Mark Finley Offers 5 Steps for Resolving Disunity on Women’s Ordination
The evangelist shares his findings on how early Christian leaders settled difficulties.
By Andrew McChesney
Mark Finley, evangelist and assistant to the General Conference president, has offered church leaders a five-step plan to tackle the question of women’s ordination and to unify the Seventh-day Adventist Church after a final decision is made.
Finley presented the plan last Friday to delegates of the Annual Council, a major church business meeting that will discuss women’s ordination on Tuesday. He compiled the steps while engaged in personal Bible study of how early Christian leaders resolved difficulties.
Finley, who is also an editor-at-large for the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, said he delved into the book of Acts after hearing presentations on both sides of the ordination issue from “very honest people who are committed to Christ, committed to the church, and committed to the authority of Scripture.”
“What do you do when you have people who are committed Christians on both sides of the question but think differently?” he said in an interview Sunday.
He said his main hope in sharing his findings was to maintain the unity of the Adventist Church — regardless of which way the final decision goes.
“Whatever your viewpoint is on the ordination of women, whether you are convicted on one side of the question or the other, there comes a point when you do not tear the body of Christ apart,” Finley said, referring to the church.
He added: “There comes a point where you say, ‘We will accept the decision of the corporate body, namely the General Conference session. And whatever my personal view is on that, no matter how I believe I am right, I have come to the conclusion that I will accept as God’s will whatever the session votes and move on with our mission.”
This attitude, he said, was adopted by early Christian leaders as they sought to find a 12th disciple to replace Judas Iscariot in Acts 1, to end a dispute with widows in Acts 6, and to resolve a debate over circumcision at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.
The pattern that Finley found New Testament church leaders following to resolve difficulties consisted of five steps:
1. They prayed about an issue.
2. They studied Scripture.
3. They evaluated everything based on mission — what was best for the mission of the church.
4. They openly discussed the issue and freely debated, even when the discussion got heated. Acts 15:2 says, “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them” (NKJV).
5. They trusted one another enough to make a decision, and then they moved on with mission.
Trust in the final decision reached after an open debate is important to avoid division, Finley said. He stressed that he was not talking about blind trust in Adventist Church leadership but in a solid trust built through a participatory process of free, open discussion. Discussion also can be beneficial for participants on both sides who might have blind spots, he said.
“But when you have done all that, don’t push your own opinion and divide the church,” he said. “Once we’ve gone through the process, move on with the mission.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s mission is “to make disciples of all people, communicating the everlasting gospel in the context of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12, leading them to accept Jesus as personal Savior and unite with His remnant Church, discipling them to serve Him as Lord and preparing them for His soon return,” reads the mission statement on the official church website.
The Annual Council will discuss women’s ordination on Tuesday and review a two-year study by the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, which Finley sat on. Then it will decide whether to forward the matter to the General Conference session for a final vote in July.
Finley advised anyone who ended up believing that the final decision was not God’s will should move forward with the attitude, “I believe God is bigger and greater than this and He can facilitate His ultimate purposes, which are mission and saving the world.”
“Here’s what my point is: God is sovereign. He’s going to accomplish his ultimate will through the church, and I am comfortable with that," Finley said. "I can sleep well at night.”
Andrew McChesney, News Editor Adventist Review. The original article was published October 12, 2014 in the Adventist Review and is being reprinted with permission. To view the original article click here: