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The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America to Release Ordination Study Report
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By Adventist Today News Team, October 30, 2013

Another step in the current study of ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination has been completed and the denomination's North American Division (NAD) will soon release a 240-page report from its ordination study committee. When the General Conference (GC) executive committee set up the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, it also authorized each of its 13 world divisions to pursue a similar study. At least five have done so.
 
"Divisions" are regional offices of the GC that, according to the GC bylaws, answer to the same constituency as the global organization. In fact, when the nominating committee functions at the GC session every five years it operates in separate caucuses for each of the divisions, each made up almost entirely of members from within the division. The executive committee for each division consists predominantly of members from the union conferences in that division and each has a Working Policy crafted to the needs and practices within its territory. The 13 divisions include three each in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe, and one for the South Pacific.
 
Potentially the Theology of Ordination Study Committee may have to integrate 13 reports like this one. It is generally agreed that under such a circumstance, the reports will contradict each other. Adventist Today has been told that Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the GC, has asked the NAD officers to block the NAD executive committee, which begins its annual meeting on Thursday (October 31), from voting to approve or recommend the positions taken in this report. Sources say that he is fearful that if divisions take official, voted positions it will make it more difficult for the Theology of Ordination Study Committee to come to a solution that will maintain "unity" in the denomination.
 
The NAD report makes only two recommendations: (1) According to the Bible "ordination to gospel ministry" is to "be conferred by the church on men and women," although "because the Bible does not directly address the ordination of women, and because the principle-based evidence is neither complete nor irrefutable, it can be expected that differing conclusions may be drawn by equally sincere and competent students of God’s Word." (2) The NAD should seek "authorization of each division to consider, through prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, its most appropriate approach to the ordination of women to gospel ministry."
 
This is essentially the same solution to the standoff on this topic that the NAD requested at the 1995 GC Session. At the time the majority of the delegates voted against the request. No further action was taken.
 
The report's introduction states that "the recommendations ... represent the position of the overwhelming majority" of the study group, but "not all concur." In fact, two of the 14 members authored a minority report that is included in the document. There was "unanimous agreement" on one point: "We believe that an individual, as a Seventh-day Adventist in thorough commitment to the full authority of Scripture, may build a defensible case in favor of or in opposition to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, although each of us views one position or the other as stronger and more compelling."
 
The NAD study group was chaired by Dr. Gordon Bietz, president of Southern Adventist University, and a religion faculty member from his institution, Dr. Edwin Reynolds, served as secretary. Nine of the 14 are Bible scholars familiar with the Scripture in its original languages, four are pastors and one is an officer of the NAD. Four are women and half are from ethnic minorities. A GC staff member, Dr. Clinton Wahlen from the Biblical Research Institute, served as a member of the study group. Reynolds and Wahlen authored the minority report.
 
The bulk of the report is made up of ten in-depth study papers, six authored by members of the group and four borrowed from the papers already released by the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. The report also reproduces the "Methods of Bible Study" paper voted by the GC in 1986. The group clearly states that it used standard, established Adventist hermeneutics in coming to its conclusions.
 
The group also explored at length the "headship" theology which argues that the Bible prohibits women from exercising spiritual leadership in the church. "Others believe that biblical headship does not apply to church leadership roles but is limited in application to the husband’s role as servant-leader in the home," the report states. "Still others contend that headship is not even a biblical concept, but rather a relatively modern term, and that the original Greek word for head (kephale), denotes source, not leader. These argue that hierarchical position is not the point, and that correct interpretation of these challenging passages is dependent on understanding the context in which they were written. The majority of the committee does not view the issue of headship as a barrier to ordaining women to pastoral ministry."
 
The report addresses the issue of "unity" with the observation that "unity must be differentiated from uniformity, which implies invariability." For the Seventh-day Adventist Church "our doctrines comprise the common ground upon which our Church denomination is organized [and] the 28 Fundamental Beliefs are the common doctrines. ... Other issues not unequivocally outlined in Scripture are subject to varying interpretations. Because a scripturally based, reasonable case may be made in favor of or opposed to the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, a worldwide mandate is neither practical nor necessary."
 
