An Open Letter to the Seventh-day Adventist Church


(Spectrumbot) #1

I am writing this letter today not because I pretend to offer the solutions to the crisis that faces our church over women’s ordination, but because I am tired of trying to avoid such a vital conversation. Surprisingly, despite my tendency to dive into controversial topics, I chose for a while to stay out of this one. Why? Probably because I had too much invested in it. I knew too many people on both sides of the issue. In short, I was scared. Scared to make a fuss and lose respect from people I love. Scared to change my opinion of a church and a people I love and believe in. Most of all, scared to let myself feel all of the fear, frustration, and hurt that I would inevitably encounter if I honestly pursued the topic.

Yet, no matter how hard I have tried to ignore it, the debate remains like my own dark shadow. Unable to flee it, I finally decided it was time I face it. I do desperately want to find a peaceful resolution, but I cannot say that I always feel peace within my heart regarding this issue! The disharmony I feel is deep seeded and complex because this issue not only affects countless people’s lives, but it has profound implications for people’s callings, ministries, and the overall effectiveness of the Gospel message at large.

I myself am pursuing a degree and career in ministry, as I have felt God putting this call on my heart, and confirming it throughout my life, sometimes even from opponents of women’s ordination. This is my church. I am not a Seventh-day Adventist Christian simply because I was born into the church, although that is certainly how my SDA identity began. I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian because I support the 28 Fundamental Beliefs that are outlined in God’s Word. I am a Seventh-day Adventist because I am convicted of the spiritual truths that we faithfully advocate in our own congregations and to the world.

The more I study the topic of women’s ordination, the more convicted I am that God, through Scripture and Ellen White, has instituted women as equal, vital, and authoritative partners in His gospel ministry!

The issue is currently being defined by two opposing camps. If someone believes in women’s ordination, then they must be in favor of a fight, of disunity, and of rebellion. Conversely, if they believe in unity, they must be making a subtle but clear stance against women in ministry.

As a woman who has chosen to accept a call to a life of ministry, I am raising my voice to say that this dichotomy is not only unfair, but it is wrong. Plain and simple.

I cannot and will not pretend to speak for all women in ministry, but I speak on behalf of my own journey and the journey of some of my fellow women in ministry. Personally, I am 100% committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to its truth, to its people, to its mission. Sometimes it lets me down, and even hurts me, but I am committed all the same. I am also committed to the life calling that God has given me and to honoring and encouraging the calling that He has given to many other women like me.

I can assure you that none of us entered ministry for the glory! We entered the ministry, not for the title or the power, but for the opportunity to serve God with our whole life. Many of us have resolved to answer this calling with or without an “ordination” title. So why is it that we continue to fight for it? Because without it we hinder our ministry from reaching its full capacity. The more our church allows the gender division to exist, the more a culture of disrespect and subordination grows among our members. And as this grows, it hinders our mission and, simultaneously, hinders the mission of our church.

I can’t help but feel that I am being asked to make a choice that is impossible to make. If I give up my calling, I give up the essence of who I am. I turn from God’s guidance, and I choose to follow the decision of men over the decision of God…an impossible and horrendous decision. But if I leave this church, I also leave who I am. I again turn my back on God’s clear guidance.

Sure, women pastors could leave the church. They could become ordained in a congregation that values their ministry and treats them as equals to their male counterparts. But that would beg the question of their entire calling. Ministry is never about self-acclaim and power, but about a God-given calling, a Spirit-led life, and a selflessness that accepts all of the consequences, even belittlement and subordination by those who don’t believe in what they stand for. It’s about giving your life up in relationship to your Savior, because you are convicted of Scriptural truths and are committed to the church that supports those truths.

So, please do me a favor: stop being surprised when a female pastor advocates for unity! We committed our lives to this church! We knew what we were coming into. We knew we were not going to receive full equality and respect, but we came in anyway. We came because we were called, just like our male coworkers. We came to serve, without the assurance that we would ever be accepted for the calling. We came when people challenged us and made us feel “sinful” for choosing to commit our lives to the Gospel work. We came when we knew that admitting our career path would invite dirty looks, judgment, and shame. And despite the ridicule, the tension, the judgment, and the disrespect, we are still here.

That being said, do me another favor: don’t be surprised that we advocate for women’s ordination. This is not a selfish desire, but a selfless one. We are asking that you throw us deeper into ministry, that you give us more responsibility. Sure, we are also asking for respect, for love, and for equality, but in hopes that this will not simply benefit us, but that it will benefit our entire community and will multiply God’s efforts and kingdom. We fight for ordination because it sends a message of unity and equality that is consistent with God’s own unity and equality and with His plan for a perfectly harmonious humanity. We fight for ordination because we believe in God’s world-wide mission and we want to remove the barriers standing in its way.

