Artur Stele: No Theological Solution on Women's Ordination

(system) #1

SILVER SPRING - During a meeting of young adult delegates at the 2014 Annual Council, young church leaders received first-hand information about the upcoming women's ordination discussion and several more agenda items.

Approximately twenty young adults (numbers shifted slightly as some came and went), serving as members of the General Conference Executive committee for the 2010-2015 Quinquennium, gathered in a small room on the General Conference building's second floor to talk with Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) chair and GC General Vice President Artur Stele.

GC World Youth Director Gilbert R. Cangy chaired the meeting and told attendees that the meeting would focus on "jucier" portions of the Annual Council agenda. Elder Cangy said the definition of young adult varies from place to place. In this meeting, it meant 30+, "and nobody is defining the plus." Cangy noted that the assembled group included a thirty-something division treasurer and union president.

Cangy invited the young adults around the tables to introduce themselves. The group was divided almost evenly between women and men, and came to Silver Spring from nearly every part of the world: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Rwanda, Tunisia and several more countries represented. Delegates included lay members, pastors and church administrators.

After introductions, Cangy turned the time over to Artur Stele for one of the juiciest Annual Council agenda items, discussion of women's ordination.

Stele narrated the TOSC process starting with the request from the floor of the 2010 Atlanta General Conference Session that started the undertaking in motion. The General Conference steering committee discussed the request and reponded positively to the idea of seriously study ordination, Stele said. The approved method for studying the issue dictated that every division would establish biblical research committees with key scholars, administrators and institutions taking part. Many divisions had such study committees in place, but some had to establish them. The biblical research committees started work a year before TOSC convened.

TOSC included all views on ordination--even those considered extreme--so nobody could say "our voice was not heard," Stele reported. Stele said that there were those almost willing to die for their extreme views, which made moving forward difficult. Stele noted that while all took the Bible very seriously, they differed over how to interpret it. "The crux is, do you want it or not?” said Stele.

TOSC met four times: three times for three days each, and once for five days. The committee began by developing a theology of ordination without the gender issue. They consulted Scripture and the writings of Ellen White to answer the question, what is ordination? What is it not? The committee produced an ordination document between 70 and 75 pages in length, but it became evident that there would be no consensus on the lengthy document. The committee struggled to present all positions. They drafted a short consensus document of a little more than one page on ordination, Stele said. "When it comes to Annual Council Tuesday, we hope we can all endorse this document," he told the young adults.

After creating the short statement on ordination, TOSC tackled the issue of women’s ordination. "Sometimes the temperature in the room went so high we had to get on our knees to pray," Stele said. The committee couldn’t reach consensus on women’s ordination, so they outlined three positions. Each of the three groups proposed a way forward.

When the President's Executive Administrative Council (PREXAD) met in advance of Annual Council with the General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO), they produced a document for Annual Council that narrows the options to two, which Stele would not disclose in advance of Tuesday's discussion.

Stele said that PREXAD came to "a strong consensus" that when the issue has no theological solution (and it was clear this issue had none) administrators must solve it ecclesiastically. But administrators should not dictate the outcome, they felt. So on Tuesday, suggested language from PREXAD will come to Annual Council delegates who will be asked to vote on the question to send to GC.

When Stele finished his remarks, Elder Cangy opened discussion to questions. Cangy began, noting that while theologians have long studied and discussed the issue, delegates will have only a short time to come to terms with the issue once it comes to a vote. Stele noted that it will not be a theological issue that delegates face, reiterating that ecclesiology will be the framework of the issue. He elaborated, stating that if it were a theological decision that the church made, it would carry the weight of a fundamental belief. However, the Fundamentals, Stele pointed out, were widely agreed upon wheras the church is deeply divided on ordination.

A young lady from Rwanda asked Stele in French, and Cangy translated, whether the church--GC delegates in particular--will be educated on the issues before a vote takes place. Stele answered that whatever question Annual Council delegates send to the GC in 2015 will be the basis for an education campaign. Stele mentioned the Hope Channel and the Adventist Review as two vehicles for disseminating information.

Ellen White and Fundamental Belief #6

After discussing ordination, Stele briefly reported on upcoming changes to Fundamental Beliefs. Stele noted that in after request from the floor in Atlanta, the General Conference decided to re-tool Fundamental Belief #6 on Creation to harmonize it with an Annual Council 2004 statement on creation. The GC Administrative Committee appointed review committee to do the harmonization. After working on Belief #6, AdCom asked the committee to look through all 28 Fundamental Beliefs to see whether some revisions were needed. One proposed change involves clarifying the Spirit of Prophecy. Stele said the language will specify the difference between what Scripture says about the Spirit of Prophecy and what Adventists believe about Ellen White. Significantly, Stele said the clause, "As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction," will be amended in order to preserve the Sola Scriptura principle.

