Last Wednesday, fifty-eight percent of General Conference delegates from around the world voted against the motion that would have allowed individual divisions to decide whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry.
The outcome of the much-awaited vote has been welcome news for many. For others, it has brought sadness, dismay, anger, and frustration. The explosion of emotion on Twitter alone in the aftermath of the business meeting has attested to how invested those of us on all “sides” have been in this debate.
And while last week’s vote has officially settled matters, it is clear that the question remains for many: where do we go from here? How will we, or I, or they, respond to the vote? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Study it out:
How has this vote evoked both disappointment and affirmation? Why does the Adventist Church care enough to devote an entire day to this topic? Why is my Facebook feed blowing up?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is the time to study the topic yourself. It’s time to own our church and form informed, Bible-based views on the issues of ordination and women in ministry (and many others).
2. Hold the applause:
Elder Mike Ryan’s steely handling of the Wednesday business meeting has forever endeared him to many of us. In the wake of Wednesday, it would be wise to continue to heed his appeals to hold the applause: to eschew competitive or “my side won/lost” attitudes.
Rather, we’ve sought the Lord’s will together and we must trust that this outcome is an answer to our sincere prayers for guidance—not the score for an Adventist Superbowl. Trust that He never withholds His guidance from those who sincerely seek. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
For all those who’ve ever received a “no” to a genuine and heartfelt prayer request, perhaps you can relate to the disappointment that some feel now. Rejoice simply because the Lord has led His people; this, publicize. But there is no Biblical support for indulging competitive attitudes, biting comments, or bitterness.
3. Be a missionary:
As discussion and debate continues about Wednesday’s vote, we may find ourselves failing to demonstrate concretely why this issue matters at all. Any principles regarding the order of the church facilitate its ultimate goal: mission.
That’s hopefully why we all care so much. It’s time to get off Facebook and Twitter and make real sacrifices to share Jesus with those who are dying for lack of an Everlasting Hope.
Need ideas for how to reach out? Check out some of the opportunities we’ve listed on our website:
4. Believe in your church:
Many have remarked that it is God’s calling or ordination that matters, not “manmade” policies.
But consider this: the church is God’s beautiful bride. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, tells us that the union between man and woman is analogous to the union between God and His church (Ephesians 5). And Jesus is the “head of body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).
Believe and trust that God works on this earth through His church as embodied in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the remnant church of Bible prophecy. The organization and order of our body reflect the leading of God. As Ellen G. White noted in the context of the early organizational efforts of the church,
“[This church structure] has been built up by His direction, through much sacrifice and conflict. Let none of our brethren be so deceived as to attempt to tear it down, for you will thus bring in a condition of things that you do not dream of. In the name of the Lord I declare to you that it is to stand, strengthened, established, and settled” (CET 197).
The General Conference assembly is a part of this divinely-built church structure. Note the authority which is invested in its decisions:
“Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans should be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body” (9T 260).
It is time to thoughtfully reconsider how personal opinion and the wisdom of the “general body” relate.
Take hope: God loves His church and leads His church. Ellen White’s remarks on the disappointment of 1844 give us courage that Jesus knows the pains and disappointments of the church, “Not one cloud has fallen upon the church that God has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counter work the work of God that He has not foreseen” (CTr 340). He is leading.
5. Trust in Jesus:
Surrender your “truth” to Jesus, Who is the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We need to worry less about seeing this debate to our desired end and entrust it to the Savior. Jesus’ death has guaranteed that truth will prevail in this universe.
If you believe that Jesus is on the side of truth, and if you believe that the Lord is leading this church, you’ll join me in supporting the decision of the world church last Wednesday in word and deed. Pray for unity, that the world may know Jesus and His love (John 17:23).
We’re up for more suggestions on how to respond. Tell us in the comments below.