“I am the Adventist church. You are the Adventist church. This is not North Korea. Nobody is elected for life. Things will change. Don’t let anyone push you out!”
These are the words with which Laura Alipoon concluded the discussion she led on September 9 at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) about a paper on church policies which Elder C. Lowell Cooper recently released.
The title of Cooper’s paper is “General Conference Working Policy: The Challenge of Enforcement and the Opportunity for Development.” Spectrum published it (Volume 45/Combined Issues 2- 3) and spectrummagazine.org posted it (September 29, 2017).
Cooper long served as a vice president of the General Conference and Chair of the Board of Loma Linda University. Alipoon serves in two administrative capacities at Loma Linda University. She is the chair of a department in the School of Allied Health Professions which offers fourteen different degree programs. She also serves the entire campus from central administration as a specialist in academic assessment. The Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School meets each week in Loma Linda, California.
Alipoon provided a detailed summary of Cooper’s paper which those who cannot read it in full will find helpful. She separated her own views from the paper’s message as completely as anyone can. If I couldn’t watch the entire video, I hope that I would make time for the first half.
Among many other things, Alipoon highlighted Cooper’s convictions that Adventism deserves his loyalty, policies can be blessings, more theological study will not settle the issue, positive changes typically begin at the local level and that the denomination’s leaders might meet new circumstances not merely by enforcing the old ones but by developing new ones.
Alipoon presented what she apparently took to be the three most important of Cooper’s seven recommendations, each of which he articulates much more extensively:
#1. Discontinue the practice of ordination altogether.
#2. Suspend the issuance of ministerial licenses and credentials. In their place use the Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential.
#7. Recognize that permission for women to serve without restriction in ministerial roles does not constitute obligation to do so.
She lingered over the way Cooper arrived at these and his other four recommendations. This is my summary in my words of her summary of Cooper’s thinking:
Major Premise: The differences between being ordained as a deacon, elder, or pastor are not substantive but functional.
Minor Premise: The functions of male and female ministers are almost identical and where they aren’t the remaining differences are not gender specific.
Conclusion: Because their functional responsibilities are so similar, to ordain men pastors but not women pastors violates the self-evident norm that equals in relevantly equal circumstances ought to be treated equally.
My own thoughts and feelings about the Unity Conference in London at which Cooper and others presented papers are mixed. On the one hand, I am happy that some of the retired presenters have finally said in public what they have probably believed all along. On the other hand, I wonder why some of them have been so late, why they have said so little, and why they have risked nothing. Flying to London after one has retired to trade papers with friends with whom one agrees is not what we needed. We needed much more from them and we needed it much earlier.
WATCH: Laura Alipoon on "General Conference Policy: Enforcement and Development" by Lowell Cooper
Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.
Image Credit: Video Still
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8284