Ordination Study Committee Meets in Snowy Maryland
Third multi-day meeting of international commission to focus on regional reports and recommendations
An intense winter snowstorm buffeted suburban Maryland Tuesday morning as members of the church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) gathered in Columbia for the third working session of the 103-person international commission.
By midday, more than 90 members had arrived, some struggling to reach the site because of cancelled flights and deteriorating road conditions. Others are expected to join the meetings on Wednesday when weather is predicted to improve. The committee will work 12-hour days through Friday afternoon, January 24, finishing their session with worship and fellowship activities on Friday night and Sabbath.
Two previous working sessions of the TOSC in January and July, 2013 laid foundations in Biblical interpretation, offered differing perspectives on key Biblical passages, and developed a consensus statement for the group on the Biblical understanding of ordination.
Tuesday’s working sessions focused on reports from ten of the denomination’s 13 world divisions, each represented by several committee members. The reports provided summaries of the findings of division-level Biblical Research Committees that had studied the topics of ordination and the suitability of ordaining women to gospel ministry.
Each report also featured recommendations to TOSC to be included in the overall study.
Presenters from each division answered questions from TOSC members, including queries about the division-level study groups’ male/female ratio, and whether representatives of both major positions were adequately heard in the committee process.
Although different opinions have been expressed, a spirit of understanding, congeniality, humility, and openness prevailed. The BRC reports of the day concluded with a session of prayer and thanksgiving.
Small group discussion sessions, each led by two moderators, took place focusing on the first three chapters of the book of Genesis.
A Tuesday evening Q & A session will allow the members of the large TOSC group to ask follow-up questions that have been sent by TOSC members while studying the presentations from the previous session.
The Wednesday workday will largely follow the Tuesday pattern, with the remaining three divisions bringing reports of their study processes and recommendations to TOSC.
Thursday will feature detailed presentations on specific Biblical passages deemed critical to the discussion from both those in favor and those opposed to ordaining women. Strengths and weaknesses of the several positions will be probed in a Thursday afternoon session, followed by more exegetical Bible study and a seminar on Biblical methods of interpretation.
TOSC chair Artur Stele and vice-chair Geoffrey Mbwana have designed the Friday working time to focus on possible outcomes envisioned by advocates of the differing positions. A Friday evening vesper service by the Baltimore First Seventh-day Adventist Church will feature inspirational music and a message from Stele.
On Sabbath, January 25, Mark Finley, longtime evangelist for the world church and TOSC member, will lead in a mission-focused morning of teaching, preaching and small group discussion.
TOSC leaders expect the five-day experience to end with a sundown vesper hour of sharing and fellowship on Sabbath afternoon.
The Theology of Ordination Study Committee was created by the Administrative Committee of the General Conference in October 2012, and commissioned to bring recommendations for the GC Executive Committee to review at its October 2014 meeting. The 2014 Annual Council will decide what items to move forward to the agenda of the General Conference session planned for San Antonio, Texas, in July 2015.