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1. For the biblical basis for my present position, see my Searching the Scriptures: Women's Ordination and the Call to Biblical Fidelity (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventists Affirm, 1995).

2. Quoted portions are from the prologue and epilogue of the book Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives, ed. Nancy Vyhmeister (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1998), pp. 2, 436.

3. Nancy Vyhmeister, the editor of Women in Ministry, is quoted as making this comment during her October 1998 presentation at the meeting of the pro-ordination group Association of Adventist Women held in Loma Linda, California. For an account of her presentation, see Colleen Moore Tinker, "Seminary States Position in Women in Ministry," Adventist Today, November-December 1998, pp. 24, 10.

4. Calvin B. Rock, "Review of Women in Ministry," Adventist Review, April 15, 1999, p. 29. Coming from "a general vice president of the General Conference . . . [and a holder of] doctoral degrees in ministry and Christian ethics," the above statement is designed to be taken seriously by readers of Adventist Review. Dr. Rock chaired the business session at the 1995 Utrecht General Conference session. In his opinion, the pro-ordination book of the Seminary "offers a sterling challenge to those who see Scripture as forbidding women's ordination. And it provides welcome data for those who support women's ordination but who lack professional materials to bolster their belief and convincing insights for those who have not known quite how or what to decide" (ibid.). Our re-examination of the pro-ordination volume will put the above book review into a better perspective (see my later chapters in the present book).

5. Vyhmeister, "Prologue," in Women in Ministry, p. 5. Of the 20 scholars whose works are published in Women in Ministry, 15 were appointed by the Seminary Dean's Council--a chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and editor of the book (Nancy Vyhmeister) and representatives from each of the six departments of the Seminary (Jo Ann Davidson, Richard Davidson, Walter Douglas, Jacques Doukhan, Roger Dudley, Jon Dybdahl, Denis Fortin, Robert Johnston, George Knight, Jerry Moon, Larry Richards, Russell Staples, Peter van Bemmelen, Randal Wisbey). Of the five remaining writers whose works appear in the book, two were Master of Divinity students (Michael Bernoi, Alicia Worley), and three others are Andrews University scholars, apparently invited because of their pro-ordination stance (Daniel Augsburger, Raoul Dederen, Keith Mattingly). Of the three scholars invited by the committee, the first two are retired (emeritus) Seminary professors and the last is a faculty member in the undergraduate religion department at Andrews University.

6. One favorable reviewer of the book writes: "It is both appropriate and timely for Seminary professors to lead the church in a study of the theology of women's ordination as it relates to the mission of the Adventist Church. What does the Bible say about this? What is theologically sound? What does our Adventist heritage lead us to do now?" See Beverly Beem, "What If . . . Women in Ministry," Focus [Andrews University alumni magazine], Winter 1999, p. 30. Beem is chair of the Department of English at Walla Walla College. In her opinion, the Seminary book presents such a "powerful argument" for women's ordination that "to say that the ordination of women is contrary to Scripture or to the tradition of the Adventist Church means going against an impressive array of evidence otherwise" (ibid., p. 31). In later chapters, I will challenge what our pro-ordination reviewer describes as the Seminary authors' "impressive array of evidence" for women's ordination.

7. According to the editor of the book, "less than one month after the Utrecht vote [rejecting autonomy for Divisions regarding women's ordination], several union presidents of the North American Division met with the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, still asking the same question: May a woman legitimately be ordained to pastoral ministry? If so, on what basis? If not, why not? What are the issues involved--hermeneutics? Bible and theology? custom and culture? history and tradition? pragmatism and missiological needs? And furthermore, how could all these facets of the issue be presented in a logical, coherent manner? Would the Seminary faculty please address these questions and provide answers?" (Vyhmeister, "Prologue," in Women in Ministry, p. 1).

