On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, the Faculty of Theology at Friedensau Adventist University issued the following statement on the practice of ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
On the occasion of the decision of the General Conference in San Antonio (2015) regarding the ordination of female pastors, the Faculty of Theology has discussed the vote taken there and its significance, and has come unanimously to the following conclusions:
I. Our Conviction
We are convinced that the current practice of ordination in our church needs to be corrected on the basis of Holy Scripture. This conviction rests on the following insights.
1. On the one hand, the New Testament testifies that the commissioning to leading ministries in the church is independent of gender (Rom 16:1-12; Phil 4:2-3; Gal 3:28). It also shows deference to the respective cultural situation in order not to constrain the opportunities for the communication of the gospel (1 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Cor 11:4-16; 14:34-40). In our society, the spreading of the gospel is hampered in a twofold way due to the fact that women cannot be ordained as pastors. Firstly, because their spiritual gifts and leadership abilities remain partly untapped, and secondly, because a church loses credibility in contemporary society if it disregards human rights resting on the biblical Christian tradition.
2. On the other hand, and at variance with early Christian understanding, ordination in our church is often seen, not so much as induction into a ministry, but rather as transition into a new status. This is shown by the fact (1) that women may perform virtually all the functions of a pastor but without being ordained for their task, and (2) that only ordained officeholders may ordain others. This constitutes a form of ministerial succession unknown in early Christianity, which fosters thinking in terms of status and power. In New Testament times, ordination is a public commission to a ministry by those who have decided on the assignment (the congregation, its delegates, fellow workers, and leaders). It involves a public prayer for the blessing of God in the discharge of one’s duty and the laying on of hands in His name on the elected person (Acts 1:23; 6:5; 13:2; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; 2:2).
Among the conclusions arising out of this for the practice of ordination are the following:
1. In electing and subsequently ordaining persons for tasks and ministries in churches or local/union conferences, decisions are made on the basis of spiritual and professional criteria. The gender of the elected persons does not matter if it does not hinder the communication of the gospel.
2. Ordination applies to a particular ministry, not to a special—or even inalienable—status that elevates the person above his fellow believers. In this sense, the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) of the General Conference declared in 2014: „Ordination does not introduce a kingly hierarchy.“
3. Ordination is performed by representatives of the church or local/union conference committees that took the decision about the commission and for whom the ministry is executed. In doing so, it is not decisive whether they themselves are ordained or not.
4. Inasmuch as ordination is linked to an assignment given by a committee in charge, it applies only to the purview of said committee. Ordination as pastor in a region does not automatically include the authority to exercise one’s ministry outside of this territory. If someone is called to serve in a wider sphere of responsibility (for example, a pastor being elected as conference president), another commission and ordination is carried out.
II. Our Appeal
We suffer with the women in pastoral ministry from the current situation, which by reason of a deficient understanding of ordination leads to a struggle for status and inhibits the proclamation of the gospel.
We believe that men and women—due to their creation in the image of God and their redemption to oneness in Christ—are of equal value.
We believe that God equally calls men and women into discipleship, that Christ equally commissions them to minister to his church, and that the Holy Spirit equally equips them with spiritual gifts.
We affirm the principle that „differences between . . . male and female must not be divisive among us.“ (Fundamental Beliefs, no. 14)
We are convinced that the mission and the ministry of our church are being advanced by the ordination of female pastors.
We recognize that for cultural reasons this is not possible in all areas of the world but that in some regions like ours it is not only culturally and legally possible, but even necessary.
We desire that in our country ways will be found to achieve full equality between men and women in pastoral ministry.
We request the two German Union Conferences and the Inter-European Division to ensure that ordination to the ministry in churches and administrative entities of our denomination will be administered in accord with the aforementioned principles.
We are willing to further actively engage in the discussion and search for solutions and to make our contribution so that the church may be a credible witness in our society.
Faculty of Theology Friedensau Adventist University 39291 Friedensau, Germany firstname.lastname@example.org
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In 2016 the community of believers needs to embrace the reality that the gospel commission includes both men and women in its fulfillment. This can only be done by allowing the Holy Spirit free access.
The Holy Spirit decides which gifts are given to each man and woman for the work of the kingdom. It is very unwise to reject whomever the Holy Spirit has chosen to impart a special gift or called to fulfill a particular role in the church.
A pastor is a servant of God called to minister to the people. The one chosen should be the prerogative of the Caller—the Holy Spirit.
What this community of believers needs more than anything is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to lead us from the twilight paths of arrogance, ignorance and prejudice into the glorious light of all truth. It begins individually and spreads.
It can never be a committee decision. It is always a personal decision made on the knees.
