As the General Conference session in San Antonio approaches, final arguments in the case for and against women’s ordination grow more earnest and passionate, with their strengths and vulnerabilities increasingly more evident. Such is certainly the case in the new article by Ty Gibson of Light Bearers Ministry titled “A Closer Look at Women’s Ordination.”
The author acknowledges that he, like others in this controversy (including the present writer), has changed his position regarding gender roles in ministry. The willingness to permit one’s stand to be altered by evidence is admirable to be sure. What is most unfortunate, however, is that the article in question leaves unaddressed a considerable volume of evidence from Scripture, the writings of Ellen White, the recorded convictions of Adventist pioneers, and the facts of duly voted Seventh-day Adventist Church policy relative to the subject before us.
The present review will start with the article’s discussion—and omission—of key biblical evidence in this controversy, then move to the writings of Ellen White, relevant statements by Adventist pioneers, the article’s attempt to discount the connection between the ordination controversy and the homosexual issue, and finally, the article’s observations regarding what he holds to be likely consequences if the world church in San Antonio votes in either direction.
A major, even decisive gap in the article’s study of the biblical evidence on ordination, concerns both the Genesis narrative of the fall and the New Testament declarations as to who was in fact responsible for leading the human race into sin. While the article seeks to localize—and morph into a mere pastoral pronouncement—the apostle Paul’s use of the original created order as a model for gender roles in the church (I Tim. 2:12-13) (3), the article fails to consider the Old Testament evidence for Adam’s original primacy and the significance of this primacy for both the later plan of salvation and the principle of spiritual male headship.
The fact is that Paul’s declaration that “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (I Tim. 2:13), and the significance Paul attaches to this fact so far as church order is concerned, is based on the actual Genesis record. It is to Adam that the care of the Garden is committed, along with the command as to which trees to partake of and to avoid (Gen. 2:15-17). It is Adam who names the animals (verses 19-20), as well as Eve—both before and after the fall (Gen. 2:23; 3:20). And it is based on this divine order that the man is instructed to take the initiative in marriage by leaving father and mother and cleaving to his wife (Gen. 2:24).
When sin enters the human experience, it is not till Adam sins that the consequences of disobedience occur (Gen. 3:7). And when Adam and Eve attempt to hide from God’s presence, it is to Adam—not Eve—that the Lord calls (verse 9). This primacy given to Adam is the reason why the apostle Paul identifies Adam, not Eve, as the one through whom sin and death enter the world (Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:22), this despite the fact that Eve was the first to sin. This is why the second person of the Godhead came to earth as the second Adam, not the second Eve.
The article in question seeks to debunk the headship argument without even considering the above evidence from Genesis and from Paul. The article’s claim that Paul’s statement about Adam being created first is merely a pastoral, homiletical ruse to quell disruption by “some out-of-control, loudmouth ladies," ignores the universal Biblical testimony in favor of spiritual male headship—from Adam’s primacy in pre-Fall Eden to the all-male patriarchs, anointed and appointed rulers, and priests of the Old Testament to the all-male apostles, elders, and deacons of the New. What Paul says about the roles of men and women throughout his epistles is merely a continuance and reflection of this universal pattern.
When the article does in fact confront the headship issue, its case is equally inadequate. No consideration is given, for example, to the fact that the context of 1 Corinthians 11:3 (“the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man”) is not a discussion of the family, but of the church. The point in this passage is not that all men have headship over all women, only that the biblical order of gender authority within the home—which the article in question affirms (Eph. 5:22-25; Col. 3:18; I Peter 3:1-7) (5)—also applies to the fellowship of faith (I Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:12-13).
The article insists that ordaining women to the gospel ministry would change nothing in the relation of ordained women to their husbands. What the article ignores, however, is the fact that pastors and local elders do not simply function in their responsibilities while in church. These responsibilities are their's on a 24/7 basis. How is a female pastor or local elder to submit to a non-pastor, non-elder husband when she functions as his spiritual overseer both in and out of formal church settings? The fact is that the role of the husband as well as that of the elder or elder/overseer (the latter being what we today call a pastor) is a constant one. At no point does one role begin and the other leave off. When, may we ask, and in what context, is the female pastor or female elder to submit to her husband? It isn’t hard to imagine the intensifying of role confusion that the blurring of gender authority through women’s ordination would mean for both homes and congregations.