The document points out that the GC "has established policies recognizing women in leadership roles: the ordination of deaconesses and elders and the commissioning of pastors" and "although these policies are not practiced in all regions of the world, the Church has remained a single, worldwide organization. It is the conclusion of the study committee that differences in opinion and practice on this issue do not constitute disunity in Christ nor in the Church." A number of union conferences in North America and Europe have already taken action to begin ordaining women serving as pastors, and Adventists in China have done so since the 1980s.
 
Several members of this NAD study group are also members of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, but it remains to be seen how much of the thinking expressed in this report will be included in the report of the GC executive committee next year. Because there are an estimated 30 million or more adherents worldwide and the Adventist Church operates in hundreds of languages and many more cultural contexts, it will likely not be possible to find a position that satisfies all Adventists.
 
 

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Share your thoughts about this article:

Elaine Nelson
2013-10-30 6:59 PM

"There are an estimated 30 million or more adhereents worldwide"

When were an additional 15 million added?  The last account used was approximately 13 million SDA members world wide.

 

Kevin Riley
2013-10-30 9:05 PM

The thirty million refers to church attendance, etc, not just to baptised members.  Unlike in Western countries, in much of the developing world attendance at church and Sabbath School is often double - or more - the actual membership.  Membership is now officially around seventeen million.

David Barr
2013-10-30 9:47 PM

They must have betters pot lucks outside Western countries.

Melissa Kh
2013-10-30 9:49 PM

That's true.... And this even not including at least 75 millions the "silent supporters" of SDA Church.
While we are too much focusing about anti-Adventists and in fact spoiling them by downgrading Biblical principal and watering down our standards because we are not unashamed to our solid fundamental Adventist truth and rather to be accepted by the worldly majority...

That's why we're mindsetting ourselves that among 7 billions, all of them must be anti Adventists and plot to persecute us. Mostly yes, but not all.

However God will always have His people outside SDA that maintain Bible and the Bible alone as the final autority for all doctrines. Those, the Truth seekers, shall follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and He will tell them where to go after come out of babylon.

Jim Hamstra
2013-10-31 12:49 AM

Melissa,

I hate to tell you that most of the 7 billion have not heard of us.  In that case how can they be plotting to persecute us?

UpWithWomen
2013-10-30 11:45 PM

How much influence will one document out of 13 reports have? Is there a strategy in releasing this now?

Ella M
2013-11-02 1:44 AM

   If a minority does not have spiritual freedom, then no one does. That's religious liberty. 

   Since these study papers are from around the world, doesn't that mean NAD and Europe are not represented in the results as much as the rest of the world?  If so, could we trust the results if they are against women's ordination? Could they possibly be objective? Humans are not objective nor can they be.  Thus the minority still loses representation and cannot effectively carry on evangelism in its culture.
    The only way to be fair and honest would be to return to biblical laying on of hands and do away with this Roman custom.  The unconverted might leave, but that doesn't matter--it might result in a "clelansing."   It would also be a drawing point to those of higher values in the world.
    But with human egos, that's impossible without that "latter rain" so many talk about. So we can't we at least be fair to our religious liberty principles? Otherwise it would be sad if our church broke apart on an issue that isn't even in our stated beliefs.  This is so much like other denominations and shows how very average and typical we are and not special at all as we have been taught.

Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
2013-10-31 12:19 AM

It is clear that there is no biblical or theological mandate for WO. The decision pushing for this is purely a cultural one which undeniably will also have a direct effect on the worldview of theologians themselves within such a cultural context. Can theologians who are swayed by their cultural worldview be trusted? For example, Germany has a women as head of state. This in turn may very well be the reason why some conferences there are pushing for this. Again, it is a cultural move. Whatever the outcome of this deliberation, it will be a cultural influence based on the perceived social and political 'correctness' of the day - and not anything biblical or theological. The fact that Jesus chose twelve men - speaks for itself. The roles of men and women as seeing in the bible (biblical) both in Old and New Testament in relation to their calling in service to God (theological) is quite clear so a hurried move such as this is solely a cultural one: Similar to the same sex marriage issue - cultural.  Same sex marriage only being more extreme of course.

