A fresh look at women’s ordination and why it really matters – even to you.
When the question of women’s role in the church became more prominent once again I was bible working and leading the Seventh-day Adventist church in Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world. At that time this issue didn’t seem very relevant at all to me personally and I didn’t really consider it. In fact, my co-worker and I used to say: today people discuss whether or not women should be ordained pastors or not, but here in Hammerfest the question is if there will come any women at all to the meeting in our little church. Nevertheless, as time has gone by and I have done quite some reading, listening and thinking on this subject, I have come to see that it does really matter. In fact, it is a question of great significance – yes even to you.
Therefore, let’s contemplate why this is very important and what practical bearing it should have in our individual lives.
Scandinavia, Gender Roles and Kindergarten
I am half Swedish and half Norwegian and have lived in Scandinavia all my life with the exception of three months. I have been born and raised in countries that several times have been ranked to be on the very top of the world in regards to gender equality. And thus, not surprisingly the Nordic countries have been described as the best countries for women to live in.1
The culture in which I have grown up is in many ways truly a culture of equality. Everyone is equal. Everyone should have the same rights and the same opportunities etc.
And these are not just words or ideas. They lead to many practical effects in the society. Let me give you one example.
Some time ago I first learned about a special kindergarten in Sweden which simplified had the following philosophy: there is really no difference between men and women, boys and girls except for the obvious physical differences. The reason why they behave and act differently is that we have treated and raised them differently. But this kindergarten was going to do it differently. This kindergarten was going to give the same treatment, the same toys and so on, regardless of gender.2
As you read this example you raised your eyebrow – I hope. You see, as we thoughtfully and intelligently consider the question of gender it is clear that there are indeed differences between male and females.
Physically, mentally, emotionally…
It didn’t matter, my mom has told me, that my sister had the same toys to play with as her three older brothers. She used them very differently. The toys we had used in lively games she used to play mommy, daddy, and child!
Now, why do I tell you all this?
Even though few take their stand on gender equality as far as in the example above, it is an undeniable fact that women’s right’s movement have gone significantly forward across the globe the last century, diminishing the differences between the genders.
In light of that noteworthy development you and I should ask ourselves: how is this impacting or might this impact my view of males and females, gender differences and roles?
The Building Block of Society
We should be careful to come to the perhaps naïve conclusion that the changed sentiments of society does not have an impact on how we view these things.
Recently my aunt told me something I had no clue about. When she was young they had something called housewife schools.
Really! (She even attended one.)
Today that is almost unthinkable. And as I look around me in my society or in the church – I do not really see any differences at all between the roles of male and females. In fact, as I look back on my church experience – though I have attended faithfully every Sabbath even since before I could walk, I can’t really remember that we have been studying/taught about gender roles and what the Bible says about these things. And I know that many other young people have the same experience.
I do realize that today, especially in the western world, it becomes less and less popular and acceptable to talk about these things. Yet when I study the Word of God I see that this is a question that is addressed and therefore something that should be given our earnest attention.
Yes, the discussion of women’s ordination is a discussion on whether women should be ordained as pastors or not. Yet, maybe more importantly is this debates effect on our view of gender roles and its effect on the family – the building block of society.
Mrs. White said it well in the very first paragraph of Adventist Home:
“Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it. Out of the heart are “the issues of life”; and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences.” – Adventist Home, 15.
So is this question important?
You bet it is.
It is not a coincidence that the last six commandments, which tells us what it means to love our neighbor, start in our home (Exodus 20:12)!
That being said I do believe the women’s right’s movement has brought good things with it. I don’t think everything should be as it was before in regards to gender roles. Yet I fear that the arch-deceiver, through the strong push and sentiments of modern society, have been successful in to some degree leading us away from God’s great and glorious purpose and ideal for these things, and in diminishing our understanding of true and biblical manhood and womanhood. And even if he can only succeed in leading us just one inch away from God’s plan it will have big consequences. Eternal consequences. For evil.
Loosing the Kingdom
Why did God reject king Saul? Why did God take away the government from his family?
He did not keep the commandments of God, he did not wait for the prophet Samuel as instructed and he himself had the audacity to offer burnt offerings with his own hand.3
Why was King Uzziah suddenly smitten with leprosy in the end of his life?
Because of his lawless attempt to burn incense in the temple of the Lord.4
Why were Uzzah smitten to death by God when he touched the arch of the covenant while nothing happened with the Philistines when they moved it?
He knowingly disobeyed the clear instructions of the Lord.5
And why do I tell you all this?
