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Dr. Pipim’s GC Session Report—Part 3--Wednesday Was Already Present PDF  | Print |  E-mail

WEDNESDAY WAS ALREADY PRESENT

Dr. Pipim’s GC Session Report—Part 3

[NOTE:  On the day the world church voted on women's ordination, it seemed like a contention between the "Church of the West" and the "Rest of the Church." In this Part 3 of my report on the 2013 GC Session, I focus on the women’s ordination vote that took place this past Wednesday, July 8, 2015. I will give a background, offer reasons for the vote and its outcome, and will raise questions about what will happen after the vote.  In Part 1 (“At the GC Session: Why?”), I explained why I attended the 2013 GC Session in San Antonio, Texas. In Part 2 (“Reflection On The First Week”), I summarized the major highlights of the first week.] 

On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, the GC in Session once again REJECTED women’s ordination—but the vote is more nuanced than it appears. Also, although the vote took place on Wednesday, “Wednesday” was already present from the very first day GC session began six days earlier.

Although the theme is “Arise! Shine! Jesus Is Coming Again!,” sadly, the decision over women’s ordination was the subtext underlying almost every action and discussion at the GC session. In fact, having being consumed by it for about 25 years, the world church was desirous to settle this contentious issue once and for all. Hence Wednesday.

BEFORE WEDNESDAY

In the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church prior to the 2013 GC Session, there had been three other General Conference session actions on women’s ordination: The GC sessions in1881, 1990, 1995. As I have shown in my latest book COURAGE: Taking A Stand on Women’s Ordination, on all three occasions the Church REJECTED the practice on the theological grounds that it was not biblical.

On Wednesday, July 8, in response to a new request from the North American Division (NAD), another attempt was made at the 2015 GC Session in San Antonio, Texas, to consider if the world Church would allow the ordination of women as pastors in regions of the Church that desire to do so. As in the past, the world Church once again voted to deny this request. The question put before the GC session delegates was this: 

Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.

The result was this:

Yes:        977
No:         1381
Abstain: 5
Total:     2363

Why did a majority of the world church again vote against women’s ordination? Specifically, what was new about this GC session action and what happens after Wednesday?

To answer this question, we shall briefly summarize the previous three GC session actions (1881, 1990, and 1995) before we focus on the 2015 vote this past Wednesday. The first of the three previous GC session actions on women’s ordination took place in Battle Creek,during the days of our pioneers. The last decisions were taken in our day.

Because of the misinformation and misleading interpretation of the 1881 GC session action that took place in Battle Creek in the days of E. G. White and our pioneers, we shall briefly take up a discussion of this event—what took place in 1881 and explain why our pioneers rejected women’s ordination. In the next section, we shall look at the recent decisions of 1990, 1995, and the upcoming vote in2015.

IN THE DAYS OF OUR PIONEERS

Because of the misinformation and misleading interpretation of the 1881 GC session action that took place in Battle Creek in the days of E. G. White and our pioneers, we shall briefly take up a discussion of this event—what took place in 1881 and explain why our pioneers rejected women’s ordination.

1881 GC Session (Battle Creek) Action on Women’s Ordination

Here’s the motion of the 1881 proposal(called “resolutions” in those days) as recorded in Review and Herald, December 20, 1881, p. 39):

Motion: “That females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.”

Vote: According to the minutes, “This was discussed . . . and referred to the General Conference Committee.”

Summary: As I have shown in my COURAGE  book,pp. 24-29, the fact that the proposal was “referred to the General Conference Committee” means that the 1881 General Conference delegates did not accept the women’s ordination proposal.

Why Our SDA Pioneers Said “No”

Why did the General Conference in 1881 turn away from women’s ordination? Was it because, in the words of some pro-ordination scholars, the delegates were not bold enough, or open-minded enough, or even prudent enough to act “with perfect propriety” to ordain women who were “serving as gospel ministers”?

For an answer to why the 1881 GC delegates turned away from ordaining women, it is best to read the published theological position and practice of the leading Seventh-day Adventist pioneers (including EGW) on the subject—both before and after the 1881 session. We must, for example, look to see if the editorials by resident editors of our official papers Review & Herald and Signs of the Times—have any light to shed on the pioneers’ view on the question of women serving in the headship roles of elder or pastor. (The resident editors were Uriah Smith, J. H. Waggoner, James White, J. N. Andrews, Milton C. Wilcox).

