In a few weeks, Seventh-day Adventists from around the world will descend on San Antonio, Texas to discuss, vote, amend and approve a variety of church policy issues and directives, including women’s ordination. The question that delegates will vote on is:
After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and;
After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission,
Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No
There are few points I’d like to draw out:
The question is not, “Should the Seventh-day Adventist Church allow women to be pastors?” Arguably, to address that question now, in 2015, is a moot point – many unions, conferences and churches in the SDA have had female elders and female pastors for quite some time.
The question is neither, “Should women be ordained as pastors (as opposed to just commissioned)?” Currently, many women are commissioned as pastors, but not ordained. Some key differences are explained here.
The real quandary with which we are presented as a church is what this vote will actually mean for the world church going forward.
Why Does this Vote Matter?
To summarize, some see a vote for “no” to mean that the work of the Lord will be constrained and frustrated in areas where a female pastor’s presence (and official recognition) is needed and beneficial. Others see a “no” vote as upholding Biblical truth and/or being in harmony with the world church.
Some see a vote for “yes” to mean unity in diversity and confirmation that unity does not equal uniformity. They see it as acknowledgment that our church is a global one and thus different areas are going to need to do things differently from other areas so that their particular needs are met and for the Gospel to be properly promulgated. They consider a “yes” vote as acknowledgement that our culture has changed. The culture of the Bible is different from the culture of today, and although truth is always truth, we must give some attention and credence to where the Bible was situated historically and where we, as a global church, are situated geographically, culturally and eschatologically. They see it more as an issue of opinion and not a theological or doctrinal issue, an issue of policy and not a moral imperative.
Others construe a vote for “yes” as pandering to current culture (and, dare I say, female equality and *gasp* feminism *shudder*). They believe a “yes” vote to mean essentially, “Yes, we can allow divisions to act un-Biblically and have female pastors. We can allow divisions to go against the Bible.” If that is the case, some people will feel compelled and are prepared to leave the SDA church, because they feel that the church no longer adheres to Biblical truth. Some see a “yes” vote as there being no true unity within the Adventist church. Some prophesy that there will be factions and the church will break off into fractions. Some have even said that this will open the door to seeing LGBT people ordained as pastors…
Since the question that will be posed to delegates touches on the two questions aforementioned, and although the question is not one of the rightness or wrongness of ordination, it is helpful to understand the issue of women’s ordination in the Adventist church today in order to better understand how to respond to the above question and vote at the General Conference in San Antonio.
Resources to Better Understand Women’s Ordination in the Adventist Church
Much (and I mean much) has been written on this topic (and, interestingly enough, there are a lot of videos with whiteboard drawings addressing the issue). That is why I’ve tried to collect the more pertinent, comprehensive and authoritative resources for you and put them in one place: here (or, more precisely, below). I’ve listed resources that support the ordination of women and resources that don’t. Like I said, much more (articles, opinion pieces) are available and can be found with a quick Google search, but I’ve only compiled the key resources. Suffice it to say, it is an inexhaustive list.
I admit – I may be slightly biased and you may be able to sense my bias given what is posted below (I mean, it is my blog after all…), but I’ve tried to present the arguments of both sides as best and as neutrally as I could. Hopefully you’ll see why some people have gotten their vestments into a knot.
If you are ever bored one day or need something to do one Sabbath, take a look-see through the materials posted below. The arguments on both sides are cogent. The Bible studies – written, presented and conducted by some of the most astute and preeminent theologians in Adventism – are rich and thorough. I guarantee you’ll learn something and your knowledge of a woman’s role in the church will be broadened – or challenged.
And if, after reading everything (or before reading anything) you feel a little riled up, I invite you to “take a deep breath and think about Who we serve”. It’s His church, not ours. He will take care of it no matter what happens in San Antonio or beyond. His will shall be done.
Pacific Union Session on the Ordination of Women (this site is just a minefield of papers, articles, depositions, presentations…it’s an excellent resource to get a general sense of the arguments for and against)
Adventists Encouraged to Study Women’s Ordination for Themselves (Adventist Review) (some really good resources are also posted at the end, like the “Way Forward” papers
Arguments in Favour
Equal Ordination (N.B. The website banners/headers for “Equal Ordination” and “Ordination Truth” [listed later] are very similar. I think this was intentional. Anyways, it confused me, so here’s a heads up).
Adventist Elders (thoughts on ordination from Adventist elder statesmen)
http://session.adventistfaith.org/ (already mentioned in the general overview)
Videos and Podcasts
Adventist Women+ Equality= Unity (Video Testimonials from Female Adventist Pastors — Wolfer Productions/Spectrum Forum)
Ty Gibson’s Argument Still Falls Short (AdVindicate) (Rebuttal to Ty Gibson’s article)
Women’s Ordination Questions and Answers (Five Part Series): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joph60x_Dc8&feature=youtu.be
Stephen Bohr Sermon Series (Parts 1 to 21)
Ellen G. White and Ordination
Statements on Ordination
“It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God. As they cherish the thought that Christ is their Companion, a holy awe, a sacred joy, will be felt by them amid all their trying experiences and all their tests. They will learn how to pray as they work. They will be educated in patience, kindness, affability, and helpfulness. They will practice true Christian courtesy, bearing in mind that Christ, their Companion, cannot approve of harsh, unkind words or feelings. Their words will be purified. The power of speech will be regarded as a precious talent, lent them to do a high and holy work. The human agent will learn how to represent the divine Companion with whom he is associated. To that unseen Holy One he will show respect and reverence because he is wearing His yoke and is learning His pure, holy ways. Those who have faith in this divine Attendant will develop. They will be gifted with power to clothe the message of truth with a sacred beauty.” — Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 322
Photos of EGW’s certificates (yes, certificates plural) of ordination and ministerial credentials:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10153355907254884&type=1 (you may have to be a member of the Facebook group to view them)
From the Michigan Conference in 1883 (Battle Creek): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203728224837866&set=p.10203728224837866&type=1&theater
Miscellaneous Papers and Essays (some may overlap with what is found on the NAD Ordination and TOSC websites)
Papers posted in the “I Support the Ordination of Women in Adventism” Facebook group (you have to be a member of the group to view the papers)
http://session.adventistfaith.org/ (again. 🙂 )