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.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7082