Editorial: "I Opposed Him to His Face"

“Perhaps in the 21st century our church’s failing is in refusing to be fed by some people”

Now that is food for thought.

I’ll add regarding WO. San Antonio voted that Unions should not have the authority to ordain women in their jurisdictions. While the outcome of the vote is clear (if disputed), the resultant issues are not.

If you read through various comments about the vote, those opposed to women’s ordination are split as to what that means. It certainly means that women cannot be ordained. But does that mean women can or cannot be commissioned pastors? Many against WO explain their arguments in terms which suggest that women cannot lead the church and therefore cannot be pastors and many do not think they cannot be elders.

The difference between ordained and commissioned pastors (if the commissioned pastors are also elders) is that ordained can ordain elders, deacons and deaconesses, may organize churches and serve as Conference Presidents. So those opposed to women’s ordination, but who are not opposed to commissioned pastors are saying that women can do everything a pastor can, except those three items?

I agree with Ken Peterson. The Bible does not specify a difference between an ordained woman pastor and a commissioned one. Instead we have “the pressure is to exclude women from aspects of full equality of gospel ministry”

Ken, thank you for the well-written article.

Thank you, Phil, for commenting. I do not have the requisite skills to get into the psychological state of ordination opponents, so I try not to go there. For me, however, your comment about current opponents essentially thinking that black people should “cheerfully serve the needs of their white masters” is too much. Opponents who I know are repulsed by the notion that black people are inferior because of race. This is one reason why I am optimistic about the eventual acceptance of women’s ordination since only 150 years ago there were many Christians who interpreted the Bible in a way to support slavery. Adventists were against the grain then and I pray we once again go against the grain on this issue.

I think you may represent here a good illustration as to why a well considered approach to scripture that takes context and scholarship into account is so helpful to Adventists as they develop their theology. For example, one might argue that, comparing scripture with scripture in regard to the use of “eternal,” noting that things are not burning today so cannot be what it means, that the same argument could be used for the idea of eternal life, since those over the ages who have accepted Jesus are not living today either. By simply comparing inspired text with inspired text, without taking culture and world view into mind, you might to come all kinds of conclusions. Some of them correct perhaps, but some very flawed. And of course things like the story of the Rich man and Lazarus create another problem here, where the text clearly evokes an mental picture that is not in harmony with what Adventists would believe about “the afterlife.” Here too, good hermeneutics that go beyond simply comparing one text with another without the benefit of making sure we are doing so in context and in a way that does not simply reinforce what we have already decided we want the text to say, are seen to be quite valuable.

You may be correct in drawing some parallels between how some approach the doctrine of hell and the doctrine of male headship - because both can be argued on the basis of finding scriptural language to support them as long as you don’t take the culture and context into consideration or for that matter, the over all direction in which the revelation of God and His character develop with every greater clarity as we move from the Old Testament to the New, and listen to the words of Jesus as He tells us, 'You have heard it said" and then going on to point out what was behind all of that by saying “But I say to you.” Failing to model the way that Jesus moves us forward as we think about God’s character and what scripture is telling us, also neglects a huge part of what the inspired record has for us - and this too is a part that cannot be ignored.
One might also point out from the Genesis story of the fall, that rather than view this as some sort of statement of order or priority because Adam gets addressed, and God does not do so until after Adam sins even though Eve sins first, that this can as easily be seen as God respecting the relationship between them as equals, and pronounces the coming consequences for their actions only after both of them had chosen that course together. Would we also want to make the point that because the serpent is addressed last that the serpent was somehow subservient to both Adam and Eve? (And please, I am not offering that as a scholarly insight, but an illustration of what we can do with proof-texting). Instead, it might be better to use the best exegetical tools we have to consider the text and be sure we are listening carefully and in context to what the author is trying to say, rather than construct something there that we have already decided we wanted to hear.

At some point we need to move beyond creative proof texting and get serious about listening as carefully and as thoughtfully as we can to the text, and what it reveals over the course of time about the way God does indeed reveal His character and purposes in the world, I appreciate Ken Peterson’s attempts here to contribute toward helping us to do that.


Ken, I am quite aware of the Seminary statement against male headship, and was closely involved with preparing the reply to that statement which a good many other Adventist scholars, pastors, administrators, and young leaders affixed their names to.

And there was nothing in the Seminary statement which addressed the primacy of Adam as affirmed by the events in Genesis 3 (particularly with regard to Adam’s sin being decisive in the fall of humanity, as distinct from the sin of Eve), or that same primacy as affirmed in Romans 5:12-19 and I Corinthians 15:22, regarding Adam and not Eve being the one through whom sin and death entered the world, thus necessitating the coming of a Savior.

