Unions and the General Conference - What Happens Next?

NOTE: The author of the following article was asked by Spectrum to address only the legal and enforcement aspects of the San Antonio decision about ordination of women. For discussion of the historical, theological, ethical and moral implications, see previously published articles by Gary Patterson's "Does the General Conference Have Authority?" and Gerry Chudleigh's "Who Runs the Church?"

Since the vote of the General Conference Session in San Antonio to deny the divisions the right to make their own decisions as to the ordination of women ministers, vast verbiage has been expended, some extolling the propriety of the decision, and much bemoaning its negative impact on the most developed parts of the world. One question that has seemed to come from both camps is a simple one: What will come next?

The answer was not long coming. On August 17, the General Conference Secretariat released a paper entitled “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry,” arguing that the unions have only delegated and limited power in the area of ordination, and that denominational policy does not permit women to be ordained. Others have argued that specific policies clearly state the contrary. So who’s correct?

Before answering that question, let’s wade through some language from the General Conference Working Policy, 2014-15 edition. None of the sections quoted below were revised by the recent session.

B 15 05 Authoritative Administrative Voice of the Church – The General Conference Working Policy contains the Constitution and Bylaws of the General Conference, the Mission Statement and the accumulated or revised policies adopted by the General Conference Session and Annual Councils of the General Conference Executive Committee. It is, therefore, the authoritative voice of the church in all matters pertaining to the mission and to the administration of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in all parts of the world (italics supplied, as below).

B 05 Organizational and Operational Principles of Seventh-day Adventist Church Structure. 3. Organizational status is granted to a constituency as a trust… not self-generated, automatic or perpetual. 5. The highest level of authority within the powers granted to each level of denominational organization resides in the constituency meeting. 6. Different elements of organizational authority and responsibility are distributed among the various levels of denominational organization. For example, the decision as to who may/may not be a member of a local Seventh-day Adventist Church is entrusted to the members of the local church concerned, decisions as to the employment of local church pastors is entrusted to the local conference/mission; decisions regarding the ordination of ministers is entrusted to the union conference… Thus each level of organization exercises a realm of final authority and responsibility that may have implications for other levels of organization. 8. …The Church Manual and the General Conference Working Policy present the collective voice of Seventh-day Adventists regarding beliefs, denominational structure, relationships and operational procedures.

B 50 05 Lines of Responsibility. 2. Union Conferences/Missions – Union Conferences/missions are responsible to the respective division section of which they are a part, and are administered in harmony with the operating policies of the General Conference and of the division.

L 45 Procedure in Authorizing Ordination. 3. After favorable consideration the local conference committee will submit the name of the candidate with its findings and convictions to the union for counsel and approval. 4. The division and institutional boards will submit names recommended for ordination to the division committee. The General Conference and its institutional boards will submit names to the General Conference Executive Committee.

Next, some principles of interpretation of authoritative documents.

1. Legislative bodies—and the writers they employ—are assumed to have the competence to say what they mean and mean what they say. Intent should be considered only where necessary, as when seeking to harmonize conflicting provisions from an authoritative document of equal applicability.

2. The plain meaning of the words has a rebuttable presumption of accuracy. Any alternate meaning should be shown by a clear history of such usage in other authoritative documents from the same source.

3. Prohibitions are not to be assumed. This is the difference between a totalitarian society and a free one. In the former, all is forbidden except that which is expressly allowed. In the latter, all is allowed except that which is expressly forbidden. The burden must always be on the party seeking to restrain action, not on the party proposing to act.

4. Expressions of restraint are to be construed narrowly against the restraining power. If the provision in question does not accurately describe the actions in question, there is no violation.

Now, to apply the principles to the above cited policies.

We have seen that: (1) The Working Policy and Church Manual are the authoritative documents; (2) Subject to those documents, each level of church structure exercises a realm of final authority in those areas delegated to it; (3) The union is delegated the responsibility for decisions as to ordination of ministerial candidates; and (4) The ultimate authority at each level is the constituency of that organization. Applying our principles of interpretation, we thus find that the denomination’s authoritative documents do not forbid unions to ordain women to the ministry. No plain statement of any such prohibition can be shown.

