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Pacific Union Conference Calls Constituency Session to Vote Ordination for Women Pastors
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Submitted: May 9, 2012
By AT News Team


After hearing the report of a study committee, the executive committee of the Pacific Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America voted today to call a special constituency meeting, tentatively scheduled for August 19. Only two of the 44 members of the regional governing body voted against the substantive motion. The decision to call a constituency meeting was unanimous.
 
The key action states that “the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee will approve or disapprove candidates for ordination without regard to gender” and that the implementation of this action will be “when the Union Bylaws are amended.” The preamble to this resolution states the Biblical and theological basis for this decision.
 
A second action lays out a process for the decision to implement the basic decision. “Because the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee is committed to following denominational procedures and processes, and to facilitate the involvement of the entire Union constituency, a special constituency session will be called to consider amendments to the Pacific Union Conference Bylaws to clearly authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender.”
 
“The Pacific Union Conference Bylaws Committee will examine the Union bylaws and suggest amendments to clearly authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender,” stated Gerry Chudleigh, communication director for the union conference in a news release the same day. “The Pacific Union Conference will provide an informational packet for the delegates, pertinent to the issues to be discussed in the special constituency session.”
 
“Both the study committee and the executive committee made it clear that they are committed to following established church processes and procedures,” stated Chudleigh. “Their recommendations and actions were guided in large part by a summary of church structure prepared earlier this year by the General Conference and distributed at GC spring meetings. The full name of the document is ‘The General Conference and Its Divisions—a Description of Roles and Relationships in Light of Organizational Structure Development, Current Governance Documents, and Practices.’ That document makes clear that: Authority and responsibility in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not centralized in a hierarchical structure. Instead authority and responsibility is distributed throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure. The distribution of authority and responsibility in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is illustrated by … examples of how and where final decision-making authority and responsibility are located.”
 
The GC document, states the Union Conference news release, goes on the explain that the “final authority and responsibility” for deciding who will be a church member is located at the local church; the “final authority and responsibility” for the employment/assigning of pastors and other workers resides at the local conference; and the “final authority and responsibility” for deciding who will be ordained is officially located in the union conferences.
 
The committee also considered that the same paragraphs that declare ordination decision are to be made by the unions, not by the divisions or the General Conference, include this counsel: “It is to be understood that the exercise of authority and responsibility is done within the context of the belief, values, and policies of the entire church. No entity is authorized to exercise its authority and responsibility in a manner that is contrary to the interests of the whole church and its activities in fulfilling its mission.” Obviously the distribution of authority in the Adventist Church can result in tension between world-wide policy and the “final authority and responsibility” which has been assigned to the congregations, conferences and unions. The GC document has much to say about balancing those centers of authority, especially in the final section entitled “Conclusions and Recommendations.”
 
Some key statements were included in the Union Conference news release. “The distribution of authority and responsibility in the Church along with the recognition that ‘authority rests in membership’ presents significant challenges in finding a balance between centralized authority (actions of the global church) and the more localized authority (actions of the constituency) in churches, conferences and unions. … At the same time the church has worked to preserve unity, the effect of church growth has enlarged the understanding of diversity and its rightful place in a worldwide community. To expect that every entity in the world church will look and function exactly like every other entity of its type may in itself become an impediment to mission. The development of structural designs in the history of the church indicates that unity must be built on a stronger foundation than uniformity. … There must be room to recognize the need for a legitimacy of local adaptation of policies and procedures that facilitate mission while not diminishing the worldwide identity, harmony and unity of the Church. … The relationship among the entities of the church is more than a matter of law and policy. Therefore attempts to codify that relationship will always be inadequate. The primary strength of the Church comes not from its structure but from its collective desire to live out a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Such a commitment embraces a call to community.”
 
“Pacific Union executive committee members made it clear during discussions this week that they are committed to taking seriously the ‘final’ authority and responsibility that the Seventh-day Adventist church has assigned to unions,” stated Chudleigh. “And they made it clear that their call for a special constituency session is not to be interpreted as a way to delay the ordination of all whom God has called to ministry. It is rather, the result of a commitment to follow church procedures and to make sure the final action, whatever it is, is backed by the full authority that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has assigned to the Pacific Union Conference.”
 