Christ has always been the supreme Head of the church. He was the supreme Head in Moses’ day, but Moses was the head of Israel under Christ. And the heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Ex. 18:25) were heads of their respective groups under Moses. (Please note that the word “head” is used in this verse to refer to these human leaders.)

And in the New Testament we again find male headship affirmed, most explicitly in I Corinthians 11:3, where it is stated that “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Peter describes the work of himself and his fellow elders as feeding the Lord’s flock under the superintendence of the “Chief Shepherd,” who is Christ (I Peter 5:1-4).

So the supreme Headship of Christ in no way invalidates the headship of subordinate leaders. And those in headship roles throughout the Bible, in both Testaments, were men.


You highlight one of the “tension” points in this whole issue when you call out the differences between commissioned and ordained people. I think this deserves its own article. I only saw one division response calling for de-ordaining women elders. Many that opposed pastor ordination did not take the logic to its conclusion like that. I think there is a big confusion that needs to be called out. Thanks for helping with that.


Ken, thank you for a truly generously well written presentation. And Kevin here helps explain your point.

The deeper we are laced into our own minds the more impossible it becomes for us to be embraced by the arms of the Holy Spirit in the reality of the moment with one another. But there is hope that we will realize the pointless of such mindfulness.

The second letter by Peter is an amazing follow on to his experience with Paul described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Peter notes near the close of his letter:

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

And Paul agrees with the pointlessness of our attempts to substitute knowledge for faith in his legendary Chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians. Before the great day of the Lord, knowledge will vanish, spiritual practice will cease, and prophecy will fail, but what endures, indeed what only is meant to endure is faith, hope and love.

Faith is measured to each of us by God. It is not of our making. Hope is the KJV word that today is translated trust. And both faith and trust is a deeply personal experience, and love is the socialization of faith and trust.

In the quoted passage from Galatians and consistently across his letters Paul testifies to Christianity’s new inclusiveness at the expense of the past order of culture and religion both.

And Peter agrees.

18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Anything else is less and past and irrelevant in Christian social intercourse, which is really what is at stake with women’s ordination and every other issue that some seek to divide congregations over.

This said, we cannot depend on winning the argument, and Paul didn’t either.

Instead the path ahead is the path of testimony to the observation of the Holy Spirit.

It is like the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist church, as testified to by their with a wink to the world declaration that ‘the bible is our creed.’

Original Seventh-day Adventists called a truce in declaring who was at fault with biblical interpretation to form a church!

Let’s suppose Union Conference leaders seeking to recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit in ordaining women were to respond with testimony to what they have observed rather than with theological arguments.

For example, they might say …

In matters inanimate, we defer to policy.

In matters of people we observe the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the people with whom we live and work.

We recognize that the Seventh-day Adventist church is divinely by design structured to respond to and be guided by direct observations of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives that touch our own.

Also by design, church policy in so many ways supports this very response. And where it does not we continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit because we are confident that the Church will continue to, following its model in Acts 15, adjust such policy to bring it into harmony with confirmed observations of the Holy Spirit reported from around the world.

This is not rebellion; this is brotherhood and sisterhood.

This is not defiance; this is affirmation that the church around the world seeks first to be in harmony with the Holy Spirit as observed in the hearts of people they can touch and that touch them in love.

This is not rejection, this is acceptance that the church leaders are committed to appropriately recognize every gift of every member in the Seventh-day Adventist Body of Christ.

And thus we continue as accepting, affirming, brothers and sisters of the one Seventh-day Adventist church around the world in ordaining women to the gospel ministry.

The path ahead is the path of faith and trust and love.

And love is inclusive.

For God so loved the World …

Thanks again, Ken for urging us all to take a collective breath and relax in the testimony of the presence of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives from everywhere around the world reports are originating.


I will let our audience read the seminary statement for themselves and make their judgment. I have two comments about your final sentence: it is inaccurate unless you have a special meaning of “headship” which excludes by definition women. But in that case it is simply a tautology and not really helpful. (Just like if one says “All the kings of England were men” and I point out that Elizabeth was monarch and the reply is “But she was Queen.”) Second, even if true what does that prove for the question under consideration? This is just back to the sort of argument of “Jesus did not have a woman among his 12.” That simply does not dispose of the issue.


