Women’s Studies 101
In 2010, a delegate requested at the General Conference Session to form a committee dedicated to studying the topic of women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Comprised of 106 members, two members from each division, The Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) was formed in 2011. They met for a total of 14 days in January and July of 2013; and January and June of 2014.
TOSC concluded three main positions on the topic of ordination.
An explanation of why ordination should only be given to males, a response to pro-women’s ordination arguments, and an explanation of biblical study to arrive at this conclusion.
The Bible, nor Ellen White, does not outright forbid or allow women to serve in leadership positions.Though the language in the Bible may be gender-specific, there are many examples of women occupying leadership roles in the New Testament. “The biblical evidence is clear: there is nothing spiritually, ethically, or morally wrong with ordaining women to the gospel ministry. “
Because no official consensus could be reached using the same methods of interpreting the Bible, TOSC created what is known as “The Third Way” or “The Way Forward:” “Christ is the only head of the church,” noting that there is a “biblical pattern of male leadership, under the headship of Christ, in the office of the ordained minister.” But this option also added that “We recommend that denominational leadership at a proper level be authorized to decide, based on biblical principles, whether such an adaptation [permission to ordain both men and women] may be appropriate for their area or region.”
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The Committee super-majority’s final vote was 62 in favor of ordaining women, 32 opposed. Though this represented the opinions of the TOSC committee, this did not keep the committee from presenting only one solution to the problem. The General Conference president, Ted Wilson, chose to not report the findings to the 2015 General Conference Session. The summary of the TOSC vote breakdown was:
Ordaining/Commissioning only qualified men to the office of pastor/minister throughout the world church: 32 votes
Each entity responsible for calling pastors/ministers be authorized to choose either to have only men as ordained pastors or to have both men and women as ordained pastors: 40 votes
Denominational leadership at a proper level be authorized to decide, based on biblical principles, whether such an adaptation—permission to ordain both men and women—may be appropriate for their area: 22 votes.
There has been significant outcry from Adventists calling the current church leadership into question. The GC Communications Department released what amounts to a rebuttal of those who disagree with the 2018 decision. Coupled with the unity decision in 2017, many individuals see this as the church disregarding what the majority of members of the world church think.