The preamble to the resolution clearly lays out the Biblical and theological basis for the decision to approve the ordination of women called to gospel ministry. “Scripture is clear that the end-time Church is blessed precisely because men and women preach God’s message (Joel 2:28-29 and Fundamental Belief 17); we are commanded to ‘act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8); ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for all are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28); ‘Differences between male and female must not be divisive among us’ and ‘we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation’ (Fundamental Belief 14); The Seventh-day Adventist Church was co-founded by a woman, Ellen G. White, who remains an authoritative and guiding voice; The Pacific Union is enriched by Spirit-filled women who are responding to God’s call in our schools, churches and conferences; The Seventh-day Adventist Church assigns Unions the final decision-making authority and responsibility with respect to ordination (NAD Working Policy L 45 05 3, Spring Council 2012, 116-12G Report); The Pacific Union Conference voted its full commitment to Women’s Ordination, August 30, 1995 (reaffirmed May 12, 2010 and March 15, 2012).”
 
“The vote at the General Conference Session in 1990 was not a policy action, it was not an amendment to the constitution or bylaws, it was not an addition to the statement of fundamental beliefs,” a former GC staff member told Adventist Today. “It was simply a vote to adopt the report of a study commission that begins with the confession that it could not find agree to a substantive position because of the lack of significant Bible or Spirit of Prophecy statements. If a union conference constituency votes to go ahead with the ordination of women in ministry, there really is no basis for interference by the GC no matter how much some people want to portray this as disloyal. Besides, the GC administration has already permitted this to happen in China.”
 
“You may not like the idea of ordaining women,” stated another retired denominational leader, “but you cannot honestly adhere to the principles that have always guided the Seventh-day Adventist Church and not allow a union conference to do this.” This will be a test case, he noted, of the principles that Ellen White presented to the 1901 GC Session when the concept of union conferences was first introduced.
 

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Jim Walters
2012-05-11 2:41 PM

This is great news!  Some of us have worked for years to see  the day when conferences such as Southeastern California Conference and Southern California Conference would vote for women's ordination, and now the Pacific Union Conference executive committee has prudently voted 44-0 to call a constituency session to vote on the issue.  I say the action is prudent, because the committee wants its obvious predilection for WO to be validated by the most powerful vote possible--the constituency's.

Complements to the AT staff for your  report on this action by the PUCExC, as it is clearer than the press release by the PUC.  One could wish for background on what went on behind the scenes leading to this decisive vote, but surely that's to come.  You got out this fine article on the day of the vote--great work!

Steve Billiter
2012-05-15 12:45 AM

This is terrible news! Nowhere in the Bible is there an ordained minister or priest who is female. Women have been called by God as prophets, but it's God's calling only--no one decides that he or she will be a prophet on his own, or then, we have a false prophet.
Ordination and pastoring a church is the prerogative of men only. However, women can be, and are lay pastors--in fact, often doing a work in families that men cannot do. God has designed men and women for different functions, so when we go against God's commands, how can He bless those efforts?

Ellen White has these words to say under inspiration of God's Spirit;

 "Eve had been perfectly happy by her husband's side in her Eden home; but, like restless modern Eves, she was flattered with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had assigned her. In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it. A similar result will be reached by all who are unwilling to take up cheerfully their life duties in accordance with God's plan."  {AH 115.2} 

Ordaining women and putting them in charge of a church as a pastor will cause nothing but problems and headaches, greatly retarding God's work. The first issue is with the woman herself. Quite obviously, she does not know the Bible in terms of the issue, and can only see it through biased eyes--wanting something that God has not said she can have. It's far better to seek God, all of us, and see what He would have us do. The general Conference has erred greatly in letting it come seemingly to the point of no return. What's next? Gay ministers?
I'm not surprised that this is happening, and it will get worse just before the Sunday Law comes. I have no problem at all with Ellen White's authority, because I know that God Himself called her. We live in a time when there comes greater and greater apostasy in God’s church.

“Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. . . . The remnant that purify their souls by obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process, exhibiting the beauty of holiness amid the surrounding apostasy” (Letter 55, 1886). {7BC 911.6}
 
 
 

All4Him
2012-05-11 9:58 PM

.....So if the "sins" of headship and submission are abrogated by Calvary, does this also erase the "sin" of homosexuality? For the quote from the "One In Christ" website states ordination "Without regard to Gender"?

