Moving Adventist Thought and Policy Forward!

Embracing the Collegiality of All Believers!

The term, “the collegiality of all believers” may be new language for Adventists. Yet it simply seeks to express a commitment to seek out the implications of what it means for all believers to engage in a new set of relationships – those that Christ himself taught when he said, “All of you are brothers and sisters.” The quality of these relationships is especially on display in the relationships those in pastoral leadership have with the rest of the people of God.

Counterfeits of a Genuine Collegiality of All Believers1

In the early centuries of the Christian era, the Church for the most part modelled its organization on the secular structures of authority. Ecclesiastical relationships often became distorted by imbibing the following characteristics to whatever degree:

A. Hierarchical Authority: Such authority consisted of a chain of command and two distinct classes of individuals, clergy and laity, the clergy having undergone the rite of ordination. The hierarchical ladder had at its head, a monarchical bishop-pastor with complete control over local church affairs. The bishop was the decision maker for the church. No rite of the church could be conducted without him. He was surrounded by elders, and deacons who were at the bottom of the hierarchy.

B. Sacramental Authority: The OT priesthood was often regarded as a type of Christian ministry. Thus, the ordained Christian clergy were enabled through the rite of ordination and the reception of a special seal to function as mediators between God and their people in the mass. The salvation and spiritual life of their people depended on the priest. The existence of the church itself depended on the ordained ministry.

C. Elitist Authority: Gradually, it was accepted that the rite of ordination, and all it signifies, separates the ordained from the unordained. Only members of this elite group can occupy the office of pastor.

D. An Orientation toward Male Headship in the Church: The Christian Church has always taught that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. The NT represents him as the male bridegroom of the Church which was his bride. The Church came to view those separated for special ministry by the rite of ordination as having assumed this position of headship in the place of Christ. Two widely used Latin phrases express this belief – in persona Christi Capitis (in place of Christ the Head) and Vicarius Filii Dei (in place of the Son of God). In such theology, the rite of ordination confers such headship powers in a marriage ceremony of sorts in which the church becomes the priest’s spouse. This theological orientation therefore can’t entertain the notion that women should be ordained. Rather, they must be in hierarchical submission to male pastors.

Jesus contrasted the exercise of lordly authority with his mission of service and sacrifice as he recommended this mission of service to his followers (Matthew 20: 25-28). One may either cling to old structures of power and domination with its worldly kingdom and institution-building or follow our Savior in his humble mission of service to humanity. How will the church embrace a genuine collegiality of all believers? What will this renewed vision look like?

A Renewed Vision of Truly Charismatic Adventist Ministry and Mission

The heavenly kingdom building ministry and mission of Christ was truly Spirit-filled as He led people to find abundant life and eternal salvation in Him. Christ was truly gifted by the Spirit for that mission and ministry. On the day of Pentecost, Christ as our newly inaugurated High Priest sent his Spirit to believers. They were gifted to continue and ultimately complete his mission and ministry.

The call of God to engage in Christ’s ministry and mission is enfolded within these gifts of God which the Spirit imparts just as he wills. Thus, each believer within the people of God has a Spirit-initiated call to be engaged in that work. Some individuals are called to serve in pastoral leadership. Every believer is called by their individual gifts to serve in some role. Christ calls His people to engage in a process of discernment by which they identify those who will serve in every role in its mission and ministry.

A renewed vision will give attention to a genuine collegiality of all believers and find expression in at least four areas of church life. Each of these areas is treated below:

A. A Renewed Vision of Adventist Church Organization

Adventist church organization has often been envisioned as hierarchical in nature. Here the General Conference President is conceived of as the “first minister.” Hierarchies lend themselves to thought of power, domination, and status-seeking.

A Lateral or Clockwork Model of Church Organization

Changing our model of church organization may assist in cultivating a different set of relationships among us. A helpful analogy here is that of the mechanics of an analog watch, with the multitude of cogs and gears, nesting within each other. Each of these parts has its own function and its specific sphere of influence, whether large or small. Each part is essential to the smooth operation of the whole.

The emphasis now is on the specific purpose of each part, not on so-called higher or lower levels of organization and on the authority to serve. The set of relationships here can be very different than in the command and control mechanisms of a hierarchy.

B. A Renewed Vision of Global Partnership and Collaboration in Adventist Ministry and Mission

For many years, personnel, resources, ideas, and strategies flowed from the home fields of North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand to the mission fields in most other world regions. Any mission strategy like this is increasingly inadequate. For more than a generation now, Adventist mission strategy has evolved into a unified and intentional global mission strategy. Increasingly, personnel, resources, ideas, and strategies have been flowing from everywhere to everywhere in the global Adventist world. People from all sectors of our world must be heard!

Meanwhile, a multitude of cultural perspectives increasingly seek to add to the discussion of how to contextualize the gospel within every culture. A global partnership and collaboration and grassroots education must be initiated. We must recognize that while the process of disciple-making aims to form and norm the worldview of believers according to the Scriptures, the role of culture in shaping worldviews cannot be discounted.

