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How I Plan To Vote On Women’s Ordination


Several have asked if I would post a statement I made in private message about how I would vote at the Pacific Union Conference Constituency meeting August 19. The statement is rather long, but here (in a revised form) it is.

As a delegate to the Pacific Union Conference Constituency on August 19, I will vote in favor of modifying the constitution to allow for the ordination of women pastors for the following reasons:

1. Organization. I do not believe that the whole world can be identical in everything we do. We are responsible to embody the good news of God’s grace in our culture as best we can. That includes the equality proclaimed in Galatians 3:28. There are places in the world where the patriarchal culture will not be ready for this for years to come, but that must not deter us. To have different practices in different parts of the world is not disunity. It is what Paul argues for in 1 Corinthians 9.

I also do not believe it is disloyal to move ahead of the General Conference. The fact is that nothing ever becomes General Conference policy until it has been voted at a lower level and works it way up. About 30 years ago I was a delegate to the North Pacific Union Conference constituency when new procedures for elections were introduced that were not in harmony with the GC model constitution. The GC president at the time sent a letter to be read by a GC vice president that told the delegates they would destroy the unity of the church and be in danger of being removed from the sisterhood of unions if they voted these reforms. They voted them, they were not removed, the unity of the church was not destroyed, and today most of those provisions are in the GC model constitution.

This is simply the way it works. GC policy is like the dictionary. Words only make it in after people have used them. Nothing gets into GC policy until local organizations have had the courage to move ahead. This is not disloyalty. It is reality.

2. The Bible. The Bible supports the involvement of women in ministry. However, there is nothing in the Bible that corresponds to our laying on of hands to ordain people to gospel ministry. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Lots of practices, such as having union conferences, church weddings, and statements of fundamental beliefs, are not specifically commanded in the Bible. Like these, ordination is our invention. If our ordination practice is discriminatory, we cannot blame the Bible, we can only blame ourselves.

3. Logic. Our present ordination is illogical and makes no sense. First, we say that ordination is not a sacrament in the Roman Catholic sense, but is a recognition of the function of pastoral ministry. Second, we say that women may function as pastors. Third, we say women may not be ordained. There is no way to make sense out of this.

Although I disagree with the Biblical exegesis that guides them, those who argue that women should not function as pastors at least have an internally coherent argument. They say, “Women may not pastor—women may not be ordained.” But to say women may pastor but may not be ordained, when ordination is simply a recognition of the call to and function of pastoring, makes no sense whatsoever. It was rather a political compromise.
It doesn’t matter who voted it, or how many times they vote it, votes cannot turn nonsense into sense.

4. The influence of our ministry. I am blessed to pastor a church that is teeming with young adults and young families with children. (By the way, much of the reason for this is the dedicated and gifted ministers I have worked with, including four women: Marlene Ferreras, Alex Alonso Harter, Carmen Ibañez, and Maria Lee.) The average age of our congregation is much lower than the average division wide.

I find that the majority of these young people cannot understand how the church needs to spend years studying what is so obvious to them. They see our present practice as discrimination plain and simple. They have been blessed by women pastors and cannot understand why they should be treated differently than male counterparts, especially when women serve in capacities such as senior pastor of a university church.

I feel we owe it to these young people to make sense and to have the courage to do what embodies the gospel in our culture. They are not the future of the church; here they are the present of the church. Our calling is not to make sure we don’t offend the patriarchal culture of other places in the world, but to try and minister effectively to the young people of this culture. If we do not approve the ordination of women it will be a terrible setback to that ministry

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