By Wayne Kablanow
On September 21 CAP reported on the Norwegian Union and its announcement that it is proceeding in an attempt to create a single credential for men and women, placing both sexes in positions of leadership equal to those of spiritually qualified ordained males. But we did not at that time report on similar actions about the same time by Danish and Swedish Unions.
The Danish Union stated that
“In the future DUChC will only use one term and one credential: “pastor” for both men and women who successfully have completed the intern-period” (Equality and Ordination, Danish Union of Seventh-day Adventists statement, 22 September 2015, http://www.adventist.dk/nyheder/768, accessed 2015-09-25).
Similarly, the Swedish Union decided in 2012 that it was an ethical issue to treat men and women equally, so-defined that role-differentiation is rejected. The Swedish Church has set up a Task Force that has already met twice, working to implement their vision of equality in contrast to the vision of equality held by the world church (http://www.adventist.se/artikel/4277/vagen-framat-efter-ordinationsbeslutet.aspx). The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the concept of gender-specific roles, and authorizes only the ordination of qualified males to position as ordained minister.
Features in common in the actions by Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden Unions include their rejection of role differentiation along with the creation of new unisex credentials which abandon the concept of ordination as practiced by the Adventist Church. What is being attempted is to designate workers who before had been titled as “ordained,” just “pastors” in the new arrangement. This is similar to the path taken by advocates of women’s ordination in North America when the “commissioned” credential was created.
The Council of Adventist Pastors, a North American group of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, not only finds Bible evidence for the practice of ordination persuasive, but also evidence found in the writings of Ellen G. White. Some examples of this are seen in her book Acts of the Apostles, such as the following:
The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95).
A council with representatives from the churches, very much like a General Conference session in which all these Unions were indeed represented, was to gather and see what solution the guidance of the Holy Spirit would lead to for the whole of the church. The practice of ordination is also a part of the divine plan:
God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.
Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God (Ibid., pp. 161, 162).
God invested His church with special authority. We seek to work together in unity. But
There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God (Ibid., p. 163).
In San Antonio the Church employed this special authority to reach a decision for the good of the entire church. We do not deny that the general feeling in Scandinavian culture is in disagreement with the position of the representatives of the world church. However, we believe that attempts to create one-sex credentials in Scandinavia and to sidestep the decision of combined representatives of the world church, are misguided and unfair to the world church. In every region, the church is called to work in harmony with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the whole body. God’s agents in the form of His ordained local workers, are to uphold a Biblical view of equality and complementarity rather than one that is captive to the culture locally. The teachings of Scripture transcend culture, and our pastors wherever they are worldwide are called to sustain the agreed understanding of the church.
The church must be faithful to its Lord Jesus and remain countercultural, even if the cultural understanding of most people in a place is dominated by unbiblical teachings. Seventh-day Adventists are people who are willing to do this. We worship on Sabbath rather than the culturally-approved Sunday. We reject the teaching of the naturally immortal soul even though most other Christian bodies teach the opposite.
The world church has repeatedly turned down women’s ordination initiatives at its highest levels. If these units wish to continue in represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that region, they are duty-bound to work in harmony with the world church. The present attempt to proceed on a pathway the world church has rejected (regional determination of ordination practice) should cease.