Responding to Critics on Women's Ordination

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Sakae Kubo wrote on March 8 "Important Lessons Learned So Far Regarding Women's Ordination." The article generated numerous comments, to some of which Kubo responds below. -Blog Editor

I appreciate all the comments to my blog including the negative ones. As is the case always, some discussion went off the mark into music and Bible translations. I will like to deal with criticisms to my observations, chiefly by Kevin Paulson and Richard Mendoza. One criticism made was that inconsistency is not a sound argument against women's ordination. I think that criticism is valid ordinarily but not in this case and I lent credence to that point when I presented that first rather than the main reason which followed. The main reason is that in the Bible there are some practices that are condoned which are not ideal but we should look for and practice the ideal where it is realizable. This is what Jesus was teaching in Mt. 19:3-9. The Pharisees came to him asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" Jesus's reply was to refer them to Genesis where a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and become one flesh and said, "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." They then asked,"Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" Jesus replies, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." In other words there is the ideal and there is the sin-accommodated practice. This is true regarding slavery, race relations, and the subordination of women. As Paul wrote about Christians "clothed" in Christ to reach for the ideal beyond the present conditions, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

But the argument regarding inconsistency holds as well for the following reasons: Paulson by stating his criticism implies that there are inconsistencies. I would like to ask him which inconsistencies would he remove on the basis that women ought to be submissive to men--being university and college administrators, professors, Seminary professors, local elders, Sabbath School superintendents, Sabbath School teachers? Actually if women should continue to be submissive, our society would be like what it was in the 19th century--no suffrage, limited to a few professions, limited educational opportunities, basically limited to being housewives. There are societies that continue to subordinate women today. Some also do not allow women to drive. What this inconsistency argument implies is that it is not possible to be consistent in applying it today because we have so thoroughly recognized that women cannot continue to be held in that submissive role and must be treated equally. The extent of the inconsistency shows that we recognize that women ought to be treated equally.

The inconsistency of allowing women to serve as ministers but not ordaining them indicates on the part of those opposing women's ordination that there is something mystical almost magical about ordination that in a ultimate sense gives God's approbation to women's equality. This view of ordination is not biblical as has been pointed out by some scholars. Ordination has come to be more than what it is, the official appointment to a position of service, authorizing a person to fulfill all the responsibilities of that position in the church after a successful internship. In effect, that is what we do when we appoint women as ministers except that we have not given them the official endorsement they deserve.

The second criticism is that I perpetuate "the spin on the recent Division recommendations which was clearly repudiated by the General Conference communication department when the Adventist News Network originally posted a report which offered this particular take on the recent Division studies." I want to say first, that my source was not this report but the Division recommendations themselves which are found in the TOSC minutes preserved in the General Conference Archives. I did not spin anything but accurately gave whatever recommendations they made. Anyone can check them out in the Archives.

The Spectrum blog reported that the Adventist News Network published a report of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee but removed it and almost immediately replaced it with another report. No explanation has been given for this. We may be able to find reasons for this as we compare the two reports. At the very beginning of the first article it states, "More world regions would be open to women's ordination" followed by "At least 10 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's 13 world divisions say they would either recommend the ordination of women to ministry or would allow it in some world regions without the matter harming church unity." Those responsible for pulling the article must have felt that this was too optimistic a view of the situation. Factually, I believe it is basically accurate (I would have said 9 instead of 10). However, the way the article states it makes it sound more positive than the reality. The reason for that is that it did not state that the 5 that had indicated their willingness to allow some divisions to allow it without harming church unity also had voted against ordaining women in their division. Also the replacing article stresses more the need for all to work with whatever is decided.

The third criticism implies that I had said that ordination does not have worldwide validity. I stated ordination has worldwide validity. If one is ordained in any division, that person does not need to be ordained again to function as an ordained minister elsewhere. What I did say was that divisions that do no ordain women can control whether such persons can function in their area by refusing to call them. Thus effectively controlling the fact that only ordained men serve in their fields.

The fourth criticism is that we are promoting disunity if as I suggest we allow divisions that are ready to ordain to go ahead while those that are not ready to do so to refrain. As I indicated this is not a theoretical matter, it has been already practiced in our local unions in this division where some conferences ordain women and others don't and disunity has not resulted. This is a more intimate relationship than prevails between divisions since it involves local conferences. If we don't see this problem on this level, we won't see it on the division level especially since almost a good majority of the divisions regard this as a good solution.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at