On Culture, Change, and Conscience: A Reflection on Women in Ministry

"Change is glacial. Glacial!" Charles. E. Bradford's voice thundered through our living room, demanding attention from the pastors serving in southern Oregon gathered there. As president of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist church, he had agreed to join us via telephone, pray with us, and provide conversation on issues important to us. The amplified speaker in the middle of the room served its purpose. One of the young pastors had asked about the continuing dialogue regarding ordaining women in ministry, and Bradford's response was memorable. Change takes time he asserted. Be patient. The year was 1979.

Just Keep Talking?

Of course we should keep talking. But some are going to have to lead change. We need a perspective on the summer of 2015 to consider that assertion. Few expected the initiative to refer the ordination of women in ministry to various divisions to pass. Leading up to the vote there were significant hindrances to change, and they all could be observed. Talking alone will not finally resolve these.

First, people are people. We are from various cultures and hold beliefs formed within those cultures. Those beliefs include gender discrimination. It is not the mean-spirited kind, nor even recognized as discrimination where it exists. But it is discrimination just the same. That leads me to a second hindrance - culture trumps theology. Unfortunate. But true. Thus a third condition was apparent in San Antonio, the reality that the broad consensus and best work of our biblical scholars regarding the nature of ordination, of male headship, and of our theology of ministry was generally set aside. Fourth, there is the reality that the church is the church. It is a global organization, hierarchal, and led by humans. Those humans can take too much responsibility for influencing others. Further, the worldview of the majority populations in the church places a very high value on community. That is a strength, but it also translates into insistence that all do things in the same way as others. Otherwise community would be threatened, in the minds of these dominant cultures. That means a variance of policy is a threat to unity. Sensitivity to influence from the West is another very human factor. Perhaps more worrisome is the tendency of our historical view of plenary revelation to yield to popular biblical literalism, or what I see as an emerging brand of neo-fundamentalism.

So I am not hopeful that the weight of these perspectives will change through talk alone. Of course we pray, and God works His will. I have always believed when we pray God expects us to act.

Gender discrimination in the church is simply wrong. It is a matter of conscience. Tolerance to this wrong can no longer be excused by pleas for patience.

Searching Scripture Together

The conversation about affirming women in ministry has been long.1 The General Conference received a recommendation from its own resolution committee to ordain women to gospel ministry in 1881; the initiative was referred. In 1950 A. V. Olson indicated his wish for a study committee. Study committees were voted in 1970 and 1973. In 1973 the Council on the Role of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church met and recommended that women be ordained for gospel ministry by the year 1975. The Annual Council in 1975 voted, however, that continuing study be given. The General Conference Session of 1985 again voted to study the matter further. An action was considered in 1995 and failed. More recently, a study committee was established by the church at its 2011 annual council. And in 2015 positive action on the question was rejected.

A partial review of those studies may be helpful. In 1990 and 1992 Women Church God: A Socio-Biblical Study2 and A Woman’s Place: Seventh-day Adventist Women in Church and Society3 were published and affirmed the service of women. A group of scholars and pastors offered a pastoral appeal for inclusion of women in ordained ministry in their 1995 work, The Welcome Table.4 Their work contributed a historical account of 150 Adventist women in ministry from 1844 to 1994.

An ad hoc committee of faculty from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in 1998 published Women in Ministry.5 Their work asserted the scriptures support the ordination of women who serve as elders and pastors. A differing group of Adventist biblical scholars countered with Prove All Things: A Response to Women in Ministry in 2000.6 Interestingly, they affirmed the hermeneutical approach of Women in Ministry, that men and women are equal as created by God, the need to see more women in the “service of the Lord,”7 that women are called to soul winning, that women are to utilize their spiritual gifts, that women are to receive equal treatment, and that ordination does not confer special grace, but differed with the contributors to Women in Ministry on the matter of women serving in the particular roles of elders or pastors based on an assertion that there was no precedent in scripture.8

More recent works by biblical scholars include those of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary affirming that headship is not given to human beings over the church in matters of ecclesiology,9 and historical perspectives outlining the adoption of ordination from secular society as a means to distinguish clergy from members of the body, a practice that contradicts a biblical theology of ministry.10 Writing in Servants and Friends: A Biblical Theology of Leadership, a 2014 publication, Jo Ann Davidson, professor of Old Testament at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, cites five Old Testament women called by God for significant leadership roles at a time when women were not empowered within their culture.11

