SILVER SPRING – North American Division president Daniel Jackson issued a statement of clarification Tuesday morning at the start of the Year-end Meeting business session. Addressing the swift online response to news that on Monday, delegates voted in favor of women’s ordination, Jackson sought to set the record straight. He reiterated that the vote did not signal a change in policy. Instead, the vote approved the recommendation of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. The motion approved by delegates was as follows:
We receive the biblical study of ordination prepared by the North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee and affirm the conclusion that all people, men and women, may receive ordination as an affirmation of the call of God, and that the North American Division support the authorization of each division to consider, through prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, its most appropriate approach to the ordination of women to gospel ministry.
In practical terms, the vote means delegates affirmed the belief that women should be ordained, and will send to the General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) the recommendation that each division set policy concerning women’s ordination. The Theology of Ordination Study Committee is the result of a request made from the floor by a delegate at the 2010 General Conference Session. The General Conference Administrative Committee approved the theology of ordination study process on September 20, 2011, setting in motion the theological investigation of which this vote was a part.
Jackson noted again, the vote did not indicate North American Division policy.
It is clear from a variety of official actions and votes from the North American Division that momentum within the division is with proponents of ordaining women. At the division, union and conference levels, affirmations of ordaining women have multiplied in the last year. Still, questions remain about the future of women’s ordination within the Adventist denomination. TOSC will meet in January 2014 to hear reports from each division’s committee. For its part, the North American Division delegation hopes to send the message that amid diversity of practice, church unity remains paramount.
In his closing remarks before NAD delegates voted on Monday, Study Committee chair Gordon Bietz addressed the question of unity amid diversity head on. Focus on Jesus ensures unity; there is no other unity, Bietz stated. He cautioned that disunity would result if the world-wide church were forced to come to agreement on issues over which there is no consensus.
“We assure schism in the church when that which is conditioned by history is imposed by law, when that which grows from culture is made policy for all, when that which is local in importance is made universal in application,” Bietz said.