Our pastors have given thought to an article recently published on the internet and offer this little response. The article in question proposes that the Seventh-day Adventist Church not follow the path of other churches by not splitting over the question of women’s ordination. We certainly desire that the church not split! But what is the truly pivotal question, the one which determines whether we are united or divided? And why does the author avoid it? We address this in “A New Path?” FIND IT HERE.
Exactly one year ago on February 4, 2013 the OrdinationTruth.com website went live. Much has happened this past year. Reflecting on the past orients us for the future.
The attempt to introduce women’s ordination (the practice of women and men in the Church serving interchangeably in positions of spiritual authority) has a history in our midst. The emphasis as it has developed in our lifetime has its rise in the 1960s. The ordination of women as local elders was introduced at 1986 Annual Council.
In due course, the ordination of women as pastors with full global authority was addressed at two General Conference sessions (1990 and 1995). Decisions were made at the highest level of church authority. The Church refused to take the step of ordaining women to these positions of spiritual authority. Our brothers and sisters were not convinced that the practice was reconcilable with Scripture.
By 2009, North American Division (NAD) leadership remained urgent to proceed. They targeted the Church’s E-60 policy. This world church guidance forbade women from serving in male headship positions such as conference and union president. But General Conference (GC) leadership upheld the decisions of the GC sessions (exactly what did NAD leadership expect?).
After an extended interaction between the NAD and GC, NAD leadership saw they could not prevail by following the rules; GC policy was too clear. The result? In early 2012 the NAD president wrote to the leaders of NAD Unions inciting them to action with directions such as the following:
“The North American Division and its Unions and Conferences (as local circumstances permit) must become more intentional in the development of pathways to ministry for female pastors. We must also develop intentional methods of mentoring women who can take on executive leadership positions within our conferences. . . . We must continue to move this matter forward throughout the North American Division” (Quoted in the E-60 link above).
The division president told them that in order to bring change they would have to make it happen at union and conference levels.
The result of this astonishing move came with speed. By midyear NAD’s Columbia and Pacific Unions had held special meetings and voted themselves their own variances, placing themselves in opposition to the world church. They denied the authority of the 1990/1995 General Conference sessions. They even acted in the face of earnest appeals by the General Conference administration which sent our current president to these meetings to plead that they not act in disunity.
It should not be passed over that these actions were undertaken even as the current GC administration was responding to the 2010 General Conference session request to revisit the question of women’s ordination by forming the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), a gathering of more than 100 scholars, laypeople, pastors, and administrators representing all 13 world Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And yet, even as that process was beginning, these Unions exceeded their authority and began to “ordain” women.
When we in the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) learned from our union paper, Gleaner, that the NPUC had created an ad hoc committee to study these matters and that our Union would now “educate” church members concerning the basis for “ordination without regard to gender,” after which it would hold a special session as Columbia and Pacific Unions had, we knew forces were converging which might lead to the same insubordinate outcome as those Unions. It became necessary that we investigate further for ourselves, and then seek to aid our Union and if possible influence it not to join itself to the example of the other NAD Unions.
Appeals were forwarded to NPUC leadership. We pleaded that the proposed steps not be taken. We are thankful that until now the NPUC has not held a similar session.
Surveying the situation, we saw that issues were not contained to the NPUC, and heard from many from across the NAD who were as alarmed as ourselves at actions now manifesting in the North American field. Because the NPUC continued to send mixed signals, our initially chosen name (“NPUC Supporting Pastors”) made unclear what we did and did not support. Growing interest throughout the NAD and a desire from others outside our Union who wished to participate led us to change our name to the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP). Now pastors throughout the North American Division territory could participate.
What the NAD president and Columbia and Pacific Unions had begun continued to bear its fruit. In October 2013, the Southeastern California Conference constituency, in opposition to its world church, elected Ms. Sandra Roberts to serve as its president in direct violation of E-60 and GC session decisions.
This was not all. Each Division invited to be involved in TOSC had been asked to study the issues surrounding women’s ordination. NAD leadership appointed itself a committee, too. Its committee released a 249 page report pleading that the world church permit it to ordain women.