Still, the General Conference Secretariat disagrees. Its argues that the policy sections quoted above don’t mean what they appear to say, but rather what GC administration says they say. The church has executive and administrative arms at all levels, but it has no designated judiciary, and in this vacuum, administration assumes the right to interpret without review or appeal. In essence, it argues that ‘policy means what we say it means.’ If that’s true, we need to reexamine the absence of a designated judiciary function.

A judiciary function exists to clarify the meaning of authoritative documents, and to serve as a check on the executive and legislative powers of an organization. The absence of a judiciary function is a telling indicator of the difference between a governmental model of governance, which always has such a function, and a corporate model, where that function is usurped by the executive. Having grown into the equivalent of a multi-cultural society, whether the denomination is better served by a corporate or governmental model is an open question that deserves more attention.

The Secretariat document argues that Working Policy B 05 does not mean what it says, which is that the final authority as to ordination candidates is a matter for the union to decide. It argues that the examples given are just that—examples, not policy statements. Oddly, it doesn’t reject the other examples in that section, such as the local congregation having final say as to who may or may not become or remain a member. Many can cite examples, such as Desmond Ford, of members who the General Conference would have preferred to be disfellowshipped, but where the General Conference ultimately respected the authority of the congregation of which he was a member to make that decision rather than attempt to force the issue. When examples are given in an authoritative document, it may be assumed that they are equally valid. Evidence of respect shown, especially unwilling respect, for one example in such a list should be taken as evidence of the propriety and equally binding nature of the entire list.

Another such example flows from WP L 45 05, cited above. This policy says that ordination candidates from conferences and unions will be approved by the union committee, candidates employed by a division or its institutions will be approved by the division committee, and candidates who are employees of the General Conference and its institutions will be approved by the General Conference Executive Committee. Why was this added if the overall power to approve ordinations rested with the General Conference?

An interesting anecdote illuminating this policy is that of the ordination of Bob Folkenberg. In 1966, Folkenberg was employed by the Columbia Union, working as a singing evangelist with Roger Holley. The General Conference extended a call for Folkenberg to go to the Inter-American Division, which he accepted. Only when he and his family were ready to leave—presumably by this time off the payroll of the Columbia Union—did someone notice that he had not yet been ordained. Since it would not do to send an un-ordained man to a mission appointment, the General Conference asked the Columbia Union to approve Folkenberg’s ordination and arrange for the ceremony, which hurriedly took place on Christmas Eve, 1966.

Was policy L 45 05 in effect at that time? If so, why was it not followed by having Folkenberg’s ordination approved by the General Conference Executive Committee? If L 45 05 was not in effect, and the General Conference had the residual power to approve ordinations, why did it call on the union to do so?

Answers to questions like these would be easier to find if there were a complete, annotated compilation of all General Conference Executive Committee and Session actions, but such is not to be found. If such existed, it would be easier to test the facts of the occasionally heard story of a late-19th century GC committee action requiring that ministers not be clean-shaven. Was such an action taken? Was it ever repealed? If so, when? If not, is it still to be considered binding, even though it was never codified in the Working Policy? If the 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2015 votes on ordination of women are enforceable though non-codified, what else is out there in the same category?

The Secretariat document also argues that the Working Policy plainly prohibits the ordination of women because WB L 35, a long section entitled “Qualifications for Ordination to the Gospel Ministry,” uses only the word ‘man’, and that such usage, rather than the more inclusive ‘candidate’, exhibits a clear non-gender inclusive intent. Perhaps that was the intent of the writers, but again, it does not clearly say ‘women may not be ordained to the ministry.’ Such an important and divisive restriction should be stated clearly, not merely by inference of intent.

