Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Women's Ordination and the quest for power

The Adventist church is currently all abuzz about the subject of women's ordination as Pastor/Ministers. Even if we agree to set aside the man created tradition of ordination and the idea that there should even be a head pastor at a particular church...both of which are concepts taken from the early Roman Catholic church. The question arises for the SDA church what to do when Conferences vote to ordain women as Pastors. At first some in the SDA church felt that playing word games would do as they “commissioned” instead of “ordaining” women. A semantic peculiarity which seems to have stalled the actual showdown for several years. But the showdown is now here as another Conference prepares to vote on the subject and like the previous Conference it will probably pass.

In an attempt to end this uprising of SDA church divisions (the SDA church has Conferences, Unions and Divisions for more details see this) The President of the SDA church who is elected by a popular vote of delegates at the convention but is assumed to be chosen by God because he was elected (sort of a divine right of kings concept) which again is based upon human traditions. As set forth his opposition to the ordination of women. His plea is to unity. Unity defined as submission to previous General Conference decisions.
[President Ted]Wilson quoted White’s statement in Testimonies to the Church, Volume 9, pages 260-261: “But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered.”
He added that submission to the collective decisions of the world Church is an essential part of living in unity: “We have a worldwide administration; we have working policies – agreements we abide by collectively to provide for a strong push for the mission of the church. When we don’t see unity in what we are doing, then we see a fractious and divided spirit,” Wilson said.

The desire to control is pretty clear from Ted Wilson's comments here. He wants the Conferences to surrender to the will of the General Conference and somehow equates the community decision of the Conference vote as private independence and private judgment. Of course if Wilson had actually used the full quote his attempt at equating the Conference vote with private independence would be shown to be at odds with what Ellen White was actually saying.
“I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.

At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I have said that I could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God. But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work.”

Ellen White's objection is to one man or small group of people acting as the General Conference or going against the General Conference. So it does not really fit any situation here as these Conferences are not really small groups of people. What it does try to do through manipulation of the Ellen White quotes is to assert supreme power in the General Conference and sadly the small group of people at it's head. So in simple terms he has turned the quote on its head to further his goals. What I have found is that people who misuse information in this way are; first not honest and second using the power of selective information as a tool of manipulation. It is often called propaganda today and since the first half of the twentieth century we have seen the devastating effect of propaganda, even so it has become common place in politics, church politics not being an exception. Though if people took Paul's advice to study things out like the Bereans propaganda would have only a negative effect upon them, which is how it should be, we should deal with factual information and reject those who twist information.

The question of Women's ordination will ultimately come down to two things. First are women due equal pay for equal work. Second can such work as women Pastors be Biblically acceptable. In many places around the world the answer to the first is no they won't pay women equally and the answer to the second is no women must not be Pastors because they must be submissive to men or a man. This is generally the view of the third world countries. In other parts of the world First and Second world equal pay is expected and women can be Pastors as the cultural attitudes of the first century is not expected to have been forever enthroned because it is mentioned in the Bible. (for those who don't know First world is defined as the Western World, it is of cold war era where first world is US aligned and Second world is Soviet aligned and Third world are the none aligned countries, but today is still has some geographical meaning see this.)

The issue is not unity as in a culturally divergent world there really is no unity. Unity in the cause of Christ is noble but unity to traditions and cultures which are foreign to us can not possibly by called unity. It is sadly an argument of power based upon misinformation. From my perspective those who traffic in misinformation are usually on the wrong side of truth, and thus on the wrong side of right doing.

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