Millennials Respond to the Vote on Women’s Ordination

Day Seven, (Wednesday, July 8), of the General Conference Session saw the vote on women’s ordination. There were a total of 2,363 ballots cast with 977 “Yes” votes (41%), 1,381 “No” (58%) votes, and five delegates who abstained (1%).

Because only 6% of the delegates are under 30, and only 10% are ages 30-39, the millennial generation finds itself under-represented in a church where it comprises 62% of membership.

As a way of hearing Millennials, Spectrum is featuring young Adventist voices throughout this General Conference Session. We are posing a series of questions to these Millennials who will share their perspectives on the various issues happening at #GCSA15. The first two segments in Millennial Voices can be found here and here.

In this third installment, we have asked the following questions:

What were you hoping the vote would be? What are your thoughts on how the vote turned out? How does it make you feel that the vote was so close? Only 6% of the delegates were Millennials - how do you think the vote would have been affected were more Millennials chosen as delegates?

Macy McVay, age 23, Walla Walla University Alumna, Minister at East Salem Church in the Conference I spent most of the day watching and following the events of ‪#‎GCSA15. The outcome of the ‪#‎WO vote was not unexpected. Encouraged by the 977 votes in favor (41%!), I thought I was ready for it.

What was unexpected was the difficult wave of disappointment and sadness that swept over me as my beloved church cheered this decision. I found myself crying behind a door I am grateful to open daily; a door labeled "Pastor Macy McVay."

My phone began buzzing & I started crying for a very different reason. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, compassion, affirmation, and love from friends and colleagues.

While I am disappointed, I trust that God can bring good out of hard things and I am encouraged that I get to share my church and my ministry with people who care. Thank you for your words and support.

Julia Ruybalid, Graduate Student at La Sierra University, Pursuing an MA in English Watching the online stream of the voting yesterday, of course I was hoping that the vote would be “Yes.” Sadly, when someone asked me what my predictions were, I responded that I didn’t think it would pass. I don’t know why this was my gut feeling. I was skeptical about the manual ballots and that the electronic voting system just stopped working. (Perhaps that is just my inner conspiracy theorist talking.) The whole thing just seemed off to me—maybe the need to have this vote in the first place?

I do take hope in the fact that the vote was pretty close—we only need to convince 404 more delegates (409 if you count those that abstained) that women can be powerful spiritual leaders. The vote most definitely would’ve have been in favor of women’s ordination if more millennials were voters. I am also curious as to how many women voted in comparison to men. Again, while watching the live stream, I mentioned that the voting pool shouldn’t be made up of mostly old guys—that makes it too easy.

I take heart knowing that the leaders we have now will not be there forever and millennials will take their places. It’s so strange to me. A woman preacher founded this church. Why is there such a huge disconnect? The men that voted against women’s ordination on Wednesday will be the men quoting a woman in their sermons on Sabbath.

Throughout my high school years, I had the privilege of having Chris Oberg as the senior pastor at my church in Calimesa. She transformed our church into a place that embraced now and focused on loving our immediate community—not telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Without that foundation, I honestly think I would’ve said goodbye to Adventism a long time ago. To put it simply, a woman pastor is why I still feel okay identifying with Adventism.

Theron Calkins, age 25, Math Teacher at Korean Advanced Preparatory Academy I was disappointed to learn that the delegates at the General Conference voted against allowing individual divisions "as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry." I understand that this vote was largely symbolic, as many unions already ordain women, and the results of this vote will not change that fact, but I still believe that even symbolic actions have incredible power. I wish that the results of this vote could have been more affirming for those women who already have given their lives in service to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I wish that it would have recognized their impact and efforts, and encouraged even more talented females to step forward and bear the three angels' message into the world. And I wish that this vote had displayed more faith in our denomination's ability to create unity in diversity both of culture and belief as unions continue to follow their conscience on this and other issues.

But to me, the most disappointing aspect of this result is the way it will negatively affect the church's mission efforts, especially towards Millennials. Besides the direct effects of limiting the work and contributions of half the church body, I am also concerned about how this vote reflects on the church's character and beliefs. Many people, and most Millennials, expect their church to be a powerful voice on issues of social justice. They want to be part of a faith that strives to improve people's lives: a church that combats economic inequality, confronts racial injustice, nurtures sexual minorities, encourages environmental awareness, and embodies gender equality. In short, this generation is looking for a church that empowers people to live the Kingdom of God right now in this imperfect world. This vote got national news coverage and will be one of the ways people evaluate the Adventist church, just as the King James Version says, "wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt 7:20). How will we spread the seeds of our faith when our fruit only tastes 41% like equality?