Finally, Secretariat points to the exception in WP BA 60 10 6. BA 60 10 is entitled “Human relations,” and BA 60 10 is entitled “Official Position,” and then lists several situations where non-discrimination on the basis of gender, inter alia, is not allowed. Then BA 60 10 6 states:

Employment opportunities, membership on committees and boards, and nomination to office shall not be limited by race or color. Neither shall these opportunities be limited by gender (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry*).

The asterisk refers to this footnote: *The exception clause, and any other statement above, shall not be used to reinterpret the action already taken by the world Church authorizing the ordination of women as local church elders in divisions where the division executive committees have given their approval.

BA 60 10 6 certainly reserves the right to discriminate on the basis of gender as to candidates for ordination. It is properly read as a preservation of rights. But such a preservation of rights stops far short of clearly saying that such ordination shall not happen!

The denomination’s authoritative documents contain no clear and unmistakable restriction on ordination as available only to men. Such a restriction should not be inferred, but must, as a matter of equity, be clearly stated. Importantly, if the General Conference administration had intended such a clear policy statement to exist, it was clearly within its power to make it so. After previous General Conference sessions refused to allow the request of the North American Division to approve women’s ordination, or to approve divisional option as to such ordination, no effort was made to include that denial of authority, much less a clearly worded policy forbidding the ordination of women, in either the Working Policy or the Church Manual. It may be argued that the language of the previous votes did not indicate a documentary policy change. Perhaps, though General Conference administrations are and have been experienced in the intricacies of policy change and how to word propositions so as to achieve the end desired. One may ask why this was not done. Was it because it was considered possible that such actions might be reversed by a future session? In the absence of testimony by those who made that decision, any answer must remain mere speculation.

It may also be asked why, after the history of previous session votes, the proposition was put to the delegates in San Antonio in a form that did not call for a clear policy statement forbidding or allowing the ordination of women to the ministry. Instead, the question asked concerned only allowing for divisions, which are organizationally branch offices of the General Conference, not separate entities responsible to their own constituencies, to make that decision based on the needs of their territories and the cultures therein. Read plainly, the 2015 vote applies only to the divisions, not to other levels of the church structure. The Secretariat document attempts to refute this, but only by inference and interpretation, not reference to clear worded policy.

The Secretariat document seems to say, “You know what we mean, and you know what the delegates intended, so don’t quibble.” It cites past procedure and current perception as though they were equally authoritative with the authority of the Church Manual and Working Policy. Fortunately, neither precedent nor perception equals policy. Both may be evidentiary, but neither is authoritative.

So, the unions are free to ordain women and still remain within church policy. It appears that the General Conference will not likely be content to let it rest as a matter of interpretation. But what else can it do? As it turns out, a good bit.

First, we can expect continued pressure on union administrations to submit. It was a letter from the General Conference president to the North Pacific Union president, and the circulation of the Secretariat document to all the members of the executive committee of the union that caused the cancellation of a previously announce session to further consider the ordination of women. As shown above, the ultimate authority rests with the constituency, usually exercised through the executive committee. But the committee chose to go along rather than resist.

It comes as something of a shock to many new General Conference officers and staff to discover just how little power the GC has to require conformity to its’ dictates. Its’ greatest – and most frequently used – power is the power of moral authority and persuasion. That’s what happened in the North Pacific Union.

But it doesn’t always work out that way. Some years ago, the same union rewrote its constitution and bylaws at the time the General Conference was trying to achieve conformity of such documents with the model constitution and bylaws contained in the Working Policy. Specifically, the union wanted a different method for choosing the nominating committee so as to provide more time for consideration of candidates and communicating with the delegates. The General Conference sent a delegation to use the power of persuasion to see that the models were followed in toto, but the delegates said ‘thank you for your concern, but we prefer to do it our way.’ Similar delegations more recently failed to persuade the Pacific and Columbia Unions to forgo ordaining women. Neither has suffered demonstrable harm as a result of their decisions.