One telling example of where such global partnership and collaboration was not well executed can be seen in the discussions and debate surrounding the role of women in ministry and the associated topic of ordination. These discussions have been happening for fifty years now but until the last five years, people from outside North America and Europe have rarely been included as partners and collaborators. The discussions and debate has primarily reflected the needs and concerns of North America, the unspoken assumption being that other parts of the world would catch up if North America leads the way. Meaningful channels for discussion and education have been curtailed in many places.2 Is this the way to initiate truly global progress? Comments made at the TOSC meetings by one African group of scholars were to the effect that the global discussion and debate was had with people talking past each other and engaging in a dialogue of the deaf. Perhaps we hardly have begun to listen to other cultures and their perspectives!

Apparently then, it has proved easier to share personnel, resources, and strategies on an “everywhere to everywhere” basis than to embrace truly global theological discussion and gospel contextualization. It is an essential feature of “the collegiality of all believers.”

C. A Renewed Vision of God’s Right to Gift and Call Individuals of Both Genders to Pastoral Leadership and Service to All

Appointing people as Adventist pastoral leaders is not driven by a “man’s right” to be the head of a congregation. Neither is it about a “woman’s right” to serve in pastoral leadership. Rather it is about “God’s right” to gift whomever he wishes for leadership. And if God’s calling is enfolded in his gifting, who are we to resist his will in this regard and blunt his plan and purpose? This must be our emphasis.

This is vastly different from an emphasis on gender equality and the achieving of a status not accorded to one gender or another up till now. Such status seeking, whether by depressing the status of women or by an attempt to elevate the status of women to an equality with men, is wrong-headed.

Darius Jankiewicz has written concerning this issue,

True Christian ministry is not about status, rank, gender, equality, rights, or having ‘spiritual authority’ over others; it is about being slaves of Christ and his people; it is not about ruling over others but about being examples, and through the witness of our lives, wooing others to follow Christ.3

Does our practice of the “collegiality of all believers” truly incorporate such service and ministry?

D. A Renewed Vision of a Casteless and Indivisible People of God

I respect those who are in pastoral leadership as under-shepherds of the flock of God. I honor those among us who have been ordained to serve and am certain the rite of ordination is a blessed experience. I remain committed to the development of a new paradigm concerning rites of appointment of pastoral leaders and thus the development of revised credentialing policies.

However, this is far different from accepting the terms “laity” and “clergy” as useful or even accurate terms within our Adventist context. This thinking is not new to me!4 Recently I discovered a helpful summary of my thinking about developments in the early centuries of the Christian era. This summary was written by Hans Kung.

The fellowship of believers, the collegiality of all believers, of all those who had charisms and fulfilled their own ministries … gave place to the collegiality of a special ministry within the community; the collegiality of the leaders of the community, the episkopoi, or elder, who increasingly began to see themselves as distinct from the community, from the “people,” this is where the division between “clergy” and “laity” begins.5

Over a period of several centuries a sacramental/institutional model of ecclesiology developed in place of a dynamic and Spirit-filled model of ministry and mission. Nowhere is the character of such a sacramental/institutional model better illustrated than in the development of this clericalism. The Protestant reformers undid some of the accretions of lordly spiritual authority that has accrued to the clerical class. These accomplishments were adopted by Adventists and have served us well. However, given that there is an almost inevitable drift toward clericalism via subtle, even sinful changes in attitudes and modes of operation this is a subject to which we may profitably turn our attention.6 The best way to address this issue is through a studied renewal and re-formation. And many studies have already been done – the TOSC studies, for example.

The issue of whether or not there is a distinction between that status of clergy and laity is important.7 Such a distinction is easily drawn in a sacramental view of ordination of Roman Catholic theology where the priest receives an indelible seal on being ordained and thus is enabled to represent Christ and dispense grace. There is no biblical precedent for this, however. At least three lines of evidence argue against this:

The Priesthood of All Believers: 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims the priesthood of all believers. Their individual calling as believers is to be lived out in service and ministry to others according to their specific gifts. Clergy are not to act in the place of Christ while others do not. All are to continue the ministry of Christ to our world.

The Derivation of the Terms “Clergy” and “Laity”: The Greek word “kleros” from which we derive the word “clergy” is used in the NT but always to describe the entire group of Christian believers. It is never used to describe a group of leaders. (I Peter 5:3; Acts 26:18; and Col. 1:12). The Greek word “laos” from which the word “laity” is derived has several meanings in the NT. At times, it describes a group of people, or more specifically the nation of Israel. At other times the Christian community as a whole is embraced by this term. The distinction between the clergy and laity emerged over a long period in the early centuries of the Christian era, especially as the hierarchical structures of the church developed. The term “clergy” became colored by status and sacerdotal function while the term “laity” took on its more restricted meaning.