All of us agree Christ is the ultimate head of the church, but the article in question is quite mistaken when it asserts that “there is no intermediate category of heads that exist between Christ and His church." In the Old Testament, God was the ultimate head of Israel, with Moses Israel’s leader under God’s direction. Yet it was under the Lord’s guidance, and at the advice of his father-in-law, that “Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Ex. 18:25). Commenting on this experience, Ellen White declares, "God gave to Moses special direction for the management of his work. He directed Moses to associate men with him as counselors, that his burdens might be lightened" (Testimonies to Ministers 340).
On the following page, after recounting the larger context of this passage from Exodus 18, White writes, “This counsel is for us. It should be heeded by our responsible men." And like the priests and seventy elders later appointed (Ex. 28:1; Num. 3:3; 11:24), the aforementioned rulers—called “heads” (Ex. 18:25)—are identified by inspiration as males.
The idea that there are no intermediate heads between Christ and His church is also contradicted by another New Testament passage:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away (I Peter 5:1-4).
While the word “head” is not used here, the word “chief” is, referring of course to Christ. What is clear in this passage is that while Christ is the chief Shepherd, the elders of the church function as His undershepherds in “taking the oversight” of the Lord’s flock. The article in question cites the above passage in its attempt to equate “pastor” with “shepherd” as a means of arguing for gender-inclusive spiritual gifts. But while the question of distinct-versus-identical gender roles in pastoring is separate from the question of whether spiritual heads are to function in the church under Christ’s ultimate authority, the above passage from 1 Peter is clear—like the passage in Exodus regarding Moses and the rulers (Ex. 18:25)—that human heads do in fact exist in the church under Christ’s supreme authority.
When the article in question refers to the tenth commandment, and its injunction not to “covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17), along with Jesus’ statement about men looking on women with lust being synonymous with adultery (Matt. 5:28), it seems not to have considered how such statements again affirm the primacy of the male gender in God’s intended order, even though these verses—as the article correctly states—obviously apply to women also. When humanity is named in Scripture as “man” and “mankind,” this male primacy is further evident. Men were originally intended by God to lead and to represent the human race. This is why Scripture identifies Adam as humanity’s representative in both Testaments (Gen. 3:9; Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:22), and why generic references to the human family in inspired writings nearly always speak of “man” and “men.” Never does an inspired reference to humanity in the generic sense ever speak of “woman” or “women.”
The article tries to make gender-neutral Paul’s command that deacons be “the husbands of one wife” (I Tim. 3:12) on the basis of Phoebe being referred to in Romans 16:1 by the same word used for those described as deacons in 1 Timothy 3. Though a popular argument in the pro-women’s ordination camp, it is a classic case of making language work overtime. In our contemporary vernacular, for instance, it is common to refer to laypersons in various lines as having a “ministry.” But this obviously doesn’t mean such persons are the same, or function the same, as the ordained minister. So the mere fact that Paul uses the same word for Phoebe in Romans 16:1 as is used in 1 Timothy 3:12, in no way contradicts his counsel elsewhere regarding gender requirements for church officers. We need to remember Ellen White’s caution regarding inspired language, “Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea” (Selected Message Vol. 1, 20).
Another major gap in this article’s survey of biblical evidence occurs in the following statement:
One of the arguments being offered against allowing for the ordination of women is that the Old Testament priests were all men. Therefore, it is reasoned, only men should be allowed to occupy the pastoral role in the church. The problem with this argument is that it fails to recognize that within the biblical narrative, the Old Testament Levitical priesthood gives way to the New Testament priesthood of all believers.
But the above statement overlooks the fact that the New Testament passage often cited in connection with the priesthood of all believers (I Peter 2:9) is taken directly from the Old Testament. Peter’s identification of Christians in the above verse as “a royal priesthood” and “a holy nation” is echoed by the following words of God to Moses, "And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:6).
