The General Conference has expanded its argument against those orgainizations moving to authorize ordination without regard to gender with an article entitled Questions & Answers Regarding Current Issues of Unity Facing the Church. The article, printed in the Adventist Review, is best taken and responded to as a whole, which we do in what follows.
1. The title of the document, and the apparent reasoning behind it, is an ironic distortion of both Scripture (Gal. 3:28) and Fundamental Belief #14, voted by the General Conference in session in 1980 and never repealed or modified. To claim that "oneness in Christ" as a church entails denying the explicit meaning of "oneness in Christ" in Scripture and in our own statement of beliefs is so bizarre as to defy rational understanding. One can only exclaim, "What are they thinking?"
a) They appear to be thinking that the church is a vast bureaucracy, with authority residing in a director-general at the top and the underlings doing as they are told, not asking questions other than "What are we supposed to do?" and certainly not demanding changes in procedures. But in fact the church is not a bureaucracy; it is a community of people. The Seventh-day Adventist church in California is not an extension or subdivision of the General Conference; it is the community of Seventh-day Adventist people in California.
b) In other words, the real issue raised by the "Questions and Answers" document is not the unity of the church but the nature of the church. We are not the Seventh-day Catholic Church; the General Conference president is not a pope; the General Conference executive committee is not a college of cardinals; conference presidents are not bishops, and union conference presidents are not archbishops. There will be serious dissension until we agree on the essential nature of the church. This is another instance of the general truth that although good theology won't get us to heaven, bad theology can make our life hell.
c) A further complaint is that Unions and Conferences must abide by the mutually agreed-upon criteria of ordination outlined in working policy, and until such time as this policy is adjusted in our 'highest' authorized gathering (GC in session), we shall not stray. The problem is that there is no policy mentioning gender as a criterion of ordination in the GC or NAD manual. See a careful exegesis of the Working Policy presented here.
2. The fundamental issue before the church is not the authority of the General Conference, but the willingness and ability of the church to accept the authority of Scripture, the evidence of experience, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of conscience.
3. If the General Conference insists on forcing a choice between its authority and the authority of Scripture, the members of the church in the Columbia Union, the Pacific Union, and elsewhere, are theologically, spiritually, and morally obligated to follow the example of Peter and the apostles, and "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
4. Authority cannot be simply asserted; it must be granted. The fact is that on July 29 the Columbia Union Conference, in an act of spiritual and theological integrity, refused to grant the General Conference the authority the General Conference currently claims. On August 19 we will see whether the Pacific Union Conference will act with corresponding integrity.
5. True spiritual leadership does not demand submission or conformity, but facilitates unity by encouraging honest dialogue and genuine understanding, especially when there are deep and genuine differences of conviction.
ONE in Christ is a group comprised of Adventist theologians, ministers, administrators and lecturers who advocate ordination equality. Their website is www.one-in-christ.com
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4668