The 2012 Theology of Ordination Study Committee published its reflections within three varying viewpoints. The study committee did offer a consensus statement on ordination. That statement asserts; "…Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global ministry."12 A vote was taken among the study committee members, asking them to indicate their preferences for three statements. Of the 94 votes registered, 62 favored statements authorizing denominational entities or organizational leaders in their respective territories to determine if women as well as men are to be ordained, while 32 of the 94 favored restricting ordination to males alone. It is apparent the consensus of those assembled views the scriptural record as not prohibiting ordaining women as the church may see fit in particular territories where doing so would not impede ministry due to cultural attitudes.13

The Scriptural Foundation

It is not the purpose of this writing to examine the biblical material. It may be helpful, however, to reference the foundation Adventist scholars recognize for the affirmation of both males and females in ministry. Doing so risks oversimplifying the biblical account, but provides a trajection of the biblical record.

Christ commissioned His followers to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). He promised the presence of the Spirit as the church sought to fulfill His purposes (John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8). The New Testament describes the universal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:9, 10). He empowers every believer with spiritual gifts and calls them to minister accordingly (Romans 12:6-9; 1 Corinthians 12:6-11; Ephesians 4:7, 11-13; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Peter 4:10). The New Testament contradicts a distinction of pastor from membership (Romans 12: 1-6, 1 Corinthians 7:7). Ministering gifts were not to be assigned for prestige or power over others, rather, all serve in humility (Matthew 23:8; Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:14-17). The church is charged to recognize the gifts among followers of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16).

One must examine the post-biblical record to discover how ordination became a common practice distinguishing clergy centuries after Christ. The first clear account of a Christian ceremony of ordination appears in the Apostolic Tradition.14 The distinction between a New Testament theology of ministry and the nature of the priesthood found in the Apostolic Tradition is noted by Protestants and Catholics alike. The church, some four centuries after Christ, had reset ministry into a distinct priestly function including matters such as confessions and administering sacraments.15 The sixteenth-century Protestant reformers recognized this error and sought to correct it. The reforming process was partial, and the separation of clergy from laity has largely continued. Seventh-day Adventists, among others, have called for a restoration of a biblical theology of the priesthood of every believer. We too, however, find it challenging to act on that renewal.

God's Affirmation

One fact is undeniable. Women have been serving as church planters, evangelists, and pastors, often providing remarkable contributions, throughout Adventist church history. We recognize the formative prophetic ministry of Ellen White. Other women led churches in the early days of the movement, like Maria Huntley who served as president of the Tract and Missionary Society (the future Publishing Department), and Louise Kleuser, a pastor and evangelist who became an associate in the General Conference Ministerial Association. There are many more. I have seen firsthand the lasting contribution in churches established or strengthened by the evangelistic and pastoral ministry of LuLu Wightman,16 Sarah Lindsey,17 and Mabel Vreeland18 in upstate New York in the early to mid 20th century. The ministry of women like Elsa Luukkanan, the Finnish evangelist and pastor, and Margarete Prange, the German evangelist and pastor are notable in other areas of the globe. Today in China, hundreds of women serve as pastors. In North America alone there are over 100 women serving as pastors, and many hundreds more serving as elders. There are churches throughout North America that would not exist were it not for God calling and gifting women to lead them.

We humbly acknowledge God's sovereignty. So what are we to do?

Following Christ

Change is hard. But it is inherent in following Christ. Disciples change.

We Adventists have of course changed our beliefs (we came to Christ and we left traditions behind), our lives, and our opinions. That has distinguished us as a movement rather than an institution. We are a people whom God can transform as we study scripture. Our early leaders drew back from ecclesiastical structures that might threaten dynamic openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Forming positions through study and prayerful conversation, Ellen White reminded nervous church leaders that change is part and parcel of following Christ. "Those who think they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have an occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed" (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p.30).

So why affirm the ministry of women? Simple obedience to God, who is affirming His calling of both men and women to ministry through the gifts of His Spirit, and calls us to affirm His grace, is enough reason.