I don’t assert that opponents of women’s ordination believe that in Heaven and the New Earth God will assign roles to white people that are different from the roles assigned to black people. But I do assert and believe that opponents of women’s ordination feel constrained to allow for that theoretical possibility, in part because of a psychological fear that if wrong they will have already committed the sin of Lucifer. Once you accept the extra-biblical philosophical premise, which Seventh-day Adventist male headship theorists presently urge, that Being is comprised not of essence and function but solely of essence, then there is no theological argument I can think of that opposes the possibility of God differentiating white people from black people on the basis of assigned roles. (a) If white people are in essence equal to black people, and (b) subordination in roles does not denote inequality, then © assignment of subordinate roles to black people must be OK. The syllogism works just as well for race as it does for gender.


Ken, from what I find in Scripture and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, God’s order of gender authority gives to men and women roles of equal importance and value, but roles which are nevertheless different.

Please understand that once I favored women’s ordination, until the Biblical evidence (particularly Paul’s statements in First Timothy and First Corinthians) changed my mind.


There are some against ordaining women who offer an argument that because Adam was created before Eve, thus she is subordinate to him by virtue of the time of her creation.

This argument must rely only on the creation account given in the second chapter of Genesis, as the story in Genesis 1 clearly states that in the image of God he created male and female on the sixth day. In the account in the second chapter of Genesis, there are several distinct differences: Adam was God’s first created act; only after all the earth was completed and Adam named the animals was Eve created.

This is an unexplained paradox attempting to harmonizing two distinctly different stories. It demonstrates a very selective choice of which of two Bible stories to consider as the only accurate one.

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Ken Peterson,
Kudos for again eloquently exposing the egregious mistake that occurred in San Antonio and which is causing such concern and dismay to so many.

The verbal dual on this post, between the two KP’s-- Ken Peterson and Kevin Paulson will never be resolved. Each is firmly entrenched in his perceived justifications for interpreting identical texts. As a church we will be at an impasse forever with an “eternal” fracturing of the church body.

In your last paragraph, Ken, you optimistically promise:
“The mistake can be fixed. Whether this time it will take a Pauline approach or something else remains to be seen”

Regrettably, no amount of doctrinal argumentation or wrangling will ensure a fix. But there is one sure fire method that will work wonders:

MONEY always speaks louder than words.

A simple re-structuring of our church donations, whereby the SDA General Conference is eliminated from our giving, will do the trick,

For those alarmed by this solution, consider that there is NO biblical text requiring us to donate money to the Adventist church per se, or more specifically to the General Conference.

While the bulk of my giving is to Adventism, I have this year given substantial contributions to my local Methodist and Presbyterian churches for worthy causes. Will God fault me for this?

Will my donations to Doctors Without Borders (one of the most humanitarian organizations on the planet) be considered suspect, because I did not give to ADRA?

One of my favorite charities is AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, forefront in the fight for Human Rights and combatting torture (which I abhor).

For many years, I have been conflicted in giving to human rights causes, while simultaneously donating my hard earned money, to Adventism, when the church administration is demeaning, discriminating, and hurtful to women and gays.

So for decades I have been a cheerful and generous giver, with appropriately structured donations, while ensuring that most goes to Adventist entities.

If every self-respecting high earning professional woman, who feels demeaned by the heretical Headship Dogma, if every father of wonderful professional daughters (I have three), if every loving husband who respects his wife, would stop funding the GC, which demeans our women members, ACTIONS WOULD SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

I am sure many of you will find a creative and satisfying response to this doctrinal impasse.


It IS TRUE, Money DOES speak louder than words!
I saw this at Southern University in Chattanooga, TN in 1983 to 85. MONEY decimated the Religion Department and did a lot of other damage.
The Against People were at ASI presenting their No Women In the Pulpit pitch.
Money was listening. THAT is WHY they were there!
Money Lobbyists WORK in the SDA church the same as it does in Congress of the US.
We can talk Power To The People, but in reality it doesnt work that way.
Not trying to be Negative. Because I know a lot of those ASI people love their church and have the best interest of it in their hearts.
But there IS a BAD Side to having money if one is not careful. Money can bring control and influence.


Thanks. I understand your point better now.

I wonder if there is a much simpler solution to this problem of “ordination.” As the writer points out, “ordination (which is the status around which the dispute revolves) is not even a biblical concept but was a pagan Roman concept dealing with authority that was extended to the church when the empire became ‘Christian’ about 300 years after Jesus ascended to heaven.”

