Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Day Four

Before I forget . . . a "big" story out of San Antonio?  The "inescapable hike" to get to the Dome! Perhaps a few like Elder Wilson can avoid "the walk," as he deservedly gets a security escort and a ride from his hotel right to VIP entrance to the dome, but nearly everyone else, must walk the nearly one mile - one way -  and in many cases more, from wherever you park, or, where you're staying to the Dome (site of the meetings). One mile there, one mile back, and if you're not missing anything . . . 3 times a day!  Six miles a day, IF, you don't do any other walking!  Its really been stressful for the elderly, etc., and a big disappointment to many.  It is unfortunate, but it is what it is.

The days are so busy here that the events are starting to become a bit of a blur. What happened of interest and when? Sunday's business session was interesting in that at one point, the GC "manual revisions' committee" (that's not it's technical name but that's the purpose they serve), proposed a change in language that simply struck out the word "men" when referring to licensed ministers, and was proposing language "men and women."  It seemed to be a 'no brainer' must needed change as it has no relationship to ordination, and, simply acknowledges what has existed for many, many years , ie. there are women serving as pastors around the globe, both in this country and in many other countries.

A couple of comments were made at the mic; one from Elder Dan Jackson simply reminding delegates that the wording change was not linked to ordination but was simply correcting male exclusive policy language.  Doug Bachelor came to the mic, made a brief speech adding the words, "not in harmony with Scripture," and, the revised language did not pass.  It would seem clear to me that there is a "push"  - by some - to disenfranchise women from serving in pastoral roles based on the conviction that it is not biblical. There are a number of divisive issues that will arise from such a movement in my view, including the reality that women, in small numbers, have always served pastorally almost from the very start of the denominations history.

A bigger problem? They are serving in many places - presently - and doing a great job advancing the Kingdom.  To argue that serving in THAT role is not biblical seems to be a fight that some are willing to wage.

A short story.  It was in the 1970's that my home church in Maryland was assigned a female pastor. That was a long time ago, and I remember, though a teenager, that her being a woman was not a popular choice for the small congregation.  She was, as I recall, very educated, and though I didn't know her personally very well, a highly qualified and very  nice person, but, some in the congregation I believe, determined to make her job hard . ..  and they did . . . and she eventually left, bitter and wounded by the experience.  No one objected back then that her work was 'unbiblical' it was simply she shouldn't be doing a man's job, and if, and I'm sure she did, do something that was not agreeable, some were willing to "pounce." Perhaps she was set up to fail from the start on the part of conference folk who wanted her to succeed.  I don't know . . .  a sad memory from long ago.

I'm not sure what Jesus would make of all of this 'women in ministry' debate, but I resonate with what a couple of devotional speakers have said here in San Antonio.  Let's stop getting "side tracked" in issues that are harming us more than helping us fulfill the commission of the church. I continue to be of the opinion that "ordination" is not as important as some want to make it out to be.  The Bible doesn't use the word but does recognize "being set aside for serving Christ." What is important, in my estimation,  is serving God, fulfilling the mission of His Church, and I think that means women are and should be invested in leadership to make that happen.  I think that's God's plan.  Thanks for asking!

Ok.  A few more observations than some pics.

Yesterday was a 'breath of fresh air' in terms of spirit and atmosphere.  Elder Wilson made a very good appeal at the start for "a spirit of Christlikeness and "patience" to characterize the meetings. At the Sunday session, there was unquestionably tension and a very heated 'assault' by one prominent person from the microphone on the perceived mismanagement of the Session chairman on the issue I referenced above with Doug Bachelor's speech and then a motion to "return the women inclusive wording" to the committee.  It was obvious tensions were rising, so, yesterday was much better and I think Elder Wilson helped set the tone.

At one point, I believe it is the same delegate who five years ago from Europe proposed recognition of same-sex marriages, THIS time around?  Proposed language that would recognize "faithful church members" who choose to live together outside of marriage?  That got an almost unanimous "voted down."

Much of yesterday's session was spent in reviewing proposed wording changes in the 28 fundamental believes. There was NOTHING proposed that would in any way even remotely change the substance of doctrine, but wording changes, particularly in the area of the role of Ellen White and the prophetic gift, literal creation, and even a change that would indicate our beliefs arise from "the Christ as revealed in Scripture" rather than the old wording, "Christ AND Scripture" drew  lengthy, and possibly unnecessary debates.

By the way . . . as always the case.  The same 10 to 12 people continually come to the microphone. There are probably 2200 delegates present, but, the same 10 to 12 seem self-designated to address every issue?

The Session wisely elected a two minute 'cap' on delegate speeches and many times, again with appreciation as evidenced by the strong vote,  a couple of individuals will come to the mic and "question on motion" meaning a vote to cease debate, and actually vote.  Every time that's happened a huge majority vote to stop debate and vote.

The day ended yesterday with the election of Division Presidents and, after being returned to committee, the  re-affirmation of the election of six GC Vice-Presidents.  Of no small level of 'angst' on the part of some, before this session?  There were 9 GC vice-presidents. They've reduced that to six, meaning three learned only in arriving here, they no longer have a job.

Some scenes from yesterday . . .

"Present and Accounted for!" I wanted to prove that on one day I wore my jacket. Imagine what its like: it's 94 degrees outside, but when you come into the Dome, the AC works great! It drops to maybe 68 degrees?  Brrrr.  

Dr. Gordon Bietz and beside him, Dr. David Smith, Sr. Pastor of the Collegedale Church.

The newly elected, in most cases, re-elected, World Division Presidents and some with their spouses. Dan Jackson , in the middle of the pic with his wife Donna, was re-elected with very strong support from the NAD leadership.

Most of you know my love for history, so, arriving downtown yesterday at 7am, I took a short walk over to the famous "Alamo." It was too early to get in to see it, but I struck up an enjoyable conversation with the security police who opened the gate for me to look in.  The Alamo is considered one of the most "haunted" places in the U.S., so, the officer was telling me his ghost story while working the midnight shift. Hearing the story, I told him, "I think the Devil was trying to  scare you."  I was serious, but he gave me a big laugh on that point.

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