5:17 PM

I was one of some 400 delegates who attended the Special Constituency Session of the Pacific Union Conference Sunday in Woodland Hills, CA. After approximately 130 years of the Church engaging in unending biblical studies, cultural reports, endless decades of conventions, councils, and committees, the PUC decided it was time to ‘stop kicking the can down the road’ and take a vote. Almost giddy with the potential for good, I entered the Marriott Hotel eager to get the meeting started. I was impressed with the diverse assortment of people, their identity badges dangling from their necks busily engaging in lively conversation. There was an air of excitement; this was a big deal. Ordaining women to the ministry was the keynote that animated the crowd. I knew God was in the middle of this gathering. (Revelation 1:13, 20).[1]

Jesus loved crowds. He often retreated to quiet solitude to replenish his weary body and spirit only to return once again to the multitudes. Matthew tells us Jesus had compassion on the crowd. (15: 32). The enduring theme in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is of God relentlessly seeking to make His home in our midst. In antiquity gods only rested in their temples, their residences, so when Genesis 2:2 declares, ‘God rested on the seventh day from all His work…’ it is saying God lounged in His home, His rightful place, in the Garden, with us.[2] Revelation 21: 3, God’s dreams come true: His home is forever with us, ‘the crowd.’

While God hung out with us we vigorously debated. General Conference president, Elder Ted Wilson, argued for ‘unity’ and warned of ‘congregationalism.’ The assembly countered with Elder Ernest Castillo’s divine humor, cutting through any tension while delivering a rousing appeal to end discrimination. Elder Randy Roberts ransacked the idea of ‘more study and more committees’ deftly arguing now is the time long overdue to demonstrate ‘there is…neither male nor female…all are one in Christ (Gal. 3: 28). Jesus walked in our crowd: He was there with the GC as they pleaded their case, and He moved among the delegates as they countered theirs. He stood with us in long lines while we expressed our convictions. Jesus is like that: ‘God with us,’ right or wrong, the Spirit making known His heart.

John’s gospel’s underscores Christ hails from the Father’s heart making His presence in our ranks, wherever we may be and whoever we are. At 5:17 pm, August 19, 2012, the PUC crowd voted 79% to 21% in favor of ordaining women; our prayers revealing His desire. Seemed so right to me; why all the years of fussing and resisting? Then I realized: ‘the Church enfeebled and defective though it may be…’[3] is veritably a collective me, slow and resistant to His wooing. Providentially God’s persistent presence of love and goodness in our midst proves ultimately transforming. And 5:17 pm Sunday confirmed that.

[1] Scripture from the New American Standard Bible.

[2] Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One, Inner Varsity Press, 2009, Chapter 7.

[3] White, E.G. Selected Messages, vol. 2, 1958, pp. 396, 397.

Greg Prout is a member of the Southern California Conference Executive Committee.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4696
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