Recent days have found some of us in communication with participants in the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. Thus, it has been interesting when several persons not present in that meeting have urgently sought to post in links and comments copies of certain news reports to (Indeed, one significantly slanted report has been quietly withdrawn.) We have read these reports, comparing notes with some present at TOSC. It is even being reported that the chair of the committee feels most of the divisions are willing to accept women’s ordination and that the time for study has passed.

Whether or not this individual is being quoted in context we do not know. We do know this: the Seventh-day Adventist Church will determine whether or not to ordain women in the 2015 General Conference session. It will not be determined by TOSC or any news network, website, conference, union, or division.

We also know that current deliberations are of necessity conducted in an atmosphere of biases, influences and threats. Some articles in print and online with women’s ordination under discussion have included reminders that funding supporting church mission in overseas divisions is, in measure, dependent upon North American dollars. Neither are we unaware that for the past several decades, pro-WO North American Adventist academic opinion has been exported round the world through an influence traceable to Andrews University international students. Therefore, it is no surprise to us if the current dominant North American academic perspective has filtered into the leadership ranks in places far afield.

The January 2014 TOSC included a more significant and contentious discussion of hermeneutics than previous meetings. Positions on hermeneutics within TOSC at present are in sharp disagreement. This is no surprise, since proposed changes to how the Church interprets Scripture would be unparalleled in our history, and have the most far-reaching impact on its ability to maintain a distinct Seventh-day Adventist identity and mission going forward.

Never before in Seventh-day Adventist work have changes contemplated been so significant. This situation seems an unlikely time to discontinue investigation. If the goal of this most extensive study is an enduring solution for the Church, the issue of hermeneutics cannot be avoided. It is impossible to envision any unifying solution with the church markedly divided over methods of interpretation. The Church has long agreed that the Historical-grammatical approach be used while avoiding even a modified use of methods that approach the Scriptures from a critical standpoint. The North American Division is asking the church to embrace hermeneutical pluralism, to approve the practice of a method of interpretation in direct contradiction to the Historical-grammatical.

Is this the path to unity?

When the Council of Adventist Pastors began publishing this website a year ago, we stated that a part of the reason for its operation was as an alternative resource for church members where information provided might sometimes be at odds with “officially” presented news and views. None should be surprised when chooses not to echo lines that have been predetermined to sustain certain preferred perspectives.

God has His hand on the wheel. A world church is considering these matters. Issues are becoming more sharply defined. The Holy Spirit is working. Pray for all as the Church seeks to follow the lead of He who is still its Head, Jesus.

11 thoughts on “January 2014 TOSC: a report

  1. As a member of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, I have been deeply troubled by the slanted reporting from certain denominational sources that has implied a movement toward women’s ordination among our world Divisions. This is the kind of reporting that political pundits and analysts call “spin.”

    This may well explain why the recent Adventist News Network (ANN) report, which alleged a global trend in the church toward women’s ordination, has now been removed from the General Conference website.

    The fact is that seven of our thirteen world Divisions voted to recommend to our Committee that women not be ordained to the gospel ministry. Those Divisions represent by far the vast majority of the global Adventist membership. Five Divisions recommended favorably regarding this practice, but those five don’t even amount to 20 percent of the worldwide Adventist body. Merely because some of the Divisions that sent a negative recommendation also indicated their willingness to abide by the world church’s decision in San Antonio, does not mean they are any less resolute in their opposition to a practice which runs counter to the divine order of authority in both the church and the family.

    Please continue to pray for the work of our Committee, and for the clarity of our witness to the denomination and to the world at large on this subject.