For now, I will make four simple appeals to my church, and specifically to its leaders:

1. Please stop demonizing women pastors.

Whether you agree with women’s ordination or not, consider the way you talk about women in ministry. Additionally, consider the way you talk about unity. The second you pit the two against each other, you equate women as the enemies of the church. In essence, both advocates and opponents have placed a target on women pastors’ backs, portraying their ministry as the source of this church’s problems. So please, stop unintentionally presenting your women pastors as the reason for the church to split. We never asked for a broken church, we entered into one, hoping to help heal it.

2. If you want to support women in ministry prove it more in your daily actions than in your public displays.

Instead of focusing your support on public speeches and presentations, strive to let your advocacy ooze out of your daily interactions with your congregants. Support your women in ministry by confronting others’ disrespect of them, by giving your female pastors an equal voice in church decisions, and by avoiding gender stereotypes that diminish women. Treat us as equals in your daily life, so you create a culture of equality in the church at large.

3. Create a culture of advocacy not of war.

Teach your church that their women pastors are not the villains of the Seventh-day Adventist Church but the supporters of it. Create an ethic of respect and dialogue. Use your daily acts of equality to create a culture of advocacy and support, not of war! When possible, instead of seeking ways to defy opposition, find ways to peacefully but powerfully depict advocacy. Help inspire a new ideology, where equality and unity are held as equally important and necessary values.

4. Journey with us.

Don’t expect us or ask us to give up our church or our calling. Help us wade through the madness that threatens them both. Pray for us, listen to us, believe in us, defend us, and minister alongside of us! Don’t just support us with your vote, support us with your life.

There is a long way to go in this journey, and much that could be criticized. Instead, I choose to end with gratitude. Despite the tensions we face, many have chosen respect, peace, and love. To you, I simply say Thank you! Thank you to those of you who are willing to listen to the other side of the debate even when you disagree with their conclusions. Thank you to those of you who live a life of advocacy that uplifts, supports, and respects women pastors as equals to their male coworkers. Thank you to those of you who pray for this church every day, as we journey through a dark and trying time. Thank you to everyone who is willing to surrender all for the cause of Christ. Thank you, women pastors who have selflessly given yourself to ministry, despite the disrespect you have faced.

To each of you who has chosen to believe in God’s plan for women and for this Church, thank you for not giving up!

Haley Gray is a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist with a Masters in Divinity.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9528

(Stephen Terry) #2

While I feel the pain of those who wish to pursue a clerical career and are denied based on gender, I have mixed feelings about it. Having served, I came to understand that the position is more about politics and power than bringing the world to a relationship with Jesus. The church, Ellen White, and the Bible have too often become instruments of oppression and subjugation, not because that was their intended purpose, but because that purpose has been subverted by those who wish to build power and influence in this world. Perhaps we would do well to study the model of Jesus, who, while partricipating in the organized religion of his day, ministered outside its power structure, eschewing the endorsement of the clergy and seeking his mandate directly from God the Father who personally annointed him with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. When we feel we must swear fealty to an institution in order to be truly in a ministering relationship with God, we may be missing the point of the gospel narrative. We may even be unintentionally rolling back the Protestant Reformation which challenged directly the idea that the institutional church could interpose themselves between the individual and God.


(Carol June Hooker) #3

Apostle:
Your call to live as did Jesus lacks the important component of funding; the ministry of Jesus was funded by women, who also welcomed Jesus and his disciples as guests in their homes. Itinerancy can be a working model for ministry, but it requires a constant audience source for its circuit, and on-site, everyday pastoring to care for resultant congregants. The same need results from web-based ministry. Why not, instead, empower women pastors to be pastors?


(Sam Geli) #4

Helen your comments in this Open Letter to the SDA Church are wise and timely. What a change for good would occur if we all studied and did what you are asking for. Your ideas are practical and full of the grace that this church issue on gender respect has needed. Thank you!


(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Yes, with effort one can find the Gospel within the The morass Of Adventism. A minority of pastors and theologians have embraced it and with some degree of cunning have expressed it. I am deeply indebted to those who have risked their careers to share. It is unfortunate that Ted Wilson is taking the Church back about 100 years. Intellectually as well as theologically he is a light weight. Not even as cunning as his father. His shallow threats are emptying the coffers. Let us see what Indianapolis brings.