When we do, we shall discover that, for them, because of God’s “divine arrangement, even from the beginning,” women could not serve in the headship roles as husbands in their homes or as elders or pastors in the church. To do so, according to our Adventist pioneers, would be to disregard and abuse God’s divine arrangement. 

1878 Editorial on Women’s Ordination

Here’s how J.H. Waggoner stated their position in an 1878 editorial in the Signs of the Times:

The divine arrangement, even from the beginning, is this, that the man is the head of the woman. Every relation is disregarded or abused in this lawless age. But the Scriptures always maintain this order in the family relation. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Eph. 5:23.Man is entitled to certain privileges which are not given to woman; and he is subjected to some duties and burdens from which the woman is exempt. A woman may pray, prophesy, exhort, and comfort the church, but she cannot occupy the position of a pastor or a ruling elder. This would be looked upon as usurping authority over the man, which is here [1 Tim2:12] prohibited (Editorial (J. H. Waggoner), The Signs of the Times, December 19, 1878, p. 320; emphasis mine).

The important point to note is that our studious Seventh-day Adventist pioneers understood that the issue of women’s ordination was a theological issue, not a cultural one. They understood that there are gender role-distinctions in both the home and the church. Thus, despite the many roles women can play in the church, “a woman…cannot occupy the position of a pastor or a ruling elder.

This was their stated position in 1878, four years before the 1881 GC session that rejected the proposal to ordain women. The reason they rejected women’s ordination was based on what the pioneers believed to be a clear biblical teaching on role-distinctions in both the home and the church(what theologians call the spiritual “headship” principle). 

 In other words, having concluded that ordaining women as elders or pastors is theological, not cultural, it was not surprising that they REJECTED women’s ordination when the item was brought to the 1881 GC session.This theological basis of the Adventist pioneers' position on women’s ordination—namely, God’s divine arrangement of gender role-differentiation at Creation—was once again articulated a few years later, in 1895.

1895 Answer To Question

Fourteen (14) years after the 1881 GC session that rejected women’s ordination (and 18 years after the editorial of1878 that clearly offers the theological basis against women’s ordination), a reader of Signs of the Times (our official denominational magazine) asked the following question of the editor,Milton Wilcox:

“Should women be elected to offices of the church when there are not enough brethren?”

Here’s the editor’s response:

“If by this is meant the office of elder, we should say at once, No. But there are offices in the church which women can fill acceptably, and oftentimes there are found sisters in the church who are better qualified for this than brethren, such offices, for instance as church clerk, treasurer, librarian of the tract society, etc., as well as the office of deaconess, assisting the deacons in looking after the poor, and in doing such other duties as would naturally fall to their lot. The qualifications for church elder are set forth in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and in Titus1:7-9. We do not believe that it is in God’s plan to give to women the ordained offices of the church. By this we do not mean to depreciate their labors, service, or devotion. The sphere of woman is equal to that of man. She was made a help meet, or fit, for man, but that does not mean that her sphere [or role]is identical to that of man’s. The interests of the church and the world generally would be better served if the distinctions given in God’s word were regarded.” (Signs of the Times, “Questions & Answer #176: Who Should Be Church Officers?” January 24, 1895 [Resident editor: Milton C. Wilcox].)

Again, observe that for our pioneers, the women’s ordination issue was a theological issue—not a cultural one to be settled by culture or personal opinion. The reason why the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers rejected women’s ordination is not a question of inequality or inability. They believed in the equality and ability of men and women. Here’s a summary of their position:

1. Women are equal with men and are capable (“oftentimes there are found sisters in the church who are better qualified for this than brethren”). And they can perform a wide variety of roles in the church (e.g., “church clerk, treasurer, librarian of the tract society, etc., as well as the office of deaconess, assisting the deacons in looking after the poor”). In other words they believed that women had been called to ministry—the soul-winning ministry of the church.

