Here’s a great talk by Dr. George Knight that is very insightful on the women’s ordination issue. I’ve written out a summary of it below.
Basic idea: The modern idea that ordination confers spiritual power on a person does not exist in the Bible. It’s a Catholic concept. The Bible does teach a laying on of hands to dedicate pastors and leaders. But, this is only public recognition that God’s Spirit is clearly seen as having given a spiritual gift to a person. The Holy Spirit decides who gets a gift, not any person or church. It’s likely that Satan is trying to cause people to reject and demean God’s truths that women are now preaching as prophesied (Psalms 68:11) by causing some misguided people to oppose women pastors and the ordination of women.
Here’s an interesting text on ordination:
“Moses told them, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.’ 28 The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day.29 Then Moses told the Levites, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.’” Exodus 32:27-29
The KJV uses ordain to translate ~30 Greek and Hebrew words that have a wide range of meaning and uses. Surprisingly, in many translations, the terms ordain/ordination are not used at all in the NT in reference to pastors and elders. And in fact, the modern ordination ceremony and how people understand it was largely derived from church history and traditions.
While the Bible doesn’t speak of ordination of pastors and elders, it does very clearly speak of laying on of hands in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is a recognition of someone given AFTER God’s work is seen in their life. The term ordination was connected to the laying on of hands after Bible times. The church recognized that they had God’s gifts and wisdom ALREADY and they set their seal on these people. The Catholic church and others perverted this service as meaning some magical gift was given to people.
Ellen White says:
“Before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world, these apostles were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands. Thus they were authorized by the church, not only to teach the truth, but to perform the rite of baptism and to organize churches, being invested with full ecclesiastical authority. God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry.
Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel. Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God.
And when the ministers of the church of believers in Antioch laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, they, by that action, asked God to bestow His blessing upon the chosen apostles in their devotion to the specific work to which they had been appointed. At a later date the rite of ordination by the laying on of hands was greatly abused; unwarrantable importance was attached to the act, as if a power came at once upon those who received such ordination, which immediately qualified them for any and all ministerial work. But in the setting apart of these two apostles, there is no record indicating that any virtue was imparted by the mere act of laying on of hands. There is only the simple record of their ordination and of the bearing that it had on their future work.”
The Acts of the Apostles , p. 161-2
Paul and Barnabas BEFORE the laying on of hands, already had the gift of pastoring. Ordination was only a recognition of an accomplished fact for godly Bible people. In contrast, in Catholic views, ordination confers the power of God to transform bread into actual body of Jesus and the power to forgive sin in the mass. The mass atones for sins of those who partake in it and is a salvific event with a priest in charge. He gets this power from the ordination service. Ordination for Catholics is a massive transfer of power whereas for protestants, it’s a public recognition of God’s call of a person to ministry.
What is the biblical job of a pastor? Paul summarizes it:
“I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom. Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching….But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” 2 Timothy 4:1,2,5
Basically the job is to preach and teach God’s truths and love people. That’s it.
Spiritual gifts are not gender oriented. They are given to both men and women by God’s Holy Spirit. No person, no priest determines who gets God’s gifts. God does. And God has already decided to give many women a variety of gifts. Sometimes women have been given authority over men by God. Deborah was. Prophetesses throughout history were.
Unfortunately, for most of world history, it’s been a man’s world and women have been treated like possessions. Pagan Greek and Roman subjugation of women has sadly heavily influenced Jews as well as Christians. Men have been running the show and trying to exclude others from power in many ways, both in secular culture and in the church. The Bible tells us that all are equal, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women. (Galatians 3:28). But, pagan culture has heavily influenced the world and sadly the church at times to discriminate against women all throughout history.
Phoebe is called a deacon and ordained even though a deacon is supposed to be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:12, Romans 16:1)
Ministry team of students from Africa challenged Dr. Knight’s view of women pastors and said it’s wrong because there is no woman priest in the Bible. That’s true. But, there is also no black priests and no white priests. Only priests from 1 Israeli tribe, the Levites.
God has used women in pastoral roles all throughout biblical history. In fact, some women do better than some men in pastoral roles. The issue is ordination. But ordination only confirms a gift that God has already given. It does not add anything, unless you are a Catholic. Ordination of women is only a problem if you have a Catholic view that ordination adds magical power. But if nothing is added at ordination as is the protestant view, there is no problem ordaining women. Our church has already decided to give women the rights to do everything a pastor does. We just use different words. For women it’s a commission. For men it’s ordination. What’s happening now is just a word game, to exalt men a little higher than women.
Ellen White said she was ordained by God. Dr. Knight wasn’t ordained until he was 55. He never worried about it. He just kept preaching wherever God opened doors. We could even just drop the word ordination and just follow the concept of laying on of hands.
This controversy may help people to study more deeply the medieval history of ordination. It’s easy to understand why Catholics might have a problem about this ordination issue and why Satan would want to minimize the spiritual influence of women. The most influential leader in spiritual authority in Adventist church history has been a woman. Ellen White. She went speaking and preaching all over the place just as the Bible predicted.
Many wanted to reject the inspiration God gave through her. From the beginning, critics of Ellen White have used misunderstandings of the Bible, the gospel and ordination to try to attack and minimize her work and they are doing the same to the work of other women who God has called. Why? As Dwight Nelson preached, God has planned for women to spread the gospel, to use their gifts of preaching God’s word from ancient times.
“The Lord gives the command;The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host:” Psalm 68:11
And this preaching of truth, whether done by men or women, is what Satan wants to cripple and oppose above all else and by any means he can, even through misguided Christians.
Let us not be deceived into aiding the crippling of God’s work. Let’s follow the leading of God’s Spirit as the early church did so that more and more people, both men and women, can proclaim the good news!