South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination – A Book Review

Graeme J Humble and Robert McIver, (eds), South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination: Biblical, Theological and Historical Studies in an Adventist Context (Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Academic Press, June 2015). 290 pages. Available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

This book, a collection of research papers, has been authored by fifteen Adventist academics from the South Pacific, and mostly from Avondale College of Higher Education, including two women. Most chapters were commissioned by the Biblical Research Committee of the South Pacific Division (SPD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Before publication, all but one of these papers was peer reviewed. These papers were designed to provide guidance to the SPD during several years of intense study of the theology of ordination and most especially of how to affirm women in ministry. Thus, the volume contains discussion of aspects of ordination to gospel ministry while providing both academic and missional insights on the topic. Though written from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective, Christians of many persuasions may well be interested.
The book is well structured to lead the reader toward an appreciation of the united conclusion of the individual authors that God can indeed use persons of both genders in one ordained gospel ministry. To this end, the book divides easily into five parts, each of which will be briefly treated in the hope that this useful collection of essays will be of help to a more global audience.

Three senior Adventist academics, Professor Ray Roennfeldt, a member of TOSC, Dr. David Tasker and Dr. David Thiele lead readers to introductory but informed conclusions to the question ‘May Women be Ordained as Gospel Ministers?’ Roennfeldt sketches the broad outline of both responses to this question. The he suggests that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral might provide the fresh methodology necessary to bring resolution to this seemingly intractable issue. Tasker argues that one’s Christology and Eschatology must be carefully and properly balanced. Thus he sees Adventists, not only as an eschatological movement but also as a Spirit-saturated Body of Christ, involving people of both genders in proclamation of the Word. Thiele investigates whether women are disqualified from ministering for physical, intellectual, spiritual, ontological or cultural reasons. He concludes that Scripture doesn’t disqualify them for any of these reasons.

Two biblical studies, one from Dr. Ross Cole, an Old Testament scholar, and the other from Dr. Kayle de Waal, a New Testament scholar continue to provide helpful perspectives. Cole deliberately titled his chapter “The Language of Appointment to Offices and Roles,” and without significant reference to ‘ordination.’ Here he maintains that the laying on of hands “comes at the beginning of the office or task, not long afterwards as a reward for work done” (pg. 85). He also concludes that “the use of gift language in the context of appointment to ecclesiastical office emphasises the wide range of offices and roles that may be involved.” (Ibid). De Waal’s paper is a short, preliminary theology of ordination, once again based on lexical analysis. He finds no scriptural evidence for different levels of ordination, or that ordination was understood differently by those with differing roles. Rather it references God’s calling to proclamation and service.

The two historical studies treat early Christian history and the experience of Ellen White respectively. Two Polish-Australians, Drs. Darius Jankiewicz and John Skrzypaszek enlighten the reader here. Darius Jankiewicz discusses the ‘problem of ordination’ as he draws lessons from early Christian history. Skrzypaszek, however breaks new ground as he seeks Ellen White’s perspective on her own divine ordination early in her life. Accordingly, Ellen White first gained a revelation of God’s love, followed by a matured burden for people together with a real understanding of her task.

Jankiewicz returns in the theological studies section and provides his widely appreciated perspectives concerning the authority of a Christian leader. Then Dr Wendy Jackson provides a very helpful essay which strongly suggests ways that help readers distinguish between a sacramental and non-sacramental model of ordination. In a non-sacramental model, such as Adventists embrace any hierarchical or status distinction between the so called clergy and the laity has no New Testament precedent.

The fifth and final section of the book is titled “Moving Forward.” A scientist, and former president of Avondale College of Higher Education, Dr. Geoffrey Madigan leads by providing a helpful way for the reader to look at our corporate Adventist past and future, and thus to process the concrete proposals and recommendations found in this section of the book. Then comes a helpful and research based discussion of the “lifeworlds” and of Adventist female pastors in Australia by Dr. Drene Somasundrum, an Adventist academic and chaplain. This allows us to glimpse the challenging world of Adventist female pastors. Next Dr Ronald Stone, a Fiji based Tongan ministerial practitioner reflects with the reader concerning the possible ordination of local church departmental leaders. The present writer authored the penultimate chapter which provides a solid theology of the laity or whole people of God. This is based on the twin biblical teachings of the priesthood of all believers and of spiritual gifts. Several practical and organizational principles are then drawn from this theology, which in turn inform a renewed understanding of the theology and practice of ordination.

Dr. Barry Oliver, missiologist, immediate past President of the South Pacific Division, and a member of TOSC, titled his paper “Moving Forward in Unity.” It describes in broad brush strokes a way forward through this issue that respects the global diversity while maintaining unity. It resonates very much with the final proposal made by the General Conference in 2015. The rather orthodox perspectives from which he writes are carefully outlined and he is careful to build on our Adventist history and heritage. Oliver affirms allegiance to God and to fellow Adventists and then the involvement of all in seeking a final solution to this issue.

