Ty Gibson, Co-director of the independent Light Bearers ministry and senior pastor of the Storyline Seventh-day Adventist Church in Eugene, Oregon, has published a 12,800-word article in which he reversed his previous position on women's ordination, and came out decisively in favor of ordaining women. In addition to his work with Light Bearers (which lists among its accomplishment distributing over half a billion pieces of Adventist literature worldwide), Gibson has been featured on the 3 Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN) in a series called Anchors of Truth, and has numerous devotional and theological books to his name. Gibson has also spoken on several occasions for the Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC).
The audience Gibson has cultivated sets him apart from others who have spoken out in favor of ordaining Adventist women. His connection to 3ABN and GYC has placed him in the company of many who have vocally opposed ordaining women. Comparatively, Gibson is positioned as a moderate among conservatives, but don't call him a liberal—or a conservative. In a strongly-worded blog post, Gibson excoriated those who call themselves liberals or conservatives, writing, "To be a conservative or a liberal is nothing of which to be proud. It’s a manifestation of our bent, unbalanced, sinful human nature." He went further, suggesting that people who align themselves with one camp or the other demonstrate a spirit of evil:
It doesn’t matter how different conservatives and liberals appear to be on the surface, because they tend to have one defining characteristic in common: they hate each other, or at least they dislike, discredit, disavow, and politically dismember one another. On both sides there is pride of opinion, arrogance of attitude and, most glaringly, a spirit of censor against the other side. So the differences are only skin-deep, while at heart they are moved by one and the same spirit—the spirit of self-serving enmity that crucified Jesus.
Given his professed extreme disdain for ideological pigeonholing, it should come as little surprise that Gibson came to what some might consider a progressive understanding of ordination in the most traditionally-Adventist way possible: through use of Bible texts, early Seventh-day Adventist history, and excerpts of Ellen White's writings, the result being what he described as a change of heart:
What I thought I would discover was support for the view I already held. What I actually discovered is that I was wrong in some of the things I assumed the Bible says on the topic. As I began to read, and read, and read, I underwent a series of shifts in my thinking under the guidance of God’s word.
Gibson meticulously examined key biblical passages used to oppose the practice of ordaining women, and said that while he has no interest in "advocating for one side or the other in the debate," he ended with a specific appeal to those serving as delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio:
If you are a delegate to the 2015 General Conference Session, please vote in favor of allowing for individual Divisions to decide whether or not to ordain women within their territories.
By voting this way, you will be standing in favor of refraining from dividing the church over a subject that does not constitute testing truth.
By voting this way, you will be voting to refrain from creating restrictions that go beyond what is written in God’s word.
By voting this way, you will be voting to affirm the freedom of God’s Spirit to do as He pleases with His people.
In advocating a YES vote at the General Conference Session, Gibson joined David Asscherick, pastor of the Kingscliff Adventist Church in New South Wales, Australia and founder of ARISE, as the second Light Bearers speaker to publicly advocate in favor of allowing divisions to ordain women. Asscherick has argued since 2012 that there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits women from occupying offices typically held by men.
In his article, "A Closer Look At Women's Ordination," Gibson considered the arguments most commonly employed by opponents of women's ordination, and one-by-one, argued against each. Here is an example:
They begin by insisting that male-only ordination is a moral mandate due to the fact that Adam was created before Eve, from which they insist that women may not authoritatively teach men. But then they are faced with a woman prophet they accept in an authoritative teaching role—namely, Ellen White. So they have to figure out some explanatory angle to make exceptions for some women to teach men. But here’s the colossal problem: if we’re dealing here with a moral mandate, then there can be no exceptions, and to make exceptions is to inadvertently confess that it’s not a moral issue after all. And if it’s not a moral issue, then there is no legitimate reason to urge it as a universal rule for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Perhaps Gibson's most compelling line of argumentation for those who revere Ellen White as God's messenger is to point out that she seems to have clearly advocated for women pastors, which Gibson said caught him by surprise.
Even though Ellen White did not attend the 1881 GC session, shortly after, in her April 4, 1882 Review and Herald article, she deliberately republished something she had written a year earlier:
“If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting before the public our publications, which will lead men to search the Scriptures. Missionary work—introducing our publications into families, conversing, and praying with and for them—is a good work, and one which will educate men and women to do pastoral labor” (Review and Herald, April 4, 1882; published the first time in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 390).
You likely didn’t see that coming, and neither did I. Ellen White envisioned women in pastoral ministry of some kind. And please pause to catch the significance of the historical context in which her above statement was made. A proposal was just brought before the General Conference Session stating that females “be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.”
He further argues that from all historical evidence, Ellen White was not opposed to ordaining women, and probably even supported the proposal in 1881.
Ty Gibson speaks to a different audience than do most proponents of women's ordination, and the audience is paying attention. In one case, that meant a rebuttal from Dr. Clinton Wahlen, who served on the North American Division Biblical Research Committee that took up the theology of the ordination of women. Wahlen authored that group's "minority report" in favor of male headship over and against ordaining women, and he disagreed with Gibson's statement that "to elevate the pastoral position with language of headship and privilege over other church members is decidedly papal." Wahlen responded, "Then why is there such an insistence on ordaining women? Why do for women what is thought to be wrong for men? Is the article really arguing for no headship and no leadership in the church? Apparently not, but if not, then this kind of reasoning does not make sense."
Read Ty Gibson's "A Closer Look At Women's Ordination."
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6865