Ordination Discussion (1:00)

Special constituency session, Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Passage required simple majority approval. The motion passed 79% to 21%.

Moved: "that the Pacific Union Conference approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender."

ELDER NEWTON:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to remind you, as we go to a second discussion, vote, that I want to remind the delegates that this next action requires a simple majority.  Here is a motion that I am bringing to you as the secretary of the Executive Committee, and this is the motion that the Executive Committee brings to this body, Mr. Chairman.  I move that the Pacific Union Conference approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.

ELDER GRAHAM:  It's been moved and seconded. Let's have a period of discussion on that motion. All right.  They're out of their seats.  Wow. Some of you who have gone to the microphone do not surprise me at all, as I have gotten lots of emails from you.  I believe, Todd, you were the first to the mic. Then we'll go back and forth between the microphones.

DELEGATE GUTHRIE:  But not a single email from me.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Technically, you're correct, yes.  Absolutely not. [112]

DELEGATE GUTHRIE:  All right.  Todd Guthrie again from Mount Shasta.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Closer to your mic, please, Todd.

DELEGATE GUTHRIE:  Yes.  And how about a timer, or shall I just start talking?

ELDER GRAHAM:  No.  Hold it.  We need the timer so the delegates can see it.  Be patient with our staff. We just have two, maybe three people back there.  We need the timer.  Technology is great when it works. There we are.  You may start.

DELEGATE GUTHRIE:  Thank you.  No question, Ellen White supports the laying on of hands for ministry.  She supports equal pay.  Plenty of statements for that.  But she also talks about the qualifications, much as Paul does, in terms of a man in his family.  This phrase "without regard to gender" would not necessarily make me nervous except for the society in which we live in which gender neutrality or gender absence, absence of gender or downplaying gender, is really a beachhead on a number of fronts, and the key one being marriage.  So, I would just caution the delegates, as they look at this, that they may consider that issue. Furthermore, the foundation of a healthy [113] church, and certainly the early church, was home.  All of those churches where these people were mentioned -- and Junia, of course, some believe that was a male name, so that's still open for debate.  In the church home is where there was most definitely male and female, and decisions were made with regard to gender, and that was the foundation for the early church. So how we do that is really the question that's driving this, and there's no question that we have erred in how we have treated women.  Back in Ellen White's day, there were people not being paid.  There were basically pastors' wives doing free labor and not getting paid.  No question.  And, I think, leadership roles, that's not an issue either.  Whatever the solution is, it needs to be consistent with scripture. We're people of the Book.  We don't need arguments of silence to defend our position.  We need arguments that are positive and arise from scripture, not simply arguments that arise from culture and scripture is silent on.  Thank you.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Brother Todd Guthrie. As soon as we get the two minutes back up -- all right.  Brother Hugo.

DELEGATE LEON:  Hugo Leon, Executive Committee. I have three problems with the motion that we [114] currently have on the floor.  Number one, since we did not change our bylaws, this motion would put us in conflict with our own bylaws.  Number two, this motion would put us in conflict with the GC rulings of 1995. Number three, as was stated by our General Conference officials, we really don't have the authority to change the criteria for ordination at this level. With all of this in consideration, we really shouldn't be voting on this issue.  We should defer this to the General Conference.  Therefore, I would like to make a motion that we table this motion to ordain women and refer it to the General Conference. 

ELDER GRAHAM:  The parliamentarians have informed me that to table it is out of order.  It's only appropriate to table it during the same session.  That would not be a motion to table it to refer it to the General Conference.  Table for later for this body to deal with would be appropriate. Yes, ma'am, to the right.

DELEGATE SALVADOR:  Kirsten Salvador, Southern California. I do not debate.  I don't engage in Bible trivia discussion about what each letter of the law means.  I follow a God that's pretty simple, and His call to us is to love the world.  I remember as a young [115] woman -- and I'm 45 now -- a young woman growing up in the church and wondering why all this discussion about women's ordination and lack of agreement, and that was in the 1970s.  It is now 2012, and we are calling for another study and we are asking -- not all of you.  Some of you are asking the masses to wait a little longer to study something simple, such as recognizing God's call to humanity to serve, whether they are women or men. I'm embarrassed that we are sitting in this position.  I am saddened.  I'm 45 years old.  Fifteen years ago, I remember being ordained as a local elder in my local church.  That moment was profound for me.  It was profound because I was reminded that somehow there was a place for me in God's kingdom, in God's world, and in this church that calls itself the remnant church.  That was when I was young, frustrated, ready to leave a body that didn't understand the fellowship of all believers and God's call to people to serve the planet.  I don't want to wait for one more study over something as simple as recognizing God's call to His people to minister to His people.

