Prez Paulsen brings up women's ordination

(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

General Conference president recently spoke at the Palm Spring church and the Press-Enterprise covered his call for the church to move forward on women's ordination. But Paulsen also worries about rebellion. Well, the blogosphere is lighting up on the topic.

Kicking it off, ProgressiveAdventism's Julius writes:"If represented accurately, this article contains one of more direct statements (if not the most direct) given in support of women’s ordination by Elder Paulsen that I have seen. And I’d like to register my support and appreciation to him for taking a clearer stand and exercising prophetic leadership on this issue. Elder Paulsen talked about 'rebellion' in the future tense, but in many ways this “rebellion” has long been coming."Claremont graduate student and Adventist Gender Justice blogger, Trisha writes:I’m VERY pleased that Pastor Paulsen brought up the issue. But, as I expressed in my previous post titled 'The World Church and Women,' I do not think that it is practical or necessary for the church to maintain a unified “official” perspective in this decision. There is way too much post-structuralism and cultural subjectivity in my blood to believe that theology and praxis are understood the same way trans-regionally. We SHOULD proceed in the spirit of ecumenism and unity, recognizing that this was Jesus Christ’s prayer to the Father. I recognize that there is difficulty in judging the points where it is acceptable for the church to diverge AND still maintain unity. The ordination of women is beginning to sound less like an issue of theology to me, and more like a question of how men and women have related to each other in an exchange of power. Scripture may demonstrate some examples of how men and women have related to each other and give principles of equality (or not). But recognizing whether it is legitimate to ordain women is also recognizing how women are fundamentally understood and historically defined by men. There is a reason why my “nature” has been in question and whether I possess enough reason, emotional balance, and so on, to enter public space. Is the church sure that theology can fully answer these questions? Some bloggers are continuing the call for a go-slow approach, but I disagree: Frankly, it takes some thoughtful reading of history and scripture to understand the message of increasing spiritual meaning rooted in access to God for all. Too often smatterings of “biblical” texts and lazy accommodationism masks the fact that we always, already read first through our culture. And culture is comfort. Historically, it’s interesting to see the similarities between the accommodationist arguments for a slow approach to desegregate the American South: “wait until everyone understands, be tolerant of their culture, it’s biblical, I know blacks who prefer it.”

Treating women as equal before God is not even a question of biblical authority — the Seminary published Women In Ministry last decade. What’s holding us back to realizing the kin-dom of God is not the need for more light. What we’ve got now is a few well-placed but poorly read administrators beholden to poorly read financiers who like the “I-don’t-read-anything-except-the-bible-and-Ellen mantra of the Pipim-right. And then they wonder about church growth — yeah, who wouldn’t want to come to a church where women are second-class citizens in a country where a women now heads Congress.

Maybe a few more leaders are waking up. Check out this from Jere Patzer this month: “Likewise, doesn’t it make sense that God is hurt when we are less than accepting of His children, no matter their nationality, ethnicity, religion, color, gender, age, or other differences? It has been rightly said that we cannot honestly pray the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father who art in heaven…’ unless we are willing to treat all people as brothers and sisters.”

If they write this, they need to be held accountable to what that really means today.

The backbone of elected leaders is the voice of the people — if we push them by our example and support them against the wacky-right, we can change this injustice.

Here’s a few ideas of what an inclusive strategy for change might entail.

  1. We have a SS lesson quarterly on the topic, with the best Adventist minds discussing all aspects.
  2. We host a series on Hope that brings together both sides.
  3. Each union prez speaks in support on the topic at workers meetings and at his colleges.

The fact of the matter is that most people just need to hear good reasons from Adventists that they respect to understand that treating women unequally is a cultural, not a biblical reality.

Anyone (sorry Johnny) who says that he or she wants women’s ordination but argues for “at their own pace” should also put forward some ideas on how to actually get to the goal of equality in Christ. What’s the difference between own pace and daily institutional discrimination?

Because now, for over a decade, too many of our leaders have been sitting around telling us to wait awhile before we really can love one another as Christ did. In a month that reminds us that conference presidents can commit ethnic genocide and call for God’s children to be hanged (not jailed), let’s not ignore the fact that God’s people perish from not just lack of vision, but moral action too.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at