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Prologue, Part 2

Mercedes H. Dyer, Ph.D.

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The Scholars and Theologians

Though we are challenging the claims and conclusions in Women in Ministry, we want to make it clear that:

We are acquainted with the scholars and theologians who sat on the Ad Hoc Committee and wrote for Women in Ministry. We worship together in the same Adventist churches. They are our friends. Good Seventh-day Adventists, all of them. And we appreciate the devoted effort they have put into producing their report. The entire Seventh-day Adventist church should be grateful to them. Not grateful, to be sure, that their work endeavors to support ordaining women as pastors and elders. But the church can be doubly grateful because they have made the best case possible for their positions, even though a careful study of the claims in Women in Ministry shows conclusively that the Bible does not support such ordination.

Our book points out that no scholar known to have published articles opposing women's ordination was invited to sit with the Ad Hoc Committee. Only those known to be enthusiastic about women's ordination--or at least open to it--were chosen. Some observers have criticized the committee for this, calling it prejudiced or worse. But others see it as a good thing. The Ad Hoc Committee met frequently over a period of two years with much earnestness and prayer and with their efforts exclusively directed at finding ways to interpret the Bible to support women's ordination. Now the church may examine the best that they came up with, weigh it, and decide whether or not it is wanting.

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The Lack of Clear Evidence

From the start, the editor of Women in Ministry admits honestly that where "clear evidence" is "lacking" from the Bible the authors used "sanctified judgment and imagination." A few examples will show to what lengths this led.

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The Results of "Sanctified Judgment and Imagination"

The General Conference session of 1881 considered women's ordination and declined to approve it. Women in Ministry, however, says that the session voted to ordain women as pastors.

Women in Ministry says that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers justifies ordaining women as pastors. Are not Korah, Dathan, and Abiram an example of the consequences of seeking the priesthood for those whom God has not appointed?

One Women in Ministry author says that in the Garden of Eden, following Eve's partaking of the forbidden fruit, God appointed her a priest. The basis for this assertion is that God clothed Eve in an animal's skin, which, we agree, He did, but not to appoint her a priest. The true interpretation for this act is that evening was coming on; for the first time in her life, Eve was feeling cold. "The Lord mercifully provided" both Adam and Eve "with garments of animal skins as a protection from the extremes of heat and cold" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 61, emphasis added).

If these are the kinds of proofs Women in Ministry offers, if there is no hard biblical evidence supporting appointing and ordaining women as elders or pastors, and if the editor of Women in Ministry freely admits that the authors sometimes used "sanctified judgment and imagination" to make up for this lack, why have we devoted many months and much prayer to refuting Women in Ministry?

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Why This Book?

We have prepared this book because we are aware that not everyone who reads Women in Ministry will discern where the evidence--such as it is--leaves off and the "sanctified judgment and imagination" begins. Bible texts on male-female role relationships have been reinterpreted to accommodate women's ordination. Passages have been selected from Ellen G. White's writings to make it appear that Mrs. White supported ordaining women as elders and pastors when a study of all of her writings shows that this is not the case.

In Prove All Things we have tried to make these distinctions clear.

The reader will find several scholarly chapters filled with theology. There are also shorter chapters relating personal experiences, demonstrating how effectively unordained women have worked for God. Read of the two young women, ordained as elders, who later rejected that ordination. They are too busy winning souls full time in the mission field to spend time being elders--a practice foreign to the religion of the Bible and the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Read, too, of the Adventist woman who has done much more than most ordained men to share God's truth in forbidden countries--without the ordination of laying on of hands; without even a husband.

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A Road Map for Reading

Part I of Prove All Things, "Background and Methods in Women in Ministry," provides the reader with background and overview for understanding the basic issue and the reasons for the concerns to be elaborated in Prove All Things. First, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim looks at the Seminary book's origin and purposes. Then, P. Gerard Damsteegt examines specifically the methods of interpretation found in Women in Ministry. These chapters will help the reader see something of the "big picture" before moving into a more detailed look at certain key aspects.

