In a recent action of the SID Executive committee, members of the SID EXCOM adopted and affirmed one important document as adopted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
The document was the Statement on church polity, procedures, and the resolution of disagreements in the light of recent Union actions on Ministerial Ordination. After careful reading of the entire document, it was unanimously agreed that the statement is adopted within the SID territory. Here are some excerpts from the document that reveals its balance and intent.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to preserve its identity as a united global family while addressing mission opportunities and challenges in widely differing cultural, political and economic environments…”
“It is natural to expect that in response to diverse and ever-changing circumstances differences will arise in determining the most appropriate ways of accomplishing the mission while also preserving Church structure and relationships. The articulation of different viewpoints and the expression of disagreement are important ways by which the Church gains new insights and more fully understands the global impact of decisions. Speaking and listening, when done respectfully, are essential to the operational health of the whole body and its continuing effectiveness in mission. The process adopted by the Church for the resolution of disagreements involves forums where all those affected by a decision are represented in the exploration and adoption of decisions…”
Decisions to pursue a course of action not in harmony with the 1990 and 1995 General Conference Session decisions (with respect to ministerial ordination) represent not only an expression of dissent but also a demonstration of self-determination in a matter previously decided by the collective Church. The General Conference Executive Committee regards these actions as serious mistakes. They directly challenge two world Church decisions on the matter of ordination. They create doubts about the importance of collective decision-making as a basic feature of denominational life. They weaken the fabric of Church life and operations by giving an opportunity for other entities to follow this example in order to justify independence and autonomy in other matters rather than maintaining a mutual commitment to collective decision-making.
The world Church cannot legitimize practices that clearly contradict the intent of General Conference Session actions. This applies to ordination decisions as well as to other matters in which a local organization may feel constrained not just to voice its disagreement with the world Church but to proceed along a pathway that directly conflicts with the expressed will of the worldwide Church. Accordingly, the world Church does not recognize actions authorizing or implementing ministerial ordination without regard to gender.
This statement deals with Church structure and procedures. It does not address the question of ministerial ordination practices per se. The central issue is one of Church polity—how the Church defines its organization, governance and operations.
Discussion and debate about ministerial ordination practice is a separate matter and is under global study and review. General Conference Session decisions (1990 and 1995) did not authorize ministerial ordination without regard to gender, either globally or regionally. Any change in this practice requires action by a General Conference Session. Every Church organization in the world has been given the opportunity of participating in the current global study. This can be accomplished through interaction with the respective division-appointed Biblical Research Committee. Division Biblical Research Committees will interface with the General Conference-appointed Theology of Ordination Study Committee. The study is to be completed by 2014 with a report from the Theology of Ordination Study Committee presented to the General Conference Executive Committee at its 2014 Annual Council, which will decide what to refer to the General Conference Session in 2015.
The General Conference Executive Committee specifically affirms the important roles that women fill in the life of the Church. Their giftedness and commitment is a blessing to the whole Church and a necessary part of its work in the mission.
Moments of tension in denominational life can be opportunities for both learning and enhance relationships. The presence of conflict and the expression of difference can help make the Church stronger. In such moments the commitment of all informed and collective decision-making processes are the best way to resolve matters while keeping the Church together as a world family.
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