Toward a Theology of Solace: Healing post-San Antonio Wounds

Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God.

     "Speak kindly to Jerusalem;

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I appreciate the thoughts in this article. However, I feel the quoting of Acts/Gamaliel at the end is tantamount to a non starter. The vote in 2015 already crossed the line of leaving dissenters alone. It sought to enforce a uniform world wide policy that has created a zero sum game… non compliance invites discipline and disfellowship of such entities. The so called year’s grace period was simply a pathetic, veiled threat… get in line by the end, or else.

The vote also assumed the reverse of what Gamaliel counseled. The majority and the centralized power structure assumes that it speaks for God and is led by God, and that the dissenters do and are not. The conclusion has already been reached. I don’t see this president nor those with whom he sides as open enough to consider otherwise.

He is presiding over a disaster in the making. Not an enviable legacy to leave.



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Ellen White wrote the following in a Review and Herald article titled “The Great Need of the Holy Spirit.” (July 23, 1895).
"God has not appointed any man guide, nor made any man conscience for another; therefore let human hands be withheld from restraining his servants who feel the burden to enter his vineyard to labor. Let God work with his own chosen agents by his Holy Spirit.… All discourtesy, all pain, all neglect, which these souls suffer at your hands, is charged against you as afflicted upon Jesus Christ. They are not to be treated in a lordly commanding manner. Laws and rules are being made at the centers of the work that will soon be broken into atoms. Men are not to dictate. It is not for those in places of authority to employ all their powers to sustain some, while others are cast down, ignored, forsaken, and left to perish…

Those who know the truth are to be worked by the Holy Spirit, and not themselves to try to work the Spirit, If the cords are drawn much tighter, if the rules are made much finer, if men continue to bind their fellow laborers closer and closer to the commandments of men, many will be stirred by the Spirit of God to break every shackle and assert their liberty.… If men will not come to the terms made by the leading workers, they will not entertain them, they do not care what results may follow their injustice. With them it is rule or ruin. God has not appointed any man to do such work. And no human being shall be permitted to prescribe my liberty or intrench upon the perfect freedom of my brethren, without hearing my voice lifted in protest against it." (emphasis added)

Perhaps these sentiments match the present situation.

Ellen White was clear!

There are some situations in which people, especially Adventist leaders, are tempted to act as conscience for another, and specifically when individuals feel called to do work which church policy doesn’t not allow.

I therefore call on the General Conference leaders to give thought to the following:

The matter of the ordination of women in the Adventist context is such a matter of conscience. Many who voted against the specific proposals in 2015 did so believing this to be a moral issue of obedience to the Word. Others who voted in favour of the specific proposal did so believing that it was truthly an ethical issue. Their conscience also drove them to vote the way they did.

In 1877 the General Conference in Session voted the following: “The highest authority under God among Seventh-day Adventists is found in the will of the body of that people, as expressed in the decisions of the General Conference when acting within its proper jurisdiction; and that such decisions should be submitted to by all without exception, unless they can be shown to conflict with the word of God and the rights of individual conscience.”

The above exception clause - “unless they [the decisions of the General Conference] can be shown to conflict with the word of God and the rights of individual conscience” illustrates that the San Antonio vote on ordination was unsafe and unsound.

Had the vote been YES to allowing Divisions to authorize the ordination it would have been just as unsafe and unsound as the NO vote has proved to be.

Adventists urgently need to find a biblical approach to this matter that does not engender this level of conscientious protest. We must first acknowledge the fact that the outcome provided at San Antonio just doesn’t cut it.

I first entered this discussion in 1994 with a Letter to the Editor of the Adventist Review in which I suggested that if Adventists could not agree on whether women should be ordained or not, we should call a moratorium on the practice. I still believe this. In practice this means that the credental of ‘commissioned’ minister should become the most senior credental issued by any church organization.

Adventist theology was arrived at in the 1840’s to 1860’s not by voting it but by a studied consensus. Thus it should ever be!! To imagine that the vote on ordination at San Antonio was a vote to enshrine and establish biblical truth is to embrace a grand delusion.


