Comment on Northern California Conference Votes to Act Independent of the General Conference by Peter S Marks.
I can easily follow your reasoning here! The GC in Session has spoken. Normally, people would respect their decision. The fact that so many around the world are unsettled by it, is sufficent cause to believe that it was premature to take the vote in the first place. Also, one must believe that the issues will be revisited. Before that happens however, the GC would be well advised that they have arrived at a consensus position that will stick. (No Adventist Church Board in its right mind would vote on a contenscious issue they knew would not provide a satisfying approach to the issue. However, the GC did exactly this). However unseemly it is for disunity between church entities to exist to this degree, it probably will ensure that the issues are revisited sooner rather than later. May I humbly suggest that, before this happens, that we find a way to cultivate a more united view on the nature of ordination.
The battle is on between those who see huge theological objections to the ordination of women and those who see huge ethical objections if we do not permit the ordination of women. The options provided for the resolution of this dilemma for the most part involve the taking of either the theological high ground or to take the moral high ground. I say “A plague on both their houses.” Both options for the most part seek to work within what I can only describe as a very brittle paradigm that is even now very broken.
The consensus-building that I advocate seeks to re-envision the nature of Adventist leadership, ministry & mission. It seeks a revitalized understanding of the nature of ‘ordination’ if we like that terminology. To deconstruct the term and to build a new paradigm concerning Adventist leadership, gospel ministry and mission is our present and most urgent task. This new paradigm concerns all that we conceive Adventist leadership and gospel ministry and service to be. It will include a renewed theology of appointment to leadership and the associated policy guidelines for doing so. We dare not avoid doing this essential study and consensus building of a new paradigm if we desire unity!
Such a consensus-building process will involve the following four elements:
1. A renewed Adventist mission driven hermeneutic distilled from the Scriptural meta-narrative of the missio Dei and the ministry of Jesus to be continued by his people is fundamental if we are to understand the nature of Adventist leadership and thus the purpose of ‘ordination.’ People such as Bertil Wiklander, Jan Barna, Cristian Dumitrescu and Fernando Canale are Adventist scholars who have done a lot of this preliminary work for us.
2. Based on such hermeneutics, study should be given to producing a comprehensive theology of Adventist leadership, gospel ministry and mission. Again, Adventists have much material at their fingertips already of this nature.
3. Based on such a theology, foundational principles should be developed and enunciated to guide policy formulation of things like ‘ordination’ and credentialing. The two foundational ecclesiological principles contained in the Study of Church Governance and Unity document surely leave much to be desired.
4. Only then should our renewed ‘ordination’ and credentialing policy formulation begin .
If we attempt to bypass any of these four steps we will fail of ever building consensus on these issues. We may surprise ourselves as a global faith communion how compelling and inviting such work can be.