by pastor David Bissell (retired after 40+ years of work in the SDA church)
CHINA SETS THE TONE. Dear Brother Doug, and all who are opposed to women’s ordination: I am sure you are aware that the pastor of our largest church in the world is a woman. Her name is Hao Ya Jie. She is the pastor of 7,000 Seventh-day Adventist members in a church in China. In addition to her ministry, more than half the pastors of Adventist churches in China are women.
HERE IS MY PLEA: Some of you believe women should not baptize or organize churches because only men should be ordained by God to be elders and leaders of churches. You claim that this is a moral issue and a forever principle that was ordained by God before sin entered the world. (I am aware there are variations to this idea.) What if this woman and the other women pastors in China would have followed your counsel? What if she would have believed that a woman’s role should be limited? What if she believed that only men should lead, organize or baptize?
Would you be so brash as to say that this woman should not be a pastor? If we followed your advice, this woman and the other Chinese women pastors would not be spiritual leaders. Would you advise that the Adventist Church shut down her ministry because she is the wrong gender? Would you say she should not teach men? Would you purport that her ministry is not of God? Would you say that only a man should be the pastor of these churches? Your proposal, if it had been followed in her case, would have stymied the work of God in China.
If the Adventist Church in San Antonio were to follow the way you want us to vote, what would you do to aid and encourage gifted women to carry out the work that this woman and others like her have done? You who believe that God has limited his highest work to men, how do you account for His leading in the life of this woman and other female pastors? How do you account for the powerful teaching ministry of women like Elizabeth Talbot of Jesus 101? She has spoken at pastors’ retreats and encouraged many men.
If we followed your counsel we would never listen to her because she is a woman. How do you account for the role Ellen White played in Adventism? Those who believe in a rigid interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 and 3, would you advise Ellen White to be quiet? Would you follow your own understanding of this passage and propose that women be quiet in church without speaking to men? Would you shut down their obvious gift of leadership? If Ellen White should not have been a spiritual leader as you propose, where would the Adventist church be today?
A LESSON FROM THE CIRCUMCISION CONTROVERSY: Early in the history of Christianity, there were those who sought to limit the work of the Holy Spirit, demanding that all be circumcised before they could become Christians. They felt strongly that it was their responsibility to control how God was working in the world. They had many Bible texts to support the importance of circumcision. It was plain from the Old Testament that this was a covenant forever.
Their support from Scripture for their view was far clearer and more evident than support for denying women the opportunity of leading, pastoring and organizing churches. This problem became such an issue that it threatened to divide the early church. So, there was a Jerusalem counsel. Upon listening to the testimony of Paul and many others, the church leaders could not deny that God was bringing Gentiles into the church, regardless of whether they accepted circumcision or all the Jewish interpretations of the law.
Today a similar choice stands before us. Will we recognize the leading of the Spirit in the lives of godly women in the church? Contrary to what anti-ordination people suggest, I do not believe it is assertive women that need to be put in their place. It is an issue as to whether a church that claims it has a mission to the whole world will do the right thing!!!!!!
The church needs to get behind the work of the Spirit and support every woman and human being that is being led to give their lives in ministry. Will we deny the work of the Spirit and stymie the work of God by our own narrow interpretations of Scripture, or will we get behind what God is doing in the world today?
If you are not going to recognize what God is doing in the lives and ministry of women, what is your proposal for encouraging women to use their God–given talents to be pastors and leaders? With all my heart, I encourage you to open your eyes to what God is doing in the world and avoid limiting the movement of the Spirit of God. If this kind of leading is of God, and the work in China seems to suggest this without a doubt, you could be fighting the Lord. May we unite together to see the work spread like wild fire! That is my prayer.
For further information see: http://blog.truth-is-life.org/christian-outreach/yes-on-womens-ordination/#comment-33