Sunday, July 29, 2012

Women's Ordination Approved in Columbia Union Conference


After hours of discussion including speeches from General Conference president Ted Wilson, GC vice-president Lowell Cooper, and North American Division president Daniel Jackson, the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted 209 to 51 to authorize ordination to Gospel ministry without regard to gender. With their vote, the CUC joins the Nothern German Union in enacting ordination equality. The Pacific Union Conference will vote on a similar provision on August 19.

Today's special constituency session lasted over three hours. During the meeting, both Elder Wilson and Elder Cooper spoke in strong opposition to the motion to move independently of the world-wide Church, which is currently conducting a study on ordination. Wilson predicted dire consequences for deviation from the desisions of the General Conference in session.

The meeting began with worship, during which Daniel Jackson spoke to delegates of love and of God's Spirit.

"The hallmark of the church is that we love each other," Jackson said, adding that the body's primary responsibility, personally and collectively was to God. Jackson did not directly address the issue at hand, but instead appealed to the work of God. "Either the Spirit of God was poured out in Bible times, or it wasn't," Jackson said, adding, "And if it was then, it is today."

After Jackson, President Wilson addressed delegates.

He framed the issue as one of unity or disunity: "I come to you today because I care about the unity of the church at large," Wilson said.

Wilson appealed to his father, former General Conference president Neal C. Wilson, saying, "If dad were alive today, he would be very concerned about today's recommendation, as are thousand around the world."

The president then warned that a vote in favor of ordaining women might lead to "fragmentation, congregationionalism and a breakdown in collegaialism." But Wilson was quick to add to his warnings, "I'm not threatening you in any way, just presenting facts."

He then took issue with the idea that the vote would put the CUC at variance with the World Church, calling variance "a nice, polite word." "In reality, if voted it will put you in opposition to World Church," Wilson said. The president repeatedly used phrases such as "grave consequences" and "out of harmony" to describe the move to ordain equally.

Wilson again appealed to delegates to defer to the ongoing process of study, that he said would involved the Biblical Research Institute, an entity that thus far has been excluded.

Following Wilson's remarks, Vice-president Cooper addressed delegates reiterating the appeal to "refrain from autonomous action." Both Wilson and Cooper made political appeals, but did not address biblical or theological issues.

After Cooper, Wilson added a few more comments, saying that he was inviting delegates "to be integral part of remnant church." The clear implication was that by voting for ordination equality, they would be outside the confines of the remnant church. The president concluded by saying, "I implore you, do not vote recommended action...we should stay in harmony with each other and not branch out independently, which could have devastating effects."

Following remarks from the General Conference leadership, members of the CUC Ad Hoc Committee that brought the recommendation to ordain equally spoke about their process.

Potomac Conference president William Miller provided a brief history of the move in CUC to be gender inclusive. He demonstrated that the process goes back to the 1970s. Miller pointed out that in the past when similar discussions arose, people predicted dire consequences, but "The earthquake didn't happen," Miller said repeatedly. Miller showed that policies affecting women in ministry were historically enacted at local, grassroots levels, and then were eventually adopted by the world church. Whenever changes toward inclusivity were made, Miller said, they were not initiated by the World Church.

"One of our favorite pastimes as denomination is to commission another study," Miller said pointedly.

Ohio Conference president Raj Attiken was next to speak. He noted that authority in the Adventist denomination has historically rested with people at local levels, and has flowed up through delegation. Attiken addressed the idea of church unity, sayin that unity lies in ideals rather than church structure. "Diveristy is intrinsic to authentic unity," he told the audience.

Attiken pointed out that in 1881, the General Conference voted to ordain women, and there was no dissent from Ellen White. A little later, Attiken shared a statement from Ellen White, in which she said that "The General Conference ought to be the voice of God, but it is not."... ► Read the full story by Jared Wright in Spectrum Magazine


Author:  Jared Wright
Photo: Dave Weigley: "I'm with you, Constituents. We are part of the mission to preach the good news. I'm here today to say that I want to be part of the revival that is taking place in our church. It will not be an easy road. We'll work together, but we are part of the worldwide church." / Credit: Columbia Union Conference Visitor

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