South Pacific Division Recommends Women's Ordination


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A third division has voted to recommend that the General Conference not discriminate by gender when ordaining pastors. The South Pacific Division vote, taken during year-end meetings held in Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia, follows similar votes taken by the Inter-European Division and the North American Division. Kent Kingston wrote this story for the Record:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific has unanimously affirmed a report from its Biblical Research Committee that “does not see any scriptural principle which would be an impediment to women being ordained”.

The report, based on lengthy deliberations and seven research papers on the theology of ordination prepared by academics from around the South Pacific Division (SPD), concludes that “the calling of the Holy Spirit needs to be recognised for both men and women. There is a sense of injustice that needs to be addressed.”

Dr David Tasker, Field Secretary director for the South Pacific Division, presents a report on the theology of ordination on behalf of the Division's Biblical Research Committee.

The vote at the Division’s year-end executive committee meeting does not imply a change of working policy within the South Pacific at this stage, but it does signal a clear message to the world church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee ahead of the 2015 General Conference (GC) meetings, when the issue of the full ordination of women pastors will be discussed.

“My personal conviction is that ordination should not be dependent on gender,” said SPD president Dr Barry Oliver after the vote. “But I also recognise the enormous importance of unity in the Church. Our global unity is a wonderful gift from God and it is my hope that, as a global church, we will move forward in an orderly, unified manner.”

Delegates from across the Pacific voted unanimously in support of the conclusions, but recognise the complexity any change would have in the diverse cultural landscape across the region. “Currently, ordaining women is difficult in our culture,” said Pastor Roger Tetuanui, president of the French Polynesia Mission. “But the younger generation is more open, and they may ordain women in the future if the GC accepts our conclusions.”

“I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation,” said Ellie Kotoveke, principal of Sonoma Primary School in Papua New Guinea. “We have women joining the pastoral team and they can minister to other women in a special way. They have a spiritual dimension that contributes to the vitality of our church family.”

Church delegates look through a report provided by the South Pacific Division's Biblical Research Committee during the Division's year-end executive committee meeting on November 13.

“In Fiji we have a more positive attitude towards the importance of women—in society in general and in the church—than we did historically,” said Pastor Nasoni Lutunaliewa, personal ministries director at the Fiji Mission. "Historically we haven't seen women as leaders, but we're changing. There is opposition, but I see the Biblical basis for ordination of women. As I’m committed to following the Bible not the culture, I support this move. This is my personal view, not the view of our church in Fiji at large. So, even if the GC moves to open ordination to women, I don't expect the church in Fiji will move in that direction for some time. We will have a thorough and respectful conversation about this.”

A number of church territories in North America and Europe have moved unilaterally in implementing women’s ordination, despite counsel from General Conference leaders. Union and conference presidents within the SPD have maintained a commitment to continuing to move together on the issue with the world church.

“I am certainly very supportive and encouraged by our unity in supporting the conclusions of the SPD Biblical Research Committee,” said the Australian Union president, Pastor Chester Stanley. "I think as a church it's key that we work together on this question. We appreciate there are many cultures in our global church. We understand that going forward our cultures will determine how this is implemented should the GC open ordination to women. That is part of the respect necessary when we’re part of a global community."

Click here to read the ordination research papers and the “Theology of Ordination” report from the SPD’s Biblical Research Committee. The Committee listed these 12 observations in its report, and these three conclusions.

Global Observations:

1. The foundation principle for the resolution of questions regarding ordination is the use of the correct hermeneutic.

2. The discussion is driven by our understanding of the nature of the church, its role and its function.

3. An Adventist theology of ordination will be based on scriptural principles.

4. Where Scripture is silent on current issues, a theology of ordination must be based on the principles of Scripture, taking adequate account of what Scripture says as applied in its local or issue-specific contexts.

5. The words translated “ordain” have a very wide usage.

6. While the roots of many NT practices can be traced to the OT there is discontinuity between them. There is no practical connection for example, between priests, Levites, elders, and deacons.

7. Ordination is a practice driven by mission and practical needs – informed by biblical studies and theology.

8. The Bible does not command ordination; however it does encourage the church to develop modes of maintaining order in the exercise of its mission. These modes may go beyond biblical practice but must be consistent with it.

9. Ordination is not to be considered a sacrament. Biblical evidence supports the symbolism of the laying on of hands when appointing individuals for a task, but there is no firm evidence for the transfer of grace or virtue in this context. Consequently, we must reject attributing sacramental value to ordination.

10. The theology of ordination informs and is informed by the practical implementation of our ecclesiology, i.e. the global and local nature of the church, which, expressed in its various forms, facilitates mission.

11. The significance of ordination is influenced by culture. In some parts of the world, culture bestows inordinate status upon a minister at ordination.

12. EGW considers that ordination contains an experiential element that has its basis in a call from God. Although some women may not be concerned about non-ordination, for others it creates great angst because of their sense of their divine call, which the church does not seem to recognize.

Conclusions:

1. The Biblical Research Committee of the South Pacific Division does not see any scriptural principle which would be an impediment to women being ordained.

2. The calling of the Holy Spirit needs to be recognized for both men and women. There is a sense of injustice that needs to be addressed.

3. The mission of the church is a primary determinant of praxis, both in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and in its climax as the Holy Spirit is poured out on both men and women during the latter rain.

Images: Kent Kingston


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5637