Donald W.
2012-05-11 10:56 PM

As usual, there goes California Adventists, laying aside the Bible to suit cultural norms and pressures!  The text they use requires them to twist them and misinterpret them for support while they ignore the plethora of texts that speak to the contrary.  Reckless Renegades!  

Stephen Ferguson
2012-05-27 1:05 AM

Yes, just like those earlier pesky Christians in London, like William Wilberforce, who wanted to put aside those clear biblical texts in support of slavery, to suit cultural norms and pressure from abolitionists!  The texts they used required them to twist and misinterpret them for support whilst they ignored the plethora of texts in support of slavery, some of which extended way back to the Old Testament.  Reckless Renegades!

Bob Pickle
2012-05-11 11:13 PM

"Because the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee is committed to following denominational procedures and processes, ...." I can't see how this is anything but a lie, given the total disregard of the 1990 and 1995 GC Session votes in the press release. If they were really committed to following denominational procedures and processes, they wouldn't be pushing to do exactly what was voted down by those GC Sessions.

"... significant challenges in finding a balance between centralized authority (actions of the global church) ...." Since when is a GC Session a "centralized authority"? If a U.S. constitutional convention is not a centralized authority, then neither is a GC Session.

"The vote at the General Conference Session in 1990 was not a policy action, .... It was simply a vote to adopt the report of a study commission ...." The 1995 vote was unquestionably a policy action, correct? Re: the 1990 vote, the statement is false: the vote was to accept both the report and the recommendations in it, which included, "... we do not approve ordination of women to the gospel ministry." If women's ordination was a righteous cause, it wouldn't need misinformation to support it.

Bob Pickle
2012-05-11 11:17 PM

By the way, will AToday also be reporting on constituency sessions that vote down motions to proceed now with women's ordination? Or will the coverage be slanted only in favor of women's ordination?

It's not as if this cause hasn't met with any recent defeats, partial or otherwise, within the last month or so. And yet I haven't see any articles here about that.

Jim Walters
2012-05-15 9:42 PM

I'd sure hope that AT would report on conferences/unions that vote down WO, and to consciously not do so would constitute negligent journalism--to say the least.



Bob Pickle
2012-05-17 8:39 AM

Jim,

That's what I was thinking. Note that the date on the above article is May 9, which is pretty quick. Meanwhile there has been no article on a vote against WO that occurred weeks ago.

Even if an article finally does come out, for the pro-WO votes to be reported on immediately, and the anti-WO votes to be reported on weeks or months later, is problematic.

Bob Pickle
2012-05-26 8:54 AM

Timo,

The 6T (1900) quote cannot be talking about tithe-paid gospel ministers serving as local pastors of local churches since Ellen White at about the same time was stating that were not supposed to. See Ev 382 as just one example.

Regarding the first PM quote, which comes from 19MR 56, what specific positions of management was Ellen White referring to? Church treasurer? Church clerk? Was Brother Johnson against women doing anything at all? 19MR 55-56 suggests that this may have been the case. The second PM quote, taken from 5MR 325-326, in light of Ev 382, how is that not also talking about wives and women engaged in evangelistic work?

The 12MR 167 statement is in support of paying women who are working in evangelistic work with their husbands. How is the Bible Echo statement not also talking about evangelistic work and Bible work? Canvassers learn to call for decisions, a vital skill in evangelism.

Rudy Good
2012-06-02 9:04 AM

And we all know Ellen never contradicted herself.

Kevin Riley
2012-05-26 8:59 AM

Why is it right to insist that what appears to be statments in favour of women working as pastors must be interpreted by those that appear not to be in favour and not the other way around?

All4Him
2012-05-26 9:17 AM

Kevin would you do the honor of interpeting what these statements made by a women about pastoral leadership?

The primary object of our college was to afford young men an opportunity to study for the ministry and to prepare young persons of both sexes to become workers in the various branches of the cause. 5T page 60.

Those who enter the missionary field should be men and women who walk and talk with God. Those who stand as ministers in the sacred desk should be men of blameless reputation. 5T page 598

Ervin Taylor
2012-05-26 4:17 PM

Kevin will offer his own comments. But may another suggest that Ellen White views on this topic were relevant given the cultural contexts of her time.The context has changed and thus her views today are, at best, interesting from a historical perspective but hardly currently relevant.