Additionally, Stele said that gender inclusive language has been suggested throughout. But in case anyone worried that doctrine were being revised, Stele hastened to add that "nothing changed nothing as far as beliefs." The proposed changes, he said, clarified language.

After Stele finished speaking to the young adult group, GC Undersecretary Myron Iseminger provided more previews of the Annual Council agenda. The Church's mission statement will be made more concise, and the Ellen White Estate will report on changes happening there. Elder Iseminger discussed the rationale for Oakwood University's move from under the auspices of the GC to the North American Division. Iseminger said the NAD is in the process of "moving out of the shadow of the GC" so they can function more as a Division. Iseminger noted the NAD now has a press (Pacific Press), and with Oakwood, the division will have a university.

Undertreasurer Juan Prestol followed, briefly discussing appropriations set aside to support pastors in war-torn regions of the Adventist world field, and allocations to supplement the loss of income when two hospitals in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division for administrative reasons ceased contributing significant funds to the division. Prestol also noted that, as already determined, the North American Division will reduce the amont of tithe it gives to the General Conference by 1%. "We're still fine," Prestol said. He noted that GC Treasurer Robert Lemon will retire in July. During the Annual Council, Lemon will present a 20-year retrospective of GC finance. Annual Council delegates will consider these and many other budgetary issues this week. "We believe in strong working capital and strong liquidity," Prestol told the group.

Just before the group dispersed, GC Associate Youth Director Jiwan Moon introduced himself as a resource and leader of ministry focused on Adventists on public school campuses.

The young adults were set aside for these special previews.

Jared Wright is managing editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Elmer Cupino) #2

At least less than 90 seconds?

(Phillip Brantley) #3

It is probably too early to assess what this news story means, but I hope that the story informs us of the following:

  1. Church leaders recognize that male headship theory promoted by opponents of women’s ordination is so crazy that allowing that aberrant theology to be put to a vote is unwise. Putting male headship theory to a vote would accord the theory dignity and credibility that it does not deserve.

  2. Church leaders recognize that because male headship theory stands in opposition to many, if not all, of the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we are best served if we transition away from a theological discussion regarding women’s ordination and try to forget that male headship theorists have urged that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father, that women are assigned a sphere that exists between the sphere of men and the sphere of animals, and that men mediate the eternal salvation of women.

  3. Church leaders recognize that it is time for opponents of women’s ordination to put up or shut up. No longer can opponents of women’s ordination refuse to answer questions about ecclesiastical practices now that the issue to be decided is ecclesiastical. Should the ordained women pastors in China be denounced for what they are doing? Is it sin for a woman to baptize a man? Should women pastors be fired? Should women be forbidden from serving on church boards and committees? If women can be appointed to a particular office, why can’t they be ordained for that office?

(Shining) #4

Did you catch this by Stele? When the President’s Executive Administrative Council (PREXAD) met in advance of Annual Council with the General Conference and Division Officers (GCDO), they produced a document for Annual Council that narrows the options to two, which Stele would not disclose in advance of Tuesday’s discussion.

Stele said that PREXAD came to “a strong consensus” that when the issue has no theological solution (and it was clear this issue had none) administrators must solve it ecclesiastically. But administrators should not dictate the outcome, they felt. So on Tuesday, suggested language from PREXAD will come to Annual Council delegates who will be asked to vote on the question to send to GC.

(Elmer Cupino) #5

This has been known as the “Ratsara Manuever” as coined by @GeorgeTichy

Can anyone share with us who makes up the “PREXAD?”

(Thomas J Zwemer) #6

there is no theological solution because the issue is not a theological issue., We live, move, and have our bring in an era of the priesthood of all believers. Each may come boldly to the throne of a Grace. The issue is no longer gender but competence, and fidelity to the Gospel. The male vote will prevail to the churches loss. there should be respect for the history of the Church and its founders, but new understanding should free us from old dogma created in an embattled era of great disappointment. the Covenant of a Grace still abounds. the Sabbath can be a blessing but it is not a ticket to divine eternity. Tom Z

(Bille) #7

What kind of idiots do the members of Prexad consider that we are? Do they think that no one notices the fundamental contradictions in the things they say and do?

Stele claims that Prexad doesn’t dictate to the delegates how they should vote… but in the next breath he says that Prexad will give them a document that gives the “suggested language” of what they are to vote on. And after all the hoopla about everyone in the church should “study for themselves” on these questions… now they give only an either/or choice for the voting delegates to choose between… and while they acknowledge that the delegates won’t have much time to “study” the issues, they refuse to even give them a look at what their two choices are until the actual day of the voting. And then, of course, once the delegates have cast their vote… only the choice which “wins” will be “taught” to the church as a whole between now and the time that big charade in San Antonio gives the delegates assembled there a chance to express their agreement with what Prexad has supplied to this group of “voters” for their agreement… with the one that Prexad without a doubt has predetermined will be the least obnoxious so as to insure its safe journey through the well buttered “channels”.