I’m encouraged by this statement coming from one of our academic institutions and I wish more institutions would do the same. We tried to write such a statement at the Seminary at Andrews University before the GC session but our attempt to have as much faculty consensus as possible did not materialize. Yet we succeeded in writing one on the unique headship of Christ. Friedensau’s statement upholds the key biblical principles of gender-inclusive spiritual gifts, church ministry as service to God’s people, the ceremony of laying on of hands is a form of commissioning not a promotion to an elevated hierarchical social status, and commissioning is for a particular function for a given time not for life. These principles should certainly change the way the Seventh-day Adventist Church views and practices ordination. This statement will help and encourage further conversation on this topic and will give courage to entities wishing to implement some changes.
What a Great! piece of Scholarship in that short [less than 900 English words] but powerful statement. It certainly is Far Ahead of anything coming out of Andrews University, Southern University, Loma Linda University.
It is TIME for the North American Division to focus on the Issue of – The Equality of All Baptized Members In The Seventh-day Adventist Denomination – as being eligible for the “setting apart” ceremony as Pastors, Elders, Deacons.
And Declare – It is RIGHT that it is VOTED.
EDIT-- Re --“The Equality of all Baptized Members of the SDA Denomination” One pastor person on the Lounge said “Chaos would happen. What gets me about this is WO advocates are saying in essence – Unless we can ordain women, we are doing away with all Leadership Altogether. Sour grapes and recipe for, well, chaos.“
”__________ you got it all wrong! When one is “set apart” for a position as Pastor, Elder, Deacon this is NOT doing away with Leadership Altogether.
It is setting apart for the exact opposite, Leadership in a SERVANT ROLE, where the Leader is with the Gang of Members who are pulling the church toward THEIR GOALS. The Leader assists with Facilitating the COMPLETION of the goals. And, Facilitates with the discovery of New Goals when those are completed.
There are no Sour grapes. Only a great recipe for a wonderful tasting wine served at a Celebration Banquet upon the completion of Work, upon the completion of Goals set by the Congregation.
Maybe this is a deficiency of Seventh day Adventist congregations. They Do Not Party enough! do NOT celebrate often enough.”
Edit-- Bird has made a statement that the gospel can be given without ordination. And I think he has made a correct statement.
The Great Commission – not the Great Ordination – was given to his disciples, and if we read it correctly there were both men and women at that meeting. He said to Preach the Gospel AND Baptize. Preaching and Baptizing went together and the one person was allowed, Commanded, to do BOTH.
That would include BOTH men and women would it not?
Neither membership in the church nor weekly attendance will earn entry into heaven. I will attain that solely by the Grace of God through his son Jesus.
I am wearied and disheartened by the insistence of GC leadership that all church entities and members must conform to the GC’s particular interpretation of the Bible. This process itself is splitting the church and alienating its members. The church itself has been made a Golden Calf.
The GC is not, and never will be, the foundation of my beliefs. I will follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and not those of Ted Wilson or any other human being. I will continue to honor the beliefs that my Parents and Uncle Raymond taught me as a child and I will not compromise those beliefs through conformity, threats or intimidation. I can hardly even bear to read Spectrum anymore because of all the “I’m right, you’re wrong, you’ll be lost and I won’t” dogmatism of some insistent contributors. I love all the rest of you.
I need to walk through the forest and enjoy the beauty around me. Sitting indoors does not nourish my spirit, and belonging to a church whose leaders do not honor the 14th Fundamental Belief, among others, is oppressive. Friedensau Theology has it right.
This statement from Friedensau calls for a paradigm shift in our understanding and practice of ordination. And as such it does more than merely potentially gift women with an elevated status, just as male clergy have enjoyed for centuries. This may indeed have happened, had the GC SA 2015 vote succeeded.
The paradigm shift the Friedensau faculty calls for a reorientation in our thinking away from issues of status and toward an understanding of ordination as a task oriented phenemenon.
And truly such a paradigm shift has positive implications. It would instruct all of us in what service and ministry are all about and at the same time provide a graceful way to resolve the cultural issues that may otherwise divide us.
In the past months, I have often said on this blog that such a paradigm shift would reset our thinking. We could move forward rather than embracing a hierarchical model of ministry. The incipient hierarchy of such a model would be dispensed with. This deacon - elder - pastor model, where an elder can serve as a deacon and an elder on ordination as an elder, and a pastor can serve as an elder, pastor or deacon on his pastoral ordination yet a deacon can only serve as a deacon would be left behind.
In its place a lateral model of ministry would be adopted in which one’s “ordination,” if that be the best word for the rite, could be a repeatable event as one moves to serve in a “wider sphere of responsibility.” In effect, this would mean, as the Friedensau statement notes that “ordination is linked to the assignment given” and therefore “ordination as a pastor in a region does not automatically include the authority to exercise one’s ministry outside of this territory.” In simple terms then ordination would not convey global transferability of one’s ministry but instead convey one’s local task and responsibility.
Afterall, Adventists do not believe in once saved always saved. Neither should we believe in once ordained, always ordained.
The Friendensau statement is not the first statement to embrace this “lateral model of ministry.” The other European Division also stated similar understandings in their 2014 Report to TOSC. It appears to me that Europeans far clearer than other Adventists understand the nature of clerical ordination, as it has been practiced for aeons by the state churches. Thankfully, they are blessed with an alternative and more biblical understanding.
