Priesthood of SOME Believers: An Adventist Woman Pastor Speaks Out

This week, women who serve as Seventh-day Adventist ministers have begun cautiously speaking out. First we received this article, prompting the article below. In both cases, the women who submitted their articles to Spectrum asked not to be identified by name. In general, it is our policy to be as transparent as possible about authorship. However, we do consider and grant anonymity in cases when personal or professional reprisal is a concern. We have granted these two authors anonymity to speak freely about their experiences as women ministers in the Adventist denomination. -Ed.

Two months ago I sat in the Alamodome in San Antonio and listened in sadness. My heart was carved up and my soul battered as I listed to misogynistic speech after misogynistic speech from men with clear disdain for women. I couldn’t avoid the feeling that I belong to a church that finds such derogatory speech acceptable. I couldn’t help but think that, had I interchanged gender with race in the discussion, all hell would literally have broken loose.

In disbelief I listened to the business session chairman reflecting that the discourse had been respectful! My soul shouted out, How is it respectful to be called the devil or associated with the occult? How can you not see that this is disrespectful?

It felt like waves of abuse rolling over those of us who serve as female clergy in the Adventist Church.

As the people around me in the Alamodome cheered and clapped, and I wanted to shout to them "How can you be so un-Christian?” But like an abused woman I remained silent, and as a pastor, I comforted those who were distressed.

My soul was numb as I cried out to God, Where do You want me when my church doesn’t? When the theologians are clearly gender inclusive, yet men who seemingly can’t stand women are given free range to unleash hateful words and false theology with the full support of the highest leadership in my church?

The message I’m hearing is that as women, we should simply stop making a fuss. We should be grateful that we were allowed to be present. Really, we should be outside the sanctuary, while men of no qualifications can stand at the pulpit and distort the image of God.

How much abuse should I take, and for how long will the church batter me for being a woman called by God to serve him? Perhaps I should leave all together. This is what I think as tonight, two months on, I try to find healing for my soul.

During these past two months it has been difficult to focus on what’s next. I must keep up a good professional face, because I cannot express anger or disagreement. I cannot publicly say that my church is wrong, because if I do, then I’ll be labelled as angry woman who is only out to be like a man, and who wants to split the church for selfish reasons. I must not let my emotions show, as I fear that my job is in jeopardy, while the gates of verbal abuse toward women pastors, have now been opened and seen as acceptable. After all, the General Conference has spoken.

Surely I must respect that the majority is right, that my voice doesn’t matter, that it would be best if I simply sat down and shut up, that I must be mistaken if I think God can call a woman. If I want to continue working in the Church then I must remain silent on the issue of injustice, and I should be understanding of people who don’t want female pastors, I shouldn’t be pushing my own agenda.

And in this same church I have met men who calculate their ordination track. I hear of non-theologically trained men who are given ordination credentials for being in leadership positions in the church hierarchy, and I am to understand that this is acceptable. I should humble myself and not ask for the recognition that ordination represents.

We have been discussing ordination for what seems like an eternity. This discussion is not new. What is new is the violently vitriolic speeches that have increased in number, and the contemptuousness being passed around the world as “regular acceptable Adventist church belief” through the church’s media platforms.

As a Protestant church, we claim to uphold the priesthood of all believers, and we say that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female. But in the Adventist Church the distinctions are as clear as they are limiting.

So is the Adventist church organization truly God’s church today? We are clearly a priesthood of some believers, not all.

Yes I’m hurt and yes I’m disillusioned with my church. Yes I believe my church is not following God.

Listening to men who detest women so much that they cannot accept them as equals, I ask myself: if you hate what God has created in his image, then do you not hate God? Is this the way the church wants to go?

According to San Antonio General Conference Session, it is, and that is frightening!

“And God created man in his image – in his image he created them – male and female.”

I feel exhausted. Should I stay or should I go? This is my question to God. The World Church made it clear in San Antonio that it would be best if I, as a female (pastor), was invisible. If I fulfilled my “so misunderstood” calling behind the scenes, unseen and preferably unheard.

This article was written by a a Seventh-day Adventist minister who asked that her name not be used in the publication of this article.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7082
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We all should wonder: what would Pres. Wilson say if he read this? What if all those who spoke so derogatorily about women could read this? How can they be so hard-hearted to say that women are devil possessed to aspire to recognition?

