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The Things That No One Is Talking About on Women’s Ordination

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I have recently read two blog posts that seem to be fairly popular. The one is by Ty Gibson on why the GC should vote yes on women’s ordination. The second is a rebuttal by Kevin Paulson on the shortcomings in his argument, and an expansion on the analysis of the subject matter he oversimplified in his post. I feel compelled to share my struggle, and tell you the stuff that I can’t figure out why no one is talking about.

Where did I stand on the “issue”?

To be honest with you, I have been a pretty hard advocate for women’s ordination. Like Ty, I also am a pastor in the Oregon Conference, and I have been with them for almost 7 years. About 2 years ago I told my Conference President that I didn’t want to be ordained unless women in the church were going to be ordained. There were moments of applause from some pro-ordination camps.

I was sharing this stance of mine with a wise friend who is a few years my older, and farther along in pastoring. He said that this was actually a poor decision because I would have more of a voice at the table if I was actually ordained. I thought it through, and then began back pedaling with my conference. Oh how foolish we are sometimes. I was simply trying to take a stand on the issue, and I feel like it was the wrong stand. It might have actually been the right position, but the wrong stand… if you know what I’m saying.

Along came a problem…

I decided to make some videos about encouraging conversations on the topic. I am a firm believer that conversations in love are what bring people together, even if they disagree on the outcome. We too often don’t speak in love, or we speak when we should keep silent (I am terrible at actually doing this stuff by the way). I studied pretty in depth to prepare my scripts. As I was making those videos I was trying to present both sides in complete objectivity, when all of the sudden I had a problem.

I realized -as I passionately spoke my thoughts on each side- that both sides had some really good points. Now I don’t say this out of ignorance. I got my Master’s Degree in Divinity at Andrews University at the Seminary. I was an excellent student and actually wanted to soak up all the knowledge I could from those brilliant scholars that are there. But, the more I studied, the more I was actually becoming confused.

Where DO I now stand on the “issue” now?

I can’t say which side I agree with. I honestly just don’t know. There are some pretty incredibly straight forward texts that seem to point in one direction, and then there is a huge argument of “what was said isn’t what was practiced”!

Where both the boys both fall short: (only a couple of points)

Ty’s argument –

1. It way oversimplifies the anti-women’s ordination position! Way, way, way, way oversimplifies. To think that anyone could boil down all the texts, history, and Ellen White quotes to two main “hinges” is ridiculous. The type of writing that Ty did is the direct result of our current social media world. If the topic was actually given the length it deserved, no one would have read his blog (here is where you can actually do some research- https://www.adventistarchives.org/ordination). So, Ty was forced to write this short discourse that actually didn’t do anyone any good because all it does is gain blind followers or anger the opposition (case in point: Paulson’s response blog). A leading professor at Andrew’s showed me one paper he was commissioned to study and prepare for the TOSC meetings (Theology of Ordination Study Committee commissioned by the GC – pronounced “toe C”) that was only one facet of the conversation, and it was 88 pages long!!!! ON ONLY 3 ELLEN WHITE QUOTES!! There is a lot of research that has been presented on this, and a lot of support for both sides of the argument.

2. It tries to predict the future. Come on Ty. Don’t guilt the world into supporting women’s ordination because it will divide the church if you don’t. That isn’t in any way an appeal for people to follow their conscience. That is the same mess that leaves us with “if you share the record keeper, then we will quit funding you.” That type of pressurizing prediction is actually trying to guilt someone into doing what you want.

3. It over and under applies hermeneutics. This is a term that means, basically, who was the original author, why did they write what they wrote, to whom was it written to, when was it written, what was happening when it was written (locally, nationally, world-wide), how many people were involved, what was the climate, what was the geology, etc., etc. The over application of this comes when someone uses hermeneutics as “the answer” instead of “a possible answer”. Honestly though, sometimes it is easy to see “the answer” and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people are just guessing. It is similar to the Evolution vs. Creation discussion. No one that was there is still alive!!! So, we end up using a bunch of surrounding information to draw conclusions that aren’t in the actual, literal text. The under application comes when the author doesn’t actually account for their own hermeneutical lens. He probably did, and tried to be objective and came to his very strong conclusion. I can’t hate him for his opinion.

There are more issues, but I don’t want to lose whoever is still actually reading this, so…

Kevin’s argument –

1. The primacy of the male is what is called “inferred evidence” (I might have just made that up, but it works). You are reading the evidence and interpreting that evidence. Two people can read the same evidence and interpret it different ways. So, you are reading into Genesis a male primacy based on your interpretations of the text. Ty, along with many, many others, does not read that into the text, instead they read into the text what they’re hermeneutical lenses has been stained with.

