For those of us entwined in Advent hope, this summer offers a realization.
This summer thousands of Adventists will gather in San Antonio, Texas, for the 60th General Conference Session. I sense tension.
In his first welcome to the body politic who approved his presidential election five years ago, Elder Ted Wilson writes to the delegates: “As the world continues to reel from uncertainty, tragedy, and catastrophe, what a message of hope we have to proclaim, as illustrated in our session’s theme: “Arise! Shine! Jesus is Coming!” and in our timeless theme song, “We Have This Hope.” Truly, the only hope for this world is Christ’s soon coming, and the witness of His people to help others prepare for that great event. This special work must involve everyone—women, men, children, youth, adults—all are needed to reach individuals for Christ through the Holy Spirit’s power.”
A sensitive grammarian’s eyebrows might arch at a theme in which verbal banality fights a trinitarian thrill of exclamation points.
And a cynic might note the tension in a church proclaiming the end is nigh, again, while welcoming folks to its sixtieth, mostly quinquennial, meeting to set bureaucratic policy for the future.
But I’m feeling neither cynical nor grammatical. I need hope. I cling to the poetic.
….So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a grave
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots embrace
a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.1
In that spirit, I join Elder Wilson by raising our voices in hope.
In fact, I hope that those delegates will take Elder Wilson at his words here: “This special work must involve everyone—women, men, children, youth, adults—all are needed to reach individuals for Christ through the Holy Spirit’s power.”
I agree. And it seems that a good way to turn that hope into action is by voting “yes” on this question presented to the delegates.
“Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”
The GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research includes an informative page of many individuals and groups who were commissioned by the General Conference to research and write on the topic of women’s ordination. It’s like a genealogical tree of thoughtful, active Adventism. As has been noted many times, but bears repeating: for multiple generations our General Conference has been trying to not make a decision about ordaining women.
Since 1973 they have compiled major studies or held GC votes at least once every decade. As Josephine Benton’s book, “Called by God,” shows, the fairness question goes all the way back to the 1870s when the first Adventist women were licensed. For this issue at a GC Session, it will be more like a third coming! But this is the first time a motion has been put forward that supports global diversity of practice while maintaining the unity of Adventist mission.
Elder Wilson and I both share eternal hope. But not just us. At our last meeting, the board of the Adventist Forum, the publisher of Spectrum, voted a statement as a public witness in support of a “yes” vote for unity.
And now we’ve launched a petition campaign to gather together those who want to have their voices heard at the General Conference Session this summer. In support of a “yes” vote, we welcome you to sign your name with ours. Our initial goal is 2600 names, roughly the number of delegates who will officially vote on this in July.
Join us here.
From now until the vote, I will be clinging to Proverbs 13:12 (NLT): “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” I don’t know when Jesus will come again, but I do know that when enough of us join together, our old hopes, our persisting dreams become reality. Join us for the next few months as we take a leap of faith to become a living witness in which hope and action, sorrow and song entwine together for good.
1Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, I,” 5 (trans. Anita Barrows, Joanna Macy).
Alexander Carpenter is a member of the Spectrum / Adventist Forums Board.