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Theology of Ordination Study Committee completes work (UPDATED)

After some 18 months of work, the 106 member Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) concluded deliberations with a June 2-4, 2014 meeting. The TOSC study group was appointed as a result of the 2010 Atlanta General Conference session request made by the North American Division (NAD) that the Church consider women’s ordination yet again. It is now possible to look more broadly at what TOSC (not an NAD but a General Conference committee), has revealed.
Key outcomes from the 2013-2014 TOSC process now concluded include:

  • The committee agreed that the Seventh-day Adventist practice of ordination was valid (some had urged the practice was unbiblical).
  • The committee agreed that women should be involved in ministry. This was never in dispute although some favoring women’s ordination (WO) had suggested it was.
  • As meetings progressed it became apparent some supporters of WO were proposing the use of methods that seriously diverged from the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist use of the historical-grammatical approach to biblical interpretation. Advocates of WO unveiled an “adaptation” of the historical-grammatical method and a “major” (2013 NAD Report, p. 24) plan for biblical interpretation they called the “principle-based, historical-cultural” (PBHC) method. This approach they placed on a continuum between the historical-critical and historical-grammatical methods! (Ibid., p. 8). This modification in approach, they said, was “required” in order to address certain “difficult passages” (Ibid., p. 31). Fortuitously for those favoring WO, the use of the PBHC method eliminated from the Bible “conclusive evidence prohibiting the ordination of women” (Ibid., p. 25). The NAD study committee report here quoted from, far from supporting the historical-grammatical method as claimed (Ibid., pp. 7, 8, 14-20) actually treated the 1986 “Methods of Bible Study” document advocating it selectively at best, even criticizing it (Ibid., pp. 23-25).
  • Several biblical passages touching the question of Headship were studied in TOSC. Although the committee as a whole was divided, many found the exploration of the Scriptures on this point stimulating and useful.

The spirit of the meetings remained positive, but TOSC closed with no consensus. Participants remained sharply divided over women’s ordination.
The results of the TOSC process will in due course be made available in its final report, which includes the positions and recommendations suggested by groups in the committee. This material will be forwarded to General Conference ADCOM (Administrative committee) this month. At Annual Council this October the General Conference will review TOSC’s advisory recommendations and determine how the women’s ordination question will be processed at the 2015 General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, USA.
In the concluding meeting, a third distinct group developed. This group felt it necessary to concede that the Church should let each division decide the women’s ordination question for itself. While holding that the office of the ordained minister should ideally be carried out by males, this group’s overarching stated concern was unity. And so, as God permitted Israel to choose for itself a king against His will, the Church should let each division decide the women’s ordination question for itself—even if the decision to ordain women was wrong.
A straw poll was taken on the last day of the meeting. Thirty-two persons voted for the biblical-qualifications (anti-women’s ordination) position. Forty committee members favored women’s ordination. And 22 persons voted for the let-each-division-decide-independently option. Imagine! Here we stand on the very borders of the heavenly Canaan, and the best we can do is agree to disagree?
The straw poll seemed to show that the participating majority of the committee would approve of having each division decide the matter of women’s ordination for itself—yet this was not so. In fact, the “Biblical qualifications” (anti-WO) and the “A proposal for an accord on Women in Ministry” (pro-women’s ordination) positions were very firm. Thus, the majority of the 95 polls returned (73) were NOT interested in the compromise position as their first option. (But as many as 12 who favored women’s ordination could have included the compromise position as their second option). But the straw poll also showed (32 + 22) that more than half of those participating understood male headship/leadership to be the biblical position. The compromise position garnered 22 responses as first choice, yet of those 22 almost as many, 19, were willing to accept another option. Thus, the compromise position lacked deep commitment. In contrast to these, zero of the 32 participants marking the “biblical qualifications” (anti-WO) position were willing to mark either alternative as second choice, while two did have a distant third option they preferred to the other. And so, a more nuanced look at the poll results shows that rather than being fluid, the positions are rather firmly locked.
Some favoring women’s ordination will overstate the significance of the straw poll results, but in actuality, there is little in the TOSC process for them to rejoice in. TOSC has revealed the most fundamental point in the whole matter. Namely, that should the world church adopt women’s ordination, it will have to change its approach to biblical interpretation in order to lend support for the new practice. It is no news that some are ready to change how we interpret the Bible in order to prevent “division” of the church. Yet the facts remain: the church is divided as never before.
TOSC has not created the divide. It has only more clearly revealed it.
Everything turns on the Adventist approach to biblical interpretation. Encouraging each division to act unilaterally on women’s ordination would set the precedent that in future, every division would decide on same-sex marriage or any other overly controversial matter. In essence, this course of action would mean abandoning global coherence as a church body. We would become a gaggle of disagreeing units each doing what was locally felt to be the right. Can a church thrive or even persist in existence when it values unity even at the sacrifice of God’s ideal, more than that unity founded on the authority of “the Scripture of truth”? Another denomination might survive that approach for a time; the Seventh-day Adventist Church would not.
TOSC could not have been more successful in revealing that the Church now stands at a monumental crossroads in biblical interpretation. Whatever is decided in San Antonio, it will be impossible to turn back.

9 replies on “Theology of Ordination Study Committee completes work (UPDATED)”

I’m disappointed but not surprised. Those who want something so badly are willing to do whatever needs to be done to satisfy their desires, even to the point of reinterpreting Scripture and rebelling against God. The Children of Israel did the same thing, over and over again. Yes, even to the point of desiring a king instead of God to rule over them. What a foolish argument.

