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Viewpoint: Why Unions Should Assert Their Right to Decide Women’s Ordination


Two unions in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, the Pacific Union Conference in the West and the Columbia Union Conference in the East, have recently taken action on the question set forth by the  2014 Annual Council to be presented to the 2015 General Conference Session. The two unions have essentially taken the same action–they have come out in favor of allowing divisions to decide whether to ordain women or not, and have stated that they believe in unity in diversity. In other words they have voted in favor of a “YES” vote to the question being sent to the General Conference Session. This is well and good, but does not deal with the real issue.

In favoring a “YES” vote, they are in effect accepting the validity of the question–that it is legitimate for the majority of the General Conference delegates to decide whether a division can proceed to ordain women when ready. I indicated in my previous article that because of the different views regarding the role of women in society in different parts of the world, this is not a matter that should be decided at the General Conference. It is a matter that should be decided in each division or union. The African divisions should not decide how the North American Division should treat its women any more than the North American Division should decide for the African divisions how they should treat their women.

Should the majority of the delegates vote “NO” on this question, it would mean that no division would be sanctioned by the General Conference to ordain women. The crucial element in this issue is that by accepting the legitimacy of this question, all divisions are in effect agreeing to the will of the majority of the delegates. But consider what this means. Each division, including the North American Division, is willing to allow the majority of the delegates to determine what it should do regarding the ordination of women. That is, that if the majority vote “NO,” the North American Division agrees that ordained women in its jurisdiction will not be sanctioned by the General Conference. It would also mean, more to the point, that the NAD would be willing to risk further challenges to the presidency of Sandra Roberts in Southeastern California Conference.

Additionally, if entities in the NAD were to refuse to comply with the majority decision in the case of a “NO” vote, then they could rightly be charged with being divisive since they have, in effect, accepted the legitimacy of the question, implying that they have agreed to whatever the majority decides. If the majority votes “NO,” they will have tough decisions to make about how to deal with ordination within their territories.

It follows that if the divisions and unions that have ordained women intend to continue to do so, whatever the vote may be, they need to indicate this before the action is taken. Instead of the kind of action they have taken to indicate they are in favor of allowing divisions to determine whether they wish to ordain women or not, they should, at this point, indicate that they do not believe that the question is legitimate and that this decision should be left to the unions and divisions to decide. If they do not, they will have a harder time making the case for continuing to ordain women and making claims about unity if General Conference delegates deliver a “NO” vote.

Again, to avoid conflicts and confusion I pray that if things continue as they are that the majority of the delegates will vote “YES” on this question, and thus give the Church more time to deal with the problem of where this kind of decisions should be made.


Sakae Kubo, 88, has had a long career in the Adventist church, primarily in university and college administration. He taught at the Theological Seminary at Andrews University, served as Dean of the School of Theology at Walla Walla University, as President of Newbold College, and as Vice-President and Academic Dean at Atlantic Union College.

Title Photo: NAD President Daniel Jackson speaks at the 2014 NAD Year-end Meetings in Silver Spring. Courtesy Daniel Weber / NAD.

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