Since “ordination” is a pagan ritual, we shouldn’t imitate it. All those voting AGAINST women’s ordination at the GC were in effect closer to the Bible’s teaching. But they should’ve also voted to CEASE ordaining men. So let’s UNORDAIN all those already ordained since it is a pagan ritual. And let’s COMMISSION both men and women ministers to the gospel. Now we have equality without respect to any gender.

Or perhaps there is a better term. Paul spoke of being CALLED by God to be an apostle. Perhaps for those who have been CALLED and demonstrated that, we should have a SERVICE OF RECOGNITION to the ministry or pastorship. After all, much in the ordination argument has become a matter of semantics. We want women to do ministry as well as, and sometimes better than, men. But the majority in our church doesn’t want to recognize them as CALLED to that office.


Thank you, Kevin, for your post concerning your experience. I do not doubt your sincerity and I better appreciate your personal journey. I will try to post something later about the texts that have been so influential for your view.

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actually, kevin, this argument, which i’ve seen you make many times, is hardly a capstone, and you are being a bit selective with which points of the story of the fall to emphasize…in the first place, we know that the fall of humanity could not have been said to be a fait accompli until adam sinned…this is not because his sin was intrinsically graver or more consequential than eve’s, but because it came after eve’s fall, and effectively closed off the possibility for a sinless human race to continue in perpetuity…that is, we know that eve could have been replaced had adam chosen obedience over eve, Patriarchs and Prophets:56, and there is no reason to believe the same replacement possibility wouldn’t have existed had adam sinned first…rather than it being the case that god demanded accountability only after adam fell because he was the head of the pair, god demanded accountability after adam’s sin because it was only after his decision to sin that both eve and adam had made their decision unimpeded…had god demanded accountability directly after eve’s sin, it would have interfered with adam’s choice to sin, and would have represented an interference breach in god’s gift of choice to both adam and eve, and in their interaction together …

in the second place, god’s use of adam, instead of eve, after adam sinned, isn’t necessarily a call to adam…this is because genesis 5:2 teaches us that god called both the sinless male and the sinless female he created, as a unit, adam…that is, adam can refer to adam, but it can also refer to adam and eve together…given that the passage of humanity from sinlessness to sinfulness represented a momentous, colossal alteration of the purpose and state of their creation, and that the question of “where art thou” obviously transcended any interest in their physical location, it seems fitting that god’s call to adam here is best thought of in terms of its inclusive meaning, which is just what egw implies:

“But the great Lawgiver was about to make known to Adam and Eve the consequences of their transgression. The divine presence was manifested in the garden.” Patriarchs and Prophets:57.

what this text explicitly does not say is that the divine presence was manifested in the garden because god intended to make known to adam the consequences of his transgression…i will grant that by the time we get to adam’s response, god clearly focuses on adam as adam…but this could simply be because adam rashly, and with childish naivity, decided to speak first, and eve, having a truer sense of the gravity of the situation, held her peace until pressed…the fact remains that the initial call to adam can just as easily be seen as a call to both adam and eve, since both responded to the call…in other words, because eve knew her name was adam, there was no need for her to wait for god to use adam’s personal name for her before responding…

in the third place, god’s sentence to eve preceded god’s sentence to adam, in genesis 3:16-19…why is this…if adam was the head of eve at that moment, shouldn’t god’s sentence to him have preceded god’s sentence to eve, and should it not have been the weightier sentence…for that matter, any sentence to eve should have been subsumed in a joint sentence uttered only to adam…the fact is that god’s sentence to eve not only preceded god’s sentence to adam, but exceeded it in severity in every way…god’s sentence to eve was not in any way absorbed by adam, a fact which diminishes substantially your point that god’s call, using adam, was directed to adam because he had headship over eve…it is also the case that god’s sentence to satan, as the new head of a fallen world, not only preceded god’s sentences to eve and adam, but greatly exceeded in severity the sentence given even to eve by an essentially infinite margin…the fact that god’s sentence to adam not only followed god’s sentences to satan and eve, but represented a distinctly lighter sentence, does not bode well for adam’s supposed male headship…in fact it militates against it…

but in the fourth and most important place, egw, a prophet of god, explains to us that as a consequence of their changed natures after the fall, and to preserve harmony in their marriage, god required submission on the part of adam or eve, “the one or the other”, and that this submissive role in marriage was assigned to eve because it represented the inverse of the leadership role she played in the fall of adam, and therefore all of humanity, Patriarchs and Prophets:58…moses, also a prophet of god, essentially teaches the same thing when he notes, in god’s sentence to eve, that her “desire shall be to [her] husband”, Genesis 3:16…of the possible implications to this teaching, one implication that isn’t possible is that eve was already in submission to adam in her marriage to him before this sentence…an even more impossible implication is that the male, adam, was exercising headship over the female, eve, quite apart from their marriage - we have no relationship between males and females to consider in the example of adam and eve because they were never not married…yet it is just these impossible implications that you and other headship advocates continue to insist on…