But did the fact that Israel was divinely intended to be “a kingdom of priests” imply that every Israelite was entitled to serve as a priest in the sanctuary? Obviously not. We recall how Korah and his sympathizers, when aspiring to the dignity of the priesthood, declared to Moses that “all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them” (Num. 16:3). Certainly this is what God intended for Israel, according to Exodus 19:6. But clearly this did not mean all were eligible to serve as priests. The subsequent fate of Korah and his followers offers plain evidence that God’s designed order of authority, in heaven and on earth, merits respect on pain of grave consequences. Similar consequences were meted out to Judah’s King Uzziah, who thought he was entitled to offer incense in the temple like the priests (II Chron. 26:16-18), and was subsequently struck with leprosy (verse 19).
The article in question fails to note the distinction between the type of teaching declared by Paul to be off-limits for women (I Tim. 2:12) and the type of teaching in which women could in fact participate (Acts 18:26). The word used in 1 Timothy is more a reference to administrative authority and governance than instruction. The word used in 1 Timothy 2:12 is used for women in only two other New Testament passages—Titus 2:4, where Paul exhorts older women to teach younger women, and Revelation 2:20, where the church of Thyatira is rebuked by Jesus for allowing “that woman Jezebel” to teach. By contrast, the word used in Acts 18:26 is entirely different, where both Aquila and Priscilla are described as teaching Apollos about the gospel.
The article is somewhat confusing about the issue of women and silence so far as Paul’s writings are concerned. In one statement, it is claimed—quite correctly, in fact—that “silence” as Paul describes it refers to a calm and submissive spirit. Yet in another statement it is implied that Paul’s command regarding silence is not a “timeless moral mandate." But why wouldn’t an exhortation to calmness and submission be timeless? The article doesn’t explain.
The fact is that Paul’s counsel regarding the silence of women in ecclesiastical settings is explained very clearly by the use of similar language by Paul as well as Peter in other passages. Prior to exhorting women to be silent in First Timothy 2:11-12, Paul writes of the necessity of leading a “quiet and peaceable life” relative to civil authority (verse 2). This obviously doesn’t mean Christians should never communicate at all with such authorities; it is simply enjoining a spirit of yielding and submission. Peter says the same thing when he writes of women needing to possess “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” (I Peter 3:4). He obviously isn’t telling women to never talk, as he writes a few verses earlier of how unbelieving husbands may be “won by the conversation of the wives” (verse 1). What is the issue here, as in Paul’s writings, is a spirit of yielding and submission, not vocal silence.
The article includes additional arguments from the biblical text whose flaws are equally egregious. Reference is made to Paul’s statements about lifting up holy hands to the Lord (I Tim. 2:8), that elders who “rule well be paid double wages (I Tim. 5:17), and that slaves are to remain subject to their masters (I Tim. 6:1)." First, we need to keep in mind the biblical principle of two or three witnesses being essential to establish matters (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 1 Cor. 14:29; II Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28). No single inspired passage anywhere is sufficient to establish a doctrinal or moral tenet. In no other Bible verse is the lifting up of hands enjoined as a universal divine mandate. Male headship, as we have seen, is indeed a universal biblical principle, extending back to pre-fall Eden and encompassing both testaments.
Regarding double wages for elders who rule well (I Tim. 5:17), the text simply reads “double honor,” and doesn’t imply exactly what this means. Again, without further clarity from the inspired consensus, such a verse cannot become the basis for a universal, timeless command.
Regarding slaves and slavery, the collective testimony of Scripture is clear that involuntary servitude is not part of God’s plan for humanity. And slavery cannot be compared to gender roles because gender distinctions were created by God in the beginning (Gen. 1:27), while slavery is a human institution crafted during the age of sin. While economic, social, and gender differences are not an obstacle to salvation (Gal. 3:28), gender differences are the only ones created by God in a sinless world, and the only ones maintained in God’s order of authority for both the family and the faith community across the centuries of the Sacred Narrative.
Ellen White’s Role and Writings
The article under review insists repeatedly that Ellen White’s call to the prophetic office proves the role of elder and elder/overseer to be open to women. The author maintains that God “has called and empowered women to be in teaching, preaching, leading positions for the church. Ellen White is the most obvious and immediate example for Seventh-day Adventists."