Most astonishing of all was that—at last—the unavoidable issue of hermeneutics was placed front and center. The NAD admitted in its report that in order to neutralize the Bible evidence opposing the ordination of women, it was necessary to use a plan of biblical interpretation they called the “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method.
This method is said to be intended only for selective use. It is to be applied especially in the interpretation of what the NAD called “difficult” New Testament “headship” texts. The NAD-proposed method exactly contradicts the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist approach to biblical interpretation called the Historical-grammatical approach, voted by Annual Council in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1986.
We commend current NAD leadership for their lucid admission that this change in interpretive methodology is required to make possible the achievement of their purpose. But is the church ready to lay aside the Historical-grammatical approach that Scripture interprets Scripture? Is it ready to discard the one methodical approach to the Bible which has led to our unity on a worldwide basis in embracing the seventh day Sabbath, and our adherence to the literal, physical, visible, audible Second Coming of Jesus with kindred truths?
We believe that every church member within the North American Divisions would be blessed by the NAD’s Minority report.
Another development of interest coming from TOSC has been that some in our world divisions have called for a return to biblical fidelity on the issue of women elders, that the practice be discontinued.
“There is a lack of biblical precedence for the appointment of female elders…. there is no biblical support for the ordination of woman pastors. The ordination of women elders should also not be considered. That implies that as from the action date, women shall no longer serve as elders” (Summary of the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division Biblical Research Committee on the Ordination of Women, pp. 1, 3, at
http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-southern-africa-indian-ocean-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).
Other Divisions have also found the desire to ordain women as pastors having global authority biblically unsustainable. For example, consider these notes from fellow believers in the South American Division:
In the New Testament, the preeminence of male spiritual leadership is seen in the role of the husband at home (Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Cor 11:3), in the leadership of the apostles, the elders and the deacons in the Church (Acts 6:1-6; 17 14:23; 15:6, 22; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 2:20; 4:11; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), and in the ministry of the prophets, the pastors-teachers, and the evangelists (Acts 13:1; 21:8; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). . . . The New Testament plainly presents the qualifications required for someone to become a bishop/presbyter/pastor (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). According to these texts, the pastoral ministry seems to belong to a distinctive area of male spiritual leadership in the Church. Faithfulness to biblical teaching predicates the need to follow this orientation. There is no clear biblical basis, therefore, to ordain women to the pastoral ministry” (South American Division Summary and Report on its Study and Proposal on the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Ministry, pp. 3, 4, http://www.adventistarchives.org/brc-south-american-division-presentation.pdf, accessed 2014-02-04).
We find ourselves much in agreement with these initiatives which would help restore consistency and unity and help revitalize as a global people our faithfulness to the Bible.
Looking to developments anticipated between now and 2015, we remain alert. Columbia and Pacific union leadership remain in place, and those Unions are presently “ordaining” women in opposition to the General Conference session determined position of the world church. Those Unions are presently operating in flagrant defiance of the world church. They have substituted their authority for the authority of the General Conference.
Another trend we already see is pro-WO advocates urging that the General Conference is illegitimately gathering power to itself, centralizing its authority. We anticipate that these unfounded charges will be broadcast ever more loudly by those who insist on acting in contradiction to the appeals for unity which have been offered on behalf of the world church.
TOSC is set to complete its study process this year and forward its report to 2014 GC Annual Council. The NAD’s proposed “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” method is now public knowledge and Adventists are only just beginning to process the implications that would follow its adoption. Shall the Seventh-day Adventist Church endorse the ordination of females to male headship roles? Possibly. But if so, it is clear now that it will be at the cost of the most primitive, basic issue of all—how we interpret Scripture.
It is urgent that we count the cost now before we buy the product in 2015. If we are going to charge women’s ordination on the Seventh-day Adventist hermeneutical credit card, we must first consider what it will cost in the long term.