Trevor Hammond
 

Jim Hamstra
2013-10-31 1:04 AM

Brother Trevor,

May I kindly suggest that you take the trouble to carefully and prayerfully read through the entire 240 page report that is to be published?  If you do not understand what you read do not simply dismiss it as nonsense.  Ask the Lord to help you understand what they are saying, humbly admitting that you yourself might be able to learn something you did not previously understand.

If after these steps this matter is still so clear to you, then by all means submit your findings and your supporting rationale to the finest SDA theological minds in North America, or whatever division you reside in.  For my part I am personally acquinted with some of the North America members on this team.  These are not close-minded men and women.  They are some of the most candid and also deep-thinking Godly people I know.

You will however need to go to the trouble of specifically addressing and if possible rebutting their findings in detail.  Broad-brush general statements will not be very persuasive, nor will simply repeating arguments they have already documented and carefully evaluated. 

You do not really understand any difficult topic unless and until you are able to explain multiple positions and not just your own.  For myself I do not consider that I have mastered any topic until I can give you at least two or three good answers to the main questions.  Then I am in a postion to evaluate which of these is the best answer.  If I only know one answer I am not yet an expert.  (This does not mean I need to believe all the answers, only that I have taken the trouble to understand them.)

Michael Sims
2013-10-31 12:25 AM

"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" Amos 3:3 Is "unity" at all costs really the best solution for the church? People are going to interpret the Bible according to their own hermeneutical frame of reference anyway, and they are going to act according to their conscience regardless of church policy. Why not recognize the disparity that exists and allow the church to become DE-CENTRALIZED? 

The whole problem with this issue and the resulting factious conflict it is creating is that the church is structured according to an unbiblical ecclesiastical model to begin with. The Adventist Church is too hierarchical, too institutionalized, and too dependent on a behemoth organization that it is getting in its own way, and I might add, in GOD'S way. Organization is good, but we have moved beyond organization to depending on THE organization. 
 
If we would simply allow different parts of the world church to function independently according to their understanding of Scripture and how to apply it in their context, I believe the work God has given us to do will be able to move forward. Until we stop bickering and start letting God's people do what He has called each of us to do, then we're only going to keep plodding along, fighting and arguing, and God will have to raise up another people to finish the work.

Lynn
2013-10-31 9:15 AM

"equally sincere and competent" "both sides have biblical and compelling arguments"

I am not self-righteous. I don't want to sound arrogant and disrespectful. But one side is hateful, controlling, aggressive and spitefully degrading. And the other side is just there. In fact, there no other side just one side group bullying weaker people and mocking Christianity. They are sincerely degrading and dismissing the dignity of ALL people in Christ.

Ok, by now, it should be clear those degrading and denying dignity to women as equals are a shameful blight in Adventist message. This is not patriarchal Israel, we are not Levites or any blood tribe or circumcising our converts, or trying to circumcised baby girls like other religion. In fact, this is not a religion but a divine message to people.

And to further state, this is not even liberal argument or political. It's logical strict intepretation- IF THE BIBLE DOES NOT EXPLICITLY STATE TO BAR WOMEN FROM EQUAL SERVICE AND MINISTRY- then why do it, in spite of not having an EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION.
Conversely, why should women be in ministry if there is no explanation in the Bible- BECAUSE WOMEN WANT TO BE, that's why. Men and opponents do not have to PAY SEMINARY, BREAST FEED NEGLECTED KIDS, OR FORCE ALL MEN TO BE PASTORS' WIVES!!!

People do not have to do anything! Just let women do what they were meant to do. And not interfere! 

Instead, emissaries of Satan want to interfere and actively persecute. They want to add to where the Bible says nothing. It says nothing so do nothing and accept it. The Bible doesn't saying about green T-shirts so wear them. Now if the Bible doesn't say we can't punish people wear green shirts or being women, then, lets do it...