Esther Battle, age 20, Sociology major at Andrews University There were countries represented in the vote today where rape is used as a weapon of war and girls aren't allowed to go to school, and we're surprised they voted against female leadership in the church? We are part of a global church, and the fight for women's equal rights is an ongoing global battle, one that, as far as I know, the Adventist church has not played a large part in. Perhaps we should focus our efforts on the larger underlying issue of sexism and harmful attitudes towards women if we want women to be viewed as equals in our global church.

Grace Elliott, age 24, Operations Manager and Freelance Writer I have had the privilege of getting to know many religions in my 24 years, some through personal experience, others through my own study. I have known several amazing women who have all been fully ordained leaders or pastors in their respective churches, and I never felt as though the word of God was less understood, that their calling was less genuine, or that they had less right to be in the position which they held. A woman grows and experiences life through a different lens than a man, and it can only behoove a religion to offer that diversity in message. It grieves me greatly that so many major religions can wholeheartedly believe in the ability of women to deliver the word of God as eloquently as men (Buddhism and Wicca, even major Christian religions such as Episcopalians, Unitarian Universalism, Methodism and Christian Science), yet some still hold to verses from a time that has long passed. So much of the argument to keep women from becoming fully ordained, not only in the Adventist faith, but many others, is based from single instances within the text that are not conducive to the underlying theme of Christianity as a whole. Personally, I have never been able to understand why it is more important to focus on the restrictions the Bible puts on our lives, especially when those restrictions were put in place to influence a 2,000 year old society as opposed to our modern day, and forget the message of love and inclusion which resonates through the word of Jesus.

In regards to the millennial influence on the vote, I find that such a staggering misrepresentation of the millennial voice in the General Conference is a blatant turn of the cold shoulder to a generation that comprises over half of the Adventist membership. Clearly the vote was close, and the opinion is fairly split. However, I feel that if a more accurate delegation had been chosen, one with significantly more millennials, and (dare I say it) more women present, the vote would have turned out differently. A fair and equal representation of all views within the church was not achieved, and until that occurs, decisions will not be made with the best interest of the whole membership.

Eliel Cruz, age 24, Andrews University Alumnus, Faith Organizer I reject the notion that the church voted on women's ordination when the church was not represented in the nominating committee or the delegation. Women and young voices are being left out of the church leadership yet the church leadership bemoans the loss of youth.

Admittedly, the vote was much closer than I thought it would be. Still, our church is in turmoil because of the vote to reject portions of the body of Christ.

It was clear by the Twitter stream that millennials are shocked at the sexism displayed in yesterday's debates. The condescending and patronizing speeches from male delegates were nothing short of embarrassing. How do we honor the legacy of Ellen White while denying her daughters the opportunity for ordained ministry?

We have sent a message that women do not have the ability to connect with Christ like men do. That is nothing short of heretical. Our church must repent for the anti-gospel patriarchal standards we upheld yesterday. Our church suffers for it.

Brooklynn Larson, age 21, History major at Walla Walla University Henceforth, anyone who voted against Women's Ordination cannot complain about youth leaving the church. Millennials are a giant, un-ignorable, and complex generation. They lead some of the biggest movements for equality, justice, and change around the world. While the church refuses to embrace those values, youth will continue to leave. Plain and simple.

Givan Hinds, age 21, Andrews University Alumna, Loma Linda University Graduate Student I was shocked. Having been unaware of the history of the SDA stance concerning Women's Ordination, I was absolutely sure that the sheer amount of testimonies, Bible study, research, and (dare I say) lobbying I had witnessed over the years was surely enough to elicit a resounding "Yes" from the couple thousand delegates in San Antonio. When the "No" came after sitting through politically-charged debate, reading countless tweets under the hashtag #GSCA15, and perusing various articles released by SDA magazines on the subject, I decided to re-read the motion being voted upon. The decision seemed cut and dry...perhaps there was something I had missed.