Yet the fact still remains that Ellen White never held an administrative post in the church, never pastored a congregation, never performed a wedding, never conducted a baptism. Ellen White’s role in early Adventism was as distinct from that of the ordained minister or church administrator as the role of prophet in the Old Testament was distinct from that of the ruler or the priest.
The fact that our early pioneers responded persuasively to objections raised to Ellen White’s gift on account of her gender, as the article in question notes, doesn’t mean in any sense that those defending Ellen White in this way were claiming identical roles for men and women in ministry. We will see in the following section that a number of our pioneers made very explicit statements regarding diverse gender roles in ministry, which speak with vastly greater clarity than any of the comments cited by the article in question.
Like other women’s ordination advocates, the author of this article focuses at length on Ellen White’s statement regarding “both men and women” being “pastors to the flock of God” (Testimonies Vol. 6, 322). Elsewhere the article cites another passage where she speaks of missionary work as a means to “educate men and women to do pastoral labor” (Review and Herald, April 4, 1882), and still another where she quotes Isaiah 61 regarding the outpouring of God’s Spirit on “both brethren and sisters,” and then speaks of God’s faithful people—identified in context as both men and women—serving as “priests of the Lord” and “ministers of our God” (Oct. 15, 1901).
But in none of these passages are men and women described as performing identical or interchangeable roles in ministry or pastoral labor. As we noted before regarding Phoebe, laypersons can have ministries while not being ordained ministers. The above Ellen White statements merely confirm this. And as we observed in our review of those Bible passages which identify the entire faith community as a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6) and “a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9), it is clear this identification did not mean everyone could function as a priest in the sanctuary, nor that gender roles in the faith community have ceased to be distinct.
As in its treatment of Scripture, the article in question sadly ignores those Ellen White statements which draw a clear distinction between the gender-specific role of the ordained minister and those categories in church life or ministry which are gender-inclusive. The following statements, omitted from the article in question, draw this distinction clearly:
The primary object of our college was to afford young men an opportunity to study for the ministry and to prepare young persons of both sexes to become workers in the various branches of the cause. (Testimonies Vol. 5, 60)
Those who enter the missionary field should be men and women who walk and talk with God. Those who stand as ministers in the sacred desk should be men of blameless reputation. (598)
The great Head of the church (Christ) superintends His work through the instrumentality of men ordained by God to act as His representatives. . . . In Christ’s stead they are to beseech men and women to be reconciled to God. (Acts of the Apostles 360)
Notice how again we see the biblical headship principle enunciated. Jesus is the ultimate (or great) head of the church, yet He governs the church through the instrumentality of men ordained to act as His representatives. And quite obviously “men” is not generic here, as a few sentences later she describes these men as beseeching “men and women” to accept Christ and be reconciled to God. Ellen White is thus fully capable of being either gender-specific or gender-inclusive in her writings, depending on the point she seeks to make.
The article in question cites another Ellen White statement which declares, "It is not always men who are best adapted to the successful management of a church. If faithful women have more deep piety and true devotion than men, they could indeed by their prayers and their labors do more than men who are unconsecrated in heart and in life (Manuscript Releases Vol. 10, 70).
In light of the inspired consensus on gender roles, the above statement is best seen as referring to exceptional situations, similar to the circumstances that called for Deborah’s leadership in ancient Israel “in the absence of the usual magistrates” (Daughters of God 37). Such leadership does not require ordination, and is the exception rather than the rule.
