Instead of this motion being discussed, accepted, or shot down, another motion was made, seconded and then voted through (within a matter of minutes) to postpone indefinitely the discussion of said topic. According to numerous people who were there the reason given was that the denomination had found momentum in a new church-planting initiative and that this discussion would threaten unity. Thus it should be postponed so as to not distract from Kingdom business. As far as I know, the business in question is an ambitious numerically-measured goal for future church-plants.
In this three part series of posts I wish to share a theological perspective on women in ministry and a proposal for how I think the C&MA should handle this in the future. But first I want to address something that should deeply concern Alliance members of all kinds--no matter where they come down on the gender-roles issue.
"'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:12).
If one of the reasons for this postponement of an important theological discussion in our denomination was the concern to preserve unity, then ours is a fragile unity at best, and certainly not one that is found in Christ. Those united in Christ come together to discuss their differences and celebrate communion despite their diversities. Those united by vision statements, music styles, or strategic targets at the expense of this fuller Christian community are in danger of being little more than a club. Clubs are fine, but that is not what the gospel is about. There is a deep-seeded misunderstanding of Christian unity inherent in this postponement.
Furthermore, when someone moves to postpone a discussion because it is a threat to unity (and the vote to pass said motion is nowhere close to unanimous) than what they are really saying is that the discussion is a threat to the powers-that-be. Right from the get-go it paints those in favour of putting off the discussion as the glue keeping the church together and those in favour of carrying on debate as threats to the work of the Kingdom. It is a power-play of the worst kind (and it would seem that the original motion itself was probably a power-play of another kind: trying to slip one through without any prepared defense or rationale to be given).
Ultimately, this was a move toward the false peace of conflict avoidance rather than a deeper experience of communion in Christ.
The irony in all of this is that General Assembly is precisely the place where this crucial component of Kingdom work (discussion on policy issues) is supposed to take place! This motion to postpone the issue was the absolute neglect of Kingdom work!
I would suggest that this is also true on an even deeper level. What was the kingdom work that this discussion would distract us from? The planting of numerous churches? I am not going to argue that this is not the work of the kingdom, but I would suggest that it sounds like one more example of a bunch of evangelicals being caught up in a church vision with measurable and impressive goals at the expensive of other (less impressive and tangible but no less important) aspects of kingdom work.
The Assembly chose the false peace of conflict avoidance over the reconciliation process and the presence of God's peace that can be had when Christian people come together in their variance and speak the truth in love. If we can't do this kind of Kingdom work at Assembly, how are churches ever going to do it? Instead of our denomination leading churches in the important process of interpreting Scripture together for our time, we succumbed to one more power play and got caught up in one more strategic goal instead of actually trusting God and each other enough to practice the very ministry of reconciliation that we are supposed to be about.
These are all the scuff-marks on the surface of what I think may be an even deeper problem within evangelicalism today. In an age that is desperate to see people who are able to come together from across fences and have real discussion and communion despite diversity, we are failing to be that very witness that Christ intends to make of us. We are unified by strategic goals, music styles, and demographics and we are failing to be ambassadors of reconciliation.