"We are Brethren (and Sisters)"
Larry Caviness, president of the Southern California Conference, addresses delegates to the Pacific Union Conference special constituency session, August 19, 2012. [Because of limited time, Caviness presented only part of the following material on August 19.]
I am humbled to stand before you, God’s people, at this special constituency session and to share some perspectives on ordination. It is an honor to have served the church for 44 years, as pastor, youth leader and administrator. The church has been my life, and I continue to dedicate myself to finishing the work as a faithful servant of God, together with all of you gathered here.
Thank you, Elder Wilson our GC President. Also Elder Dan Jackson, our NAD President. We are pleased each of you has chosen to be with us today.
I want to assure you gentlemen that the delegates assembled before you today, and the members they represent, are loyal Seventh-day Adventists. They love God. They love their church and are committed to carrying forward its mission, not only to the larger world, but also in the communities in which they live and work.
Some here would like additional clarification on the issues surrounding the questions before us. Our General Conference officers have presented their perspectives. But in all issues there are differing opinions and positions that need to be heard as well. In a few minutes two of our pastors, Andrea King and Randy Roberts will speak to some of those perspectives.
These perspectives are presented in a spirit of respect and Christian love for those who may not see things in exactly the same way. But we must be willing to listen to one another and to remain in the assembly for discussion. Our collective desire is that God’s will be done here today. That God will speak through the voice and vote of His people during this session.
I want to say to everyone here today, as Abraham said to Lot,
“Please let there be no strife between you and me … for we are brethren.” Genesis 13:8 NKJV.
Let’s remember Jesus’ words:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV).
Though we will disagree at times, we must not break the fellowship of Christian love for one another. Let’s not become adversarial. This is not about winning or losing. It is about furthering the work of the gospel, accepting God’s present truth for our time and place, and doing what’s right. We’re here to determine God’s will in this matter.
Sometimes in the past we have needed to be prodded into progress. Remember the story of Peter and the sheet recorded in Acts chapter 10? How he had to be persuaded to give up his prejudices against the Gentiles? How he needed to accept that God’s plans were not the same as his? Peter was called by God to participate in something he never expected to see—the Holy Spirit being poured out on Gentiles. His conclusion was,
“So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” (Acts 11:17 NIV).
I believe that’s the place we find ourselves today on this issue. We must be careful that we do not find ourselves opposing God.
As a conference president, I want to remind you that if this group votes today treat women pastors the same as men pastors, this will not be imposed on any conference who feels led by God that this is not the time for implementation of the action in their conference. This action simply permits the Union Executive Committee to approve for ordination the candidates whose names have been recommended for ordination by the local conference. If a local conference executive committee votes to remain as we currently are, the male candidates will be approved for ordination and the female candidates will be approved for commissioning. The local conference will make the decision regarding its own candidates.
Pastor Andrea Trusty-King will share with us what God’s call to ministry means to her, and then Pastor Randy Roberts will share his convictions regarding the Bible teachings on equality and the place of women in the church, our church doctrines and policies, and the unity of the church. Please consider carefully and with an open mind what these speakers present.