Again, I was shocked. I realized that the decision made last night had nothing to do with the theology behind WO, and everything to do with the permission of conferences to make their own decisions regarding specific issues. Of course, not everyone's intentions are pristine, and a definite amount of sexism (among various other -isms) exists just as much in the church as outside. Yet, I did not see this decision as the pivotal point for millennials to turn in their SDA membership cards. I saw the motion as an administrative "side-step" to avoid a culturally-charged decision and one which will continue to be avoided. Undoubtedly, such a process must impact how SDA millennials feel about their church. While we write our passionate, socially conscious Facebook statuses, the church's decision has been made for the next five years.

I have confidence that this issue will come up again at #GC2020. Maybe then, we will be able to say "I am the 41%."

Jonathan Stephan, age 22, Theology major at Walla Walla University I was personally hoping that my church would approve women's ordination. The only potential argument that can be made biblically on the issue is against women in leadership; there is no biblical evidence whatsoever against ordaining women, because there is absolutely no biblical precedent for ordination. It is a [necessary] human construction. Much of the Adventist church (North America and Asia both come to mind) allow women to occupy leadership and pastoral roles. Therefore, the question of ordination is in these places is purely a matter of equity, and not at all about women. It is worth noting that the Bible speaks very forcefully about equity. Our church must choose one side or the other; to hold to a logically inconsistent middle position is cowardly and unproductive. I have far less respect for my chosen faith group than before.

Lauren Lewis, age 22, History major at Walla Walla University, Editor in Chief of the WWU Collegian I was hoping that there would be no vote at all. In my mind, women’s ordination should be a non-issue. The idea of women not having the same rights, jobs, or opportunities as a man is outdated, read in history books, and no longer relevant in our church or society. I had hoped that this subject would have been approached from a view of equality, not cultural sensitivity, or scriptural minutia. Instead, as you can see on all types of social networking sights, it has become a polarizing argument. Sadly, I see this vote leaving the church and its church members divided and weakened in a culture that does not need more discord or hostility. Has this vote added positive change to our church community? Unfortunately, I think not. Frankly, I am not surprised that the vote was so close. I am surprised that the vote favored against women’s ordination. Change and evolution in the church is inevitable and is obviously reflected in the ballots. I have heard many say, “Well, the vote will change at the next GC” or “Just wait until next time.” It is unfortunate that until the next General Conference, we have to live with the consequences of a vote against women’s ordination.

Daria Chelbegean, age 23, Loma Linda University Alumna, Nurse Women are people too. And we refuse to be told any longer, that we are inferior. Not by our religion, not by our jobs, not by any other patriarchal dogmas. Women are worthwhile. And in all honesty, I don't believe that Jesus would have voted "No" on women's ordination.

This belief that women are "lesser" has made excusable many abuses against women in the church and in general. I refuse to be part of this process. There is no excuse. Women are not lesser.

Danielle Fore, age 22, student at La Sierra University, Student Pastor at Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church I remember the feeling I had when I realized God was calling me to become a pastor. I thought "Really, God? Me? I'm so inadequate, and I'm... a woman." I thought of other ways I could do ministry without becoming a pastor since women were at the center of debate, but God continued to reaffirm, and still reaffirms, the call I have accepted. Naturally, I was disappointed by the outcome of yesterday's vote, but I can't say I expected anything different. I was encouraged by the 977 who said “God can use women, and we should recognize that God has called them, too.” I believe that if more millennial voices were present in the voting process the number of "Yes" votes would have been much greater. All my peers are 100% supportive of my choice to take up my calling. Even with the outcome of Wednesday's voting, I still have hope for the church I love and am committed to serve in.

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org, a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas, and a Millennial.

Photo Credit: James Bokovoy / NAD


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6957

Appreciating the voices of the millennials, I still wonder, whether the underlying assumptions are correct. Since far more than 6% have voted “YES” it wasn’t the young people alone that wanted the change. In fact, add the women delegates and you still don’t reach 41% … even if you thought all young delegates were male.

Yes, young, educated people in North America, Australia and Europe are leaving the church in droves. After this General Conference others will leave as well (already heard of some) - and it is not a matter of age or gender (some of the most aggressive opponents to WO are female). The issue is far more a cultural one and one of basic theological understanding than one of gender or age. If that assumption is correct, we need to educate, educate, educate and foster cross-cultural understanding.

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There was a complaint that the make up of delegates did not fairly represent the world church. Neither did these interviews, since they were all pro-WO. Fair and balanced, as usual.

