Hi brothers and sisters in Christ,
I hope you’re all going to enjoy the GC meetings whether you are there or whether you join in Spirit. And whether we agree perfectly on all things or not, we can all be unified in the main essentials and recognize that people can be honest and wanting the best, but make mistakes as Peter did (Acts 10) and SDA founders did. The church and people in it won’t be flawless until Jesus come and sin is no more, but we should constantly aim for perfection and progress to the best of our ability (Matt 5:48) so as to improve life the most and reduce harm the most (check out our mission project pages if you/your church need a project to help out with).
Below are some main points to consider on the issue of women’s ordination at GC and in the future. You can also check out other articles on this topic by by pastor David Bissell and Bryan Bissell under the “Christian Issues” menu. If you want a much more in depth overview, check out:
1) ETERNAL LIFE/BEST EARTH LIFE.
The highest aim of godliness is the best life for as many as possible on this earth and especially for eternity. (1 Timothy 4:8, Hosea 8:3 Jeremiah 35:7, 1 Thess. 5:21 http://www.truth-is-life.org/GoodLifeEvidence.html). Sometimes that requires sticking to patterns and laws that godly people in ancient times followed (such as the 10 commandments and health laws). But sometimes that means dropping old standards (like the Levitical priesthood) and opening the doors for more equality so that Gentiles can be church members and pastors (Acts 10). Conservatives and liberals have both been wrong many times in history. Follow God’s principles of finding truth (especially the gold standard of pragmatic benefit for all long term) above any human group’s ideas. This will result in the best quality and quantity of life for you, those you love and care about, the church and the world.
God seems to be doing a great work for eternity through the work of pastor HaoYaJie who is the pastor of the Beiguan Seventh-day Adventist Church in Shenyang, China. She left her job to start it in her living room with just 10 people after being impressed by God while reading Ellen White’s writings to do so. Now this church has ~7,000 members. The evidence strongly suggests that God is leading in the work she and many others like her are doing similar to how He opened the early church to accepting Gentile believers. Would SDAs concerned about eternity want to reject ordination which would surely significantly reduce the number of converts brought to the truth through ordained Chinese female pastors?
https://player.vimeo.com/96839367 (sorry, can’t be embedded, but it’s a good one, worth clicking.)
Meet other ordained Chinese pastors doing good work for God!
See others here:
2) EQUALITY IS THE GOAL:
The Bible and Ellen White agree that all should be equal in rights, opportunities, sharing resources, etc. (Galatians 3:28, Matthew 23:8, Numbers 15:15, Ezekiel 47:14, 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, Joshua 13-18, Ezekiel 45-46, etc.) but then freedom to make the most of these opportunities and succeed with the talents God has given them, hard work, creativity, etc. Equality by definition means a fair chance at any position that God has given a person a calling to. To deny a woman an equal chance at any position is no different from denying a black person or an Asian a chance to fulfill their calling in some position. It empties the term “equal” of all its meaning no different from someone claiming that a slave is actually free. See also this site for much more on how most rights derive from fair economic rights which the Bible enjoined in jubilee economics http://www.truth-is-life.org/jubileeeconomics.html. This is also similarly true in ordination rights for men and women).
One reason equality is so crucial and so effective is because it increases interdependence and synergy among all members. Yes, we could be independent atoms, but when we synergize, we act as a body and cover up the weaker abilities that each of us have and become much stronger, ONE in Christ.
3) THE GOSPEL RESTORES GOD’S IDEALS:
As people are ready for it, God has more and more truth for us (John 16:12). The goal of the gospel is to restore the image and ideals of God in mankind as much as we can, getting closer and closer to what life will be like in heaven. One of these ways of restoration is equality:
- “The secret of unity is … equality of believers in Christ.” (EGW, 1SM 259)
- “When God created Eve, He designed that she should possess neither inferiority nor superiority to the man, but that in all things she should be his equal.” (TM p. 485)
- [Jesus] calls upon us to…adopt principles that will restore in us the divine image. The Ministry of Healing, 114, 115.
4) DECEPTION IS A PARASITE OF TRUTH:
Ellen White rightly says:”Error cannot stand alone, and would soon become extinct if it did not fasten itself like a parasite upon the tree of truth… and as traditions pass on, from age to age, they acquire a power over human mind…Satan has had his hand in all this; for by directing men to false standards, he misshapes the human character, and causes humanity to acknowledge him as supreme.” Evangelism p. 589
Many assume that the traditional thinking is biblical and that we must not leave that thinking unless we have a “Thus saith the Lord.” The problem is that many times in Bible history, traditional thinking is in fact based on man’s ideas that ignores or even sets aside Bible ideas. Read Mark 7:5-13. But at times liberal ideas do that too. Sticking to the conservative way or the liberal way is simply not a way to find truth (EGW warned us against aligning with any party on any side). It’s a way to confirm biases and sometimes to follow the plan of those at Babel, to join in rebellion against God. In quite a few cases you can only choose one of these options:
a) God’s way or
b) The liberal way or
c) The conservative way
Don’t get conned into the deceptive practice of ignoring dictionary definitions and context. Distorting vocabulary words causes all sorts of doctrinal confusion.
a) It causes people to calling Sabbath Sunday which opened the door to Darwinism which helped killed millions.
b) It causes people to claim that death is a place of consciousness which led to many kings exploiting people to make their afterlife comfortable.
c) It causes people to claiming that faith has no evidence, contradicting the Biblical idea that faith is based on evidence, facts, truth and proof (Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, etc.).
d0 It causes people to think that “under the law” (Paul’s phrase for legalism since that term didn’t exist in Greek) means we don’t have to keep the commandments (contradicting Jude 1:3,4; 1 john 2:1-9 and many other texts)
When the Bible says all are equal, it means that. When it says there’s a priesthood of believers and gives a gospel commission to both men and women to preach and baptize, it means that too. When Ellen White says that women can be pastors, ministers, in the gospel ministry, those terms are consistently used of ordained leaders of churches and nothing else.