2. Women have different roles. Though women are equal to men, they have different roles. Within the equality and complementarity of men and women (“she was made a help meet, or fit, for man”),there are gender role-distinctions between them. The equality of women with men“ does not mean that her sphere [or role] is identical to that of man’s.”

3. Women cannot be ordained as elders/pastors. They stated: “We do not believe that it is in God’s plan to give to women the ordained offices of the church.”

4. The pioneers asserted that upholding the biblical teaching is the best way to serve the interest of both the church and its witness to the world: “The interests of the church and the world generally would be better served if the distinctions given in God’s word were regarded.” 

It was this theological understanding that governed how women—including E.G. White—served in ministry during the days of the pioneers. The Adventist women of the past typically understood that while they had been called to do the work of soul-winning, and while it was biblically legitimate for them to preach, teach, counsel, minister to the needy, do missionary work, serve as Bible workers, etc., the Scriptures prohibited them from exercising the headship responsibility of elder or pastor.

These dedicated Adventist women did not view their non-ordination as elders or pastors to be a quenching of their spiritual gifts or as an arbitrary restriction on the countless functions they could perform in gospel ministry.

Thus, for more than one hundred years(from 1881-1990), the SDA Church maintained that women could not be ordained as pastors and/or elders (in the Bible, both pastor and elder are interchangeable). 

RECENT GC SESSION ACTIONS

Until recently, Adventists have been unanimous in their view that no precedent for the practice of ordaining women can be found in Scripture, nor in the writings of Ellen G. White and the early Seventh-day Adventist church. By the 1970s, however, this established position began to be reversed in favor of ordaining women as elders and pastors.

This new trend was created by the converging interests of:

·     feminism,

·     liberalism,

·     North American Division (NAD) church leaders’ desire to enjoy United States tax law benefits to ministers,

·     questionable church policy revisions and Church Manual alterations allowing women to serve as elders,

·     calculated attempts by some influential North American churches unilaterally to ordain women as pastors,

·     the relative silence of leadership to this defiance of two General Conference session votes against women’s ordination,

·     a well-orchestrated strategy by influential thought leaders and pro-ordination groups to domesticate the practice in the church,

·     a determined effort by some church scholars to reinterpret the Bible and early Adventist history to justify the practice, and

·     ignorance, indifference, or silence on the part of church members on the issues at stake.

Initially, the campaign to overthrow the long-standing biblical position of the Seventh-day Adventist church was spearheaded by a relatively few, but influential, liberal and feminist thought leaders within the church. But today, as a result of the converging interests identified above, and as a result of a wide range of arguments being employed, an increasing number of church members are not sure what the real issues are in the debate over women’s ordination, nor about the biblical correctness of the practice.

The situation was made confusing when the biblically compromising practice of ordaining women as ELDERS was allowed. The decision was NOT made at a GC session, but at an Annual Council (which is the executive committee of church leaders). Being a much smaller group, it is much easier to sway them than at a GC session which is the highest decision making forum of the church.

From “Women Elders” to “Women Pastors”

In response to the pressure from the relatively few, but influential, liberal and feminist thought leaders within the church, church leaders at the 1975 Spring Council meeting approved the Biblically compromising practice of ordaining women as local elders in the North American Division if “the greatest discretion and caution” were exercised. Later, they succeeded in persuading church leaders at the Fall 1984 Annual Council meeting to reaffirm and expand the 1975 decision, voting to “advise each division that it is free to make provisions as it may deem necessary for the election and ordination of women as local elders.”

 Thus, even though the 1975 provision departed from the New Testament model of church leadership that assigns to men, not women, the headship roles of elder or pastor, and even though the world church had not formally approved of the provision at a General Conference session, in 1984 the ordination of women as elders was extended from North America to the world field.

Emboldened by their success in influencing church leaders to allow “women elders,” pro-ordination advocates then proceeded to urge the world church at General Conference session to ordain women as PASTORS, at least in divisions favorable to it. 

However, at the General Conference sessions both in 1990 (Indianapolis) and 1995 (Utrecht),the representatives of the world church overwhelmingly rejected the pleas to ordain women into the Gospel ministry.

