Home > Previous Issues > Volume 14, Number 3 > Understanding the Spirit of Prophecy: Some Key Questions and Principles > Prove All Things: A Response to WOMEN IN MINISTRY > Chapter 1 >
Chapter 1, Endnotes - 2

Select Table of Contents
Full Table of Contents

Order Information
Chapter 1
Endnotes - 2

31. How can the committee legitimately invite a "dialogue" when its very actions show that it is more committed to a "monologue" among the different stripes of pro-ordination scholars who had accepted some North American leaders' assignment to "do something about it [Utrecht]" than to grappling with the concerns raised by those opposing women's ordination?

32. Vyhmeister, "Prologue" in Women in Ministry, p. 5.

33. Ibid.

34. We are not suggesting that there is anything wrong with attempts by scholars to overturn a General Conference session decision if that decision is biblically indefensible. Our point is simply that the Seminary authors should be candid about their intention, instead of masking it under euphemistic phrases.

35. Observe, however, that the above pragmatic reasons--namely, "the widespread lack of support" for it and "the possible risk of disunity, dissension, and diversion from the mission of the Church"--were the secondary reasons stated at the 1990 General Conference session against ordaining women as pastors. Despite the contrary claims of proponents, the primary reason given by those opposing the practice of ordaining women as pastors was that it was unbiblical and out of harmony with the writings of Ellen G. White. Thus, in the opinion of those opposed to women's ordination, to go ahead with a practice that lacked widespread theological support could result in "disunity, dissension, and diversion from the mission of the Church." The following are the two recommendations from the "Role of Women Commission" that the 1989 Annual Council brought to the 1990 General Conference session: "1. While the Commission does not have a consensus as to whether or not the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen G. White explicitly advocate or deny the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, it concludes unanimously that these sources affirm a significant, wide ranging, and continuing ministry for women which is being expressed and will be evidenced in the varied and expanding gifts according to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. 2. Further, in view of the widespread lack of support for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry in the world Church and in view of the possible risk of disunity, dissension, and diversion from the mission of the Church, we do not approve ordination of women to the gospel ministry." Notice that whereas the first reason is theological (lack of theological consensus) the second is pragmatic (lack of support and possible risks). By a vote of 1173 to 377, the world church voted against women's ordination. (See Adventist Review, July 13, 1990, p. 15.)

36. One pro-ordination reviewer of the Seminary book sums up the reason for Women in Ministry and how the book could be used to justify theologically a possible North American Division "push" of the issue at a future General Conference session: "So why this book? Why now? Utrecht. That is the answer given in the prologue to the book. One might think that after the 1995 General Conference session in Utrecht, the discussion would be over and that everyone would go home and quit talking about it. But that has not happened. How could it? The motion voted at Utrecht did not address the theological appropriateness of women's ordination. It addressed only the procedural recommendation of the North American Division that the decision be made by each division. The increasing dissonance between theological understandings and church practice remained unresolved. . . . Now, 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 with the mission of the Adventist church" (Beverly Beem, "What If . . . Women in Ministry," Focus, Winter 1999, p. 30, emphasis hers). In response to the so-called procedural argument, a respected North American church leader has correctly noted: "Though the issue had been presented as a policy matter, whether to allow divisions to decide for themselves about ordination, most delegates knew that they were really voting on the biblical legitimacy of women's ordination. How could the world church make so fundamental a change unless it could find biblical support? How could it allow itself to be divided on something so essential to its unity and function? So as it had done five years earlier, the world church gave an emphatic No" (Jay Gallimore, "The Larger Issues," on p. 343 in this volume).