ELDER GRAHAM:  I appreciate the applause, but you do know it's extending the meeting.  Yes, ma'am.

DELEGATE CHONG:  Yvette Chong, elder of Fresno Asian and Community Church, former Pacific Union women's [116] ministry director, current Central California Executive Committee member. Mr. Chairman, in view of Romans 16:1 to 2, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church at Cenchrea, that you receive her in the Lord as becometh saints."  In Greek, "saints" means she was a minister of that church. Acts 10:34, Peter, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."  That does not show favoritism. But, however, for the sake of the unity of the church, I would like to urge this Union to wait until GC session of 2014, but if the GC session do not concur, we will go ahead.

ELDER GRAHAM:  I don't know if she has the gift of prophecy, but she's spoken.

DELEGATE BRUNT:  John Brunt.  I've pastored the Azure Hills Church for the last ten years.  I've worked with 18 associate pastors, 14 men and four women.  I have watched Pastors Alex, Carmen, Maria, and Marlene minister with all their hearts and souls and accomplish things that I don't think any man could have accomplished.  I would stake my life on the integrity of any one of them.  And they ministered without caring in the least what they were called or how they were [117] recognized.  But I do care because I know that for my ministry to be recognized in a way that theirs is not is wrong, and I know it because the Bible tells me so.

The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons.  He doesn't play favorites.  When Peter caught that message, he ordained Cornelius on the spot without waiting for any church council.  That came several years later.  And then Peter had a bit of relapse because certain people came from church headquarters and intimidated him into not sitting down and eating with Gentiles.  Paul said, "I withstood him to his face for he stood condemned, for he was not walking straight with the truth of the gospel."

I pray that today we will walk straight with the truth of the gospel and vote to recognize the call and ordination that God has already given to women like Alex and Carmen and Maria and Marlene and so many others.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir, to the microphone on the left.

DELEGATE BOHR:  Yes, my name is Steven Bohr. I'm senior pastor of Fresno Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Central California Conference. I'd just like to say that this issue has been made an issue of equality, but the issue is really not [118] equality.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal, but they have different ministries.  The Father sits on the throne, rules the universe.  Jesus dies for sinners, and the Holy Spirit carries on the work of Christ on earth.  They're equal, but they have different functions. I want to read you a statement that is found in "Signs of the Times," January 24, 1895.  It's been suggested that women's ordination was approved at the 1881 General Conference.  I would wonder, then, why this was written by the editor of the "Signs of the Times." The question is who should be church officers, and this is the specific question.  "Should women be elected to offices of the church where there are enough brethren?" Here's the answer: 

"If by this is meant the office of elder, we should say at once, No.  But there are offices in the church which women can fill acceptably, and oftentimes there are found sisters in the church who are better qualified for this than brethren, such offices, for instance, as church clerk, treasurer, librarian of the tract society, et cetera, as well as the office of deaconess, assisting the deacons in looking after the poor, and in doing such other duties as would naturally fall to their lot." [119]

The qualifications for church elder are set forth in First Timothy 3:1 through 7 and Titus 1:7 through 9.  We do not believe that it is in God's plan to give to women the ordained offices of the church.  By this, we do not mean to depreciate their labor, service, or devotion.  The sphere of woman is equal to that of man.  She was made a help meet or fit for man, but that does not mean that her sphere –

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Elder Bohr. Yes, to the right, Pastor Batchelor.

DELEGATE BATCHELOR:  Still Doug Batchelor, Pastor of Sacramento Central the last 19 years next month. I'm a convert to the Seventh-day Adventist movement.  I used to worship with other Christians.  I just prayed and said, "Lord, I want to go where I can defend my faith from the Bible."  I know there are thousands of other members in this Union that believe, like the millions of other members in the church, that there are Bible distinctions between the roles of men and women.  I believe that they are there from Genesis to Revelation. I do regret, and I want to say this respectfully, that it feels like there hasn't been fair representation in the presentations that have been made [120] showing the other side.  I appreciate my two-minute sound bite, but there's a lot of other people that wish they had more time, in a setting like this, to give those reasons that the rest of our World Church feels differently.

