My Perspective As A Woman Pastor

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I could not go to GC. I do not have a TV. The live streaming of “The Hope Channel” was choppy in every 3 seconds interval at best. I found out about the “No Vote” for Women’s Ordination via my aunt, whom I was calling to offer her comfort after she lost her job, which in turn tried to comfort me. I kept receiving confirmation of the, “No Vote” through texts of my brother-in-law who is at the GC and through good, ole, trusty, Facebook.

My feelings? Kind of numb. The feeling of kind of being stuck. The looming question of, “now what?” hangs over my head. I am not angry. I am not bitter. I am not enraged. I am not disappointed. I am not shocked. I am not hurting. I am not crying. Just processing.

Some people are upset, angered and hurting for the “No Vote” and they weren’t even women pastors. Some people were pushing for the vote more vehemently than myself and women pastors that I know. However, when the decision was called for, some people are expressing their feelings, which they are entitled to, but yet, since not being women pastors, it doesn’t really affect them as how it will effect the women pastors. Yesterday’s decision put a new twist on how my future will look like. It puts a new twist on friends that I know who are women pastors and their future.

I have been oddly quiet during the whole endeavor, just really trying to see what will pan out during the whole situation. A lot of people have posted their opinions, but I am posting my perspective as a woman pastor. I am speaking for mostly for myself, I am giving my viewpoint, my experience, and what I have learned.

There are a lot of questions running through my head. Once again, I was not at the GC, perhaps these were answered already in the discussions. But I guess I can put it out there now. What are we going to do about the women pastors who are already ordained or commissioned? Will the title be taken away? Will they no longer be able to practice baptisms, marriages, child dedications, and anointings? If it is not taken away, will their work as ordained ministers be recognized now that the whole world church decided, “no”? Will other divisions and countries require a new “baptism”; a new “anointing” if they found out you were baptized or anointed by a woman? What about women elders? Since the argument has been made, and there is Biblical evidence for it, that there is no difference between pastor and elder? Why carry the pastor/ elder title as a woman? Why has the church allowed for women elders to begin with if there is so much friction about women pastors? Are we working off semantics? Should we even allow for ordained women elders? Should we even have women elders? Is it even fair now to allow women to be “pastors” to fill positions that “women are so good at”? Are these even the right questions to ask? There even seems to be a lot of confusion on what was voted on, and there are some articles going around with wishful thinking.

It almost feels that at the end of the day what women pastors will end up doing is working administratively or doing the work of Bible workers, but on steroids, with nothing to show really for being the “pastor,” there will hardly be any distinction. At the end of the day, we are allowed to minister, but being in ministry is not the equivalent of being a pastor. That’s what it seems that has been handed to us. Again, these questions may have been answered, but at the same time, right now, I don’t think there will be a satisfactory answer to all of it, because these are issues that are going to rise from it, regardless of what people say, and because it is so fresh.

Regardless of it all, when there is a vote, there will always be a happy group and a disappointed group. The happy group will always claim God’s favor and the disappointed group will always say that God allowed it. God does not always work in majority votes; God does not always work in minority votes. There is the hot topic till this day of GC 1888 to show what I mean. What is always hard in situations like these is that there are no clear, cut lines, regardless of what some would say. While not everyone from both sides may have exhibited Christ-like behavior to each other, I do know also that there were strong, God-fearing people on both sides, people who have prayed, fasted, poured over scriptures, entered into dialogue to try to understand the other’s viewpoint, and still arrived at different convictions while reading the same Bible, praying to the same God, and following the same Holy Spirit. Nothing hurts more than when someone dedicates their whole life to what God has seem to show them on a personal level, and another person comes and flippantly rubs it in their face that it was not God’s will and they were being unfaithful to God. Folks, that is nothing short of spiritual abuse and the ground preparation for a great faith crisis in that person’s walk with God.

Please don’t make the ignorant statement that if a person has a faith crisis from the “truth” being told, then they never had faith to begin with. That’s part of what makes recovering from a faith crisis to be such a difficult task to begin with, because what was once thought to be solid in your walk with God, you are finding that you now are questioning everything, from the Bible you read, to the prayers that you pray, to the church you go to, and to the God you worship, with the people that you worship. There are countless of examples in the Bible of mighty men and women of God who went through their own faith crisis while still actively holding onto God and having a relationship with Him, (Jeremiah, anyone?); Don’t be that person, the type of person who speaks before thinking in the Name of God and too prideful to realize that you made a mistake while realizing that you have left a brother or sister in Christ questioning Him. Instead of criticizing that person, please, for the glory of God, extend the hand of grace, and become a reason why you helped that person stay in the community of God, and not a reason why they left it.