But I find a further compelling reason; hope. Hope for a better world where we respect the creative initiatives of God. Our young adults can discern when we are following the dictates of culture or tradition rather than the bidding of God's Spirit. And on this matter they clearly recognize our deference to institutional culture by our denying what God is doing. They hope for better.

There is arguably a still more compelling reason. We are a missionary movement. "When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss of the talents if both are not combined.19 As my pastor at Andrews University, Dwight Nelson, often reminds us along with a chorus of other voices, we need all hands on deck. We must today be about the Father's work without letting our past traditions hinder the assignment and affirmation of ministry. Ordination, which simply confirms God's grace filled calling, should be humbly and joyfully expressed to whom He calls, men or women.

Still another reason to change can be asserted. Love. Love embraces obedience. Though we sometimes are loathe to acknowledge it, the scripture confirms our primary reason to progress through change. "God is love." When we love, we change. That is why love has always been hard. To forgive sin, to submit to God, to change our lives; that is the language of love. Perhaps the most hopeful witness for God is that we do love, and that we do change.

What We Can Do

Women should continue to respond to God’s calling, and to prepare for their service. And institutions of the church that support them in doing so need significant recognition and affirmation. Those who find their way to ordain them deserve our respect.

Men in ministry should find ways to express equality. Many are. I, and 8 other faculty on their own initiative at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, have requested a commissioned ministers credential rather than a ministerial credential for that reason. True, such actions are symbolic, but symbols are meaningful. I took that step for the following five reasons; 1) our shared theology of ministry enlists every believer in Christ into ministry regardless of station in life, nationality, race, or gender, 2) ordination as practiced by the church has drifted away from a biblical understanding of affirming ministry to the present practice of the church distinguishing position or status, 3) in the context of the credential category of “commissioned minister” as distinct from “ministerial” we (the Adventist church) have institutionalized gender discrimination, 4) as a matter of conscience I can no longer, after sufficient decades of protracted biblical study, contradict biblical teaching and Christ like relationships in favor of church policy, and 5) male headship is not affirmed by the best and prevailing work of biblical scholars in our movement, nor is such a notion a fundamental belief.

Organizations within the church such as conferences or unions that take steps toward equality in ordination practice should be seen as faithful and hopeful expressions of the church. We need to affirm them, and peacefully express our support for the courage of their conscience.

Some suggest it would be wiser to keep silent, and to simply encourage continued study. Those who do not keep silent open themselves to criticism. But this is a matter of conscience. The church is not well served when we ignore matters of conscience for our own political gain. Then should we leave the church, or resign ministry, in protest? No. That would concede the opportunity for an ongoing demonstration of conscience.

Conclusion

What happens as we follow Christ, as we allow our life and practice to be conformed to His leading? Change. We are blessed in that process, though it is difficult.

What will happen when we ordain women to ministry in some parts of the world in this global movement? We will continue to experience the blessing men and women provide as they dedicate gifts and talents in service. We will be giving evidence that we are an authentic biblical movement of disciples. We will be expressing the nature of a global church. In a world where God gracefully reaches our various cultures, unity means willingness to be led in our context and to be patient with the distinctions in the way the church works out its life in various other cultures.

Change is inherent in renewal, mission, and new life. We all recognize that. It is in the heart of who we are. We are disciples of Christ. We have been willing to change. We have a conscience. __________________________