NT Vocabulary Doesn’t Reinforce any Distinction between Ministers and Members: Three Greek terms (“arche”; “archon” and “time”) are variously used in the NT in association with authority and rulership in secular contexts, and at times to refer to Jewish leaders, supernatural powers, and even Christ. They are not used for leaders in the NT church. In this way, the NT doesn’t reinforce the idea of any distinction between ministers and members.

Genuine “collegiality of all believers” will be brought much closer to reality as we dispense with language and concepts that would seem to support any status differences between pastoral leaders and other members of the church.


A focus on experiencing the genuine “collegiality of all believers” within an Adventist context may contribute to real revival and reformation. Believers may yet embrace a truly charismatic view of ministry and mission. This will lead to a new vision of at least four areas of church life according to biblical mandates.

Specifically, we may reform our thinking as to the nature of authority. This will result in a new vision of ecclesiastical structure that eschews hierarchical thinking. And also, a new vision of global partnership and collaboration in ministry and mission will be established. Then too, our emphasis will be on God’s right to choose the necessary pastoral leadership, thus dispensing with discussion about status, and about a man’s right to be head, or a woman’s right to equality. Lastly, a new vision of a casteless and undivided people of God will provide the Spirit of God room to move on the hearts of all believers to continue the ministry and mission of Christ in our world.

Notes & References:

1. This section of the paper was suggested by the work of Darius Jankiewicz, ‘The Authority of the Christian Leader,’ in South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination, eds. Humble, Graeme and McIver, Robert (Cooranbong, NSW, Australia: Avondale Academic Press, 2015), 158-163.

2. Examples of such lack of both openness and biblical education are easy to find. The South Pacific Division have maintained a virtual official denominational black-out on such activity. Also, the East Central Africa Division Biblical Research Committee Report to the TOSC presented early in 2014 strenuously invited ‘grass-roots’ education on issues concerning ordination before the San Antonio General Conference Session vote in July, 2015. This didn’t happen.

3. Ibid., 179. The previous paragraph was suggested by Darius Jankiewicz.

4. My beliefs on this subject are outlined in ‘Temple of God Ecclesiology and an Adventist Theology of Ordination,’ in Ibid, 254 – 270.

5. Hans Kung, The Church, (London: Search Press, 1968), 410 as quoted in Harold Hill, Leadership in the Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalization, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 8. The term ‘collegiality of all believers’ was first suggested by this quotation.

6. One such illustration of this process is provided by the experience of the Salvation Army who having deliberately chosen a to be a theology and movement without ordained clerics at their very foundation in 1878, found themselves drifting toward such a theology. They began the practice of both commissioning and ordaining their officers in 1978. See Leadership in the Salvation Army mentioned in the previous footnote.

7. I am following the reasoning of Wendy Jackson, ‘Should Ordination Be Considered a Sacrament in the Seventh-day Adventist Church? An Evaluation in the Light of the Biblical Data,’ in South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination, eds. Humble, Graeme and McIver, Robert (Cooranbong, NSW, Australia: Avondale Academic Press, 2015), 180 – 206.

Peter Marks has taken early retirement from a lifetime of denominational service in Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea as a pastor/evangelist and as an English Professor. He is a graduate of Avondale College of Higher Education (BA Theology), of Newbold College (MA Religion), and the University of New South Wales (Master of Information Management – Librarianship).

Image Credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Is this all coming down to a vege-ordination substitute for the real thing? The doctrine and practice of the “priesthood of all believers has a solid biblical and theological basis.There is no priesthood on earth that has the right to forbid each Christian from going directly to God through Christ, or to assume the authority to administer graces and obtain mercy for others. All Christians are of that royal priesthood of God, and have but one great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Heb. 10:19-22 says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Peter continued, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Pet. 2:9). Rev. 1:5-6 says, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Consequently, the New Testament repeatedly teaches that all Christians are priest this goes much further than any “collegiality of believers”… When one obeys the gospel of Christ, he is added to the body of Christ and is thereby part of God’s holy priesthood. As priests, all can offer up spiritual sacrifices and draw nigh to God through the mediatorship of Jesus.


If ALL PRIESTS, then we minister to one another.
As Jesus said, Forgive each other Sins. [What we forgive on earth, is forgiven in heaven].
ALL may give the Bread and Wine to each other – The Body of Christ, The Cup of Salvation.
ALL may Baptize those who accept Christ as their Savior.

Then all we REALLY do is elect ADMINISTRATORS with particular gifts to help with the function
of the church in the world. Someone[s] specifically HIRED to function at the will of the members
of the body of Christ – the Church. ADMINISTRATORS are CO-Workers, Advisors, Assist with
Planning and Organizing along with the members.
There is no Master and Servant role. Administrators are NOT MASTER. Members are NOT SERVANTS.
A COOPERATIVE effort to plan, organize, present Jesus-Christ [the God-Man] to the world, our neighborhoods, our communities.


