Editorial: Room For Differences of View in the Body of Christ?

(Spectrumbot) #1

“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Galatians 1:8

What are we to make of Paul? Is there room for differences of view on important matters depending on what each individual is convinced of? Or are we eternally condemned if we don't see things exactly as Paul tells us? I have been wrestling with these two perspectives on the issue of whether Divisions should be permitted to determine whether women may be ordained within their territories.

The recent release of a video showing several “Adventist Elders,” including the most recent past-president of the General Conference, speaking on this issue has made clear that some certainly view the issue from the vantage point of Galatians 1. A comment on one website urging a "No" vote was very disappointing to me in expressing hope that “these treasonous leaders” can be removed “from the Body of Christ altogether so they can go their own way and form their own denomination.” This sounds so harsh and un-Christlike to my ears, but reminds me of the Paul of Galatians 1 talking about eternal condemnation.

The commentary on Galatians presented by E. J. Waggoner at the 1888 General Conference is helpful here. He notes, “The Galatians were being seduced from God by something that promised them life and salvation but by a power other than that of God. . . they were trusting to supposed human power, their own power, for salvation.” In other words, the gospel was being perverted and distorted. “Paul's brethren were in mortal danger, and he could not waste time on compliments” ("The Glad Tidings," pg. 16, 17). What this means to me is that there is a time to clearly call out the fundamental error of changing the good news to be human-centered instead of God-centered. Paul says even if an angel were to preach this “other gospel” it would not matter because there is only one real gospel and only that gospel is the power of God. (Romans 1:16)

Is the issue of whether to allow Divisions to decide whether to ordain women within their territories “preaching another gospel”? I don't think so. Part of my reasoning for this conclusion is because of some of the poor arguments raised in this debate by those favoring the status quo. For example, the Biblical Research Committee of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division presented the following as reasons supporting their No vote position: “The Old Testament and New Testament demonstrate that no women were ordained.” Assuming arguendo that this is true, what does it prove? Christ's twelve disciples were all Jewish men, but surely that Division ordains Africans, Indians and Caucasians, among many others. None of the original twelve were college graduates, but surely that is not how we determine who to ordain today. This argument is so silly, in my view, that it simply cannot be the basis to join Paul in a Galatians 1 condemnation on this issue.

Further research shows I am not alone. During the TOSC process the West-Central Africa Division voted “not to recommend the ordination of women into ordained pastoral ministry. However, if at the General Conference Session the world church votes in favor of women’s ordination, WAD will not threaten the unity of the church despite its disagreement to such a decision. Instead, we will consider women’s ordination as a matter of conscience, and will continue to study and pray for light on the subject brighter than there is now.” The Southern Asia Pacific Division also said it would follow the decision of the GC Session even though a majority of the Division's Biblical Research Committee believed women should not be ordained. If this issue were equivalent to “another gospel” I have every confidence that these Divisions would not allow even the GC to bring it in with a majority vote. Just as Paul would not.

So that brings us to the Paul of Romans 14. Here some very serious and apparently divisive issues were being argued. Rather than say that one or the other side was to be “eternally condemned,” Paul instead says that people should be fully convinced in their own minds and then act accordingly. I take this to mean that one mind might be convinced differently than another on some issues and yet we can still practice in accordance with our convictions without being condemned.

In its TOSC presentation in January 2014, the North American Division reported that one consensus statement it could make was that “An individual, as a Seventh-day Adventist in thorough commitment to the full authority of Scripture, may build a defensible case in favor of or opposed to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. . .” Their report also quoted a statement from Ellen White on the topic: “We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. . . Nothing can perfect unity in the Church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance.” That to me sounds like the Paul of Romans 14.

As we approach San Antonio my prayer is this: That we can possess the discernment to determine whether the issue of Divisions deciding on women's ordination in their territories is a Galatians 1 issue or more of a Romans 14 issue and act accordingly. In this case, I strongly believe Christlike forbearance can perfect unity.