  2. Kevin,
    Aren’t these news guys in the same building as the NAD? Are they right down the hall from each other? I am trying to recall. Maybe the news network accidentally published an internal NAD memo only later seeing their mistake…

  3. May I offer a different spin on Kevin’s comments about what happened at the TOSC meeting last week and how I perceived the comments from many Divisions regarding their willingness to accept whatever the church decides in 2015? As Kevin and others have noted, five Divisions have clearly stated that they favor the ordination of women to ministry. One or two Divisions are on the fence so to speak, which in the end seems to indicate that they could go along with it. One Division is totally opposed to it, and even recommends reversing the 1975 decision to allow for the ordination of women elders. Many Divisions or regions within Divisions are not really in favor of it within their territories, but would be willing to go along with it if the church decides to allow regional bodies to make the decision as it fits them. Many of these Divisions understand that their cultures (the cultural argument was honestly mentioned a number of times) do not favor the ordination of women, that women in their societies are not really accepted in positions of spiritual leadership. In the end, in my opinion, whether WO will be accepted or not will depend on what question is asked at the GC Session. If the question is whether WO should be allowed, I think the answer will be No. But if the question is whether we can allow various divisions/unions to make this decision according to their understanding of the issue, and if the leadership of the church speaks favorably toward this resolution of the issue, then I think the majority of delegates at the session will vote Yes. It hinges on the question to be asked and how church leaders will frame the question. This is what I understand the various Division reports to be saying when they say they would go along with what the church decides and not see this issue as a church dividing issue.

    • Denis,
      You are entitled to your own opinion and no one can stop you from perceiving reality as you choose to. I have been reading through the actual reports, most of which are now available to those of us not on the committee. With one possible exception, every report I have read opposing WO offered the substantial reason for opposition as being based in biblical content and/or the dangers of employing the interpretive paradigms now being offered by western Adventist academics. Indeed, one of the most oft repeated concerns has been the OPPOSITE of what you say–as reports remind the reader of the Rio document and quite particularly of its statement voted by the church that the Bible transcends culture in all times, all situations! So we can read these reports for ourselves now–something to remember before posting…

      I do concur with you much depends on the wording of the motion that will come before the church in San Antonio. If the chief idea is, “Shall each division do its own thing?” this will ultimately destroy unity. If the wording is more like, “Shall the SDA Church ordain women as a biblical practice?” this could help decide the issue in a definite way up or down, and thus be more unifying. The only satisfactory approach is a clear up or down vote on WO itself.

      I find it almost unbelievable that some of you are willing to retire the Historical-grammatical method. But the evidence in the NAD Report is indisputable and damning.

      • Perhaps there’s another thing I should have added to the posting. Those who presented the various division reports also made ad hoc comments about their divisions’ position, nuancing it with comments such as their Divisions being willing to accept the decision of the church in 2015, or not everyone within their Divisions being opposed to WO, or cultural factors are playing a factor in their Divisions also, etc. Such comments are not always reflected in the written reports.

          • Steve, Let me expand what I meant to say:

            Perhaps there’s another thing I should have added to the posting. Those who presented the various division reports also made ad hoc comments about their divisions’ position, nuancing it with comments such as their Divisions being willing to accept the decision of the church in 2015, or not everyone within their Divisions being opposed to WO, or cultural factors are playing a factor in their Divisions also, etc. Such comments are not always reflected in the written reports. Hence, I and many others who were present at the TOSC meeting concluded that the written Divisions reports along with the verbal comments made by representatives of these Divisions (during the meeting and during private conversations at meal times) gave us the impression that if the question asked at the GC session in 2015 is about allowing a variance to church policy, and if this question is positively supported by church leadership, these Divisions now opposed to WO would in fact support the variance for areas of our church that would like WO. In my opinion, if the church moves in this direction, and if WO is not argued as a church-dividing issue, then we can keep unity and move on with our mission.

          • Denis,

            Your hope that the World divisions in opposition to WO would accept for each division to do their own thing knowing full well that the Bible does not support WO is mere conjecture on your part.

            The reason WO has surfaced once again is because in the 2 previous GC Sessions, the question was not correctly asked in full favor of WO or in full opposition. It will not come back a fourth time. If I may add here, Allowing WO would be the same as allowing our pastors to baptize by sprinkling. We know if both instances, baptism and ordination, that we follow the Bible examples even though the scriptures do not speak against sprinkling nor WO. We must adhere to Jesus own stand against error as a human, “IT IS WRITTEN”.