For the present writer there are several key issues taken up repeatedly by more than just a single author. These issues may well serve to illustrate the poise and balance with which the South Pacific region of the Adventist faith communion has sought to handle this issue.  In this way, they encourage continuing discussion and research by all who are willing to be led by Scripture.

Firstly, both Ray Roennfeldt and Barry Oliver, at the beginning and end of the book have emphasized their respect for “the reality … [of] the differing [Adventist] perspectives on ordination” (pg. 272). And this, at the same time that they hold strong and well researched views for themselves. It is probably these two authors in particular who may have done more to suggest a more united hermeneutic for Adventists to use. Such a hermeneutic may well assist Adventists toward reaching a more satisfying resolution as far as the nature of ordination in the Adventist context.

Secondly, both Wendy Jackson and the present writer have explained in some detail that the distinction Christians, including Adventists, draw between the status of the clergy and the laity  is unbiblical and unhelpful. As Jackson says, “Christians are rightly called the laos of God. Both words, laos and kleros, are used in ways that signify the idea of the Christian community as a whole. The NT context does not support a difference between them” (pg. 202). This division results from a very unbiblical model of ministry. And if this be so, Adventists can’t easily use arguments against the ordination of women clergy, as many do. Thus the contributions of both authors deserve special attention.

Thirdly, both Ross Cole and Ronald Stone open up to Adventists the possibility of appointing, or ordaining people of both genders to a variety of officers and roles in Adventist leadership, both for salaried and unsalaried Adventist members. As Cole so eloquently says, “the OT and NT language of sanctification or separation shows how God calls every one of his people to a variety of different offices and roles. The installation comes at the commencement of the role, if not beforehand. Therefore it is not a reward for a job well done” (pg. 86). To extend ceremonies of appointment to more fully embrace the whole people of God would certainly emphasize the missional nature of the Adventist movement, and help establish a renewed ministry of all believers.

This collection of research papers will reward the careful reader. It doesn’t pretend to be the final word on the subject. It was never the intention of the book to provide a final theology of ministry and of ordination, supported by all the present authors. However, I trust that this present volume will be accepted as a reasonable and significant contribution to an ongoing debate of this nature. In many senses, it may lead the way for contributions by other sectors of the global Adventist faith communion. Whether it is acknowledged or not, each of the various regions of the Adventist world face differing challenges and issues when it comes to articulating the theology and practice of ‘ordination.’ It is wise to listen to all quarters!

Peter Marks has studied at Avondale College of Higher Education; Newbold College of Higher Education and the University of New South Wales. He has an MA (Religion) and a Master's degree in Information Management. He served in the Adventist ministry in Australia and New Zealand before spending five years as a lecturer in English at Sunchon National University and Sahmyook University, both of which are in Korea.

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/7197

It can be discouraging to see how little the sharing of perspectives on this topic has served to bring us as a church body to enough of a consensus to allow us to move ahead to more missional things. There are occasional changes of personal understanding, here and there, so there is hope. But the progress is so incredibly slow.

3 Likes

Were there any anti-WO contributors to the book? If not, does that not say something about the level of exclusion in Australian Adventism of people with opinions contrary to the establishment (in many areas, not just in the ordination debate). For example, if your are a young ministerial graduate and you are not into noisy, entertainment-style youth ministry, will you ever get a job?

Efcee,

This discussion has an intensely missional nature. It asks the question - What theology of the whole people of God and what theology of Adventist leadership does the Scripture present that will bring re-formation and revival to Adventists, and re-energize them for taking the gospel to the world in this generation?

The fact is that the TOSC study process was the first fully global opportunity for Adventists in all regions to be somewhat effectively engaged in listening and speaking to each other. And then when it really mattered at San Antonio, the lived experience of Adventist female pastors was not part of the discussion, nor was there any presentation of the overwhelming body of Scriptural evidence in favour of ‘ordaining’ women as pastoral care givers. There was just a very laborious and sterile reading of official documents for many hours followed by passionate but for the most part very truncated and not very pithy debate pro and con the ordination of women. Even so, the pro-perspective made significant gains, eliminating a very specific proposed solution from the reckoning while at the same time ensuring that the issue remains a live one.

It is also very evident that each of the Adventist world regions, influenced as they are by their surrounding culture, face different challenges and issues in thinking about and practicing ‘ordination’. Unless such challenges and issues become part of the discussion we will always fail of reaching a satisfying conclusion.

1 Like

Pago,

I am almost certain that while Adventist academics in the South Pacific hold widely differing perspectives on any number of Scriptural teachings, on this one issue they are united in seeing that God’s calling to both genders of the human race comes enfolded in their specific gifting.