One of these days… we may look up from out hypnotic fixation on the smooth highway ahead… and realize… that we have just passed the “last exit before Babylon”… … … …

(Carrol Grady`) #8

I am speculating that the 3rd option put forth by Nick Miller and others will not be passed on. Settling the issue ecclesiastically, sounds like “what is best for the church.” But who will decide what is best for the church? Certainly, we know that Elder Wilson thinks moving forward monolithically is best, but from the votes at the last TOSC committee, it appears that the majority of the divisions are willing to let it happen on a division-wide basis.

(Grumps) #9

Only the most conservative of literalists thought the issue was one of Theology. It is an issue of principle, and time for the church to affirm Spiritual Gifts are not given with respect to race, colour, culture or gender. The archaic anti-equality lobby that affirms gender headship, and the medieval church’s position on ordination has been exposed as misguided at best and at worst: dishonest.

(George Tichy) #10

So, … Suddenly, EUREKA???

  1. Something changed. The secret was supposed to be revealed only on Tuesday, on the very day when WO is scheduled for “lots of prayer,” not today.
    I wrote a couple of posts on it yesterday and today, telling you guys, “stay tuned.” Well, now you got you tune up already. The secret is out now"
    I think my parakeets are now talking to other people as well…

  2. Not a theological issue? Who would tell, uh? How many times did I post this in the past months, and Kevin would always come up with, “wrong again g
    George” insisting that this IS a theological issue. Now PREXAD just failed Kevin, though he will certainly say that PREXAD did not do it.

(George Tichy) #11

Oh man, I was having fun doing my Sunday morning worship of nature (aka gardening) and when I come back I find this mess?

The “secret” that I mentioned before was not supposed to be revealed today! The plan was to come up with it at the last minute on Tuesday, leaving only 40 seconds for the delegates to vote on a YES to whatever TW wanted. This is a major blow to PREXAD and to TW.

And now, what is next?

(George Tichy) #12

Unfortunately Elmer it seems that they are actually reporting it right, PREXAD made that decision. It is more than obvious that everything has been superbly orchestrated. Though there was this leak much earlier than expected.

(Shining) #13

George, I am confused. is the secret that one was being deleted or is it that you know which one is deleted based on what was said?

(Elaine Nelson) #14

Bille’s question has not been answered: Who is PREXAD (if not the president’s advisory)? And how much authority does it have?

Also, did anyone notice the “subtle” change suggested for the use of EGW? Or is it a change at all? My copy of FBs says that she is a source of authority, so is that a change?

(George Tichy) #15

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Those Spectrumites that have been here for a few years will certainly remember my prophe…, no, no, let me call it “Prediction”:

Right after TW’s election, especially after his first sermon a few days after inauguration (guess where it happened…) I wrote here at Spectrum that Ted Wilson would,

  1. Either not finish his mandate, by means of resignation,
  2. Or he would split the Church for good.

I will soon claim my “Certificate of Prophet”… Summa cum Laude!!!

@elmer_cupino @ageis7 @robert_sonter @hopeful @vandieman (Where is Jeremy???)


Fact #1-Fundamental Belief 1 is being tightened to sharpen our belief in sola scripture.Fact # 2-After years of Bible study there is no theological solution on women’s ordination so it will be decided ecclesiastically.

Fact #2 would seem to say that we use reason and tradition to guide us in how we function as a church body. So, doesn’t this weaken our claim to sola scripture after all?

(George Tichy) #17

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Proposing to follow the SOLA SCRIPTURA principle in Adventism is the worst manifestation of hypocrisy regarding this matter.

Adventism will NEVER become a Sola Scriptura religion. What would they tell people they did with EGW??? She is still writing “post mortem” boox and people are still profiting from the business.

And they have the nerve of talking about sharpening the belief in Sola Scriptura? One cannot sharpen something that does not exist!!!

(Shining) #18

what is best for the church as opposed to what was recommended by the majority of the TOSC members?

(Ann) #19

Hang on! Artur Stele’s comments signal great news. A GC VP–and not just any GC VP, but the head of the Biblical Research Institute–has just indicated that there is no right or wrong position on women’s ordination based on the Bible. Hence, the issue is an ecclesiastical one, meaning the church can simply vote whether to allow a variance or not. The tide has turned, folks!

(Roccos) #20

Unfortunately, Stele can only express his personal opinion, since it’s the delegates on the floor who determine church policy through a single vote at both Annual Council and the GC Session, not any single GC VP, church administrator or even Ted Wilson.