The Holy Spirit Blows Where He/She Wishes and Calls Whom He/She Calls

Recently, I attended the commissioning service for a woman pastor I know. The service was enormously inspiring, yet, on another dimension, it was sadly disheartening as well. Actually, it was more deeply troubling than disheartening.

Some things were crystal clear. It was clear that the congregation was enthusiastically in full support of this woman as their pastor. Her congregation expressed genuine respect and even affection for her. She and her congregation are united in uplifting Jesus and making him known to their community. It is apparent that her church is moving forward with vigor.

I have talked with her privately and am inspired by her humility, vision, and ability to rally her congregants to participation in the life and mission of their church. She has an active strategy of encouraging and supporting her members in developing their spiritual gifts. She is focused strongly on the primacy of developing their walk with Jesus.

It was also clear that the woman has been granted spiritual gifts which she is using to serve Jesus. You can sense that her spiritual influence is deep but humble. I have no doubt the Holy Spirit continues to gift her for ministry.

It is also clear from our conversation that she is deeply convicted that she has been called by God to ministry. Her congregation is convinced, too. So is the local Conference. So is the Union Conference. (Who else should express an opinion?) While she was interim pastor, her congregation was going through a lengthy search process to find just the right pastor when the light dawned that they already had just the right pastor in her. Her selection was unanimous and the Conference and Union heartily supported their decision.

During the commissioning service, the Conference President explained the difference between ordination and commissioning. It was obvious he thinks the differentiation is ridiculous — as did the Union Ministerial Director. The few pastoral prerogatives that commissioned women cannot perform are, in actual practice, quite inconsequential.

These few technicalities are mostly about maintaining some contrast between ordination and commissioning while simultaneously flimflamming the IRS into believing that commissioning and ordination are essentially equivalent — which is required by the IRS in order to gain favorable tax treatment of pastoral compensation. But we know the truth. It is all just a ruse to keep women subordinate in their service to God while maintaining favorable tax treatment — which saves the Church money.

As the service unfolded, I became agitated at the state of affairs in our Church regarding treatment of women in ministry and I feel compelled to write with some rawness and candor.

What we are doing is just nuts! And worse!

I am fully convicted that the Holy Spirit is calling women into full partnership in ministry. I am also convicted that the world Church bureaucracy is obstructing this work of the Holy Spirit. The words “presumptuous” and “arrogant” come to mind in connection with those elements of our Church who block the ordination of our women in the face of their calling by the Spirit.

This is a perilous path I am walking in this line of thought. I don’t want to be presumptuous and arrogant by judging others who also hold their beliefs sincerely. But I also feel we must examine the risks of frustrating the work of the Spirit when it seems to so many of us that the Spirit is calling our women to full ministry partnership. So I plunge ahead.

Could it be presumptuous and arrogant to frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit? Could it be arrogant to place more value on some anachronistic policy in a book on a shelf in Maryland than the call of the Holy Spirit? Could it be presumptuous to make the judgment that you know better than the Holy Spirit what can and can’t be done by the Spirit? Could it be arrogant to believe that your personal interpretation of Scripture limits the Holy Spirit in his/her quest to seek and win souls?

Could it be presumptuous to, in effect, tell the Holy Spirit who he/she can and cannot call to ministry? (I don’t think the Spirit is too impressed with bureaucracy-created policy.) Could it be arrogant to think you can distinguish between the genuineness of two calls by the Spirit, one to a man and one to a woman? Could it be presumptuous to judge that a man’s calling is genuine while a woman’s isn’t? Could it be arrogant to believe that the Holy Spirit is calling women to a lower status of ministry and leadership?

The March 11, 2019 New York Times carried an article about recent physical altercations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Ultra-orthodox Jews are attacking women, and their supporters, who come to the Wall to pray in a space created for them by the Israeli government. The ultra-orthodox Jews see women’s presence at the Wall as a sacrilege, and try to stop the women by intimidation, slurs, and even violence. The reason I mention this story is a quote from a non-ultra-orthodox rabbi. “As soon as a sect of Judaism says, ‘We know God’s will,’ it’s like saying ‘God is something we can fit into our minds like something we can fit in our hands.’ That’s idolatry.”

I think that concept fits in our context, too.

And now I escalate, although with some trepidation. I believe we must ask the question whether it is actually blasphemous to believe that the Holy Spirit will not call women to ministry when the available evidence is that he/she does call women. Is it blasphemous when someone attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to some other source? Is that what Jesus was saying in Mark 3, when they accused Jesus of evicting demons through the power of demons? When the Spirit calls a woman to ministry, could it be blasphemous to say that the woman’s sense of calling is coming from an illegitimate source or motive?

To those of you who think you have the Holy Spirit figured out and put in a box of your defining, consider the words of Jesus in John 3 where he equates the activity of the Spirit to the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” With apologies to Jim Croce and the Holy Spirit, “You don't tug on superman's cape. You don’t spit into the wind.” It is risky business to frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit.

