At the Stateline Church, near Milton-Freewater, Oregon, Pastor Mike Lambert presents part five of his six-part series on “A gender agenda.” The message addresses Deborah’s behavior in relation to headship in Judges 4, Phoebe and Junias in Romans 16, Ellen White’s “ordination” credential, and finally and very importantly, some of the urgent larger issues.
It may appear to the world church that the North American Division is immovably united in favor of Women’s Ordination. This is far from the case. Many Adventists in the small towns surrounding our universities in North America do favor Women’s Ordination. There are a few geographical locations like Southern California, Western Oregon, and parts of Ohio, where this is also the case. However, it is probably still true that the majority of Adventists in North America are not committed to Women’s Ordination. Many oppose it on serious biblical grounds.
Many NAD administrators and scholars seem in favor. But not all. For example, Edwin E. Reynolds teaches in the religion department at Southern Adventist University. Clinton Wahlen is an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute. Both are members in the North American Division and were among those selected to engage in study on behalf of the North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee. They have prepared a powerful study in which they dissent from the Majority report. This material is included as part of the NAD Report released on November 2, 2013. We have made available in the following link the full North American Division Theology of Ordination Study Committee Minority Report.
In the report, Reynolds and Wahlen point in particular to the central issue of interpretive method. “The current divergence in views on the subject of women’s ordination is due in part to different understandings of the nature of Scripture and how it should be interpreted. . . Some advocate an approach that takes into account the ‘trajectory’ of Scripture. . . extrapolated so that the trajectory beyond and outside of Scripture can be seen. . . such an approach, even though it might broadly affirm the Bible’s inspiration, nevertheless undermines it by characterizing selected portions of Scripture as time- and culture-bound and, therefore, tinged with the author’s prejudicial views on such topics, rather than God’s thoughts which are valid for all places and all time” (p. 195). The authors are concerned about this approach, and warn, “it is one thing to study the historical-cultural backgrounds to enlighten our understanding of the setting in which the text was written; it is another thing altogether to suggest that the text was culturally conditioned and that, therefore, a trajectory beyond the text must be constructed for our current, more enlightened age” (pp. 196, 197).
Reynolds and Wahlen look closely at passages like Genesis two, Deborah in Judges, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, among others. They conclude that “ordaining women represents a significant departure from the biblical model” (p. 207). And, they warn that “To follow the Bible model on the issue of women’s ordination will require courage like that of our pioneers. Nevertheless, it is the only basis on which we can expect to maintain global unity, receive God’s continued blessing, and, most importantly, anticipate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to finish His work” (p. 208).
Among the varied studies produced on Women’s Ordination in the past five years in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, few illuminate so much in so compact a space as this document. The Council of Adventist Pastors encourages all to read the NAD Theology of Ordination Study Committee Report Minority Report.