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DOWNLOAD HANDOUT for Kirkpatrick Bakersfield presentation.
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nad-wo-qa-brochure-cap-responseIn February 2015 the North American Division mailed to Adventist Churches in its territory thousands of brochures posing carefully phrased questions and advocating women’s ordination. Very little Scripture support is offered in the document. The link below reproduces the “answers” as included in the NAD mailing. The Council of Adventist Pastors interacts with this material.

The COUNCIL OF ADVENTIST PASTORS responds to NORTH AMERICAN DIVISION Q&A Theology of Ordination: answers to common questions.

Note. Document version updated on March 8.

More than 18M members, gathered from across the globe, make up the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Every five years delegates are elected and called to General Conference session. They seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for collective leading in key decisions of the Church. This July (2015), delegates will meet in San Antonio, Texas, USA. The issue of women’s ordination is to be addressed. On two previous occasions (1990, 1995), the General Conference voted not to permit the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. The short video appeal above calls for delegates to reject the proposal to permit each division to decide for itself on women’s ordination, and that the Church instead implement TOSC position #1.

The following presentations were given and live-streamed on Wednesday and Thursday, October 1, 2, 2014:

Womens Ordination #1 Oct 1 — “Are You Sure? Issues and Answers” — Stephen Bohr

Womens Ordination #2 Oct 2 — “The Impact of Spiritualism on Feminism and Gender Issues Today” — Laurel Damsteegt

Women’s Ordination #3 Oct 2 — “From Mohaven to TOSC: How we got here” — Mario Veloso

Women’s Ordination #4 Oct 2 — “Male Headship in the Old Testament” — John Peters

Women’s Ordination #5 Oct 2 — “Male Headship in the New Testament” — Ingo Sorke

Women’s Ordination #6 Oct 2 — “Hermeneutics: Universal Principles and Local Application — 1st Panel”

Women’s Ordination #7 Oct 2 — “Straw Man Arguments in Favor of Women’s Ordination” — Eugene Prewitt

Women’s Ordination #8 Oct 2 — “The Present Relevance of 1 Timothy” — Don Mackintosh

Prs. Larry Kirkpatrick and Mike Lambert discuss the theological movement of denominations which approve women’s ordination and their inevitable drift into approval of same-sex unions. They consider how one and only one denomination so far has turned back from this—by reestablishing a historical-grammatical interpretive plan at their seminary. Discussion turns, with some regret, to the current situation of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary located in Berrien Springs, MI. The women’s ordination-favoring theological approach of the current dean is investigated, the core presupposition identified. 13 minutes.

Daniel Scarone, miembro del TOSC (Comisión de Teología sobre Ordenación), argumenta sobre la hermenéutica, el “argumento del silencio,” la ordenación femenina al ministerio y la influencia de la cultura.

Pastors Larry Kirkpatrick and Mike Lambert discuss “NAD’s cultural WO solution.” Although the North American Division has packaged the adoption of women’s ordination as being a biblical necessity, the solution they insist upon for the church is strangely identical to the one offered by Lutheran scholar John H.P. Reumann to ELCA in 1987—just three years before the original attempt by the NAD to introduce WO to the world field in 1990 GC session. The CAP pastors also discuss a most critical hermeneutical admission made by Ruemann—although one that, so far, NAD WO advocates have not acknowledged.

The North American Division’s 248 page 2013 Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report urged that Seventh-day Adventists adopt a variety of hermeneutical innovations, among them, the “redemptive movement” or “trajectory” hermeneutic. References in the NAD document in support of these ideas included William J. Webb’s book Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. Pastors Larry Kirkpatrick and Mike Lambert share material from that book showing what happens when the people who developed it use their own “principle-based” approach on an issue like the seventh day Sabbath.

The NAD Report refers to William J. Webb’s book, Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals, in footnotes 18 and 19, and in several paragraphs in the report on pp. 26-28. The dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, later in the NAD Report also promotes the “redemptive movement” hermeneutic.

After some 18 months of work, the 106 member Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) concluded deliberations with a June 2-4, 2014 meeting. The TOSC study group was appointed as a result of the 2010 Atlanta General Conference session request made by the North American Division (NAD) that the Church consider women’s ordination yet again. It is now possible to look more broadly at what TOSC (not an NAD but a General Conference committee), has revealed.