Is this situation that much different from the one in Acts 10 when the Gentiles were first visited by the Holy Spirit? The text indicates there were early Jewish church members who were expressing — no doubt sincerely — opposition to baptizing Gentiles. But Peter declared to them, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Can anyone withhold ordination from women called to ministry by the Holy Spirit just as men have been called?

Some seem to believe that the cause of disunity in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is those of us who support the ordination of women as well as their future roles in leadership. Well, I think it is time to reevaluate the source of disunity. Perhaps the source of disunity is actually those who would frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit, who would place policy above the work of the Spirit, who would place culture above the work of the Spirit, who would place their own interpretation of Scripture above the work of the Spirit, who would place some false uniformity above the work of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, in his/her wisdom, may or may not be calling women to ministry in some parts of the world. I don’t know. But I am fully convicted he/she is calling women to ministry in the part of the world I live in. We dare not frustrate that calling! We do so at our peril.

I believe that the time is quite short for the world church to collectively figure out how to reach reasonable accommodation of our genuine differences on this matter. Quite short.

Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant. He and his wife Janelle live in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

**IRS Publication 517 Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and**
Religious Workers

“Ministers defined. Ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. Ministers have
the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that church or
If a church or denomination ordains some ministers and licenses or commissions others,
anyone licensed or commissioned must be able to perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister to be treated as a minister for social security purposes.”


Wow, now that is an eye opener. So according to law, all female pastors can be a president of a conference, union or GC, according to USA. Because the tax man is so unforgiving on those who lie, or submit false information.


Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Apparently 20th Century Seventh day Adventists, when they finalized
late in the century on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit did not REALLY
understand the scope of the Holy Spirit when they voted on the Doctrine.
It did NOT INCLUDE allowing the Holy Spirit to call whomever He/She
wanted to for the Gospel Ministry.


The IRS and goggle find great similarity between ordained and commissioned. In each case gender has no reference. either can be charges with similar duties under ordination and commissioning. Seems passingly strange that the GC argures one way in session and another before government. A very shady form of governance. A shell game at best.


Yes, discriminators can!
The saga continues, a shame to a Church that says to be Christian. Total absurdity.


Thank you Ed for this incisive article. I believe you are certainly on solid theological ground with your question, “whether it is actually blasphemous to believe that the Holy Spirit will not call women to ministry when the available evidence is that he/she does call women. Is it blasphemous when someone attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to some other source?” It’s hard for me to not think of this question in that light.
I have believed for years this whole controversy has at its root the notion that the earthly church is the final arbiter of God’s gifts/calling and not God Himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We have quite simply overstepped our position and determined that rather than recognizing and cooperating with what God has done we are instead standing in judgement over His initiatives and determining their suitability.

  1. I commend the Conference and Union for following the church’s voted position even though they disagree with it. That is respect shown to the church as a whole. And is the proper thing to do.
  2. The Holy Spirit is working through this woman, according to the aurthor:
    a. She is a humble servant of God, doing what she feels called to do.
    b. She is encouraging the members of her church to develop their spiritual gifts etc.
    c. She has been given gifts and is using them to humbly serve Jesus
    d. She feels called by God, as the church feels, and as does the Conference etc.
  3. She is doing all this as a commissioned pastor. That is, ordination was not necessary for the Spirit to use here in the present capacity. The prerogatives that she cannot do are inconsequential, as the author notes.
  4. Ordination is not necessary or her to do all that is necessary for her calling. And she is doing it.
  5. Respect for the body is called for by Christ and the apostles. I see no problem with her doing as she is doing, and that God is using her. And the church is recognizing it.
  6. It seems that walking down the “perilous path” is really not necessary. The Spirit is using this woman where she is, here church is being blessed, and the body of the church is being respected. I don’t see the problem. He has called her to ministry, she is doing it. Why is there trepidation? Is the author assuming the prerogatives of the Spirit?

Well, not exactly. In the NT, very apostle was set apart by someone, Jesus, an apostle, the church. Individuals did not just show up and proclaim their ordination. God used the church to carry out his mission of setting up leaders. Even Paul was baptized by Annas, and commended by Barnabas, etc. The church decides who is called, and formally recognized it. The church noted here (I suspect a church in the Colorado Conf.) has recognized the woman’s call, and commissioned her, the very thing the SDA church does with woman who it feels are called by the Spirit.

Though the author does not like the process, it is perfectly legitimate for recognizing the Spirit’s call.

The Catholics only ordain men. They are not under the gun of the IRS for not ordaining any women. Quoting the IRS is really irrelevant.

i think this is exactly right…our current GC leaders don’t and probably can’t see this, at all…they need to resign and be replaced in order for our church to move forward…perhaps this will happen at indianapolis 2020…


I used to be opposed to ordination of women. About 26 years ago, at a symposium on the topic run by the Adventist Students Association of Australia and New Zealand, the point you have drawn from John 3:8 impressed me deeply and changed my mind. Who was I to oppose the Spirit? If the Spirit leads women to ministry, they will succeed. If not, they will fail.


