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Members Debate, Pray About Upcoming Constituency Meeting

Story by Taashi Rowe
Published 7/25/12

People from across the Columbia Union Conference, outside the union and even around the world are talking about and praying for the union’s special constituency meeting slated for Sunday. At the meeting, delegates will consider a request from the union executive committee to approve ministerial ordination without regard to gender.
After the July issue of the Visitor reached members with the cover story “Weighing the Issues: Why We’re Advocating for Women’s Ordination,” there have been a flood of comments. So far there are 161 comments on the union’s website and Facebook page and comments have poured in from as far away as South Africa, France and India. Pastor Daniel KalapalaIa, who labeled himself as “a friend and well wisher from Vijayawada, India” wrote, “Trust the Spirit of God will prevail and guide the church in the right direction.”
Here in the Columbia Union, discussion has been plentiful and passionate in some conferences and decidedly less so in others. Below are snapshots of what is happening around the union:
During the divine service at Chesapeake Conference’s New Hope church in Fulton, Md., pastors presented information to congregants, distributed copies of the July Visitor, included articles on the subject in two of their bulletins and placed a statement and additional resources on their website. At another, more traditional church nearby, one of the Sabbath School classes dispensed with the lesson and discussed the July Visitor at great length.
Potomac Conference’s leaders have posted some information and resources on their website. They also invited a professor from Andrews University (Mich.) to share information about the role of women in ministry at Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md., this Sabbath, starting at 3:30 p.m. Sligo church also held a special prayer meeting on Tuesday where “the emphasis was not that the matter would be voted but that God’s will would be done. We also took time to pray for unity,” said Don McFarlane, the church’s administrative pastor. Several speakers, including Josephine Benton, Sligo’s first woman pastor, shared their experiences. Throughout the evening, attendees also prayed for women in pastoral ministry and in leadership at all levels of the church.
In the New Jersey Conference, James Greene, executive secretary, with the full support of his fellow officers, wrote a letter, to General Conference leaders in response to their appeal for unity. In the letter, Greene writes: “If Martin Luther and the other reformers had heeded the advice and counsel of the church leaders, during the time of the reformation, to cherish church unity over what the Bible teaches, there would not be a Seventh-day Adventist Church today. It was because of these reformers, willingness to place Scripture above church policy and practice that the great protestant reformation took place.” He also added, “I am convicted that the Bible and doctrine must take precedence over policy and that true unity comes not from strict adherence to church policy, but from adherence to doctrine and the mission of our church.”
On Monday the Mountain View Conference Executive Committee resolved: “Following the scriptural mandate of the priesthood of all believers, and as directed by its constitution and bylaws, intentionally chooses to continue its long-held commitment of supporting, encouraging, empowering, and celebrating the involvement of all members, regardless of gender, in church ministry. However, we will do so only in harmony with the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, as expressed by actions taken during the General Conference in business session.”
Pennsylvania Conference leaders not only placed resources on their website that shared both sides of the issue, but they also made room at three of their town hall meetings, which were intended to prepare for their upcoming constituency session, to discuss at length this special Columbia Union constituency session. During one particular meeting, the discussion, slated for only one hour, went on for three hours. Ray Hartwell, conference president, has also blogged about the topic.
The topic of women in ministry also came up at a recent Allegheny East Conference (AEC) town hall meeting. In addition to that discussion, attendees also prayed that the union delegates would heed the Holy Spirit’s moving. At AEC’s Metropolitan church in Hyattsville, Md., pastors Brenda Billingy and Marquis Johns visited each Sabbath School class and distributed copies of the July Visitor. They also said a special prayer for the session and are planning another prayer at tonight’s prayer meeting.
Ohio Conference leaders held a special town hall meeting with delegates and outlined the history of women in ministry, gave information from both sides of the argument and encouraged delegates to read more on the subject. The conference’s Mount Vernon Hill church in Mount Vernon also included an article supporting the ordination of women in their newsletter.
And in the Allegheny West Conference, President William T. Cox Sr., simply said, “The officers and members of the Allegheny West Conference are in prayer as we consider the vote for ordination of women. Our prayer is that God’s will will be done and His name will get all of the praise.”

How to Get Session Results
The Columbia Union Conference Special Constituency Meeting July 29 is only open to registered delegates, but Columbia Union leaders are considering streaming presentations from the meeting. During the meeting, Visitor staff will share updates via Facebook and Twitter. Following the meeting, we will release a statement and full report via email, website and in the August Visitor.
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COMMENTS POLICY: Thank you all for sharing your comments. In anticipation of Sabbath and in preparation for the meeting on Sunday, July 29, we will be closing down comments on this story starting, July 26. You may resume posting your comments on the new story that will be posted on the results of the meeting. Please join us in praying for God’s Spirit to guide and His will to prevail.

Judy B. Dent
2012-07-25 8:17 PM

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit is allowed to move on the hearts of the delegates.

Linda Farley
2012-07-26 9:11 AM

We have circled the promised land for too many years, limiting God's work by our gender inequality decisions.  Scripture reminds us that genders and cultures are equal in God's sight.  To treat God's call to ministry differently by gender or culture, demonstratrates that  fears and prejudices still drive us. May God's full measure of freedom from fear and prejudice and the gifts of wisdom and maturity of God's Spirit guide the Columbia Union Constituency decisions ahead.  

Rachel Pluviose
2012-07-26 9:32 AM

As a woman, born and raised in NYC, a wife and mother who works outside the home, I am extremely disappointed that the Union has decided to make such a overt act of rebellion when the General Conference has already decided to look at the matter and is studying the issue.  Do we feel that we as a Western culture or as a large tithe producing part of the World Church we should attempt to usurp authority and do what we want irrespective of the consequences?  We live in a society where the roles between men and women are so blurred we no longer know what our original roles are except as biology dictates.  Let us not sully God's church with a dysfunctional paradigm that exists in Western culture where a women can do anything a man can do.  Though we might be capable of accomplishing a task, doesn't mean that we should.   We are not men.  Women did not possess the priesthood in the Bible.  Nor did God intend them to, which is clear since women were judges and prophets contrary to the common culture during biblical times.  That is biblical with clear precedent set from Genesis into the New Testament.  Men are women are different, hold different roles and we should celebrate our differences and not try to nullify them to satisfy a warped sense of equality.  Let us also remember that the majority of the World Church does not reside in the industrialized world where the roles of men and women are no longer clearly defined.  As such, is this issue worth dividing the Church?  Are we willing to become like the Episcopalians?  Let both sides earnestly seek God's will and be prepared to accept His will especially if it is contrary to ours.


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