Prominent Adventist Pioneers on Male Headship and Gender Roles in Ministry
Those who have alleged that the doctrine of spiritual male headship is something new in modern Adventism, had best consult the following statement by A.T. Jones, made in 1891:
This word does indeed speak to man of his son, his daughter, his manservant, his maidservant, etc., not because it contemplates his duty to man, but because it contemplates his duty to God; contemplates man as the head of the family, and as such responsible to God for the conduct on the Sabbath day, of those under the jurisdiction which God bestowed upon man in his headship of the family. (The American Sentinel, June 25, 1891)
Consider the views of J.H. Waggoner, while he served as editor of the "Signs of the Times":
The divine arrangement, even from the beginning, is this, that the man is the head of the woman. Every relation is disregarded or abused in this lawless age. But the Scriptures always maintain this order in the family relation. ‘For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.’ Eph. 5:23 Man is entitled to certain privileges that are not given to woman; and he is subjected to some duties and burdens from which the woman is exempt. A woman may pray, prophesy, exhort, and comfort the church, but she cannot occupy the position of a pastor or ruling elder. This would be looked upon as usurping authority over the man, which is here [1 Timothy 2:12] prohibited. (Dec. 19, 1878)
In a later issue of the Signs, a reader asked, “Should women be elected to offices in the church when there are enough brethren?” Here is the response of Milton Wilcox:
If by this is meant the office of elder, we should say at once, No. But there are offices in the church which women can fill acceptably, and oftentimes there are found sisters in the church who are better qualified for this than brethren, such offices, for instance as church clerk, treasurer, librarian of the tract society, etc., as well as the office of deaconess, assisting the deacons in looking after the poor, and in doing such other duties as would naturally fall to their lot. The qualifications for church elder are set forth in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and in Titus 1:7-9. We do not believe that it is in God’s plan to give to women the ordained offices of the church. By this we do not mean to depreciate their labors, service, or devotion. The sphere of woman is equal to that of man. She was made a help meet, or fit, for man, but that does not mean that her sphere [or role] is identical to that of man’s. The interests of the church and the world generally would be better served if the distinctions given in God’s word were regarded. (Jan. 24, 1895)
Consider also the following statement by D.T. Bordeau, a prominent Adventist author and Bible student from the pioneer days, "We do not learn from the Scriptures that women were ever ordained apostles . . . or elders . . . neither do we believe that they should teach as such. Yet they may act an important part in speaking the truth to others" (Review and Herald, Dec. 2, 1862).
The Gay Connection
Because the article in question denies, on account of its truncated survey of inspired evidence, that women’s ordination is in fact contrary to Scripture and the writings of Ellen White, it ventures to deny any connection between acceptance of homosexual practice by the church and the elimination of gender role distinctions in ministry. Since women’s ordination, in the article’s view, is not contrary to Scripture, the article’s logic insists that women’s ordination couldn’t possibly lead to such unscriptural practices as homosexuality.
The article employs the same argument with regard to higher criticism, asserting that the case for women’s ordination is not based on the higher-critical approach to Scripture. However, the article and its author ignore key pieces of contrary evidence. The following statements—one from the North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report, the other from a leading European Adventist scholar—offer decisive evidence that the case for women’s ordination relies in large measure on an approach to inspired writings which places the reader in charge of the text, rather than the other way around:
The text is primarily seen as a construct, insofar as meaning is taken to reside in the encounter or interchange between text and reader. Meaning thus emerges as an outcome of interplay between text and reader, both of which are culturally and historically conditioned (Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report 28).
For them (supporters of women’s ordination), biblical inspiration is a mediated process in which God imparts information that is then “contaminated” by the social, cultural, historical, and language context of the human author. In its nature, Scripture, while containing the divine message, also contains human baggage (Jan Barna, Ordination of Women and the Two Ways to Unity: Ecclesiastical and Biblical, 4).
This is how higher criticism reduces the Bible to merely another religious document open to diverse interpretations, as distinct from the classic Adventist contention that inspired writings explain themselves. Ellen White has perhaps best summarized this point as follows, regarding both Scripture and her own writings, "The testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given, as scripture is explained by scripture" (Selected Messages Vol. 1, 42).
What is more, the article in question totally ignores the very recent record of other Christian denominations so far as women’s ordination and the homosexual issue are concerned. The recent statement in Time magazine—a source not likely biased toward biblical fundamentalism, much less conservative Adventism—comments on the current evangelical struggle over gay marriage as follows:
And there is another, just as fundamental, obstacle. So far no Christian tradition has been able to embrace the LGBT community without first changing its views about women. The same reasoning that concludes that homosexuality is sin is also behind the traditional evangelical view that husbands are the spiritual leaders of marriages and men are the leaders in churches. . . .