I've got a minute left.  What can I do in a minute? I believe it's unscriptural.  I think God makes a distinction with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There's no example in the Bible of a man offering -- I'm sorry, of a woman offering sacrifice, baptizing, or fulfilling the roles of that part of the priesthood. Paul went from place to place.  He ordained men as the pastors and elders of the church. First Corinthians 11, Verse 3, "But I'd have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."  I don't believe the Spirit of Prophecy supports the motion.  "Acts of the Apostles," page 95, please notice, "In the work of setting things in order in all of the churches and ordaining suitable men to act as officers, the apostles held high the standard of leadership outlined in the Old Testament scriptures."  Time's up.

ELDER GRAHAM:  To my left.

DELEGATE MAXSON:  Ben Maxson, Paradise, [121] California, Northern California Conference. In my 42 years of ministry, ten as General Conference director of the stewardship department, I had the privilege of watching women all over the world minister with incredible power and see the effect of their work, including a lady pastor in a local underground house church in Canton, China.

Since 1995, where at the General Conference session in Utrecht I voted against moving ahead with ordination of women because of the principal of unity. Since then, I have read and studied everything I can find on this subject in scripture and Spirit of Prophecy and in scholarly papers by people on both sides.  This has led me to several key questions.  Number one, could it be that our traditional understanding of ordination has drifted far from any biblical roots?  Number two, could it be that we have actually followed a historical tradition of the middle-aged church that emphasized the hierarchy and distinction between the role of the pastor or priest and the average member that is not biblical?

How can we honestly make a biblical distinction between a woman who serves as a pastor and a woman who is ordained?  If it is biblically wrong to have an ordained woman pastor, how can we have a commissioned pastor or even women elders?  In voting against women's [122] ordination, would we not be saying that our almost 150-year history of Adventist women pastors has been 150 years of ignoring or rebelling against biblical principles?  How can we use Paul's words against women's ordination when they apply to the role and function of a woman and, if interpreted literally, would speak to the issue of women pastors, something that has already been decided by our World Church in General Conference session, and do we run the danger of undermining Ellen White's role?

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, sir. Microphone to my right. 

DELEGATE CHASE:  I'm Marshall Chase from the Southern California Conference, Simi Valley, California. I appreciated what has been mentioned in regard to the importance of the spirit of unity.  Recently, I retired after serving the church for 50 years, and my belief on this subject has been built over a period of 50 years, and having served outside of the North American Division in other divisions, I believe I have a little understanding of some of the challenges in other places in the world, but I recognize and I would not want to say anything or see us to do anything that would cause a spirit of congregationalism to develop in the church.

But I believe that certain things brought about in the [123] spirit of unity can be made possible to allow for culture in different parts of the world. For example, last week -- and I was with some of my family that had recently been on a trip to Egypt and they visited a Seventh-day Adventist church about six hours south of Cairo, just a small little church, and they were telling us how, in that church, it's one of the last churches to have, down the middle of the church, a wall built so that the women sit on one side and the men on the other side.  It may be a little time before that group could accept a decision by the General Conference to go in a certain direction, but that does not mean that we need to hold back until every place in the world would do that.

I believe that we need to be leaders, and my decision, how I'm going to vote, is because I believe that God called Mrs. White as the prophet for this church worldwide, and I do not think that any pastoral position is above that, and I think that we need to think in terms of helping the General Conference to make a decision, as they go through this process, that would be the right thing for the church to open the doors for the the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon all people.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Took it right down to the wire. Yes, the left mic, please. [124]

DELEGATE CANO:  Ramiro Cano, Central California Conference. Mr. Chairman, before you start me on my clock, I'm up here to speak about point of order. I also recognize that I could have come to the front of the line, but in deference to my brothers and sisters, I want to hear all of them.

Anyway, if we had not voted down the bylaws, I would not be here, but I'd like to point you to the Recorder of the June 12th, which made the notice. "Process:  Voted approval for the following process: Because the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee is committed to following denominational procedures and processes and to facilitate the involvement of the entire Union constituency, a special constituency business session will be called to consider amendments to the Pacific Union Conference bylaws to clearly authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender." 

This is why we were called here. Now that the bylaws have been defeated, we can no longer do what the notice says.  We can no longer authorize the ordination of ministers without regard to gender because we are not changing, clearly changing, the bylaws. Now, further down, it says that "Both the study [125] committee" -- and I will have to agree with this -- "Both the study committee and the Executive Committee made it clear that they are committed to following the established church processes and procedures."  Yes, I agree with that. So, Mr. Chairman, point of order.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you. I'd like to ask Jon Dagget to speak to that.  I think, clearly, what Brother Ramiro Cano has said is that since we have voted the bylaws change down, it is improper to take a vote on the second item, which is ordination of women. 

