General Conference and division leaders re-affirmed the important role of women in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and appealed to all church entities to respect a recent General Conference Session decision on ordination in order to avoid fracturing the world church.
G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church, read the six-paragraph document aloud to church leaders and laypeople attending the Annual Council on Sunday, the first day of the weeklong council’s core business sessions. Ushers passed out copies of the document to attendees.
“We appeal to all entities to respect the decision by the world body in session since any unilateral and independent action contrary to the voted action paves the way for fracture and fragmentation,” the signatories of the document say. “We urge all entities to work closely with world division administrations to ensure that all actions harmonize with voted policy to foster worldwide church unity and our heavenly entrusted mission.”
On July 8, delegates at the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, turned down a motion that would have allowed each division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to decide for itself whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry in its territory.
None of the church’s 13 world divisions ordain female pastors. However, three unions began to ordain women prior to the vote, and two other unions decided to stop ordaining male pastors in what they called a show of solidarity with women after the vote.
Under church policy, only men can be ordained as pastors, while women can serve as commissioned ministers. A person does not need to be ordained to lead a congregation.
The signatories of Sunday’s document expressed appreciation to church members and entities that have accepted the San Antonio decision.
“There are times in the journey of faith when committed Christians may have differences (Acts 6; 15),” the document says. “These instances necessitate mutual respect, thoughtful listening, heartfelt understanding, and submission to the Holy Spirit’s leading into unity (Ephesians 4:31, 32). This is certainly true regarding the vote on July 8, 2015, on the subject of ordination at the General Conference Session in San Antonio. Recognizing our differences we express grateful appreciation to church members and entities for their acceptance of the world church’s decision.”
The document underscores that the vote did not change “the church’s understanding of the role of women in the life, mission and practice of the church as supported by the Church Manual and outlined in General Conference and division working policies.”
“Godly, Spirit-filled women are powerfully witnessing for Christ and being used by the Holy Spirit to make major contributions for the advancement of His kingdom,” it says.
It also says: “We re-affirm that the Holy Spirit imparts gifts to all believers and that women play an important role in the life of the church (Joel 2:28; 1 Corinthians 12:11, 18). Their commitment, giftedness, and talents are a blessing to the entire body of Christ.”
The document underscores that General Conference Session actions and voted policies “are agreements that the body of Christ make together” and should be respected by all church entities.
“In light of the urgency of our time and rapidly fulfilling Bible prophecies, we invite all entities and church members to join us in a continuing commitment to Christ-like relationships, mutual respect, faithfulness to Scripture, and a single-minded focus in the completion of His prophetic mission entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” it says.
“We dedicate ourselves to global unity for a global mission in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel of the three angels’ messages to prepare a people for the coming of Jesus (Revelation 14:6-12).”
Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson said the document was unanimously approved by the General Conference and division officers over three sessions.
“This is an appeal being made to you … and the world church,” Wilson said after Ng finished reading the document aloud.
“We are one church, one body,” he said. “We may have differences, but we are one church with one mission.”