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.STUDY GROUP: TOSC members are meeting daily in small group discussions focused on key Bible passages that bear on the issue of ordaining women to ministry. [Ansel Oliver/ANN]" class="img-right">
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
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.
PRESENTATION: Richard Sabuin, Dean of the Theological Seminary at AIIAS (Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies), a General Conference educational institution in the Philippines, presented a portion of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division report. [Ansel Oliver/ANN]" class="img-left">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.