The ordination debate in the South Pacific Division has been rather low key and intentionally so.

In 1982 when i was called as a youthful ministerial graduate to your Conference, no less, I was neither into noisy, entertainment style youth ministry, nor had I adopted the prevailing Adventist theology that was abroad in that era. Thank the Lord for some Conference Presidents who thought outside that box.

4 Likes

petersomerset Peter Marks said:
“It is also very evident that each of the Adventist world regions, influenced as they are by their surrounding culture, face different challenges and issues in thinking about and practicing ‘ordination’. Unless such challenges and issues become part of the discussion we will always fail of reaching a satisfying conclusion.”

It is an amazing reality, and some would call it duplicitous, that Adventist church policy accommodates itself culturally (China) and racially (Regional Work for SDA blacks in parts of the USA), but on the issue of gender ordination equality, the idea that “one size fits all” prevails.

A good friend from the South Pacific taught me all I needed to know in a short sentence about church policies. He told me on my graduation from college, “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and have their shoes!”

2 Likes

Yes Sam!

I still dream of a time when Adventists are prepared to surrrender the “one size fits all” in a global sense, as far as ordination is concerned.

One way to do this would be to adopt a model of appointment to the various roles of Adventist leadership where people are affirmed and consecrated for each particular role they undertake.

2 Likes

Thanks Peter. Great review. I’ve read parts of my complimentary copy. Lots of good stuff in it. I respect your work though I’m still not fully convinced about your conclusions.
Even so, would have been good to include a minority position chapter or two in the book, if it was to truly reflect the views of the SPD’s constituency. NAD did that with their Ordination Committee report and published papers; it added value to their book, appealing to all sides of the issue. SPD’s book would have appealed to a greater audience within your region and elsewhere (esp. after the SA vote) if it was inclusive enough. The book is not, it preaches to the choir so it will mostly likely remain in the choir stands (or regions), as it were.
Doesn’t take away the great work the authors did, though. Kudos!

1 Like

Thanks DJ

It is OK that you do not agree with all my conclusions. This is exactly why we have each other. I say again that it is most likely that the SPD doesn’t have any potential authors who are not in favour of women’s ordination.

Pago, Peter Marks opens his review with the statement “This book, a collection of research papers, has been authored by fifteen Adventist academics from the South Pacific…”, indicating clearly that this is an academic work.

If you’re at all familiar with the ordination debate, you’d be aware that among Adventists with a higher education in Theology (ie., Masters or PhD level), anti-WO advocates are rather thin on the ground. I’d go so far as to suggest you might not find even one such individual in Australia, while there are a number of dozen such individuals who are pro-WO.

As such, the emphasis of the book is certainly representative of Adventist academics in the South Pacific. What’s more, one might hope that anti-WO advocates might learn something from the fact that practically no educated individuals support their perspective.

4 Likes

Well said Bob! I agree.

2 Likes

Peter, perhaps the homogeneity is a sign of bias. The medical research community is very encouraged when there is a lot of homogeneity between different studies on the same subject, and recently there was an article suggesting that rather than that being a good thing, it is a sign of bias. It could also be a sign of manipulation. Likewise, I have my doubts that among all the theologians in Australia you could not find a reasonable number opposed to the ordination of women. If so, I am tempted to suggest bias rather than a coincidental common understanding of the issue. Just as in the NAD where the pro-WO side had almost all media time and space and the other side couldn’t get much say in official press (3AB notwithstanding). If, as Robert Sonter suggests, anti-WO advocates among those with a higher education in theology are rather thin on the ground, I’d like to know why.

Pago, if there was sufficient and reasonable evidence supporting both sides, I would agree. But Andrews University had pointed out already, that the only ground anti-wo-proponents can stand on, is an unbiblical ground (headship-ideology). Compare everything that has been written here to the crude literalism of the anti-arguments, made on the floor of the Alamo dome. May be you are right, may be they should have enclosed one chapter from Doug Batchelor. Just to give a good example of this kind of inconsistent and unscholarly way to reason.

2 Likes

Pago,

Whether you believe it or not, I happen to know most of our Adventist theologians and Bible scholars in Australia. They are quite a small and tightly knit group. And I know that there has not been any collusion. The research papers that are found in the book were commissioned by the SPD BRC and all of them were developed independently of each other. I have had one of the scholars tell me personally that he rather enjoyed writing the research paper for he had to do some new and challenging study. (Though I am not really in academic theology the SPD BRC chairman invited me to submit a paper too since he knew of my interest in the topic over almost 20 years, and he knew I had functioned as a university lecturer and had degrees in theology and research interests there, as well).

Australian Adventists have only one center of ministerial training. Most of these people have been my personal friends, some for close to 40 years.