2. The primacy of the male headship is not a good term or good pre-fall idea at all! Inequality of any sort is literally referred to by Ellen White as, well, why don’t you read it for yourself: PP 58.3

“Eve was told of the sorrow and pain that must henceforth be her portion. And the Lord said, ‘Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’ In the creation God had made her the equal of Adam. Had they remained obedient to God—in harmony with His great law of love—they would ever have been in harmony with each other; but sin had brought discord, and now their union could be maintained and harmony preserved only by submission on the part of the one or the other. Eve had been the first in transgression; and she had fallen into temptation by separating from her companion, contrary to the divine direction. It was by her solicitation that Adam sinned, and she was now placed in subjection to her husband. Had the principles joined in the law of God been cherished by the fallen race, this sentence, though growing out of the results of sin, would have proved a blessing to them; but man’s abuse of the supremacy thus given him has too often rendered the lot of woman very bitter and made her life a burden.”

What I read here are 3 enlightening things: First, the pre-fall male headship is not supported by Ellen (gender roles possibly). Second, God did in fact intend for one to submit, and this was actually going to be a blessing but it ended up a curse. Third, it is man’s fault that things have changed and we are having this conversation. Which leads me to my next point.

3. God has traditionally tried to use men, but they almost always get in their own way. Men are the result of the need for women in the ministry Kevin. You and I have failed my friend, and women are the ones who actually step up and fill the needs where we fail. That is why there is no good answer to the question: Why does God so often in scripture actually use women in traditional male roles? Isn’t that going against the Bible?!?! It’s because Men suck! (sorry, too vulgar) We royally mess up: enter David (Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Absalom), enter Abraham (Hagar, Ishmael, Lot’s family mess), enter Jacob (don’t even get me started), etc. etc. At some point, God literally changes the way He has traditionally chosen to work to do it differently. The real question is if that is what is happening here. Maybe the ordination of women means that we actually finish the work and Jesus comes back. IDK… I’m just making a predictive suggestion that might not be true.

4. Ignoring hermeneutics. Why is it that the plain reading of scripture is always thought to be enough support in itself? The one thing that I really, really agreed with Ty on is that you really need to study to understand tough issues. I’m not talking about the black and white ones… which ones are those by the way? I’m talking about the really tricky ones. If you don’t actually study the hermeneutics (see above for a little better definition) then you aren’t being fair to anyone. I haven’t yet seen the hermeneutics really addressed by the anti-women’s ordination camp.

(don’t read into the fact that one has 3 and one has 4 issues, it means nothing according to me, maybe something according to Freud)

What no one is talking about!

Women’s pay:

Maybe I don’t understand the situation, I mean I am only an unordained pastor in the system, but isn’t it a huge discrimination problem to not pay women as much as men. This is a clearly documented situation too. Commissioned will never make the same as ordained, and yet they are viewed the same by the IRS. I smell Millions of dollars in potential lawsuits. Even if you aren’t going to ordain a woman, you better pay her the same and give her the same retirement, that is just good business. I’m not even talking about Theology. Simply cover your butt!

The calling of God:

Ladies, in all honesty, I know this isn’t popular, but just do your thing. The only person you have to answer to is God, and the only person that you sin against is God. Don’t let decisions that will or have been made by man determine what  God is calling you to do. But be very careful as you are trying to discern God’s calling in your life. Don’t get ahead of yourself (a big problem of mine). It may be that God doesn’t want the SDA church to ordain women for good reason. It may be a not-yet answer. It may also be a let’s do this NOW answer. It honestly shouldn’t matter. Your identity and self worth is in Christ alone, not in what man may do to you.

Submitting to the church:

Holy Catholic meatballs. This really is going to sound Catholic, but we need to learn to submit to the church. We follow God’s leading and our Conscience first and foremost, but we can still submit to the church. Look at Christ. His first miracle He says, “Woman, my time has not yet come” yet he does the miracle! When He was 12, He leaves with His parents because, “He was obedient to them.” Right in the middle of doing His Heavenly Father’s work. Come on. Don’t get all high and mighty about leaving because a decision didn’t go your way. This honestly is not a “salvation issue”. (now someone can write a blog on how it is) Submitting to the church means that you are willing to believe that God is leading in your church. It is also willing to admit that we are not perfect as a church, and we are still growing. Don’t expect that any type of change will be quick. Quick change isn’t actually good for anyone.

