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How Money Got Us Into Trouble
The Battle Heats Up
In 1984 a young woman elder serving as a pastor in the Potomac Conference baptized someone with the backing of her local conference but without authorization from the Church Manual . In 1985 the Annual Council of the General Conference forbade any more baptisms by women elders—but in 1986 the Southeastern California Conference voted to let women baptize anyway. The General Conference promised to work harder on ordaining women to the Gospel ministry and persuaded Southeastern California to back away. The California conference did back away for a while, but in doing so it stepped up the rhetoric. We now began to hear terms like “discrimination,” “gender inclusiveness,” “affirmative action,” and “justice!” Many Adventist felt aggrieved that the language of politics and radical feminism was invading our church.

A Difficult Choice

In 1989, in preparation for the 1990 Indianapolis General Conference session, leadership thrust upon a large study group called the “Women's Commission” the choice of voting Yes or No on a double-barreled recommendation. This recommendation, which was to be sent on to the Annual Council of the General Conference for further action, offered that (1) women could not now be ordained as ministers but that (2) if they met certain specifications, they could perform essentially all the functions of an ordained minister in their local churches.

Many members of the women's commission regarded the choice as unfair, for in order to vote Yes on (1) not allowing women to be ordained as ministers, it was unavoidable to vote Yes also on (2) allowing women to function essentially like ordained ministers. Most of the people on the women's commission voted Yes, which meant both that women could not become ordained ministers but that they could behave almost like ordained ministers in divisions that wanted them to. This recommendation went to the Annual Council and from there to the 1990 General Conference.

The two provisions were divided up for the 1990 Indianapolis General Conference, and the vote on Wednesday went overwhelmingly against ordaining women ministers. When the other matter came up on Thursday, many overseas delegates, feeling that the big vote was in the past, were out of their places, apparently sightseeing and shopping. The main argument offered by the NAD speakers was addressed to those overseas delegates who were present. It was this: Yesterday we voted with you for what you wanted; we ask you to vote with us today, taking into account America 's cultural needs. There was no appeal to Scripture. This time the vote went in favor, although by a considerable smaller margin than on Wednesday.

We all know that five years later the question of ordaining women as ministers was brought up again, though in a different fashion. This time the North American Division asked for the right to ordain women ministers to Gospel ministry within its own territory . Four speakers were appointed by the NAD to persuade people to vote Yes, and only one speaker was appointed to persuade them to vote No. The “No” speaker presented a strong well-organized Bible study, and, as we have already reminded ourselves, the delegates voted 1,481 to 673 that No, North America should not be authorized to go its own way.
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