Now that the TOSC report is in and this phase of their duties complete, I am confident this is still God’s remnant church and that He can and will bring it safely in to harbor even through this storm and the worse to come. This is why I consistently prayed for TOSC and our global and local leaders and members as I participated in the 777 Initiative. And I will continue to pray now that TOSC has completed it’s assignment.
In the days ahead God will help us process and distill the full implications. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my initial assessment it appears of the 106 members of TOSC (not sure how many could vote, but at least 100):
40 – voted for letting each division decide for themselves
32 – voted for only ordaining men
22 – voted for men only, but allowing “denominational leadership at a proper level be authorized to decide, based on biblical principles”
9 or 15 – not accounted for in this report
This may not necessarily reflect the position of our full constituents. The fall council and next GC session would be representative. Let’s continue to pray and work faithfully and not allow this controversy to cripple our progress, dampen our study, distract our mission, or foster distrust and disrespect. I place all my confidence, not in faulty man, but faithful God! The best is yet to come! There is hope. Keep praying and stay faithful.
*** Geoff ***
PS. I noticed they just keep trying. No doubt PBHC is at work in this new work:
New Book on Biblical Leadership Seeks to Fill Void
Servants and Friends tackles the foundational theological meaning the Bible offers on leadership.

Some might be interested in the comments made earlier today by David Larson, president of the Association of Adventist Forums, regarding this proposed “third option”:
“The third option is a very bad deal for everyone.
“Those who support WO should reject it. Those who oppose WO should reject it. Those who are uncertain about WO should reject it. And those who proposed it should withdraw it.
“This is because it asks each side to give up one important ethical conviction in order to gain a different one. Those who oppose WO will support it if the other side will accept headship theology as ideally normative. This is a very bad deal. Meanwhile, those who oppose headship theology will accept it if the other side allows WO. This is an even worse deal. Accepting headship theology in order to get WO ordination would be paying too high a moral price. Much too high.
“Any solution must start from the premise that each side has moral convictions that it cannot compromise in good conscience and it is disrespectful to ask it to dishonor itself in this fashion.”
“I’m beginning to think that perhaps you’ve been right all along in saying that those of us who support WO should simply leave SDAism. It would be more honorable of us to do that than to win approval of WO by losing our own souls in acepting any form of headship theology. It is much too early to make this decision; however, it is not too early to begin thinking about how best to do it. Thanks for being true to your principles and having the courage of your convictions.”

It seems like another way of saying it is that there is a “monumental crossroads” relative to whether the church embraces the distinctive gospel she has been given, or instead chases after the philosophy of the world and borrows heavily from popular culture.
If a group like the TOSC has both kinds of people on it, I would expect it to deadlock. People who are theoretically in spiritual unity in fact have nothing in common.
At first glance an issue like WO has nothing to do with the 60-year-old QOD crisis, but it actually seems like they’re closely related.
If error is accepted and worked into the mainstream, it’s very hard for the church to go forward, and such acceptance has all sorts of long-term implications.

No, whatever is decided in San Antonio, it WILL be possible to turn back. If the church fails to ascertain the will of Jesus, the head of the church, he will correct it in his time. And if the church makes a good decision, it will still be possible to get off track at some subsequent time.

Admittedly, with God all things are possible. But it is well also to look back across the sands of time and see whether or if God has ever followed a possible course of action. When has God ever had His people following a very distinct plan for how to interpret His will from His Scriptures, and they have turned away from that plan, and He has shown them this and they have repented of it and re-adopted correct principles of interpretation? No such occasions come to mind. When once hermeneutical pluralism is validated by a church, there are few examples of return indeed. Every example we know of has resulted in split Churches and new denominational structures. After Israel was divided 10-2 North/South, she was never again united as a nation.
There is no question but that God will have His witnesses presenting His gospel message. Here at CAP we are convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is and can continue to be His agency. Nevertheless, now is a special time for prayer, repentence and discernment in our midst. Rather than turning into an errant course that might mean long laps or even death in the wilderness, the people of God have a special opportunity immediately before them to obey the Lord Jesus.

Thank you for your reply, admin. In the future would it be possible to sign your real name? If I am required to use my real name, it is only fair that the person responding to my post be willing to use her/his real name, don’t you think?

You are not required to use your name although I think that is good. The admin speaks under admin when he limits himself to statements that would roughly represent the group. If I or others wish to express items which we see as our distinct personal opinions, no doubt they will post under their name. I believe there is such a mix on this site. Was the June 9 post helpful to you?

While the act of ordination with regards to gender seems a trivial matter, we have no biblical basis for the act, and maybe while not salvific it will mar the identity of God’s Chosen People.It should be noted that if we allow it, it will open doors for other issues within our church. Apostasy in the OT was never achieved overnight, but with gradually comprising biblical truths and principles the church fell far from where God would have it be.
As with the home, God has a very specific order for the leadership of His Church. Restructuring God’s order will have damaging side effects, effects Satan is waiting to employ if granted a chance.
Sometimes we deliberate on what the will of God is, endless hours are spent in trying to figure out what God thinks about certain issues. I believe the Word of God is the Will of God, and placing all feelings and emotion aside, God’s word couldn’t be clearer when speaking on this subject.

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