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It would have been informative to see some views included here from those millennials that have been opposing women’s ordination - not for the purpose of airing their emotions, but to see the reasons they find most persuasive for holding to those views. We hear plenty from those (opposed to WO) who were on the TOSC and from older members, but little from this group.

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I guess the point is whether more conferences will come out publicly like the Dutch did in terms of going ahead with WO.

Do they not have a responsibility to their local stakeholders? Members, lost members and non members?

I hope now, people (scholars and pastors/conferences and divisions) will be more forthright in their convictions. Surely there is a moral imperative.

I don’t know what the membership looks like in the rest of Europe, but the UK is almost completely absent of its indigenous locality.

Education is important, but who are you going to educate? The third world?

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It’s very interesting that you make this point…myself and my dear friend and colleague Elder Jason McCracken, who has 35+ years in ministry, spoke on this very point a few weeks ago. We had a vigorous conversation.

I submit a few ideas for consideration relative to this point.

First, I also take issue with our church’s penchant for waiting until a worker is well into their 50’s, 60’s, and yea 70’s (well past a reasonable retirement age), before they are offered and elected into leadership positions within the Adventist Church. Looking at two settings for consideration, one the US military, and two, corporate institutions, it is interesting to note the very fluid and forward moving flow of staff and leadership within these two entities…and how often times we find success, bold ideas, solutions, initiatives, and growth as a result.

Take our first example; the military. From the onset, it is made clear from the moment one enters the Armed Forces, that 65 is the cutoff. Period! You have 20, 30, or 40 years of service or 65 years of age, whichever comes sooner. So whether you are enlisted, or an officer, or you choose to only obligate yourself to one enlistment/contract or career, they make it very clear that no matter how high you rise in rank or how many years you choose to serve, 65 years-old, and you are done! Thanks for your service!

This scenario allows for many young officers who come from the Service Academies or ROTC, for example, to have a vast and seasoned resume, whereby they have gained experiences across many environments and commands. They move on a regular basis. They earn their leadership positions. And many who reach the high ranks of Commanders, Captains (Naval Services), Colonel, or have earned stars (Generals/Admirals), are still young by any standard.
The same can be said of corporate institutions. How many young MBA’s, Master’s, and Law Degree graduates are running major institutions? How many are qualified and learned? How many can most assuredly run multi-million dollar enterprises? How many MBA’s and MD’s are CEO’s and VP’s of major medical centers?

My position is this: The Adventist Church, especially in the NAD, has consistently placed in top level positions older men (65+) who are often out of touch with the changing times of our church. They have, in my opinion, stifled the growth of the church by not moving towards a progressive and liberal approach to ministry, outreach, and evangelism. Their (local) churches have continued to empty out and tithe continues to go down as they hang on to outdated and archaic models that no longer work…hence the closing and downsizing of many of our institutions (R&H, MVA and other academies, Media centers, etc.)…due to lack of vision, youthful insight, and forward-thinking.

Second, those ‘older men’ have fought ‘tooth & nail’ to not give up power and influence. They fight to the end to maintain control and the status quo. They push their preferences upon the rest of us relative to Theology, Hermaneutics, Doctrines, Worship, and all aspects of church life. Third, many have stayed in their positions way past the time for them (age wise) to relinquish their duties and retire. They choose not to move out of the way and allow a younger generation to be moved by the Holy Spirit and lead our church.

Fourth, many hold on to ultra conservative views whereby the numbers and stability of their conferences and local congregations have suffered.

I would submit that once a person has served 20-25 years in ministry, or they are between the age ranges of 37-47, they should be considered for conference, union, division, and GC leadership.

Departmental directors should be between 30-40 years old. The president of the South American Division was 39 years-old when he was elected in 2007, and just got re-elected at GC 2015 at age 47!

Another point that was made during my conversation with Jason McCracken was this. Often many of our pastors stay in the local church well past their time. They have burnt out long ago, but since they need the paycheck, they force themselves to stay in an environment where they have lost touch, stop baptizing, recycling sermons, and simply gotten tunnel visioned and stuck because they choose not to spread their wings/horizons, trust God, and step out on Faith, and expect Great Things!