Key outcomes from the 2013-2014 TOSC process now concluded include:

  • The committee agreed that the Seventh-day Adventist practice of ordination was valid (some had urged the practice was unbiblical).
  • The committee agreed that women should be involved in ministry. This was never in dispute although some favoring women’s ordination (WO) had suggested it was.
  • As meetings progressed it became apparent some supporters of WO were proposing the use of methods that seriously diverged from the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist use of the historical-grammatical approach to biblical interpretation. Advocates of WO unveiled an “adaptation” of the historical-grammatical method and a “major” (2013 NAD Report, p. 24) plan for biblical interpretation they called the “principle-based, historical-cultural” (PBHC) method. This approach they placed on a continuum between the historical-critical and historical-grammatical methods! (Ibid., p. 8). This modification in approach, they said, was “required” in order to address certain “difficult passages” (Ibid., p. 31). Fortuitously for those favoring WO, the use of the PBHC method eliminated from the Bible “conclusive evidence prohibiting the ordination of women” (Ibid., p. 25). The NAD study committee report here quoted from, far from supporting the historical-grammatical method as claimed (Ibid., pp. 7, 8, 14-20) actually treated the 1986 “Methods of Bible Study” document advocating it selectively at best, even criticizing it (Ibid., pp. 23-25).
  • Several biblical passages touching the question of Headship were studied in TOSC. Although the committee as a whole was divided, many found the exploration of the Scriptures on this point stimulating and useful.

The spirit of the meetings remained positive, but TOSC closed with no consensus. Participants remained sharply divided over women’s ordination.

The results of the TOSC process will in due course be made available in its final report, which includes the positions and recommendations suggested by groups in the committee. This material will be forwarded to General Conference ADCOM (Administrative committee) this month. At Annual Council this October the General Conference will review TOSC’s advisory recommendations and determine how the women’s ordination question will be processed at the 2015 General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

In the concluding meeting, a third distinct group developed. This group felt it necessary to concede that the Church should let each division decide the women’s ordination question for itself. While holding that the office of the ordained minister should ideally be carried out by males, this group’s overarching stated concern was unity. And so, as God permitted Israel to choose for itself a king against His will, the Church should let each division decide the women’s ordination question for itself—even if the decision to ordain women was wrong.

A straw poll was taken on the last day of the meeting. Thirty-two persons voted for the biblical-qualifications (anti-women’s ordination) position. Forty committee members favored women’s ordination. And 22 persons voted for the let-each-division-decide-independently option. Imagine! Here we stand on the very borders of the heavenly Canaan, and the best we can do is agree to disagree?

The straw poll seemed to show that the participating majority of the committee would approve of having each division decide the matter of women’s ordination for itself—yet this was not so. In fact, the “Biblical qualifications” (anti-WO) and the “A proposal for an accord on Women in Ministry” (pro-women’s ordination) positions were very firm. Thus, the majority of the 95 polls returned (73) were NOT interested in the compromise position as their first option. (But as many as 12 who favored women’s ordination could have included the compromise position as their second option). But the straw poll also showed (32 + 22) that more than half of those participating understood male headship/leadership to be the biblical position. The compromise position garnered 22 responses as first choice, yet of those 22 almost as many, 19, were willing to accept another option. Thus, the compromise position lacked deep commitment. In contrast to these, zero of the 32 participants marking the “biblical qualifications” (anti-WO) position were willing to mark either alternative as second choice, while two did have a distant third option they preferred to the other. And so, a more nuanced look at the poll results shows that rather than being fluid, the positions are rather firmly locked.

toscstrawpoll

Some favoring women’s ordination will overstate the significance of the straw poll results, but in actuality, there is little in the TOSC process for them to rejoice in. TOSC has revealed the most fundamental point in the whole matter. Namely, that should the world church adopt women’s ordination, it will have to change its approach to biblical interpretation in order to lend support for the new practice. It is no news that some are ready to change how we interpret the Bible in order to prevent “division” of the church. Yet the facts remain: the church is divided as never before.

TOSC has not created the divide. It has only more clearly revealed it.

Everything turns on the Adventist approach to biblical interpretation. Encouraging each division to act unilaterally on women’s ordination would set the precedent that in future, every division would decide on same-sex marriage or any other overly controversial matter. In essence, this course of action would mean abandoning global coherence as a church body. We would become a gaggle of disagreeing units each doing what was locally felt to be the right. Can a church thrive or even persist in existence when it values unity even at the sacrifice of God’s ideal, more than that unity founded on the authority of “the Scripture of truth”? Another denomination might survive that approach for a time; the Seventh-day Adventist Church would not.

TOSC could not have been more successful in revealing that the Church now stands at a monumental crossroads in biblical interpretation. Whatever is decided in San Antonio, it will be impossible to turn back.

Pacific Union Conference communication director Gerry Chudleigh published his paper on May 1, 2014 titled, “A short history of the Headship Doctrine in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Chudleigh proposes that in the 1980s a small group of Adventists from Southern Michigan raided Calvinist theologians for their “headship theology.” Nevertheless, he says, practically no Adventists had heard such ideas until 2012. According to Chudleigh “headship theology” is a brand new doctrine for Adventists, and the TOSC process “may be the first Adventist school of headship theology.” Via TOSC, according to him, this divisive new doctrine is being spread across the world field. Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick (Bonners Ferry and Clark Fork Idaho churches, Upper Columbia Conference, NPUC, NAD) considers Chudleigh’s rendition of events in this short response video. He is one of several ministers who are part of the Council of Adventist Pastors (CAP).