It is ironic that one of the consequences of the “no” vote at San Antonio, may in fact be the demise of ordination as we currently know it. Coming on top of the decision by a number of European Unions and Conferences to cease ordination, this concise statement reiterates that the game has fundamentally changed - and for good reason. If we’re not prepared to ordain women the way we’ve ordained men in the past, then perhaps it’s not appropriate to ordain men in that way either.
After all, why should the ordination of an individual be recognized throughout the entire world? It is often entirely inappropriate for an ordained pastor to move countries and continue to minister on the basis of his/her existing credentials, without undergoing some retraining on cultural and contemporary issues in the new country. And if an orientation process is needed, then why not set the person apart for ministry once this is concluded? In short, because it is not possible to train an individual for ministry at all levels, and in all countries and cultures in which the church operates, ordination should not be regarded as globally applicable once bestowed.
I also like the idea that any church member should be able to participate in the laying on of hands, rather than just ordained ministers. The present system really does smack of an elite status, a priestly succession, and the idea that once attained, the individual is special.
In this first “appeal” they’ve already misrepresented the situation. “Suffer?” Really? Do they even have a clue as to what real suffering means? Most of them were not alive during WWII when their Führer demanded allegiance to him over God. Ask the Hasel’s what it was like being an Adventist during the war. Have they tried giving Bible studies in Saudi Arabia or North Korea? That would result in some real suffering.
“Struggle for status?” Where is that principle found in the NT? Christianity is not about “struggle for status,” but about perfecting Christlike characters, while struggling against our sinful natures in the great controversy with Satan.
And how does lack of ordination of women “inhibit the proclamation of the gospel?” Anyone can proclaim the gospel. Anyone can spread the good news, from small children to retired plumbers.
Nonsense! The mission of our church can be accomplished, irregardless of whether or not women are ordained. Truth can be proclaimed by anyone whom the Lord calls, whether they have a title or not; whether they are employed by the church or not.
They forgot to add a 10th statement: “we reject the will of the body, as voted at the recent GC session, and are determined to rebel against the will of the body.”
Instead of whining and complaining about any alleged “inequality” or “injustice” they should be about their Father’s business and spread the gospel. A lot of time has been wasted fretting over this situation; time that could have been spent fulfilling the Great Commission.
@andreas, could you please post the link to the German version of the text. @blc 's misunderstanding of the word “suffer” could be better explained. Thanks.
@blc Please, don’t mix in the realities which have no connection with the subject. Mentioning the Führer and North Korea is at least distasteful and inappropriate. In a country which is led by a female Chancellor and her main challenger also happens to be a woman, in a country where 70 years ago women have raised it from ruins - there is no place for male supremacy any more. Any message of segregation and anything which could look just a little bit similar to misogyny is of no meaning for an average European and German listener. Not to mention that many could connect it with disgusting news from militant islamism.
“In this first “appeal” they’ve already misrepresented the situation. “Suffer?” Really? Do they even have a clue as to what real suffering means?”
Really, Birder, this argument regarding what constitutes “suffering” is getting old now. Since every individual interprets/experiences pain/suffering differently it isn’t up to you or I do do it for them. Let’s not be arrogant that you, as a man, would know how this topic of ordination would affect me as a woman or any other woman. It is plain dismissive to think that some of us don’t know what “true suffering” entails.
Thank you, Friedensau Theology Faculty Members, for this statement.
Despite critics who allege “whining, complaining, taking up time,” your inclusive approach to the Gospel ministry is much appreciated.
Having talked with a number of women pastors after July in San Antonio (something you might wish to consider, @blc), suffering is directly related to being called of God to use gifts for His service and being cut to the core in in the fallout of a male-dominated decision-making body who wants to decide, rather than God, what your gifts and callings are.
Thank you, Friedensau Theology Faculty Members, for your courage, clarity, and declaration that is totally scripturally based. God bless you each one.
So true! What about rebellion against the body?!? Why is that acceptabl?. Some of us are so blinded that we cannot see that to reject the voice of the General Conferenc is due to human, sinful, pride, which God wants to root out of our hearts!
“Truth can be proclaimed by anyone the Lord calls, regardless of ordination.”
That would be true of anyone regardless of gender. According to your argument, why would men even need to be ordained to further the gospel?
The theological understanding of ordination that these scholars propose totally moves the issue off of hierarchy and status, and into a totally gift and task centered underpinning and praxis, consistent with the NT. You keep arguing on hierarchical ground. Coupled with your minimizing of what this has done to people spiritually and emotionally, the insensitivity and inaccuracy is truly breathtaking.
There is no Seventh-day Adventist policy which forbids ordaining women to pastoral ministry. The 2015 GC vote did not forbid ordaining women ministers. The motion would have allowed Divisions to determine who could be ordained, rather than unions,- But that motion did not pass. There was no action regarding ordaining women. (There never has been.)