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.