Dr. Angel Rodriguez, a theologian for the General Conference Biblical Research Institute from 1987 to 2011 and its director from 2002 to 2011, explains that the vote in San Antonio is not intended to be a majority vote about whether the Bible allows ordination of women to the ministry. The Adventist Church does not define truth by majority vote. This is not a theological issue. It is simply a question of what is best for the Church. Dr. Rodriguez explains that a Yes vote is a vote for unity and a vote for doing all we can to follow Christ’s command to go and tell the Good News.
Dr. Rodriguez has written the following appeal to explain clearly why the Church should vote Yes:
The question of the ordination of women to the ministry has in practice been solved by the church by considering this topic to be a matter of personal opinion. Let me explain. For years this topic has been debated by church members on both side of the issue—those who support it and those who do not. The discussions at the General Conference sessions have always considered anyone holding either of the two positions to be an Adventist in good standing. No church discipline has been applied based on the position taken on this specific issue. The only thing requested from all was to wait for a final decision to be made by the world church in a General Conference Session.
What is now being requested by those who support the ordination of women to the ministry is that the church’s acceptance of different opinions on the topic be taken a step further by allowing women’s ordination in those segments of the world where ordaining women to the ministry would not negatively impact the church. In other words, the recognition that ordaining women to the ministry is not a doctrinal matter, but rather is one where different opinions are acceptable, should now be implemented in the actual life of the church where feasible. This important step is justifiable on several counts.
First, for the first time in the history of the church, the world church (at least in many of its different administrative levels) is very well informed about the topic and its complexity. This has been the result of study of the topic in Biblical Research Committees in all the Divisions, as well as the study and discussion of the topic that took place in the Theology of Ordination Study Committee that was appointed by the General Conference, and the dissemination of the results of its work around the world.
Second, it is now clear that there is not a biblical passage or a statement from Ellen G. White that clearly commands or opposes the ordination of women to the ministry. In other words, the delegates to the General Conference Session do not have a unanimous biblical mandate on which to decide whether the church should ordain or not ordain women to the ministry in all Divisions.
Third, for the first time it is clear within the world church that this is not about rejecting or modifying any of our biblical doctrines. This is not a doctrinal topic but a matter of tradition. We have not traditionally ordained women to the ministry, but this does not mean that it is incorrect to ordain them. We should be careful not to constitute a tradition that lacks a clear biblical foundation into a doctrinal position.
Fourth, we have clear evidence that the Lord has been leading the church to ordain women to the ministry in places where this is indispensable. I am specifically thinking about the church in China. This is an important case, in that this decision cannot be considered to be an act of “rebellion” against the decisions of the world church. It was rather the work of the Spirit leading the church in China to make its work more effective in the fulfillment of the mission of the church. What they have done has demonstrated to be a blessing for the church in that part of the world.
The time has come to move forward in faith, knowing that in ordaining women to the ministry we are not violating the teachings of the Bible or the guidance of the Spirit through Ellen G. White. Fear should not paralyze us. Let us do what is right and good for the church. The best option we have is to allow Divisions that are ready to have a gender inclusive ordained ministry to do it. May the delegates to the General Conference Session raise their hands to the Lord in prayer and bless their brothers and sisters who, under the guidance of the Spirit, are ready to ordain women to the ministry.
Dr. Rodriguez has also prepared an insightful analysis of anti-WO arguments.