Pacific Press Publishes New Collection of Essays on Ordination

(Spectrumbot) #1

Question: You are the editor of a new book called Women and Ordination: Biblical and Historical Studies, which has been put together at Andrews University and is being published by the Pacific Press. Why do we need another book about women's ordination?

Answer: We need another book about women's ordination because the conversation within Adventism, which has been changing rapidly over the last five years, has reached a temporary stasis point. This book stands as state of the question (status quaestionis) on the pro-ordination side. It represents 50 years of the conversation that has helped shape the studies that make up the chapters. Many of these studies have been published in journals or web-published by the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, but this book pulls them together in one place. (11 of the 19 chapters are adaptations of TOSC papers.) Whatever happens at the General Conference session this summer, a new conversation will begin. This book is poised to be the starting point of that conversation.

I have talked to hundreds of Adventists who are very interested in the topic, but have not navigated the web to find the TOSC papers. This book provides them a convenient package of some of the best studies that have shaped the ongoing conversation.

The statement put out by the Andrews University Theological Seminary last year called "On the Unique Headship of Christ in the Church" was clearly in favor of ordaining women to the gospel ministry. Is this the view that all of the authors represented in the book subscribe to, or does the book contain alternate views?

This is a pro-women's ordination book. The authors of this book are in favor of allowing women to be ordained in the Seventh-day Adventist Church wherever doing so would enhance the mission of the church.

How did you choose which essays to include?

Studies were chosen for inclusion based on scholarly merit and to show the breadth of the biblical and historical merit for the pro-women's ordination arguments.

The book is being published just a few weeks before the General Conference Session in San Antonio, where women's ordination is due to be discussed and voted on by the world church. I assume the timing was intentional. Do you hope that the book will influence and inform delegates?

I have been wanting to get a book out for some time. In fact, Karen Abrahamson and myself wanted to publish a revised edition of the 1998 book edited by Nancy Vhymeister, Women in Ministry, over three years ago. However, the conversation was changing so rapidly that there was no opportunity to get that book out.

I also wanted to publish a book from the presentations made at the 2012 annual meetings of the Adventist Society of Religious Scholars, but there were not enough chapters to make a complete picture. Many of those papers have been published in Andrews University Seminary Studies and in other journals.

This book, however, could not be published until the conversation had reached a stasis point, which really makes it too late to heavily influence delegates except in one way. It may influence the delegates to know that the faculty at the SDA Theological Seminary are overwhelmingly in favor of allowing the ordination of women.

How will the book be marketed and distributed? How many copies are being printed?

Pacific Press is the publisher and is responsible for marketing. I think that the initial print run is 3500 copies, but that is up to the press. I do know that I am sending copies to every Adventist college and university library so that they will be available to students and faculty around the world as a starting point for the next conversation that will inevitably take place.

Why is the book being published by the Pacific Press instead of by Andrews University? I believe it was Andrews University Press that published 1998's Women in Ministry edited by Nancy Vyhmeister (which is out of print, I believe).

I asked AU Press to consider publishing the book, but they were not in a position to handle the work load at that time. I am pleased to be published by Pacific Press; they have been responsive to the needs of the book, but I am sure that I would have also been pleased with AU Press had they been in a position to take on the project.

How did this book come about? Was it your idea? Give us a sense of how it came to be, and how you got involved as editor.

I gave minor help in research and editing with a couple of chapters in Women in Ministry while working as a graduate assistant in the seminary back in 1997. I was very happy to be useful toward something that I am convicted is needed. So when — after TOSC was over —I found many people who had not read the papers even though they were publicly available on the web, I wanted to make sure all this excellent scholarship was not lost. I wanted to honor the scholars who I have learned to appreciate and trust, and I wanted to be useful in making this scholarship available for the long-term.

What do you believe the outcome of the discussion of women's ordination at the General Conference session will be?

It seems to me that the way to unity in the Seventh-day Adventist Church going forward is to have policies that allow each area to build the ministry team that would be most effective in its own setting. I believe each locale must allow the Holy Spirit to give the gifts needed for ministry to those whom God chooses to use. I am optimistic that many other Adventists from around the world can see that the biblical concept of ordination is based on function, and wherever it is functionally feasible, women can be ordained.

What do you feel is the primary obstacle to ordaining women in the Adventist church?

