A year and a half after San Antonio, the rebellion continues unabated. Yes… it’s one more discussion about women’s ordination. Is anyone else sick of this yet? But let’s not let our collective guard down, or we may connect with a “left” hook.
North American Division leadership refuses to acknowledge the three-time decision of the world church regarding Women’s Ordination. More than merely being unwilling to acknowledge the “ordination” and will of God for our church, the NAD, many Union, and many Conference leaders are actively opposing the decisions that have been established three times while in General Conference.
“God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” Testimonies Vol. 9, pg. 260-261 a.k.a. 9T 260.2).
They feel indignant and justified in their rebellion suggesting they are fighting for the rights of the underprivileged, and attempting to correct a grave injustice. They paint themselves as unsung heroes struggling against the tyranny of the uneducated and impoverished “rest of the world.” How Luther-like! … they think.
But these would be protagonists, for all of their efforts (and their efforts have been truly historic) have succeeded only in bringing division, dishonor, and disgrace. The energy spent on securing politically correct idealistic egalitarianism in ministry is only confusing and distracting from the truth. All of this infighting robs us of peace and saps the energy that should be feeding the spread of the Gospel. Time is so short now. And these NAD / Union / Conference leaders involved in the rebellion cast contempt on those who disagree with them saying the opponents are the cause of disunity and division. They speak of their opponents as ignorant antagonists who lack the modern cultural understanding necessary for relevance. “It’s not us, it’s the rest of the herd!” It’s the rest of the herd that keeps the church from reaching its zenith!... they think.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).
Is it for a lack of knowledge that the destruction continues? And it is destruction! Children are being lost. Not for a lack of being politically correct, but because of the lack of integrity and the prevalence of hypocrisy.
My Daughter Deceived
A while ago, my daughter asked, “Daddy, why did God make girls lower than boys?” Her very young face wasn’t bright, but fraught with deep discontent. Her question was sincere, and I could see in her eyes no short answer would be sufficient to explain this. Her heart was profoundly hurting. Actually hurting about being a female. “I wish I hadn’t been born a girl!” she continued. As a father, my heart was breaking with hers. How do you answer the heart when it’s in pain? I tried, but the real answer takes time.
I was angry that someone had convinced my little girl she was being cheated. It’s the same lie satan used against Eve. “Did God really say you can’t … ?“ Insert whatever you like, the insinuation is that God is unfairly restrictive. My little girl had been bitten by a serpent. Some teacher somewhere thought they were doing good by explaining the injustice. Some Luther wanna-be fighting for equality for all.
How did God feel the day His daughter was deceived? Eve woke up that day feeling wonderful. She and her husband Adam worshipped and ate and tended the garden. She was content, filled with adoration and joy, and glowing with the light of God. At least until satan shared his own discontent with her. Then her whole world changed. Not because the world was different at that moment, but because her paradigm shifted. From that moment she began to feel injured and betrayed. Had God kept her down? Was she missing the privileges afforded to other creatures? Gone forever in this life were the blissful moments being a helpmeet to Adam in the garden.
Not Wrong, Just Different
Ducks don’t make good draft horses. Ducks make good ducks. If we possessed the ability to speak duck, and were able to convince a few they were missing out on the glorious life and privileges of being a draft horse, we might be able to saddle a couple of them. But their wings would be broken, and their webbed feet tattered by the end of one day. Where is the freedom for ducks? Where is the equality?
“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” (Jeremiah 18:6).
Is it OK if God creates females for a purpose different than males? Beyond the reality of God’s sovereignty, there is still good sense in what God does.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Corinthians 12:13-18).
Is it OK if women have a different place and different role to fill in God’s work here on earth? Are ducks happy trying to be draft horses? Are women happy trying to be men? God is not suggesting that women cannot minister. God is not saying women should cheer on the sidelines with pom poms and shout, “GOOOOOO MEN! RAH RAH MEN! We're fired up, We're sizzling, We're turning up the heat. The MEN MINISTERS (clap,clap,clap) Can't be beat!”
God said in His word:
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
But He did NOT say, “Women have no part in the work!” Rather He gave them a very specific work. God tells us through His prophet that women should serve in ministry doing Bible work and evangelizing, and ministering to women and children. There are some situations where a male pastor cannot reach the heart of a female, and some situations in life where it’s inappropriate for a male pastor to intervene. So having a woman serving in ministry is good and right. And we were told that women pastors should receive equal pay with their male counterparts. We were also told that the best situation is when a husband and wife can minister together. None of these counsels conflict with God’s word. They don’t require that a woman should be placed in the position of authority over a man, as in the case of a senior pastor. And they don’t require ordination or headship.