The implication here is that opposing WO is opposing the Spirit. That is just not the case, and the whole problem with those who advocate it.

  1. Clearly this woman is being led by the Spirit.
  2. Even the author sees the differences between ordination and commissioning as inconsequential.
  3. The difference, then, is a semantic one that respects the sensibilities of third world members who voted the policy. Is that such a difficult thing to do?

The Spirit is not hampered by semantics and this case proves it. He will move whom he will regardless of what they are called, as is the situation in this case. Allowing for your third world brethren and sisters is not betraying a principle, but is respecting differences of opinion, rather than demanding stern uniformity.

Actually, Allen, isn’t the shoe is in the other foot? Isn’t it the Third World brothers and sisters who are demanding stern uniformity instead of respecting our opinion. They voted against flexibility that acknowledges diversity of viewpoints. I am not okay with consciously giving our women a diminished role. Sends a bad message. Apparently, you are okay with that.


THe only people “demanding stern uniformity” are those who refuse to allow for the “differences of opinion”. Allowing for the differences would let those that wish to have WO, have it and those who wish not, do not.

Every time you trot out this same argument about respecting the wishes of the “Third World”, you always forget that those wishing WO are not demanding uniformity. Respect flows both ways and never demands uniformity as is the case with those advocating an anti-WO position.


I agree, they voted against a diversity of viewpoints. I should have let that be, as it detracts from the more important point. And that is this:

We are not giving our women a diminished role. The pastor described her proves it. Even the author and the Conference brethren see it that way. They are all for WO, but this woman is doing the very same thing an ordained person would do, but called Commissioned.

Like I said, semantic. It’s got nothing to do with suppressing the Spirit.

You wish to divide the church over that? I don’t see the Spirit’s moving in such an action.

Truth is, Allen, the church is already divided over the matter - unless you are a policy wonk who thinks that sticking together on a policy is the highest consideration. Then you might think we are not divided, but it is an artificial unity if based on policy.

It is clear that the ordination track for men and the commissioning track for women is intended to continue a higher - lower status arrangement. So men and women pastors may do mostly the same things but there it ends. Women are somewhat limited as to pastoral prerogatives, but severely limited in utilizing their God-given leadership potentail. This is second class “citizenship.” Is that really what we want to say to our called women? Is that what the Spirit calls women to? (and you do concede the Spirit calls them) “Second class citizenship?”


Ed –
2nd Class citizenship when it pertains to giving the Gospel is MAN MADE.
We have some here who say, Men who give the Gospel need to be paid,
have perks, and full retirement.
These same ones say that Women should give the Gospel, do the same
work as Men, but need to PAY to do it out of their own pocket. Do NOT
need to be paid, have perks, and full retirement all the while doing the
same work as Men.
This has been repeated a number of time on the Spectrum site.


The issue is semantic for the third world’s sake. You and yours are fighting for a word. The article itself says the differences between ordination and commissioning are inconsequential. The author is apoplectic about ordination, but agrees with the assessment of the conference officials.

So, you think it is a real issue when it is not. That is what bothers me about this. The article proposes that the church is suppressing the Spirit with commissioning, and then gives as an example a female pastor who is doing everything the Spirit asks, but is only commissioned. In other words, she is fulfilling the Sprits will in her role as a commissioned pastor.

In fact, on the face, the evidence is that commissioned women are being used by the Sprit, and his agitation is misplaced

That is not clear to me at all. The reason for commissioning is so that women may act as ordained individuals without ordination. This preserves the thinking of those overseas who object to WO. But the west wants women to act in that role, so they have in commissioning. The only difference is the word. Again, are you going to divide the church over a word? That seems ridiculous to me.

The Conference men disagree with you, saying the differences are inconsequential.

I reject the idea of “Second class citizenship.”

Do you really want to offend third world sensibilities? Can’t you accept a vote by the whole body? Commissioning gives all you want, with only a word being different. Why not let it be?

Are you saying commissioned pastors are paid a different salary? I have not heard that.

Inconsequential it may be but that is not how it is applied in reality. Reality is that ordination and commissioning are worlds apart, one leads to leadership the other leads, well, where does it lead?

Artificially imposed glass ceiling…

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The above article showed a real case of commissioning. The conference folk said the differences were inconsequential. You say they two are worlds apart.

Now I don’t see those as inclusive ideas. They are on the ground doing the work, you are, well, sitting pontificating. I would take the statement of one who was actually doing the work over one with an opinion.

BTW, they stated the thing publicly, not in private.

No, making a woman able to do the work of an ordained individual without the blessing of a policy to allow for it. WO has been voted down three times. So, the church has made its will known. Commissioning allows women to do the work of an ordained person.

Without commissioning, women would not be able to do ministry at all. So, it is a method of allowing them in spite of the vote.