But despite the aggressive campaign, proponents have been unable to convince the world church of the biblical soundness of their arguments to ordain women as elders or pastors. Thus, on the two recent occasions that the issue has come up at General Conference sessions(Indianapolis, 1990, and Utrecht, 1995), the overwhelming majority of the Church worldwide voted "No" to requests to ordain women.

We shall briefly summarize the two recent GC session actions before we focus on the upcoming 2015 proposal. 

1990 GC Session (Indianapolis) Action on Women’s Ordination

Motion: The recommendation "NOT to approve ordination of women to the gospel ministry" came from the Role of Women Commission, through the 1989 Annual Council of Church leaders.

Vote:       In favor of the recommendation: 1,173;

                In opposition to the recommendation: 377

Summary: By a margin of 75% to 25%, the session voted not to ordain women as pastors.

1995 GC Session (Utrecht) Action on Women’s Ordination

Motion: The recommendation to "vest each division the right to authorize the ordination of individuals within its territory" came from the North American Division, through the 1994 Annual Council.

Vote:       In favor of the recommendation:673;

               In opposition to the recommendation: 1,481.

Summary: In other words, 66% voted against women’s ordination while some 34% voted for it.

Note that, in spite of these decisions in 1990 and 1995, proponents of women’s ordination determined upon an all-out campaign, including unilateral ordinations in some influential North American churches and institutions. At the same time that these rebellious ordinations were taking place, advocates were also employing a tactic that had served their cause well in the past—namely, working through church leaders to legislate the un-Biblical practice.

Without doubt, the most subtle, and yet most ambitious, effort by pro-ordinationists to overturn the worldwide GC Session decisions in 1990 and 1995 is contained in the North American Division’s document “President’s Commission on Women in Ministry—Report.” The document was voted during the October 7-10, 1997 year-end meeting of the North American church leaders. It details a 12-point strategy to domesticate the practice. For almost 20 years, they’ve been using this strategy. Believing that they can succeed, they made a request for the subject to be visited again at this 2015GC Session]. 

2015 GC Session (San Antonio) Action on Women’s Ordination

Motion: “After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and; After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission, Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”

Vote:       In favor of the recommendation:977

               In opposition to the recommendation: 1,381

               Abstention: 5

Summary: In other words, 58.4 % voted against women’s ordination while some 41.3% voted for it.

Significant Observations

Observe that the motion before the 2015 delegates was essentially the same as the motion that was rejected in1995, some twenty years earlier. The only difference is that unlike the 1995request which was simply passed along directly from the North American Division, the 2015 request from NAD was routed through an Annual Council of the GC. Still the request was the same. Here’s the wording of the 1995 Utrecht motion, that:

"The General Conference vests in each division the right to authorize the ordination of individuals within its territory in harmony with established policies. In addition, where circumstances do not render it inadvisable, a division may authorize the ordination of qualified individuals without regard to gender. In divisions where the division executive committees take specific actions approving the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, women may be ordained to serve in those divisions." (see Adventist Review, July 11, 1995, p. 30)

The above recommendation in 1995 was defeated by only 673 (in favor) and an overwhelming1,481 (in opposition). Now let’s compare the 1995 recommendation with the 2015motion that is to be voted upon in San Antonio:

 Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.

The two motions mean the same thing. So one may ask: Why is it being raised again? What has changed since Utrecht? Has truth changed? Does truth change with time? Or it is we who have changed?

Observe that, 20 years after the1995 rejection of women’s ordination, advocates seem to believe that the more they put pressure on the church, the more chances the error that was thrice rejected by the world body would suddenly become truth!

Although they did not succeed, observe again that in all three recent instances when the Church rejected women’s ordination, the margin had dropped from 75% opposition (1990) to 66%(1995), and now 58.4% (2015). Three reasons may account for this growing acceptance of women’s ordination:

(i) unlike the days of our early pioneers, in our days there is a growing lack of studious Bible knowledge;

(ii) the aggressive lobbying of leaders and scholars who had been influenced by feminist and higher critical assumptions; (in the case of the 2015 action this past Wednesday, 20 years of aggressive campaign seemed to have yielded some fruits.)