Who will send this to the Leader of the church? To the one who officiated at suggesting popular vote for what should have never occurred? When did popular vote in a Christian church decide such important questions? Is this church up for the majority vote on such ecclesiastical questions? Does it really believe in the “priesthood of all believers”? Or is it like the “Animal Farm”: All animals are equal, but pigs are more equal?

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I believe you are right: our church is not following God. I wish I could encourage you and beg you to stay…but I really don’t know what to do. I used to say that we must do something, preach the true Gospel and talk and teach. And that is what I did. But with these leaders, who are not interested in what our trained theologians have to say, who instead support heresies and privat ministries, which preach a different gospel, I really don’t know if we should still be part of this?

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i’m really grateful for this article, and i hope many more follow…those who are smug in their headship sensibility need to be taken by the shoulders and shaken into the recognition that our ordination policy, which led to an overwhelmingly male delegation that voted on this women’s issue, is injustice, plain and simple, and as such, cannot be part of the remnant church’s future…i really think this a case where the membership is going to have to drag the leadership kicking and screaming over the finish line…unions do need to stand up to the very wrong vote in general conference session on july 8…we need to put san antonio far behind us and move on, come what may, knowing that the god who called egw, is calling many other women into his ordained service in these last days…

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Yes. Leave. You have no idea how much worse this is going to get. You can’t turn it around. You can’t save this church! Save your family! Save your sanity!

A few days ago, I read Deuteronomy 17 and Matthew 23 in the morning, and I saw clearly how this is going to be used, specifically, the “seat of Moses” quote of Jesus, and I emailed my family warning them how completely authoritarian and anti-democratic this movement is.

I see that Quane brought up those same chapters just now on the Kim Davis thread on ADvindicate.

Pray about it thoroughly, of course, and listen to God’s leading, but I’m compelled to nearly shout this to Adventist women:

Flee!

Take Kevin Paulson seriously when he says, YOU CAN’T WIN.

He knows things you don’t know.

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This article is truly a sad piece of writing, both in tone and content. I don’t wish to minimize the pain some are experiencing, but the need for all to rightly understand the teachings of God’s Word on the gender issue, and to surrender our dreams and ambitious to His corrective will, remains essential for all.

I would remind the anonymous author of this piece that I once favored women’s ordination, until the Bible changed my mind. And if the Bible can change my stubborn mind, there’s hope for anyone!

It remains my hope and prayer that objective visitors to discussions such as these will find themselves turned off by such offensive labels as “misogynist” applied to advocates of Biblical gender role distinctions, and that they won’t be deluded into believing that opponents of female ordination reject the participation of women in ministry, much less that such persons “can’t stand women.”

Such talk is not only flat-out wrong, but it offers no help either to clarity of understand in the present controversy or to the unity of the church.

The attempt to equate race with gender is one of this article’s more egregious misguidances, among others. As the author herself notes, gender—like the Sabbath—was created in the beginning by God (Gen. 1:27). Race, by contrast, was not.

Why is it so infuriating to hear both men and women affirm that God made the genders different, though of equal importance to His plan? Fathers and mothers are of equal value in the home, yet their roles are obviously different, as the Bible makes plain (Eph. 5:22-25). The same role distinction applies to the body of Christ (I Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:12-13). Ellen White—a woman, no less—speaks of the father being the head of the home and how he embodies in his being the “sterner virtues” (AH 212) which guide the home and establish order.

I realize authority, order, and the sterner virtues are unpopular in our freewheeling postmodern culture, but the Bible still upholds them as imperative in both the natural family and the spiritual family of God, otherwise called the church.

The New Testament principle of the priesthood of all believers (I Peter 2:9) originates in the Old Testament, where God called Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6). But this principle hardly meant that every Israelite was therefore entitled to serve as a priest in the sanctuary. The New Testament is no different. Equality before God regarding salvation opportunities (Gal. 3:28) does not eradicate gender role distinctions in either the family (Eph. 5:22-25; I Peter 3:1-7) or the faith community (I Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:12-13).

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Elaine.
To answer your question regarding President Wilson being aware of the article, and reading it.

He would probably discount it. He would probably ask this Pastor to get her hormone levels checked. He would pass it off as too much Emotionalism. Might even advise her to take a “chill pill”.