  1. For documentation of the several initiatives to set up study committees or consider ordination of women ministry see Alberto R. Timm Seventh-day Adventists on Women’s Ordination: A Brief Historical Overview, a paper presented to the Biblical Research Committee of the Inter-European Division in Italy in 2012, and the work of Banks, Habada, Brillhart, Rosado, and Vyhmeister referenced in this work.
  2. Caleb Rosado, Women Church God: A Socio-Biblical Study (Riverside, CA: Loma Linda University Press, 1990)
  3. Rosa Taylor Banks, editor, A Woman’s Place: Seventh-day Adventist Women in Church and Society (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1992)
  4. Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart, The Welcome Table: Setting a Place for Ordained Women (Langley Park, MD: TEAMPress, 1995)
  5. Nancy Vyhmeister, Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1998)
  6. Mercedes Dyer, editor, Prove All Things: A Response to Women in Ministry (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventists Affirm, 2000)
  7. Dyer, p.8.
  8. Dyer, pp.8-9.
  9. On the Unique Headship of Christ in the Church: A Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Website, 2014)
  10. For an examination of the formation of ordination practices in early church history see Darius Jankiewicz, The History of Ordination, (Memory, Meaning, and Faith, a blog maintained by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary: Berrien Springs, Michigan, April – June, 2013)
  11. Skip Bell, editor, Servants and Friends: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2014), pp. 259-276.
  12. General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report June 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, 2014, p. 21
  13. The reader is encouraged to read: General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report (General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, June 2014)
  14. See Paul Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson, and L. Edwards Philips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary. Hermenia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), pp. 26-37, 55-66, regarding material from the Apostolic Tradition on the practice of ordination of the bishop and of presbyters and deacons in the church.
  15. For a discussion of the historical pattern of priestly and ordination function see Darius Jankiewicz...
  16. For an insightful examination of Lulu Wightman's evangelistic ministry in New York see Josephine Benton, Called by God, (Smithsburg, MD: Blackberry Hill Publishers, 1990), chapter 3.
  17. See Brian Strayer, Adventist Heritage, Sarah A. H. Lindsey: Advent Preacher on the Southern Tier Fall 1986 Vol 11, Nu 2, pp. 16-25.
  18. Benton, chapter 8.
  19. Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946), p. 469.

Skip Bell is Professor of Church Leadershp and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7188
3 Likes

A very well reasoned and written polemic essay. Yes there needs to be very close vetting prior to ordination but it must not include gender. There are an increasing number of women in all of the learned professions who are distinguished in their field. The same is true of the ministry. Is it not passing strange that Rome pray to Mary and Adventists refer to Ellen White, yet neither openly grant leadership in the ministry of the Gospel to women on an equal basis as men. Furthermore both denominations twist Scripture to their own end. For a denomination to make such a emphasis on Judgment and be so callous about recognition of talent and calling is an oxymoron. Tom Z

12 Likes

On Culture, Change, and Conscience: A Reflection on Women in Ministry—15 November 2015 Skip Bell said:
“Some suggest it would be wiser to keep silent, and to simply encourage continued study. Those who do not keep silent open themselves to criticism. But this is a matter of conscience…Change is inherent in renewal, mission, and new life. We all recognize that. It is in the heart of who we are. We are disciples of Christ. We have been willing to change. We have a conscience.”

Thank you Brother Skip for this inspiring article. Culture is the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the function of a group or organization.Culture is the reason some churches seem to have more than enough volunteers and others can’t find any.This time of the year many of our churches are about to embark on nomination and election of church officers. Here is a unique opportunity to bring about cultural changes that are needed to improve the mission of the local church. A lot of Seventh-day Adventist churches act like a resort/tourist hotel. Multiple swimming pools, one for the kids and another for the adults. A gift shop. A buffet-style, all-you-can eat cafeteria. All things to make the customers happy.

For some Adventist churches, the sermons, ministries and programs are designed for insiders in order to keep them coming and keep them giving Sabbath after Sabbath. Safe continuity is what is desired in electing local leaders and planning events for the new year. Everything is slanted to church members. When church members feel like church is mainly for them, it creates an insider mentality. Decisions on spending and programming are slanted to keep the members happy. But for the church to effectively fulfill the mission given my Jesus, the church has to shift from an insider mindset to an outward focus. Spending has to shift from making the members happy to reaching people who are not a part of the church at all. If you want to know why things are the way they are in our church, look no further than culture. You can have an eternal mission and a vision for growth, and an unhealthy culture will undermine both.

Instead of the tourist hotel culture, work hard to create a hospital culture. Where the things you do – from programs to ministries – exist for those who need it most. If Jesus said he didn’t come to call the well but the sick, our church should intentionally skew it’s ministries and communication to reach the people outside the walls of the church. Our church will naturally drift toward a hotel culture on it’s own. It’s just human nature to take care of yourself. You’ll almost need to over-emphasize outreach and evangelism and an others-first mindset just to stay in balance. When you create a culture that’s welcoming to outsiders, they will take notice. People gravitate to places where they are accepted.

That’s why we must shift the culture in our church away from a paid staff of super Christians to an empowered team of priests. Men and Women, Adults and Children each working together, respecting each other. In theological terms, this is the priesthood of the believer applied to volunteerism at our Adventist churches. Pastors need to create and model a culture where it’s NORMAL to contribute, not just attend.