MR. DAGGET:  Thank you, Brother Cano. The notice is not deficient because, if you look at the bylaws in Article 5, it actually says the notice of a special session will be given in the same manner as a regular session.  The only reason the bylaws issue was specifically included is because there's another article in the bylaws that say if you're going to amend bylaws, that actual amendment has to be spelled out in the notice, but that notice does not limit what can be put by the Executive Committee on the agenda.

The Executive Committee desired to put both of these issues on the agenda so that you'd have the opportunity to discuss and vote on the ordination issue regardless [126] of what happens with bylaws, as the highest authority in the Union being the constituency. So my legal opinion is that the notice is not deficient because Article 5 and, I believe, it was Article 6, make clear that it does not have to include the second agenda item.

DELEGATE CANO:  And with all due respect, Mr. Attorney, it is an opinion that you give to this body, and we have, also, an opinion to accept or reject personally as we vote. However, in the second letter that we received -- or in the letter that we received from you, I'm still speaking to this, you basically said that we could go ahead and vote on the ordination and it is fine.  We can take -- we're still on point of order.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Well, I think I have a ruling here, and I rule that the discussion is appropriate. That's the ruling of the Chair.  Thank you for respecting it.

DELEGATE CANO:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Ramiro, I think –

DELEGATE CANO:  Am I understanding that you want me to cease?

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir.  Thank you. Yes, ma'am. [127]

DELEGATE PORT:  Heidi Port, Southern California Conference, and I'm a hospital chaplain. I have been painfully reminded this week of what scripture says, that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of evil and heavenly places. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Satan tried to kill the teenage grandson of Gary Paterson, a retired General Conference field secretary.  To save Nathan, he was put in a hyperthermic coma for several days.  Amazingly, for four days in a row before this frightful Wednesday, God directed Nathan's older brother to the story of the death of Lazarus in John 11.  Four days in a row, each time he was directed to the verse where Jesus says, "This sickness will not end in death, but it is for the glory of God."  What Satan intended for evil to this faithful family of ministers, grandfather, father, and Nathan's mother, who is a dynamic woman in ministry, God will turn for good. Nathan is beginning to come out of his coma.  Please join with those around the country praying for his complete recovery.

In reading the whole chapter of John 11 this week, I was struck by the reaction of the priest and Pharisees to the resurrection of Lazarus.  They were not [128] moved by this miracle.  They were not rejoicing in how the Spirit of God was working in the life of Jesus to bring healing and salvation.  No, the church leaders called a meeting of the Sanhedrin focused on how they could stop him.  Their fear, that their temple and nation would be destroyed.

A couple months later, when the apostles were called in on the red carpet for preaching Jesus, the well respected Pharisee Gamaliel counseled the church leaders, "Leave them alone.  If their purpose is of human origin, it will fail, but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them.  You will only find yourselves fighting against God." Ellen White clearly states that it is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors of the flock of God.  Sisters and brothers, be sure you're not found fighting against God.

ELDER GRAHAM:  To the microphone to my left. Yes, sir.

DELEGATE WHITE:  I'm Charles White, senior pastor of the Camelback Adventist Church in Phoenix, Arizona.  I have served in pastoral ministry for over 40 years, and I love the Seventh-day Adventist church. I'm impressed with how I see God using women in [129] every aspect of leadership in ministry.  For the past 26 years, I have had the privilege of working with committed Christian women on the board of elders.  My wife, Diane, is on our staff, and I have seen her minister effectively to people that a man could not help. I am a great grandson of James and Ellen White, and I thank you for the opportunity to share five brief excerpts from my great grandmother's writings. I quote,

"Let every individual labor to help forward this grand work.  Place the burden upon men and women of the church," Review and Herald, 1895. 

Another quote, "There are woman who should labor in the gospel ministry," Manuscript Release 5, 325.

Another quote, "It is the accompaniment of the Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God," 6 T, 322.

"The Lord desires His ministering service to occupy a place worthy of the highest consideration.  In the mind of God, the ministry of men and women existed before the world was created," Manuscript Release 18, 380.

"Women can manage a church," Letter 33, 1879.

During Ellen White's lifetime, 31 women were [130] granted ministerial credentials to preach, evangelize, and plant churches.  When James White died, Ellen White accepted pay as an ordained minister and had papers that referred to her as ordained, some years with that word crossed out, other years, with it left in, though she stated that she never received the laying on of hands. We're living in significant times that demand appropriate responses.  She, herself, said circumstances alter conditions.  It is surely time that we should fully recognize women who are called to God and ordained by the Holy Spirit.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Elder. 

