Q: With a pending resolution in October 2017 regarding conferences that are ordaining women, what is the plan if those conferences decline to abide by the world church’s decision not to ordain women to the gospel ministry? What happens to local churches in those conferences that want to follow the decisions of the world church instead of their own conference? There is a lot of uncertainty, and very little information is given at the local church level regarding how to deal with possible conflict between conferences and the General Conference. I would appreciate your wise counsel for those churches that want to abide by what will be decided at the Annual Council. — J.C., from the United States
A: J.C., as you are no doubt aware, at last year’s Autumn Council, a document titled “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” was voted. (See document here.)
This document lays out a detailed and careful plan to bring reconciliation among various entities of the church “that appear to have overlooked or ignored the biblical principles as expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, voted actions, or working policies of the church.”
As these reconciliation steps are being carried forward, it is the hope and prayer of millions of Seventh-day Adventists around the world that this prayer-filled process will lead to church unity in both faith and practice, along with a renewed focus on our God-given mission of sharing the three angels’ messages through Total Member Involvement (TMI).
As the results of TMI around the world are so vividly illustrating, the prophecy found in Joel 2:28-29 is being fulfilled:
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (NKJV).
It is clear that God is calling and equipping men and women, girls and boys, young and old to reach others for Him. Jesus is coming soon!
Regarding what may happen at the Annual Council in October, the voted Unity document states: “If, for some reason, the above process of prayer and consultation does not resolve the matter, the General Conference Administrative Committee will be requested to
“recommend to [the] 2017 Annual Council procedural steps to be followed in the event that a resolution of the conflict is not achieved under procedures identified above.”
So, we can still pray that the reconciliation process will resolve the matter. If it does not, we will need to wait and see what steps are recommended to the 2017 Annual Council.
In the meantime, rest assured that God is the Head of His remnant church, and He will see us through the storm. We do not need to look forward with anxiety, fearful of the future.
Let me share with you two wonderful, faith-affirming promises from the Spirit of Prophecy:
“There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port” (“Selected Messages,” Book 2, p. 390).
“The cause is the Lord’s. He is on board the ship as commander-in-chief. He will guide us safely into port. He can command the winds and the waves, and they will obey Him. If we follow His directions, we have no need to be anxious or troubled. In Him we may trust. He bestows His richest endowments upon those who love Him and keep His commandments. He will never forsake those who work in His lines” (Review and Herald, July 16, 1901).
May we look forward to the future with peace and assurance, knowing that the church is in God’s hands and He will see us through.