At just past 10 minutes to 2pm today the brotherhood of conference presidents welcomed Sandra K. Roberts into their fraternity.
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, was presiding at the opening of that entity’s 2013 year-end meetings. After leading two songs, invoking Jesus’ promise to be present “where two or three” gather in his name, and inviting participants into small-group prayer, he welcomed visitors (including Ted Wilson, General Conference president) into the meeting room. Then, following formalities bearing on the official start of business, he invited new members (three recently elected conference presidents) to stand. There was applause for each; applause for Sandra Roberts was sustained.
Roberts had been elected on Sunday, October 27, as the next president of the Southeastern California Conference. With 72% of delegates to the conference constituency meeting affirming a nominating committee recommendation, Dr. Roberts became the first woman ever to be elected the president of a Seventh-day Adventist Conference. Her appointment came despite a cautionary message, transmitted to delegates by Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham, from the church’s world president, Ted Wilson. Wilson wanted delegates to know the election of a woman would not be recognized by the world church.
In today’s meeting Alexander Bryant, the North American Division secretary, explained that the Division’s leaders were welcoming Roberts’ full participation on the Executive Committee because she had been “duly elected” by a proper Adventist entity. A few minutes later Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union assured hearers that the Southeastern Conference’s election had put the “best qualified person” into office. He said further that the conference’s nominating committee had been fully faithful to that conference’s by-laws, noting, however, that that policies are in any case beholden to a higher authority, and need to be regularly reviewed.
Less than two hours before, the General Conference Executive Officers — the top leaders of world Adventism — had released a written response to what had happened on Sunday in California. Without mentioning her name, the statement said that because Dr. Roberts is “not recognized by the world church as an ordained minister,” she does not qualify for the position of conference president. The world church, said the statement, will not, therefore, “recognize” her presidency.
Dr. Roberts has, in fact, been ordained to Gospel Ministry under policies voted by pertinent local organizations, but because world church policy does not yet allow for the ordination of women, the world church, the statement said, does not recognize her ordination.
Daniel Jackson made no reference to this statement.
Spectrum will continue to cover the NAD meetings now in progress and the news surrounding Roberts’ election. Stay tuned.
See NAD document on women’s ordination from June 2012.
Dan Jackson’s letter to NADCOM on women in ministry.