Thoughts on Ordination and San Antonio (GC Session)

“Circumstances alter cases.”

The phrase was often used by Ellen White. A positive example can be found in Testimonies for the Church, Volume Six (339:2), “While we present methods of work we cannot lay out an undeviating line in which everyone shall move, for circumstances alter cases. God will impress those whose hearts are open to truth and who are longing for guidance.” In the second volume of Manuscript Releases (100.2) is the following: “Circumstances alter cases. I would not advise that anyone should make a practice of gathering up tithe money. But for years there have now and then been persons who have lost confidence in the appropriation of the tithe, who have placed their tithe in my hands, and said that if I did not take it they would themselves appropriate it to the families of the most needy ministers they could find. I have taken the money, given a receipt for it, and told them how it was appropriated.” She also cautions people not to use the phrase as an excuse to ignore God’s Word and follow their own selfish motives and purposes (RH, September 14, 1905).

I did a little research and learned that Ellen White did not make the phrase up, it is actually an old English proverb, probably going back to the Seventeenth Century. I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and found the following definition: “A general principle may be modified in light of particular circumstances.” According to the Dictionary of Idiomatic English Phrases: “It is necessary to modify one’s conduct by the particular circumstances or conditions of each case.”

As time permits I plan to explore some significant instances in which the Bible appeared perfectly clear on a topic, but circumstances caused people to see things in the Bible that they had missed before. I think there are powerful implications in these Scriptures for the way we should handle issues like the ordination of women. This July delegates from around the world will attend the quinquennial session of the General Conference in San Antonio, Texas. A major question on the floor will be whether or not world divisions of the church can differ in the way they handle policies like ordination. My mission in this series of blogs will be to seek an answer to the question, “Is there any word from the Lord?” on this issue? I do not expect all to agree on what the Bible says about ordination, but there IS something in the Bible on this topic that we can all agree on. Stay tuned. . .

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Ordination and San Antonio (GC Session)

  1. Anthony Bosman

    I love this post! Nonetheless, perhaps it is noteworthy that Ellen White also warned against the possibility of the argument being used.

    “They are not particular to follow the ways and words of God. Circumstances, they say, alter cases. Worldly policy comes in, and they are tempted and drawn away. They moved accordingly to their own unsanctified desires, making crooked paths for their own feet and for the feet of others to tread in.” [UP 310]

    The heart of the distinction appears to be the question: Is one’s heart “open to truth and longing for guidance” or is one following “unsanctified desires”?

    The reality is, this isn’t just tough to determine in others but can also be difficult to determine of self. Que Psalm 139:23.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Well said! I included the counter statement for balance and truthfulness. But unwillingness to change is always dangerous, so it is safest to consider the possibility that my settled perception of truth might need to change some day.

  2. Justice

    HADRIEN , votre exposé ci-dessus est excellent , en plus c’est la réalité . L&l8g17;A#lema2ne est effectivement sur la voie de réaliser le rêve du III Reich , la domination de l’Europe, pour se faire , elle a utilisé l’arme économique au lieu des panzers division , la construction europénne , l’otan et en dernier lieu avec l’euro et le tout avec l’appui des USA , ceci pour aboutir à une colonisation et la vassalisation de tous les pays européens sous la direction de Berlin , donc la disparition de la france est programmé par le lavage de cerveau des français

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