Although we have had an enormous response to our continuing study and website, many Seventh-day Adventists—even some pastors—remain unaware of this website or of the existence of the Council of Adventist Pastors. We encourage all readers to share this blog post link with fellow Adventists and especially with your pastors who, in this one post, will have a sample of links and materials the scores of pastors who are CAP have shared. Maybe your pastor would like to participate?
And now: Let OrdinationTruth.com year two BEGIN! . . .
The United Methodist Church (began ordaining women in 1956) is today dealing with pastors performing same-sex unions in defiance of their own denominational Book of Discipline. We included a link to a previous video about the attempt to legitimize homosexual practice at the 2012 UMC GC session. The 11 minute video above updates some developments since then. While this is not specifically a Seventh-day Adventist matter, there are similarities between the Methodist and Adventist Churches—as there are between the women’s ordination and homosexual practice advocacies (both driven by liberation theology) (See also LGBTQ theology).
UPDATE 2013-12-24: Pastor Mark Shaeffer (the subject of some of the video material above) was defrocked by the United Methodist Church on December 19, 2013 after he refused to be repentant for his actions, refused to commit himself to uphold the UMC Book of Discipline, and refused to surrender his credentials.
Last year a document was released that quite succinctly answered some of the key questions in the present controversy over unity and the ordination of women. That document was titled Questions & Answers Regarding Current Issues of Unity Facing the Church. We reproduce this document here in hopes of lending it wider circulation. This document was subtitled, “A response by the General Conference Officers and Division Presidents” (i.e., the top 25 world leaders of the Adventist Church).
We also remind visitors to this site that CAP has made available a document summarizing developments of the past five years titled E-60 and the WO Endgame, which is also quite useful in understanding these developments. Finally, a third document addresses similar policy questions as the above and may be helpful. That document is titled Church policy, Church unity, and Women’s Ordination.
BREAKING NEWS. This video was released late on the afternoon of Thursday, November 14, 2013. In it, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, shares a “state of the church” address. The release of this message directly to the church viewership in this way is unusual. Wilson tells about the powerful movings of the Holy Spirit upon the church round the world right now, but also shares four special concerns which are weighing on his heart. Included among these is a special concern over disunity and some segments of the Church ignoring the agreed policies by which the church works together.
The report that follows was made public today (November 12, 2013) by the Inter-European Division. While we do not concur with the decision of their study committee, we share their news release here as pertinent to the the chief topic we have been investigating.
Madrid, Spain [Corrado Cozzi]. The Inter-European Division will recommend to the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee that there is room for the church to ordain women to pastoral ministry.
The recommendation follows study of the papers presented at the division’s Biblical Research Committee [BRC] as well as those prepared for the Theology of Ordination Study Committee this year from January 15 to 17 and July 22 to 24.
The process is part of the world church’s ongoing study of the theology of ordination, which was first established at the denomination’s General Conference Session in 2010. Each of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions is preparing its own report, and world church officials have promised to bring back a compiled report to the 2015 General Conference Session.
The Inter-European Division’s recommendation stems from several points:
- The Bible does not specifically define what ordination for
pastoral ministry is.
- There are no direct statements in the Bible either commanding or
prohibiting women’s ordination.
- As the church felt free to develop its organizational structure
to further its mission based on biblical principles, division BRC
members consider ordination not as a doctrinal or biblical issue, but something that must be handled at an administrative level.
- There are no clear biblical principles that would require or
guide the application of the principle of headship in the family or the church.
- The Old Testament priesthood has its fulfillment in the unique
priesthood of Christ, which is the basis for the priesthood of all
- BRC members were unclear over why ordination requires a
differentiation between genders that doesn’t exist in other levels of ministry or service, such as teachers, deacons, prophets and leaders.
Based on the report of the Biblical Research Committee, the Executive Committee of the Inter-European Division recommends the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, taking into consideration the possibility of applying it according to the needs of the fields (http://eud.adventist.org/news/detail/date/2013/11/12/inter-european-division-will-recommend-that-there-is-room-for-womens-ordination/, accessed 2013-11-12).