I for one, and I think I can honestly speak on behalf of a lot of my women pastor friends, I did not step into the pastoral arena to push forth my authority over the men. I had no desire to showcase, “Women do it better than men.” I had no desire to uproot an established authority that God has placed on earth. What I was looking for was to help my brothers in Christ. To reach the places that they couldn’t go while still holding onto their hand. To show a hurting world that God also validates women in His work and that His hand was being extended to them. While women are being persecuted on the other side of the world because they want to learn how to read, I wanted to help them see that there is a God who stands up for us. I came because I was called. No person would eagerly put himself or herself in a position that was heated, difficult, sensitive, at times hazy, receiving insults, questioning my own faith, getting looks of surprise, having my ministry questioned from others, and my ministering considered second rate, at best sometimes, just to “help people.”

No, it usually takes a calling to get people through the difficult nights of praying and pleading with God when interceding for His people when they have been a stiff-necked people. It takes a calling to still show your face after what some would consider a humbling experience in GC 2015. It takes a calling to go and minister to a mother who has lost her job after a difficult divorce, to comfort a second mother who has received the diagnosis of breast cancer, to encourage an exhausted and broken pastor’s wife, to be the listening ear of a young woman who grew up in church questioning the existence of God, to be the arms of comfort for a young woman friend who is grieving the loss of a strong spiritual mentor after cancer and recovering from abusive parents, to offer hope to a friend who admitted to being bisexual, to tell a young teenage girl who is recovering from bulimia that God still loves her no matter what. It takes a calling.

I have gone through some difficult times on my journey being a woman pastor. Others have not had it as difficult as me; some may have had it harder than me. What I do know is this; it is not easy. And as a woman pastor who has gone through some bumps in the road, and have had to search for answers that only God could give, I just ask for a few things from my family in Christ.

1. Be understanding that not all women pastors are liberal in their theology.

For some reason, when people heard that I studied theology and that I was taking the steps to continue onto the path of pastoral leadership, they looked at me like I had three heads, and the infamous question would come, “What do you plan to do with that?” Then the next question that would come about, “What is your stance on Women’s Ordination?” And then would proceed to ask questions on trying to figure out my theological stance. It was almost a quick assumption that if I was interested in pastoral work, that I was a liberal in my theology. And while there may be women pastors who have liberal views, (by all means, I am not a voice for all women pastors), I just know that the majority of the women pastors I know, myself included, do not hold liberal views about theology or the Seventh-day Adventist church.

2. Understand that we are trying to be honest, God fearing Christians, just like you.

It was almost borderline pure amusement to see all the hate comments that I would read on articles that would be for Women’s Ordination, it was to either laugh and pray for strength, patience, and wisdom, or cry and become despondent. Some of the comments were just harsh, that we have received the Mark of the Beast and being used as puppets for Satan. And while I am sure that the other camp who was pro Women’s Ordination have not been innocent of harsh comments towards anti Women’s Ordination, it doesn’t get worse than that folks, to be compared to be used by Satan. Come on guys, not a single one of us have the authority, nor the wisdom, nor the concept of correct justice, nor the full picture, to be able to pronounce those type of judgments. Once again, I speak for myself along with other women pastor friends that I know, we strive to seek the face of God, we beseech Him to show us His will, to correct us when we are in the wrong, to humble us when we have been prideful, to put us where we will be the most useful, to have us work for His glory. My desire is to do the will of God.

Being combative with each other proves nothing. Both camps will have people who stood up for either side and will claim, “Praise the Lord that ‘So and So’ spoke the truth!” We are so quick to point out what we think will divide the church that we become almost paranoid about everything. We develop champions in our minds of people who spoke up for our viewpoint that we have deemed as Biblical. We are quick to cast stones to those who do not agree with our viewpoint, and rapidly mark them as unfaithful towards God and the church because they were not consistent with the viewpoint that we had marked as truth. Please understand that this helps nobody and it certainly does not help you in your witness towards others. The will of God, in how He has portrayed it in His word, should be the will of our life, not what we think His will is, but what He says it is.

3. Be considerate and kind with your words.

As a theology student on my first week at Southern Adventist University I was standing in the presence of a classmate who told me this after he found out I was a theology student, “Wow…. Southern has really lowered their standards in accepting you into their program,” in which he then proceeded to laugh and said, “Just kidding.” I am sorry, but that is not something to joke about. That comment essentially said that just because I was a woman, I have tainted Southern’s doors. I have heard others say that we are too emotional, or incapable of being able to minister effectively. You are surely entitled to your opinion, but please, there is no godly love being shown once you begin to make comments that degrade the worth and the capability of a fellow human being.

4. Please stop saying that our ministry as women exists because men are not doing theirs.

This honestly is probably the most frustrating to me, on two sides. The first side is that women are only in the picture because the men are not doing the work. It implies that we were second picked, only the second best, because well, “Someone has to do it.” It implies that if men were doing the job, then women would not be in the picture at all. Why do we have to have that mentality? Why is almost always an “either/ or” and not a “both”? Why can’t it be the both of us, men and women, working together for the kingdom of God? Men are called to a certain position of authority, and I understand that, but at the same time can I not help that man in that position of authority? Why does it have it be, “I am only here because he is not doing it?” It seems to treat the ministry that God has given me as second best. That I am second best. I have worth in the eyes of God and I am important in His eyes, but in front of my church family, I am second place. And I am only in second place because of being a woman and that’s it.