As in the case of the military, I would submit that there are a vast array of opportunities and ministry settings that can help broaden the scope of one’s resume and career. Once a pastor has hit that ‘proverbial brick wall’, they should consider the Mission field, writing, teaching, chaplaincy or another ministry setting, a different conference or even division, counseling, or simply change careers. The world, mission field, and opportunities for ministry is way to big to be stuck in only the NAD or the Regional Conference work.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.

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A couple of comments prior to my answer:

  • it’s not the developing world as such - there are plenty of young people in need of appropriate education in the Western world as well, that need to be made “thinkers not mere reflectors”
  • lest somebody will comment that I am condescending … my students know that education never is a one-way street for me; I am always learning from my students as well.

Now my answer is: Yes. Let’s start at Newbold College (you are in the UK, so that will do), where you have a tremendous diversity of countries and cultures - quite happily sharing the different experiences and backgrounds. With this diversity, even long held ideas can be challenged (not necessarily overthrown) and horizons widened.

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Thanks Andreas.

I think if we did get Newbold to ‘reach out’ to the wider church with lectures, debates, social media etc, it would be a good thing.

With all these tools supporting each other, a community will be formed to help move the church forward.

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Ok, Andrew, thanks for the suggestion. Make them more concrete and send them to John Baildam (jbaildam@newbold.ac.uk). Meanwhile, here is a list of things that is quite public:

  • youtube or vimeo Newbold Diversity Lecture (always crowded with lots of villagers - non-Adventists!)
  • amazon Newbold Academic Press
  • surf to www.newbold.ac.uk for more public events - there is plenty
  • fb Newbold at https://www.facebook.com/newboldcollege?fref=ts plus various alumni groups
  • watch out for Newbold students / lecturers visiting your region (invite them - if they don’t)
  • worship with Newbold every Sabbath (two services transmitted life) at newboldmedia.org

Did I forget something?

Thanks

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Hahaha, no you didn’t. I can’t imagine you being less than thorough!

I will take a look at the resources and see if I can add some value.

Thanks for this, really appreciated.

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You raise some excellent points. We need to champion younger people in leadership in every area of ministry. This is not to say that we have no use for older people in ministry, but the work that must be done requires a combination of creative vision and physical stamina that we humans tend to lose as we get older. Some of us don’t lose it; most of us do.

It becomes difficult to find young qualified people for ministry, though, when we, as a church, adopt policies and points of view that demean, diminish, discount, and discourage those young people.

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The Beyond Beliefs Study asked Millennial young adults several questions regarding Women’s Ordination. Read the report: “Millennial Young Adults and their responses to the Ordination of Women.”

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I found it interesting that one sentence that jumped out at me was "They have stifled the growth of the church by not moving towards a progressive and liberal approach to ministry, outreach, and evangelism."
The words “progressive and liberal” tend to be ways of thinking that result in things that I have found to be contrary to the clear Word of God. That is my opinion. I see, in my years of being in the church, only a disregard for biblical principles and SOP counsel and a sliding into worldliness and following the culture of the day. It seems to lead to things that should not be.( i.e. full drum sets and wild music in the sanctuary.)
I look at other denominations who have gone down the progressive approach, and I don’t see their churches growing by leaps and bounds. What I see is them loosing membership and having gay people as church officers and leadership positions. While I can agree with some of your points, that one sentence said a great deal to me of where you are coming from.

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You are exactly right. They complained about the lack of representation of the young people at the GC, and yet they used only young people from NAD in their article. It would have been interesting to see what young people from Africa, Asia, and South American and the Middle East had to say. Their article was very biased and unbalanced.

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Perhaps you can find some of these people and interview them and create a post. It might take you awhile to find them…

I would say there are some, but not very many that fall into that camp.

In a few decades, the tide will likely turn as millennials become the old guard. The question will be, will there be enough people left to fill such positions?

I identified greatly with Mary’s disappointment as the church cheered for discrimination. Also Esther had an immensely good point. Some of these countries also regularly practice female genital mutilation. Culture can become a crutch to hide evil, we see this in both East and West.

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I mentioned that to them as well through twitter and they said they couldn’t find that many who were against and those they found didn’t want to comment.

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This seems to be a good place for me, a millennial, to voice my opinion on the vote: A good start, but much still needs to be done. Standing firm on 1 Cor 11:5-6 is where the church ought to be.

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OK, that’s good to know. I only wish they would have make that plain at the beginning of the article.

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Weird. They could have asked me…

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