This is an exhausted and grammatically incorrect rant. And I don't like cap lock phrasing but, really one group wants deprive dignity and say they are keeping unity. Their unity is evil and Christ died for all, an equal death, all have dignity. I'm not self-righteous but one sides is truly absolute in power and being wrong! I'm not a disrespectful person, I just can't be respectful to people who think being born male entitles them to privileges. Especially when all Christians are born again in Christ, neither male nor female, all of us brides.

Imagine Christ marrying His church, a bride of patriarchs. It's absurd unless Eve was short for Steve/ Yves. Men and women are equal brides to Christ and equal servants.

And in case anyone gets excited about using the Bible to justify what they want- Christ put in safeguard 
 Love God w/your heart, Love others as much we love ourselves. 
I'm not being cute, when I say I love women and love people serving God and want women to be able to love God as much as I could as male in ministry. Unfortunately, I can be an ordained minister but, others want to take that away from women for the sake of unity.

Women or anyone don't NEED GC permission to lead God's church, only need God's. And God loves us all so we should love each other! This is about people taking away a woman's dignity and not disunity. We are a disgrace to love each other as much as we love ourselves. And I'm certain the right to divorce causes disunity but, we still have the dignity to make that choice w/ in the church.

Unity w/o dignity for all is no unity. But Sadducces and Pharissees ruling over believers!!!

J. David Newman
2013-10-31 3:57 PM

We were told that the GC would not seat Sandra Roberts at any of its meetings.  Well the NAD has found a way around that.  They have just elected her to be a member of the NAD Executive Committee with all its rights and privileges

Dan
2013-10-31 5:28 PM

I was a discouraged delegate to the Utrecht GC in 1995 when ordination of women was voted down.  This issue should be a decision of each division independent from the GC or from any further attempt to block it by requiring a vote by the world body in session.  The culture of Europe and North America is much different from Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Those divisions that are ready to ordain women should have the freedom to do so.  It seems that the presidency of the GC considers their wishes and views as orders for all to follow.

Jim Hamstra
2013-10-31 6:06 PM

Dan,

I am not sure that I would include Asia with Africa and Latin America on this topic.

I think you will find a surprising mixture of views in Asia.  Mainland China has been ordaining SDA women for probably 25 to 30 years.  many of their top leaders are women.

Andreas Bochmann
2013-11-02 2:19 AM

Judging from my experience with female ministerial students from Africa, I wouldn't be sure it is fair to include Africa either. They may not be the majority in their countries yet (I wouldn't be able to tell), but they are certainly ready to serve the church in any capacity they are called to.  Utrecht - as painful as it has been (not only the vote, but the kind of discussions we experienced there) -  is one generation ago.

Jim Hamstra
2013-11-08 11:02 PM

Well I have a SDA Seminary student who is a woman from Africa renting from me.  She feels she has very bleak prospects of employment within the SDA insititutions in Africa - that despite 1 undergraduate diploma + soon to be 3 graduate diplomas.

I hope for her sake and that of many other Godly young African women that you are right.  Are you aware of any that have actually found SDA employment in their home countries?

Elaine Nelson
2013-11-08 11:41 PM

No, and it is a sad situation.  Women are still second-class in half the world.  Her chances are much better right here in the U.S.  We can't force our wishes on others, and they shouldn't force theirs on us, either.

Monte Sahlin
2013-10-31 6:45 PM

Elaine, the words "member" and "adherent" mean two different things. The membership number includes only those who are officially listed as baptized members. The adherent number includes children and spouses who are not members but part of the families of members, as well as people who attend church regularly but are not baptized members. The estimate of adherents is based in large part on census data and surveys of the general public which in many nations reveal much larger numbers of people who identify themselves as Adventists even though they are not accounted for in the official membership numbers. And there are nations like the U.S. where surveys have at times revealed fewer people who identify themselves as Adventists than the numbers on the official lists. "Adherents" and "members" are apples and oranges, not two kinds of apples.

