Putting Church Above Personal Position
Putting Church Above Personal Position
In response to last week’s “Weekly,” some of you shared your thoughts which I appreciate for various reasons (one being that it confirms that you are reading the Weeklies). However, there was one response that necessitated that I do an additional write up to clarify -and therefore this week’s update.
Relating to Personal Views
It is possible to have personal views and positions that may at times not comport or line up with established positions of church’s practice. That in itself is not necessarily wrong. However, what I do or the steps I take may lead to compromise, chaos or reform. So it is crucial for one to weigh carefully all that he or she does. I can recall that I strongly resented the idea of dedicating infants born out of wedlock in a pastor’s study or away from the main sanctuary. This was the practice of my church for years -and for acceptable reasons to many over the years. However, I decided to research the practice and discovered in the 90’s that the Church Manual did not support this practice. Therefore, I researched further and came to understand a principle as to why many of the then church leaders held to it. Nevertheless, I met with my then conference leader and shared my position and was given the opportunity to present a position paper at a Ministerial Retreat in Cuba. This position was accepted generally, but it took some persons years to change the practice of what appeared to be discrimination. It is possible that some pastors still struggle with praying for babies born out of wedlock in the sanctuary.
Not Going Ahead of My Church
Had the then leaders disagreed with me, I could have decided to resign, or study more and reason more but not taking it upon myself to disregard authority as this would have been irresponsible. This was essentially the summary of last week’s Weekly, “Subjecting to Church Authority.” My position of female ordination is immaterial to a greater point; and that is how do I submit to the established authority of the church? I restate that we as leaders cannot be a part of the worldwide system and operate independently of that system and its policies. Quoting Lowell Cooper, one of the Vice Presidents of the GC, “each [entity/church/conference/union] is seen to be a part of a sisterhood which cannot act without reference to the whole.” These are “separate but not independent organizations,” says Cooper. Additionally, in reference to the Working Policy, Cooper says that it “is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
What We Can Do In the Interim
In the meanwhile, as we await next year’s GC Annual Council, we as pastors and elders could visit www.adventistarchives.org and read all of the study papers produced by the Commission on the Theology of Ordination. I can assure you that these will be quite enlightening and informative. Following this, or while doing so, we could engage one another in dialogue and in writing respectfully notwithstanding differences of opinion. Additionally, we could sincerely pray for our church to come to a position reflective of the Spirit’s leading. Until such time, let us continue the dialogue but never preempting the Commission that we through a representative democracy have put in place. I hold to the view that we all believe in our church. Then let’s trust the process in place. To take it upon oneself to go contrary to policy and the church’s position is to say I will not wait; I will go it my way. That is to open the gate to our personal feelings, and individuals doing as they feel