U.S. Union Conference Rescinds Special Meeting on Women’s Ordination

The decision comes as the General Conference offers a clarification of its Working Policy regarding the role of unions in ordination.

U.S. Union Conference Rescinds Special Meeting on Women’s Ordination

, news editor, Adventist Review

A U.S. union conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has reversed a decision to hold a special constituency meeting about the ordination of women as pastors.

Leaders of the North Pacific Union Conference, which includes the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, voted 26-4 on Wednesday to rescind their decision of Nov. 12, 2014, to hold the constituency meeting within 120 days of the North American Division’s year-end meetings in fall 2015.

“We do not believe that convening a special constituency meeting about the ordination of women as pastors would be productive at this time for the North Pacific Union Conference,” the union said in statement. “Therefore, we rescind our earlier action.”

Union leaders announced on Aug. 13 that they would revisit the November vote after local church members “expressed varying concerns regarding the NPUC stance on the ordination of women following the action taken at the recent General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.”

The General Conference Session voted on July 8 to not allow world divisions of the Adventist Church to decide for themselves whether to ordain women to gospel ministry in their territories.

The General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, followed up that July 8 vote by preparing an eight-page document clarifying the church’s policy on the ordination of pastors.

The document, titled “Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry” and prepared by General Conference Secretariat this month, says that some people have misunderstood a phrase in the General Conference Working Policy — “decisions regarding the ordination of ministers are entrusted to the union conference/mission” — to grant unions absolute authority in ordaining whomever they wish to the gospel ministry.

The phrase, however, “is not a specific policy on ordination but rather is given as an example of church structure,” the document says. “The authority it references is not absolute or inherent to each union but is delegated by the General Conference itself. This means that each union’s actions regarding ordination must be in accordance with those of the General Conference since it is the source of the authority.”

General Conference administration has sent the document to all General Conference officers and division presidents, asking them to forward it to their fellow division officers and their union presidents, who would then forward the document to local field presidents.

“The authority given to the unions is not only delegated, but also limited,” the documents says. “Unions have the power to select those to be ordained from among candidates proposed by conferences who meet the criteria set by the world church. Authority to determine the criteria has never been delegated from the General Conference to any other organization — it does not belong to the work of the union.”

The North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee made its decision at a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday. A two-thirds vote had been required to reverse its earlier decision.

NPUC leaders also voted on a separate motion Wednesday to affirm their support for women in pastoral ministry and their commitment to foster increased opportunities for women in pastoral and leadership roles in their region.

Read the full statement of the NPUC Executive Committee here.