8. Though historically Seventh-day Adventists did not have women elders and pastors, many women have served the church well in positions of responsibility and outreach, from the local church to the General Conference level. They did so without ordination. However, for about thirty years a small but influential group of people has been working to move the Seventh-day Adventist church a little at a time to legislate the ordination of women as elders and pastors. In the course of their campaign, those pushing for women's ordination have received endorsements from some church leaders who have effected a series of Annual Council policy revisions and Church Manual alterations, allowing for a change in the church's long-standing policy regarding the ministry of ordained elders and pastors. For a brief history of how tax-benefit considerations led the church into redefinitions of Adventist practice of ministry, see [C. Mervyn Maxwell,] "A Very Surprising (and Interesting) History," Adventists Affirm 12/3 (Fall 1998): 18-22 (included in this volume on pp. 225-230); cf. Laurel Damsteegt, "Pushing the Brethren," ibid., pp. 24-27.

9. Among the 13 recommendations aimed at "affirming and encouraging women in ministry," the document expresses an "urgent need to study and clarify the church's understanding and application of biblical hermeneutics" and that "this should take the form of: (i) multiple articles in denominational periodicals" and (ii) "a hermeneutics conference by the NAD and/or the GC." See Article XII of the North American Division "President's Commission on Women in Ministry--Report." The entire document, with an analysis, is found in Adventists Affirm 12/3 (Fall 1998): 5-17, and is included in this volume Appendix D, pp. 391-404. As I will attempt to show in the next section, the initial request to the Seminary faculty by "several" North American Division union presidents for a clarification of Adventist theology of ordination and for a clear understanding regarding valid Adventist hermeneutical principles was really a search for a scholarly work that would justify the ordination of women. Observe that the generic phrase "women in ministry," employed by the Seminary's Ad Hoc Committee on Hermeneutics and Ordination as a title for their book, is misleading. Like the North American Division President's commission on "Women in Ministry," the Seminary authors' goal was not simply the ministry of women in the church (which has never been opposed by the Adventist church), but rather ordaining women as elders and pastors.

10. At the 1990 Indianapolis session of the General Conference, by a vote of 1173 to 377, the world field rejected the call to ordain women as pastors. Also, at the 1995 Utrecht session of the General Conference, by a vote of 1481 to 673, the worldwide church refused to grant the North American Division's request to ordain women in its own territory. Despite the "spin" by pro-ordination advocates to the effect that the delegates at the two General Conference sessions didn't quite understand what they were voting for, the fact remains that at these two world assemblies, the Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventist family, 90% of which lives outside the industrialized countries of North America, Europe, and Australia, made it clear that the arguments for women's ordination are not biblically convincing.

11. For example, Roger L. Dudley, the author of one of the chapters of the volume, recently stated: "It is important to note that Women in Ministry represents the official view of the Seminary and the position of virtually all of its faculty. Whatever the book may accomplish in the church at large, it is the hope of the [Seminary Ad Hoc] committee that it will demonstrate that the Seminary faculty stands for sound Biblical and historical scholarship on this contemporary and controversial issue" (see Roger L. Dudley, "[Letter to the Editor Regarding] Women in Ministry," Adventist Today, January-February 1999, p. 6). Similarly, an article titled "Seminary States Position in Women in Ministry" quotes Nancy Vyhmeister, the editor of the Seminary book, as saying: "With the total support of the university and the seminary administration and with the support of about 90% of the seminary faculty [who are believed to favor women's ordination], the book came out." Nancy Vyhmeister made this comment at the annual convention of the Association of Adventist Women held in Loma Linda, California, in October 1998 (see Colleen Moore Tinker, "Seminary States Position in Women in Ministry," Adventist Today, November-December, 1998). Apparently, it is the comment by the book's editor that Women in Ministry enjoys the "total support of the university and the seminary administration" that has been misunderstood as an official Seminary endorsement of the book. But the chair of the Seminary Ad Hoc Committee and editor of the book has categorically repudiated such a claim (see Vyhmeister, "Prologue," in Women in Ministry, p. 5).

