Annual Council Diary VI: Orchestrating the Session

There were some ah ha moments in the Annual Council deliberation on how to handle women’s ordination on Tuesday. One ah ha came early, during the morning devotional by Dr. Peter Landless as he described Jesus encounter with the woman at the well. “The woman proved to be a more effective missionary than Jesus’ disciples,” Landless said, and an audible ahhh rose from the audience.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Nice summary, Bonnie. And I agree with your analysis that it basically ends where we began 25 years ago, with the same question asked in the 1990 session. Since that time, the church has only grown bigger in the more conservative parts of the world. It is hard to see how the question will come out any differently, absent some remarkable events. (Which, as a believer in miracles, I accept can happen.) I think the disappointing aspect is that it is almost as though TOSC, with all its time, effort, and money, never really happened. The reality is, though, that we have a new context, with an already existing split, and a biblically conservative justification in group 3 for choosing to live with the differences. That was the real mandate of TOSC, which has been largely overlooked, that a super majority agree that a conservative biblical reading of gender roles still allows for the variance that group 2 is calling for. Hopefully the GC delegates will be fully educated on the three positions before they come to San Antonio next summer, and can see these things clearly.


Great job Bonnie. Thanks for your dedication and effort.


What mystifies me is all of the time and resources our denomination puts into training theologians, only to kick the majority of them to the curb. It’s not that we couldn’t reach a theological consensus. A vast majority of our theologians see this very clearly. It’s that a minority of dissenting scholars and vocal others were brought in and given equal weight, making consensus impossible.


The majority of scholars were well aware from the beginning that this was not, in any sense, a theological issue but a cultural one. It is now called an “ecclesiastical issue” because leadership has decided it must be decided ecclesiastically. Unwilling to say forthrightly from the outset to the world church that ordination, as we practice it, is not a concern in the New Testament, and that each division should do what it believes will further the work of the gospel, we have reaped a whirlwind of avoidable contentiousness and division.

How could there have been a “rebellion” against that? Easy: church leadership has never been willing to tackle the fact that most Adventists baptized in the West as well as in emerging areas are not given the tools to read the Bible with any insight into its cultural and historical context. We have not helped our members understand that without such insight we cannot helpfully resolve any cultural or ethical differences in our community. My comments are based on numerous conversations with General Conference leaders over the decades, not on my impression of what has happened.


In fact Ellen White DOUBTED that the General Conference could speak for God, remarking in 1899 that it “has been some years since I have considered the General Conference as the voice of God.” It is true that earlier she had said that the General Conference is God’s “highest authority” on earth. But her comments (as I first learned from Bert Haloviak) range from this latter, which was written in 1875 and appears in Testimonies to the Church, vol. 3, page 492, to the thought that regarding the General Conference as “the voice of God” is “almost blasphemy,” in MS 37, 1901, April 1, 1901. (The comment against the General Conference as “the voice of God” appears in the 1899 GC Bulletin, 74.)

Why do Elder Wilson’s advisors, including the scholars at BRI, permit him to disseminate misleading information about Ellen White and General Conference authority?

The GC does not “own” the issue at stake here, any more than the Roman Catholic Magisterium may own it. WE own it–the whole body of Christ—and the conversation must go on. That is why, at this point in our history, a vote in favor of divisional responsibility would be helpful. It would be a way of incarnating, today, the Gamaliel point of view: let’s see how this works out. That would be a nice, if rare, nod toward the New Testament as a resource for understanding organization authority.

A no vote—meant to shut down the controversy—would be disastrous, not just for attempting (no doubt futilely) to close off conversation, but also for seeming to accept a misleading view of General Conference authority. (Under our system of governance, the General Conference DOES, I hasten to add, have authority, but it’s an authority that can easily be abused.)

We must get past what appears to be willful obliviousness on these matters.



Moral leadership means doing what is right, regardless if it is messy or not. It does seem that real leadership would have been to promote an idea that is consistent with ideals of fairness, dignity of all humans regardless of gender and the worth of each person. Just imagine the soaring heights we can reach if we empower people to follow their gifts. This is not a theological or ecclesiastical issue, it is a human dignity issue.