Yes Sam! Let me assure you that the priesthood of all believers is a precious biblical teaching. As we approach the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation you and I have every reason to reaffirm our commitment here. The priesthood of all speaks of the beautiful role of the individual believer as a channel of the graciousness of our God in pointing to the forgiveness and restoration that the High Priest of our salvation will provide sinners in our broken world. And also, as priests believers may boldly approach their God on behalf of others, and interpret and proclaim the Divine Word to suit the need of the hearer. A precious biblical teaching indeed!

However, the article above asks us to consider for a moment another wonderful truth Jesus taught that “all ye are brethren.” (to use the King’s English). Jesus taught that while the Gentiles lord it over one another, it will not be so among you. This is what the collegiality of all believers is concerned with. It is concerned with expressing the rich network of relationships that should exist among believers. And no, surely this wonderful bible teaching is not the poor cousin of the “priesthood of all believers.”

For me, as for Hans Kung, [and quite independently I might add] this precious biblical truth emerges from the Bible when one considers the gifts or charisms of the Spirit that are given by the Spirit of God to each believer as he determines. This is why we may accurately speak of a truly charismatic Adventist mission and ministry. Adventist pastors are no more jugs pouring into us poor mugs. The Spirit of God wants to pour Himself into every believer so that al may in turn may impart life and healing to our world, according to our giftedness. All believers have received from God. Their calling to service and to ministry is enfolded in the gifts. Notice - all are called to serve and to minister, not just our pastors.

I am not seeking fot Adventists to adopt a vege-ordination, as you have suggested. Though the vege option may indeed be the original and the best. No! Rather, I want to encourage Adventists everywhere to embrace the fullness of what the Bible teaches and what our desperate world needs. Ordination, as popularly understood by our society and even within our own circles, so often carries so much lordly, or even chiefly baggage. In many instances it has encouraged congregational passivity and ministerial dominance. We need policies and rites that send the right biblical message. So I’m not sure we are there yet. Let’s accept this opportunity for a course correction at this time and not delude ourselves that we have no more thinking to do!


petersomerset wisely states "This is what the collegiality of all believers is concerned with. It is concerned with expressing the rich network of relationships that should exist among believers. And no, surely this wonderful bible teaching is not the poor cousin of the “priesthood of all believers.”

My emphasis was in the context of the recent Autumn Council action/inaction prolonging the “root canal without anesthesia” study for another year and attempts to reach a miracle “hail mary” compromise that will resolve the divide over women’s ordination (collegiality).

The foundation of the idea of the priesthood of all believers goes back to the garden of Eden and the original calling of Adam as a prophet, priest, and king. There is a real sense that Christians are restored to these offices in the renewal of the image of God in us (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). We know that Jesus Christ is the ultimate prophet, priest, and king. Because of Christ’s person and work noted above and because we are now all renewed as priests, we have no need of any other human intermediary between God and us. We still need a Mediator to be sure. But that is Jesus Christ. For any mere human to usurp Christ’s unique priestly office is to rob us of his glory (although not his power since that can be diminished by no one in reality). Unfortunately there are some Christians today who misunderstand the recovery of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to entail the elimination of the ordinary church offices of minister, elder, and deacon. The doctrine entails no such thing. A minister/pastor/teacher is not a priest in the Old Testament sense in that he does not serve as a necessary intermediary between God and man. The old covenant priest was meant to serve as a picture of the coming Lord Jesus who has gloriously fulfilled that role. Christ is the ever-living and once-dying high priest who cannot and will not be replaced by another (Heb 9:11ff). But Christ as prophet, priest, and king, has chosen to provide pastoral care and oversight for his church through ministers and elders under the Word of God. Ministers preach and teach, and with the assistance of elders, govern the church as under-shepherds. Ministers are not priests in the old covenant sense nor in the sense understood in the Roman Catholic church. All believers have direct access to the Father through the mediation of the Son by the Holy Spirit. We all possess this privilege. But God still uses men and women to oversee his people as shepherds under the chief shepherd and overseer of souls (1 Pet 2:25). So let’s celebrate the recovery of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, but let’s not confuse that with the democratization of Christianity or any substitute as I understood here “collegiality”, in an unbiblical and unhealthy sense. We are a royal priesthood and some of us are also answerable to Christ as his under-shepherds. All that is much more than just being “collegial”.


Let me be clear and straight forward! The “collegiality of all believers” has less to do with democratization of Christianity and much much more to do with the overthrowing of the authority structures of the Gentile world by Jesus himself. Jesus designed that this should be lived out among his people. This collegiality is fostered by the bible teaching that all believers are called to serve the world in need, and not just the chosen pastors. This calling is enfolded in the gifting.

The article above seeks to understand some of the implications of dispensing with the authority structures of power and domination within the people of God. Four grand implications are explained here. These thoroughly biblical impulses are certainly a great deal more than mere democratization of the church.

Importantly, if adhered to, these impulses have the power through the Spirit to invite revival and reformation among us.