We preach against it, but we must reinforce the ideas with actions. Respecting women in ministry is vital. A church that discriminates on the basis of gender has zero credibility with the community it serves. A church must be an example of fairness and Christlike love in it’s mission for all.

How can we help people understand that church isn’t a product to be consumed but a mission that requires our involvement? How can we get people to get out of their seats and into the journey of success , “good success” as found in Joshua 1:8?

If we really want a culture change in our Adventist churches we are going to have to encourage and inspire church members to contribute, make it fun and interesting. Prepare for people to serve and ask them to step into something that’s organized. Try giving persons a job description about what you want from them in accepting a church office. Respect your church officers and remember that they are working with church members and volunteers and not just doing errands for the Pastor and or Conference. Preparation shows value. We need to present a compelling vision. Show people how serving is good for their soul, not just for our church. Talk about what you want for them, not just from them. And leave out the guilt – it doesn’t work anyway. You may be able to guilt someone into meeting a short term need, but there’s no way guilt works as a long-term motivation for serving.

5 Likes

It’s a bit shocking to realize how little has changed in the 36 years since Bradford spoke of change taking time. Let’s pray we will get much further in much less than another 36 years.

Excellent article, and a commendable act in requesting a commissioned ministers credential. It’s nice to see a public record of this action, and an explanation for it. I’m hopeful that many male counterparts in North America will follow the precedent that you and others at the theological seminary have set. My question: what has become of your request? Are you getting kickback?

And let’s completely ignore the label of “rebellion” that certain individuals continue to hurl at us. Indeed, this is a matter of conscience, which supercedes any ecclesiastical policy.

The author is quite clear and not at all unwitting as to why the world church rejected woman’s ordination: the decision was driven by culture rather than scripture. You can deny this reality all you want, Kevin, but your argument won’t win any of us over.

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Yes, many recognize this. It is at least one reason many have left the church and many more are continuing to leave. Of my ~50 year old SDA classmates from high school and college almost all have left the church officially, or at least don’t attend church and are just too lazy to get their names taken off the books. I’m one of the few exceptions to this, but recent events are pushing me out the door as well.

Who wants to go to a church led by people who reject critical thinking, science, and who promote discrimination? That’s a triple whammy for smart, educated people who believe we are all created equal under God (and under the law.)

Good. Neither can I. The first thing I did was to stop financing discrimination. This means I don’t give the GC, my division, union, or conference any money. This of course means I can’t tithe in an official way, as all of those entities take a cut. So I give money to my local church budget only, as well as other charities that do not make discrimination an official part of their mission statement.

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After more than 120 years of recommendations and numerous study committees formed. nothing has changed. Now is the time to make changes that will open the doors of service to everyone, not just the ordained. We are all equal before Christ, yet not within the church. This is wrong! How can we proclaim the Christian message while refusing to fully legitimatize more than one half of all the church’s members?

Unions should not wait for “approval” from the G.C. when there has been nothing written prohibiting gender-free ordinations. This should be the prerogative of those who waiting to welcome full equality of women in ministry. Not to do so is to shrink from action when doing the right thing is recognized and doable.

5 Likes

By acknowledging the decisive role played by human culture in driving the controversy in question, my good friend and esteemed professor—whose class on Christian leadership was very much a blessing to my ministry—has unwittingly articulated the precise reason why the world church has rejected women’s ordination for the third time.

While I share Skip’s passion for social justice, I am constrained to differ with his conclusions regarding alleged gender “discrimination” by the church because only the written counsel of God can rightly determine the standard of justice. Unlike ethnicity and social class, gender is a divine construct, established by the Creator in a sinless world (Gen. 1:27). And the roles of men and women in both the home (Eph. 5:22-25) and the church (I Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:12-13) trace their origin to this primeval, divinely-ordained distinction. The spiritual primacy of the male gender is evident in God’s original summons to our first parents following their transgression in Eden (Gen. 3:9), and is clear in the New Testament’s identification of Adam as the one through whom sin and death entered the world (Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:22)—this despite the fact that Eve was the first to sin.

If our postmodern culture labels this “discrimination,” we cannot surrender our stance, as only God’s transcendent Word provides His earthly representatives with the moral authority to establish and practice justice and reveal His character to the human family.

