, North American Division, and , news editor, Adventist Review
The North American Division’s Executive Committee has unanimously adopted a statement that encourages “respectful, Christ-like dialogue” between Adventists, particularly in regard to the upcoming 2015 General Conference Session vote on women’s ordination.
The motion stemmed from a concern expressed at the division’s year-end meetings about the tone of the discussion at various levels of the Seventh-day Adventist world church.
Division president Daniel R. Jackson told delegates that they were called to discuss issues with the understanding and compassion modeled by Christ.
“I don’t think it’s part of our mission to start attacking each other just because we don’t agree,” Jackson said Sunday during a discussion on the ordination of women. “I’m not saying for a moment that we don’t have the right to disagree, but God has given us the responsibility to share His love.”
In response to Jackson’s call for civility of discourse, the delegates approved a statement that includes the following guidelines:
“1. We resolve to encourage expressions of disagreement that are honest and open based upon a sincere desire to arrive at truth as expressed in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy;“
"2. We resolve to first communicate with those with whom we disagree and listen non-judgmentally to their positions so that we can represent those positions accurately before critiquing them;
“3. We resolve to avoid the use of sarcasm, cartoons, anecdotes, parody or any other form of insinuation to diminish the reputation or personhood of others;
“4. We resolve to refrain from sponsoring or countenancing online or offline dialogue that vilifies or depreciates the good name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in general or the reputations of its individual members in particular.
“We, therefore, resolve to avoid participating in, or being party to, all forms of unhealthy and demeaning discourse. Our aim is to govern our communication according to the high standards of Christian conduct found in the guidelines of this statement so that God may be glorified in all we say and do.”
Two unions in the North American Division started ordaining women in 2012 despite appeals from the General Conference, which oversees the world church, to wait for a recently completed two-year study on the theology of ordination.
A union in the Inter-European Division and one in the Trans-European Division have also approved the ordination of women, but neither division has adopted a statement like the North American Division, local leaders said.
“We discussed the issue [of women’s ordination] in our year-end meeting, which just finished yesterday, and our general position is that we will show respect to each other's position and commit ourselves to the unity of the church because a decision in either direction will leave behind happy and unhappy people,” Gabriel Maurer, executive secretary of the Inter-European Division, said Wednesday.
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, has repeatedly called for a Christ-like attitude during discussions on women’s ordination, and he has urged all church members to examine the issue for themselves through Bible study and prayer.
Meanwhile, the Euro-Asia Division, largely covering the territory of the former Soviet Union, agreed on Thursday to respect the final decision of the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, next July and to respect fellow church members who might have a different point of view on women’s ordination. The statement, approved by local church leaders at the division’s year-end meeting, says:
“1. We will commit in prayer during the following eight months for the Holy Spirit to speak to our minds and hearts through the fervent study of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, and
”2. We will earnestly pray for God’s guidance to the delegates of the 60th General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that He show us His will on this sensitive issue of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry even though ESD board members have a strong conviction and position that was expressed in a statement that we approved at the ESD year-end meetings in 2013,
“3. We will respect our brethren who hold a different position and demonstrate in words and attitudes a Christ-like character of love, common understanding and brotherly relationship, pursuing for the unity of the church as one family. Therefore,
“4. We want to accept and abide by the final decision of the GC session 2015, the highest authority of our church on Earth, in conviction that the prayerful decision, guided by the Holy Spirit, will help our church as a family to remain united in the fulfillment of the mission.”
Guillermo E. Biaggi, president of the Euro-Asia Division, said local church leaders have asked God to guide the final decision.
“We earnestly prayed this morning at the ESD year-end meetings for the Lord to guide our church worldwide to focus on Christ and the fulfillment of the mission as we remain united under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” Biaggi said.