In recent years the Salvation Army has been facing their own discussion about the virtue or otherwise of having moved from soley commissioning their officers to both commissioning and ordaining officers. Retired Salvation Army Territorial Commander for the USA, Phillip Needham explained the negative impact on Christian ministry and mission as follows, “To move into ordination theology, exclusively reserved for a priestly caste, if you like, is to undermine the priesthood of all believers. It’s to encourage our soldiery, our members to become more passive and to take less ownership of, and initiative in our ministry and mission.” (from A Transcript of ‘But What Shall We Do,’ on Earshot, Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Commission, June, 2016).


“Collegiality of all believers” is an impossibility for the SDA vision given it has an added authority to the ones listed - extra-biblical authority - that has bound the SDA vision within its 19th century paradigm. In fact, collegiality of all believers goes directly in opposition to the unique mission of the SDA church - being the “remnant” out of all the other self=proclaimed “believers”; and every point of doctrine is related to it.


I wish you could appreciate the implications of introducing change in the four areas of church life I have explored.
You have asserted that a remnant theology must necessarily be in conflict with “collegiality to all believers” without providing any real evidence.

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Logic dictates that impossibility. What you have given us is an utopian view of how things should be. The reality is totally going in the opposite direction. The remnant view of “who we are” automatically separates us from every other entity. The “remnant” is the last of the original and legitimate bolt of cloth - there can’t be another. It separates us from everyone else. What you have suggested, sounds a lot like what the stagnant stance would call “the falling away”. Not even “collegiality” within our own clan is a possibility any time soon. Have you not been paying attention…


A collegiality of undershepherds (diakonia) within a collegiality of believers, the communion of saints (koinonia). That covers it. Hans Kung captured in so many words the history of division between clergy and laity. Sad.

1 Peter 5 (NIV)1 To the elders [Presbyterous] among you, I appeal as a fellow elder [sympresbyteros] and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them [episkopountes]—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording [katakyrieuontes] it over those entrusted to you [klērōn], but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Yes!! It really boils down to a matter of authority Joselito!

Exceptionally well done, Peter Marks. Many thanks, especially for the concept of the collegiality of all believers.

Sirje makes the point that remnant theology as classically understood by Seventh-day Adventists counters the collegiality of all believers.

And so it seems.

At the core of Remnant theology is the picture of a very few qualifying for salvation, and the great swath of even Seventh-Day Adventists failing “to be ready to meet Jesus when he returns.”

Now, if a minority will be saved even from within the church (Sister White’s report at one point of not 1 in 20 being ‘ready for Jesus to return’ comes to mind), according to remnant theology, two emotional reactions are inevitable, both of which preempt the collegiality of all believers.

  1. The probability exists that most of those in my congregation do not qualify for salvation, so collegiality with them only threatens my own ability to understand the path of salvation, whether for comfort or travel.
  2. The probability exists that I do not qualify, so I must be about the business of qualifying rather living life collegially within my congregation, err I miss my chance to live eternally.

So focusing on collegiality without integrally addressing remnant theology is a bridge too far.

So what about this remnant theology, especially in Revelation 14?

The collegiality of the church is the collegiality of the saints following their having been cut free from Babylon’s Lilliputian web of confusion by the clear (‘loud voice’) and universal (‘to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people’) rendition of the everlasting gospel by the First Angel of Revelation 14.

A simple reading of Revelation 14 makes obvious that the remnant are not the saints, but rather a straggling few still caught in the remnant of Babylon’s web.

Babylon does not collapse over a remnant few abandoning its teaching of a hybrid salvation in which people are masters of their own fate with God’s help.

Babylon collapses because the truth of the everlasting gospel is made clear that we bring nothing as we stand before God. We each stand starkly in fear of God, giving God glory in the hour of his judgement when he is to set to rights the universe, and we literally are compelled to worship God in the reality that it is he who made heaven, and earth, and the sea and the fountains of waters.

It is instructive keeping in mind that Sister White is on record as declaring the Third Angel’s message as “Justification by Faith in verity.” Because the Third Angel repeatedly calls after the remnant who are trudging under burning brimstone still confused by Babylon’s teaching that heaven is our achievement or it is nothing at all.

So the Third Angel’s appeal is to the remnant of Babylon to join the unnumbered multitude of the saints awaiting that gathering beside the sea of glass, saints so recently delivered from Babylon by the First Angel’s rendition of the everlasting gospel. The call is to stop trudging and to wait patiently, embracing the declarations of the truth about God with the very faith that carried Jesus through life, death, and resurrection.

It is one thing to sense the church as a remnant when the church is such a few, which it is still with 20 million in a world of 7 billion. But what if the prophecy of Revelation 14 is about the triumph not of religion, but of God, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent?

Seventh-day Adventists are the ideal forbearers of such a message among Christendom as well as the whole of the world who have been raped by Babylon.

Seventh-day Adventists historically experienced the need for God to ‘blast’ (their word) away their prophetic understanding, this Millerite remnant who became Seventh-day Adventists. This purification through blasting they confessed resulted in the most sublime sense of God’s presence of their lifetime the morning of October 23, 1844, a sense so undeniable that it lead to their forming a denomination without bothering to first form a creed!