(Tim Teichman) #6

Based on the rest of your statement it seems pretty clear where you (correctly) stand. What do you have mixed feelings about?


(Steve Mga) #7

Tim–
WHY would one have MIXED feelings about ANYONE who felt the call of the
Spirit to be a Spiritual Leader in the SDA church – one who is RECOGNIZED
and EMPLOYED full time as such? Males OR Females???
And is ALLOWED to have ANY position in the SDA church, up to AND including
President of the world wide General Conference.


(Eric Webster) #8

Haley, I would like to honour you for responding to God’s call to enter the ministry and also for your determination to remain in the Seventh-day Adventist church to minister to the flock and to forward the Kingdom of God. It takes a courageous woman to respond in this way in 2019. I pray that thousands of members will give you the support that you deserve. Also that countless male preachers will sense that Joel 2:28-32 is being fulfilled and will respond in the spirit of Christ in accepting you as an equal partner in the gospel ministry. Be of great courage in this hour of destiny. Ellen White would be proud of you if she was alive!


#10

It’s sad that the SDA church leaders have to wage a war against women serving God and preaching the gospel. The good thing is times are changing and just like the way the SDA church finally added the trinity doctrine to the 28 fundamental beliefs after around 70+ years, a future generation of SDA church leaders will one day accept to ordain female pastors.


#11

FINALLY ! An SDA who acknowledges this glaring truth !
Christ is not to be found midway between ‘left’ and ‘right’, but centered between Heaven and Earth.


(Lizwi Alpha Ntuli) #12

Dear Haley Gray,

I read the open letter through and through and I could understand where you are coming from. By merely allowing you to study divinity when there was no opening for women pastors, the church led you through a garden path. I hope they are listening and have taken note of your concerns. I hope.

I still think there is something you are missing. You say you are convinced that God called you into the ministry, and if you do not obey the call, you will be untrue to your identity. You also say that you cannot leave this church and join another which respects women and allows them to follow their dreams. Well, from experience, that is not entirely true. You depict God as someone who ordered you to join the ministry, and yet there are human obstacles on your path. You seem to have chosen to sit there and mourn/moan. You also imply that you cannot realize your full potential unless you are accorded what you believe is your right. Well, for starters, why not go back to God who called you into the ministry and tell Him of those who are blocking your path? I am sure the God who called you is resourceful enough to deal with the obstacles.

Secondly, you seem to be of the view that you (meaning, women) are the first and unique ones who have been denied fulfilling your calling. That is far from the truth. Many people (males) who could have been good pastors, some of who left very promising careers, have had doors slammed in their faces, simply because they were not connected to the right people, or that their family names were unknown among Adventists. The reasons are many and varied. These people did not sit at the closed doors and mourn. They picked up their bruised egos and soldiered on. The same God who called them to the ministry showed them other avenues through which they could serve and they quietly do so. They turned to the God who had called them and they got their answer.

Let me be very clear: I do not support discrimination of any kind and I do not support the decision taken by the church on compliance since I think it infringes freedom of conscience. I will continue to engage those who are responsible in my sphere of influence. I will never foment disaffection towards church leadership, even holding them as objects of derision as I have seen happen in this forum. I will quietly fulfill my God-given mandate in a peaceful manner because I believe that membership in this church is not a right but a privilege. Should my witness result in my expulsion from this church, I will sit quietly and wait for the next instruction from the one who called me. I will never fight anyone for church membership. There are people who think they reserve the right to refuse membership and I will not sue them for it. It is not worth my while, and I am sure Jesus would never do like that.

Having said this, let me say that your open letter forced me to linger in this forum longer and respond, otherwise after I finish, I will log out of this forum because I have noticed that inasmuch as the GC is accused of muzzling dissenting voices, there are some in this forum who have the same spirit. As it stands, I just received veiled threats that my membership may be revoked. To me this means I have overstayed my welcome and will exit before I am pushed out. It’s not worth fighting for you see.

I wish you the best as you grapple with these painful matters before us. Should you wish to contact me for further clarification, just type my name and search, and you will find me in Social media Facebook and Twitter.

God bless you


(George Tichy) #13

Well, at the AC/18 he successfully and disgracefully completed the journey taking the Church back to 1844. Are you saying that he is now taking it “back about 100 years?” That will make it to ca. 1744… :roll_eyes: I am not surprised… He should have kept is beard…


(George Tichy) #14
  1. It’s sad that you are leaving, because you were contributing with many of your views, adding variety to the discussion here.

  2. I am sorry that you have not been able to just discuss ideas and principle but had to always mix it with rebuke and reproach directed at those who hold different opinions and disagree with yours.