The other side that this statement shows is the low position that men are being held at as well. It is shoving men to the side and saying, “What you are doing is not good enough so we will bring someone who can do it.” What of all the countless of men who have done God’s work in the past and in present time? Those who have lost their lives to the cause and have laid their heads down to rest to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,”? Of the countless of men who still stand up to preach, to share God’s word to a people yelling at them that whatever they do is never good enough? Their decisions as pastors are never good enough, that what they preached was not good enough, that how they handled the situation was not good enough, that what they said was not good enough.

We are worse than a nagging, embittered wife to the leaders of our church. Almost always, someone, somewhere out there has a better idea of what our men pastors should have done. Well, in the words of Pastor Henry Wright, “Get some scars on your soul first and then come and talk to me about how to run a church.” It is so easy to criticize on the sidelines when you are not in the fight. And it is also detrimental to your effectiveness in your personal ministry if this is the mentality that you have of yourself, you, as a man pastor. That there can always be something more done, sure, that you can always grow more in Christ, of course, but to ridicule yourself and to put the holy work that God has placed in your life as not good enough because you are not doing enough in what you think it should look like is going backwards and not forwards.

Let our ministry work together as part of the image of Christ, not as a competition on who can do it better, who is lacking, or just because a spot needs to be filled.

5. Invite me to be genuinely part of your team.

Invite me as your team because God lead you to pick me, not because it is the cultural fad to do so. I have gone through countless of interviews with conferences where almost all of them supported women in ministry, and women’s ordination. However, at the end, I did not receive jobs from them regardless of their words of support. It is much more appreciative to be invited, wanted, and needed, than to be told of support, or just being picked up to show “progressive” movement. As a woman, I value more an invitation to join a work than a civil responsibility to get something done.

6. Don’t turn a blind eye to the abuse of women in the church.

Even though the church passed a “No Vote” on Women’s Ordination in the world church, please, don’t let this be a set back for working towards women’s rights and recognition in the world church at large. While some have played up that the vote for women’s ordination is just culture pressure on sexism and gender discrimination, it would be unwise to say that this will not have an effect on how the world church has portrayed its view on women and their importance. While I recognize that there were plenty of women who were against Women’s Ordination, I also acknowledge that there were plenty who were for it, in part to give a voice to the women.  It would be naive to turn a blind eye towards the abuse that happens in the church in the Name of God towards women because the church voted, “no” on Women’s Ordination. While some may say that I am being extreme in saying this, and that just because the church said “no” to women’s ordination does not mean that it was an abusive act towards women. I understand what you are saying, and I acknowledge that, but hear my viewpoint. The church has had a long history of abuse towards women who have been made to keep quiet because of spiritual abuse due to their husbands or the men in their lives have manipulated it in such a way that if the women voiced their concerns they are being unfaithful Christians or not being submissive wives.

I just encourage the church to be proactive in helping the women who are being abused in the church, to properly discipline the men who have abused these women, regardless of their position in church leadership and to not encourage a shame culture towards these women, which unfortunately, almost always seems to happen when a woman finally stands up to speak for herself. Sometimes in the Christian culture, we act as if someone who demands their rights as a human being is all of a sudden usurping the will of God. We play the card that because we are sinners, we have no rights, and therefore we are working off of our selfish nature instead of being submissive. And while that can be true for a good portion of the human race, we also have to remember that we are made in the image of Christ, that we have been bought at a price, that we have been ransomed, and with that comes an inheritance of being God’s children. A person who cannot stand up for their self worth does not recognize who their Father is.

As a woman pastor, I will continue to minister, however that may look like. It may look like pastoring the church as an associate pastor, it may look like a Bible teacher, and it may look like as a school chaplain. I don’t know. What I do know is the willingness of being flexible in the calling that Lord has placed in my life, wherever He takes me, and how He takes me is important. I do know that God will be faithful to the calling that He has placed in my life. I understand why the world church took the vote that they took. I respect their decision and I understand what they had to balance as world leaders. I understand it is not easy to be world church leaders in a world that differs in cultures that spans over 24 different time zones, that all voices needs to be heard, that there are things that have to be weighed that we may not even know about. If we have erred, may the Lord grant us mercy as we sought to do His will. If we were correct, than praise the Lord that we pressed forward.

Let us not forget that when Jesus walked on this earth, the chosen church, His chosen church, was fragmented to many pieces, into the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Zealots, and the Essenes to name a few. And while He was patient with all, and may have said strong words to them all, Ellen White points out that He said it with tears in His voice. It is never easy to walk the line between differing groups in the same church, but what I do know is that Christ Himself manifested love to all, took time to talk to them, to minister to them, to show love to them, and to save them. Desire of Ages tells the story of how once Christ was resurrected; many who were once enemies of Christ became His followers.