12. Calvin Rock writes that "the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the broader Christian community, are indebted to the 20 authors of Women in Ministry" for "producing such a thoughtful, thorough treatment of the major aspects of the question `Should women be ordained as pastors in the Seventh-day Adventist Church?'" In his estimation, the book employs "skillful exegesis of Scripture and careful examination of relevant E. G. White materials," showing why "liberating knowledge of contextual and linguistic backgrounds is absolutely vital in ecclesiastical debate" (Rock, "Review of Women in Ministry," Adventist Review, April 15, 1999, p. 29). Given the one-sided book reviews that have been presented in several Adventist publications, Doug Jones's editorial comment in Focus magazine is worth remembering: "The faculty in the Seminary are to be commended for their earnest and critical exploration of women and Christian ministry. . . . I encourage Focus readers to read Women in Ministry with care as an important step in achieving balance" (see Jones's editorial note to Malcolm Dwyer's letter to the editor, "Seeking Solid Backing," in Focus, Spring 1999, p. 5).

13. Until very recently, the Seventh-day Adventist practice has limited ordination of elders and pastors to males alone. (Biblically speaking there is no distinction between elder and pastor.) However, through a series of Annual Council church policy revisions, a theologically and ethically-inconsistent practice has been instituted in recent times that allows women to be ordained as elders, but not as pastors. We must not miss the implication of this biblically-untenable practice. If women can be ordained as local elders, it is equally valid for them to be ordained as pastors. But by the same token, if the practice of ordaining women as local elders is unbiblical, it is also unbiblical to ordain them as pastors. So the question really facing the church is this: Is ordaining women as elders biblical? If it is, we must continue the practice and extend it to include ordaining women as pastors. On the other hand, if ordaining women as local elders is not scriptural, we must reconsider previous church council actions in order to come into harmony with the Bible. In an earlier work, Searching the Scriptures: Women's Ordination and the Call to Biblical Fidelity (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventists Affirm, 1995), I have argued for the latter option--namely for the church to reconsider previous church council actions in order to come into harmony with the Bible. This approach alone preserves the 150-year-old biblical practice of the Adventist church.

14. See my Receiving the Word: How New Approaches to the Bible Impact Our Biblical Faith and Lifestyle (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Berean Books, 1996).

15. Nancy Vyhmeister, "Prologue," in Women in Ministry, p. 2.

16. Ibid., p. 4.

17. Ibid., p. 5.

18. See, for example, Alfred C. McClure, "NAD's President Speaks on Women's Ordination: Why Should Ordination be Gender Inclusive?" Adventist Review [North American Division edition], February 1995, pp. 14-15; cf. Gary Patterson, "Let Divisions Decide When to Ordain Women," Spectrum 24/2 (April 1995), pp. 36-42. For responses to the above view, see the articles by Ethel R. Nelson, "`No Turning Back' on Ordination?" and C. Mervyn Maxwell, "Response to NAD President's Request to Annual Council" in Adventists Affirm 9/1 (Spring 1995): 42-46, 30-37, 67; cf. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Searching the Scriptures: Women's Ordination and the Call to Biblical Fidelity (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventists Affirm, 1995), pp. 9-14, 88-90.

19. After the rejection of the North American Division's petition at Utrecht, the Pacific Union Conference, one of the largest North American union conferences, took an action they considered to be a road map to eventually ordaining women. Among other things, the union executive committee passed a resolution calling upon the General Conference, through the North American Division, to initiate a process that leads to: (A) "a clarification of the Adventist theology of ordination, culminating in the ordination of women"; and (B) "action steps that lead to a clear understanding and member education regarding valid Adventist hermeneutical principles." The executive committee of the Pacific Union also released a document affirming the group's commitment to the goal of women's ordination and to working towards the day when it will be realized. See "Pacific Union Executive Committee Maps Course for Women," Pacific Union Recorder, October 2, 1995, pp. 3, 11, emphasis mine.

20. See the introduction to "President's Commission on Women in Ministry--Report" reproduced in Adventists Affirm 12/3 (Fall 1998): 13 and in this volume on p. 399.

