So, where do we go from here? What I see happening distresses me. Those who favored women’s ordination seem more determined than ever to continue the fight, to convince the rest of the church to change their votes. To them I say: This matter has been debated since 1975. Even though I agree that women’s ordination should be approved, continuing to put this issue first and foremost is not likely to result in what you want.

From those opposed to women’s ordination, those who won the vote, I see endless discussion of “rebellion.” To them I say: Even if I favored your position, I would not favor pressing that line of reasoning, for one simple reason: lecturing people on their rebellion rarely leads them to want to give it up.

The most distressing thing is that both sides demonstrate an almost total lack of empathy, seem incapable of understanding how what they are doing and saying will be perceived by those who disagree with them.

Again, for those who favor women’s ordination, 40 years of argument have not convinced those opposed to women’s ordination that you are correct. Your opponents believe that this position has been repudiated by repeated votes, yet you continue to press the issue. How else do you expect those on the other side to react, except to see that you are in stubborn rebellion?

Please, I implore you, I do not believe that disagreement on this matter is rebellion. But stop and consider those who voted you down, and those who support that position, for a moment. If you think them rigid and self-righteous, if you think them unreasonable, then why keep trying to reason with them? If they are as rigid as you think, then of course they perceive your continuing advocacy for a defeated position to be rebellion.

For those who believe that advocates of women’s ordination support an unscriptural position, and are in rebellion against God’s will, what is new about that? Have you not been telling them that for some time now?

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. So why do both sides insist on pursuing the same lines of argument that have produced the present impasse? I could say that sounds like insanity to me, but instead I will employ Dr. Phil’s question: “How’s that working for you?”

Lest anyone miss the point, I’m saying the same thing to all: it doesn’t make any sense to keep doing what you have been doing. If not for the sake of the church, then for the sake of your own position, please stop.

It has been my experience that everyone’s natural reflex, when confronted by a frontal assault, is to dig in and fight back. That is what has been happening, and it has brought us to this sorry state

And once again, I say, this issue has been and continues to be a distraction. Please, I am not saying it is an unimportant issue. What I am saying is it is not the most important issue.

When I began this blog, it was my purpose to reiterate what I believe about what our identity and purpose is. The reason for this continuing series of blogs has been to give shape to what I believe Adventist identity needs to be today. And I will continue that in future posts.

But this post is calling for something different. The disciples had to go through Gethsemane, Calvary, the resurrection, and the ascension before they came to Pentecost. And at Pentecost they were all praying, and they were of one accord. That is my appeal at this hour. To both sides, I say, “Please, please pray earnestly that God will show you how best to heal this wound.” After you pray, pause and ask that God will speak to you. Listen patiently.

Do not, I warn you, do not pray that “The other side will see the light, and do what they ought to heal this wound.” Be very very wary of any insights you suddenly have on what those who disagree with you need to know or do. As a good friend of mine said to me, “When God speaks to me, he speaks to me about me.”

Many of our brothers and sisters in the church are going through significant temptation at this time. Some are being tempted to give up, to leave, to relinquish hope. Many are being tempted with pride. Pride that they have been proven correct; pride that though they lost the vote they are morally superior; pride that their opponents’ behavior demonstrates how wrong they were. These souls are in great peril.

Many of us go through dark nights of the soul, personal Gethsemanes. I believe this is such a moment for the church, and all the more dangerous because it is unrecognized by some. Gethsemane is never a pleasant place. But understand that there are two outcomes among those who passed through that dark time: Christ prayed to His Father, and emerged resolute and comforted, fortified for the coming trial. The disciples slept through Gethsemane, and were devastated by the coming trial.

If the church is the object of Christ’s supreme regard, as I believe it is, then we may be certain that He is praying the Father for this church at this moment in history. Let us join Him. And again, rather than praying that our opponents or adversaries be changed, let us pray that God will reveal how we may best promote the healing of His church.

Lord, I pray that those who mourn may be comforted. And I pray that those who exult in their victory may be humbled, so that they may receive grace, for we know that You give grace to the humble. Lord, rain grace on Your church, and may You reign in grace in the church.  Show me how to be an instrument of peace, and a channel of grace. Amen.