The Great Advent Movement is Dead. [See the Invitation to its Wake, Funeral, Cremation]
The Denomination with its emphasis on Rules and Regulations, its various Lists, is alive and well. It killed Movement. No one cares.

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Thank you for such a raw, honest and open look into the pain we women silently bear within our church. I don’t have the answers–I’m still grappling with my next steps as well. But I can say that you aren’t alone though it may feel like it at times. And that your realness gives me hope that some day soon something will change.

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The Priesthood of SOME believers.

The lady author’s expression is as welcome as it was to be anticipated.

I have already expressed myself in a variety of responses to a culture that gives rise to the insecurity that people fear expressing their thoughts and emotions without feeling intimidated. Those who might be presumed to be among the oppressors must question the signals they send and the ecology of our leadership.

Whilst few of the delegates in SA would agree to being part of gladiatorial contest, this was the de-facto format created by the organisers. Little wonder then that those with most to lose would feel brutalised by the occasion. The indisciplined baying stalls were better suited to the aggression of Madison Square pugilists.

That there is an honest interpretative dispute over the meaning and intent of various passages of Scripture is clearly evident. We can cope with that.

That many prominent speakers used misogynistic references both in San Antonio and the run-up, cannot be denied. We hear no apology from them, nor those who engaged and exploited them to support their preferred outcome.

That many speakers were driven by their cultural bias (both for and against) can also not be denied. We hear insufficient acknowledgement in this regard.

Sadly, the task group (TOSC) guiding our understanding of the issue was composed to include, not pure Biblical Scholars but gladiatorial contestants. That these groups would fail to reach consensus was inevitable. Given the lack of consensus in this forum, placing vulnerable people at the mercy of popular opinion was ill considered. Hurt was inevitable.

While many delegates and observers had little to lose personally, with nothing like the emotional and professional jeopardy experienced by the Author, the introduction of the Headship argument actually makes those of us who are ‘not-ordained’ subject to those who claim headship, whether male or female. It is a denial of the Priesthood of ALL believers. It endows SOME with vicarious powers over us, rather than a recognition of pastoral servanthood by those who simply make themselves available.

To this end ‘the many’ can grieve with the author in her sense of exclusion.

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Our church administration rivals Donald Trump in its denigration of women.

In the second Republican debate last night on CNN, Carly Fiorina, responding to the moderator, asking about Trump’s insult: “look at her face” stated tellingly:

“I think women all over this country, heard very clearly what Mr Trump said”.

Educated, self-respecting, Adventist women ALL,OVER THE WORLD, heard very clearly what was said at San Antonia. They should respond with their actions and their MONEY,

The Headship Dogma adherents cite Paul—1 Corinthians: 14:34: Let your women be silent in the churches: it is not permitted for them to speak".

If this is their mantra, then ALL women, sabbath school teachers and superintendents, pathfinder leaders, women musicians and soloists should immediately resign their posts. Let the men teach the Cradle Roll Sabbath School and be Pathfinder and vacation bible school leaders. If this rule applies, it should apply to ALL. The women who make the most noise in our churches are our women organists with their rousing postludes, and our female choir directors with their triumphant anthems. Let them resign also. They need to be SILENT!

These resignations will send a VERY LOUD message through the churches that
Adventist women have heard they are not wanted and that they should be silent. After a few Sabbaths, the men will BEG for women to be re-instated.

And why would EGW be exempt from the Pauline dictum? From her teenage years on, her volubility in campmeetings and churches, over many decades and continents, was in direct conflict with Pauline doctrine.

EGW was certainly NEVER silent!

Furthermore, in her vehement denunciations of male church members, now collated into TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH, she held huge authority over men. She ruined many male reputations with her vitriol. Her few “testimonies” to female members were to mothers, warning them of what their sons were doing ( masturbating). Every Adventist male, from pubescent boys to powerful professional men like Dr Kellogg were under her “authority”.

Adventist men of her era, quaked on receiving correspondence from EGW.

Yes, she was in direct conflict with 1Timothy 2:11 —" I do not permit a women to teach or have authority over men, they should be silent".

The Headship,Dogma proponents cannot have it both ways. If they exempt, from these Pauline edicts, EGW, female sabbath school teachers and other women who participate in church meetings, their whole argument IMPLODES.

The United Methodist Church has given full ordination to women pastors since 1956, Adventism is still mired in medieval MUD.

