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Annual Council Report III: Women’s Day at the General Conference

What a difference a word makes. In the continuing discussion of the word should versus shall in the Church Manual, amazing conversations took place Tuesday at the Annual Council session of the General Conference Executive Committee.
President Jan Paulsen started the proceedings by praising the women of the church for the huge contribution they make, and calling on the leaders to authorize and affirm women in their roles and responsibilities. This was his preamble to announcing that the Committee on Working Policy to which an action on Monday had been referred would not be able to evaluate the wording of the document until after the close of Annual Council thus necessitating a special meeting of the Executive Committee before the start of the General Conference session in Atlanta. A progress report on the saga of should versus shall will be given at the spring meeting, but a final vote will await the July Atlanta session. Harmonizing the wording in the twin documents of the Church Manual and the Working Policy was important, he said.
With that the discussion of the Church Manual changes resumed. There was a report from the Church Manual committee that had managed to meet the night before and returned with the recommendation that the action replacing should with shall be rescinded. That recommendation was approved.
Laurie Evans, committee member and former South Pacific Division president, cut through the rhetoric and said there were two possible ways to solve this issue: the group could continue mincing words or deal with the real issue which is the ordination of women. “It’s been what, ten years since we discussed that issue,” he said. “The Church has grown since we last dealt with this. The call to ministry has become hollow with the glass ceiling that we have created without dealing with the real issue. Has the time come for the world church to again look at this issue? We could make it for the world church or have each division decide. In many places today it’s not an issue. We did women elders in the local church division by division and the church has been blessed. I think the time has come for us to give a clear signal to women. Many people coming into the ministry today are women. What a wonderful message we would send if we treated them with equality. What is the process for addressing this issue again? It’s like an Achilles heel that keeps popping up. That is really what’s at the core of this discussion.”
However, the next speaker at the microphone said, “I oppose the previous speaker. It’s outside the point of this discussion.”
The moderators concurred saying the Church Manual doesn’t discuss issues of ordination. With that the next item on the list was announced.
However, as consideration of the various changes continued there were occasionally notes of grammatical correction pointed out for the committee to fix before the final document is brought before the delegates in Atlanta. Gordon Retzer, president of the Southern Union rose to note one such item. Could the committee please take a look at page 16 where it discusses the work of a pastor and continually uses the word he? “We have women pastoring in major parts of the world,” he noted. Perhaps we could simply use the word pastor rather than he.
The biggest news of the day came in the afternoon during the Women’s Ministry Departmental report with the announcement of “end it now: Adventists say no to violence against women,” a worldwide campaign to gather a million signatures in countries around the world. In this world wide campaign to address a major social issue, the Department of Women’s Ministries is being joined by Adventist Development and Relief Agency which already has numerous programs targeted at addressing violence against women around the world. The presentation ended with a one-minute video and an invitation to attendees to sign the petition either in person or on the newly created web site:
Women certainly made their presence felt on this day. Never mind that only ten percent of the people gathered for the meeting were female.
Image credit: Elimination of Violence Against Women Limited Edition Stamps by Mirta Toledo (2008).

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