I will stop for now, even though I always have more to say…

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Nelson Fernandez

Nelson serves as a pastor in a growing in a bilingual and multicultural church district in Greenville, South Carolina in the Carolina Conference. He is married to the love of his life Sarah, who is Venezuelan and American. Born and raised in Miami, FL, he is a second-generation Hispanic of Dominican-Salvadorian decent. He loves reading, learning and blogging about leadership, church growth, discipleship and practical Christianity at www.nelsonsblog.com

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. As a Human Resources professional and a lifelong SDA I have to tell you, the issue of pay is in the forefront of my thinking surrounding this issue. I believe too many people are pouring blood, sweat, tears, time and tithe into the church and this whole argument seems like a way for folk to get away with not paying workers what they deserve. It’s starting to make me a little sick… I have a hard enough time understanding/ accepting what the Bible has to say about me as a woman in the first place.

  2. Keith,

    I appreciate your willingness to weigh in on this “third rail” in the Adventist world and your honest search to seek God’s truth in this subject. I especially agree with your point encouraging folks to not leave the church because this vote doesn’t go the way they want. However, I do feel that our current position on this issue harms our witness to the world, particularly among young people. I have chosen not to post any articles or personal thoughts on this issue to social media unless it is a specifically Adventist audience because I don’t want friends of my age group (or my students) to realize that I identify with a church that does not officially recognize the call of faithful women to ministry. I believe in the core beliefs of the Adventist church, and for me, this does not rise to that level. Thus, as St. Francis advised, I believe that we should be unified in essentials, have freedom in non-essentials, and in all things love for one another.

  3. In all honesty, im very disappointed by NAD for the unbalanced approach it has given to this issue by favoring WO and not even presenting the otherside. I have my own opinion and have heard many on both camps of leaving the church if their decision was not favored at the GC, and why im dissappinted is in the fact that mayority of the sda body doesnt accept it. south america, africa (3 divisions), euro asian division, southern asia, and yet we are playing with peoples hopes by telling them that the whole church accepts it and that a minority is getting on the way. . My mom has always said, God has a time for everything. This being said, lets humbly accept the GC decision. Whether its a yes or a no. Yes to womens ordination? Welcome the sisters to ministry! No to womens ordination? Maybe its not God’s time.

  4. I really appreciate the honesty of this blog and it brings up good and bad points. But I am disappointed at the statement “I haven’t yet seen the hermeneutics really addressed by the anti-women’s ordination camp.” Stephen Bohr, as well as many others, have addressed many of the “tough issues”. The Women’s Ordination Symposium done at Secrets Unsealed, was amazing and dealt with man of these issues in great length. It’s becoming apparent that those ministries that are against WO, just do not have as vocal of a platform because I am seeing a lot of great material missed. This material for me as helped me make my decision against WO.

  5. Commissioned women are paid the same as ordained women, at least in America, because it is required by law.

    Keith, I would like to ask you a question that I think applies to both sides. What do you believe submission looks like when a person believes the decisions the GC is making are politically motivated and morally wrong?

    I agree that women in ministry need to worry more about the calling God has given us than whether humans choose to ordain us. Every woman I know in ministry believes and lives that, otherwise why on earth would you choose a career where you are perpetually undervalued and have few opportunities because of your gender? We give up so much to be pastors, and our career prospects are challenging at best, you can bet we have wrestled honestly with whether or not we are called. I don’t know one woman in ministry who hasn’t, and I know many. I kindly suggest that your admonition to discern God’s calling and not get ahead of ourselves comes across badly considering the context. I also would suggest that just because we root our sense of calling in the calling of God and not the church, that does not mean that this “honestly shouldn’t matter.” I will be loyal no matter what the vote is, but it matters. It would matter to you if it were you being denied ordination because of your gender, and I would hope it matters to you even though it isn’t happening to you. Yet the most important thing will always be that we follow God’s calling.

  6. Keith, you raised some good points, but there is really no need for confusion – because the vote at the GC will not decide whether women can be pastors, nor whether it is theologically-correct for women to be ordained.

    In reality, this whole issue about women’s ordination is actually a non-issue. Regardless of the vote in San Antonio, we will still have women pastors (because they were approved in 1990, and there is no motion on the table to rescind the 1990 policy adopted by the world church).

    Regardless of the vote, these female ministers will still preach, teach, give Bible studies and evangelistic meetings, lead communion services, chair church board meetings, perform weddings and funerals and baby dedications, visit the sick, pray for the lost, etc.