1 Like

A timely and perceptive article. Congratulations on the decision to become a change agent by taking the status of a commissioned minister. If all of your fellow ministers who have voiced their support for women’s ordination followed your action, this would speed up the process of change. Dialogue is essential but, of itself, cannot bring about change.

Do you recall those T-shirts of a skeleton sitting on a park bench with the caption: “Waiting for the perfect man/woman”? We could print a few with the caption: “Waiting for women’s ordination”. I believe that the issue is irrelevant to the work of gospel ministry and too much time has been wasted on it already. I lost interest in this conflict years ago. Instead, I give my time and ministry skills to churches who do not discriminate against women, and I know many like me. We have enlarged the borders of our Christian experience and are blessed by these interactions. We endeavour to maintain cordial and respectful relationships with all believers and are not associated with any ministries that are critical of Adventism or any other organization… Time is a gift of God and we are expected to use it wisely. We can argue about nothing or we can just get on with the work of preaching the gospel in Word and deed. Rene Gale

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Agreed. But what if to begin with there were no conscience involved?

It can be argued that ignoring “matters of conscience” was not a consideration leading to and at the SA2015. A more serious and pathological mental dynamic was evidenced by the absence of guilt and remorse (hissing and booing allowed unimpeded as the newly elected GC president was present and stood on the podium) in resolving WO, two criteria necessary to substantiate the presence of a conscience.

What was in display for the public to see was the clear absence of a corporate conscience through a mental phenomenon referred to as when the “ego merges with the superego.” This is the mental level when one assumes to be a moral compass or arbiter of the “written counsel of God” as KP would describe as below:

Here, Kevin, a strong advocate if not the strongest advocate for WO and Male Headship, describes SB’s assertion as a “conclusion” but fails to qualify his own assertion either consciously or subconsciously and instead equates his to the “written counsel of God.” What more evidence is needed to unmask the pathology involved?

There possibly cannot exist any shred of divinity in this scenario. There is evidence of human footprints instead.

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George –
How does one develop in a Global Corporation a Conscience? when there is none.
Perhaps even no desire to have one, even in Branch Offices and Training Centers?

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i feel saddened with every recollection of san antonio…it was definitely one of the lowest, if not the lowest, moment for the church i’ve witnessed with my own eyes…i no longer see the general conference as the voice of god now…that is in the past…

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I’m glad that dialogue of this nature is continuing!

The last 4 years have been the first attempt at truly engaging Adventists globally in this dialogue. Many positive developments took place because of this. Yet, such a dialogue is clearly unfinished.

Such dialogue must be upfront in styling itself as the search for a new and more biblical paradigm of mission and ministry among Adventists and in the world. Such a renewed paradigm will manifest itself in renewed rites of appointment to Adventist leadership while energizing Adventist mission in the world.

Adventist scholars need to do more work on a number of fronts before we can anticipate a resolution of matters concerning women in ministry.

  1. Adventists need to be united on their hermeneutic for studying Scripture. (Such a hermeneutic will not emerge from the Scripture itself until we give ourselves to understand the Biblical metanarrative of the ‘mission of God’ to this world. Among other things this concerns Jesus’ ministry of the gospel of the kingdom and of our continuation of that ministry in the world).

  2. From such a hermeneutic Adventists will be enabled to build a comprehensive theology of the whole people of God.

  3. Out of such a theology will arise a theology of appointment to Adventist leadership roles.

  4. In turn, such a task will then be enabled to design and implement various rites of appointment to Adventist leadership. And such rites will be altogether culturally sensitive.

1 Like

Believing that there are gender roles is not sinful, wrong or evil. WO is not a MORAL issue. If it is, then Bell should quit the blather and take a moral stand, as Richardson did with Nixon, and resign. Now that would be a real sign of courage. If this is a moral issue, than the SA vote was an outrage, a crime against humanity and so on. And a denial of Christ’s will. So act!!

But to ask for commissioned credentials is, as he says, symbolic, and even silly. If Bell really believes he has the moral high ground, he should take it. Siting at a comfy desk and pontificating and feeling righteous really doesn’t cut it (See the recent lesson on Jeremiah).

The problem of course is that if it is moral, than all those who hold a different view than Bell’s are immoral. Is Bell ready to say that? Or are they ignorant? Or deceived?

