World Church TOSC Considers Division Reports

The world church Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), during its January 2014 meeting, considered reports from the 13 worldwide divisions. An initial report from the Adventist News Network (ANN) indicates that while five divisions have voted to be supportive of women’s ordination, several others, even though individually opposed to that step, would support whatever world church action is eventually taken. The full reports can be found at the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research website.

The final TOSC meeting in June will likely establish recommendations for the denomination’s Executive Committee meeting at Annual Council in October. That meeting, in turn, will have the challenge of developing a recommendation for the agenda of the July 2015 General Conference Session.

Geoffrey Mbwana, TOSC vice-chair, says there is a sense of unity among TOSC members.“All divisions have indicated they are willing to work with whatever is decided and to go forward with the mission of the church.” Read more from the Adventist News Network.

According to the initial ANN report, a summary of the division TOSC reports and positions on the topic of women’s ordination follows. The quotes representing the divisions are from each individual TOSC report.

East-Central African Division: “After thorough examination of Scripture, the Writings of Ellen White, and the scholarly papers that are for the ordination of women and those that are against, there is still not light as to whether [women] may be ordained as pastors.…The committee is almost convinced that there are two possibilities: A. Both sides of the debate on women ordination do not really understand the New Testament passages which read like women ordination should not be considered; B. The whole church has not given much thought as to what women may do uniquely and be affirmed to advance the redemptive ministry and mission of God. So, before there is complete clarity about the authentic Scriptural intent about the issue, [our Biblical Research Committee] says ‘not yet’ to the ordination of women.… Our committee is convinced that the church needs to continue to ‘seek understanding’ so that the delegates to GC in [San Antonio] in 2015 may produce good results by voting intelligently.”

Euro-Asia Division: “[T]aking into account the cultural context in which the church is to fulfill its service in Euro-Asia Division, and keeping in mind the church’s missiological interests, the [division] Executive Committee discourages the practice of the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry.”

Inter-American Division: “There is no explicit mandate in the Bible for the ordination of women to church leadership, yet there is no command against the same….The Inter-American Division is willing to accept the ecclesiastical decision taken by the [Seventh-day Adventist Church] in plenary session.”

Inter-European Division: “Since ordination does not contradict the teachings of the Bible and might foster the mission of the church, we think that there is room for the church to ordain women for pastoral ministry.…Whatever decision is considered, a basic unity of the worldwide church in faith and practice should be preserved."

North American Division: “In harmony with our biblical study, we recommend that ordination to gospel ministry, as an affirmation of the call of God, be conferred by the church on men and women….The committee humbly recommends that the North American Division support the authorization of each division to consider, through prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, its most appropriate approach to the ordination of women to gospel ministry.”

Northern Asia-Pacific Division: We recommend that the World Church place “Mission First” as a priority and that we focus on sharing the three angels’ messages with the world. This means that we recommend that both men and women should be encouraged and recognized by the church through ordination to the pastoral ministry.... We further recommend that the implementation of ordination of women will be determined by each division taking into consideration its impact on mission and unity within its territories.”

South American Division: “[W]omen should not be ordained to the pastoral ministry….“The church should further investigate the possibility of the ordination of men and women to ministries other than the pastoral ministry.”

South Pacific Division: “The Biblical Research Committee of the South Pacific Division does not see any scriptural principle which would be an impediment to women being ordained….The calling of the Holy Spirit needs to be recognized for both men and women. There is a sense of injustice that needs to be addressed….The mission of the church is a primary determinant of praxis, both in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and in its climax as the Holy Spirit is poured out on both men and women during the latter rain.”

Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division: “The Old Testament and New Testament demonstrate that no women were ordained….Since there is no biblical support for the ordination of woman pastors, then the ordination of women elders should also not be considered.”

Southern Asia Division: “We recognize that there is no direct teaching in the Scriptures or the Spirit of Prophecy that either prescribes or prohibits the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry. …In the absence of direct teaching in inspired writings we accept the authority of the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to take a decision. … We have no objection if the world church takes a decision to allow certain areas of the world to ordain women to pastoral ministry.”

Southern Asia-Pacific Division: “[The Southern Asia-Pacific Division] will follow the voice of the Spirit and the world church upon its voted decision in July 2015 at the GC Session.”

Trans-European Division: “We propose that a recommendation be brought to the General Conference Session in 2015, that it approves a revised policy in which unions, whose constituency meetings in session have voted approval and whose division committee has voted approval, be allowed to maintain an inclusive pastoral ministry which removes all gender distinctions within the work of the church in that union territory."

West-Central Africa Division: “The West-Central Africa Division by consensus does not recommend the ordination of women into ordained pastoral ministry. However, if at the General Conference Session the world church votes in favor of women’s ordination, [the division] will not threaten the unity of the church despite its disagreement to such a decision. Instead, we will consider women’s ordination as a matter of conscience, and will continue to study and pray for light on the subject brighter than there is now.”

 The committees representing each division are expected to post their papers at AdventistArchives.org in the near future.

January 30, 2014 / ordination
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