(iii) the framing of the motion, restricting the ordination of women to only regions of the world where they saw nothing wrong with it.

Still, it should be emphasized that, despite the strong orchestrated campaign by some influential individuals and pressure groups in North America and the Western world, officially the Seventh-day Adventist church does not support ordaining women to the gospel ministry.

 WHY 2015 GC SESSION DELEGATES REJECTED WOMEN’S ORDINATION

If there’s one single reason for the rejection of women’s ordination at the2015 GC Session (as on other previous GC sessions), it is the fact that the practice has no biblical foundation. As such, the Church could not allow one region of the Church to pursue a path that is believed to be against the Bible?

As one who has keenly followed and been engaged the discussions on women’s ordination for the past 25 years, there was really nothing new about the arguments brought forth to support women’s ordination. All the “biblical” and “historical” arguments were recycled versions of the same arguments in 1990 and1995, when the world church overwhelmingly rejected the ordination of women.

Those who desire to know why Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventists have always rejected the practice must read my book COURAGE (http://drpipim.org/documents/courage.pdf). The Appendix of the book also provides additional works by other others.

Let me now briefly summarize some of the reasons why the world church was right in rejecting NAD’s request to allow Divisions which desire to do so to ordain women.

1. Pluralism in Theological Beliefs and Practices

Never before in Seventh-day Adventist history has a Biblical issue been settled on a regional basis. Had the Church approved women’s ordination for separate Divisions, it would have risked fracturing the unity in theological beliefs and practices. This would have adversely impacted the cohesion of the Church.

2. Unequal Ordination

Had the request been approved, the decision would have brought a historic shift in our understanding of the role of ordination in Seventh-day Adventist church government and how theological issues are resolved.

Historically, our church has recognized "the equality of the ordination of the entire ministry."In other words, the ordination of a minister automatically qualifies him to serve anywhere in the world field.

However, had the motion at the GC session been approved, for the first time in Seventh-day Adventist history, the ordination of a minister will not be equal everywhere, but may only be recognized within certain territorial boundaries of Divisions.  Thus, an ordained “woman pastor” in NAD cannot function in another Division that doesn’t allow such. 

3. Future Imposition on Other Divisions

Had the Church allowed one territory of the worldwide church to ordain women, it wouldn’t belong before such ordination will begin to be imposed on other territories. In fact, the forced importation of this has happened in some regions, causing unnecessary and sharp divisions.

How could our world Church make so fundamental a change unless it can find biblical support? How can it allow itself to be divided on something so essential to its unity and function?

4. Risk of Disrupting Church Unity

If Divisions can do their own thing on theological issues (which is what women’s ordination is), it will just be a matter of time before Unions, and Conferences, local churches, etc. would also begin to do their own thing. This situation opens the door to independent national churches and to congregationalism. Ultimately, had the Church voted Yes, it would have ruptured the unity of the worldwide Church.

5. It will hamper evangelism.

Let me illustrate: Let’s say during evangelism, if we’re asked “Does your church believe in women’s ordination?” How should we answer? One will say Yes and another will say No. In this kind of scenario, what does it say about our church being Bible-based? Who should join a church that doesn’t have clear position on biblical issues?

6. Curtail Freedom of Conscience & Liberty

How do we protect the freedom of liberty of individuals who conscientiously cannot biblically go along with the practice even in the same Division that approves the practice? Will they be forced to leave the church or transfer their membership to another Division?

What do biblically conscientious objectors do in a local church, where an “ordained woman pastor” is forced upon their church? The problem is no different from the current situation of “women elders”—which is forcing some church members to leave their churches or organize home churches.

If a person transfers his or her membership from one region to the other, they will be forced or subjected to the tyranny of new doctrinal teaching and practice that they cannot subscribe to.

Summary. In short, according to the wording of the motion that was debated and voted, the decision of the delegates was to be based on Scripture and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy—as it ought to be. For the issue to be settled is a theological (NOT cultural) problem. Had the motion been approved, it would have marked the first time in the history of the Church to settle biblical issues on regional basis. This will open the way for different regions of the church to begin doing whatever they want on any other theological issue. For these, and many other reasons, the world church said, No to women’s ordination anywhere. 