While things may be unclear on how to manage differing viewpoints within the church and the questions that come, and we beseech the Lord for His guidance; I know that this is perfectly clear: that the Lord has called us to love one another, that has never changed, to exemplify the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, and that if we differ in viewpoints, just like how the Jewish Church once did, and the early New Testament Church once did, we can never err in showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5: 22). In these things, we can never go wrong, no matter what our differing viewpoints may be. Am I being too diplomatic? Perhaps, I am for some. Am I being too sensational for others? Perhaps, I am for some. This is my perspective. This has been a bit of my experience. I will respect the church, and its decision, I am still part of the church, and I will minister to and for the church, but at the same time, I answer to God and God alone. I go where He leads me. I cannot go against my conscience, and as God as my witness, so help me.
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The Things That No One Is Talking About on Women’s Ordination

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I have recently read two blog posts that seem to be fairly popular. The one is by Ty Gibson on why the GC should vote yes on women’s ordination. The second is a rebuttal by Kevin Paulson on the shortcomings in his argument, and an expansion on the analysis of the subject matter he oversimplified in his post. I feel compelled to share my struggle, and tell you the stuff that I can’t figure out why no one is talking about.

Where did I stand on the “issue”?

To be honest with you, I have been a pretty hard advocate for women’s ordination. Like Ty, I also am a pastor in the Oregon Conference, and I have been with them for almost 7 years. About 2 years ago I told my Conference President that I didn’t want to be ordained unless women in the church were going to be ordained. There were moments of applause from some pro-ordination camps.

I was sharing this stance of mine with a wise friend who is a few years my older, and farther along in pastoring. He said that this was actually a poor decision because I would have more of a voice at the table if I was actually ordained. I thought it through, and then began back pedaling with my conference. Oh how foolish we are sometimes. I was simply trying to take a stand on the issue, and I feel like it was the wrong stand. It might have actually been the right position, but the wrong stand… if you know what I’m saying.

Along came a problem…

I decided to make some videos about encouraging conversations on the topic. I am a firm believer that conversations in love are what bring people together, even if they disagree on the outcome. We too often don’t speak in love, or we speak when we should keep silent (I am terrible at actually doing this stuff by the way). I studied pretty in depth to prepare my scripts. As I was making those videos I was trying to present both sides in complete objectivity, when all of the sudden I had a problem.

I realized -as I passionately spoke my thoughts on each side- that both sides had some really good points. Now I don’t say this out of ignorance. I got my Master’s Degree in Divinity at Andrews University at the Seminary. I was an excellent student and actually wanted to soak up all the knowledge I could from those brilliant scholars that are there. But, the more I studied, the more I was actually becoming confused.

Where DO I now stand on the “issue” now?

I can’t say which side I agree with. I honestly just don’t know. There are some pretty incredibly straight forward texts that seem to point in one direction, and then there is a huge argument of “what was said isn’t what was practiced”!

Where both the boys both fall short: (only a couple of points)

Ty’s argument –

1. It way oversimplifies the anti-women’s ordination position! Way, way, way, way oversimplifies. To think that anyone could boil down all the texts, history, and Ellen White quotes to two main “hinges” is ridiculous. The type of writing that Ty did is the direct result of our current social media world. If the topic was actually given the length it deserved, no one would have read his blog (here is where you can actually do some research- https://www.adventistarchives.org/ordination). So, Ty was forced to write this short discourse that actually didn’t do anyone any good because all it does is gain blind followers or anger the opposition (case in point: Paulson’s response blog). A leading professor at Andrew’s showed me one paper he was commissioned to study and prepare for the TOSC meetings (Theology of Ordination Study Committee commissioned by the GC – pronounced “toe C”) that was only one facet of the conversation, and it was 88 pages long!!!! ON ONLY 3 ELLEN WHITE QUOTES!! There is a lot of research that has been presented on this, and a lot of support for both sides of the argument.

2. It tries to predict the future. Come on Ty. Don’t guilt the world into supporting women’s ordination because it will divide the church if you don’t. That isn’t in any way an appeal for people to follow their conscience. That is the same mess that leaves us with “if you share the record keeper, then we will quit funding you.” That type of pressurizing prediction is actually trying to guilt someone into doing what you want.

3. It over and under applies hermeneutics. This is a term that means, basically, who was the original author, why did they write what they wrote, to whom was it written to, when was it written, what was happening when it was written (locally, nationally, world-wide), how many people were involved, what was the climate, what was the geology, etc., etc. The over application of this comes when someone uses hermeneutics as “the answer” instead of “a possible answer”. Honestly though, sometimes it is easy to see “the answer” and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people are just guessing. It is similar to the Evolution vs. Creation discussion. No one that was there is still alive!!! So, we end up using a bunch of surrounding information to draw conclusions that aren’t in the actual, literal text. The under application comes when the author doesn’t actually account for their own hermeneutical lens. He probably did, and tried to be objective and came to his very strong conclusion. I can’t hate him for his opinion.