And if efforts to gain conformity by moral suasion are ineffective, what next? The General Conference has the power to call special meetings of a union constituency. At such, it could argue for a reversal of policy. It could argue that union and conference constitutions bind those entities to follow General Conference policy and procedures. As an example, the bylaws of one typical conference provide that “All purposes, policies and procedures of this conference shall be in harmony with the working policies of the North American Division and the General Conference. The Conference shall pursue the mission of the Church on harmony with the doctrines, programs, and initiatives adopted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in its sessions.” But, importantly, the last three words constitute a most important qualifier to what goes before: the conference is bound only by those policies approved at a General Conference session—the Church Manual and Working Policy.

If unions refuse all such efforts by the General Conference, there remains one final solution—a ‘nuclear option.’ Working Policy B 95 15 details the procedure for the dissolution and/or expulsion of a union. It provides that when, in the opinion of a division administration, a union is found to be in apostasy or rebellion, certain steps shall be taken First, the division committee makes the determination of apostasy or rebellion. Next, the division shall refer the matter to the General Conference Executive Committee with a recommendation for expulsion. Third, the General Conference Executive Committee must decide whether to call another union constituency meeting. Finally, the General Conference Executive Committee shall consider the recommendation of the division at a Spring Meeting or Annual Council. If the committee approves the recommendation at such a meeting, it shall refer the recommendation to the next regular or specially called General Conference Session.

The procedure outlined in B 95 15 is indeed a ‘nuclear option.’ To even consider it brings to mind visions of a circular firing squad—a self-defeating process that results in injury all around. It is difficult to foresee circumstances that would even arguably require such.

Other questions remain. What of those already ordained—in China, the Columbia and Pacific Unions, the Netherlands Union? Is their ordination to be annulled, their credentials revoked? Such action is usually reserved only for those guilty of transgressions of great moral turpitude. Various levels of the church structure have been known to pass off employees guilty of such transgressions as theft, spousal and/or child abuse to another organization rather than face a public spectacle. How can we with a straight face argue that the credentials and ordination of women who are guilty of nothing more than finding themselves in the middle of a muddle should be revoked in the face of such gross past inconsistency?

The General Conference has a vested interest in arguing for an expansive interpretation of its powers. The unions, in turn, have a similar interest in arguing for an expansive view of their authority. Who is to decide? Perhaps it is time to reconsider our lack of an independent judiciary. In the meantime, we can only hope that calm, settled reason will trump fundamentalist fervor.

Mitchell Tyner is retired Associate General Counsel to the General Conference.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7052
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Thank you for this well researched article to hire our Church should work. I pray that calm wisdom does indeed prevail!

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So the only reason there has never been ordained women is that it just never happened? All the church documents say its fine but somehow some way it just has never happened in all these years?
That is quite a giant horse pill to swallow!
Also the bit on

is especially troubling since some knowledge of when the 10 commandments were written relative to when man was created would seem to be required before making such a poor conclusion. Shall everyone who died before Moses got the 10 commandments try using that poor excuse when they stand at the pearly gates? “Oh, that wasnt specifically disallowed so it was permissible.”? Is it any wonder the constitution and working documents are so much larger than the 10 commandments?
Even as a lawyer one would be familiar with the concept that law always comes after a problem not the other way around. Law is always a remedy to a situation.
Its the same with WO. No one votes until it becomes an issue. Then they do vote on it and the people that have been in the minority 4 times look for even newer and ever more novel arguments.
The problem with lawyers is that they are trained to only see grey to be able to champion their clients position or in this case their own persuasions of an issue.
The fact is that the author badly conflates the Unions decision on who they are allowed to ordain with the decision of what the qualifications are for ordination. The final authority he speaks of does indeed choose the people to ordain but that IS NOT the same thing as being able to decide what the criteria is for ordination itself.
It isnt the Union that determines what the qualifications are. It is the world church deciding in the GC business session as they have now done 4 times since 1990 and historically since the beginning.
When he starts talking about Folkenbergs ordination and GC housekeeping issues from the turn of the century we fully realize the weakness of the position.
Lastly a church Judiciary? Leave it to a lawyer to suggest instituting canon law and canon lawyers to the church.

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Thanks for the tour de force analysis.