37. In view of these oft-repeated claims by proponents of women's ordination, the following questions deserve a brief response: (1) Was there a ban on publishing and distributing materials on women's ordination between 1988 and 1995? (2) Were advocates of women's ordination relatively silent during the period of the "moratorium" or "ban," while opponents published two books (The Tip of an Iceberg [1994] and Searching the Scriptures [1995])? These are the facts: In May 1988, while awaiting the July 1989 meeting and recommendation of the "Role of Women Commission," General Conference president Elder Neal C. Wilson appealed to all church members "to abstain from circulating books, pamphlets, letters, and tapes that stir up debate and often generate more confusion [on women's ordination]." Proponents of women's ordination often misinterpret this specific appeal by the General Conference president to mean a permanent moratorium or ban on publishing works on women's ordination. They claim that out of loyalty to the General Conference president they honored his moratorium while those opposed undermined it by publishing and distributing their works. In making these claims, advocates are either unaware of or overlook the facts concerning the General Conference president's appeal and the aggressive campaign mounted by pro-ordination entities. First of all, the president's appeal was not a permanent "ban" or moratorium. Elder Wilson's statement reads: "The 1985 General Conference session action called upon the church to prepare a recommendation by the time of the 1989 Annual Council, so a further meeting of the commission [the Commission on the Role of Women] will be held in July of 1989. Indeed, in such important matters we must at all costs avoid hasty action, and so we will set aside one week to pray together, listen to each other, discuss further papers that will be prepared, and--I hope--come together in a decision dictated by the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, I appeal to all members of the church, whatever their particular convictions on this matter, to avoid further controversy and argument. I request you to abstain from circulating books, pamphlets, letters, and tapes that stir up debate and often generate more confusion. I think it would be much better if we prayed and fasted, and studied the Bible and the writings of Ellen White for ourselves" (Neal C. Wilson, "Role of Women Commission Meets: The General Conference President Reports to the Church," Adventist Review, May 12, 1988, p. 7, emphasis mine). Notice that the president's appeal was not a permanent moratorium or "ban"; it was limited to the period between May 12, 1988 and July 1989 when the Commission was expected to present its theological findings. Even then, the appeal was directed against works that "stir up debate and often generate more confusion." Second, if the moratorium did indeed exist as proponents of women's ordination often claim, (1) then editors of church publications like Adventist Review and Ministry contravened it when they published several pro-ordination articles during the period between 1988 and 1995; (2) then the pro-ordination authors and some church institutions like Pacific Press, Review and Herald, Andrews University Press, and Loma Linda University Press broke the ban when they published and distributed pro-ordination books like Caleb Rosado's Broken Walls (Pacific Press, 1989), and Women, Church, God: A Socio-Biblical Study (Loma Linda University Press, 1990), Josephine Benton's Called by God (Blackberry Hill Publishers, 1990), V. Norskov Olsen's Myth and Truth: Church, Priesthood and Ordination (Loma Linda University Press, 1990), Jennifer Knight's, et al., The Adventist Woman in the Secular World: Her Ministry and Her Church (North Ryde, N.S.W., Australia, 1991), Rosa Taylor Banks's, ed., A Woman's Place (Review and Herald, 1992), Sakae Kubo's The God of Relationships (Review and Herald, 1993), Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart's, eds., The Welcome Table (TEAMPress, 1995), Lourdes Morales-Gudmundsson's, ed., Women and the Church: The Feminine Perspective (Andrews University Press, 1995); (3) then certain authors of the Seminary book violated the alleged "moratorium" by publishing articles in favor of women's ordination; see, for example, Richard M. Davidson's "The Theology of Sexuality in the Beginning: Genesis 1-2" and "The Theology of Sexuality in the Beginning: Genesis 3," Andrews University Seminary Studies 26 (1988); Nancy Vyhmeister, "Review of The Tip of an Iceberg," Ministry, February 1995, pp. 26-28; etc. Space limitations will not allow me to document the fact that during and after the alleged seven-year "moratorium," advocates of women's ordination, including a number of the Seminary authors of Women in Ministry, used a number of means to publicize their pro-ordination views. But in spite of their aggressive campaign, proponents failed to convince the world church of the soundness of their theological arguments for women's ordination. A pro-ordination scholar of ethics puts to rest the oft-repeated claim that until the publication of Women in Ministry proponents of women's ordination had been relatively silent. He correctly noted that, prior to the more than 2-to-1 defeat of the women's ordination request at Utrecht, "denominational leaders, with others, had backed ordination with speeches at Annual Council, the speech in Utrecht, and a special strategy committee. The Southeastern California Conference Gender Inclusiveness Commission and others had sent materials to all General Conference delegates. The Adventist Review had run special covers, issues, and features promoting women. . . . Some ordination proponents thought that they might win if they got enough materials to the delegates, but found themselves wrong" (Jim Walters, "General Conference Delegates Say NO on Women's Ordination," Adventist Today, July-August, 1995, pp. 12-13).