21. "A Statement of Commitment to Women in Gospel Ministry from the North American Division Union Presidents," October 13, 1995, emphasis mine. Two years after the North American Division President's commission was appointed, its report was formally accepted on October 9, 1997. Among the specific recommendations for "gender inclusiveness in church organization" is an "urgent need to study and clarify the church's understanding and application of biblical hermeneutics. This should take the form of: (i) multiple articles in denominational periodicals; (ii) a hermeneutics conference sponsored by the NAD and/or the GC." See Article XII of the Report of the "President's Commission on Women in Ministry." The entire document is worth reading, if one is to capture the scope of the strategies to achieve a gender-inclusive ministry (see pp. 399-404 in this volume).

22. At the 1986 Annual Council meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, church leaders representing all the world fields of the Seventh-day Adventist church approved the report of the General Conference's "Methods of Bible Study Committee" as representative of the church's hermeneutical position. This document was published in the Adventist Review, January 22, 1987, pages 18-20, and reproduced as Appendix C in my Receiving the Word, pp. 355-362. Generally, loyal Adventists embrace the 1986 "Methods of Bible Study" document as reflecting Adventism's historic principles of interpretation. For a discussion of how Adventist scholars have reacted to the "Methods of Bible Study" document, see my Receiving the Word, pp. 75-99. For more on the history of Adventist Bible interpretation, see C. Mervyn Maxwell, "A Brief History of Adventist Hermeneutics," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 4/2 (1993): 209-226; Don F. Neufeld, "Biblical Interpretation in the Advent Movement," in Symposium on Biblical Hermeneutics, ed. Gordon Hyde (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1974), pp. 109-125; George Reid, "Another Look at Adventist Hermeneutics," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 2/1 (1991): 69-76.

23. Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . : A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Washington, D.C.: Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1988), esp. pp. 142-150. Produced by some 194 Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders around the world, this "carefully researched" volume is to be received "as representative of . . . [what] Seventh-day Adventists around the globe cherish and proclaim," and as furnishing "reliable information on the beliefs of our [Seventh-day Adventist] church" (ibid., pp. vii, iv, v).

24. Seventh-day Adventist Minister's Handbook (Silver Spring, Md.: Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1997), pp. 83-86. The "Ordination Statement" in the Minister's Handbook sets forth Adventists' understanding of the nature, significance, qualifications, and the responsibility of ordination. A note attached to "Statement of Ordination" reads: "This section reproduces the statement on ministerial ordination prepared by the General Conference Ministerial Association and the GC Biblical Research Institute. The statement received broad input from the world field and went through numerous revisions. It purposely omits the gender issue in ministerial ordination, seeking rather to lay down basic principles by which all ministerial ordination issues can be measured" (ibid., p. 83 [1997 edition]).

25. For more on the relationship between the issues of income tax benefits and ordination, see [C. Mervyn Maxwell, editor] "A Very Surprising (and Interesting) History," Adventists Affirm 12/3 (Fall 1998): 18-23, appearing on pp. 225-230 of the present volume; cf. Receiving the Word, pp. 125-126; p. 140, notes 43 and 44.

26. The editor of the unofficial magazine Adventist Today summarizes the circumstances leading to the production of the Seminary book, as narrated by Nancy Vyhmeister, chair of the Seminary Ad Hoc Committee and editor of the book, at the October 1998 meeting of the pro-ordination group Association of Adventist Women held in Loma Linda, California. On the circumstances leading to the feeling of "let down," Vyhmeister mentioned that in the wake of the Utrecht defeat of the North American Division petition for women's ordination, people from opposite ends of the ordination spectrum blamed or praised the Seminary for sending two representatives with opposing viewpoints. She, however, explained that the two professors who spoke at Utrecht (Raoul Dederen and P. Gerard Damsteegt) did not speak for the Seminary: "Those people were invited by `someone else,' and they agreed to speak long before the seminary knew anything about it." When, therefore, less than a month after Utrecht "several" North American leaders met with the Seminary faculty and told them, "you let us down [at Utrecht]; you're against women's ordination," reports Adventist Today's editor, "every representative of the seminary who was attending the meeting insisted that they were not against women's ordination. In fact, Nancy said, about 90% of the seminary faculty favor women's ordination." What follows is significant: "`Then do something about it,' one union president said. Dr. [Werner] Vyhmeister, dean of the seminary and Nancy's husband, agreed and said that the Dean's Council would decide what to do. The outcome of that decision was a fifteen-person committee which [was] formed to study the subject of hermeneutics and ordination" (see Colleen Moore Tinker, "Seminary States Position in Women in Ministry," Adventist Today, November-December, 1998, pp. 24, 10; emphasis mine). "Doing something about Utrecht" is what the Seminary book is all about, rather than being a quest for an open-minded investigation of what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of women in ministry. Some North American leaders wanted the scholars at the Seminary to speak with one voice in favor of women's ordination.