There are more issues, but I don’t want to lose whoever is still actually reading this, so…

Kevin’s argument –

1. The primacy of the male is what is called “inferred evidence” (I might have just made that up, but it works). You are reading the evidence and interpreting that evidence. Two people can read the same evidence and interpret it different ways. So, you are reading into Genesis a male primacy based on your interpretations of the text. Ty, along with many, many others, does not read that into the text, instead they read into the text what they’re hermeneutical lenses has been stained with.

2. The primacy of the male headship is not a good term or good pre-fall idea at all! Inequality of any sort is literally referred to by Ellen White as, well, why don’t you read it for yourself: PP 58.3

“Eve was told of the sorrow and pain that must henceforth be her portion. And the Lord said, ‘Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’ In the creation God had made her the equal of Adam. Had they remained obedient to God—in harmony with His great law of love—they would ever have been in harmony with each other; but sin had brought discord, and now their union could be maintained and harmony preserved only by submission on the part of the one or the other. Eve had been the first in transgression; and she had fallen into temptation by separating from her companion, contrary to the divine direction. It was by her solicitation that Adam sinned, and she was now placed in subjection to her husband. Had the principles joined in the law of God been cherished by the fallen race, this sentence, though growing out of the results of sin, would have proved a blessing to them; but man’s abuse of the supremacy thus given him has too often rendered the lot of woman very bitter and made her life a burden.”

What I read here are 3 enlightening things: First, the pre-fall male headship is not supported by Ellen (gender roles possibly). Second, God did in fact intend for one to submit, and this was actually going to be a blessing but it ended up a curse. Third, it is man’s fault that things have changed and we are having this conversation. Which leads me to my next point.

3. God has traditionally tried to use men, but they almost always get in their own way. Men are the result of the need for women in the ministry Kevin. You and I have failed my friend, and women are the ones who actually step up and fill the needs where we fail. That is why there is no good answer to the question: Why does God so often in scripture actually use women in traditional male roles? Isn’t that going against the Bible?!?! It’s because Men suck! (sorry, too vulgar) We royally mess up: enter David (Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Absalom), enter Abraham (Hagar, Ishmael, Lot’s family mess), enter Jacob (don’t even get me started), etc. etc. At some point, God literally changes the way He has traditionally chosen to work to do it differently. The real question is if that is what is happening here. Maybe the ordination of women means that we actually finish the work and Jesus comes back. IDK… I’m just making a predictive suggestion that might not be true.

4. Ignoring hermeneutics. Why is it that the plain reading of scripture is always thought to be enough support in itself? The one thing that I really, really agreed with Ty on is that you really need to study to understand tough issues. I’m not talking about the black and white ones… which ones are those by the way? I’m talking about the really tricky ones. If you don’t actually study the hermeneutics (see above for a little better definition) then you aren’t being fair to anyone. I haven’t yet seen the hermeneutics really addressed by the anti-women’s ordination camp.

(don’t read into the fact that one has 3 and one has 4 issues, it means nothing according to me, maybe something according to Freud)

What no one is talking about!

Women’s pay:

Maybe I don’t understand the situation, I mean I am only an unordained pastor in the system, but isn’t it a huge discrimination problem to not pay women as much as men. This is a clearly documented situation too. Commissioned will never make the same as ordained, and yet they are viewed the same by the IRS. I smell Millions of dollars in potential lawsuits. Even if you aren’t going to ordain a woman, you better pay her the same and give her the same retirement, that is just good business. I’m not even talking about Theology. Simply cover your butt!

The calling of God:

Ladies, in all honesty, I know this isn’t popular, but just do your thing. The only person you have to answer to is God, and the only person that you sin against is God. Don’t let decisions that will or have been made by man determine what  God is calling you to do. But be very careful as you are trying to discern God’s calling in your life. Don’t get ahead of yourself (a big problem of mine). It may be that God doesn’t want the SDA church to ordain women for good reason. It may be a not-yet answer. It may also be a let’s do this NOW answer. It honestly shouldn’t matter. Your identity and self worth is in Christ alone, not in what man may do to you.

Submitting to the church:

Holy Catholic meatballs. This really is going to sound Catholic, but we need to learn to submit to the church. We follow God’s leading and our Conscience first and foremost, but we can still submit to the church. Look at Christ. His first miracle He says, “Woman, my time has not yet come” yet he does the miracle! When He was 12, He leaves with His parents because, “He was obedient to them.” Right in the middle of doing His Heavenly Father’s work. Come on. Don’t get all high and mighty about leaving because a decision didn’t go your way. This honestly is not a “salvation issue”. (now someone can write a blog on how it is) Submitting to the church means that you are willing to believe that God is leading in your church. It is also willing to admit that we are not perfect as a church, and we are still growing. Don’t expect that any type of change will be quick. Quick change isn’t actually good for anyone.