But do consider culture and word changes over time. When Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man, it’s a general statement that applies to women too. Similarly, Paul’s statements that bishops and deacons should have one wife is a general principle of marital faithfulness for all sexes. This is supported by strong evidence that Phoebe was a deacon and that John and Timothy were single pastors. Avoid absolutism and make room for linguistic devices and generalities.
5) FEAR AND FALLACIES SUBVERT GOD’S TRUTH:
God has told us that His laws bring good into our lives. This is also a way we can test and verify if our views about truth and doctrine are correct. Many though change this for reasoning based on fear even though God’s law casts out fear.
Many fear that ordaining women will lead to ordaining homosexuals. This is no different from those racist extremists in the past who claimed that racial equality would lead to the destruction of marriage and society. We know that women’s ordination is bringing 1000s to belief in God (http://vimeo.com/96839367). We also know that homosexuality does massive damage to human beings causing the loss of 8-30 years as even secular studies at Oxford, Berkeley and even gay groups have shown. Children of gay parents also do worse on ~77 of 80 factors and it erodes societal freedoms. See these sites for starters.
questions.truth-is-life.org/homosexuality.html, http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF13I75.pdf, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14899/
If we see significant damage being done by women’s ordination, then we should seriously consider opposing it. But in fact, we are finding that church rigidity on gender roles, the attitude that women are to submit to men and ignoring the Bible command that all are to submit (Eph. 5:21) and that leaders are to be servants (Matthew 20:26), has been a cause of serious harm to women. The July 19, 1993, issue of Christianity Today cited the book “Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home” by James and Phyllis Alsdurf. Their research indicated that “the probability of wife abuse increases with the rigidity of a church’s teachings, especially teachings pertaining to gender roles and hierarchy.”
In addition, if the church doesn’t demonstrate equality, then there won’t be equality in most homes. And as Diane Halpern, a professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, has written:
“We can’t have equality in work, if we don’t have equality in the home.”
6) GOD SOMETIMES CONDESCENDS TO USE PLAN B:
God wanted a theocracy, but agreed to a monarchy when people wanted that for cultural and emotional reasons. Similarly, at times has condoned eating clean meat even though that’s not best. Much historical evidence shows us that women priestesses were often sacred prostitutes and that when they did speak in public, they were ridiculed as liars. For these and other reasons, it seems that God used mostly men in both spiritual leadership in Bible times so as to protect women from the harm and temptations of surrounding cultures that were abusive to women. But when we can avoid those harmful things, we should do what we can to return to God’s plan A, which is full equality of human beings, submitted to their Creator. But be patient with others who aren’t on the same page as you are. God’s still working on them as He is on you.
Listen to Hyveth Williams talking about how long it took her to change her views to follow God’s calling. This helps her be patient with others.
7) JESUS IS THE PATTERN, NOT PEOPLE:
Sometimes those against women’s ordination try to argue that we should follow patterns that people in Bible times did. The problem is that they don’t do this themselves. They don’t insist on a monarchy even though that is a Bible pattern. They don’t insist on men going to Jerusalem 3 times a year even though that is a biblical law. They don’t insist on wearing robes/tassels, shaving corners of beards, stoning rebellious children and many others. Nor do they walk everywhere they go, ride donkeys, have mostly agricultural jobs and so much more. How many Bible people used internet or facebook? Nobody on either side follows all patterns in the Bible. Some are very good and important to follow. Some are not. Some can even be harmful just like it would be harmful to education for a mother to ban a high school student from going outside the yard, while it would be valuable protection for a child.
We should remember James White reasonable views:
“But if it be asked, Where are your plain texts of scripture for holding church property legally? we reply, The Bible does not furnish any; neither does it say that we should have a weekly paper, a steam printing press, that we should publish books, build places of worship), and send out tents. Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men,” etc.; but he does not give all the particulars how this shall be done. The church is left to move forward in the great work, praying for divine guidance, acting upon the most efficient plans for its accomplishment. We believe it safe to be governed by the following rule:
All means which, according to sound judgment, will advance the cause of truth, and are not forbidden by plain scripture declarations, should be employed.” (James White, RH, July 21, 1859, p. 68; and April 26, 1860, p. 180. Emphasis supplied.)
This rule of what does the most good for human beings is what should guide us in determining whether women should be ordained or not more than anything else. Does the ordination of women bring more people to salvation and to obedience to God’s laws, to mercy, forgiveness and a better character? Then we should ordain women since there is no law against women’s ordination anywhere in the Bible. There are no patterns of licensed women ministers in the Bible, and yet SDAs moved forward in God to do that and had dozens of very effective women pastors, such as Lulu Wightman, one of the most effective pastors in our history. Those who are willing to have licensed pastors, but not ordained pastors are using inconsistent double standards that serve to harm and cripple the work of God and the ministry that God has called many women to.
Conflict can be helpful since it challenges us to study carefully which way is God’s way and is the primary way that progress in truth and human rights has happened in history(1 Cor. 11:19). It’s also very helpful for mental development. So don’t worry about there being some conflict and disagreement. It’s healthy if we remember to respect and love those who differ even if there may at times be very serious problems in their arguments. God will guide the ship safely through and keep perfecting us all so we are ready for His kingdom.
Above all, let us remember to follow Jesus as our ultimate pattern and follow the leading of His Holy Spirit
“You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (see also John 16:5-15)