Ever since the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, the Trans-European Division leadership and Executive Committee has sought to work closely with the General Conference leadership to gain a common understanding, resolve differences, and seek positive solutions on issues particularly facing the church in Europe. Following due process, and in a spirit of cooperation, the TED Executive Committee made several recommendations to the GC leadership regarding the challenging issue of equality in ministry.
While we recognise that there are a variety of viewpoints across Europe as across the world, the recent discussion and vote in Battle Creek has created difficult and conflicting emotions for many of our members - children, youth, pastors and leaders. While the process voted on Sunday, 14 October is focused around a concept of unity, the current feedback and discussions with pastors, laity and across social media appears to be pointing in another direction.
How should I react? As I read again Hebrews 12, I am encouraged because of Jesus. This is not our struggle, it is His! Winning a vote in Battle Creek is not our goal, He is! Jesus has already won the most important victory for us, the Holy Spirit cheers us on our way telling us to “Keep going, keep looking ahead to Jesus”, and “When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item… that will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Heb 12:3, The Message)
I want you to know that the Trans-European Division continues to recognise the call of both men and women to serve God, including to the Gospel Ministry, a position we believe to be in harmony with the teachings of Holy Scripture. We understand that all spiritual gifts are given for building up the church, without regard to gender. We come to this understanding, not for the luxury of being right or winning an argument, but because of our Mission to connect, inspire and change the people of Europe. We will not let the recent decisions distract us from this.
The events at Battle Creek equally cause us to pause and think again about our church. What happens when we struggle to agree on matters of faith and practise? As we see, sincere people under God often view things differently. As they did in the first century, so they do in the 21st. If there is one thing I learned from the recent Sabbath School studies in Acts, it is that Paul adapted his message about Christ according to the city he was in. Following his mission-driven example, it is possible to contextualise the Gospel for our setting, and still remain faithful to Holy Scripture.
For me, this is the balance and beauty of the Word of God. Unity in Christ, particularly within the Adventist family, provides me with warm and loving relationships both globally and locally. Every brother, every sister I see through His eyes. Every person whether they know Him or not, I see as His child and as such treat with dignity. I belong not to an old-age weary denomination, but to a vibrant movement of people on a journey, not only managing for the Lord His present Kingdom of grace, but expectantly watching and waiting for His soon coming Kingdom of glory.
You will have often heard an appeal made by Ellen White for the Adventist family to “press together, press together, press together”. [Evangelism p 102] As I try to unpack what she meant, I am convinced she would identify with words often attributed to John Wesley
In Essentials Unity
In non-essentials Liberty
In all things Charity (Love)
This is who we are, this is what we believe, this is how we work.
I commit to continue seeking positive solutions in a Christlike manner following church processes to address inequality for those serving in ministry, while, together with all our Adventist brothers and sisters, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. [Heb 12:2 NIV]
This letter originally appeared on the TED News Network, the official news service of the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Image Credit: Flickr.com / ASI Ministries / Enno T. Müller
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