It is not an accident that the women’s-liberation movement preceded the gay-liberation movement,’ [Episcopal Bishop Eugene] Robinson says. ‘Discriminatory attitudes and treatment of LGBT people is rooted in patriarchy, and in order to embrace and affirm gays, evangelicals will have to address their own patriarchy and sexism, not just their condemnation of LGBT people” (Elizabeth Dias, “A Change of Heart: Inside the evangelical war over gay marriage,” Jan. 26, 2015, 47-48).
The following statement from a former Anglican is a bit lengthy, but it is worth citing in full on account of its profound relevance to the present Adventist controversy:
Last Autumn was the tenth anniversary of the Church of England’s vote to ordain women as priests. In the hubbub of such a historic decision a little detail was missed by many. The week after the momentous vote, a short letter appeared in an Anglican weekly from the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement. It read, ‘Dear Sir, Please note that all the arguments used for the ordination of women can also be used for the ordination of practising homosexuals.’
It might seem astounding to link the two issues, but the author of the letter was correct in his analysis. The arguments for the ordination of women were of three types: sentimental, utilitarian and political. The sentimental argument went like this: ‘Suzy is such a compassionate person. She too has suffered by being excluded, so she can identify with the marginalised in our society. She is such a good person, not to ordain her is so hurtful!’ The utilitarian argument was, ‘Janet is a good preacher and a bright theologian. She can do the job as well as any man. As a woman she brings special gifts. She will complement the totally masculine ministry.’ The third argument was political: ‘This is an equal rights issue. Women can now do any other job in our society. Why not the priesthood?’
Make the necessary changes and you can see how the same arguments are equally valid for the ordination of practising homosexuals: ‘Gary is such a compassionate person. He too has suffered by being excluded. Why be so judgmental and unkind? Why exclude him just because he lives with Dennis?’ The utilitarian says, ‘Kevin is a brilliant theologian and a compassionate pastor. Why should his sexual preferences affect his ability to do the job?’ Richard Kirker, the chairman of the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement, summed up the political argument. In a comment to the Church Times a week after the vote in 1992 he said, ‘The vote now opens the way for the Church to move with determination to the last remaining major injustice inflicted among its members: lesbian and gay people, unless celibate, are not officially accepted into the ordained ministry.’
In the women’s ordination debate any appeal to the usual sources of Christian authority were whisked away with the sleight of hand of ‘interpretation.’ So when conservative Evangelicals noted that St Paul said, ‘I do not permit a woman to have authority over a man in church.’ (I Tim. 2:12) the authorities said, ‘this passage may not have been written by St Paul. Besides, we now know more about gender roles than they did in the first century.’ If tradition was appealed to we were told that it is the duty of the church to adapt to fresh understandings and insights of the Holy Spirit. St Peter’s admission of Gentiles to the Church (Acts 10) was used as an example of the radical change that the Spirit demands.
The same rubbery attitude to Scripture and tradition is used to condone the ordination of homosexuals. Do the Scriptures forbid homosexual activity? Biblical scholars are wheeled out to show that St Paul probably didn’t write those passages, and if he did, well, we now know that he wasn’t condemning homosexuality per se, but promiscuous homosexuality. Does tradition prohibit homosexual unions? Once again, ‘tradition must change as we come to understand more and more about human sexuality.’ Thus both Scripture and Tradition become our flexible friends, and like statistics, they mean whatever we want them to mean.
Here is another recent statement, from a Lutheran pastor:
Those who like to create a link from the ordination of women to every theological heresy or distortion are simply wrong. But there is a sense in which there is some truth to what they say. The churches that have chosen to ignore Scripture and tradition and ordain women have also chosen to leave behind what the Scriptures teach about such diverse and disparate subjects as evolution and creation, same sex marriage, gay and lesbian ordination, etc. It is not that one causes the other but both proceed from the same poisoned well.
Need more be said?
Implications for Unity
The article in question both begins and ends with predictions of dire consequences for the church if each world division is not permitted to go its own way on the ordination issue. For starters, the author seems to have little knowledge of the denomination’s governing and trademark policies. Such claims as the following bear witness to this fact:
A NO vote has the potential to split the Seventh-day Adventist Church on a denominational level, possibly leading to the separation of some Unions from the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Because Unions have their own Constitutions and Bylaws, and their own voting constituencies, If the General Conference moves in the direction of discipline it is likely that the church will enter into internal legal battles that could potentially divide Adventism into at least two denominations.