WEDNESDAY WAS ALREADY PRESENT

On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, the worldwide SDA church rejected the ordination of women to gospel ministry—even in Divisions which want to go ahead to do so. This was the Wednesday that loomed in the minds of many people when they came to the San Antonio.

The truth, however, is that although the vote took place on Wednesday, “Wednesday” was already present from the very first day GC session began six days earlier. 

·     Wednesday was already present on the opening day when some delegates raised questions about whether new Unions can be voted into the sisterhood of SDA Unions if a new Union is perceived as violating the Church’s policies (see Part I of my report)

·     Wednesday was already present when Eld. Ted Wilson was r-elected as President and a number of NAD delegates tried unsuccessfully to block the approval of his name

·     Wednesday was already present when the delegates overwhelmingly voted the incumbent as President;

·     Wednesday was already present when there were a number of parliamentary acrobatics to use secret ballot using electronic machines—even after it was clear that the machines were not working.

·     Wednesday was already present when the NAD mission report served notice to the world that they consider it a priority to double the number of “women pastors” in the next five years;

·     Wednesday was already present when some Church Manual revisions attempted certain gender-neutral revisions;

·     Wednesday was already present when efforts were made …

But although “Wednesday” was already present, it was only on Wednesday July 8, 2015 that she became visible—after the vote rejecting women’s ordination. 

POWERFUL ARGUMENTS THAT WON THE DAY

In all, some 40 delegates spoke to the motion—20each for and against the motion, alternating between the Yes and No delegates.  There were some three dozen interruptions by delegates, employing the parliamentary protocols, e.g. “point of order.”

As I recall, the people who spoke in favor of ordaining women all came from the Global North (countries in North America, Europe and Australia), and those who spoke against women’s ordination were largely from Africa, Inter America, South America, and North America.

As I reflect on the Wednesday at the 2015 GC Session, there are two powerful arguments that won the day. These are clearly evidenced in the contrasting attitudes displayed by both a former GC President (Eld. Jan Paulsen) and the current GC President (Eld. Ted Wilson)—when, as courtesy, they were given opportunity to address the world church before the vote. They way they carried themselves spoke volumes about the position they held.

Argument by the Former GC President. The former President is well-known for promoting women’s ordination. In fact, a few weeks before the GC session he was one of a group of “Elder Statesmen” who issued a video (titled “It’s Time”) supporting a Yes vote. But given the polarizing nature of the issue, many were expecting that his courtesy speech would be employed to rally the worldwide Church towards unity, regardless of the outcome of the vote. But he lost a wonderful opportunity, choosing rather to a one-sided appeal to delegates to vote Yes. Some were also disappointed that, unlike all other delegates who were given 2 minutes, he spoke for more than 3 minutes to promote women’s ordination.

More than anything else, many were disappointed by the condescending manner in which he singled out Africa and South America. Several people felt he was out of order and some delegates pointed this out in response. Let me hasten to add that I know the former President to be one who has a genuine love for Africa, having served as missionary in my country Ghana and supported many worthwhile projects in Africa.

However several delegates felt his comments were patronizing and condescending and didn't reflect his stature as a senior statesman. Thus, by the time he said, “and you know…I love Africa…” discerning Africans, South Americans, and others who had been feeling a certain type of cultural snobbery in comments and attitudes of some pro-ordination delegates could no longer hold their emotion when those sentiments came from an otherwise respected leader of the church. Regrettably some jeered him and some delegates exercised their right to gently rebuke him. His unfortunate speech caused some unrest in the Alamodome. We had to pause for prayers for the situation to calm down.

As I reflect on Eld. Jan Paulsen's speech and the manner in which he tried to promote his pro-ordination cause, it seemed to me that he--more than anyone else--perfectly illustrated both the attitude and weight of the arguments by many Western proponents of women's ordination. In the end, although he stood up to speak in favor women’s ordination, I believe the former GC President offered one of the best arguments AGAINST women’s ordination. On both substance and demeanor, he made the final argument for why the motion for women's ordination should be defeated.

