Post 74, Women’s Ordination in Humour and Union Sessions

My colleague Dr Lester Devine, long-time director of Adventist Education for the South Pacific Division and now director emeritus of the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre serving the same geographical region, has momentarily launched into humour that in actuality supports serious research. During forty years of “studies” by many of our most responsible biblical exegetes, theologians and other experts, we have been unable to discover coherent reasons why women should not be ordained.

Many of our non-Adventist friends are astounded when they read of the role of women in Millerism and early Adventism, plus the prophetic ministry of Ellen White, to learn that we are still not united on this important issue. So many people believe that if God showers his spiritual gifts on people without gender tags attached, it is our duty to recognise what he has already done by ordaining people who give evidence that they possess these spiritual gifts, to the ministries for which their training and talents fit them.

No doubt to lighten what is in some quarters an intense debate, Dr Devine has sent to me (and others) a tongue-in-cheek list of ten reasons why men should not be ordained for ministry, as follows:

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.

This impressive list is the work of Dr David M. Scholer, a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is so much in the public domain that I hope its author will not mind if I post it yet again. I thank both Dr Scholer and Dr Divine for the comic relief that this witty piece offers. In fact, readers of earlier blogs on this website might well be forgiven for noting that the level of these arguments accord rather well with some of the standard arguments used against the ordination of women.

Of more serious substance are recent votes that strongly support the ordination of women in Europe (Germany) and North America. I commend Adventist Review for its report, “Columbia Union Votes Gender-Neutral Ordinations: Constituency meeting delegates vote change despite leadership plea,” in the edition that reached my mail-box this week (16 August 2012). Of course you can read much more about this on the Internet from the Adventist Review site, the Spectrum site, the Adventist Today site, and many others. The recent Adventist Today report opened with these paragraphs:

“For the third time this year a union conference constituency session has voted to authorize ordination to the gospel ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The vote was 79 percent in favor despite a personal appeal from Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, to reject the concept and two short speeches by Doug Batchelor, the noted television evangelist and senior pastor of the Sacramento Central Church.

“Perhaps the most unexpected development of the day was a speech by Elder Ernie Castillo, a vice president of the North American Division and former executive secretary of the Pacific Union. He pointed out that the actions of these union conferences are in direct response to steps taken last fall by the GC Officers to force the NAD to back off on a policy that would have permitted commissioned ministers, including women, to serve as conference presidents. What is known as Working Policy E 60.

“’This is not rebellion,’” Castillo said directly to Wilson in front of the entire body. ‘This is a reaction. People who for 40 years have been repressed and discriminated against will eventually react. That is sociology 101.’”

We live in exciting times when the profound value of our heritage sometimes emerges clearly in the public discussion of important issues. May I again refer my readers to blogs such as the one that I posted earlier on this website (4 November 2011) outlining some of the history of this matter.

Arthur Patrick, posted 28 August 2012