38. See Susan Walters, "Prospectus Revealed for Book on Ordination of Women," Adventist Today, March-April, 1997, p. 24.

39. Vyhmeister, "Prologue," p. 2.

40. Susan Walters, "Prospectus Revealed for Book on Ordination of Women," Adventist Today, March-April, 1997, p. 24, emphasis mine.

41. Jack Stenger (Public Information Officer, Andrews University), "Andrews Professors Address Women's Ordination" Press Release, dated October 22, 1998, emphasis mine.

42. The book has been widely distributed to church leaders around the world. In an accompanying letter on the stationery of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, the rationale for the free distribution of the book is explained: "Because of your position as a thought leader in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, you have been selected to receive a gift copy of this important study of the place of women in the church's ministry. The book is not intended to incite polemics on ordination, but to provide carefully researched information and foster dialogue. If you have questions or comments, feel free to direct them to the individual authors or to the editor of the book, all of them at Andrews University. May God bless your service in His cause." Could the "carefully researched information" to "foster dialogue" be a veiled reference to the year 2000 General Conference session in Toronto?

43. Calvin Rock, "Review of Women in Ministry," Adventist Review, April 15, 1999, p. 29, emphasis mine.

44. Besides the official introduction of the book at a special Seminary chapel assembly on October 7, 1998, the press release by the public relations office of Andrews University, and the book's use as textbook and required reading material in some Seventh-day Adventist institutions, there have also been one-sided book reviews in church publications like Adventist Review (see Calvin Rock's review in the April 15, 1999 issue, p. 29) and Ministry (see Fritz Guy's book review in the January 1999 issue, pp. 28-29). It has also been favorably reviewed in the Andrews University publication Focus (see Beverly Beem's review in the Winter 1999 issue, pp. 30-34), a magazine sent worldwide to alumni of the university. As we have mentioned earlier, the book has also been mass-distributed to church leaders around the world "to provide carefully researched information and foster dialogue." Finally, one of the church's leading publishing houses, Pacific Press Publishing Association, is distributing the book in Adventist Book Centers around the world. The book's editor is also quoted as saying that their book has "the total support" of Andrews University, the Seminary, and the ministerial department of the General Conference. For the strategy behind much of this publicity of works promoting women's ordination in the church, see the North American Division's "President's Commission on Women in Ministry--Report," especially Articles X and XII, reproduced in this volume, pp. 403-404.

45. The Welcome Table: Setting A Place for Ordained Women, edited by Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart (Langley Park, Md.: TEAMPress, 1995). The "fourteen prominent SDA historians, theologians, and professionals" who contributed essays to the book are: Bert Haloviak, Kit Watts, Raymond F. Cottrell, Donna Jeane Haerich, David R. Larson, Fritz Guy, Edwin Zackrison, Halcyon Westphal Wilson, Sheryll Prinz-McMillan, Joyce Hanscom Lorntz, V. Norskov Olsen, Ralph Neall, Ginger Hanks Harwood, and Iris M. Yob.

46. This comment from Lawrence T. Geraty appears on the back of The Welcome Table.

47. Although the book's introduction and back-cover recommendations state that The Welcome Table comprises "carefully thought-through expositions by some of our most competent writers" and "is a definitive collection of essays for our time from respected church leaders," others have observed that, regarding the key hermeneutical issues of women's ordination, this volume is more noteworthy for its breadth than for its depth. For example, Keith A. Burton, an Adventist New Testament scholar, has exposed the historical-critical assumptions underlying some of the essays in The Welcome Table. He concludes his insightful critique of this pro-ordination book: "The table around which we are warmly invited to sit is one that already accommodates those who have attacked the relevance of biblical authority; those who wish to pretend that the gnostic image of the primeval and eschatological androgyne is the one toward which Adventists should be moving; those whose interest is in the acquisition of corporate power rather than the evangelization of a dying world; and finally, those who confuse the undiscriminating limitation of the familial and ecclesiastical roles that have been defined by the same Spirit." See Burton, "The Welcome Table: A Critical Evaluation" (unpublished manuscript, 1995), available at the Adventist Heritage Center, James White Library, Andrews University. In my earlier work Receiving the Word (pp. 119-129), I spotlighted a few of the troubling aspects of The Welcome Table's arguments for women's ordination.