Or is it just that they don’t hold to Western views of women’s roles?

I think it is the latter, and Bell shows he really agrees with that assessment because he will not take the issue to the logical conclusion…

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We need to cease discribing this as gender discrimination and identify it as refusing to recognize God’s calling and gifting within an adopted ecclessiastical structure that is not according to Scripture, but according to tradition. That we are still in the same spot we were in on this issue in 1970 is a bit overwhelming with angst.

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Yes, they are deceived just as thousands of christians were deceived concerning slavery for a very long time. That doesn’t mean none of them was saved, it just means they were immoral in that regard because of their blindness, caused by cultural prejudices. We all have our blind spots, where we are immoral without realizing it. Refusing to see that this is discirimination is blind and yes: immoral.
It is also immoral because of the refusal to recognize God’s calling and gifting.

7 Likes

As long as the name-calling continues, there will be no resolution to this issue. To equate role distinction with discrimination, is inaccurate, at best, and inflammatory, at worst. Many of us quit listening when we are accused of discrimination or of being immoral. It’s a useful tactic out in the world, but it has no place in the church. Now, you may think it’s unfair that men and women were given different roles, but your argument then is with Scripture. Many people have studied this for years, and come to different conclusions. That does not make one conclusion “progressive” or “enlightened,” and the other one “discriminatory.”

That’s your opinion, nothing more. Israel had to wait nearly 1500 years for the Messiah, and then most of them didn’t recognize Him when He arrived. Impatience led to many false Messiahs and much bloodshed. Truth can always afford to be patient, because truth always wins in the end. If your cause is legitimate, God will work it out in His own way and time. But your impatience and the impatience of the agitators among us, can only lead to more division. This is evidenced by the number of people who have either threatened to leave, or have already left the church because of this. Leave the church over an issue which is at best a cultural one (in their minds)? One has to wonder how committed they are to the pillars of our faith.

Aside from the poor grammar, this seems rather childish, and certainly doesn’t foster unity. And how does it look to the average church member or student, when the faculty (minsters of the gospel, no less) behave like worldly activists would? If this is really as bad as you claim, why not find another line of work, were the stresses of “inequality” are no so pronounced?

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If seminary professors cannot uphold the decision voted on by the GC in session, they certainly have no right to be teaching future ministers.

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Perhaps they (Seminary Professors) cannot see God’s voice reflected in the GC session and are courageously risking their livelihoods by declaring what they know to be true. It would not be the first time in Adventist history that the GC has not spoken for God and this would be in the opinion of EGW. To place the GC as the arbitrators of moral and ethical choices is risky business indeed. It takes moral fortitude to speak out against the faulty human decisions that they make in the name of God.

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As just a general member of the SDA church, not employed in any capacity, I have read and listened to conversations over the last eighteen months or so from ALL angles of this controversy. And, while I really have little to nothing to add to it on an information level, I feel so disheartened by the level of animosity portrayed, particularly by those who stand opposed! I particularly feel frustrated when the commentary runs to “it was God’s will, so we should accept it.” There are MANY examples of times that God’s will was thwarted by His children and they lived with the consequences! The one that always comes to my mind is when the twelve spies returned from their ventures into the Promised Land. The majority report ruled and the Hebrew nation spent another forty years wandering around the wilderness because they just couldn’t believe that God would lead them that way! I can understand the frustration that Caleb and Joshua must have gone through! God’s gift to mankind is the freedom of choice - even when it is detrimental and at the expense of the innocent. So, let’s not make all decisions out to be following “God’s will”, even when we pray about it. I’m sure the leaders on the borders of the Promised Land believed they were carrying out “God’s will” when they refused to enter. But, I’m just as certain that if they would have been able to see the clear result of their decision, it would have been reversed in a hurry.

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I appreciate conversation. What I do not appreciate are condescending ad hominem comments like “blather,” “pontificating and feeling righteous.” When Bell says it is a “moral” issue, he is not saying those who disagree are “immoral,” but that they are mistaken. That’s all. Holding a position is not necessarily an ethical or moral act; it is a moral judgment. And, by definition, when you and others say these are “gender roles established by God in his written word” (not a moral issue), what are you saying about those who disagree? That they do not believe God’s word, that they are defying God’s will and church authority because they disagree?

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