27. See, for example, Samuele Bacchiocchi, Women in the Church: A Biblical Study on the Role of Women in the Church (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Biblical Perspectives, 1987); C. Raymond Holmes, The Tip of an Iceberg: Biblical Authority, Biblical Interpretation, and the Ordination of Women in Ministry (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventists Affirm and Wakefield, Mich.: Pointer Publications, 1994); Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Searching the Scriptures: Women's Ordination and the Call to Biblical Fidelity (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventists Affirm, 1995). At the time they published their works, Samuele Bacchiocchi was a professor of church history and theology in the religion department of Andrews University; C. Raymond Holmes was the director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and professor of Worship and Preaching at the Theological Seminary; and Samuel Koranteng-Pipim was a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology at the Theological Seminary, having served there as a contract teacher in theology and ethics (see also next note).

28. Of the 20 authors who collaborated to produce the book, one was the Seminary professor who presented the pro-ordination view at Utrecht (Raoul Dederen); but the other Seminary faculty member who presented the opposing view at Utrecht was excluded (P. Gerard Damsteegt, the principal author of the church's Seventh-day Adventists Believe). Women in Ministry contains an article by an associate professor in the religion department at Andrews University (Keith Mattingly); but a well-known professor in the same department who had published an opposing view (Women in the Church) was left out (Samuele Bacchiocchi). Though not part of the initial committee of 15, other Seminary scholars, including a retired faculty member, were allowed to publish their views in the book (George Knight, Denis Fortin, and Daniel Augsburger); but another equally competent retired faculty member who had earlier challenged women's ordination (in his The Tip of an Iceberg) was not invited to contribute a chapter (C. Raymond Holmes). Two Seminary students' works appear in the book (Michael Bernoi and Alicia Worley); but not a single Seminary student opposing women's ordination was included (at that time Samuel Koranteng-Pipim was a doctoral candidate and had authored the book Searching the Scriptures). It is clear that the Seminary Ad Hoc Committee decided that no other viewpoints should be known in the book except those favoring women's ordination. The pro-ordination bias of the committee is also evidenced by the manner in which some cite the works and authors of non-ordination publications (see especially Randal Wisbey, "SDA Women in Ministry, 1970-1998," Women in Ministry, pp. 241, 245, 254, note 31).

29. Vyhmeister, "Prologue," p. 2.

30. Space limitations will not permit me to document how, prior to Utrecht, official church publications presented mainly pro-ordination views in their pages. But one of the authors of Women in Ministry, despite his pro-ordination bias in chronicling the history of Seventh-day Adventist discussions of the issue, has correctly noted that prior to the 1995 Utrecht General Conference Session, "the Adventist Review and Ministry published articles dealing with ordination in which the editors took pro-ordination stands" (Randal R. Wisbey, "SDA Women in Ministry: 1970-1998," in Women in Ministry, p. 246). For a recent attempt by editors of a church publication to discredit the works of those attempting to uphold the church's official position, see the editorial comment preceding the article by P. Gerard Damsteegt, "Scripture Faces Current Issues," Ministry, April 1999, p. 23. For a possible explanation of the pro-ordination bias in church publications, see Articles X and XII in the "[North American Division] President's Commission on Women in Ministry--Report," reproduced on pp. 403-404 of the present volume.




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Endnotes, Part 2

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