Matthew Quartey, an Adventist scholar from Africa, notes that all eyes are on the delegates from Africa because there is a growing sense that their three divisions, comprising roughly 23% of the delegates to San Antonio, will determine whether the measure on women’s ordination is accepted or rejected. He urges African General Conference delegates to vote Yes. They need to understand that God ordains men and women equally and His church should, too.

Dr. Quartey suggests, “As you vote on the issue of WO next month in San Antonio, think about the future generations of African Adventists who in 30 years may be looking at this history and asking why? Why did they think voting against the ordination of women to gospel ministry was advancing the ministry of God?”

Dr. Quartey also points out a danger to unity and progress if the measure is not approved: “Our debt to our children and our children’s children requires of us to give careful consideration to this question recognizing that, voting to deny other divisions the ability to ordain women in their territories would not stop unions from churches in the West from continuing to ordain women in their field. That ship has sailed and will not be recalled to port. What you can control is how history will evaluate your vote.”

Read An Open Letter to the General Conference Delegates from Africa.

In addition to Dr. Quartey’s important insights, we should point out that many Adventists misunderstand what the vote will decide at the General Conference Session. The current debate about whether women should be ministers, is needless because the vote is not going to decide whether women should be ministers.

Women pastors were already fully authorized by the General Conference as “commissioned” ministers in 1990. They already perform the same functions and have the same leadership role in the local church as ordained ministers. They will continue to do so, regardless of the vote.

Women pastors already go through the same kind of consecration ceremony with a laying on of hands. The only real difference is the word (“commissioned” instead of “ordained”) that is printed on their certificate after the ceremony.

There is no point in debating whether women should be ministers, because that is not what the GC will vote on. When you boil it all down, the only real issue now is whether the individual world divisions can choose to call these female pastors “ordained” instead of “commissioned.” It is a matter of semantics.

There is no logical (or theological) reason to continue to discriminate between these two terms. The Spirit of Prophecy uses the terms “commissioned” and “ordained” interchangeably. They mean the same thing. There is no reason not to use the word “ordained.”

After all, the Spirit of Prophecy makes it clear that ministers receive “their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands [ordination] add[s] no new grace or virtual qualification.” It is simply a human recognition of God’s calling: “By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God” (AA p. 161).

The General Conference Biblical Research Institute concluded 39 years ago: “If God has called a woman, and her ministry is fruitful, why should the church withhold its standard act of recognition?” (In other words, why call her “commissioned” instead of “ordained”?)

This viewpoint puts the issue in perspective, in the context of what will actually be voted on. When viewed this way, it becomes clear that it is not really a theological issue. It is a question of semantics, and there is no logical reason to continue discriminating between the term “commissioned” and the term “ordained.”

William G. Johnnson (retired Adventist Review editor) put it this way: “If God has given His stamp of approval to women in ministry [through the General Conference policy of 1990], who are we to withhold official recognition?”

See also: Amazing FACTS about Women’s Ordination.

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