This reality begs the question in the minds of pro women’s ordination leaders, “So why should a male pastor be ordained, and a female pastor should not be ordained?” Interestingly, blessings and cursing come from the same lips. In the next breath, these same liberal thinkers will say, “Ordination is a Catholic construct anyway!” Well… which is it? Do you want women to be ordained? Or is it an evil that needs to be thrown out? You can’t have it both ways unless you want women to be ordained in an evil Catholic way! What’s also interesting is that these same leaders who are attempting to force their agendas are so opposed to the use of force when it’s coming from someone besides themselves. They apparently feel the end justifies their means, but no one else’s.
Ordination Is In The Bible
But here’s the truth. Ordination is Biblical. Jesus ordained twelve. Here’s reality. If our church were to begin ordaining women we would lose our witness in the world. The largest part of North America is Catholic, except for the Protestant South. Both of whom would see that as unscriptural. All this says nothing about what the Muslim believers would think. Whether or not you like the idea, we need to witness to everyone including Muslims.
"But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:12-18).
Paul wasn’t deterred by chains. He saw in every trial the hand of God. His intention was only for the “furtherance” of the Gospel. Would it be for God’s glory, and for the furtherance of the Gospel if we did not ordain women? Could women minister despite their “chains?”
And here’s the point never discussed.
When we find ourselves on the wrong path, we need to return to the place where we stepped off the path. The solution is to “retrace our steps.”
“…when you try with all perseverance and determined will to retrace your steps and recover yourself from Satan's snare, . . . you will escape from your bondage and be a free man. It will require a strong will, in the strength of Jesus, to break up the force of habit, dismiss the adversary of souls that has been entertained by you so long, exchange guests, and welcome Jesus to take possession of the soul temple. But He does not share the heart with Satan” (4MR, 226.2).
Bunyan’s Christian met with the same truth when he thought to take the path in By-path Meadow. But it led to Doubting Castle, and the near death experience with Giant Despair. Only by retracing his steps to the turnstile was he able to regain footing on the way to the Celestial City.
This is an important truth. It is the reason for the curse.
Eve surrendered to the temptation to “be like God.” How did satan know it would be a great temptation for Eve and all her daughters to want to be higher than they were? The Bible doesn’t record any words spoken to Adam, but we don’t need any. It’s clear he was unwilling to live apart from Eve, and willing to surrender dominion over the earth to satan instead of trusting God. For Adam and all his sons, the temptation exists to trade nobility and agape for phileo and eros.
How do you reverse that? God spoke to the serpent, and cursed, “You will crawl on your belly, and He will crush your head, but you will bruise His heel.” The only solution for satan was death.
But for God’s sons and daughters a plan was laid before the foundation of the earth.
To Eve and her daughters God pronounced a curse, which is actually a blessing designed to save. Since the temptation was to be higher in station, “like God…” then the reverse was to place her under her husband. She would have to submit to him, and her desire would be for him, but “he would rule” over her. Additionally, she would have “pain in childbirth.” This pain was not mere physical pain. God knew that she would see the loss of her children. It didn’t take long, Cain killed Abel, and was cursed, along with his wife (Eve’s daughter) and so began the pagans. What a heart wrenching pain. It was a curse designed to bless. It would be a constant reminder of the wages of sin to Eve. Every time she wanted to rise up, every time she wanted to have her equality back by Adam’s side as his helpmeet and he “ruled” over her. Every time she lost a child to satan she would be reminded of her need to be content with God’s providence and her position in life.
To Adam and all of his sons God pronounced a curse, which is actually a blessing designed to save. Since the temptation for Adam was to surrender dominion over the earth, and doubt God’s ability to solve the problem of losing Eve, reversing the problem was to cause the earth to bring forth “thorns.” God cursed the ground, and it wouldn’t produce as it had. Adam would have to work hard and learn to trust God for food for himself and his family. He would have to submit to the earth rather than have dominion over it. He would eat “bread” by the sweat of his brow. It didn’t take long. God now had to allow Adam to eat of the “herb of the field” for strength. Wheat, barley, oats became bread for Adam and his sons. They represented the “Bread of life.” Salvation would come, but only by pain. Despite this, he would grow old and sick, and return to dust to be swallowed up by the earth he surrendered. Additionally, the animal kingdom became enemies of Adam and his sons. And at every death, whether by animal, by work, or by sickness and age, the curse that is a blessing would remind Adam and his sons to trust God and not surrender to satan.