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It is entirely appropriate for you, Pastor, to be sharing your pain here in this manner. Your reactions are justified. You have not been fairly or compassionately treated.

But at some point, the lament has got to end and the Pastors must move forward.

Recalling a quote from the “Reflections on San Antonio” article:

“This dynamic is not unique to the Adventist church. I have a friend whose job takes her in and out of UN meetings and discussions, and she sees a similar pattern in their debates on issues like gender equality and individual rights and freedom of conscience. The global north passionately crusades for these issues – the global south resists the implied sense of superiority. In the resulting impasse it can feel pointless to try and continue the conversation.”

To me this observation, by one traveling along with you, makes a good deal of sense. This issue is hardly unique and confined to the ordination issue within the Adventist church. As a female pastor you must remember that you have enjoyed a great deal of support and encouragement from your local church, your local conference, your union conference, and from the North American Division. You must also consider the ever increasing trajectory of support for women’s ordination, through the years, on a global level that shares a similarly increasing trajectory of the general education level of the “global south”. The 40% of the global vote was not composed mostly of NAD or TED delegate votes - those delegates together would not have approached that large of a vote. That 40% number had, of necessity, to have been composed mostly of votes from the “global south” - delegates who have only recently seen their way forward to support, or at least to not block, women’s ordination.

Should those of us possessing an advantage of education and local support curse those who don’t share those advantages? The truth is that the world will change when those now holding the advantage continue to allow their example to influence and shape the entire community.
We must also remember and deal compassionately with those who, with great regard for scripture, are fearful of making decisions that appear to contradict their understanding of that scripture. It is this same high regard for scripture that has shaped this church at its beginning and has carried it this far. Lets not continue to question their motives and call them hateful. They are fearful.

For those who are unable to see the road ahead though their own tears, I would say that the sun shines just as brightly for you now as it did when your accepted your first pastoral position and when you mentored your first new believer. There is no impasse here as far as God is concerned. The only fear I have for my sisters and daughters is that they might put too much faith in the workings of other men and not enough faith in the power of God. You’re not in this alone. Don’t waste your time wanting anything that can be dangled in front of you or yanked out from under you. All you will ever need will be provided.

Go out, plough and plant. Woman Pastor: let dedication to mission be your protest. Your own effective ministry will call into question the value of everyone’s “ordination”. And then, together, we can affirm a priesthood of all believers.

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Priesthood of SOME Believers: An Adventist Woman Pastor Speaks Out
17 September 2015 | Anonymous

(“In general, it is our policy to be as transparent as possible about authorship. However, we do consider and grant anonymity in cases when personal or professional reprisal is a concern. We have granted these two authors anonymity to speak freely about their experiences as women ministers in the Adventist denomination. -Spectrum Ed.)

Anonymous female pastor said : “I feel exhausted. Should I stay or should I go? This is my question to God. The World Church made it clear in San Antonio that it would be best if I, as a female (pastor), was invisible. If I fulfilled my “so misunderstood” calling behind the scenes, unseen and preferably unheard.”

(“This article was written by a Seventh-day Adventist minister who asked that her name not be used in the publication of this article.” Spectrum)

I have read this article carefully and I have two reactions. My first reaction is sadness and empathy for the person who is going through this agony and professional despair. As a retired male ordained minister in the Seventh-day Adventist church I am totally against all discrimination in the ordination process. The entire concept for ordaining persons is that it be biblical, supportive, validating, and the result of peer review. In my ministry and life, I am the product of mentoring by both men and women. Women, in the situation of this author, obviously are facing a variety of bad outcomes and unfair treatment. This is wrong. In all honesty I can’t ask her to ignore her deep and sincere feelings, and stay in our church employment. I hope she will be able to forgive those who have done/doing this to her. My thoughts and prayers are with her (this female colleague) in ministry, but most importantly, in her life.

My second reaction is frustration as to the response of my male colleagues in active ministry and those in the administration of my church. I have conversations with colleagues in active ministry who are very upset about the outcome at San Antonio but they are more concerned with their careers and afraid to speak out. The silence from the pulpits, cyberspace, and church media is extraordinary. While I understand and accept the author of this article’s rationale for writing anonymously, I can’t help but wish that in a more “perfect world” we could ALL be more vocal, identifiable and clear about our convictions. Putting a face, a name, and the sharing of narratives and experiences such as found in this article, I hope will make a difference and provide a rationale for real change to take place.

