‘Very Frank’ Discussion Continues For Ordination Study Committee In Maryland Meeting
BY ADVENTIST REVIEW STAFF
“It’s a pity we can’t harness some of the heat generated in our committee room,” laughed one member of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee as outside temperatures hovered in the single digits. “We could probably warm most of central Maryland.”
The fourth day of the TOSC meetings in Columbia, 10 miles from the General Conference building, featured summary presentations of key theological presentations given during the January 21-25 commission, as well as sketches of possible outcomes for a world church trying to move unitedly on the matter of ordination.
Earlier sessions on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons generated increasingly candid assessments of the differing positions. Several presenters critiqued the interpretive methods used by those in favor of ordaining women to gospel ministry, and were met by challenging queries during scheduled question-and-answer sessions. Major points of difference included the topic of male headship as a Biblical imperative; the apostle Paul’s description of the ordained leader as “husband of one wife” (I Timothy 3:2); and the belief by several presenters that theological consistency requires the church to reverse its current position and no longer ordain women even as local congregational elders.
“These meetings have featured frank—even very frank—descriptions of the positions on both sides of this matter,” said Artur Stele, chair of the TOSC and director of the church’s Biblical Research Institute. “At times, we’ve had to caution each other about the temptation to describe the hermeneutics of those we differ from as impermissible or unbiblical. I believe that everyone who has participated in this process has come with a genuine desire to find out what the Word of God teaches, and how we can identify solutions that allow the church to stay focused on its worldwide mission. I’ve been gratified to see a growing sense of camaraderie and understanding as we’ve move through this process.”
The five-day event has also allotted generous time for small group discussions, with specific Bible passages as the focus of the conversation. More than eight hours in total were designated to discuss the Creation account of the creation of man and woman (Genesis 1-3); Paul’s counsel to Timothy about the behavior of women in worship (1 Tim 2:12-14, I Cor 11); the apostle’s “neither male nor female” description of what it means to be “in Christ” (Gal 3:28); and the application of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 to the contemporary church.
Friday’s schedule also gave time for looking ahead. Barry Oliver, president of the South Pacific Division, shared a vision about how a possible decision to ordain women to gospel ministry might be received by the world membership, while C. Raymond Holmes, retired associate dean of the SDA Theological Seminary, urged TOSC members to maintain the church’s current position.
On Friday evening, TOSC members will hear a musical concert presented by members of the Baltimore First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, and a vesper message from TOSC chair Artur Stele.
Evangelist Mark Finley, assistant to the General Conference president, will lead in a Sabbath morning program focused on understanding the mission and methods of the first-century Christian Church as described in the Book of Acts.
“This TOSC experience is in some sense a civics lesson for Adventist theology and those who care about it,” said Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, and a member of the TOSC. “The announced topics are understanding the Biblical teaching about ordination and whether that status should be conferred on qualified female leaders. But at least as important are the lessons we are learning about mutual respect, careful descriptions of those with whom we differ, and the necessity of trusting that the Spirit is at work in other Adventist lives.”
The 103 members of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee hail from each of the church’s 13 world divisions, and include representatives of the church’s educational system, administration, pastoral ministry, laypersons and supporting ministries.
A fourth and final week of meetings is scheduled for June 2014. TOSC leaders expect to develop recommendations in June for the October 2014 Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee. That group decides what items to recommend for the agenda of the 2015 quinquennial General Conference session.
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