It was my first General Conference – The Alamo Dome, San Antonio, Texas -- 2015.
With 40,000+ in attendance, “the vote” of the General Conference in Quinquennial Session finally took place after lengthy instructions, an all-day open-mike session and hourly pauses for prayer. Particularly poignant in my memory was a statement from Elder Ted Wilson declaring he would personally comply with “the vote” whichever way it went. As I recall, he was the only one who stood at the numerous “open-mics” that day to make such a submissive declaration.
After “the vote,” there was a break for supper. Everyone needed a break. I noticed two kinds of groups assembling.
Many agreeing with “the vote,” gathered in small groups - some joyfully, a few in prayer – most appeared relieved that this decades-old issue might somehow have finally been put to rest.
Others, disagreeing with “the vote,” gathered in small groups – some visibly angry, others comforting weeping female “pastors-in-waiting” who realized their dreams of ordination had again been dashed. Or had they?
After supper, GC delegates reassembled for evening worship in the giant Alamo Dome. From my high altitude guest seat in the “nose-bleed section,” I looked down at the usually filled delegates seating area on the main floor and noticed one large conspicuously empty block of seats. No one was sitting under the North American Division sign. All seats were empty. Some suggested their delegates were caucusing somewhere in the basement. I didn’t know where they were.
On my flight home from San Antonio a few days after “the vote,” it appeared as though nearly half the plane was filled with GC delegates with a significant number still seeming to be in caucus-mode. Over the sound of huge jet engines they were openly and loudly---across the seats and down the aisles---touting their intention to circumvent “the vote.” This isn’t over yet,” seem to be the common mantra of the flight. “We won’t give up,” they vowed. I don’t know what happened on other planes.
And Circumvent, They Did
A year after “the vote “(Fall Council -2016), a vote was called to take action affecting those who refused to comply with “the vote.” After much discussion, a Unity in Mission Reconciliation document was finally voted by a 169—122 majority. But compliance by the NAD was virtually ignored.
The second year after “the vote” (Fall Council – 2017), the Procedures for Reconciliation and Adherence in Church Governance was brought up for discussion and vote. But clever manipulation of “rules of order” sent the motion for compliance packing – “back into committee.” A year seemingly wasted. By this time, circumvention had become more rampant in several divisions around the world.
The third year after “the vote” (Fall Council – 2018), “consequences” were voted by the majority. And again, both compliance and consequences appear to be ignored. “We will not be deterred” was the defiant pronouncement made in one breath by Dan Jackson (NAD President), while still claiming to be in total compliance in the next.
This attitude got me thinking. As the parent of sons, I was reminded of a four-year old little boy with a book slid down the back of his britches, confident that his cleverly devised protection would prevent any possible consequence. Yet so far, the book in the britches seems to be working. No one has felt a thing, yet.
At times Ellen White chastised church leaders: “Grown men and women are acting as little children. There is not a particle of excuse for the strife and alienation that exists among us.” Lt61 – 1904.7, “Brethren Bearing Responsibilities.
We are now well into the fourth year after “the vote”,
the vote that said, “NO.”
the vote that said, “Reconciliation.”
the vote that said, “Consequences.”
Do we know what the NAD’s plans are for the future? We should. It’s already well on its way and in bold print on their website for all to see — https://www.nadsecretariat.org/women-in-pastoral-ministry/
Under the name Women in Pastoral Ministry Initiative, subtitled: “More Female Pastors: Essential for the Harvest,” the NAD outlines a five-year plan which includes ONLY the recruitment of women.
“Studies show,” says the NAD brochure, “that 50% of the current pastors will be eligible for retirement in the next ten years. Our goal is to double the current number of female pastors in the next five years,” as it postures women as the “building block” of pastoral ministry. How?
Four specific strategies are outlined on page two of the NAD Initiative:
Communication – Education
Publish in Union papers
Special edition of the Review to every home
Distribute the “NAD Theology of Ordination Report” throughout NAD
Distribute ‘theological’ support in layman’s language
Recruit females who have graduated from the Seminary but are working in other professions
Actively recruit females on colleges/university campus who sense God’s call to the ministry
Compile lists . . .
Set up a website . . .
Mentoring – Nurturing
Identify female students who sense God’s calling
Partner those identified with current female pastors
Train current female pastors as mentors
Organize teleconferencing and online communication
Funding – Support
Create a funding formula to encourage the hiring of female pastors
Structure the formula with participation from the Division, Union and local conference
Promote the funding formula and its availability with the division
NAD’s strategic plan seems well thought out — every step planned toward a singular agenda — installing more female pastors. But is there any initiative to recruit men for future pastoral roles? I personally searched for one, but I was unable to find any mention of males being needed.
This five-year plan, now more than a year underway, had at its inception 107 women serving as pastors in the NAD (only a few ordained) with the stated goal to double (214) its number of female pastors.
Does that also mean exponentially increasing the number of female ordinations? Seems a valid question considering the current trajectory.
Can you imagine all of these new female pastors — identified, sought out, recruited, trained, nurtured, and financially supported — will be content with remain indefinitely at an entry-level position? With some women already “ordained,” won’t there be an ultimate expectation of advancement especially with growing numbers of females?
Each step within the initiative’s structure seems a move in opposition to the vote of the world church. This sets up a dangerously fluid structure to achieve an alternative agenda. Is this true compliance? or the continuous beating of the “We will not be deterred” drum?
Ah, but wait! There is more than the mere doubling the female pastoral numbers.
During the fall of ‘18, after the Initiative had begun, Jackson proclaimed, during a 20-minute-video-moment, a new goal (not defined in the NAD Initiative) of 1,000 new female pastors — five times the number of the NAD Initiative‘s original goal. There are approximately 4,000 pastors in the NAD currently, with an anticipated increase of 214 women, yet now Jackson has suddenly jumped the number to 1,000. You do the math. In 5 years approximately 25% of all NAD pastors will be women.
“We are in compliance,” claims the policy-parsing president, effectively washing the hands of his own subordinates who unabashedly continue to ordain women under his watch care. Has he discovered how to have it both ways?
“Agitation,” which Jackson has begun and promised to aggressively continue, has emotionally stirred the NAD masses — not to humble compliance, but to haughty defiance. Is more evidence needed? The NAD Initiative appears to be well entrenched in a five-year self-indictment of intentional on-going non-compliance.
The essence of leadership is responsibility – both for what is allowed in one’s house and for what is encouraged within one’s house. This applies to all levels of leadership. Since the NAD oversees Unions, Conferences and churches which already allow ordination and encourage ordination under its leadership, how can this be considered true compliance?
How long will this mockery of world church authority be allowed to continue?
“He, who despises the authority of the church, despises the authority of Christ Himself” (Desire of Ages, p. 806).