    The vote at the GC has nothing to do with whether we will have women pastors, or what functions they will perform. We already have lots of women pastors (including several female senior pastors), and they’re not going away.

    All of the time, money, and energy expended on this debate is needless; it’s just a tempest in a teapot. Because all it amounts to is whether female pastors will be called “ordained” or whether we will continue to call them “commissioned.” Their work is the same, either way. The only difference is the name.

    There is no biblical reason to insist on continuing to call them “commissioned” instead of “ordained.” It seems that nobody sees the pink elephant in the room: regardless of what label we give them, they are still pastors! Changing the title (or refusing to change it) won’t change who they are. And it won’t change whether God has called them to the ministry. It won’t change their role or their function.

    The vote at the GC amounts to nothing but whether to allow individual divisions to call women pastors “ordained” instead of “commissioned.” It’s not a big deal. It’s just a matter of semantics.

    As Dr. William G. Johnnson (retired editor of the Adventist Review) recently stated: the General Conference already recognized (in 1973 and 1990) that God has given His stamp of approval to women in ministry; so who are we to withhold official recognition?

  7. Interesting post. I have a BA in Religion from Atlantic Union College and a MA in Religion from Andrews University, focus on the history and geography of the Old Tesstament, Jewish history life and thought, and the life and thought of Mrs. White.

    One point that no one is talking about is the liberty of conscience issue. From my understanding of Biblical history and Jewish culture I find evidence that the Bible does indeed support the ordination of women. Jesus ordained women. That one of the things that Jeremiah hated about Babylon was that they practiced male headship and his sign of us having been called out of Babylon was abandoning male headship. (for further study may I recommend: http://www.biblicalresources.net/product.cfm?product=58).

    If women’s ordination is accepted, nothing will force those who have trouble with it from attending churches with male pastors. However they are showing the same spirit of the Papacy and Sunday Laws by telling the rest of us that we are not allowed to worship according to the dictates of our conscience and to follow the Bible according to our understanding. The Catholic church’s view of religions freedom is the freedom to be a roman Catholic. The no vote at the general conference is telling us that we have the freedom to follow their interpretation of scritpture and not ours, and enforcing theirs upon us just like enforcing Sundaykeeping.

  8. Very good verbage and I am glade the kids have you at my old school. We’re hodges would say “every day is a holiday at lja” or my sisters class called themselves the “living stoners” My parents still live in Stayton.

  9. I appreciate your thoughts VERY much. I responded to Kevin’s ‘response’ to Ty’s article with a lot of questions. (I don’t know that I will ever hear any answers which would not surprise me mainly because I am a female.) I fully agree that this should not be a ‘breaking point’ for anyone. On the flip side, however, (and I appreciate you trying to look at both sides as well) I fully agree there is a lot of evidence not only that God has used women but that He also intends to do it again, according to Joel. I want to let you know I admire your attempt to stand for what you believed about ordination. By the way, if you are interested, I could send you my questions (file) in reference to what Kevin responded to Ty.
    Keep looking to Jesus.

  10. Keith.Yes, I am Cam’s mom. I just read your entire message above. I have to admit that at my age, I have seen a lot of people, both genders. I have seen females “trying” to be a Pastor and frankly is doesn’t work for me. A woman does not represent Jesus in the Pulpit. She can’t, she is woman, not man. Christ is male, God is male, even the Holy Spirit is spoken of as male. Both man and women are spoken of as “brethren.” In a way, God made a male society, and if He had meant for females to lead, the same as He made men to lead, the Holy Scriptures would be just as plain for that way as He made the 10 Commandments of which “we” the SDA Church believe and teach. This sad state we are in is giving the “enemy”
    the Devil a lot of help in his quest to overturn God’s plan to same “mankind”. That is what I poste on Face Book a day or so ago. The planet we live on has been doing God’s way for about 6000 years and now mankind wants to shake things up by doing “our” way. I just had to share my firm belief in God whom I love and trust. His way is the best ane only way. That is WHY I can trust Him. May God bless you and give you wisdom fromon high.

  11. Good thoughts. Thanks for looking closely at both articles!

    One correction: as far as I know pay is not an issue. Whether on the ordination track or commissioning track the wage scale is the same.

  12. I really liked this article Keith.
    I just finished reading the two others and this one is really good to finish them of on.
    I really love the fact that it is less than half the length of the others.
    Thank you for your balanced view 🙂

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