DELEGATE PALMA:  Madelyn Palma, representative for Inland Empire Filipino church.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Could you say that again, please?

DELEGATE PALMA:  My name is Madelyn Palma.  I represent the Inland Empire Filipino church in Redlands, California.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you.

DELEGATE PALMA:  It is a privilege to be here today.  I'm 45 years old, just like my sister, and it is a shame today that we are not in collaboration with our relationship, personal relationship, with Jesus Christ. Now is the time.  There is a sense of urgency, [131] and the sense of urgency is:  Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  We will not serve anything more than that because it is our responsibility today to have the voice, and that voice today is if we are a dynamic church, if this is a movement, move it.  Just move it. You know, I'm reminded of the fear, F-E-A-R.  It's false expectations appearing real.  Why are you scared?  Get on with it.  The Lord said go for it.  Go unto all nations and proclaim His gospel.  The message is the Cross.  The messenger, we are just mere vessels.  That's what we are all about.  So today, make it a conscience today to make sure that when you vote, vote in such a way that you will never regret because you're voting for the life, for your life, and for the next generation to come.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir, to the left.

DELEGATE TABOR:  Gary Tabor, pastor, Southeastern California Conference. We have been asked not to act until another study of ordination has been completed.  We cannot.

Three studies have concluded that there's nothing in the scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy to prohibit such action.  No new scripture or quotation has since come to light. [132]

Second, the outcome of the study announced that the last GC session is already certain.  The deck has been stacked by the process itself.  The first step in the process is to have a different study commissioned for each of the 13 divisions, the majority of whom have already stated their opposition to women's ordination in spite of the results of the previous studies. The second step is for the GC administrative committee to appoint a Theology of Ordination Study Committee, to take the 13 reports, facilitate global discussions, and make a recommendation to the GC Executive Committee.  The third step is for the Executive Committee to receive the report and take it to the 2014's Annual Council, who will determine what action, if any, should be recommended to the 2015 GC session. 

It seems as if the purpose for another study is, at best, to delay women's ordination; at worst, it is to study it to death. In Galatians 3, Paul says the gospel says that there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, neither male nor female."  In 50 AD, the Jerusalem counsel fulfilled "neither Jew nor Greek."  In 1889, Pastor Charles Kenny became the first Seventh-day Adventist former slave to be ordained, 26 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, thus fulfilling "neither [133] slave nor free." 1,962 years have passed since the Jerusalem counsel.  123 years have passed since Charles Kenny was ordained.  168 years since Ellen White's call to the prophetic ministry.  Forty years since the first study of women's ordination, and we have yet to see "neither male nor female" become a reality, and the GC administration wants to delay or derail the gospel and the final step in equality by commissioning another study.  Enough is enough.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir, to the right.

DELEGATE WISBEY:  My name is Ron Wisbey.  I'm a member of the Napa Community Seventh-day Adventist Church, and I'm here with the Northern California Conference delegation. I have waited for over 30 years to attend a meeting like this and be able to speak positively to an actual motion in favor of the gender neutral ordination. In 1980, we moved to the Potomac Conference and found an Executive Committee that was passionate about justice and equality as a moral imperative. And we were able, in 1984, to stand with each of our women pastors as they baptized their own candidates instead of watching another ordained pastor do it for them.  The church did not split.  We provided [134] them equal pay and full ministerial license, and the church, contrary to many comments that came our way, did not split. Because of these actions and those actions by one conference and one Union, today, all women pastors have full ministerial rights short of ordination. 

It is unfortunate, but stepping out in front has always been the primary road to change within our denomination. As a World Church, we are very diverse culturally.  And while it is not appropriate for us to ask certain divisions to perform gender neutral ordinations, it is also not appropriate for them or the General Conference to hold us hostage to another study when they know that their culture and their needs will not permit them to vote for the ordination of women. For the past 50 years, previous studies and committees have shown that this is not a matter of theology, or thus saith the Lord, the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy.  This is a matter of culture.

I sincerely believe that we are doing God's business here today.  Mr. Chairman, I honor you and your Executive Committee for bringing us to this point. I began my ministry 1958.  I have been in the halls of administrative carriages of this church most of the time since, and the day I vote in favor of this, it [135] will be the most sacred and fulfilling vote that I have made in those years. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Elder.  Yes, to the left.

