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NAD President Discusses Women’s Ordination

Speaking to a Sabbath School class at the Calimesa Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern California, North American Division president Don C. Schneider stated that he believes the church’s policy on women’s ordination will change, though it may not happen now.
Schneider, who has been receiving Loma Linda University Medical Center’s proton therapy for a brain cyst that rendered him temporarily blind, agreed to attend Calimesa’s Contemporary Issues class to answer questions.
Prior to addressing audience questions, Schneider shared stories of young growing Adventist congregations. He cited the Adventist Fellowship in Tulsa, Oklahoma as an example of a small, recent church plant that quickly grew into a congregation of seven hundred members.
He then asked the audience, “How’s your church growing here?”
Pointing to his own recovered eyesight as an example of one of God’s miracles, Schneider averred that God is very active in the Adventist Church.
Turning to the Atlanta General Conference, Schneider suggested that the best sessions to attend are those at night when the “real stuff” happens, referring to miracle story telling times. The day sessions are good for those who want to watch occasional fights, Schneider quipped to long laughter.
Schneider acknowledged that the topic of greatest interest is women’s ordination. He noted that the issue is not on the GC agenda. Schneider stated that World Church president Jan Paulsen spoke with division presidents (all men), eight of whom strongly opposed putting women’s ordination on the agenda. Two division presidents didn’t talk, Schneider said.
The other item left of the GC agenda is debate over language on presidents, specifically a proposed change that they “shall” be ordained ministers, as opposed to the current language, which states they “should” be ordained ministers.
This leaves the door open to the possibility of female conference presidents, Schneider noted.
An audience member asked Schneider for his own thoughts on women’s ordination. Schneider noted that some theologians he respects say it is unbiblical, while other theologians he respects say the Bible allows it. His key concern is that the church be in accord, and not approve it until the world church can accept it.
Schneider added this word to women who seek to minister: “Go do the work, whether or not you are ordained!”
One audience member pointed out that women’s ordination is a liability for the many young Adventists who are considering leaving the church over it’s policies that bar women from ordination. “What would you say to my generation?” the questioner asked.
Schneider responded that he believed the church’s stance would change when people witness women ministering effectively in the Adventist church. “Maybe not now, but it will change,” Schneider said.
Another questioner asked about reworking the church’s leadership structure. Schneider stated that he is not pushing for a restructuring (e.g. removing the union level) because the money and jobs will be the same–it will just be called something different if changed. Schneider noted that unions deal primarily with Adventist health care and education systems.
With a small handful of minutes remaining, one audience member raised the issue of La Sierra University and evolution, to which Schneider jokingly responded, “Can we be done ten minutes ago?”
He added that when it comes to this topic, he is a “pretty simple guy.” Schneider affirmed his belief in the Bible, and said that if things do not square with the Bible, they are wrong because for him, the Bible is right.
Schneider went on to say that he tried to pay a visit to university president Randal Wisbey (who was not in the office that day). Schneider wanted to encourage Wisbey to “stay close to Jesus” and said that he wanted to be Wisbey’s friend.
Schneider then pointed out that those being attacked are also people with souls to save, and that we should be careful how we deal with anybody with opinions that differ from our own.
Schneider suggested that it might even be possible that some would end up “outside the wall” of heaven because of condemnatory attitudes. “Attitude is important!” Schneider said to applause.

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