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GC Leaders Appeal for Unity - - Questions answered

General Conference Appeal for Unity

Questions & Answers Regarding Current
Issues of Unity Facing the Church

On August 9, 2012the General conference released a document that addresses issues raised regarding the unity of the church, the authority of the General Conference, and its relationship to other levels and entities of the world church in connection with the current discussion on ordination to the gospel ministry.
This document does not address whether ordaining women is appropriate but rather clarifies and corrects arguments that have been used throughout the discussion.

Question 1. Does the General Conference have authority to determine the criteria for ministerial ordination at the union level and below, or does the union conference have the delegated authority within its territory to establish such criteria, including gender?
Decisions of the General Conference Sessions profoundly impact the church at all levels, including General Conference/division, union conference/mission, conference, and local church. While it is true that local churches approve candidates for baptism, and local conferences recommend to unions for approval all requests for ordination, none of these levels establish the criteria for baptism or ordination.
A local church board determines who is going to be baptized; it does not determine the criteria for baptism. The 28 Fundamental Beliefs and the baptismal vows have been mutually agreed upon by the world church. This keeps the church unified internationally.  In the same way a union conference has the delegated authority to approve candidates for ordination based on their satisfying the criteria for ordination established by the world church; it does not have the authority to ignore this mutually agreed-­‐upon criteria. That is why the unions are not authorized to move forward unilaterally with ordination without regard to gender. If the church were to accept such a premise, there would be varying standards of ordination and criteria for ministry. Such a path would not likely end there. It would open the door to varying standards for baptism, church membership, etc. The issue here is not women’s ordination per se; it is which level of church organization has the constitutionally given authority to determine what qualifies a person for ordination.
This can only be done by the General Conference in Session, or the General Conference Executive Committee, which acts between General Conference Sessions (General Conference Working Policy L 35). Notice how the Church Manual describes the relationship between the various levels of church organization: In the Church today the General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee betweenSessions, is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the administration of the Church.
The General Conference Executive Committee is authorized by its Constitution to create subordinate organizations with authority to carry out their roles. Therefore all subordinate organizations and institutions throughout the Church will recognize the General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee between Sessions, as the highest ecclesiastical authority, under God, among Seventh-­‐day Adventists.
The requirement for all church entities, including conferences and unions, to follow existing policies is made clear in the Bylaws of the General Conference: “Administrations of all organizations and institutions within a division’s territory shall be responsible to their respective executive committees/boards and operate in harmony with [the] division and General Conference Executive Committee actions and policies.”
For the above reasons, the recent action taken by the Columbia Union Conference Constituency Session to approve ordination without respect to gender represents a violation of these policies.
More info:  www.columbiaunion.org/article/1035/news/2012-news-archives/2012-special-constituency

Question #2.   Is the worldwide Theology of Ordination Study Committee, requested at the 2010 General Conference Session and established at the 2011 Annual Council, also studying the issue of the pastoral ordination of women?

Yes. The process for studying the theology of ordination voted by the General Conference Administrative Committee was handed out and reviewed by the 2011 Annual Council. As the document explains, “each division is asked to request their biblical research committee [BRC] to make a study of the theology of ordination and its implications for church practices.”3  As has been consistently explained verbally and in writing, these practical implications involve many questions related to ordination, including the ordination of women. For example, in a letter from the Biblical Research Institute to all the division presidents and BRC directors sent on May 1, 2012, numerous issues and questions were listed that could be considered by the division study committees. A number of these items relate directly to the question of ordaining women as pastors, including “Does the Bible teach leadership role distinctions between male and female in ministry?”

The Biblical Research Institute has provided the necessary materials for the divisions to establish biblical research committees, and all 13 world divisions are in various stages of the study process. In addition, the General Conference Administrative Committee will be appointing a Theology of Ordination Study Committee, to which each division is invited to send representatives who will be able to represent the study done by their division on this larger, worldwide committee. A report of the worldwide study committee will be presented to the General Conference administration, which will report the findings to the 2014 Annual Council. This would allow any agreed-upon resolutions to be placed on the agenda of the 2015 General Conference Session.
Further details of this process are available through the ANN:   


Question 3.  Was it constitutionally appropriate for the General Conference Sessions of 1990 and 1995 to discuss and vote on the issue of ordaining women to ministry?

Yes. “The General Conference Session, and the General Conference Executive Committee between Sessions, is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the administration of the Church.”4 The General Conference in Session can deal with matters of global importance to the Church as well as matters referred to it from the General Conference Executive Committee. The General Conference in Session is the final place of appeal in matters of difference among organizations.

“When differences arise in or between churches and conferences or institutions, appeal to the next higher constituent level is proper until it reaches an Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee or the General Conference Session. Between these meetings, the General Conference Executive Committee constitutes the body of final authority on all questions. The committee’s decision may be reviewed at a General Conference Session or an Annual Council.”
The 1990 General Conference Session addressed a report and recommendations that were referred to it by the General Conference Executive Committee.5

The 1995 General Conference Session addressed a matter that originated as a request from the North American Division (NAD) officers and the NAD union presidents. This request was processed through the General Conference Executive Committee and placed on the agenda for the General Conference Session.

Question 4:  Did the 1881 General Conference Session vote to authorize the ordination of women to the gospel ministry?

No. However, a surface reading of the minutes of the session could leave a wrong impression. It was common to introduce motions at GC Sessions of the time with “Resolved.” In our day, it sounds as if it has been decided, but in fact it was merely the accepted way to place a motion up for consideration. Then it would be discussed by the delegates and put to a vote. The resolutions voted on and passed at the 1881 General Conference Session are clearly listed in the minutes as “adopted.” With regard to the ordination of women, the following resolution was presented for discussion: “Resolved, That females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.” Eight individuals are listed as speaking to this resolution prior to it being “referred to the General Conference Committee.”6  It is never listed as having been adopted, nor is there any evidence it was ever taken up again, either at this Session or at any subsequent GC Session.7

Question 5 .  If female pastors have already been ordained by some organizations in China, why not allow the ordination of women to the ministry in other regions of the world?

Women have and are doing a powerful work for God in ministry in China. They are serving as pastors and church planters. Of more than 6,000 pastors in China, approximately 4,000, or 70 percent, of them are women. While a few (currently, 20 women) have been ordained, we need to understand the complexity of the situation in China and the reality of life there. In China, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have a formal church organization. There are no conferences or unions. There is no official Adventist Theological Seminary in China. There is no standardized ministerial training. Pastors typically are chosen from the members of a local congregation as they demonstrate a calling for ministry by teaching Sabbath school, lay preaching, and church planting. Chinese pastors, male or female, are usually ordained in one of two ways: either by the local congregation with the participation of Adventist senior pastors from their region, or by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement operates under the China Christian Council and is a nondenominational entity approved by the Chinese government.

Female Adventist leaders in China are not in agreement among themselves about the appropriateness of ordination: there is no uniform approach to the issue among the women who pastor Adventist churches in China.  Some allow themselves to be ordained, some do not; while the large majority has not engaged in the discussion because women’s ordination has never been an issue among women pastors in China. While the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church acknowledges the fact of women’s ordination in China, it neither recognizes it nor endorses it. It doesn’t seek to initiate, guide, or control the process. The church in China functions in the context of its environment and with the limitations imposed upon it by the government where it exists. However, because of this anomalous situation, its practices with respect to the ordination of female pastors cannot be cited as a model for the world church.

    More to be added soon, until them see this URL

       See Document released by General Conference on August 9, 2012

           Documents related to Women's Ordination on the GC website

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