The Seventh-day Adventist Church today vowed to investigate the biblical theology behind its tradition of ordination.
The action follows repeated requests to elect more women to top church leadership positions and one specific request for an official survey of the matter during this week's General Conference Session, the highest governing body of the denomination.
Delegate Ray Hartwell, president of the Pennsylvania Conference, earlier this week called for a church-conducted reexamination of ordination from the floor of the Georgia Dome during the Session.
In comments to Session delegates today, world church General Vice President Michael L. Ryan said the Session Steering Committee is "committed" to bringing a comprehensive report on ordination to a church business meeting within the next five years.
The report is expected to survey the biblical motivation behind and model of ordination. Ryan said adequate time is needed to deliver a thoughtful, well-researched report with input from each region.
He urged delegates not to interpret the generous time frame as an indication that committee members take the issue flippantly.
"There's no one who's saying, 'Well, this is insignificant. We can ignore it,'" Ryan said.
The vice president, who also sits on the Session Steering Committee, said he was impressed by members' approach to the subject.
"You could see the sincerity, spirit of prayer and the seriousness with which the topic was discussed," Ryan said. "The [church's] administration recognizes that the theology, function and practice of ordination is an important facet of church life."
Acknowledging that some delegates might prefer an "immediate reaction" from the Committee rather than a commitment to further research, Ryan said broad participation is crucial.
"There are a lot of voices to be heard on the subject, from many places around the world," he said.
After his report, Ryan thanked delegates for expressing their concerns on women in ministry.
"Certainly, I think we can look forward to seeing some progress on this."