I’m convinced the founder and finisher of our faith never envisioned that his people would be embroiled in such petty disputes. What a terrible waste of energy, funds and human resources to impose authoritarianism on the church.

As penitent Christians of old regularly chanted:

Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

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Andre
In a Sunday church I attend, and sing in the Choir.
We still repeat at least weekly –
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
BUT, on those occasions,
Christ HAS mercy
Lord [God] HAS mercy.
On Sunday!

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Could the author please comment on whether Union bylaws allow the GC to veto bylaw revisions. If this does not exist, then the GC has effectively no control (other than moral claims) over Unions, as the power to rewrite bylaws and hence discard any existing articles such as conformance to GC dictates resides with the constituents. The GC would retain trademark control of “SDA” and its varients, and could preclude a Union from using that name, a not insignificant issue. This is why I asked Jared to provide links to Union and Conference bylaws, so the average members could actually read and understand the Church structure.

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If only this view had been pursued further under the last administration. I’m sure there are quite a few administrators looking back and lamenting a missed opportunity.

Well, hindsight is 20/20 and if you wait for a time when the conditions are better to do what is right, that time might never come. Lesson learned. Those thinking the issue could be punted to the next administration who would preside over a more welcoming environment were quite wrong. Those thinking it can be punted now because another new administration would create better conditions are quite possibly wrong as well. There is no time like the present to do what is right.

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Thanks for this clear and helpful analysis. A few comments:

If policy really means only what the GC says it means, then there is no real need to have a policy at all - the GC could just make ad hoc pronouncements willy nilly. I think even in the absence of a formal independent judiciary we can expect each level of church administration to follow some basic form of due process and rule of law.

I agree with the author’s identification of the three responses open to the GC if Unions show the courage to press their authority: 1) moral authority and persuasion; 2) call special meetings of a union constituency, and 3) dissolution and/or expulsion (nuclear option). But I think option 1 has many possible manifestations - more than just letter writing and jawboning at formal meetings. They could discourage support of institutions run by Unions or Conferences they consider to be in rebellion, they could attack them in GC publications, they could publicly denounce Union and Conference level officials, they could effectively cut-off promotion to office above the Union level to any official of “rebellious” Unions.

Unless Ted Wilson literally sees this as the shaking, and himself the implement, it is hard to imagine how even he would really justify the nuclear option. More likely I suspect is an intensive and broad wave use of option #1, attacking Union officials for being rebellious and disobedient publicly and in writing, imposing as many direct and indirect financial penalties as possible, followed if still necessary by calling a special Union constituency meeting to overturn the “rebellious” actions. It is crucial that the Unions understand this, and plan and initiate a careful and systematic education and communication process of their own within their constituencies, so they are prepared for what might come, and are able to stand up to it.

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Right. This is key. Beyond a careful education and communication process with their internal stakeholders, they may need professional consultants and attorneys to assist them around the landmines in this process.

Unions decide who to approve for ordination: This seems totally clear. Straightforward. Simple. In a free society, the Unions approve candidates for ordination. Period.

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if the history of the supreme court in either america or canada is any indication, a non-elected independent judiciary doesn’t necessarily lead to definitive resolutions of issues that promote universal assent, or that last…nor do they deescalate the corrosive action of politics on the body as a whole…and should the conflict between vested interests of the general conference and unions be resolved when the interplay of those competing interests is what prevents one or the other from exercising kingly power…

as i see it, no-voters in san antonio need to accept the fact that it was divisional prerogative with respect to women’s ordination - that wasn’t theirs to begin with - that wasn’t expanded…that’s it…their tendency to infer from this anything with respect to women’s ordination itself, or union prerogative, is wholly unwarranted…i think this article effectively diffuses any notion that a union which proceeds with women’s ordination is in apostasy or rebellion…and as for any possibility of a nuclear option being initiated by the general conference, when the first step to such an action is a division committee determination, oh please…is anyone envisioning dan jackson pronouncing any of our unions in apostasy should they continue to ordain women…

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Brother Tyner,

You say:

But, importantly, the last three words constitute a most important qualifier to what goes before: the conference is bound only by those policies approved at a General Conference session—the Church Manual and Working Policy.