God flipped Eve and Adam’s sin upside down for them in the curse / blessing. It was the way for them to retrace their steps. It was the path back to the turnstile away from Doubting Castle and the Giant Despair. It was the way to the Celestial City. And it cannot be short cut or made easy.
The siren cry, the long overstated and poorly interpreted text used by those supporting women’s ordination is:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
In this one text (they say) is the entire understanding of the cause to ordain women. They would place them in a position over men as they serve as senior pastors, making them equal to men in authority in the church, and undo our hope of witness to most of those outside of the church in North America.
It’s interesting when you look at this text in context. Paul is saying that we are justified by faith, and not by works of the law. It’s about justification. It’s about being saved. So essentially, Paul is saying, anyone can be saved, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, all are “one in Christ.” But where in this text did Paul suggest that he was overthrowing his words to Timothy?
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:12-15).
It’s even clearer when you study the Scriptures and discover that Paul had themes that were persistent in each of his letters. You can trace these same themes as he usually even used the same words. For example, remember the text listed above in this article from his letter to the Corinthians?
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Notice the same words used in Galatians 3. More careful reading will reveal this text is Paul discussing the same theme exactly! Salvation is for everyone who is actuated by the Holy Spirit, repentant, and committed to living “in Christ.” But nowhere does Paul subjugate the often repeated truth that Eve was to submit to Adam, and women are not permitted to have authority over a man.
It’s at this point in the conversation that those in support of women’s ordination will throw down the gauntlet. They bring out the statement from Ellen White which says that Eve was created from a rib, not from the head, not from the foot(Funny how often they discredit many other statements from her like “Cheese is wholly unfit for food.” They say, “That was in her day…” when it fits their theology. Then they make fun of people who eat tofu). Their suggestion is that God intended for there to be equality, and that’s the way it was in the garden! Then they suggest that we are to strive to reach that garden experience here and now! Thereby it follows that women should again be equal with men, as that is only right… they say.
It’s agreed we should strive for that Edenic experience. But to remove the curse / blessing which came from God is not right, good, appropriate, or within our pay grade! Seeking for that authority is on par with, “You can be like God!” And we all know what happened the last time someone believed that! And what is equality anyway? Just ask a duck who tried to be a draft horse. Why not be happy being a duck?
If we were to actually make women equal, we would be removing the very thing God gave them for their salvation. And even if we ignore that fact, and remove the curse / blessing, what about men? Where’s the equality in removing women’s curse / blessing, but not men’s?
For today, Satan continues to have temporal authority and dominion over the earth. It follows that Adam’s curse remains—he must submit to the earth. If Adam’s curse remains, it follows that Eve’s curse remains. Her desire will be for her husband, to regain that place as helpmeet working by his side, but he will rule over her, and God continues to “greatly increase her pain in childbirth.” Children are dying. Souls are being lost.
Perhaps the best thing we can do at this point is move forward. The issue is settled. We should pour our energy into saving souls, including our own. We should focus on sharing with a dying world the wonderful truths given to the Seventh-day Adventist church to share.
As I tried my best to explain some of these concepts to my little girl, it was clear this was a hard pill for her to swallow at that moment. So we ended the discussion, and I have spent many moments in prayer asking God to reveal this truth to her heart. I have spent years asking God to give her an understanding of His love.
As of yet, I have not been afforded the opportunity to share with her this “point that is never discussed.” It came to me after it was too late. It came after much searching and study and prayer. She left the church and God many years ago after attending one of our colleges where she learned more about the inequities of the church, supposed failures of Ellen White, and the injustice of male headship from teachers and pastors who thought they were doing God a favor. While this wasn’t the only factor in her fall, wouldn’t it have been sufficient to teach her about the good things in our church, and of God?
Shouldn’t we be done with all this discussion about women’s ordination? Why does this evil rebellion continue? Perhaps it’s a lack of knowledge. My prayer is that God will show us all His truths. My hope is that our leaders will come to an understanding themselves.
John Howells works as an echocardiographer, and lives in Centerville, Ohio.