the 2013 NAD Year-end meeting regarding the ordination of women”;
Therefore, the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee stands in support of a vote at General Conference Session 2015 that will authorize each division to prayerfully consider its most appropriate approach and timeline to ordination of women to the gospel ministry. We believe that a vote in the affirmative will best promote unity in diversity, advance the mission of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church and hasten the return of Christ.
Furthermore, we affirm the North American Division Committee’s appeal that we “govern our communication according to the highest standards of Christian conduct ... so that God may be glorified in all we say and do."
This article originally appeared in the Columbia Union Visitor and is reprinted by permission.
Title Image: Cynthia Poole-Gibson, associate superintendent of education for the Allegheny East Conference, reads part of the statement on the GC Session question. Photo credit: V. Michelle Bernard
Celeste Ryan Blyden is publisher of the Columbia Union Visitor.