DELEGATE ANDERSON:  Marla Anderson from Carmel Valley, California. When the masses perceive a wrong and the legislative and executive bodies fail to timely act, then the masses have to go to the body that they need to go to in order to be heard.  Similarly, in the Civil Rights era, when the legislation and when the executive branches failed to act in discrimination, the masses went to the courts to be heard so that the legislative and the executive could act in order to end desegregation.  The reason why we're here now is because the legislative and executive bodies have failed to timely act.

I can remember a time, for those of you who are into the masses and let the church body decide at the next session, my family moved to Takoma Park when I was in the second grade.  My father went two-and-a-half blocks down the street to register us in John Nevins Andrew school -- and I will call them out in honor of my father -- and we were told that we could not register in [136] that school because of the color of our skin and they only took one out of the family.  I went to public school in the second grade.  There was no one from the General Conference, and I lived in Takoma Park, who corrected that.

In the third grade, I went to Salonga Elementary, and again, we were told they could take one and not four people of our color.  It took us a while to get in. So when we perceive a wrong, do we let those in charge silence us and speak to make it right?  And in seeing the time, the Bible has told us that in the last days, God is going to pour out His Spirit on men and women, and we cannot tell God who to pour out His Spirit on? What we need to do now is understand, when I tell my daughter when the world is calling her to the highest level of employment to be a doctor, lawyer, judge, and the church is not calling her to the higher level of employment, what am I telling my daughter about her God?

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir, to my right.

DELEGATE ROBELLA:  I'm Harrison Robella.  From Central California Conference.  I think this vote is extremely important today.  Those of us who have been GC [137] delegates have, for now several sessions, been frustrated because there has been a clear intention to use the argument of unity to muzzle and to silence that which should be a discussion done respectfully and in a Christ-like manner.  Sometimes unity is used to hinder and to avoid important topics because policy or tradition dictates it.

We are thankful for the Theology of Ordination Committee, but it is not the only voice that can communicate to the Annual Council or to the church leadership.  This vote is important today because it will also send a message to the Annual Council that this is a topic that needs to be brought up again to the World Church.

There is confusion between what is policy and church doctrine, and I do thank Randy Roberts today for clearing that up.  I'm not disappointed that that first motion failed because I am now reminded that we're operating in accordance with Galatians 3:28.  We're operating in accordance with the church doctrine and with the Fundamental Belief Number 14, and we're operating in accordance with GC Working Policy BA 60 on equality. So this vote today actually is not a policy issue.  This is affirming how we are really in policy [138] with church doctrine and what God wants us to do.

ELDER NEWTON:  Pardon me, delegates.  I'm sorry to interrupt your debate, but I do want to just do a little housekeeping with you.  Some of you have plane flights and you have a shuttle schedule and you have that voucher.  Look on your time.  The first shuttle is out there right now.  We don't want you to miss your plane, if you needed to.  So I apologize for that interruption, but I didn't want you to be disappointed.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, ma'am, please.

DELEGATE McMILLIN:  Sheryl Prince McMillim from Southeastern California Conference.  I felt called to ministry and took theology in college, but I was told that women couldn't be ordained, but not to worry, it would happen before I got into ministry.  And when I graduated in 1986, it wasn't quite ready, but I was told by the Southeastern Conference come anyway.  Very soon, the world will be ready for you.  I came, and I didn't want to be ordained.  I just wanted to do ministry. Then I got into a little church that said, "Why aren't you ordained?" And I said, "Oh, the church wasn't ready, policy, we have to stay together." The church said, "Isn't ordination a blessing [139] saying that you have our affirmation to do ministry?" And for the first time ever, I wanted to be ordained.  I wanted to be blessed by my church. 

I was nine months pregnant when I was ordained by my church in our conference.  And my daughter has grown up thinking of her mom as a pastor as well as her dad as a pastor, and she was floored to find out that the church doesn't do it, officially, as a whole church. My daughter drove down here today because she feels a little vested in this interest, even though my daughter hasn't gone to church herself in over a year and a half, but she cared about this interest and was focused and told at the door that there was no room for her, and her words to me as she drove away -- she's almost 17 now -- was, "That's okay.  The church will never change and have room for me."

