With bitter cold, snowy conditions outside in Columbia, Maryland, discussion of ordination heated up a hotel conference room not far from the Seventh-day Adventist World Church headquarters. Representatives of the Church's thirteen divisions presented reports from their respective theology of ordination committees to the 103-member General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC). The truth of the matter is that the GC committee may as well be called WOSC because the central issue under consideration is whether or not women may be ordained to Gospel Ministry within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. On that question, the tide seems to be turning dramatically.
Less than a year ago, General Conference president Ted Wilson made appearances at union constituency meetings in the United States urging delegates not to proceed with ordaining women to ministry. Wilson predicted dire consequences if unions voted to allow women to be ordained. But despite his earnest appeals, first the Columbia Union, then the Pacific Union voted to ordain women. After that, unions outside the United States followed suit. Next, Southeastern California Conference became the first conference to elect a woman, Sandra Roberts, as its president. Again, Wilson offered entreaties and warnings in hopes of preventing a woman's taking leadership, to no avail.
Now, this week the reports from the world divisions have come in, and the results come as a surprise to most everyone. Six of the thirteen divisions affirm the ordination of women. Six divisions came back saying no, but five offer qualifications to their no replies. One division is still undecided.
Inter-European Division - the study committe was unanimous in its support of women's ordination
North-American Division - the committee reccomends that women be ordained
Northern Asia Pacific Division - the committee supports the ordination of women
South Pacific Division - also in support of ordaining women
Trans European Division - strongly supports women's ordination
Inter-American Division - yes, if this is the decision the church makes in plenary session
East Central Africa Division - no, but representative from division concedes points in favor of ordaining women
Euro-Asia Division - no, but supports the idea that other divisions might decide for themselves
South American Division - no, but willing to support the church if it goes in a different direction
Southern Asia Pacific Division - majority of committee against, but will support the decision made by world church
West Central Africa Division - no but will support decision made by the church
Southern Africa Indian Ocean - No
Southern Asia - supports church if it goes ahead but not ready within its division
The even split on the issue marks a notable shift in sentiments. The momentum now is on the side of those in favor of ordaining women. The question is what will happen when the General Conference convenes in 2015 to take up the issue. Opponents hope, and supporters fear, that the split on the issue will provide Elder Wilson and the General Conference Executive Committee a mandate to simply maintain the status quo, which would be the current policy that prevents women from being ordained as ministers (women may now be ordained as elders and deaconesses). Wilson has demonstrated his clear opposition to women's ordination at every turn, and with the recommendations of all the divisions now in, the ball is in his court. The General Conference Theology of Ordination Committee will convene once more to offer its reccomendation to the General Conference Executive Committee. From there, it will be up to the Executive Committee and Elder Wilson to dictate the next steps for this issue in advance of the General Conference
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5775