Ansel Oliver, Mark A. Kellner, and Elizabeth Lechleitner
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders yesterday voted to establish a Theology of Ordination Study Committee, with a goal of delivering a report to the 2014 Annual Council, a yearly meeting of world church administrators.
Four committee sessions, each meeting for up to three days, will precede the October 2014 report, leaders said.
“We want an open process,” Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, told the group’s Administrative Committee, or ADCOM, before the vote was taken. “We want to hear what God and the Holy Spirit want to tell us, through Bible study, study of the Spirit of Prophecy, and prayer.”
Yesterday’s move comes a year after the 2011 unveiling of a roadmap for the study process. Church officials meeting in ADCOM yesterday affirmed that outline and provided terms of reference for the study committee.
The committee is a direct response to a request during the 2010 General Conference Session for a church-conducted understanding of ordination.
The denomination’s Executive Committee at the 2014 Annual Council may decide to recommend action to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.
The committee will be comprised of a wide perspective of individuals to include “women, men, younger and, older members, theologians, Bible students, those who have written or spoken on the subject and some others.” The Committee will have no world church officers on it other than chairman, vice-chairman and secretary, though the three executive officers will be ex officio members.
Wilson added, “There is no one who wants to do anything other than God’s will.”
The committee launch comes on the heels of independent actions taken by three of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s union conferences. The unions – North German, Columbia and Pacific – voted to ordain pastoral candidates without respect to gender. World church leaders had asked the unions to refrain, pending the committee’s formation and conclusions.
“When the process starts there are two issues that will be really studied,” said Artur A. Stele, head of the world church’s Biblical Research Institute and chairman of the new committee. “Number one, the theology of ordination, what ordination is or isn’t. Then, the second one, ‘What are the implications for Church practices with a special emphasis on women’s ordination?’”
Suggested names for the committee’s membership were requested from ADCOM members as part of the selection process. Names of the committee members have not yet been released, but it is expected that at least 24 members of the 102-person group will be women. ADCOM members of varying viewpoints expressed appreciation for a balanced listing of potential committee members.
Members are expected to represent a wide perspective of thought on ordination, and it is hoped they will also interact in a highly respectful and spiritual discussion setting. The committee will also include two delegates from each of the 13 world church divisions, which will work with regional Biblical Research Committees in the study.
An official statement voted by ADCOM emphasized that, unlike many church committees where actions are voted up and down, the panel’s terms of reference include “an aim of reaching consensus on as many points as possible.” Where differences are evident, they will be carefully noted for the final report to the 2014 Annual Council.
According to the statement, “Through strong prayer sessions, study of the Bible, study of the Spirit of Prophecy and the resulting careful discussion, the Theology of Ordination Study Committee should focus on solutions that would support the message, mission and unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”