Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day Six

I could possibly have entitled this post, "on the sixth day there was light!" All who have been following the GC Session, and even the months/years leading up to it, have anticipated the debate and decision on the proposal to allow the 13 World Divisions to make their own decisions, within their respective divisions, as to whether to authorize the ordination of women to pastoral ministry.  This would be a change of 'terms' which is called "commissioning." Some see the change 'in terms' from commissioning to ordination, to be very significant, on BOTH sides of the issue!

Certainly, with this post,  a full day after the debate and vote, anyone who had any interest in the outcome already knows the conclusion and result of yesterday's epic vote.
A few personal observations from the 'for what they're worth' category.

From the opening "bell" Wednesday, not surprisingly, there was obviously a sharp divide, as evidenced in the parade of speakers to the microphone, between the opinions of most delegates representing North America, Europe, and Australia- Asia, and  the South American/ African Continent/Inter-American areas. The former world division delegates, mostly, who spoke at the mic supported the motion; the latter, did not.

Before the day began, Chairman Elder Mike Ryan with help from others, shared with all delegates the summary documents of the  General Conference Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC).  The three positions that resulted from the TOSC study which involved over 100 individuals form an international body of scholars, were as follows:

One Position:  Biblical authority headship denies women the right/authority to be 'set apart' for ministry.

Second Postion: Biblical authority allows/encourages women to be 'set apart' for ministry.

Third Position: The Bible recognizes the 'male headship' role of men but does not deny women the right to also be 'set apart.'  ( a position that says both of the above have merit, but position one does not negate the above position two).

TOSC clearly agreed, that the Scripture CAN be interpreted to support ANY one of the three positions above! Despite the opinions of others that Scripture clearly supports their position, the 'summary' conclusions of TOSC ended with "no consensus," though, I am told, the majority on the TOSC committee were open/favorable to ordaining women.  In order to be a "consensus" it was determined that 75% would have to agree on one of the positions,  and that did not happen.

I felt it important that nothing in the TOSC documents made the ordination of women a biblical command OR a sin. Nothing in the TOSC document equated it with a salvation issue as some have suggested; nothing in the TOSC document linked ordination with leading to endorsement of homosexuality or its practice.  In other words, nothing shared with the delegates suggested that it deserves the level of anger/division that has arisen from the debate, on either side of it.  At least that's my view . . .

In the end, the long day of debate concluded with a vote that gave about a 58 to 42 percentage "no' vote to the motion. I was not the only one predicting, before GC session ever began, that the motion would not pass. What was surprising is that the vote was closer than I, and some others, had thought it would be. North America is now, only "number 7" in size of the 13 world divisions, and while it may have, up until ten years ago, been one of the major players in terms of size, that will never again be the case! Africa and Inter America will lead the world church in the foreseeable future, in terms of size, and delegate votes at GC session.

In the end, I have mixed feelings on the outcome.  Despite Elder Wilson's valuable and expected plea at days end to "unite" to "press together" as EG White use to advocate, many on the loosing side were as disappointed as those who in defeating the issue, were elated.

I fear had the measure passed, the division in the church would have deepened, and perhaps it will despite the need to "move on."  I predict the issue will not 'go away.' Interestingly, I learned through the debate on Wednesday that while some viewed this prospect of ordination as a "liberal act of apostasy," some on the 'pro' side strongly see it as raw, almost evil prejudice against women serving in ministry.

I don't think its either of those things, but I do agree with probably the majority of good faithful church members. They are weary of the debate, do not join EITHER side in attempting to magnify the importance of this, and are probably sick of individuals waging warfare on this topic.

After the vote was over, the NAD had a meeting with all of its delegates for the purpose of affirming the divisions support for women in ministry. I personally think that this issue has served to distract and divide and harm, but I also respect that many good people, have strong convictions on either side of the issue, convictions that I do not feel "as strongly" about as they do.  It was a long day, and my own prayer was, at days end, God's will be done on this matter.  I believe it was, but I'm not thinking the issue is . .  over?

Some pics from yesterday . . .

The final vote as it appeared on the screen to delegates

Elder Dave Weigly, President of Columbia Union, marking his ballot, with the assistance of a friend to help steady his "X."

Elder Lloyd Schomburg, and behind him, Randy Robinson, and in front of them, speaking to Lloyd, Dr. David Smith, Sr. Pastor Collegedale Church.

The entrance and "approach" to the Alamodome that all the delegates and attendees take as they near the auditorium.

I'm told this tree is over a 100 years old.   A "Live Oak" that  grows in the South West and South East. We used to have these beautiful trees in South Georgia when we lived and pastored there.

I will probably post one more time as I am leaving the session after the Friday business session.  God bless and lead his Church!

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