            When we have an example of what God wants in written form, that is the Truth we are toi follow. Ellen White addresses the issue specifically and refers to MEN holding this position. She states what follows and refers to “THE BIBLE RULE HAS BEEN DISREGARDED AND CONSEQUENTLY GRIEVOUS TROUBLE HAS BEEN BROUGHT UPON THE CHURCH”. Please read what she says in full:

            The apostle Paul writes to Titus: “Set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.” It would be well for all our ministers to give heed to these words and not to hurry men into office without due consideration and much prayer that God would designate by His Holy Spirit whom He will accept. {5T 617.1}

            Said the inspired apostle: “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” In some of our churches the work of organizing and of ordaining elders has been premature; the Bible rule has been disregarded, and consequently grievous trouble has been brought upon the church. There should not be so great haste in electing leaders as to ordain men who are in no way fitted for the responsible work–men who need to be converted, elevated, ennobled, and refined before they can serve the cause of God in any capacity. {5T 617.2}

            The gospel net gathers both good and bad. It takes time for character to be developed; there must be time to learn what men really are. The family of the one suggested for office should be considered. Are they in subjection? Can the man rule his own house with honor? What character have his children? Will they do honor to the father’s influence? If he has no tact, wisdom, or power of godliness at home in managing his own family, it is safe to conclude that the same defects will be carried into the church, and the same unsanctified management will be seen there. It will be far better to criticize the man before he is put into office than afterward, better to pray and counsel before taking the decisive step than to labor to correct the consequences of a wrong move. {5T 618.1}

            In some churches the leader has not the right qualifications to educate the members of the church to be workers. {5T 618.2}

            I personally do not know how we have gotten off the path of truth but I know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord. May we seek to be unified in the TRUTH, the Word is Truth and not the way which seemeth right unto a man. Amen

  4. Larry, you and the author of the above blog could use this inspired advice to A. T. Jones:
    “If a brother differs with you on some points of truth, do not stoop to ridicule, do not place him in a false light or misconstrue his words and wrest them of their true meaning. This is not conscientious argument. Do not present him before others as a heretic, when you have not with him investigated his positions, taking the Scriptures text-by-text in the spirit of Christ to show him what is truth. You do not yourself really know the evidence he has for his faith, and you cannot clearly define your own position. Take your Bible, and in a kindly spirit weigh every argument that he presents, and show him by the Scriptures if he is in error. When you do this without unkind feelings, you will do only that which is your duty and the duty of every minister of Jesus Christ.” MS vol 12, 998, p. 376. The word “kind” appears twice in this paragraph. There is little evidence of kindness (one of the fruits of the Sprit) in your reply to Denis and in the blog above. Jovan

    • Jovan,
      Perhaps you can point out in a more useful and exact way what you feel is unkind in my response to DF. If you choose to make this kind of observation, it could be actually useful and corrective if you will specify in particular where you see the problem. At this point because of your vagueness I am left to guess. Do you think it was unkind to point out (1) that his observations left a sense of unreality because I have been reading the actual division reports? Or, (2) did you feel it was unkind for me to point out that some Adventist scholars and administrators are presently engaged in a unilateral-and-unsolicited-by-the-Church attempt to change the way that the Church approaches the interpretation of the Bible? Did you object to the use of the word “damning” as in “giving significant evidence for”? Is it really a failure of kindness to illuminate that which significant evidence demonstrates is actually being attempted?

  5. Unity must be based upon Truth not compromise.

    “It is the will of God that union and harmony should exist among his people. Our Saviour prayed that his disciples might be one, as he is one with the Father. It should be our constant aim to reach this state of unity; but to do this we are not to sacrifice one principle of truth. It is through obedience to the truth that we are to be sanctified; for while Jesus prayed that his followers might be one, he prayed also, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” We are exhorted to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. This is the evidence of our discipleship. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another;” and conversely, our Saviour desired that his disciples might be one, that the world might know that the Father had sent him. What a thought! that the love and unity among Christians are presented as proof of our Saviour’s divine mission to the world.” {ST, May 12, 1881 par. 21}

    “Jesus prayed that his followers might be one; but we are not to sacrifice the truth in order to secure this union, for we are to be sanctified through the truth. Here is the foundation of all true peace. Human wisdom would change all this, pronouncing this basis too narrow. Men would try to effect unity through concession to popular opinion, through compromise with the world, a sacrifice of vital godliness. But truth is God’s basis for the unity of his people.” {RH, April 12, 1892 par. 19}


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