The National, Thursday July 5th, 2012
By Mark Kellner
Adventist World Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
THE world leadership of the Seventh-Day Adventists has issued a highly unusual “appeal for unity” to regional administrative units of the church that have either taken or are considering independent action regarding the ordination of women to gospel ministry.
The request comes in a statement issued last week in response to actions by several union conferences, including two in North America.
The union conferences, the key constituent elements of the church’s worldwide General Conference, have indicated either a willingness to ordain women, or to take independent actions that would permit such ordinations in their territories.
At present, the Seventh-Day Adventist church does not ordain women to ministry, following votes at General Conference sessions in 1990 and 1995 on the question where the issue was a major focus of the international delegation.
The appeal was prepared and unanimously accepted by consensus by the General Conference officers, a group of 40 senior leaders of the church, including the 13 division presidents who serve as vice-presidents of the General Conference.
The appeal begins by noting the recent local actions and/or proposals, as well as reminding both the union conferences and the church’s wider membership that the subject of ordination is under study by the worldwide Adventist family, with results due in 2014.
Once those results are received, the document states, the GC’s executive committee, the highest interim authority between quinquennial international sessions of the church, will decide whether to make further recommendations on the ordination issue to the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, in July 2015.
Until then, a move “to change or modify ordination practices is a global one and necessitates a decision from the world body”, the document said.
“For any union to introduce a different ministerial ordination practice is seen, by the rest of the church, as readiness to set aside a world church decision and proceed in another direction,” Adventist leaders wrote.
“Such actions, taken at the very time when the world church is engaged in a study and discussion of the matter, pre-empt the process and any decision that might come from it.”
The leaders pointed to the collaborative approach to key decisions that has characterised Seventh-Day Adventist polity since the church’s organisation nearly 150 years ago in 1863: “The essence of unity in Seventh-Day Adventist organisational functioning is the mutual commitment of all organisations to collective decision-making in matters affecting the family – and the acceptance of those decisions as the authority of the church.
The action of any union in pursuing a different course of action represents a rejection of this key value in denominational life.” – Adventist News Network