Argument by the Current GC President. For me though, the most compelling argument against women’s ordination was presented by the speech by the current President, Eld. Ted Wilson. Earlier in the day when he presented the women’s ordination issue to delegates, he pleaded for delegates to speak respectfully, even when they disagreed. And he pledged to abide by the decision of the GC Session, whichever way the vote would go, and asked the same of everyone.

During the afternoon, when he was given the courtesy to speak, unlike the former President, the current President carried himself calmly and as a true statesman. He didn’t recommend a “Yes” or “No” vote. He simply said, “My views are rather well known and I believe them to be biblically based.” He spoke thoughtfully, respectfully, and appealed for unity.  And he spoke within the 2 minutes allotted to every delegate! His was a demonstration of true leadership. He won the hearts of many delegates!

The Vote on Wednesday. After silent and group prayers, the delegates voted by secret ballot as to whether the Church should allow Divisions to ordain women in their territories. The ballots were counted on tables at the front of the Alamodome stadium, and when the results of the votes were announced, it was clear that once again the world church had chosen to walk in the footsteps of its pioneers by being faithful to the Word.

At that point GC President came up front to thank every delegate for exercising their sacred responsibility. He read EGW’s statement:

“When, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered… God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth,when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority” (Testimonies, vol.9, p. 261).

Then he appealed: "Now is the time to unify under the bloodstained banner of Jesus Christ and His power, not our power… Now is the time to unify in our mission as Christ’s church.”

WHAT NEXT AFTER WEDNESDAY?

The vote on Wednesday to reject women’s ordination, even in Divisions which want to do so, simply means that ALL Divisions of the world church are to honor this verdict. In fact, after the vote a delegate asked what the decision meant.To which the Executive Secretary of the General Conference, Eld. G.T. Ng, stated clearly and publicly that the decision applies to all levels of church structure.

The Adventist News Network report on the vote has captured Eld. Ng’s public statement to the delegates: “The General Conference hoped for full compliance from all church entities. ‘We are one church,’ Ng said.”

Unity or Division?

Wednesday has come and gone. The real question is: Does the NAD want to be part of the “one church” or will it separate itself from the world body? How will the North American Division respond to the outcome of the GC Session vote? Will it stubbornly continue to hold onto its views, or will it surrender it? Will it continue to rebel against the worldwide decision, or will it heed the counsel of EGW and the appeal of the GC President for unity?

Regrettably the response the NAD issued on July 9, 2015 is not assuring. Among other things, it said: “While today’s vote does not allow for each division of the church to ordain women to gospel ministry, we will continue to follow General Conference policy by commissioning women pastors, and ordaining women elders and deaconesses."

The shocking response is already generating a backlash among some delegates. Some are calling for the world body to rescind the compromising policy that in 1975 and 1984 allowed women to serve as elders. I agree. May the Lord help us!

Faithfulness & Church Growth

I cannot help point out that the Divisions that had been pushing women’s ordination are from the Global North (countries in North America, Europe and Australia)—the regions of the world were the church is growing the least. And the regions against women’s ordination are largely from Africa, Inter America, South America, and North America—the regions were the church is experiencing membership growth.

This observation raises some questions:

·     Could it be, that there’s a direct correlation between faithfulness to God’s Word and church growth?

·     During the 20 or so years that the NAD has been pushing women’s ordination, what is the evidence that it has resulted in measurable growth? Where is the evidence?

·     Could it also be that one of the reasons for little church growth in North America, Europe, and Australia, is because they’re focused on the wrong priorities?

Ironically, the regions of the world where their women are most active in ministry are the regions that are NOT for women’s ordination. Rather, it is the regions that are not growing which have convinced themselves they need women’s ordination to grow their churches. Isn’t it time for Western Churches to learn from their brothers and sisters how to grow churches?

I personally look forward to the day when experts from the developing countries will also be asked to share the reasons for their phenomenal success. Without doubt, these lopsided growths may be attributed to the gracious blessings of the Lord. But could it also be that our people in the developing countries are doing things that we, in the Western world, need to take note of?