My 17-year-old daughter was in my womb when I was ordained, attesting to the fact that waiting for another General Conference, another study is not appropriate.  Our children will leave.  They don't understand what the issue is.  They don't see that policy trumps people and that procedure and history takes over gospel.  They see that ministry should be done by all now.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, sir. [140]

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Good afternoon, Brethren.  I come to you from the Alhambra Church, in East L.A., a well mixed salad of a congregation.  In our history, we have had a black Englishman as our senior pastor.  We have also had an Argentine woman as our senior pastor, who is now one of the most sought after speakers in Adventism as well as one of its most prolific writers in all of Adventism. Some criticize, but we found that our unity was enhanced by such pastoral leadership and did not lead to disunity. 

Now, in voting today to allow ordination without regard to gender, we will not be the first Union to do so.  The North German Union took that policy in April of this year, Columbia Union took it in July.  We would be the third.  This is not a rejection of unity as portrayed by the GC's letter sent to you. Pacific Union is not leaving the sisterhood of Adventist churches.  Rather, Pacific Union would be among the unions leading Adventism in the way it should go. 

Now, your GC officers advise rejection of this proposal and even didn't want this meeting to happen. They have provided you with a clumsy contraption to continue to study the problem of ordination of women, and maybe, just maybe the GC will take this up in 2015. Brothers and sisters, the GC has been studying [141] this problem for 62 years.  Sixty-two years.  This is not the action done by those who want to make decisions. This is continued inaction by giving the allusion of action.

Now, in a church founded by a woman, whose continuing guiding authority is the Spirit of Prophecy manifested in a woman, whose writings and practice are held up almost on par with scripture itself, to not allow ordination of women is both an embarrassment and an affront to God, an affront because God created mankind in His own imagine.  Male and female, He created them.  Therefore, it requires both male and female to fully reflect all aspects of the image of God. Discrimination in the name of unity is simply wrong.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Yes, ma'am.

DELEGATE MILLER:  My name is Penny Miller, and I'm proudly from the Southeastern California Conference and have been truly blessed by the attitude and the wisdom of the people in that conference.  I have served on the conference committee for various times for over 14 years, and I had the chance of being a leader of the gender-inclusive commission which was voted by our constituency.  We went around the officers and people from the conference committee, and we had discussions in every area of our conference.  We went through all of [142] these decisions about what is proper and what is not proper, and we felt very supported.  By the time we had talked to all the churches, we most always have a positive vote in favor of being inclusive. I am proud to be a member of the Adventist church, but I'm embarrassed about this issue, just as a politician is not respected if they belong to a country club that discriminates against Blacks or Hispanics or women even. 

I don't want to belong to a church that discriminates against women.  I think it makes God look bad and it makes us look bad.  We have been greatly blessed by the women in our conference, and I can't wait for our whole church to be blessed by the ministry of women.  As He has done in the past, He will do in the future. Thank you for a positive vote on this today.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you. Yes, sir, to the right.

DELEGATE WISBEY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Randal Wisbey, La Sierra University, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Pacific Union Conference. For those of us who have been blessed to work with young people, Adventist young people, our interactions have supported the years of research our [143] denomination has conducted through the Valuegenesis study.  Repeatedly, we have been told that Adventist young people process truth relationally.  Their assertion, let me see it with your life before you tell it to me with your words.  They expect their church to act at the highest level of ethical responsibility, and when we do not, they lose faith.

Today we have been given the opportunity to show the young adults I daily interact with that we are no longer willing to simply make assertions with our words.  Today we're willing to act. 

It is no longer possible to ask women pastors to take the same steps of ministerial preparation, to assume the same roles of ministry, to produce the same quality of work as their male colleagues, and then to ordain them as local church elders while withholding ordination to the gospel ministry.  It is morally reprehensible to hold back from women the one thing that formally recognizes their work within our church. Today we have been given the privilege to act with justice, with mercy, and with courage.  In a time that decries hurtful relationships, we must not allow the church we love to any longer promote invisible barriers and walls that keep some from full participation. [144]

As a church that longs to effectively pass faith on to the next generations, I, today, ask my fellow delegates to reveal to all those who are watching that here, in the Pacific Union, we are no longer willing to merely speak with our words, our core beliefs, and commitments today.  We will act.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Dr. Wisbey. Yes, ma'am.

