Before Annual Council, Damsteegt Attempts to Change Seminary's Headship Statement


(system) #1

Gerard Damsteegt, professor of Church History at the Adventist Seminary at Andrews University, has spearheaded an effort to persuade seminary members to significantly revise their statement on headship. The Seminary's statement began "We, the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, affirm that Christ is the only Head of the Church (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18). Therefore, while there exists legitimate leadership in the Church, no other human being may rightfully claim a headship role in the Church." Damsteegt, who is a staunch supporter of male headship as the biblical model for the home and the church, led an effort by pastors and religion teachers to alter the seminary's position.

In an email message shared with Spectrum, Damsteegt wrote,

Esteemed Colleagues,

The Seminary statement on Christ’s Unique Headship in the Church the faculty voted one month ago has not had the unifying impact on the church. Some seem to like it, others are very disturbed by it, and still others are confused. Several have been working on a group response that can be potentially very damaging to the Seminary. Instead of allowing this challenge to proceed, I and some others have suggested that the Seminary would be better served by an appeal to the Seminary administration and faculty to revisit certain controversial areas in the statement and make modifications or remove disputed sections so that the Seminary statement will receive widespread support in the church.

We all agree that Christ’s headship is unique, but several arguments used in the statement are highly problematic to many. This is creating an uneasiness about the reputation and direction of the Seminary that considers itself the theological Flagship of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The attached Appeal is from current and retired faculty, alumni, students and friends of the Seminary. There are other faculty and church officials who support this Appeal but due to their position they do not wish to have their names listed at this time because it could hurt their present influence. Our Appeal is a request to review the statement and make adjustments accordingly. Therefore, those who have attached their names to the Appeal humbly submit it to the Seminary faculty for further consideration. We are hopeful that we may arrive at an amicable solution that is acceptable, that unifies, and is not liable to controversy.

Thank you for taking a careful look at this Appeal.

Gerard Damsteegt

Damsteegt's wife, lecturer, writer and self-described "student of women's ordination controversy" Laurel Damsteegt, participated in a Fresno, California Symposium supporting male headship. In her symposium lecture, Laurel Damsteegt contended that feminism and Women's Rights movements have satanic origins.

As of publication, it was not clear who else signed on to the Gerard Damsteegt letter, or whether the Seminary had responded.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6309

(Bille) #2

I see no link to the “appeal” that Damsteegt describes. Is this a different one than the one that the Review has now reported on and linked to?


(Elaine Nelson) #3

Damsteegt’s request is unclear as to what he wants to be rewritten. Apparently, there is disagreement between Andrews and BRI. This shoul be interesting just before Fall Council.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #4

The Andrews Seminary statement is excellent and should stand. All believers are disciples, those of maturity in the faith shall teach those new in the faith. gender is not an issue, competence and dedication are. To me narrative preaching/teaching is most effective, it is the method that Jesus used to great effect. Instead of a tent in the desert, we now have the person of the Man Who Is God. Let those who know Him share Him! Tom Z


(efcee) #5

Here’s a link to the appeal statement included with the Review article:


(Phillip Brantley) #6

From what I have been told, Gerard Damsteegt was the only Seminary faculty member who voted against the Seminary’s Statement affirming the Headship of Christ.


(jeremy) #7

i don’t get the feeling this appeal is going anywhere…


(Phillip Brantley) #8

I chuckle at how the opponents of the Seminary’s statement in their Appeal try to distance themselves from Catholic Church ecclesiology. Contrary to the Appeal, Catholics don’t believe that “the headship of Christ has been replaced with that of the pope.” They believe that the head of the church is Christ. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, part 1, section 2, chapter 3, article 9, paragraph 2, lines 792 and 807. But they also believe that Christ delegated leadership responsibility for His church to the pope, bishops, and priests as undershepherds in His stead with His authority. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, part 1, section 2, chapter 3, article 9, paragraph 4, lines 873, 875. The Appeal’s assertion that “Christ has delegated leadership responsibility for His church to ministers and elders as undershepherds in His stead with His authority” mirrors Catholic theological belief pertaining to church governance. The Appeal, consistent with male headship theory, urges a retreat away from biblical Protestant thought back to the authoritarian and hierarchical ecclesiastical practices of the Catholic Church.


(Pauline Balta) #9

Meanwhile children are dying of starvation, women are being assaulted by their intimate partners on a daily basis. youth and those who support youth are leaving the SDA church by the dozens . . . The people pushing against womens’ ordination must have very narrow, dead end lives to be willing to spend their time on, in the reality of world issues, a very small issue.

Let’s gather all the smartest leaders, female and/or male, to lead us toward working on making a better place of this planet.

I know, I know, very “Pollyana-ish” but I am so tired of all the time spent hashing and rehashing these, IMHO, small issues that don’t really make a dent in the “real” world.


(Roccos) #10

Is this the same Gerard Damsteegt whose speech at Utrecht’s GC Session powerfully stirred the hearts of speechless delegates in 1995?


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #11

The AR’s report of the appeal provides this link to the document & where the signatories are listed.