One obvious similarity between the bible and the SDA’s version of SOP (EGW’s books and compilations) is that both can be used as it is deemed to pursue one’s agenda. Eventually, it resorts back to our character. Certainly, if TW and his cohorts are misleading the church by being less than honest when using the SOP, he/they should be held responsible and should be impeached from their offices.

Does the SDA church have provisions to impeach officers? If not, those officers should voluntarily resign. How do they sleep at night?


I think I like Jan. Here’s on the right track:

  • I’m not that young and I can’t understand why this is even being discussed anymore.
  • My dad is really not that young and he left the church over this sort of “nonsense” (he uses a different word.)
  • My kids, in high school, are frustrated and confused at the mention of this topic, and they wonder out loud if there is something wrong with our church. They see better examples at their friends’ churches.
  • Some church bureaucrat blocked our female pastor, who gave my daughter her baptismal lessons, from baptizing her. And at the last minute. HUGE disappointment. She is still sad about it, four years later.
  • My cousin left our church because she wanted to be in the ministry. Now she’s an Anglican priest. That’s right, the Anglicans are more progressive than we are.
  • That this seems to be one of the big issues the church can’t get through suggests they’re not really dealing with actual big issues.

Looking at the minutes of the 1990 GC Session (here:, WO on pp 1039-40 ) one notices a stark similarity of the underlying reasonings of that motion then, and this one now. Both times the introduction to the motion points out that there is no consensus over whether the Bible permits or prohibits the ordination of women pastors. Basically, TOSC has confirmed what we already knew 24 years ago: there is no consensus for a Biblical mandate either way. (The 2014 motion actually quotes from the 1990 motion in it’s introduction.) But now at least everybody had a chance to be heard.
The main reason in 1990 not to ordain was to recognise “widespread lack of support” for women’s ordination, and to preserve the unity. However, the lack has dramatically decreased, but unity is still at risk.
Since there is no global consensus on whether the Bible allows or forbids women pastors to be ordained, the solution must be found elsewhere: we can no longer maintain a global ordination concept. The fear that church unity is tied to such a concept should have been addressed already, and definitely needs to be addressed before next year’s GC Session. Otherwise, the fog of futile Bible text battles will hide the real issue from those who will vote on this next year.
At least while the Division Officers 25 years ago voted to recommend denying women ordination, now they have advanced to merely presenting a question.


I have experienced uncomfortable ah ha moments listening and reading the absurdities urged by Clinton Wahlen. One would think that during his speech in which he argues that the male gender of the 12 disciples possesses relevance, a germ of a realization might have fluttered in his mind that Christ calls everyone, male and female, to be His disciples. Matt. 28:16-20. And Dr. Wahlen apparently has never understood that the typological fulfillment of the exclusively-male OT priesthood is not an exclusively-male pastorate but Christ ministering in the heavenly sanctuary.

I recognize that not everyone has a mind for theology. And having a mind for theology is not quite the same thing as having a mind for hermeneutics. But the Associate Director of Biblical Research Institute should have some understanding of what sanctuary typology is. Because sanctuary types are abolished at the Cross, they do not possess post-Cross evidentiary or precedential value. It is not permissible to adulterate, denude, and dilute the linkage between types and antitypes by arguing that types function in other myriad ways. If Dr. Wahlen is correct that the OT priesthood argues in favor of an exclusively male pastorate, then the hermeneutic of sanctuary typology is broken and there is no doctrine of the sanctuary, no 1844, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a joke.

Dr. Wahlen is reportedly the one who wrote the BRI smear of The Record Keeper, evidencing that interpretation of a film series is beyond his capabilities. And he is one of the male headship theorists, the writings of whom I discuss in my recent essay, who is not even competent enough to interpret a simple Ellen White quotation. You will recall that he along with the other male headship theorists I reference argue that the quotation teaches that women are assigned a sphere between the sphere of men and the sphere of animals. He along with the other male headship theorists extrapolate from the story of Adam and Eve that the characteristics God has endowed in women are so inferior to the characteristics placed in men that women cannot differentiate between right and wrong without the leadership and protection of men. Accordingly, because ordination functions as a gatekeeping mechanism designed to protect the church from false teachings, women cannot be ordained. I have a hard time believing that such weird analysis urged by Dr. Wahlen and his like-minded colleagues could obtain a passing grade in a school of divinity.