The author would do well to consult the current General Conference Working Policy. The following statement from the Working Policy is a legal requirement for inclusion in the Constitution and Bylaws of every Union Conference in the Seventh-day Adventist global structure:
The ____ Union Conference is a member unit of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church and is located in the territory of the ____ Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The purposes, policies, and procedures of this union conference shall be in harmony with the working policies and procedures of the _____ Division and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This union conference shall pursue the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in harmony with the doctrines, programs, and initiatives adopted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in its quinquennial sessions. (General Conference Working Policy 2013-2014 edition, 138)
In the General Conference Working Policy the above statement is found in boldface print. On the previous page it is stated, "Those sections of the model bylaws that appear in bold print are essential to the unity of the Church worldwide, and shall be included in the bylaws as adopted by each union conference."
Clauses with identical wording are declared by the Working Policy to be mandatory for Union Missions (152-153), Unions of Churches (166), and local Conferences (206-207).
There is therefore no legal separateness between any of the above entities and the General Conference, any more than there is legal separateness between a local church and the local Conference of whose sisterhood it is a member. Individuals of course are free to leave these entities and thus leave the worldwide Adventist body, but the entities themselves—and thus their assets—would remain at the disposal of the Seventh-day Adventist world structure in the event of discipline or dissolution.
And regarding the notion of the church potentially splitting into “at least two denominations," Gibson should remember that the Seventh-day Adventist name is trademarked, and thus unavailable for use in the name of any possible organization which disaffected church members might wish to start. If another organization were to be started, it would be an offshoot movement—pure and simple.
The article in question asserts, with breathtaking naïvete: “A YES vote would not produce a denominational split." The author seems not to have considered that never before in Seventh-day Adventist history has a biblical issue been relegated by official General Conference action for local resolution. And in light of widespread doctrinal, liturgical, and moral disagreement in Western Adventism, it isn’t hard to envision the fragmentation that would likely break out if a precedent for regional settlement of theological issues were to be set by the world church.
The following statement by one Karl Mcalla, a respondent on the website where the article in question is posted, perhaps says it best:
Of much greater concern for me, and it should be for our Church, is having each Division make its own decision on this matter. Some say it is just for this one instance so that this matter can be resolved. I think that’s “pie in the sky” thinking. Given the climate of the various attitudes and thinking in our church regarding some of the pillars of belief that we espouse, such as the Sanctuary Doctrine, the Sabbath and the 7 day creation, the Gift of Prophecy as given to Ellen White, the gift of marriage between a man and a woman and so on, it would be just a matter of time until these issues become forefront and demand decisions. If Divisions were to take differing views on these matters our Church would be in chaos as to what Seventh Day Adventists believe. It is a slippery slope that we must avoid.
The article in question makes much of “letting the Holy Spirit” decide the ordination debate at the pending GC session. I agree wholeheartedly, but the inspired pen is clear that the Holy Spirit can never contradict the written Word, whose evidence in opposition to identical gender roles in ministry has been assembled by this reply. The following Ellen White statements are pointedly clear about the strict adherence of the Holy Spirit to the written counsel of God:
Since it was the Spirit of God that inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the word. The Spirit was not given-nor can it ever be bestowed--to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Says the apostle John, 'believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (The Great Controversy vii)
When the Savior imparts His peace to the soul, the heart will be in perfect harmony with the Word of God, for the Spirit and the Word agree. The Lord honors His Word in all His dealings with humanity. It is His own will, His own voice, that is revealed to them, and He has no new will, no new truth, aside from His Word, to unfold to His children. If you have a wonderful experience that is not in harmony with the express directions of God’s Word, you may well doubt it, for its origin is not from above. The peace of Christ comes through the knowledge of Jesus whom the Bible reveals. (From the Heart 299)
May this written Word remain the supreme, transcendent, unalterable guide of the worldwide Advent movement in the weeks, months, and years to come, is my prayer.