Imagine the possibility that Seventh-day Adventists energized by revival and reformation and at last liberated by once again disposing of our creedal dependencies?

What might that experience be?

How attractive might that experience be?

How true to Revelation 14 is this if Justification by Faith actually is the Third Angel’s message in verity?

What is it like when less becomes more?

Indeed, what truly is it like when nothing yields everything?

Is it not a life of Faith, Hope, and Love as Paul offers the Corinthians and us in turn?

Collegiality not as an aspiration but as an inevitability.

Thanks Bill for the endorsement of this notion of the “collegiality of all believers.” And for the thoughful way that you have thought through some of the implications of that.

Yet this collegiality will prove to be only as good as the quality of our lived fellowship together! and only as good as our willingness to enshrine this is our Adventist policies. This is the stuff of real personal revival and corporate re-formation including a re-formation of our credentializing policies.

Let me come clean with you Bill!

I accept the decisions of both San Antonio 2015 and of Annual Council 2017.

Concerning San Antonio, we must accept the fact that we have voted down any divisional way forward. We already had done this in 1995! We must find a united way forward!

So to Annual Council 2017! This tells me that it is pre-mature to seek punative measures against those who remain unsettled by our seeming intransigence that fails to even look for a way forward.

What is needed as we face 2018 and the continuing saga concerning the role of women in ministry is for a new sense of collegiality to take root among us. This will find expression in a new sense of the place and importance of every part in the Adventist world. It will create a new willingness to engage in global partnership and collaboration in working toward the resolution of issues together to the most encompassing degree. (This is not well served by any part rushing ahead to operate their preferred future. It is served best when everyone accepts the need to honour God together in finding and implementing our united resolution of issues). It will lead us to ask the question - How does our God want us to honour him by accepting his divine right to gift and call who He wants in pastoral leadership. We will be less intent on pursuing rights concerning both male headship or woman’s rights to serve in pastoral leadership. And finally we will embrace a biblical anti-clericalism as a pre-cursor to total member involvement.

When has Adventism taken this view? We allow local elders in the pulpit, and some are even women, though not ordained. Where has this elitism been an issue? In the churches I pastored, if you were willing to try preaching, we let you try, including youth. This idea of “elitism” just does not describe the situation among Adventists here or in the foreign lands where I served. There a pastor had 30 churches and visited each twice a year. What do you think they did the other Sabbaths?

So now we refuse to accept the vote of the cultures that do not accept WO? What they think is to be rejected because we don’t agree? Perhaps YOU are not listening.

So our Latino and African brothers and sisters don’t agree that woman should have a role in pastoring even though they may seem to be gifted in that line. For them, there are cultural norms for such things, and they don’t agree with your western idea. So what to do?

I know! Lets do it regardless of what they think. That way we can show them how we really feel about their thinking.

This view has nothing to do with Adventist thinking and never did! Ordination was instituted to let the world know who spoke for the church as some were speaking out of turn. And you then appropriate catholic theology as if that was the reason for what Adventists did back in the 1870s. Why do you ignore the actual facts of the matter?

Peter, other churches have done WO. It has led to no such revival. The church is not going to censer the rebellious Unions, so WO will be allowed. But I can guarantee it will not lead to any great change in the growth or thinking of the NAD, Europe, or Australia. It just does not that the spiritual power to deliver that sort of change. Now submission to Christ and his will would do such a think. WO won’t.

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This ”collegiality of all believers “ surely implies some level of egalitarianism among the “brothers and sisters “ ?

And surely infers the antithesis of the heinous heretical “headship “ dogma, with its domination and subjugation of the majority of the Christian constituency —in every congregation there is a preponderance of women in the pews!

Thanks Allen! I really appreciate the fact that you have responded!

And now I will respond to some of your very thoughtful comments!

At the beginning of the article above, I listed four counterfeits of a genuine collegiality of all believers that afflicted Christianity in the early centuries of the Christian era. I accept that to a large degree these counterfeits may never have troubled Adventism. At the same time some or all of these things can appear among us in incipient form. In this fashion I warned of the slippery slope.

My reading of what happened at TOSC is that some real listening and dialog did occur between the various cultures. I am making a strong plea for various cultures to engage in partnership and collaboration in theological as well as other matters. I do not believe that any issue will be solved by western cultural wisdom. However that may be, it is poor form for the discussion and grassroots education process to be effectively suspended if anyone thought that people were talking past each other and engaging in dialogs of the deaf. This appears to be what happened at TOSC. I wonder if largely Western Adventist leaders imagined that the more they let the process run, the less certain the predetermined conclusion would be.

You ask a good question Allan - What do you do if the cultural norms that dictate that women should not have any role in pastoring, as appears to be the case with some of our Latino and African brothers and sisters?