The decision was made at the Division’s 2013 Year-end Meeting. The Inter-European Division is one of 13 Divisions which make up the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are nearly 18 million members of the church. Inter-European Division has approximately 178,000 members. It is composed of the Austrian, Bulgarian, Czecho-Slovakian, Franco-Belgian, Italian, North German, Portuguese, Romanian, South German, Spanish, and Swiss Unions.
Kevin D. Paulson takes a look at the authority of the General Conference. He responds to charges presently being published on other websites that the General Conference, in asking that Unions not ordain women, has exceeded its authority. Gary Patterson offers such ideas. Paulson checks them against the Working Policy. FIND IT HERE.
A RESPONSE FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE TO RECENT ACTIONS IN NORTH AMERICA
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been called by God as an urgent, end-time voice proclaiming God’s love and last day message to the world. He has commissioned us to proclaim the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 to people worldwide desperately looking for hope. The message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is unique and is heaven-sent. Our top priority as a church is knowing Jesus ourselves and sharing His message of redemption. Nothing is to stand in the way of this proclamation as we unite to reach every “nation, kindred, tongue and people” with the “everlasting gospel.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a fellowship of believers bound together by a common commitment to Christ, the truths of the Bible, a worldwide church organization and a mission to the world. Each of these elements is vitally important in preserving the unity of the church and keeping it from fracturing. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not organized as a collection of independent units. Although each Conference/Mission, Union and the General Conference (which includes the divisions) have their own constituencies, they are also united by common commitments, mutual trust and agreed upon policies. The Church, the body of Christ, is inter-related. Actions that affect one part of the body affect the whole. The Apostle Paul stated it succinctly in these words, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”(1 Corinthians 12:12)
Working Policy, which is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When personal convictions are placed ahead of the collective policy decisions of the worldwide church, troubling precedents are set. God works in an orderly way and wishes His church to exemplify this sanctified behavior through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility and submission to God for the good of the church body as outlined in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are fundamental Biblical principles for the benefit of the church.
At the 2012 Annual Council in a voted action entitled, “Statement on Church Polity, Procedures, and Resolution of Disagreements in the Light of Recent Union Actions on Ministerial Ordination,” the world church strongly indicated that it does not recognize as ordained ministers individuals who do not meet the criteria outlined in policy. It deeply concerns the world leadership of the church that recently a local conference constituency elected as a conference president an individual who is not recognized by the world church as an ordained minister. Ordination to the ministry is one of the criteria set forth for being a conference president. General Conference administration is working with the North American Division administration as they deal with the implications of this local conference action, which is contrary to the 2012 Annual Council action.
The world church is currently working together in a Theology of Ordination Study Committee with participation by all divisions to better understand the functions of ordination as well as the role of women in relation to ordination to the gospel ministry. A careful process is functioning and reports will be given to the 2014 Annual Council with the expectation that this subject will go to the 2015 General Conference Session for a decision under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We have every confidence in the Lord’s leading of His precious remnant church. By God’s grace and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the church will find its way through this challenging time as we move forward with the unique message and mission entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist movement. It is God’s plan that we proclaim His end-time, prophetic truth to every corner of the globe and especially the enormous metropolitan centers of the world through “Mission to the Cities” utilizing every form of comprehensive urban evangelism including comprehensive health ministry and many other methods. We urge all church members and leaders to pray that the Holy Spirit will unite us to fulfill Christ’s promise that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) United in Christ’s love, bound together in a common Biblical message, linked through a common church organization and committed to one another with mutual respect and trust through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are confident this church will triumph at last and proclaim Christ’s eternal message of truth to the ends of the earth in anticipation of Jesus’ soon second coming.
—The General Conference Executive Officers
Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick has investigated in particular the history of the past five years that have brought so much disunity to the world church. He tells the tragic backstory of these developments in “E-60 and the WO Endgame.”
UPDATED: 2013-11-05 01:51: Adventist Review Reports on the NAD TOSC Report here: http://www.adventistreview.org/article/6791/archives/issue-2013-1530/30-cn-north-america-church-leaders-receive-theology-of-ordination-report.