DELEGATE FERITAZA:  My name is Isabel Feritaza, and my point is, if ordination to the ministry is not biblical, why are we debating ordination of women to the ministry?  Both of them, if they are called by the Holy Spirit, they should receive our blessings. What way we will do it, if we will follow the tradition and the practice of church?  It doesn't matter if it's for the good or fulfill our mission.  But I have a little problem with the word "gender" because it's a new generation or a new movement that has called themselves a "new gender" and are homosexual and lesbians.  So I would be careful about that word being used in this change, but I'm totally in favor of the ordination of women or men, whoever is being called by the Holy Spirit.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Thank you, Isabel. Yes, to the right. [145]

DELEGATE ACIENCIO:  Edna Aciencio, Southeastern California Conference.  I want to share an affirmation of my calling into pastoral ministries. I was on the continent of Africa when it became apparent to myself, and the other women that I was with, that the presence, our presence, would not be accepted as pastors in that culture, and feeling that our presence would be more harmful to the gospel ministry than helpful, we were ready in that culture to step down, and yet, in the midst of our confusion, it was the African conference pastors, the African conference leaders, and the African Union leaders that told us that we did not come all the way out there to sit down and be silent.  If it were not for their affirmation and encouragement, if it were not for them standing up and saying that we are willing to work alongside you, we would not have experienced that God could use even a woman to start a church at every single one of our sites, along with our male colleagues; that God can use even a woman to baptize and to contribute to the three thousand baptisms that happened as a result of our work through the men and women working side by side.  And I don't know what ordination is if it is not an affirmation of what God is already doing in someone's life, and I don't believe that God is waiting for our [146] approval for who He will pour His Spirit out upon. I believe that God can use even a woman as a gifted leader in our church, but the question remains will we recognize that God will and is using women through the affirmation that we have come to call ordination? I'd like to call a question.

ELDER GRAHAM:  Is there a second?


ELDER GRAHAM:  I thought that the applause was a second for that motion. Point of order?  Yes, point of order. 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  If you make a speech, you cannot make a motion to call for question.  That was your moment.  You cannot do that.  I appeal to the parliamentarian.

ELDER GRAHAM:  I just talked to one parliamentarian.  I'll talk to the other one now. Our parliamentarian is looking through his Roberts Book of Rules. What the parliamentarians have both said is that we can ask the delegation to decide by a vote.  I'm talking to the parliamentarians, and they're saying that we ask for a vote on that by two-thirds. Go ahead with the motion on ceasing the debate, [147] that is it appropriate to do that following a speech.  I know we heard different.  It may be tradition, but they are saying that we can do that.  Am I correct, parliamentarians?  Yes, I'm correct. All right.  That motion then, cease debate, and we'll have a polling.  We have it up.  Moving the previous question. You have your voting devices.  All in favor, push number one.  Voting is open.  All oppose, push number two.

(Vote taken to cease discussion and vote on the issue.)

ELDER GRAHAM:  The parliamentarians just told me -- the previous question passed. Would you like to know the latest word from the parliamentarian?  That the GC rules of order are silent on that, and those are the rules that we operate by in our sessions. I know that there were many people who had speeches ready.  I am sorry that you didn't get a chance to make those speeches.  While we are calming down a bit, I think there was a reference to the German Union voting this.  I think I have been told that the German Union reversed their ruling.  No?  Okay. All right.  I am told that the Union has accepted the Division's counsel to wait, Union officers, [148] Union administration. Okay.  Go, then, to our motion before us, and we probably should pray.  Can I get a woman?  Alice, would you pray for us, please?  Yes, Alice, I'm calling you out.  It's dangerous for me to know your name. Would you come to the microphone, please, and pray for us before we vote?

(Prayer by Alice Soderblom.)

ELDER GRAHAM:  Just before we vote, remember that what you're doing by your vote is you're instructing the Executive Committee on what you want them to do.  All right.  Brad, would you read the wording of the motion for us again, please?

ELDER NEWTON:  So many papers move around here. It's going to take me a second to get back there because I want to do it right.  That makes it easy. "That the Pacific Union Conference approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender."

ELDER GRAHAM:  All in favor, press your number one; all opposed, number two.  Voting is open.

(Vote taken.)

ELDER GRAHAM:  Voting is closed. (334 approve; 87 disapprove. [p.149]  79 percent voted yes; 21 percent voted no.)

ELDER GRAHAM:  Now, before we leave, I wish that maybe we had not applauded that way because I don't think that this is necessarily, quote, a win, but we have expressed our opinion through our vote.  The most important thing we have to determine is how to stay together and to move forward. Since I did not know how the outcome would be, not having a prophetic gift, I didn't prepare a closing speech.  However, I would say, since I have no carefully prepared notes, that we have registered our conscience through our vote.  We have had discussion, debate, and now let's go do the work of God. Let's stand for our benediction.

(Closing benediction.) [150]