By this time next week, October 7, 2016, we could be living in a very different church. Or not. We don’t know yet, but we can be sure that this year’s Great Disappointment will have the ring of present truth to it.
Here are two ways to regard the coming purgation brought upon us by a prayerful, sincere, but desperate General Conference Autumn Council.
The first is the Apocalyptic. In this view, based on the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ to this earth, the delay in the second coming—and thus the responsibility for all the tragic suffering of the world since Christ’s birth—is the result of the Laodicean condition of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is unfortunate, of course, but it can be remedied by purging God’s remnant people of those who would stand in the way of the historic mission of the Church to seek and save the lost. Since the Church will be triumphant in the end, those who defy the General Conference, God’s highest authority on Earth, will have to go. And those who are the most defiant are the ones who insist upon ordaining women to the gospel ministry.
If it were a syllogism we could write it out this way:
Those who defy the General Conference defy God
Those who ordain women defy the General Conference
Therefore, they defy God.
Another syllogism inevitably follows:
The Second Coming must not be delayed
Women’s ordination delays the Second Coming
Therefore, it must be stopped.
Thus, a community that has survived for over 100 years will founder over an issue of justice. An issue that for all its rightness is a means to the larger end of living and doing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the fullest way possible.
The second way is Incarnational, based on the Sabbath experience of love for the earth, for the Exodus out of oppression, for living here and now in creativity. This view looks on the Church as community, a place to gather in and then disperse out from, to gather in again in time. It regards its purpose on earth to provide a home for people; that home has wide, inclusive boundaries and it is there whenever you leave it and return to it.
It is made up of people who have no certainty, but do have faith. Faith is courage that follows Jesus. It is experimental, present tense, a somewhat tense experience!
From this point of view women’s ordination frees up many talented people to recognize the calling God has given them, and to liberate them to work in faith. Women’s ordination is not an end in itself, but a means to an end—but an important means because women can communicate the Gospel in ways that are unique and absolutely needed.
To that end the General Conference is a servant, not a master. To deliver ultimatums destroys the home. It’s a divorce from which no one recovers. It does not have to be this way.