2013-11-04 21:59: As the North American Division Year-end Meeting draws to a close, the NAD has finally come to its Division report for the Theology of Ordination Study committee. They voted to receive the report, although 31 voted “No.” NAD has also launched a new website (NADOrdination.com) with several videos. What will surprise some is that NAD has now come out into the open with a new hermeneutical approach in contrast to the Historical-grammatical approach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The new approach has been designated by its advocates the “Principle-based Historical-cultural” method (PBHC). Kyoshin Ahn writes positively about the new hermeneutic as a representing “a whole new movement in biblical studies. . . . The overwhelming majority of the [NAD] committee feels that these difficult passages [passages mentioned by those who oppose WO] require the modern Adventist reader to employ a principle-based approach” (North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report, pp. 23, 31). In the Minority Report, included in the NAD-TOSC Report, Edwin H. Reynolds and Clinton Wahlen ably point out the dangers of unsound interpretive approaches. Warn Reynolds and Wahlen in their minority report, “. . .it is one thing to study the historical-cultural backgrounds to enlighten our understanding of the setting in which the text was written.; it is another thing altogether to suggest that the text was culturally conditioned and that, therefore, a trajectory beyond the text must be constructed for our current more enlightened age. If the latter were true, it would mean that the Bible does not set forth universal principles but only that which was perceieved by the inspire writers to be valid for the local situation at the time or, even worse, reflects then-current prejudices and misunderstandings” (Ibid., pp. 196, 197). No doubt, CAP shall publish more on these developments in due course.
2013-10-31 13:26: It appears so far that the first report below may be correct. Ms. Roberts is said to have been welcomed at the Year-end Meeting by NAD Secretary G. Alexander Bryant. Long applause is reported. The NAD, PUC, and the SECC seem to be jointly aligned in upholding actions which are in defiance of the General Conference in session.
2013-10-31 07:22: General Conference Statement “Moving Forward Together” here: http://www.adventistreview.org/article/6780/archives/issue-2013-1530/30-cn-moving-forward-together. Excerpt from the statement: “Working Policy, which is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When personal convictions are placed ahead of the collective policy decisions of the worldwide church, troubling precedents are set. God works in an orderly way and wishes His church to exemplify this sanctified behavior through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility and submission to God for the good of the church body as outlined in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are fundamental Biblical principles for the benefit of the church.
“At the 2012 Annual Council in a voted action entitled, “Statement on Church Polity, Procedures, and Resolution of Disagreements in the Light of Recent Union Actions on Ministerial Ordination,” the world church strongly indicated that it does not recognize as ordained ministers individuals who do not meet the criteria outlined in policy. It deeply concerns the world leadership of the church that recently a local conference constituency elected as a conference president an individual who is not recognized by the world church as an ordained minister. Ordination to the ministry is one of the criteria set forth for being a conference president. General Conference administration is working with the North American Division administration as they deal with the implications of this local conference action, which is contrary to the 2012 Annual Council action.” (This statement appears now here: http://news.adventist.org/all-news/news/go/2013-10-31/adventist-officers-release-statement-regarding-a-local-conferences-recent-election-of-president-1/. The NAD Year-end Meeting begins on October 31 at 1:30 Eastern time.
2013-10-31 00:40: It is being reported that NAD officers and the union officers from the NAD met on October 30 and confirmed that Sandy Roberts will be given the same registration packet and badge as everyone else and will participate in the NAD Year End Meetings the same as every other elected president of a local conference.
If this is true, and if it actually comes to pass that Ms. Roberts will be a voting participant in this YEM, the North American Division will be openly aligning itself with the insubordination of the Southeastern California Conference that elected a woman in a position the world church only authorizes men to fill. If indeed this comes to pass it will mean that the NAD stands in open violation of its own Working Policy. Check E-60.
NOTE: Information in this post is to be considered only tentative until confirmed.
NOTE: This post will be updated.