In the latter part of the 19th century I think it was concern to not have our Adventist reform movement too far outside of what society could handle. The concern was apologetic. We did not want our Adventist women in leadership to be an obstacle to evangelism in a society that was rejecting women in leadership.

In the last part of the 20th century, I think it shifted to a concern for the brothers and sisters within Adventism who had followed the societal rejection of women in leadership and continued to hold onto that as a religious tradition.

Now the concern is not offending our own members.

What is your personal background and experience with the ordination of women in ministry?

My mother was a nurse who decided to take a theology major in her 50s as a way of enhancing her ministry to her patients. She would have made a great pastor.

Unfortunately, she joined the church in the 1930s when there was a stark cutback on women in leadership in the church. This left her without models of what a woman could do in the church, so she became a nurse.

Women and Ordination: Biblical and Historical Studies is available at your local Adventist Book Center, or from for $19.99.

John W. Reeve, PhD, is assistant professor of church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He teaches early church, middle ages, and reformation history. John is also editor of Andrews University Seminary Studies and co-author of the book The Trinity. John’s wife, Teresa L. Reeve, PhD, is associate professor of New Testament as well as associate dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where they live with their daughter Madeleine.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Steve Mga) #2

Back when I was growing up, early 50s, before punch cards at banks, Women had about only 3 choices of occupations.

  1. Nurse
  2. Teacher
  3. Secretary
  4. There were Bible Workers, but only large congregations could afford one.


Why have you make “Ordination” an a priori of studies or imperative of the ordination of women? Is there anything like the doctrine of ordination in the Bible? Or any scriptural theology of ordination? Ordination must be a posterior indication of a person chosen to occupy. What I find confusing is when theologization becomes a Biblical blueprint. Scripture must set a praxis for the theologization of women and ordination. In this context, I think all studies about the Ordination of Women is theologization. Sadly, some take it as scriptural [in the sense of what they call plain words of scripture]. The topic is misleading and it does not capture the very core of the issue. I would have preferred something like this: “Women and Ordination: In search of a theological answer”. This captures and factors many intricate dimensions of theological discourses into consideration. I love to read this book though.

(Marianne Faust) #4

"We did not want our Adventist women in leadership to be an obstacle to evangelism in a society that was rejecting women in leadership…"
oh …we of little faith…wouldn’t this have been a great opportunity to change society? Why are we afraid of doing what is right?

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Adventism has spent its energy attempting to recapture the way it was rather than a search for the way it should be., They are attempting to recapture the night of Oct 22, 1844. 'here we are Lord all present and accounted for!" “You have done enough!now let us take charge!”

(Kim Green) #6

I am sure that there are other reasons…but Adventism (especially since the age of EGW) has been historically afraid of the moniker of being a "sect’. I think that it wanted to grow past this title, embraced conservatism with all its trappings. In the quest for respectability the church has become vanilla ice cream instead of something more exotic. Then there is the overarching “specialness” that must be protected and then there is the imminent, soon, Return of Christ. All of this and more does not make for a dynamic and creative church…that would rather protect itself than change society or stand out in nearly any meaningful way. Most people have never heard of an Adventist before and if they have, it is with very sketchy information. Adventism grows the best where there is a conservative and patriarchal society with lower levels of education…which are big reasons why it is NOT growing in First World Countries.


Congratulations Dr. Reeve,

Thank you for making scholarly research and journal articles accessible to the public, both to Adventists and to other faiths studying this issue. Scholars share their work and invite comment and further research. Getting this material to the public is commendable.

(SurprisedByGrace) #8

From my understanding of SDA history we had a rather large percentage of women in ministry (pastoral and bible work) and church work in other capacities in the latter part of the 19th century and continued into the early 20th century. After the 1919 Bible Conference our church veered toward fundamentalism and literalistic views of Scripture and the SOP. It isn’t by accident that women in church work as pastors or otherwise took a sharp dip at that time.

We as a denomination couldn’t get past the “head of household concept” until the Pacific Press litigation went against the church over equal pay for women for equal position in the 1970’s. The glacial pace of the Church’s ability to overcome traditional notions of women’s place in life is truly discomforting and often frustrating.

(Allen Shepherd) #9

Another book? As if all had not been said already??

Stasis point? This is the third book I have heard of for and I received two for, and one con in the mail FREE! Seems the NAD, the seminary and other pro-WO are afraid it might not pass so are going to kill us with literature. Is it that iffy? If we have not been convinced by now, it won’t happen.