as for romans 5:12-19, which teaches original sin, which you deny, we know that paul is speaking after the fall, and after the sentences in genesis 3:16-19 were in effect…at this point, because adam and eve were in a fallen marriage, that is, in the headship-submissive relationship contemplated in genesis 3:16, it is understandable that adam, as prime husband and father, would be cited as the representative of humanity…adam’s maleness is not what’s being highlighted here…his representative humanity is…we know this because 1 corinthians 15:21-22, which summarizes romans 5:12-19, is concerned with adam’s and jesus’ representative humanity, not their gender…

kevin, the sad reality is that even a casual look at this supposed capstone of yours evinces, completely, the contrived element in headship…if the scriptures of the bible and egw are allowed to speak uncontorted, headship is not what they teach…you are completely conflating husband headship with male headship…the one does not lead to the other…



The analogy is a good one! But where (and who) is Paul? And when will he or she stand up!!

I believe that there are most probably enough Paul’s on the General Conference Executive Committee for truth to be spoken to power at Annual Council time. Further, I expect that time is of the essence is this matter.

Even blind Freddie can see that our current policy to ordain women elders but not women pastors is unsustainable. This is an administrative and not a biblically sustainable distinction. The distinction between an ordained and a commissioned credential becomes wrong-headed when the commissioned credential is used as a glass ceiling to prevent women pastors of the flock from being ordained. It was created almost entirely as an administrative solution to a situation that had become too hot to handle.

Ted will seek to address this issue. The Paul’s among us must be prepared at each and every Annual Council. I fully expect that the number of Paul’s at Annual Council will overwhelm the number of Peter’s.

Let the Paul’s among us speak without fear or favour! Let Paul’s arise not only from Europe, America and Australia but from all quarters of our global communion.

I believe it is time that all who serve in pastoral leadership of congregations should be consecrated and publically affirmed as people to have been called to that leadership. Equally, all who serve in roles as resource specialists should be consecrated and publically affirmed as people who have been called to that role. And ditto with our ecclesiastical administrators. By having lateral distinctions rather than hierarchical ones we avoid the unfruitful gender discussion among other things. Such lateral distinctions significantly seek to emphasize the charasmatic nature of ministry and Christian service. And this can’t be overemphasized.

It is hardly a promotion to be called from the coal-face of congregational leadership into the role of a resource specialist. And certainly not a promotion to be administering an ecclesiastical organization, one step removed from people at the grass-roots.

Rites of appointment for each of these functions could possibly be created and used as appropriate. These rites should be designed locally, not globally, so as to be culturally sensitive.

The system of credentials could perhaps be reworked so as to be little more than a role description that is sensitive to each local situation.

I have observed several Commissioning services of Salvation Army Officers. In each of these services the newly minted officers are declared to be ordained and commissioned. No hands are laid on anyone. Yet it remains a service of consecration and public affirmation. (Significantly, until about 1980 Salvation Army Officers were just said to be commissioned. Since that date the ‘O’ word has been used).


In the Central California church I attend, there is more discussion about the Pope’s USA visit and the soon coming Sunday Law, then gender equality in the ministry. The focus is on end of time prophecies.

While on a trip to Northern CA the local church, spend SS and Sermon time on Last Day Events. The message was “Get ready for Sunday laws are coming and the Pope has a hidden agenda.” I asked if they supported WO? This was unimportant because the Signs of the Times tell us Jesus is coming, in our lifetime. I asked what specific signs they see. They told me about the stock market decline, popularly of the Pope, and how thousands of young people are Spirit filled going door to door all over the world in an Advent awakening. Whether women were ordained or not was a mute issue, for the Judgments of God are coming.


Ken Peterson,

In another place on Spectrum there is an article related to misleading effects of biblical literalism.

If one rightly divides this verse…
Genesis 3:16 “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” ( understand the word…“desire”)
one can get a clue as to what issue is involved on this never ending gender conflict WO fray.

Yes Jeremy, male headship in the church is completely a contrived element. The Genesis account says that Adam was with her (check the last part of Genesis 3:6) when Eve took the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This EGW notion that Eve had strayed from Adam’s side has no biblical foundation. I’d say the Adam was in the role of follow the leader after his wife, and he lost his head right there and then. That should behead this headship histeria once and for all.