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This courageous female pastor must be having a hell burning in her emotional components in the brain. Think about the fires in North CA right now. Can you, reader, imagine being a devoted pastor in your denomination and being treated as a second class human being?

It’s time for women to say, “Enough is enough.” And start doing something effective to help stop the discrimination of women in our Church.

Women: Don’t wait for the leaders in the Church to help you! They would only fool you all again (and us too) with some kind of TOSC II, as they did the last time, remember?

And, thinking further, since there are so many women pastors that must be very discouraged and almost breathless as result of the discrimination inflicted to them, I only hope that the writer is not my own pastor here at LSU. This would be a disaster. Though I bet it is not, because Chris Oberg has continued being energetic and at full speed even after the fiasco in SA. I think the congregation being victimized is another one, not ours. But, whoever they are, it’s unfortunate that they have been discriminated against.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

(For a deeper discussion of this theme, a more comprehensive view of the facts, I invite those who are interested, to go to the Spectrum Lounge to continue this talk. Ask @JaredWright for access - once for ever - and participate in our dynamic conversation! See you there) )

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That’s one of the most ridiculous and inaccurate statements I’ve heard here in quite some time. “Denigration?” Really? Simply because we are following Paul’s counsel? All the wonderful things women are doing in the church, and you’re claiming denigration? So, are the women (and there are many) who oppose WO, also guilty of denigrating their own sex? This is just another example of the kind of knee-jerk reaction we’ve come to expect from many of those who are mad because the vote didn’t go their way at San Antonio. It’s really rather childish–sort of like Mr. Trump.

Time to take a deep breath and look at the situation objectively instead of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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Pray tell Kevin, what is “authoritative teaching” that men can do but not women?

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I’m so sorry Pastor. Only you can decide which choice to make. Maybe it would help to consider this: If fifteen years from now your Union is ordaining women, do you picture yourself there joyfully being ordained, or does the thought just exhaust you?

I think it is coming eventually, but it might be years away now (and growing if more Unions cave on their constituency meetings). If you leave, do you see yourself feeling sad that you didn’t hang in there to see the day, or do you see yourself in another job wondering why you put up with such toxicity for as long as you did?

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Dear Author

Many of us watched on, cringing at the misogyny so clearly in evidence in the Alamodome. You are by no means alone. It was distasteful to many of us! It made me feel powerless, angry and confused. Like, what’s going on here!? I don’t think it had much to do with God’s love, leading and The Heavenly Kingdom at all.

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Women are not the only group to say this.

The SdA administration attacked theologians for pointing out the Bible does not say what the SdA claim it says about food, about tithe, about 1844, about salvation.

The SdA administration attacked scientists for pointing out the age of life on Earth vastly exceeds 6,000 years, that there was no world-wide flood 4000 years ago, and that the arguments the denomination pushes disproving these things are easily shown to the bad.

The SdA administration ignores the medical community when it points out that good health is not about tea and coffee drinking, not about pork.

The SdA administration attacks the scientific and medical and people-minded communities when they point out that homosexuality is normal.

At some point you are going to have to realize the SdA administration is broken all the way from the local leaders to the GC president and most of the SdA membership like it that way.

They want leaders that assure them that the nonsense they were raised in or gave up their previous lifestyle to adopt is valid because they can’t bear the thought that it is not. The average SdA agrees with their administrations attacks on all the above groups.

You can stay with the denomination and support this, you can stay with the denomination and fight to change this, or you can leave.

If you choose either of the last two, God will be with you. Heck, He loves you enough to even be with you if you choose the first one.

If you want to stay, if you have to think globally but act locally. Fortunately the denomination’s power structure is almost bottom up. Provided you can keep your local church happy, and your local conference willing to employ you, you can ignore the rest of the denomination.

Just wonder why you and your congregation send money to the GC to support this behavior, and ask yourself whether that is a good idea.

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Nailed it, Bevin…

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Considering TOSC’s numerous professional studies at the end of a 40-year “discussion” by Seventh-day Adventist leaders at the General Conference level, isn’t it rather pointless to “continue this talk” after three no-votes in 25 years? In other words, how much “deeper” can this “theme” actually go at the Spectrum Commenter level?

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