Ken Peterson is a member of the Spectrum / Adventist Forum Board of Directors.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6806

(Eric Webster) #2

A well reasoned article, Ken. I like your distinction between the issues of Galatians 1 and Romans 14. I would agree with you that the question of laying hands on women in pastoral ministry in blessing falls in the category of Romans 14 rather than Galatians 1.

(nancy jean foote) #4

I heard this several months ago and couldn’t agree more: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas (literally translated as “in necessary things unity; in uncertain things freedom; in everything compassion”)

I really don’t think women’s ordination is one of those “necessary things” and as such we should be able to simply love others who may have a difference of opinion the way God loves us.

(Elaine Nelson) #5

While Paul’s statement about not judging can be applied to many different situations, the first part of that verse is speaking to those who “regard one day above another, another regards ever day alike, let every man be fully convinced in his own mind.” When this is applied to those who “regard” only one day '“does it for the Lord.” When is it a;so properly applied to the “regard” that Adventists have for only one day above another. Who is judging there?

There are many texts in the Bible warning us not to be judges over other’s actions. Do the church leaders apply it to themselves in their positions or do they allow every man (division) to be fully convinced for themselves and their division or union?


In context Romans 14 and Galatians 1 are not speaking on the same issues. He goes on to explain the scope he is referring too. verse 6 “He that regardeth one day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not that day, to the Lord doth he not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not and giveth God thanks.” This is akin to Joshua 24:14-15

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This is not concerning differences within a belief system, it is choosing between belief systems.
Only AFTER choosing Christ and his teachings does Galatians 1 make sense. And the sense it makes is that it isnt a ala carte system.

(L. Jean Sheldon) #7

“In all matters where principle is involved, ‘let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’ Rom. 14:12, 5.” The Desire of Ages 550.

(Carrol Grady`) #8

This is perhaps one of my areas of greatest struggle. I truly believe we should respect other people’s opinions that differ from ours. I believe we are all at different places on our spiritual journeys, and we are not called to judge someone else’s journey. And yet, I find it so difficult to live by my goals! Just last Sabbath in my Sabbath School class, which is composed of people with a great variety of viewpoints, I found myself speaking very heatedly with someone who disagreed with me. I so wish that I could control my emotions and show more grace to others (which I do appreciate when others show it to me)!

(Kevin Paulson) #9

A Yes vote in San Antonio would codify disunity, legitimizing by the will of the world church the clashing approaches to Scripture underlying the two varying perspectives concerning women’s ordination.

And that is why, other than the clarity of Scripture upholding male servant-leadership as God’s ideal for both the home and the church, the motion before the delegates must and will be voted down.

(Peter) #10

Surprise! Your perception, Kevin, is just that. Perception. After GC there will be many places where women’s ordination will continue in HARMONY with the bylaws of those unions and divisions, regardless of the vote. You fail to acknowledge that the GC has no legal power to dictate in regard to ordination. It seems to typical of you, Kevin, that you state emphatically that you know better than any of these great elder statesmen of the church. To me that is just appalling.

Paul said many things that we ignore today. Why are you so focused on just one of those things?

“Drink a little wine for the stomach’s sake.” The "Clear Word of God."
Women should not cut their hair. 100 years ago women in Adventist colleges were disciplined for that disobedience.
It is best not to marry. (Oh, you do obey this, don’t you?)

Kevin, you are a divider of God’s people. You seem to value your opinion over harmony when good people disagree.

(George Tichy) #11

Kevin, you are right on this one. The vote in SA will certainly be NO. I am pretty much sure on this one. The plan for a NO has been orchestrated pretty meticulously for a long time.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #12

You are the editor. I bow to your judgement… However, Kevin get a thousand words of theological nonsense without so much as peep. Even Calvinists have women pastors. Tom Z

(Elaine Nelson) #13

How do you explain that at the very beginning of the church, differences were allowed and the church prospered? The gentile Christians differed with the Jews who wished to make them conform and the apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit did not force conformity. Why is that not a principle that could apply today? Did God want conformity then? Does He want it now?


