My Dear Sisters-in-Christ — My Colleagues,
I am sending out this brief note to encourage you today. Be strong in the strength of Christ our Lord. Human hands and hearts will fail you, but He is strong for you.
Yesterday at General Conference headquarters, the Annual Council voted to implement a process to deal with policy non-compliance issues at all levels of the church. We do not know, at this point, what the impact of this will be on the NAD. I invite you pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the church during this period.
Having said this, I want to give you the assurance that the vote yesterday did not affect your status as a pastor. Furthermore, as stated in our press release yesterday, the North American Division remains committed to empower and establish our women in pastoral ministry. We will not give up on this ideal and goal. We are grateful to God for your committed service to Him.
I recognize that there may be, in the coming days, significant rumor mongering and conspiracy theories that predict dire outcomes, etc. My encouragement to you is to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. My dear sisters, God will work things out in His time. His purposes will succeed. Please keep holding on. God bless each of you.
Your brother and colleague,
Daniel R. Jackson
President, North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
What this letter says
I assume that a primary reason for making this letter ‘open’ is to expedite the information to more people quickly. That’s acceptable. What is not acceptable is using that format to elicit sympathy for ordained woman pastors as some sort of disenfranchised group. Statements like “Be strong in the strength of Christ our Lord” are appropriate encouragement for people who are “hard-pressed, perplexed and persecuted...” (2 Cor. 4:8-9), but they are wholly inappropriate for people whose very positions are conceived by Divisional defiance. Let humility renounce that defiance and we will see the perfection of Christ’s strength in earthen vessels. And we will develop together a new respect for God’s distinctions—and a deeper love for one another.
By addressing this letter to sisters and not to the full NAD constituency, it runs the hazard of dividing Adventists along gender lines. We are already seeing a measure of gender tension in our current political scene and shouldn’t import it into the church. And while “please keep holding on” is also my wish for every member, it begs the question “Hold on to what?” Hold on to pride? Cultural notions? To truth? To defiance? The Bible exhorts us to “hold fast” to truth, to the Word, to our hope, and to our confession of faith. And here is something special for all of us— Revelation 3:1 instructs us to “hold fast and repent.” True repentance would bring us (NAD) to lay down our ecclesiastical selfie-stick and pick up the bond of love and unity. The Lord will bless such repentance--mightily.
"We will not give up on this ideal and goal. We are grateful to God for your committed service to Him." Who is we? Who are you speaking for? If you don’t have the world church’s back, how can you be sure that we have yours?
What this letter doesn’t say
Conspicuously absent from this open letter (and other statements) is any kind of personal contrition. It would be useful and could go something like this “I know that I have contributed to frustrations in this matter, would you (the World Church) be willing to forgive me?” It ain’t there. Instead we get “We will not give up on this ideal and goal.” He wants to dig the hole deeper.
Can two walk together?
That kind of bluster prevents people from walking together, and I offer this illustration. It takes place on July 8th, 2015. At 6:45 pm I was walking from the Alamodome to the San Antonio Convention Center with my friend Shane. The Seventh-day Adventist Church had just voted its third “No” on the issue of ordaining women, and the sidewalk was flooded with a long river of people. Halfway there, I noticed a man beside me, to my left. It was the author of this open letter.
I turned to him “How are you doing, Sir?”
I held out my hand, “I’m Gerry Wagoner, and this is Shane . . . It’s good to meet you.” I was looking forward to talking with him.
“Oh, hi. Hey I’ve got to go. God bless!” With that he took off, lumbering through a sea of people at 96° F. I glanced over at Shane “Maybe it was our breath?”
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
"We do not know, at this point, what the impact of this will be on the NAD." Correct. What we do know is the impact that this rebellion has had on the entire world church since 1995. It has confused many of our members, and undermined their faith in the Word of God. It has exchanged plain statements in the Bible for auto-developed orphic principle and placed our young people at the feet of private interpretation in many of our colleges. This rebellion has consumed away large chunks of the twin resources of time & money that God has given us — all because of a Division whose pride cannot take "No" for an answer.
It is true that we don’t yet know yet what kind of impact appropriate church discipline will have on such a Division, but if it results in the undoing of the above consequences, then the effort put forth will be greatly justified.