I will stop for now, even though I always have more to say…

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Women’s Ordination: Satanic Deception?

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Ever since I was a kid, there have been polarizing issues within the church. If you want to get a group of Adventists riled up on a Sabbath afternoon, just talk about the nature of Christ, Last Generation Theology, worship style, or conference segregation. Today, I’m going to finally stick my neck out regarding another polarizing issue in the church: women’s ordination.

It’s become especially crucial to speak about this now with an important vote to be taken at the General Conference session this year. Not only that, the rhetoric on both extremes sadly rivals any political campaign today. Nowadays, it feels like the Marvel Civil War arc where Tony Stark (Iron Man) goes up against Captain America and every superhero is forced to take sides in the conflict; even to not act is to take a stand on one side or another.

Ever since I started researching this issue a few years ago, I’ve started to become more and more convicted of one side. I’m not going to simply spit out my position. Instead, I want to take you briefly through my thought process.

A few important points that I believe need to be kept in mind, though. Whenever we are discussing contentious issues like this, we need to:

  • Learn how to discuss such issues without anger/excessive emotion
  • Accept the fact that we all approach the Scripture with a priori presuppositions
  • Recognize that none of us have all the answers

I apply all those points to myself first and foremost. With that said, I think that the entire conversation about ordination is taken way too deep. I’m not saying that there are not some disputed passages and deep study that occurs in both sides of the argument. Personally speaking, I just try to look at things as simple as possible (or at least simple for me). So here is what I think about this issue.

1. God has always had a priesthood.

A priest by definition is a person whose office it is to perform religious rites, and especially to make sacrificial offerings. In Christian use, it can be taken in one of two ways:

  • Person ordained to the sacerdotal or pastoral office; a member of the clergy; minister.
  • (In hierarchical churches) A member of the clergy of the order next below that of bishop, authorized to carry out the Christian ministry.

The earliest mentions in Scripture that I found for priests were in reference to two people:

Melchizediek (Genesis 14:17-19) and Jethro (Exodus 2:15-17)

Melchizedek and Jethro. Two priests from vastly different backgrounds.
Melchizedek and Jethro. Two priests from vastly different backgrounds.

The first is a mysterious king who also served Abram as a priest. The other was a farmer who became Moses’ father-in-law and also served as a priest. There are a few important characteristics to note about these first two priests:

  1. They were using their gifts of ministry in addition to having a separate career. (see note at end for more on this)
  2. They were at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum
  3. Both served God’s leaders before they (God’s leaders, i.e. Abram and Moses) fully realized their own calling into ministry.
  4. They were priests before the establishment of the covenant at Sinai.

So there were people who were already serving and functioning in the priestly office before Sinai. Because they were on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum and also had side jobs, I believe this shows us that anyone can be a priest, be it a king or a peasant.

2. God’s original plan to reach the world was to have a Nation of Priests.

Oftentimes, the Levitical priesthood (God’s first established lineage of priests in Israel) has been referenced as the pattern for how pastoral ministry began and should operate today. But, many people overlook the fact that the Levites were, in fact, not God’s plan A. His original idea was in Exodus 19:5-6:

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.

Again, God’s Plan A was for everyone to be a priest. Man, woman, and child. Everyone was to know the Lord and minister for Him. The only problem with this plan, as with every plan God tries to make, is people. People and this whole concept of free will makes things complicated.

3. Because of the people’s rebellion, instead of a Nation of Priests, God had to settle for priests in a nation. Plan B.

Even though the congregation promised to do as God required (Exodus 19:7-8), and even though God gave the people instruction in what was going to happen when He showed up on the mountain and how to prepare for the crazy sights they would see (later part of Exodus 19), we find that the following happened when everything went down in Exodus 20:18-21:

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

The people insisted on a mediator (or a buffer person) between themselves and God. They couldn’t handle the presence of God so they asked to be able to have someone else do the work of ministry so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the Deity. The same problem manifested itself later in Exodus 34, when the people wanted to make an idol because they thought a god they could see was better than a God they could not see. When Moses came down and called the people to arms, only the sons of the tribe of Levi came to aid in cleansing the camp (Exodus 32:25-29)

So again, instead of a Nation of Priests, God had to settle for priests in a nation (and not even all the Levites, it was primarily relegated to one family: Aaron’s lineage). The very model that people allude to as a basis for the non-ordination of women is a faulty model based on the human rejection of God’s plan; it was the byproduct of a rebellion, not a mandate from God. So the Old Testament priesthood is not the ideal model for ministry in today’s world (especially because we believe in this little thing called the priesthood of all believers).

Now, which plan do you think the Apostle Peter was referring to in 1 Peter 2:9, God’s plan A or God’s plan B?

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

The pontifical titles and perks that come after ordination, like calling me “Elder Fernandez” instead of “Pastor Nelson” like I’m currently called, salary increase when you get ordained, and the perception that I am somehow closer to God because of ordination is found nowhere in Scripture. They are man-made perks to make people feel better about having a select group of people doing “the work of ministry,” instead of everyone having direct engagement in ministry and letting the Holy Spirit decide who gets what gift. Spiritual gifts include the gift of pastoring… and no, neither the gifts nor the fruits of the Spirit are gender-specific.

