I wasn't at the Annual Council meetings this past Tuesday when the GC Executive Committee voted to send the question of Women's Ordination to the General Conference Session in San Antonio next summer. But I was watching the proceedings as best I could with Twitter and Facebook.
According to the Adventist Review, delegates listened to presentations and engaged in discussion for six hours this past Tuesday (October 14). More than 40 delegates stood to speak to the motion. It was discussion and debate that was punctuated with at least 17 public offerings of prayer and who knows how many more private prayers. The motion:
To allow each of the 13 divisions of the church to decide the issue of women's ordination in their respective fields.
At the end of the day, the motion overwhelmingly passed with 243 in favor, 44 against, and 3 abstaining.
As I watched the Twitter feed and read stories being published or reposted on Facebook, I found myself engaging in prayer for those in that room, but also somewhat saddened. Before I explain, let me clarify that this is not a blog entry to make a case for or against women's ordination. It is an honest response to the feelings of those moments as I watched the proceedings unfold, and the continued thoughts I've had since Tuesday.
I remember thinking as I watched the Twitter feed refreshing, "I wish this body would demonstrate strong leadership and take a stand that makes a statement to the Church's membership."
I wasn't alone. Many of those who were following on Twitter started posting the similar thoughts at some point. Though the spectrum of ages of those posting was wide, I'd venture to guess most were GenXers like myself or Millennials. This was an opportunity for the Church to begin the healing the hurts opponents of this issue have caused--even before San Antonio. And the younger from our church membership are watching with anticipation to see what their Church does and says.
I appreciated what Elder Paulsen, former GC President said. While expressing regrets that he didn't get this done during his presidency he said, "We don't have time beyond San Antonio, so please fix this one." He's right.
The motion that passed will eventually do that. Even though it didn't pack the punch I was personally hoping for, I believe it will afford healing, unity, and allow the church to move forward with its real mission of soul winning until Jesus comes.
I just hope those on the extremes of this debate will accept it and grow with it as well. Those who are opposed to women in ministry, we would do well to remember how God worked in the Advent church during the days of the pioneers. It was methodical with research and much prayer. Then it was in committee. And when they had a decision, they went out to build up the church. To those who are for ordination, don't get to far ahead. I believe by running ahead of the church and running forward with ordination in the current capacities demonstrates to many who are honestly watching, studying and seeking guidance in the matter a selfish attitude. Scripture reminds us that when we wait on the Lord we won't be disappointed. So go ahead, and keep the issue alive, but don't get to far ahead. As Elder Wilson, our current GC President said, "Let us speak in such a way that those listening and watching will say, 'I am proud to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.'"
Ultimately, God calls who He will for service and ministry. In Scripture it was men AND women. It wasn't just Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, and Daniel. It was also Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, and most recently Ellen White.
Finally, even though I'm a man and ordained to ministry nearly 10 years ago now, I praise God for the opportunities to witness and minister for Him. And if you took that ordination away, and took away my pulpit and my church assignment, I'd like to think I would still be actively involved bringing people to Jesus. He's coming so soon, and people need a chance to hear it. So ordained or not, male or female, lets get after it.