writing from San Antonio
Yesterday, my church voted on a question that has occupied members all around the globe for the last five years. The question before the body had to do with the relationship between Scripture and culture, church structure, unity, and, ultimately, trust. The voting results: 1,381 delegates voted against the motion on the floor; 977 delegates voted for it; 5 delegates abstained. As a faith community we decided that this is not the time to give individual divisions authority to ordain women to the ministry.
I sat on the floor as one of the delegates.
I was proud of how the chair, Mike Ryan, one of the general vice presidents of the General Conference (GC) and retiring after this Session, led the proceedings and underlined key values that should characterize any Adventist conversations involving different opinions: respect, Christ-likeness, and an open ear that truly listens.
I was proud of the way we all recognized the importance of prayer in this crucial moment. Thousands and thousands of prayers went up to our heavenly Father from the Alamodome yesterday—and millions more from around the world. It’s good to know that there is no danger of power overload on God’s grid.
I appreciated the passion of the delegates on both sides of the ordination aisle and their attempt to show respect and restraint. I heard pleas for faithfulness to Scripture, for recognizing different cultural realities, and for unity. Some delegates asked for unity in diversity; for others this unity expressed itself in globally shared policies. I heard repeatedly that this issue should not be confused with a Fundamental Belief or be elevated to be one of the pillars of Adventist faith.
I felt unease when I heard some harsh reactions to a passionate plea by former GC President Jan Paulsen. It felt like lack of respect for an elder statesman who served this church for decades. It was an indicator of the charged atmosphere.
Following the announcement of the vote, I saw tears and worried faces. How would we wake up after a vote that apparently saw losers and winners?
Today is another busy day in the Alamodome—and yet, in many ways, things seem different. There is ample commentary on this significant decision—on Facebook, in blogs and news outlets; even the Washington Post weighed in on the reporting.
I wonder about my church and its young adults. I wonder about the power of the majority and the sense of helplessness of the minority. I wonder how we will deal with other issues that are closely linked to culture and our interpretation of Scripture. I long for a “Word from the Lord”—and then my heart becomes quiet. I trust the Good Shepherd who is leading His sheep and cares for their well-being. I trust that God’s will is truly done, “on earth as it is in heaven.” I hang my helpless soul on Jesus, as Ellen White loved to write over and over again, when she felt troubled and worried about God’s end-time people.
What do Adventists do when they have to wait? They start singing (as we did yesterday while waiting for the announcement of the vote) and find strength in powerful hymns. “Amazing Grace” still quiets my soul. “When He Cometh” makes my heart burst with anticipation. “Crown Him With Many Crowns” always brings tears to my eyes.
When they have finished their songs and their hearts have been stilled and all the tears have been shed, however, Adventists start moving. Not to a program or a pipe. They are moved by the billions who have not yet met the Lord carrying the crown of thorns. They join hands to serve those needing hope and comfort. They are ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus, because they know that “soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.”
They wait and work and worship—together.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review who is anxious to see God break through.