48. For a brief evaluation of the pro-ordination arguments by some of the authors in The Welcome Table, see my Receiving the Word, chapter 5, part 2, pp. 126-129.

49. See Vyhmeister, "Prologue," in Women in Ministry, pp. 3, 5, note 1. Observe the careful wording of the statement: "Rather than having a section on hermeneutics in each chapter containing biblical material, the group decided that one presentation, in the introduction, should be sufficient. Thus, the principles of interpretation described here apply to all chapters on biblical materials. The principles applied are time-honored approaches; similar rules appear in recognized Adventist publications" (ibid., p. 3).

50. Contrary to the church's official position in "The Methods of Bible Study" document, Robert M. Johnston (a Women in Ministry author), for example, has recently argued for the use of the historical-critical method. See his "The Case for a Balanced Hermeneutic," Ministry, March 1999, pp. 10-12.

51. See my unpublished article, "A Bug in Adventist Hermeneutic," 1999, a summary version of which is to be published in a future issue of Ministry under the title, "Questions in the Quest for a Unifying Hermeneutic."

52. Christians must always welcome "new light" from God's Word, as long as the proposed "new light" does not contradict an established biblical truth. For a careful summary of what Ellen G. White taught about "new light," see P. Gerard Damsteegt, "New Light in the Last Days," Adventists Affirm 10/1 (Spring 1996): 5-13.

53. In my Receiving the Word (pp. 123-126), I have challenged revisionist re-interpretations of Adventist beliefs and practice of ministry (see also pp. 138-140, notes 34-44 of my book).

54. Vyhmeister, Women in Ministry, pp. 436, 5.

55. See the following authors in Women in Ministry: Richard M. Davidson, pp. 283, 284; Jo Ann Davidson, p. 179; cf. Nancy Vyhmeister, p. 350; Robert M. Johnston, pp. 52-53; Peter van Bemmelen, p. 306-307; Jacques Doukhan, p. 39; Daniel Augsburger, p. 96; Keith Mattingly, pp. 71-72; Randal Wisbey, p. 251; Denis Fortin, pp. 127-129; Michael Bernoi, p. 229; Alicia Worley, pp. 370-372; Walter B. T. Douglas, p. 394; Roger L. Dudley, pp. 414-415.

56. Russell Staples, in Women in Ministry, p. 251. Jon L. Dybdahl also writes: "Let us be honest. There is no clear specific biblical statement on the issue. No verse gives permission to ordain women, and no passage specifically forbids it" (p. 430); cf. Raoul Dederen, pp. 22-23; Jerry Moon, p. 204; George Knight, pp. 111-112; W. Larry Richards, p. 327-328.

57. Source references from Women in Ministry for each of the following points will be provided in my evaluation of the book (see my two other chapters in this volume).

58. Randal R. Wisbey, "SDA Women in Ministry: 1970-1998," Women in Ministry, p. 251. For my response to the unilateral post-Utrecht ordinations, see my "How the Holy Spirit Leads the Church," Adventists Affirm 12/3 (Fall 1998): 28-35.

59. Roger L. Dudley, "The Ordination of Women in Light of the Character of God," in Women in Ministry, pp. 400, 413-414; Walter B. T. Douglas, "The Distance and the Difference: Reflections on Issues of Slavery and Women's Ordination in Adventism," ibid., pp. 379-398; Nancy Vyhmeister, "Epilogue," ibid., pp. 434-435.

60. Vyhmeister, "Epilogue," p. 436.

61. Refer to the minutes of the General Conference Spring Meeting (April 1975) and the General Conference Annual Council (October 1984).

Previous Page

Endnotes, Part 1

Home | Contact | Previous Issues | Store | Links | About Us | Women's Ordination FAQs | Site Menu
SiteMap. Powered by SimpleUpdates.com © 2002-2018. User Login / Customize.
HomeAbout UsWhat's NewPrevious IssuesStoreContact UsLinksFAQ'sSite MapSubscribe NowLoginSubscribe Now