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Lessons for Surviving the Fallout of the Ordination Vote
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By Nelson Fernandez, Jr.
So here we are. We are living in a post San Antonio General Conference world. The vote on whether or not individual Divisions have the authority to ordain women in their field where they see it fit has failed. The vote was closer than I expected but at the end of the day, these were the results:
977- Yes votes
1381- No votes
5- Abstained

For many in the NAD and around the world, it is a sad day. I know many wonderful women who have dedicated their lives to pastoral service and this vote must come as a harder blow to them than it does to me. 

As an online spectator and Twitter delegate, I couldn’t help but feel proud at times, but still overall disappointed by much of the politicking I saw before, during, and after the debate. Either way, we are now like the fish from Finding Nemo who found themselves in the ocean after passing through a very difficult time and asked, “Now what?”

Here are a few early thoughts:

1. No matter how stormy the GC session was, no matter how high the waves seem now, remember that Jesus still walks on water.

This vote does not mean that women cannot be pastors. Neither does this vote mean that there is going to be a mass purging of the women who already have been working in various levels of the church. What it does mean is that, even though they will have the same education, the church will not confer to them the full ecclesiastic authority of ordination like it currently does to men. Instead, they will still be “commissioned” (which is basically the same thing as far as tax law is concerned, but isn’t in a religious way).

While I was in favor of a yes vote, this new reality forces me to remember that this isn’t my church. It was never mine to begin with; it is God’s. Thus, I have to trust that God knows what he is doing despite my inability to see beyond our present reality.

2. We need to pray for our leaders.

I witnessed some great men and women of God in these debates who stood up and shared their convictions even in the face of a (sometimes) hostile crowd. I applaud the actions of people like Jan Paulsen, Elizabeth Talbot, Ricardo Graham, and especially Michael Ryan who did a phenomenal job at chairing a very contentious meeting. I saw role models in these people and took notice of them even while others booed and jeered at their responses.

We especially need to keep Dan Jackson and Ted Wilson in prayer. These two men, each very convicted in different positions before the vote, must now find a way to work together for the mission of the church. It’s not easy, but I want to ask that we all join together and ask that God would lead them both.

3) We need to still support women in ministry.
Again, it is important to remember that the church has not voted against women pastors. I believe that the Bible is clear of the fact that God calls women into ministry (including pastoral). However, as we saw today, there were, and still are various opinions on the matter. What the church has decided is that the whole church must move together on this issue or not at all.

So what else can I do, get bitter?  No.

I’m learning to realize that a spirit of negativity will eat away at our enthusiasm for ministry and our sense of united mission. I’m not saying that there aren’t negative elements at play all around us, but if we lose sight of Jesus, we will be in the same position as Peter was when he took his eyes off Him: drowning in the ocean.

Speaking as a Millennial pastor, I would urge all of us to not lose faith in the church, but rather, I pray that this experience would light a fire within each of us. God will raise up a generation that will seek His face and I’m committed to being a part of it.

Let’s not lose heart. It’s up to us to make a difference. Here is our chance to stand up, work together with those that we don’t see eye to eye with, and reach those that need to be reached. That’s the mission I’m committed to. How about you?

In closing, now is not the time to plot revenge or gloat at the victory achieved. Now is a time for prayer. Now is a time for reflection. Now is a time for healing. What happens next?

Only God knows.
 
Nelson Fernandez Jr., serves as pastor in the Carolina Conference. He is an avid writer, serving as a frequent contributor at thehaystack.tv and blogs at nelsonsblog.com