But, the Working Policy is voted at the Annual Council of the GC, not the GC Sessions. It seems to me that, constitutionally, the Unions are only bound to policies approved at the GC Session, not those approved at Annual Council or Spring Council. Would you agree?

Tom de Bruin

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A few observations:

It needs to be acknowledged, that we are first and foremost a voluntary association of people, rather than being of statutory composition. As such, we all want mutual collegial consent. Talk of nuclear legal remedies are not that helpful either way around. The presumption about powers of coercion does violence to our being.

This and other conflicts highlight the need for a separate judicial strand since endowing political appointees with such powers is fraught with danger.

While many entities follow the model constitution to include hierarchical deference, some have not. Thus generalisations on legal interpretation must be taken with caution.

Many national associations have public legal status independent of any canonical association. The GC might struggle to overturn the status of a legally formed Charity where they themselves have little standing. Playing the trademark game - well?

At the end: We still depend on the voluntary consent of people to recognise the leaders they choose, and leaders are equally dependent on the good will of those who choose to follow them.

We can play hard ball with each other on the WO issue, but no amount of legislation will invoke cooperation on a swathe of other responsive initiatives. You can’t force canaries to sing.

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So the authoritative governing document for the Unions is the General Conference and Division Working Policy? How does this relate to Unions which may have older Constitutions and Bylaws that do not in every aspect conform to the current Model Union Conference Constitution and Bylaws and therefore may have the authority to decide the question of who should be ordained? Also if the Working Policy should be followed by all, how is it that its circulation is highly restricted and not available to members and most employees?

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Someone I’ve known and respected for a long time shared from their experience an insider’s view of the current “climate and mood at the GC”. I found it fascinating and unreal.

The view from someone on the inside at the General Conference headquarters is that on the administrative end, things are “calm, cool and collected”. Pretty much “business as usual” with a few new faces, and persons trying to do their work the same, as before San Antonio. No substantive changes since the WO vote took place. This person is a full time employee who was speaking in generalities about the overall mood at the GC.

No one “is having any OPEN disputes at the GC regarding women in ministry, unions, authority or power”. There are no crisis meetings or strategy sessions taking place. The illusion that at the GC our leadership is on their knees praying for God’s guidance on how to better work with the Unions is one we should not have. This is a political issue now with authority versus power in play. Ted Wilson is fully in charge. There are no negotiations or dialogue planned to resolve the fallout from the issue of women’s ordination. For the newly elected officers at the GC the WO issue is an irritant, a memory of an unpleasant episode. The emphasis is on “unity”, evangelism, and making sure this “rebellion” and dissent is squashed.

No one is worried about their job as long as they are in unity, uniformity and solidarity with present administration. There is a sense that Brother Wilson has now consolidated his power base and those who may have any doubts or alternative views, about who is in charge, should be working on their cv and considering employment somewhere else.

This disconnects with the reality, in some places, of a church wounded, divided and in need of healing. There is the idea that “if you ignore the barking dog, it will just go away”. If you love political power and reverence administrative authority the GC is the place to be these days:

"It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence” (The Great Controversy, p. 555).

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Thanks for the insightful comment, Sam. You didn’t say the words “Ivory Tower” but I read it between the lines :wink:

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What can one expect from an institution built upon man solving God’s problem? Tom Z

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Fact of the matter is, based on my own experience, one’s status as an IDE (Inter-Division Employee) changes to or begins on arrival in the place of employment and ends on the date of your departure.

Regarding China’s ordained female pastors, the Chinese Union Mission cannot revoke what it did not authorize in the first place.

With respect to the meaning of the WO vote in SA, IMHO, transparency requires it be subjected to the ordinary-layperson-in-pews test, rather than the interpretation of canonical legal experts.