Furthermore, I also don’t buy the idea that because Jesus didn’t explicitly have female disciples that it means only men can be prominent leaders in His church. If we follow that logic and stick with only men, we should also not include slaves, freed slaves, Gentiles, or people of color… so basically 95% (and that is a conservative estimate) of all Adventist males who do not have predominant male Jewish heritage should be kicked out of leadership position.

Perceptions of women throughout history

Now on to what we as a church are facing today. With the recent action at the Annual Council allowing the world church to decide whether sections of the church can be allowed to ordain women in their field has made some people start campaigning hard against this idea. This campaigning has led to some spectacular facepalm comments like this:

“Our Church is waisting God’s money with women ordination. Comman sence alone will tell you that God did not ordain women. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a professor of theology to know that God have a standard. Think . What will happen when someone have to be baptize and the woman pastor is seeking her period. Think . Next they will have to accept gay as ministers…” [sic]

Yes… you read that correctly. This quote speaks for itself. Now WHERE do people come up with these things? I’m not sure, but I CAN tell you that it’s not from Scripture. What I can say is that there is a precedent for this type of put-down of women throughout the centuries by church leaders.

The above comment is actually closer to Catholicism than Adventism. Check out the following quote:

Synod of Paris (829 AD)
“In some provinces it happens that women press around the altar, touch the holy vessels, hand the clerics the priestly vestments, indeed even dispense the body and blood of the Lord to the people. This is shameful and must not take place. . . No doubt such customs have arisen because of the carelessness and negligence of the bishops.”

That’s not the best of it. Here is a sprinkling of some of the best of the worst comments about women from Church leaders throughout history:

Tertullian (3rd century)
“And do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins.”

Aphrahat (4th century)
“From the beginning it was through woman that the adversary had access unto males. . . . for she is the weapon of Satan. . . For because of her the curse of the
Law was established.”

Basil of Cesarea (4th century)
“However hard, however fierce a husband may be, the wife ought to bear with him. . . . He strikes you, but he is your husband. . . . He is brutal and cross, but he is henceforth one of your members, and the most precious of all.”

Augustine (4th century)
Male – the mind
Female – the sexual nature

Papal decretum (1140 AD)
“The image of God is in man in such a way that there is only one Lord, the origin of all others, having the power of God as God’s vicar, for everything is in God’s image; and thus woman is not made in God’s image.”

Compare all of these statements with a great quote from Patriarchs and Prophets (a book written by a prominent founder of Seventh-day Adventism… also a woman):

Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him (46).

Clearly, I believe that all people, men and women, may receive ordination as an affirmation of the call of God.

There are intelligent people on both sides of the debate and I don’t doubt their sincerity. Speaking from my own personal experience, what troubles me is that currently, I’ve seen fear mongering, conspiracy theories, and incredible leaps in logic as reasons against the ordination of women to pastoral ministry. Again, when you realize that everyone is called to be a priest (instead of only a select few who have the gift of pastoring), then the importance we give ordination today is really a moot point.

As a side note, even culturally, many of the divisions around the world that are probably against the idea of women clergy may view and/or treat women less favorably. I’m Hispanic, so I’ll pick on myself for this one example. A recent Gallup poll found that Latin Americans (where a large chunk of the world church resides) were “least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to say women in their countries are treated with respect and dignity.” I wonder how many votes will be cast based on what some prominent preachers say, backed up by the cultural “machista” perception?

If another part of the world isn’t ready for women as pastors yet, I can understand. But I also don’t believe it’s right for another culture to impose their expectations or norms on us any more than we would expect other parts of the world to start wearing wedding bands just because we do in North America.

Contextualized ministry for the sake of the Gospel is what it’s all about.

Now, I don’t know what the future holds between now and the official vote next year. What I do believe is that God is still in control of His church. Every day, I am convicted even more that we need to go back to God’s “plan A” where we will be a NATION of priests and not leave the decision of who should or shouldn’t be in pastoral ministry to gender, but rather, the Holy Spirit. The decision of who to call into ministry is after all, as my friend Kessia says, “not our right, but His.

PS- This understanding of the priesthood of all believers does not eliminate the need for pastors. It simply means that each person is to function according to the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon them. Consider the following:

This [The Priesthood of All Believers] is an important biblical idea that has great implications for our personal spirituality and public life in the Church and in the world: the idea that every believer is a priest, regardless of his or her full-time occupation. This notion was one of the top three ideas of the Protestant Reformation. The first two, Sola Scriptura—which asserts the sole authority of Scripture—and Sola Fide—which teaches justification by faith alone—have been widely taught, but the notion of the “priesthood of all believers” has been by far the most neglected. Martin Luther thought that “this word priest should become as common as the word Christian” because all Christians are priests. Yet for whatever reason, the priesthood of all believers has been much less understood, taught, and expounded upon in writing.