  3. I don’t believe you received “threats.” What the WebEds do is to “warn” people when they don’t respect the rules of the forum. I wrote you a note elsewhere explaining how it works, according to what I have observed throughout the years. I am not in any way part of Spectrum’s administration, and I am not a WebEd either. Just a regular participant. It was in this capacity that I explained how it works here. Apparently you insisted in continuing your “personal attacks” on people and were warned (probably not only once) that if you continued you would be sent to the “millennial group.”

  4. Wish you the best.


(George Tichy) #15

Haley, thanks for posting such a great set of thoughts. Great article.

Women who are currently engaged in ministry have a much bigger support than they may feel. It must be terrifying to feel called to ministry and having to deal with discriminators of women in your own Church who try to prevent you from taking the position that apparently God called you for.

But hang in there. You got lots of supporters. Some of them, like me, will never give up denouncing the horrible discrimination we see in our Church. And I also believe that one of these days there will be someone at the GC top position who will also be sensitive to the issue, respectful of women, who will not threat his opponents wit “grave consequences,” and will eliminate discrimination of women from our midst.

Keep advancing your ministry, despite… :wink:


(Website Editor) #16

@GeorgeTichy, actually, we have not communicated with @Lizwilomemezaywenhla at all, so are unsure what threats are being referred to. @Lizwilomemezaywenhla, if you have received “veiled threats that my membership may be revoked” which we show no record of in our system, #1, no one here has the ability to revoke your membership and #2, please flag any such messages so that our moderators can review them and respond.

Thanks,
-WebEd


(George Tichy) #17

Thanks @WebEd for providing this clarifying information. I was no longer reading his comments, so I thought he had gone “too far” a few more times and ended up being warned. I hope he reveals who threatened him and how. And again, If someone is unhappy here, a fish out of water, leaving is always an easy option. Fulcrum7 is always open, 24/7 as well… :wink:
@Lizwilomemezaywenhla


(Thomas J Zwemer) #18

Adventism is fear based. It feasts on beasts, plagues, and retribution. Dire consequences is its middle name. the denomination now has a leader who is the master of threat and exclusion. He would have the church face the future by looking back. Women far out number the male membership in North America. The purse and the vote have the voice that Ted can hear. The Gospel Of Grace has no exclusions. Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden is universal in its scope. Everyone who has accepted His invitation is called to extend it. Pharacology is no more difficult than Greek and Hebrew. Try the path of the medical sciences to spread the Good News.


(Steve Mga) #19

G-
1744. LOL!!!
Twelve more letters.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #20

The optics of this ordination issue are odious and obnoxious.

The United Methodist Church has been ordaining their clergywomen since 1956. As a result, many women have ascended to administrative positions since there is zero “glass ceiling “. My own Methodist parish boasts a senior woman pastor, a female conference president and a female bishop.

The American Episcopal Church was headed by a clergywomen from 2006-2016 , Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.

When I am in London visiting my British born grandchildren, the Anglican churches I frequent often are presided over by women Anglican priests.

When we do not validate women in our denomination, how can we hope to retain our young female teenagers / millennials .

Our hierarchy vehemently decries Catholicism but apes them in every way in their shabby treatment of their women ( except that is, the Virgin Mary, and Adventism’s goddess, EGW. ).

Modern college educated young people, look askance at the discrimination and denigration of women in our church.


(Stephen Terry) #21

Tim, my mixed feelings are in regards to ecclessiastical careers not being the calling some seem to feel it is. I do not feel that young people are given a very accurate picture of what such a career entails. Even secular youth sometimes throw their lives into a meatgrinder because of heroic military tales and the chance to wear a flashy uniform. Although veterans can be respected for their sacrifice, Vietnam taught me that is not always the case and there is little real glory in real warfare. As a pastor, I learned that there are parallels. As children grow, if they show any interest at all in spiritual things, they are encouraged to pursue a pastoral career. Very seldom are they told to learn a trade or a profession and use that as a financial foundation for ministry, even though there are indications that this should be done from Mrs White’s writings. Instead, they are directed into a ministerial career where they can feel trapped because they find themselves unsuited and unable to leave for fear of being able to provide for their families. (I have spoken to several over the decades who have confided that they feel this way.) This is why I am conflicted. I am uncomfortable with continuing to feed bodies into a system that operates like this, and I am fearful for what the ladies might be disillusioned by once they discover what the men have already had to struggle with. Of course the women have a right to make that determination for themselves, just as we did, but looking back, I was woefully naive about what “serving God” meant in the Adventist church.