My comment may seem overly emotional, because it probably is, but please understand this: I am shell-shocked by what I have observed.


WO is both an ecclesiastical and cultural issue. Ecclesiastical because Biblical hermeneutics require that ordination in question be limited to males, cultural since it has been the incessant cry of the pros that there must be equality. This latter assertion is right out of the feminist playbook to which so many have given assent and the concept has no rational relationship to WO. It appears that absent from the reasoning of many is the fact that equality and function are diverse concepts which the feminist cabal does not accept.

It will certainly be interesting to see the politicking that will follow this Annual Council. The jockeying for position will be very significant I have no doubt. In my view the so called third position was a contradiction in terms. Unanswered is the burning question: Whatever the decision will it split the church?

Followed you at Twitter during AC14. Welcome to Spectrum.


Let me preface this post by indicating that I don’t care if all male pastors and conference officials are replaced by women.

This post is focused on the “ah ha” reactions.

From the beginning of the article…

“There were some ah ha moments in the Annual Council deliberation on how to handle women’s ordination on Tuesday. One ah ha came early, during the morning devotional by Dr. Peter Landless as he described Jesus encounter with the woman at the well. “The woman proved to be a more effective missionary than Jesus’ disciples,” Landless said, and an audible ahhh rose from the audience.”

  1. I wonder if Dr Landless mentioned if this sentence was a quote from EG White, Desire of Ages p 195. Did he quote any further sentences?
  2. The woman was witnessing to her own people. Would she be as willing to share Jesus’ words to the disciples/Jews?
  3. Do women have to have had at least 5 husbands to be this successful? Do they have to be a social outcast?
  4. This was an isolated one time event. Was she always more effective than all of the disciples?
  5. Is WO about women missionaries, evangelists and/or pastors?
  6. She seemed to be more effective without any formal or seminary training. Shall the SDA education system be reformed?
  7. She brought people to Jesus. Isn’t that different than women bringing to and keeping people in a contentious SDA church organization?

Superficial and simplistic reactions and conclusions come from those who are not like the Bereans and are used to hearing cut and paste proofs to satisfy and feed their confirmation bias.

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This writer does not know SDA history. Long before (70 years?) “feminism” ever became an issue, women serving in ministry and many of the men who served with them, recommended to the General Conference that they be “ordained.” This linking WO with feminism is a cheap shot that tries to make it sound “radical,” “arrogant,” “unreasonable.” It is none of these, and much of feminism is not that way either. Lastly, Biblical hermeneutics in no way requires that ordination be limited to males, unless one’s hermeneutics is simply “reading a text or two” and not bothering to “dig” below the surface.


WO, Evolution, LGBT are the issues for those of the world.

The institutional weaknesses that generates and promotes these hot potato issues are poor teaching approaches/old wine skin methods of SS teachers and pastors.

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It was a cultural issue in OT times, in Jesus’ day, and it is in our world today. Either the church leader has ignored this or convinced himself otherwise.


I don’t think it will split the church because those who believe there is a “feminist cabal” behind the idea of equal dignity of women and their work will quickly fade away into obsolescence.


The obvious result would be that those who are disappointed once again after many years that WO is still uncertain will not stick around hoping things will get better and finally reason that there is no benefit from being part of such an outdated church and walk away; much easier than getting older waiting for equality with a church that is reluctant to believe in the equality of all God’s children. Thankfully,the SdA church neither owns nor speaks for God.

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On Tuesday proceedings has anyone noticed anything SUSPICIOUS about the OUT COME?

Did ANYONE notice that Only ONE Question was allowed to send to SA2015. That Question was regarding allowing Divisions to determine the Use of Women in their territories.

Did ANYONE Notice?? That President Wilson’s Administration DID NOT ALLOW a Second Question to be sent to SA2015. Allowing the World Body to Vote for WO across the board at the World General Conference Level instead of stopping at just the Division Level. A YES on this Question would open the doors to having a Woman General Conference President. President Wilson’s Cabinet is obstructing this Question to be presented to the World Body at this time.
As in A Man For All Seasons, like Henry VIII, President Wilson is behind the curtain. If he cant kill WO, he will certainly attempt to keep it in prison in solitary confinement for at least 5 more years.