3 Lessons for Surviving the Fallout of the Ordination Vote

July 8, 2015

So here we are. We are living in a post San Antonio General Conference world. The vote on whether or not individual Divisions have the authority to ordain women in their field where they see it fit has failed. The vote was closer than I expected but at the end of the day, these were the results:

977- Yes votes
1381- No votes
5- Abstained

For many in the NAD and around the world, it is a sad day. I know many wonderful women who have dedicated their lives to pastoral service and this vote must come as a harder blow to them than it does to me.

As an online spectator and Twitter delegate, I couldn’t help but feel proud at times, but still overall disappointed by much of the politicking I saw before, during, and after the debate. Either way, we are now like the fish from Finding Nemo who found themselves in the ocean after passing through a very difficult time and asked, “Now what?”


Here are a few early thoughts:

1. No matter how stormy the GC session was, no matter how high the waves seem now, remember that Jesus still walks on water.

This vote does not mean that women cannot be pastors. Neither does this vote mean that there is going to be a mass purging of the women who already have been working in various levels of the church. What it does mean is that, even though they will have the same education, the church will not confer to them the full ecclesiastic authority of ordination like it currently does to men. Instead, they will still be “commissioned” (which is basically the same thing as far as tax law is concerned, but isn’t in a religious way).

While I was in favor of a yes vote, this new reality forces me to remember that this isn’t my church. It was never mine to begin with; it is God’s. Thus, I have to trust that God knows what he is doing despite my inability to see beyond our present reality.

2. We need to pray for our leaders.

I witnessed some great men and women of God in these debates who stood up and shared their convictions even in the face of a (sometimes) hostile crowd. I applaud the actions of people like Jan Paulsen, Elizabeth Talbot, Ricardo Graham, and especially Michael Ryan who did a phenomenal job at chairing a very contentious meeting. I saw role models in these people and took notice of them even while others booed and jeered at their responses.

We especially need to keep Dan Jackson and Ted Wilson in prayer. These two men, each very convicted in different positions before the vote, must now find a way to work together for the mission of the church. It’s not easy, but I want to ask that we all join together and ask that God would lead them both.

3) We need to still support women in ministry.

Again, it is important to remember that the church has not voted against women pastors. I believe that the Bible is clear of the fact that God calls women into ministry (including pastoral). However, as we saw today, there were, and still are various opinions on the matter. What the church has decided is that the whole church must move together on this issue or not at all.

So what can else I do, get bitter?  No.

I’m learning to realize that a spirit of negativity will eat away at our enthusiasm for ministry and our sense of united mission. I’m not saying that there aren’t negative elements at play all around us, but if we lose sight of Jesus, we will be in the same position as Peter was when he took his eyes off him: drowning in the ocean.

Speaking a Millennial pastor, I would urge all of us to not lose faith in the church, but rather, I pray that this experience would light a fire within each of us. God will raise up a generation that will seek his face and I’m committed to being a part of it.

Let’s not lose heart. It’s up to us to make a difference. Here is our chance to stand up, work together with those that we don’t see eye to eye with and reach those that need to be reached. That’s the mission I’m committed to. How about you?

In closing, tonight is not the time to plot revenge or gloat at the victory achieved. Tonight is a time for prayer. Tonight is a time for reflection. Tonight is a time for healing. What happens next?

Only God knows.

  • Ken Neal

    To those wondering what would EGW do today. History is a good indicator. You can review it at the EGWhite estate online.

  • Michigander

    I really liked this post – however, there actually are several countries who will be firing all their female pastors after Wednesday’s vote. That, to me, is inexcusable…but yes, I agree that we now have to pray even harder…Jesus is coming, and Satan is trying to sew seeds of resentment in hearts around the world…

  • Being hurt is one thing. There is no sin in being hurt. Being bitter is entirely different. Being angry may be playing with fire. To those who say that EGW did not advocate ordination of women, I would caution that I cannot find that she forbade it, either.
    We know Jesus specifically honored women with helping support the church, being the first witnesses of His resurrection, and even prophecy. Being commissioned (ordained?) by CHRIST to preach the Gospel…who could possibly bestow higher recognition? Personally, what men think of my limitations is unimportant. The Holy Spirit works among us all. No prerequisite to be Jew, Greek, male or female. The GC has voted. The Good News yet goes forward. And God’s arm remains unshortened.

    • I’m with you Robin. We move forward and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

  • William Thomas

    And let’s not forget Lesson 4:

    Let’s recognize that the LORD has given women many and important spiritual gifts and offices but that of ordained pastor and elder is NOT one of them. At least three times the LORD has lead His church on this matter; let’s not be like Baalim and keep asking for what the LORD has already multiple times said, “No” until He sends His angel to slay us by the way.

    And maybe most importantly, Lesson 5:

    We are ALL called to ministry. Instead of complaining about who has what power and politics (and yes, from personal experience and observations I’m talking mostly about those who are pro-WO), what we ALL need to do is humbly get about our Father’s business.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts William! One important point of clarification is that, currently, the church does allow for women elders as well as the ordination of deaconesses. This has been already been voted by our world church. The current General Conference policy on ordination of women as local church elders is stated in the 2009 Seventh-day Adventist Minister’s Handbook, p. 94.

      “Elders and deacons should be persons of experience, chosen wisely. By action of the Annual Council of 1975, reaffirmed at the 1984 Annual Council, both men and women are eligible to serve as elders and receive ordination to this position of service in the church.”

      The 2010 Edition of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church manual states:

      “Ordination Service for Deaconesses – Such a service would be carried out by an ordained pastor currently credentialed by the conference. The ordination servic should be characterized by simplicity and performed in the presence of the church. If they retain church membership, deaconesses do not have to be ordained again if they move their memberships to other churches. When the term for which they were elected expires, they must be reelected if they are to continue to serve as deaconesses.” (pp 78-79)

      “The nominating committee brings in nominations to fill the various church offices. When these have been elected, the elders should be ordained, unless they have already been ordained as elders. A similar but shorter service should take place for ordination of deacons and deaconesses.” (p 38)

  • Edwin Racine

    Ted Wilson, now that through his intense, authoritarian covert and overt maneuvering has produced the negative vote he has always insisted upon, he again suggests the church get back to being focused on “the mission.” Of course, the success of the mission can best be demonstrated by increased membership and tithe income. I suggest, baptisms without educating those who remain convinced that women and girls are to be subservient is disgraceful. It’s immoral to teach and preach that the Holy Spirit’s upper most prerequisite for ordaining a person is male genitalia. The concept seems reasonable to those living in countries where, since babyhood, a little girl is taught and treated to be inferior. Most intelligent, educated people living in North America and many other enlightened areas, have seen the evilness of such thinking. We grieve over the evilness recently witnessed in San Antonio.

  • Theresa

    I wasn’t there at the meeting and I don’t know what was said. I just have one simple comment or maybe it’s a question? If Ellen White were here today it boggles my mind to think that our church would vote against her Ordination!

    • I wonder the same thing Theresa. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks! Very needed message.

  • Lisa Clark Diller

    Thanks for these supportive and cogent thoughts at this time. We need people to keep being brave!