Part II, "Biblical Issues," grapples with Women in Ministry's handling of the relevant Bible material. Samuele Bacchiocchi responds in detail to one of the major chapters of the book, examining the issues of headship, submission, and equality in Scripture, especially in Genesis 1-3 and in the writings of Paul. Next, P. Gerard Damsteegt analyzes the four chapters of Women in Ministry which treat "Ministry in the Bible," using both Scripture and the writings of Mrs. White to evaluate the authors' claims. C. Raymond Holmes offers an exegetical study of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, showing that the passage in its context is quite plain and straightforward. S. Lawrence Maxwell's chapter, "One Chilling Word," compares popular arguments heard today with those which brought disaster in Israel's day. Filling out this section and summarizing concerns from many chapters of Women in Ministry is Samuel Koranteng-Pipim's provocative challenge, "Are Those Things So?--Part I." These chapters have much valuable information and insight regarding the Bible's position on qualifications for pastoral ministry.

Part III, "Historical and Theological Issues," delves into matters of Seventh-day Adventist history, recent as well as early. For a survey of some events in the last 30 years which have contributed to our current situation, be sure to read C. Mervyn Maxwell's chapter that begins this section. The following three chapters in the section relate to Ellen G. White and Seventh-day Adventist history. Larry Kirkpatrick reviews the use of Mrs. White's writings by several authors in Women in Ministry. Laurel Damsteegt examines the feminist connection to spiritualism, which Mrs. White noted and commented on, and which one author in Women in Ministry downplays for the contemporary scene. Two articles by William Fagal from Ministry magazine in the late 1980s, combined into one chapter in this book, look at often-heard arguments regarding Mrs. White and the role of women in the church. The section climaxes with Samuel Koranteng-Pipim's perspectives on historical and theological concerns regarding Women in Ministry and his proposals on how the church may resolve its conflicts on this matter in a way that is both true to Scripture and true to God's call for women to take a significant, active part in His work.

In Part IV, "Ordination and Women in Ministry," several authors present their personal experiences with various aspects of the question of women in ministry. Wellesley Muir and Carolyn Stuyvesant both speak from a missionary's perspective. Jay Gallimore, a conference president, reflects on the controversy in recent years over women's ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Readers will find a few issues on which more than one author comments. Despite some duplication, each author brings to the discussion his own perspective, making their comments supplement one another rather than simply repeat the same observations.

Four appendices present material which Adventists Affirm has published previously, outlining the issues which confront the church and suggesting ways to address them. Even our first publication in 1987 (see Appendix A) seems remarkably up-to-date in today's discussions.

Along the way in your journey through the book, we hope the personal testimonies will be an encouragement and a blessing to you.

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Our Prayer

This book is the result of much prayer and reflection. Its title, Prove All Things, comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." This is what we must always do when confronted by new interpretations of Scripture. We believe the Bible is our standard, and we take the Bible at its word. We have tried not to rationalize or to imagine conclusions based (for example) on our limited awareness of ancient conditions and cultures. We take all of the Bible to interpret any part of the Bible. When we take it as a whole, we see a beautiful harmony and design, which we believe is strong evidence that all parts of Scripture are given by inspiration of God for our good. We believe God means what He has inspired. We hope our church will consider carefully the biblical indications of God's will concerning the relationship between male and female in the home as well as in the church.

Just as we have invested much prayer and reflection in the preparation of this book, we trust that the reader will study its positions prayerfully and with reverential fear, knowing that God knows the end from the beginning. He has created and ordered the world in the only way that can be good for all His people, both men and women. In the sight of God, men and women are His children, created by Him with intrinsic value. Sin cost heaven a tremendous sacrifice. But all heaven was willing to cooperate to buy back what humanity had lost through the sin of Adam and Eve.

That Prove All Things will help guide our beloved church to make the right decision about women as elders and pastors is the sincere prayer of all who work with Adventists Affirm.

 

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Prologue, Part 1

 

Mercedes H. Dyer, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology and Counseling, Emerita, Andrews University.

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