Thanks Pierre-Paul for you constructive reflection on my response!

Certainly, there was little virtue in voting on ordination at San Antonio because it is such a huge matter of conscience for people everywhere! The outcome has not secured resolution. And neither would the alternative have done so.

Contrary to what you have written, one must acknowledge that a hard fought consensus was reached on the nature of ordination according to the Scriptures and it spoke to our practice in the Adventist context. It didn’t however seek to address the relationship between women and ordination, The principles it outlined, however, do not immediately deny that women may be ordained.

The fact that Paul stated that an elder should be the husband of one wife assumes correctly that male elders should have only one wife. In what sense should they have only one wife. Should they never have been divorced, or should they not have involved themselves in polygamy. The phrase is not nearly as plain as it first sounds.

Equally, our Lord’s command - “Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you,” is also not plain. So much so that Luther and Zwingli had a great falling out over it. Luther was set on a plain reading; Zwingli on a more nuanced reading. Adventists follow Zwingli’s more nuanced reading.

As I have said to Pierre-Paul a consensus of sorts was reached in the TOSC process. It could become the basis for a re-examination and refinement of Adventist ordination policy. Many have called for just such a re-examination and refinement. This is not likely to happen on present form.

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Amen. The politicisation of the GC session and the decision by majority vote is disconcerting. And on the women’s ordination issue I do not ascribe any additional virtue to the “pro-WO” faction in this respect. Had the 2015 motion carried, I have little doubt that many on the “pro-WO” side would be basking in the glow of electoral victory; trumpeting the wisdom of the majority vote; telling the other side that the GC in session has spoken and must be respected, etc.

The problem with “WO” is that it has been studied to death and no consensus has been reached. Moreover, to the man in the pew who hasn’t studied “hermeneutics” or “critical literary theory”, but who has been told his whole life that the Bible means what it says, that it can be understood by all; that we don’t need an elite class of priests, bishops, monks or popes to tell us what it means, the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 seems to militate in favour of a male-only pastorate. To now say that this passage doesn’t mean what it seems to say, and that we need scholars to explain to us why this is so, will understandably discomfort many believers in the pew.

I am glad that I am a layman holding only local congregation office. The politicking and vote-counting and power-plays between the GC and certain divisions/unions disgust me. The idea of tithe dollars destined for the preaching of the gospel being diverted to prepare “unity” memoranda and to play politics is discouraging. I have no answer or solution; and even if I did, none would listen to me.

What I do find encouraging is that at the local congregation level, our mission is advancing and we are concerned with none of the petty GC politics and power grabs. The church is moving forward in spite of our leadership.


The issue was given huge debate for over a year, decades even. It is no unusual for an entity to reject the views of a majority of a committee set up to study the issue. It happens. That is not a reason to deny the validity of the vote. If the committee had said we should not do it, but the church voted to do WO, supporters would have made no complaint. Supporters are not really interested in solace, but ability.

Haven’t WO advocates been ordaining women for 20 to 30 years now in spite of policy?. Paulson took no action, thinking it would just be allowed to stand. Nelson tries to settle the issue by involving the whole church (rather than a select elite) and only gets abuse and hassle.

In other words, a tacit permission to ignore the vote. Sort of like Obama’s red line in Syria.

The problem with this procedure is that any other unions that want to ignore a policy will argue that the west got to ignore the WO vote, why are you getting down on us? The author is asking for complete dissolution of the church and any authority that a body in representative session can have over its members.

Pretty heavy price to pay for allowing the one thing women can’t do: be president.

Solace is not what is needed, but submission.

This may seem harsh, but it will convince the third world that the west is not deviant and can be trusted. Presently they do not trust the west. Submission would help.

We have studied this for decades without a consensus. There is none. It is a cultural issue, and was voted against in that way. If the west had been a bit more prudent, they might have gotten their way. White privilege, you know. But it is too late for that.

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