Kevin Riley
2012-05-26 9:41 PM

I have already said I am not convinced Ellen White meant to make a distinction between what men and women could do.  She may have been reflecting what was happening then without comment - although I think it more likely she meant to make no distinction at all.  That 'various branches of the cause' and 'the missionary field' would exclude preaching/teaching seems to be stretching credibilty somewhat. 

There were women working as pastors, doing everything an ordained pastor could do during her life time.  There is even a record of one woman acting as a conference president for a while.  Ellen White did not ever condemn this, and in fact argued for women to be paid for their work.  I can't see that ordination was that important then that she would have focused on it.  James White, among others, argued that the NT texts could not possibly refer to preaching and teaching, but must refer only to business meetings.  Of course, women were not excluded from them, either.  I think our problem was and is that experience teaches us (and taught our pioneers) that God calls and equips men and women to preach and teach, whereas, at least at first glance, some NT texts seem to say they can't.  I believe our pioneers were right to interpret the text by experience and that "what is God doing?" is a much more important question than "what did Paul say?".

All4Him
2012-05-27 12:31 AM

It is not Paul speaking in Gen. 3:16....but God, yet Paul did refer back to creation when he spoke of the matter. Various "branches" of the cause are often reffered to publishing, medical, and educational fields.  Though there is no question what was ment by the term "the sacred desk".

Stephen Ferguson
2012-05-27 1:07 AM

All4Him, on what basis do you say we should listen to Ellen White, given she was a woman?  Did she deserve to get paid?  Was the SDA Church of her time incorrect is granting her (and other woman) ministerial credentials which said 'ordained' on them?  

All4Him
2012-05-27 8:51 AM

*The Bible has examples of women prophetess but no priest/elder/bishop who were female. 

* Yes both Ellen and James deserved pay for what they did.

*Was it correct for Ellen White to reffuse ordination and mark a questionair that said she was
   not ordained?

Kevin Riley
2012-05-29 12:15 AM

Ellen White refused ordination on the grounds God had already ordained her and she didn't need church recognition.  If God is happy to ordain women, shouldn't the church be also?  We have no priests, so of course women can't be priests.  Junia was an apostle, Phoebe a deacon, so perhaps we should not so quickly assume that none of those women Paul mentions as 'co-workers' held the office of elder or bishop.

Bob Pickle
2012-06-02 8:56 AM

Whether or not Junia was an apostle is debatable. Phoebe was a deaconess, and thus may not have been a deacon. Note the gender of the article before diakonou in Rom. 16:27.

Kevin Riley
2012-06-02 7:36 PM

The oldest ordination rituals are identical for deacons and deconesses.  From that it is not hard to argue for identical roles.

Ervin Taylor
2012-05-28 10:07 PM

All4Him seems to think that the church did not at one time issue EGW credentials that clearly said she was ordained.  Might I ask where All4Him got the strange idea that EGW was not ordained?

Bob Pickle
2012-06-02 8:58 AM

Erv,

Ellen White said that God had ordained her in Portland, which thus dates her ordination to the office of prophet around Dec. 1844. What specific significance do you see that Ellen White's ordination by God via vision in Dec. 1844 has for the topic of women's ordination today?

All4Him
2012-05-29 4:39 PM

Ervin what do you think....? Ellen White never claimed ordination, in 1909 when she was filling out a biographical sheet she answered question #19 with a X.  The same answer she gave for #26 asking her if she ever remarried.  Then look at what she wrote on headship and submission. 

Yes there is a great work for women to do, and why don't we give our energy to supporting the roles God gave them.  Instead of twisting Scipture and SOP to squeeze out reasons why God given roles should not be followed.

Look at the "One in Christ" website in January alone well over 1K signatures... and in four months a mere
900 more....  People need to understand what is being pushed for, ordination "without regard to gender" opens up a whole new can of worms.  For if the if the "sins" of headship and submission are abrogated by Calvary, does this also erase the "sin" of homosexuality?

 


Rudy Good
2012-06-02 9:35 AM

By most standards my theology would be considered fairly liberal. However, I find some merit in in the arguments that male headship is supported by scripture because of gender suitedness. On the other hand, It is my conclusion that a great many Adventist pastors are poorly suited to headship making the argument a pretty weak one. In the end I think the decision should be a pragmatic one. What works for the body of Christ here and now. This may be the way we should relate to the scripture regarding its position on this isue. It was what God inspired leaders believed was right for the time. 

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