Answers to Questions Regarding NPUC Process on Women in Leadership
Why is the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) discussing the topic of women’s ordination?
Our Seventh-day Adventist Church, since the early pioneers and Ellen White’s own ministry, has stood for the priesthood of all believers not restricted to age, ethnicity or gender. Because this issue has been discussed for decades and recently brought to a head by recent decisions of other union conferences, many members and leaders have asked NPUC leadership to address it candidly and objectively. Although our current NPUC bylaws do not preclude the ordination of women, we feel it is important to examine biblical counsel and the good advice of our Northwest believers.
Does this place the NPUC in a position contrary to world church policy?
We do not believe so, and have not currently taken any position that would contradict our church’s official stance. We respect our world church leadership and understand the challenges they face in addressing diverse cultural norms around the world. Yet our church structure, with its geographical divisions, unions and local conferences, is uniquely set up to adapt the outreach of its mission and message to cultural differences. Since union conferences have been tasked with the responsibility of determining ordinations within their territories, the NPUC feels this topic is important and appropriate to address here.
What about the world church study on the theology of ordination? How will that impact any NPUC action? That world church committee is tasked with bringing a report in 2014. It is possible but not certain that it will be an agenda item at the 2015 General Conference session. Some have actively wondered if perhaps our system of ordination is not even biblical, but rather, based on a tradition far removed from our own Protestant roots. Our NPUC Ad Hoc Committee received its own study on the topic of ordination in a paper by Dr. John McVay, incoming Walla Walla University president. A copy of that document, entitled “Reflections on the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is available online. As the world church studies its theological stance on ordination, we will eagerly join in that discussion. In the meantime, our own discovery process will move forward.
What process has been put in place to pursue a NPUC-wide decision on this issue? More than a year ago, the NPUC executive committee set up a smaller Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Leadership which met during 2012 and looked at the issue from the perspectives of history, mission, church policy and unity. It presented a recommendation to the November 14 executive committee meeting that favored a decision in favor of the ordination of women. Executive committee members felt that before any firm decision on the issue is finalized an intentional effort should be made to bring as many Northwest members into the discussion as possible. Because of this, the executive committee voted at the Nov. 14 meeting to inform and educate members about the issue of ordination without regard to gender, to invite them to add their voice to the discussion and to allow for a potential future special constituency session to bring any proposed action to a vote.
So no timeline has yet been set up for any firm decisions?
No … however, that will be determined as soon as possible and presented here and on the soon-to-be-created NPUC Women in Leadership website.
Has the NPUC leadership already made up their minds? Is this process just an empty exercise?
Many of our executive committee members and other leaders believe strongly in the value of equal inclusion of women in all facets of Adventist ministry and leadership. Many others are supportive of women in ministry, but very opposed to the idea of ordaining women. No decision has been made, or will be made, without a clear process of conversation, active listening, biblical study and prayer. Some of that has already happened, and now we are expanding the invitation to all Northwest members. Through the process we will also stay in touch with our world church and division leaders.
Will the NPUC share any documents or reports that were developed by the Ad Hoc Committee?
Yes, the paper by Dr. John McVay referred to above, “Reflections on the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is currently online and others will be online and linked here shortly.
How do we share our personal feedback to NPUC leadership on this issue?
As soon as NPUC leadership has determined an active process and timeline for discussion, more information will be added to this FAQ to provide instructions on how and where you may respond in a structured way to this issue. In the meantime, you are welcome to send your responses to us. We plan to set up an NPUC Women in Leadership blog that should be online the week after Thanksgiving, where you can join a more public conversation. We realize there are many strong feelings about this topic on all different sides of the issue. Remember that it’s very possible for good people to have very different perspectives, so keep respect in the center of your comments.
As questions and comments come in, this FAQ page will no doubt adapt and expand. Thanks for being a respectful part of this ongoing process.