I don’t have a complete answer to this question. Maybe only the beginnings of an answer -

A. Investigate where such cultural taboos have their origin? Could it be that particularly with Latinos the orgin of this lies in the Roman Catholic Church much as I have outlined above. If this were pointed out, then perhaps they would change their minds.

B. All cultures need to be engaged in a process of cultural awareness which helps them understand their own cultural presuppositions but also those of other cultures as well. THERE IS NO WAY THAT WE SHOULD DO IT REGARDLESS OF WHAT PEOPLE OF OTHER CULTURES THINK. Perhaps we can come to some joint conclusions as to what practices are unchangeable and which may be refined while still adhering to a universal core of practices.

C. It may be possible then to refine our credentialing policies to embrace core theology while permitting a limited degree of variance. I’m sure you have been around long enough to understand that policy implementation happens in a myriad of ways within different cultures.

As the article states, I honour those who have been called into pastoral leadership among us. I have no trouble in recognizing ordination as a truly blessed experience. I am concerned when many Adventist proponents of WO speak of it in terms of a woman’s right to have a status equal to that of their male counterparts. In a footnote to her work about ordination and sacramental theology, Wendy Jackson quotes from a Mennonite scholar who says the following, “While many Protestant scholars … have tried to de-sacramentalize ordination, the long-time underlying assumptions and reality is sacramental.” Movement down this slippery slope is possible for Adventists.

Yes Adventist adopted the practice of ordination from the other Protestant churches their preachers and members had previously belonged to. They did this for very pragmatic reasons. Presently, we have good reason to again check our motivations. We may indeed find that some Adventists indeed are status seeking on behalf of women. Others are doing the opposite - seeking to push men onto a pedestal where they don’t belong and at the same time keep women in their place. Wouldn’t it be better could we give God his due and recognize the right of God to choose for himself whom he will gift and call with their leadership gifts.

You are correct Allan! WO is not to be regarded as a precursor to revival and reformation. However, we must also hasten to add that God holds us accountable for the way in which we deal with the sensibilities of those who have not been on the incredible pilgrim journey of faith so long as us.

I quote the words of Hans Kung, a C20th rebel Roman Catholic theologian, not as an authority but as one who was able to state the facts of Christian history much as I have represented them. This is certainly not an appropriation of Roman Catholic theology. Much of Kung’s rebel thought was distinctly opposed to the role of the priesthood as taught in Roman Catholic theology. His rejection of sacramental theology is exemplary. Kung’s theology is not the reason why I came to see a renewed vision of a truly gift-based Adventist Ministry and Mission soon after I began my ministry as a pastor/ evangelist all of 36 years ago.

Dr Jon Paulien recently suggested three convictions and/ or realities that many of us have not taken into consideration concerning those who oppose WO.

1. Many of those who oppose women’s ordination do so as a matter of conscience, believing sincerely that if any part of the body is out of line with God’s will, the entire body will be under God’s curse, as Israel was with Achan. Thus any vote for WO in any part of the Adventist world would leave a lot of people disenfranchised and with their own faith compromised.

Perhaps the only way to find the mind of Christ on this matter is to pray and study together, letting the Spirit lead. Warning - the last time a Study Committee did exactly this two thirds of the participants were willing to move ahead with some form of WO. And some Africans indicated that they were just beginning to understand some of the dynamics operating in the West concerning ordination when their opportunities to understand each other ran out.

Allan, I do not believe that as Adventists we should act as if all possible solutions to this impasse lie all in one sector of our world… We have a consensus statement on the theology of ordination that provides a common biblical approach and also doesn’t point to any pre-determined outcme as far as WO and the credentialing policies are concerned. If we want to, we can build on this.

I understand that the initial setting up of the Women’s Ministries Department by the GC encountered some resistence in Africa. This was not because the concept was wrong, but as I understand it, the way people sought to implement it created misunderstanding. We cannot be too careful about policy design and implementation. Cultures often do these tasks differently.

2. Many Adventists have a real and legitimate fear of congregationalism. They reason that our movement is to be a unified organization. We must shrink from more and more Adventist entities not paying attention to what the united body has decided and done. I agree 100%. Global processes of partnership and collaboration must provide a multi-faceted flow of theological discussion and biblical solutions must arise that fit the needs and aspirations of a myriad of cultures.

3. Many of the attitudes of western Adventism are tinged with the flavor of neo-colonialism. This must lovingly pointed out and those holding such attitudes must be brought to account.

Allan, I’m sure that if we met you and I would have far more in common than what seems to divide our thinking at present.

this comment of the writer… “the role of culture in shaping worldviews cannot be discounted.”…is the problem on so many levels…your ONLY worldview should be shaped by Scripture. God’s people, although in the world, are not to be of the world. Doesn’t matter if you live in a village in Mali, a suburb of Anchorage, downtown Rio, the Outback down under…God’s people have a worldview given by inspiration in a book we call the Bible…

Collegiality is so evocative, Peter. Truly.

Perhaps in part, because collegiality is a reflection of something else, something more elemental, it seems.

