This article is part of our series of perspectives on GC Session 2015, emphasizing the voices of younger Adventists.
OK, so they voted down allowing divisions to decide whether to ordain women. But that wasn’t all that happened in San Antonio. Here are five progressive changes the delegates voted through.
- No to Eternal Subordination – It was stated from the podium that a revision to Fundamental Belief 3 rules the idea that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father out of Adventist theology. This introduction of hierarchy into the Trinity’s eternity past has been proposed by supporters of male headship theology, as it is used to explain how two persons can be theoretically equal and at the same time always in a hierarchical relationship (guess the gender of the persons who are always at the bottom). The revision states that “the qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also those of the Father,” which implies that no quality that leads to subordination can be attributed to the Son or Spirit that would not also be shared by the Father, and thus such a quality could not result in involuntary or necessary hierarchy within the Trinity. Got it? No? Read that again, ’cause I’m moving on.
- Gender-Neutral Language – A sweeping revision to the Fundamental Beliefs statement removed terms like “men,” “man,” and “mankind” and replaced them with terms like “human beings,” “human,” and “humanity.” Welcome to the 21st century, church! Over the objections of some, these changes also specified that at the incarnation Jesus became “truly human,” instead of “truly man,” clarifying that we believe Jesus didn’t only identify Himself with the male gender, but with all humanity.
- No to Non-consensual Sex – No means no, even if you’re married. The Church Manual now makes it clear that forcing yourself on anyone is a reason for church discipline. When a delegate asked if that refers to spousal rape, the answer came back, Yes. It’s past time we said that it’s not only important who you’re doing it with, it’s important whether they want it.
- Discipleship – As per the Church Manual revisions, your local Adventist church board now has a new primary responsibility. It used to be “Spiritual nurture.” Now it is the formation and execution of an “active discipleship plan.” Helping people follow Jesus wherever they are in that journey—sounds like what church ought to be all about, doesn’t it?
- Adventist Youth Ministries – First, they dropped the legacy name “Adventist Youth Society,” which, as was explained, had come to refer to a meeting more than an umbrella organization. This meeting, which is still a blessing in many places, has become a ball and chain of youth ministry in some churches, tying youth programming expectations to a model developed in the mid-20th century. But more importantly, Adventist Youth Ministries has new departments that can be organized within it, and their leaders get board positions, according to the new Church Manual. That means that youth and young adults have a potential to have their say in the operations of their local church like never before. So if young people don’t have a voice in your church, get out there and organize a public campus ministry. And when nominating committee rolls around, if you don’t have a seat on the board, you can say with a cheeky grin on your face, “It’s in the Manual.”
This article was originally published on David’s blog at http://apokalupto.blogspot.com/2015/07/top-5.html.
(Photo by Adelina Alexe: The Northern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church offers a colorful presence onstage at the 2015 General Conference Session.)