I must say, I have never seen such a push in my life. If only youse that were for this were ready to go out and win the world. Such effort would surely result in a multitude in the kingdom and the ushering in of the Savior. As it is, you will only get your reward here, an ordination ceremony. Whoopee.


Pastor Shepherd,

If you had young university-aged women in your congregation whose calling to ministry as pastors was affirmed by your members, would you encourage them to attend seminary and become pastors?

I’m confused as to your role of support as their pastor.

(Allen Shepherd) #11

You mean that my role as pastor depends on whether I support WO or not? Are you kidding? This issue is no where near that magnitude. What has gotten into you folk so that every thing depends on the position one takes on this issue? Seems a sort of idolatry to me.

And Harrpa, I don’t even care one way or the other. But of course that brands me. If I am not all for, I must be against.

Do you know that I have a woman in her 30’s in my congregation who is not bad at preaching, and has moved congregations with her words. Could she be ordained? Well, not likely for certain reasons, but I let her preach and encourage and pray for her… So, it is not that oppose women in the pulpit. But WO supporters have one track minds, and no other issue matters. Like I said, some kind of idolatry.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #12

Oh, Allen. Your many persistent statements here show you care very much indeed. You continue to criticize “WO supporters” even w/ reasons that have been proven to be generalizations or simply incorrect. “One track minds” & “idolatry” are now the most recent.

(SurprisedByGrace) #13

There is idolatry on both sides of this issue, both groups tending to focus on and push their agendas in this area. It’s an unqualified foolish waste of time. The vote at GC will accomplish nothing. Sigh.

(Bill Garber) #14


I listened to Dick Tibbits, author of “Forgive to Live,” deliver the sermon today. His last slide featured this statement: “How you frame something determines what you see.”

What is your frame that lets you be professedly gender liberal with your pulpit, just not with your position?

(Steve Mga) #15

Scholarly research and journal articles from both Adventist and OTHER FAITHS.

Really??? Remember that for over 100 years, more than a Century, we have been told that OTHER FAITHS are Babylon, Daughters of THE HARLOT riding on the Beast.
So, in reality, THIS is going to be a turn-off to Main-Line Seventh day Adventists world wide.

According to the author 3500 books are being printed [first run]. So will that cover sales in ALL ABC’s?

(jeremy) #16

another excellent interview by alita…

i’m impressed by the role our andrews seminary is playing in educating our church on women’s ordination…it isn’t for nothing that, as an institution, it is held in such general esteem…

but i wonder whether the subject of women’s ordination isn’t overshadowing where our real focus should be…spectrum seems to be producing non-stop pro-wo articles, while advindicate is producing non-stop pro-headship articles…at some point, i believe this subject has the potential to appear to the uninitiated as the one spiritual issue fraught with the greatest eternal consequences of all time…is this what either side wants…



Sorry for the misunderstanding. I’m happy that scholarly research from “our” scholars is available now (more accessible in this book) to those of other faiths studying the issue.


You put words in my mouth, Alan.

It was a simple question. You didn’t answer it. You completely sidestepped it.

Or maybe your answer is really, “Are you kidding? I’d never support a woman for ordination.” I think that’s really what you meant to say.

(Allen Shepherd) #19

I really don’t care. I do hassle you supporters because I think you think too highly of your own opinion, and tend to look down on those who don’t support the issue, such as your questioning of my calling because you feel I might not support it. That is just way over the top. .

Some say they will do it no matter, which I really find arrogant and dismissive. As I have said, I don’t see how we can stand against ordination when we have a woman prophet who we allowed in the pulpit.

But my point is that it is not a moral issue, while you all feel it is. If it is not, then it is just not worth all this trouble.

(Andreas Bochmann) #20

And there is yet another scholarly book to appear on the topic - from the other side of the Atlantic. Bertil Wiklander, long time president of the TED, is intending to publish his findings rather soon through Newbold Academic Press (some might remember that he feels quite strongly about the topic).

Why in the world does this matter?

  1. Because the topic is important. While the issue is primarily cultural, underlying is the hermeneutical question how much cultural adaptation the Bible can afford - or actually demands. Thus we are dealing with an issue - far beyond the question what kind of wording we print on credentials of our workers.

  2. The main device in the past to postpone WO has been, the issue has not been studied enough. The current flood of publications will prove that it is not the lack of studies, but a lack of courage to act.