Collegiality as the path to a united way forward with Women’s Ordination is surely worth a closer look.

It is true that San Antonio was a redo with similar results of the 1995 vote. And perhaps you are correct that we must find a united way forward with Women’s Ordination and all other matters of practice as well as creed. Perhaps that is the direction the Lord is leading.

Perhaps there is more going on, though.

Perhaps the Lord is using Women’s Ordination as a trigger for something more profound, more enabling, more elemental, more affirming, more reassuring, and even more collegial for the world, and not just the world of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

After all, Revelation 14 confirms that we and the rest of the world have all have been raped by Babylon and are injured as we stand awaiting that moment in time when for the first time the everlasting gospel is preached with universal clarity.

And Revelation makes clear exactly what John believed the everlasting gospel is, word for word, plain and simple.

Perhaps, then, pending the yet future First Angel’s proclamation with loud-voice clarity, we saints gather within clinging distance to one another like Waldensian bands and scattered across the Earth, not just northern Italy.

Imagine with me that it may be the Lord’s plan that the Seventh-day Adventist church does not split, but atomizes structurally to prepare the way for the Third Angel’s preliminary message for its members. The groundwork for such atomization has been baked into the structure of the denomination now for more than a century. Think Union Conferences.

Perhaps Women’s Ordination is now triggering the church to strengthen itself by neutralizing the need for strong central authority. When in your lifetime have you seen such a grasping by a General Conference president for personal power and its thundering rejection, as happened a few weeks ago now at Annual Council?

There are many implications yet to be worked out. I’m sure your imagination is as fertile as any.

It is not an easy and may not be a self-aware time for Elder Wilson, whose personal destiny may be to symbolize the last gasp of what he so devoutly believed was his calling to personally lead the church. This may well be his own night of October 22, 1844, experience.

And perhaps our own.

And if so, we each do well to take note now that the morning of October 23, 1844, dawned and with the dawn came the most sublime sense of God’s presence of their lifetime, by their own confession, for that little band of Millerites to whom we each owe our gratitude for in time revealing to us individually a view of the creator of the universe, the revelation of which has been brought to us each by people of the Seventh-day Adventist church that those Millerite remnant founded, and not on a creed they had worked out, but in response to the undeniable presence of God within their very lives, following the blasting (their word) away of their theological commitments in whole!

Will we become more collegial as a result of the sense that we are no longer expected to be subservient to the will of a committee of elders somewhere distant whether measured in kilometers or conscience?

One thing seems undeniable, namely that collegiality is not the result of brute force, any more than is personal salvation; John assures us that Jesus does not illustrate God’s love for us through divine brute-force condemnation. There surely is some other explanation for their being saints unnumbered on the shores of the sea of glass.

Let’s see where that vision goes and with it takes us.

Thanks for taking the time to respond again! Yes, I believe that the collegiality of all believers is truly evocative. Perhaps even more so than the priesthood of all believers.

You say that perhaps there is more going on! I’m sure you are right. There are lessons we are not learning well that the Lord wants to teach us.

I understand what you are saying about the structural atomization of our denominational structure. However I am unwilling to follow you there. I can’t see how neutralizing the need for strong central General Conference leadership could possibly strengthen the whole. (I do acknowledge that the authority of all power bases in the denomination needs to be finely balanced and tuned to achieve the ability of all to move forward with flexibility while maintaining unity).

Some of Elder Wilson’s moves a few weeks ago look ugly, I agree! Yet I’m loathe to damn the man because I just don’t know his heart and motivations. Certainly he came unstuck! He wasn’t anticipating the result that was delivered. I’m sure he is burdened with a real sense of responsibility to do all in his power to ensure the unity of the whole. I believe he is seeking this in the wrong way. Yet it is up to others around him to redirect his mind and heart. This may prove easier to do in coming months, than in the past. Let’s pray for that!

I agree with you. Collegiality will never be achieved by force! But neither is it antithetical to organization. I feel that the debate at Annual Council captured these sentiments well.

My aim in presenting this article is well described in its heading and subheading. My belief is that if we truly understand and experience collegiality to a fuller degree as Adventist leaders and people we will be enabled to move Adventist thought and policy forward. The roadblocks to such forward movement are clearly explained. First, misunderstanding and misusing the structures of our denominational organization as a power base from which to achieve our own ends will not do it. Second, a refusal to join in extended and extensve global partnership and collaboration on the way to contextualizing the gospel in a myriad of cultures will not do it. Third, misunderstanding the ordination of women in terms of a victory for women’s rights, and opposed to the men’s rights represented in male headship theology as it has to do with the church, will not do it. Rather, we must understand that the real issue is one of the divine right to choose individuals of both genders to serve in leadership roles. Finally, the widespread misunderstanding of the terms ‘laity’ and ‘clergy’ and the associated clericalism must give way to a more biblical model of the church as a charism-driven organization that is truly casteless and indivisible in terms of status.

So interesting. “even women.”

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