A Simple Solution

Here is a short summary of where I am on the issue of women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For decades I have read multiple studies on the subject on both sides. Many studies on both sides seem very convincing until you read the arguments from the other side. It finally dawned on me that the one thing we seemed to agree on was that the Bible itself never asks the question we are asking, “Should women be ordained to the gospel ministry?” While there are people who disagree with that assertion, no one has been able to point me to a text that actually asks the question, so I continue to hold that position. And there is a good reason for that. Ordination as we know it largely developed in the Middle Ages, so the Bible could not and would not address the question, except perhaps in a prophecy of the future.

In light of that, I observe that in my part of the world NOT ordaining women exacts significant costs on the church’s mission and credibility in the wider community. No one from another part of the world could truly understand or assess those costs. Are those costs worth bearing? Only if the Bible is clear. But the assertions that the Bible is clear are mostly coming from parts of the world that have never studied the question as deeply as I have been forced to study it. I find it interesting that the only substantive studies against women’s ordination in the SDA Church are coming out of North America, the very place that doesn’t generally find those same studies convincing or helpful. And the best arguments against women’s ordination originated with a segment of non-SDAs who have historically been hostile to both Adventism and Ellen White.

I also note that the SDA Church did not adopt ordination as currently practiced from study of the Bible. It was adopted for practical reasons, to validate who spoke for the church and who did not. Today women around the world are hired and trusted to speak for the church in various capacities, even in parts of the world that don’t want to ordain them. But making a distinction between women and men in terms of ordination puts meaning into the act that it never had for the SDA pioneers.

In light of the above I have slowly come to the conclusion that this is one of those issues (like food offered to idols in the NT) that is best handled at the local level. I do not want women’s ordination to be forced on those who would pay a heavy price in their culture for doing so. Similarly, those paying a heavy price for NOT ordaining women should be allowed to assess those costs and act as the Spirit leads. The world will not end and the church will not fall as a result.

To me it seems so simple. Then why is it so hard?

9 thoughts on “A Simple Solution

  1. Nini Ram

    I think you are failing to see that such action (let each division decide) will further weaken the unity of the church … especially now, during this end times, that our unity will be key in facing the dangers ahead.

    The problem with women ordination is that it eliminate key types and symbols well established by God in the Bible; man as representing God as the husband of the church, herself symbolized as the women. To place a woman as “the husband”/pastor of the women (the church) is in fact a homosexual representation of this MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP” as such an attack against God’s design….and be sure that if the SDA Church is the remanant true church..God will not permit this to happen!!!

  2. Owen Bandy

    My thoughts exactly. I think it is “fear” that drives the two sides. On the one side fear that women won’t be validated or receive the proper recognition (and maybe remuneration) and on the other side fear that we are sliding into the abyss of Historical Criticism and worldliness.

  3. John Scheermeijer

    There is no simple solution simply because of the fixed mindset of the two groups involved. Both groups see it as an issue that should not be confined to the local level.
    Kevin Paulson summarised the resolution of the Annual Council 2106 in regard to this issue as follows: “The issue confronting those refusing compliance with the above policy [that ordination to the gospel ministry be restricted to men] is now extremely serious. They now have one year to adjust their local policies and actions so as to conform to the voted policy of the world church. This is a new thing in the Adventist ordination crisis. Those out of harmony with the voted decision of the world body will be expected to change their practices, or face the grave consequences of which our General Conference president has spoken in the past.”
    I am old enough to remember the last major crisis in the SDA church in 1982. Some administrators had an idea of what was coming prior to that time but most members did not. For many the world-wide upheaval that occurred was worse that it could have been. I believe our leaders could have done a better job at preparing the members.
    I have always appreciated what I consider your God given talent in building bridges between people groups that hold different perspectives. I pray that God can use this talent to prepare members for what looks to be a particularly difficult time ahead.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Thanks, I am still wrestling with this situation but have been silent for a while. Maybe room for compromise will be found. I can’t believe church leadership would place people like me in a conscience bind. Here’s the problem, the conscience of many who oppose WO requires that to ordain women anywhere brings God’s judgment against the church everywhere. So ordaining women is not an option while they are in the majority. On the other hand, it is not a matter of conscience to ordain women, the conscience issue is treating women equally. Can we find a way to treat women equally without ordaining them? The Scandinavian unions may have found a way forward to do that, but the hardliners are resisting even that right now.

      1. John Scheermeijer

        “Here’s the problem, the conscience of many who oppose WO requires that to ordain women anywhere brings God’s judgment against the church everywhere.”
        John, I’m glad that you qualified your statement with the word “many”. However many who oppose WO are actually saying that their motivations are quite different.
        I’d suggest that if they quote the following passage in regard to the administration of the church in the first century, then their motivation would be the same, ie. to thwart “the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy”
        “When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95). ”

        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          Thanks for the comment. It should also be noted that both the Judiazers and Paul ignored the council’s decision when away from Jerusalem. So Acts 15 was not the final word, a process of wrestling to understand God’s will continued.

          1. John Scheermeijer

            I don’t see Paul ignoring the council’s instructions. Rather I see him upholding the instruction not to eat meat offered to idols in one of the most idolatrous cities of the ancient world, Corinth. Paul upholds this instruction by explaining the reason it was given.
            1 Corinthians 10:28 (NKJV)
            But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”

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