Elaine Nelson
2013-10-31 7:31 PM

I assumed as much when such a large number was given.  Most of the rest of the world is growing in Adventism while the first world nations are shrinking.  

Gloria
2013-10-31 9:54 PM

If in fact the Chinese have been ordaining women for many years now, we had not been hearing negative comments about disunity of the World church, why would there be disunity if the NAD decides to ordain women? The Divisions should long have been given the autonomy to make the decisions on the ordination of women.

Andreas Bochmann
2013-11-01 12:08 PM

"Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the GC, has asked the NAD officers to block the NAD executive committee, which begins its annual meeting on Thursday (October 31), from voting to approve or recommend the positions taken in this report. "
How ironic (but not surprising).  A report is specifically requested - but there should be no expression of agreement with what the presenters  are saying as a representation of the NAD. So what is this report all about - if you are not supposed to "approve or recommend" it?  Are they truely expected to say: "We are presenting our heartfelt views - but we really don't agree with them" ?

 


Jim Hamstra
2013-11-01 1:06 PM

Pastor Wilson does not speak for the NAD although he is an ad hoc member of its Executive Committee. 

Elsewhere it has been reported (I have not seen official confirmation) that yesterday the NAD Executive Committee voted to add Sandra Roberts (by name) to said committee.  She is now a full member of that committee regardless of whether one considers either her ordination or her election to be legitimate.  There is no working policy that excludes women from any church governing committee, only from being the President of certain entities.  Maybe the NAD Executive Committee acted in the interest of unity among its conferences and unions?

I do not know whether Pastor Wilson was present at the meeting where that vote was taken, but his office is in the same building as those of the NAD officers.  Maybe Pastor Wilson could coerce the NAD staff to relocate elsewhere?

Perhaps I am getting too old, but I remember years ago a constituency meeting where there was conflict regarding how a particular committe had been selected "outside of policy".  I arose and said that since there did not appear to be any disagreement over the actual members of the committee but only over the process, we could simply vote them in by a motion from the floor, then go back and fix the policy later.  I made the motion, it passed with little opposition and we moved ahead with our business.

Andreas Bochmann
2013-11-02 2:08 AM

Thank you Jim, for making the connection to the vote of Sandra Roberts (which I hadn't picked up). My observation was about the blatant interference in the requested process of voicing an opinion, (after careful study by the top theologians of the NAD).  Whereas such interference does not appear to be a singular occurence, the conclusion might be:
  • Theology in the Adventist church is done by administrators, not theologians
  • The desired principle of leadership is top down only - if you have a divergent opinion, don't even vote on it
I do appreciate Ted Wilson's concerns, rooted in his deep convictions. But I hardly recognize my church any longer, which strove so hard to keep checks and balances in its formal structure.
As to the content of the discussion .... it appears to have moved away from ordination to a headship debate. This is quite consistent with the new formal structure (top down).  However, here I agree with Ella M that it is not only puzzling but heretical to an Adventist.

Jim Hamstra
2013-11-03 5:45 AM

The "man in the middle" in this strange dance is Dan Jackson.  As President of the NAD he reports directly to Ted Wilson.  As Chair of the NAD Executive Committee he is accountable to the union and local Conference Presidents.

How would you like to be a fly on the wall at their meeting these last few days?

Elaine Nelson
2013-11-01 12:56 PM

This is the M.O. of institutions run by a dictator:  The new rules are read according to the leader's wishes and all are expected to say "Aye."  Any "Nays" are noted and recorded and marked against further promotions.

Ella M
2013-11-02 1:34 AM

     The "headship theology" that says women should not have spiritual leadership over a men is not only puzzling but hereitical to an Adventist.  We should disband since EGW was definitely our top spiritual leader. 

kLutz
2013-11-04 1:41 PM

The reports are in:

http://vimeo.com/78290214

http://vimeo.com/78290218

Tim Blackwelder
2013-11-08 10:41 PM

I agree with Ella M.  How can we even discuss the headship issue, as well as "women shouldn't speak in church" when we acknowledge Ellen White as our prophet and leader?

If you don't believe women should be ministers, you are in the wrong church.

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