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! . . .
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 OrdinationTruth.com. (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 OrdinationTruth.com 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.
This video continues the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) interview by Pr. Jim Brackett of Pr. Larry Kirkpatrick. Part 1 was posted separately yesterday. This is part 2, and immediately follows part 1 to complete the full segment. Part 1 had concluded with a restatement of the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist principle of not judging Scripture with independent human reason, but letting Scripture judge our reason. The above video compares this with the NAD’s “Majority Report” proposal. NAD asks that the church make its authority an imaginary future point after the New Testament where God’s ideal will for male and female roles would reach fruition. Comparisons continue to the end of the segment.
On November 4, 2013, the North American Division’s biblical research committee brought its completed study on women’s ordination to its Year-end Meeting. The document was approved by 182 of 216 NAD delegates. Astonishingly, the study (we refer to the “Majority Report”) proposed a new method of biblical interpretation. They claimed it to be in harmony with longstanding Seventh-day Adventist use of the Historical-grammatical method. Most Seventh-day Adventists are unaware of this officially proposed NAD approach to the Bible. The Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP) has produced video interviews discussing the NAD’s “Principle-based Historical-cultural” method (PBHC). In three segments, Pr Jim Brackett interviews Pr Larry Kirkpatrick to unpack the implications.
CONTINUES IN PART 2 POSTED ABOVE…
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.
The Trans-European Division at its 2013 Year-end Meeting made several recommendations connected with the issue of Women’s Ordination. Among its recommendations to the world church: “Removing the intricate differences between various levels of ministry, such as the licensed and ordained minister, the licensed minister and the ordained local church elder, the pastor and the local church elder,” that the Church “remove all gender distinctions in its Working Policy related to the ministry,” that “unions, whose constituency meetings in session have voted approval and whose division committee has voted approval, be allowed to maintain an inclusive pastoral ministry which removes all gender distinctions within the work of the church in that union territory,” “recommend that the ritualistic and consecrational flavour of the act of ordination, its vague mixture of granting the Holy Spirit or gifts for ministry and ecclesiastical authority be radically toned done and removed from policy and practice,” recommends “that the imposition of hands be an optional part of the ceremony,” and asks that the church “separate Ordination from Election to an Organisational Office of Leadership.” An article reporting more fully can be found here:
A committee in the Division has been at work on these issues for 19 months. Over the coming months TED has plans to offer well over 1,000 pages of material they hope will support these ideas and others. The TED report is by far the legthiest to be sent to the GC Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC). TED is also the smallest of the 13 world divisions in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, having some 84,000 members.
The following tabulation lists each of the 13 current divisions which make up the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The leftmost column indicates the basic favoring/opposing Women’s Ordination position of their biblical research committee and 2013 division Year-end Meeting vote. In reading the actual completed reports which are now becoming available, we note that in several cases the response is not purely yes/no. Our heart goes out to these Adventists from round the globe who have labored with these issues, and we cherish the thought that they will pardon us for the inevitable simplification in reducing their reports to raw yes/no answers. Every division has been asked to give input to the General Conference TOSC (Theology of Ordination Study Committee). Remember, there is no necessary direct correlation between the view of the broader membership of a division, the views of its administrators, and the vote of its study committee. There is, however, a correlation between the membership of a Division and the number of delegates that shall be sent to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio. While this list does not include an estimate of the regular delegates to come from each division, it suggests something about the relative delegate count and of the possible direction they could be coming from when vote is taken concerning the ordination question.
WO DIV MEMBERSHIP NAME ===================================================== No ECD 2,704,468 East-Central Africa Division No ESD 120,351 Euro-Asia Division Indt IAD 3,612,480 Inter-American Division Indt IED 177,902 Inter-European Division Yes NAD 1,135,233 North American Division Yes NSD 661,652 Northern Asia-Pacific Division No SAD 2,101,991 South American Division No SID 3,062,672 South Africa-Indian Ocean Division Yes SPD 423,891 South Pacific Division No SSD 1,175,324 Southern Asia-Pacific Division* Indt SUD 1,607,108 Southern Asia Division Yes TED 84,093 Trans-European Division No WAD 866,254 West-Central Africa Division
No = No Yes = Yes Indt = Indeterminate
*This is a close call. The SSD BRC recommendation is more indeterminate, but the decided majority was “no,” often by approximately a 2 to 1 margin in the eight votes recorded by the committee at the end. In all cases, we encourage readers seeking more exact data to read the actual reports on the Adventistarchives.org website.
Last updated: 2014-01-31 06:27Z
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.
It may appear to the world church that the North American Division is immovably united in favor of Women’s Ordination. This is far from the case. Many Adventists in the small towns surrounding our universities in North America do favor Women’s Ordination. There are a few geographical locations like Southern California, Western Oregon, and parts of Ohio, where this is also the case. However, it is probably still true that the majority of Adventists in North America are not committed to Women’s Ordination. Many oppose it on serious biblical grounds.
Many NAD administrators and scholars seem in favor. But not all. For example, Edwin E. Reynolds teaches in the religion department at Southern Adventist University. Clinton Wahlen is an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute. Both are members in the North American Division and were among those selected to engage in study on behalf of the North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee. They have prepared a powerful study in which they dissent from the Majority report. This material is included as part of the NAD Report released on November 2, 2013. We have made available in the following link the full North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee Minority Report.
In the report, Reynolds and Wahlen point in particular to the central issue of interpretive method. “The current divergence in views on the subject of women’s ordination is due in part to different understandings of the nature of Scripture and how it should be interpreted. . . Some advocate an approach that takes into account the ‘trajectory’ of Scripture. . . extrapolated so that the trajectory beyond and outside of Scripture can be seen. . . such an approach, even though it might broadly affirm the Bible’s inspiration, nevertheless undermines it by characterizing selected portions of Scripture as time- and culture-bound and, therefore, tinged with the author’s prejudicial views on such topics, rather than God’s thoughts which are valid for all places and all time” (p. 195). The authors are concerned about this approach, and warn, “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” (pp. 196, 197).
Reynolds and Wahlen look closely at passages like Genesis two, Deborah in Judges, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, among others. They conclude that “ordaining women represents a significant departure from the biblical model” (p. 207). And, they warn that “To follow the Bible model on the issue of women’s ordination will require courage like that of our pioneers. Nevertheless, it is the only basis on which we can expect to maintain global unity, receive God’s continued blessing, and, most importantly, anticipate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to finish His work” (p. 208).
Among the varied studies produced on Women’s Ordination in the past five years in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, few illuminate so much in so compact a space as this document. The Council of Adventist Pastors encourages all to read the NAD Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report Minority Report.