By OrdinationTruth.com staff

Last week the General Conference’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) met in its second substantial meeting and voted 86-8 to approve a consensus statement concerning ordination. We are interested in the developing thought of the committee seen in the areas touched by this document.

In the first of five paragraphs, all members of the church are included in a “royal priesthood.” Believers are called by God and engage in the God-appointed mission of the body. They serve according to the gifts God bestows.

The next paragraph makes clear that beside this general ministry, there are more particularized kinds. There is ministry in terms of “specific leadership positions.” These are on the basis of particular “biblical qualifications,” among them, those sex-specific items found in 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 5-9. Persons are called to serve in these “offices” for “local and global church ministry.” This is amplified by recognition in the document that “some leaders were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations” (third paragraph).

One argument that has been urgent to some of those favoring either the ordination of women or a significant overhaul of the Adventist understanding of it, has been that ordination, as it has been practiced by Adventists, is little more than an error emanating from a Roman Catholic tradition that we have copied unwittingly.

This idea is seen, for example, in the 1998 volume, Women in Ministry (WIM). Daniel Augsberger’s chapter “Clerical Authority and Ordination in the Early Christian Church,” closed arguing that

By mid-fourth century the bishops had taken over the power to preach and the authority to judge Christians. . . Clericalism had triumphed. . . . Adventist ordination that is valid worldwide reflects a later,
Augustinian concept of ordination (p. 96).

The idea represented here has been that anything approaching ordination as Seventh-day Adventists have understood it is wrong. Especially here, the new consensus statement is of special interest. The statement rejects this idea found both in WIM and in more recent discussions. The committee concludes rather that the basic Adventist approach is
consonant with Scripture; it is valid. This, then, is an important point of clarification: there is an identifiable biblical approach to this question, and the present Adventist Church position is confirmed.

More might be said. But as we look on and consider the development of this consensus, we see a position whose shapers have sought to develop in a manner biblically defensible. Interestingly, the statement as voted has room for both a baseline equality of men and women, even while honoring distinct, differentiated, creation-assigned sex-roles.

As earlier mentioned, here already is a trend away from the position of the chapter in WIM and toward a more biblical one. Not only has the world church never indicated progress toward the position of the WIM book, but here is seen movement away from that position. We concur that there is a kind of biblically consistent ordination, there is a royal priesthood in which we as believers participate, and at the same time, there are roles which are Scripturally mediated by specific qualifications.

We encourage church members to continue to lift up TOSC participants in prayer. We have added the TOSC consensus statement to our growing list of resources available on OrdinationTruth.com. Download it here:

TOSC-Theology of Ordination Consensus Statement.

The July 2013 issue of Ministry magazine, a journal published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and mailed to clergy of all Christian denominations, contained an article by Nancy Vyhmeister, titled “Junia the Apostle” (pp. 6-9). The cover artwork features an image of a smiling woman, presumably and supposedly a representation of this “apostle.” If you have never heard this person (Junia) described as a female apostle before now, you are not alone. However, among those endeavoring to find support for women to serve in male-sex specific roles, it is no new idea that this person must have been a female apostle.

Pastor Mike Lambert received his copy of Ministry this month, too (all Seventh-day Adventist clergy are mailed a copy of the magazine each month). When he saw the cover and its claim, he investigated. The brief article that follows here is pastor Lambert’s frank reaction to the arguments offered. FIND IT HERE.

On May 30, 2013 the Netherlands Union Executive Committee voted to ordain female pastors, but kept this decision secret until July 5, 2013. They claim they felt their action necessary to make a point of recognizing women as equal to men. Consider this part of their statement:

In the end, this decision was the result of weighing the principle of unity against the principle of equality. Other possibilities were also discussed, including the option of not ordaining any pastors until the world church recognises equality, and the option of waiting until the upcoming session of the General Conference of the world church to reach a decision. Ultimately it was decided that from June 1st, 2013 all ordained and commissioned pastors, regardless of gender, will be considered ordained in the Netherlands” (http://www.adventist.nl/2013/07/06/netherlands-union-conference-votes-to-ordain-female-pastors/, accessed 2013-07-07).

In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ordination grants the individual an authority in the church that is global in nature, not merely local. The world church—not local unions—looks to the Scriptures to determination qualifications for ordination. Because of the biblical counsel concerning spiritual leadership, one of the requirements for ordination is that an individual be male.

For 2,000 years the church has discerned that men and women are equal, yet called to different roles. No union has the authority to redefine “equality” for the world church. In addition, there is cause for concerned over any “principle of equality” that is seen to be of greater authority than the “principle of unity.” The Netherlands Union offered no explanation for the basis of their superior “principle of equality.”

Unions are entrusted to discern which male candidates meet the qualifications which the world church has set forth for those who shall be ordained. In exceeding its authority, the Netherlands Union stands in defiance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It has acted unilaterally and in disregard to previous world church actions (1990, 1995 GC sessions) refusing to grant unions the right to ordain whomever they wished. The present, high-handed action of the Netherlands Union, constitutes a current example set before church members and before the world, of disunity, rebellion and apostasy.