When Luther referred to the priesthood of all believers, he was maintaining that the plowboy and the milkmaid could do priestly work. In fact, their plowing and milking was priestly work. So there was no hierarchy where the priesthood was a “vocation” and milking the cow was not. Both were tasks that God called his followers to do, each according to their gifts.

This has enormous implications for how Christians live their daily lives. If the Church teaches that working in business, communications, politics, or any other profession is just as impactful as working directly in the ministry, it allows Christians to connect their beliefs to their everyday actions, giving them purpose in their jobs and equipping to them to serve others and improve society though their daily work. On the other hand, if the Church implies that the ministry is a higher calling than other professions, it will lose the impact that it has on individuals and society through “secular” vocations.”  The Priesthood of All Believers” by Art Lindsey, pg 1

PSS-I wrote a follow up article addressing some of the questions that came as a result of this article. This can be found here or by copying the following link in your browser: http://www.pastornelsonsblog.com/the-priesthood-of-all-believers-womens-ordination-qa/

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What Irritates Me About the Women’s Ordination Debate

A few days ago I picked up a copy of an Adventist periodical and ran into an article on this whole “women’s ordination” thing. As I read the article I found myself horribly irritated. The article alluded to the following statements by Ellen White:

A great work can be done by presenting to the people the Bible just as it reads (2TT 129.2).

If men will take the Bible, just as it reads, they will make no mistake… (RH May 25, 1876, par. 40).

If men would but take the Bible as it reads… a work would be accomplished… (GC 598.3).

The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed (GC 598.3).

I could be wrong here, but I got the distinct impression that the point of the article was: If we all take the Bible just as it reads we will all agree that women should not be ordained. This is what I found irritating. While I do not disagree with the above quotes by Ellen, they are only half the story. And by highlighting this half of the story alone the article leaves the impression that students should disregard the cultural, literary, and historical context of the passages in question and just read them as they are. End of story. Yet nothing could lead us into error faster than taking the Bible as it reads without considering its cultural, historical, and literary context.

For the sake of clarity allow me to propose what would happen if we read the Bible “just as it reads” while ignoring the context.

 

If you are single forget about finding a wife.: 1 Corinthians 7:27

Don’t go to the doc if you are sick. Just pray.: James 5:14

Forget about women as pastors. They shouldn’t talk in church at all!: 1 Corinthians 14:34

Ladies: Don’t Make Yourself Look Nice: 1 Peter 3:3

Self-mutilation is acceptable if you want to overcome sin: Matthew 5:29, 30

If you and your family get attacked, don’t try and protect yourselves.: Matthew 5:39

If someone asks you for something you have, anyone, give it to him/her.: Matthew 5:42

Don’t pray in public (no saying grace at the restaurant!).: (Matthew 6:6)

Get rid of your savings account.: (Matthew 6:19)

Don’t make future plans.: Matthew 6:34

Hate Your Family: Luke 14:26

Give everything you own away. Don’t keep a thing!: Luke 14:33

Now of course, no one would accept this as a legitimate way of studying the Bible. Those who ignore the process of exegesis (which includes studying the cultural, literary, and historical context) often end up doing really dumb things like refusing to wear clothes with multiple fabrics because it says so in Leviticus or thinking that Jeremiah 10:1-10 is referring to a Christmas tree. Reading the Bible “just as it reads” often translates into superficial reading that leads to erroneous interpretations of scripture as opposed to a pure interpretation.

So was Ellen White wrong? Of course not. The context of her statements have to do with the Sabbath. In order to discredit the Sabbath many engage in Bible verse twisting – a process in which the plain teaching of scripture is twisted in the name of “exegesis”. It was to this that Ellen referred to when she wrote her statements. But to blindly apply this same counsel in every situation would lead us to adopt the ridiculous views shared above. In the same vein, there are people who twist the Bible to say that having multiple wives is OK, that Jesus is not God, that grace gives us a free licence to sin, and that slavery is not wrong. In this context, a plain reading of scripture is absolutely necessary (though such a plain reading would gain – not lose – from the exegetical process). But when it comes to issues that are not as clear, such as women’s ordination, it is foolish to assert that the entire debate can be settled by a “plain reading” of scripture. A thorough study of the cultural issues, historical perspectives, and literary intentions (among other things) needs to be studied and understood before we can make a claim about what is the true biblical position that God expects of his church today.

Sadly, there are some who equate exegesis with rationalizing and come to the conclusion that unless the text is read just as it is we are disobeying the Bible. But such is not the case. While Ellen White counseled us to take the Bible as it reads she also rebuked those who disregarded context. At the end of the day we may still disagree on our conclusions but lets refrain from pridefully asserting that we alone have the “plain reading of scripture”.

 

Note: This article was originally published on pomopastor.com

photo credit: Marco Bijdevaate via photopin cc