At times I found it extremely difficult to watch the Pacific Union Conference emergency constituency meeting online Sunday, and had to step out of the room a couple times in frustration. It was hard to hear people twist scripture and the writings of Ellen White, as they attempted to make their desires appear holy. Even though the majority who attended were of the same opinion, God still miraculously intervened amid misinformation and highly charged emotional appeals for equality. Now that the much-advertised PUC meeting is over, people are asking, “What exactly happened and how are things different?”
Many people are unaware the primary purpose for this meeting was to push through a change in the union’s bylaws so it could legitimize the ordaining of women without being at odds with General Conference policy.
So when the vote to change the bylaws failed by one percent, some delegates noted an audible groan in the room. Why? Continuing to vote the second motion was, at that point, an empty victory. After all, the PUC was already ordaining female pastors.
Documents given to delegates by the legal counsel made clear that if the motion to change the bylaws failed, they would still vote on the second motion to ordain women simply so “… the constituency’s voice be heard.” Ridiculously, other than affirming what the union is currently doing and as a public relations stunt, there was no change in policy made in Sunday’s vote. The motion regarding gender was still voted, perhaps largely to mitigate the appearance the union had just wasted an obscene amount of time and money for naught. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on this meeting. A friend commented to me afterwards, “This makes me rethink where I give my tithe money.” Although I believe the church is the storehouse, I understand why she feels that way.
Furthermore, it appeared everything that could possibly be done to manipulate the decision of the delegates was done. For three months, the PUC Recorder was jammed with biased, one-sided articles arguing for the ordination of women. It acted as a bully pulpit for women’s ordination, if you will.
Also, a day before the constituency meeting, Loma Linda University Church had a special two-hour “informational meeting” for delegates that was also streamed on the internet. This lopsided “pep rally” led by union and conference officers was solely dedicated to urging delegates to vote in favor of the motions. Absolutely no time was given to represent opposing viewpoints, held by the majority of Adventists.
If all that wasn’t enough, at Sunday’s constituency session our General Conference President Ted Wilson was rudely interrupted by a woman as he was respectfully articulating reasons to not vote the motions. This was followed with the proponents of women’s ordination clapping and jeering. I couldn’t help but think this was surely one time where quieting a clucking woman in church should have applied. I was appalled at such a lack of respect for our president, and the sorely underrepresented “other” viewpoint.
Finally, the delegates were basically forced to listen to three lengthy pro women’s ordination sermons as Sunday’s meeting wrapped up. The sermons were represented as “informational” but were obviously one final burst of emotional propaganda to manipulate delegates immediately before the vote. Other than the two minute sound bites, no time was given to represent the majority of Adventists.
The structure of the meeting was more akin to a political convention filled with all the usual emotional appeals and propaganda rather than a church constituency meeting. Even though there was a boast of love and unity from proponents of women’s ordination, there was little respect shown, even to the person representing the church’s highest authority. It was jaw dropping how the North American Division Vice-President Ernest Castillo derided Elder Wilson, who represented the one main voice in opposition to the rebellion. It was easy to see what spirit was in control.
It appeared the deck was stacked, but God still intervened. Praise Him the change to the bylaws failed. This means the PUC is still out of harmony and policy with the world church, and something has to be done.
As a spectator watching the shenanigans of the PUC, I hope to see the General Conference Executive Committee in October effectively discipline this union with a loving but firm hand at the annual council. And I know I speak for other women as well, who also value the distinct God-given roles of men and women in the home and church.