The SPD has had very little discussion of the subject of ordination happening in its official media, and on both sides of the issue in the last 5 years. This has been a deliberate policy. Yet when the SPD Executive Committee at it annual meeting in November 2013 voted on the recommendations the SPD would send to TOSC, the vote was unanimously in support of recommending that women in ministry be ordained.

Yes, there is value in a variety of perspectives on issues. The challenges and issues each region of the Adventist world faces are vastly different from one another. That is why we need to talk and seek to understand where others are coming from. But at the end of the day the Spirit is given to bring unity and a way forward. I want to be an active part of such a process, even yet.

2 Likes

I studied theology and education in the South Pacific division. My lecturers presented multiple perspectives on theological topics and contemporary issues and encouraged us to think for ourselves. I can even recall a guest lecturer (in the Master’s program) who was against women’s ordination. We all demonstrated respect for different viewpoints. If a carefully researched and scholarly manuscript against WO existed in the South Pacific, then I’m sure the Editors would have included it in the book. Rene Gale

3 Likes

[quote=“robert_sonter, post:11, topic:10037”]
What’s more, one might hope that anti-WO advocates might learn something from the fact that practically no educated individuals support their perspective.
[/quote] I beg to differ with you on that Bob. Is it really that no educated individuals support the anti-WO perspective? or is it that those who are anti-WO are shut out by the minority but vocal & influential WO group? Just like how LGBT advocates cry for freedom to do their thing and be recognized but once they get it they clamp down on those who disagree with them … and in the church how the NAD wont allow any anti-WO book to be published in its presses or in its media … even disallowing anti-WO booths in the San Antonia! … where’s the fairness and liberty?
Fact is, SPD invited only pro-WO advocates to contribute to the book, therefore it reflects only the one-sided perspective of a few Australia/NZ WO scholars, oh and a token Pacific islander…but it certainly doesnt fully or totally reflect the views of the “educated” in SPD. And it’s ok, the papers and book had to reflect the views of the leadership. They did a good job though.

Whenever Doug Batchelor (DB) names popped out of Spectrum screen I can’t help believing that DB was that poor man Adam who nearly chock on that forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden. Noticed his adam apple? Since that tragic to self inflicted beguilement no fault of a woman his resentment and hatred towards women has sad allegorical true-life beginning stories from somewhere? The issue on WO is here to stay as long DB and his croonies hatred of women blown out of spectrum to DB’s pandemic disrespect to suffragette. Instead why not put that “Cry Baby” me-me-me selfish attitude convert that foul energy into pure divinity bolster Jesus Second Coming in consensus of concerted willingly with God’s Christian women soldiers - The Eden darlings of WO Pastors.

1 Like

Be Positive,

You spoke of receiving a complementary copy! That’s why I assume you work at the GC Office. It may be that there are parts of the world where “those who are ‘anti-WO’ are shut out by the minority but vocal & influential ‘WO’ group.” If so, then the South Pacific Division is not like this. For one thing, the SPD has had up to this point a policy that did not encourage discussion of the theology of ordination in SPD media outlets. This means that none of the perspectives on ordination have been widely discussed in this Division.

Yes, the SPD did not invite any ‘anti-WO’ people to write. I find it difficult to label myself as pro-WO. I have long thought of my stance on this issue as ‘a third way’. If you read my paper carefully, you will find that I very rarely mention the gender issue. My real point is that all believers are gifted with gifts of the Spirit, and are thereby called to continue the ministry of Christ, motivated by the Spirit of God. And surely some believers of both genders have been gifted with so-called leadership gifts. It is such people whether university president, teachers and professors, GC Vice-President, Conference Secretary, Conference Treasurer, Resource Specialist, congregational pastoral care-givers whether salaried or unsalaried, deacons of both genders or evangelists are publically affirmed and consecrated for their work by an appropriate rite of appointment to their specific role or office.

I long for the time when Adventists will have the heavenly wisdom to create a new paradigm of ministry that incorporates the above understandings.

Six of the fourteen writers of the present volume were on the SPD BRC and are specialists in appropriate theological and biblical sub-disciplines. It is no surprise that they were asked to contribute. One other was a member of TOSC. Another is the Director of the EG White Research Centre. Still another is an Avondale Lecturer of African descent. Another is a Polish Australian currently working outside of the Division and a member of TOSC as well. At least 7 of the writers have significant experience working in the Pacific Islands.

There are undoubtedly “well educated” individuals within the SPD who are opposed to WO. But they have been mighty quiet in the last 5 years. It is my sense that there are very, very few people in the Adventist ministry in the SPD who are “anti-WO”.And again, I refer you to the 2013 unanimous vote in favour of a ‘pro-WO’ recommendation to TOSC by the SPD Executive Committee.

2 Likes