On July 8, 2015, Dr. Jan Paulsen, past president of the General Conference, made an eloquent and powerful appeal to the Church to recognize that God calls both men and women to ministry, and we should trust the leaders of our respective Divisions to make wise decisions about what works best in their territories regarding ordination. Reminiscent of another great presidential speech of history, a fitting title would be “The San Antonio Address.” Here is the full text:
I appeal to my brothers and sisters to vote “Yes” on the motion before us. A “No” vote will cause rupture and serious damage to our global church.
Let me say this: I have served our church in ministry for 55 years. Most of these years have been in senior leadership roles. I’ve lived and served the church from Africa, in Europe, and the global church for our world headquarters here in North America. And just for the record, let me say that the Spirit that guided me during the years I provided leadership for the church did not leave me when I left office.
I believe that I know this church, this global church, well. I know what it is that holds us together. I know also many of the tension points when cultures meet that cause difficulties for us. But we as a church can overcome these things.
I’ll be clear about it. It has been stressed by several speakers what we are really voting on today. It is not the question of who has won the argument for ordination or not ordination. This is a question of trust.
We have leadership established around the world in every one of the 13 divisions. They work in counsel together. They work also in close counsel with the General Conference leadership. They pray, they search Scripture, they seek the Spirit’s guidance, and the Spirit is guiding them. Do we trust them enough, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to know what is good for the church in their particular part of the world?
Let me say to you, my brothers and sisters from Africa– I love Africa; Africa is part of me; I have invested a lot of my life there–let me ask you, my brothers and sisters: Do you trust your leaders, elected leaders, from Africa, to give the best leadership for the life and mission of the church in Africa? If you do, vote “Yes.”
I say to you, my brothers and sisters from South America: Do you trust your elected leaders to provide reliable, good, Spirit-driven, Spirit-inspired leadership to the life and witness of our church in South America? Then vote “Yes.”
The same applies to North America and to Europe. We need to trust each other to get together and to vote “Yes” on this motion.
Voting “No” will do damage to our church. I am fearful of what will happen if we do not allow the church to go forward on this. So I say to you, please do not let delegates from major segments of our church return to their fields bruised and bleeding and confused and disenfranchised because they are being driven by this community to live a life somehow judged by this community not to be worthy of the responsibility that they have.
It is important, I think, that we empower our delegates, allow them to go back home and to know that they have the right and the empowerment of this body to respond under the Spirit’s guidance to God as to how they can best lead the church.
We are struggling in some parts of the world. We are struggling badly to try to hold the church together, to engage young and old, men and women, in the mission and ministry of the church. We need everyone’s involvement.
We are bleeding in many ways. We’ve got to stop this. We are losing so many of our youth and young professionals. They have problems with the moral integrity of the church, and they say, “Why is the church having problems with this matter? The public does not. It’s not a problem to the public. Why should it be to the church?”
And there is no biblical injunction that stops us. We have to fix this one.
Please, brothers and sisters, I believe that it is the will of God that we should enable the church in every part of the world to make the decisions that are best applicable in the part where they live without being a violation of the will of God. Thank you.