General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson said Friday that a vote this week on the issue of women’s ordination meant “we maintain the current policy.”
Wilson told delegates at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that Wednesday’s vote simply barred the church’s world divisions from making decisions on the ordination of women.
He said the vote has nothing to do with women being ordained as local elders, a practice based on church policy that has been in place for several decades.
Furthermore, he said, the vote was not related to commissioned ministers, who can be male or female under the church’s policy.
“So let us be clear on what was voted on Wednesday,” Wilson said. “We are now back to our original understanding, and I would strongly urge all to adhere by what has been voted. But do not place into the vote other things which were not listed in the vote. We need to be fair, we need to be open, and we all need to accept what is voted at a General Conference session.
Wilson asked division presidents to clarify the meaning of Wednesday’s vote in their territories.
Shortly after Wilson spoke, North American Division president Daniel R. Jackson issued a statement saying that the division “would comply with the vote of the world church.”
He said the division acknowledged that “the vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church or any of their entities from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.”
But, he added, the motion did not disallow women from serving as commissioned church pastors; women from serving as ordained elders in the local church, and the ordination of deaconesses.
“Since the motion did not disallow these things, we therefore continue to encourage those who have been serving in these capacities to continue to do so,” Jackson said.
He added: “It is vital to understand that the NAD will continue to follow the directions found in the General Conference Working Policy allowing conferences and unions to license women as commissioned ministers in pastoral ministry. We will also continue to encourage utilizing the services of women as ordained local elders and deaconesses.”
Wilson on Friday also said he has asked divisions to care for specific items that come up in their territory. He did not elaborate, saying only that General Conference leadership hoped matters would go smoothly and expected assistance from divisions on those items.
He said division leaders have a spirit of upholding what the General Conference in session votes. Decisions made by the General Conference in session have the highest authority in the church.
Wilson, meanwhile, sought to squash concerns from some church members that a revision to the Church Manual that delegates approved earlier Friday might limit the authority or activities of the General Conference.
“The reason for the wording is to limit any … frivolous appeals from coming up through the system,” Wilson said.
The amendment gives divisions the right to stop a dispute from reaching the level of the General Conference. The levels where a n appeal can be considered in a division include the local church, conference, and union.
Wilson said the General Conference generally works through divisions and their various levels in resolving appeals anyway.
“So please do not imagine things that, in my opinion, and in my understanding, are never there,” he said.