In my opinion (and this is further validated by the mission reports shared at this 2015GC Session), many of the outreach and church plant strategies or methods often presented by specialists in the industrialized countries simply don't work. They only look good on paper, powerpoint, and glitzy videos. At the very most, these gimmicks have only limited results. Worse still, we have managed to convince ourselves that the simple proclamation of the Word of God cannot work in the Western world, unless we jazz it up with some questionable approaches to reach the so-called postmodern world. (Anyway, that is another topic for a future discussion).

As I see it, the women’s ordination debate has been a huge distraction. After 20 years of a well-orchestrated campaign to promote it, the world church has spoken—AGAIN. It’s time to get to work.

AN APPEAL TO FAITHFUL WOMEN

Throughout our history, Seventh-day Adventist women have labored faithfully in the ministry as teachers, preachers, missionaries, Bible workers, etc., and made a vital contribution to the mission of the church, all without ordination.

If any woman was so spiritually gifted as to qualify for ordination as elder or pastor, it was Ellen White. If any woman was so effective in her ministry as a teacher, preacher, and soul-winner as to qualify for ordination as elder or pastor, it was Ellen White. If any Adventist was so justice-inspired, sensitive and caring (and with demonstrable evidence of other fruit of the Spirit) as to qualify for ordination as elder or pastor, it was Ellen White. If any Adventist was so prolific an author and so gifted a leader as to qualify for ordination as elder or pastor, it was Ellen White. And if any woman could legitimately claim the title of Elder or Pastor, it was Ellen G. White.

But during her later years, Mrs. White was known mostly as “Sister White” and affectionately as “Mother White.” She was never known as “Elder White” or “Pastor Ellen.” Every church member knew that “Elder White” was either her husband, James, or her son, W. C. White. 

Far from providing a case for ordination, the women often mentioned by pro-ordination scholars illustrate what women may accomplish without it. And they are not the only ones. Until recently, the Bible workers, as an example, offered valuable service in the ministry; they were an important part of the evangelistic team because they often knew more about the people being baptized and joining the church than the minister did; and the minister welcomed their wisdom and judgment. But none of these women was ever ordained.

If these women, who were well versed in Scripture, had been asked if they wanted to be ordained as elders or pastors, most would likely have exclaimed, “Oh, no! It isn’t biblical!” I say this because it continues to be the attitude of thousands of dedicated Adventist women around the world today.

In light of these facts of Adventist history—such as, the fact that Ellen G. White was never ordained, she never called for women to be ordained as elders or pastors, and none of our dedicated Seventh-day Adventist women of the past was ever ordained as elder or pastor—I again ask those who support women’s ordination, just as I would ask those who support the attempted change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday:

Since the testimonies of Scripture indicate that God the Father did not do it; the Old Testament is clear that the patriarchs, prophets and kings never did do it; the gospels reveal that Jesus, the Desire of Ages, would not do it; the epistles and the acts of the apostles declare that the commissioned apostles could not do it; Ellen White, with a prophetic vision of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, dared not do it, should we who live at the turn of another millennium do it? 

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[SPECIAL GIFT TO GC ATTENDEES: Limited hardcover copies of two of Dr. Pipim's recent books will be offered FREE to attendees at the GC session. These are available in the exhibition booth of Remnant Publications, Exhibit Hall B, Aisle 700, new Pillar B8. He will gladly autograph your complimentary copy]

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NEXT POST:
 “Something Has Changed”—Dr.Pipim’s GC Session Report—Part 4

Previous Reports

1. “At the GC Session:Why?”—Dr.Pipim's GC Session Report—Part 1

           (http://tinyurl.com/onagjod).

2. “Reflection On The FirstWeek—Dr. Pipim's GC Session Report—Part 2:

           (http://tinyurl.com/o77pd6f).

3. “Wednesday Was Already Present”—Dr. Pipim's GC Session Report—Part 3

           (http://tinyurl.com/odw4nej)

[To why Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventists do not ordain women, read my latest book COURAGE: Taking A Stand on Women’s Ordination. This engaging book distinguishes facts from fiction, truth from error, and logic from emotions to present a compelling case for biblical integrity, godliness, and service.

Available as a:

1. Free download (http://drpipim.org/documents/courage.pdf)

2. Ebook & Softcover Book (http://store.eaglesonline.org/index.php/books/courage.html)]