Steven Bohr, MA, MDiv, Pastor of the Fresno Central SDA Church, Speaker/Director of Secrets Unsealed Thomas R. Cusack, MDiv, MS, Pastor of the Pennsylvatia Conference
Laurel Damsteegt, MDiv, MSPH, Christian Heritage Media
P. Gerard Damsteegt, Dr. Theol., MPH, Associtate Professor of Church History, SDA Theological Seminary
Jay Gallimore, MA, President of the Michigan Conference
Michael Hasel, PhD, Professor of Religion, Near Eastern Studies, and Archeology, Southern Adventist University
C. Raymond Holmes, MDiv, MTh, DMin, Retired professor of the Semary, Pastor of the Michigan Conference
James Howard, BSBA, Pastor, Personal Ministry Director and Evanglism Cordinator, Michigan Conference
Don Macintosh, MDiv, Director of Health Program, Co-Chair of Weimar Theology Deparatment, Chaplain
Phil Mills, MD.
Leroy Moore. PhD, Author, Professor of Religion at Weimar College
Kevin Paulson, MA, MDiv. Evangelist, Pastor, and Revivalist.
John W. Peters, PhD, MDiv, Pastor of the Pensylvania Conference
Gerhard Pfandl, PhD, Retired Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference
Eugene W. Prewitt, Church Planter
George Reid, PhD, Retired Director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference
Edwin E. Reynolds, PhD, Professor of NT Studies and Biblical Languages at Southern Adventist University
Daniel Scarone, MTh, Associate Ministerial Director of the Michigan Conference
Dolores E. Slikkers, Member of the Andrews University Board of Trustees and Seminary Executive Committee
Ingo Sorke, PhD, Professor of Religion, Southwestern Adventist University
Steve Toscano, MAT, MA, PhD student in Church History, Andrews University
Mario Veloso, ThD, Retired Associate Secretary of the General Conference.
Karl Wilcox, PhD, Professor of English, Southwestern Adventist University.
Robert Wilcox M.Div. Missionary and lay pastor.
Dojcin Zivadinovic, PhD candidate, Church History, Andrews University, SDA Theological Seminary
(typos in the original)


(Allen Shepherd) #12

I don’t think that this is so cut and dried.
I do think the seminary statement was a bit hasty, and should have been able to be considered by a larger group.
An analogy might be the SCOTUS ruling on abortion which has caused rancor now for well nigh half a century. To have let the states decide would have been much more accommodating, like allowing the division to decide what they want to do.
I guess this is an issue that won’t go away.


(Allen Shepherd) #13

I have to bring this up again, Pauline, but the youth are leaving the liberal churches in droves upon droves, much more than the SDA church. To maintain membership, WO on that basis should be abandoned. Thought that might get your ire up…


(Kevin Paulson) #14

Please understand that Dr. Damsteegt was not the only author of the statement in question, to which the Adventist Review has posted a link. The majority of those, such as the present writer, who signed this document, offered imput as to its content.

Allen is quite correct here. It is the liberal denominations that have been losing their members in America and the Western countries during the past several decades, including their youth. Those denominations which retain their youth most effectively are the conservative denominations, not the liberal ones. Ambiguity empties the pews; it doesn’t fill them. People come to church for clarity in the midst of worldly chaos, not for more chaos to add to what they have already.

It is the GYC movement and its supporting satellites where the heart of youth-led youth ministry is to be found in contemporary Adventism. There you see young people making their faith their own, not simply doing what their parents or other superiors tell them.

I guess I wonder why Pauline complains about all the “rehashing” of the “small issues,” when no one is forcing her to spend time in this or similar discussions. Regardless of what issues we address, the Word of God must be our supreme authority. That’s what the ordination controversy is all about, at the bottom line.


(Roccos) #15

It already went somewhere, actually—“going” through the Adventist Review and straight to the professional readership at Annual Council 2014.


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #16

“Pastor” although not employed as one. Roberts not a President although elected & employed as one.


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #17

Whenever it is convenient for us, the loss of membership in other churches is used to pat ourselves on our Triumphal backs.
Whenever it is convenient for us, our loss of membership is used to pat ourselves on our Remnant backs.
Too convenient, either way.


(Kevin Paulson) #18

I think you’re missing the point, “hopeful.” The fact that conservative denominations are growing and liberal ones dying, doesn’t prove the conservatives to be right and the liberals to be wrong. No one is saying that. What it does prove, however, is that the liberal obsession with “relevance” (which in most cases means worldly compromise) as the means for retaining members, especially the youth, is misguided. Regardless of whether the religion in question is right or wrong, worldly people aren’t likely to go there if it means acquiring more uncertainty. The reason most people seek religion is to find clarity. Whether the clarity in question is right or wrong is a matter for the Word of God to decide.


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #19

I think you’re missing my point, or desiring to obfuscate it.


(Roccos) #20

Perhaps the headship theology of Ellen White was extracted more from Roman ecclesiology and the Catechism of the Catholic Church than from Scripture and Protestantism’s historical-grammatical method (HGM)?

“The qualifications of an elder are plainly stated [HGM?] by the apostle Paul: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife" .… If a man does not show wisdom in the management of the church in his own house, how can he show wisdom in the management of the larger church outside? How can he bear the responsibilities which mean so much, if he cannot govern his own children? Wise discrimination is not shown in this matter. God’s blessing will not rest upon the minister who neglects the education and training of his children. He has a sacred trust, and he should in no case set before church members a defective example in the management of his home.” 5MR 449.3-4.