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The “authoritative voice of the Church in matters relating to the administration of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in all parts of the world” includes the Working Policy which, “is to be adhered to by all denominational organizations. (See General Conference Working Policy B 10.)” (General Conference Working Policy Introduction).

“The appointment of individuals to serve as Bible instructors or chaplains, or in departmental or pastoral responsibilities, shall not be limited by race or color. Neither shall these positions be limited by gender (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry*)” (GCWP 107).

L 35 Qualifications for Ordination to the Ministry mentions one gender—male. This is without exception and question, equivocation and political doublespeak notwithstanding.

Unions are free to operate within these boundaries.

The motion to allow NAD variance to depart from Working Policy in this issue—denied.

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Sam I suspect that you are correct in the atmosphere around the halls in Silver Springs. There is a confidence that the energy and convictions of those who attended SA with the hope of seeing the Church move forward on such issues as WO has been beaten back for another five years.

And, it is probably a true assessment of those in leadership. Giving those who believe that it goes against Scripture to ordain women the bennifit of the doubt, it still leaves many other items still on the table. The fear however is that these other issues will become mute. How can we discuss these other items if differences in opinion is not only not welcomed but those who would present such differences are kept from the table in the name of unity.

There is a real danger when we either as a society or as a subculture make certain that unity can only happen when alternate views are suppressed. Many of us have found it difficult to to perceive such a structure within a Christian environment. Yet here it is right in front of our eyes and we continue to hope. Will we go our separate ways? Will we become disjointed and function as self supporting churches? Only time will tell but the direction is not good. The very source of continuance is drying up. Maybe this is how it has to be but it sure looks like the message is being left behind.

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I don’t find the author’s arguments to be compelling. Note: I support WO. However I find that in general people who support WO cite evidence that bolsters their viewpoint, while those who don’t cite different supporting and evidence and neither side is willing to concede that this is not about evidence, it’s about opinion.

The author cited the following: “B 50 05 Lines of Responsibility.
2. Union Conferences/Missions – Union Conferences/missions are responsible to the respective division section of which they are a part, and are administered in harmony with the operating policies of the General Conference and of the division.”

He also cited: “B 15 05 Authoritative Administrative Voice of the Church…It is, therefore, the authoritative voice of the church in all matters pertaining to the mission and to the administration of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in all parts of the world”

He then cited other passages to note that Unions have the authority to ordain and from that draws the conclusion that the GC is exercising undue authority over the Unions in the manner of women’s ordination.

Mr. Tyner suggests that the GC argues that it’s policy does not mean what it says. That is Mr. Tyner’s opinion. The GC would argue that statements like “Unions must operate in harmony with the GC” and “that it is the Authoritative Body” mean that based on the San Antonio vote, they are correct in that Unions do not have the authority to ordain women (the GC is not arguing that Unions have the authority to ordain. Just not ordain women).

However, the first two passages I copied notes that the Unions are to be in harmony with the GC and that the GC is the authoritative voice. And, the GC in San Antonio voted that the Unions do not have the authority to ordain women.‘’

Since Mr. Tyner is an attorney, I would respectfully suggest that if this was a matter of a court of law, that the court would find that the GC acted within it’s authority to restrict the Union’s blanket authority in the matter of ordination of women.

However, I also think it’s possible that a similar court of law would find that the since the GC allows commission of women pastors (and ordaining of women elders) and that the duties between commissioned and ordained pastors are functionally similar except the following (commissioned pastors cannot: 1. Preside over business meetings involving member discipline. 2. Commissioned pastors cannot ordain elders, deacons or deaconesses and they can’t organize churches 3. Cannot serve as Conference Presidents - because it requires ordination to be a President), that therefore a court of law would find that women are being unfairly discriminated against without merit since the items they are not allowed to do are within the scope of women’s abilities. Meaning that the GC will allow women to serve as pastors but not as ordained pastors when there is functionally no difference between the two positions, and that is a matter of discrimination against women. A court may be reluctant to step into a religious dispute, but that doesn’t mean the GC is in the right.

This issue will not go away.

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