Thank you, Jean, for supplying this citation. I had a recollection of something like this but I could not find it at the time.

(jeremy) #15

to some extent it’s a judgement call when deciding between essential truth upon which we need uniformity, and non-essential truth upon which we can disagree with christian forbearance…male headship outside marriage has not been identified as a pillar of our faith in egw…actually, it hasn’t been identified as an element of our faith in egw at all…

(le vieux) #16

A very good principle to follow. One problem is that we can’t seem to agree upon what is essential, and what is not. Those of us who take a high view of Scripture, not trying to turn facts into allegory or metaphor, would maintain that the creation account in Genesis is essential, even foundational, and that there can be no compromise. It is as essential as John 3:16 or Eph. 2:8, 9. And if defenders of this truth seem at times to lack compassion, perhaps it is in our zeal not only to defend truth, but out of fear that those who have bought into the myth of evolution will be more easily deceived when the time comes that “if it were possible” even the elect would be duped. We don’t want them to be deceived and eventually lost. And so we become passionate in our defense of truth. To the extent that we come across as lacking compassion, please forgive us.


Mrs. Zwemer,

Tom is making trouble again :smile:

(Thomas J Zwemer) #18

Tony I love it but, Mrs. Zwemer will never see it. Tom Z the renegade

(Kevin Paulson) #19

Some differences were tolerated in the early church, Elaine, but others were not. Such passages as Gal. 1:8; I Cor. 5:9-13; and II Thess. 3:14-15—among others—make it clear that Spectrum-type pluralism was not the template for church government and the doctrinal/moral witness of the church during the days of the apostles.

(Peter Marks) #20

Thanks Ken!

These two paradigms for Christians are both equally valid and complement rather than compete with each other! As far as the way of salvation is concerned, sin, heresy and apostasy are never far from each of us. Such things lead to condemnation. As far as the principles of Christian living are concerned there is room for individual conscience and conviction. Yet such conscience and conviction should be informed and corrected by the Scriptures. And we should listen carefully to each other in such matters.

It has rightly been suggested many times that people of good-will are on all sides of the current issue. Here undoubtedly, the Scriptures have been the basis for the discussion and debate in the councils of our global Christian communion, But our decision making on this issue is clearly to create policy, not theology. A time is approaching, and it may have all but arrived, when the minds of the delegates should turn to a further question - given the helpful contributions to the discussion and debate, and the light it has shone on the principles of the Scriptures, what polity will Adventists adopt?

Will Adventists imagine they can and should remain with one global polity on the matter of ordination of women? I like the East-Central Africa Division’s response to this important question.“Different modalities need toi be urgently developed and implemented in the Church’s praxis so that no servant of God … feel[s] unappreciated and undervalued by the Church.” Ordination of Women as Pastors: Is it Biblical.p.14 (ECD Report to TOSC). Further, they urge that we move forward with the divine and creative agenda on this issue in the creation of “culturally sensitive practices” of appointment to leadership because “the God of Israel did not bypass cultural norms when he communicated important messages.”

Recently, I met a delegate to San Antonio from the western world. He informed me that he is yet to study the issue as much as the GC President has called for. Thankfully, he is committed to do this. It was apparent to me in an extended discussion with him that he was unfamilar with the extensive TOSC materials that might yet inform his vote.

How many other delegates are like him? This is why I have often urged, as early as June, 2014 on this blog site that the GC be proactive in dispersing summaries of the TOSC material. It has not happened, unfortunately.

I really feel that many delegates will vote according to their traditional cultural views or according to their fears that to vote “Yes” will somehow be departing from a strict adherence to the Word.


" it would not matter because there is only one real gospel and only that gospel is the power of God. (Romans 1:16)"

So what is the gospel? Is the gospel… power of God?
Is it the power of God unto salvation?
Is it the death burial and resurrection of God?
Is it JN 3:16
How does one quickly explain to someone how those historic facts are good news?

Ask any elder or pastor friend what the gospel is and see if you are on the same page.