You see, the issue is not whether women should be involved in gospel ministry and pastoral labor or not. We need both faithful Mothers and Fathers in Israel. Unquestionably we need more women involved and more involvement.6
Further, the issue is not whether women are capable or not to serve as ordained ministers, many times they are very capable and more capable than men. But rather the issue is what is the plan of our Lord, what has He instructed in regards to the role and authority of men and women in this work!
It wasn’t that Saul didn’t know how to offer a burnt offering, the question was not whether King Uzziah could manage to burn incense or not, the problem was that they did it even though God clearly had limited the performance of those ordinances to a specific group of people – the God-appointed priests.
For us in our modern society where we daily see men and women fulfilling all kind of duties it might seem like a small thing if it is a man or a woman that serves as the head of the church – as an ordained minister. But according to God’s Word and the eyes of Heaven, it is a significant matter.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 10:31).
“In the life of the true Christian there are no nonessentials; in the sight of Omnipotence every duty is important,” penned the end-time Messenger of the Lord (Prophets and Kings 488).
And we all know that it was the eating of one fruit that separated the human race from our loving God and caused us to loose the sublime, blissful Garden of Eden.
So is it an important issue?
Indeed it is.
This is a question of loyalty and faithfulness. How we relate to the revealed will of God will show if we truly want Christ to be the head of the church or if we presumptuously place ourselves above Him and His inspired Word.
The Heart of the Matter and the Foundation of Our Faith
If you in any way have followed the discussion of women’s ordination you have seen that there are a lot of opinions – a lot of confusion. Personally I see people on both sides of the issue that have been a great blessing to me spiritually, that have played a significant role in leading me to a living and dynamic relationship to our Lord.
Now why is this the case?
Doesn’t the Bible teach —
— that God is not the author of confusion? (1 Cor. 14:33)
— that there is one body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith and one baptism? (Eph. 4:4-5)
— that God has promised wisdom to all who ask? (James 1:5)
— that Christ is praying that we all “may be one” so that “the world may believe that You sent Me”(John 17:21)?
Would He not want to lead us to understand how He wants us to relate to this issue?
You see, in short, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart7 and this discussion has clearly revealed that there are significant differences in how we view and relate to inspiration!
I believe they are spot on, those who have already noted that the underlying issue is biblical hermeneutics – how we should interpret the Word of God.
And if that is not significant I don’t know what is.
How we view and relate to inspiration is the foundation for all our faith and doctrine. This will undoubtedly, to a large degree determine whether we, on the great last day, will be found among the just that live by faith and by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.8
Present Truth and the Shaking
Before we summarize and close with looking at some practical implications this discussion should have in our lives, I want to briefly mention a very fascinating reason for you to further consider.
In the arch of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary, God’s powerful illustration of salvation and salvation history, we find three articles. The Ten Commandments, the pot of Manna and Aarons rod.
Why in the world is Aarons rod there?
It is a reminder for future generations of the rebellion of Korah, Datan and Abiram and it’s lessons.9 This strife, on the question of authority and leadership, led to a separation and a shaking.10
The question of women’s ordination in our church today have created a lot of debate, a lot of contention and strong feelings. It seems like whatever the decision of our church will be next week, a lot of people will be unhappy and it will to some degree cause division and a shaking in the church.
God’s sure word of prophecy has told us that there will be a shaking and a sifting in God’s remnant church. Sadly, many people will leave the ranks in the end. Now, could it be that this debate will result in that shaking? Or be a part of it?
Once a year the high priest went into the most holy place of the sanctuary on the great Day of Atonement. Today, the prophecies makes it clear, we live in the antitypical Day of Atonement. Could it be that God put Aaron’s rod into the Most Holy Place because He foresaw our passionate debate on women’s ordination? Could it be that He did it because He knew this question on leadership and authority in a similar way would lead to a separation and a shaking?
I will leave it to you to prayerfully study and consider. But what there is no doubt about is that the lessons from Aaron’s rod are present truth. If there ever was a time when it was important for us to understand and apply the lessons from the rebellion of Korah, it is today!
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” – 1 Corinthians 10:11
So why is the question of women’s ordination really important to you and to me?
Firstly, it has an effect on gender roles and our families – the building block of society.
Secondly, it is a matter of loyalty and faithfulness. Going against the will of God in any way is a serious matter with eternal consequences.
Thirdly, the underlying issue is an issue of biblical hermeneutics and how we relate to that is the very foundation of all our faith and practice.
Fourthly, the question of authority and leadership is present truth and we shouldn’t be surprised if this debate will lead to or significantly contribute to the foretold shaking of our church.
The Ministry of Heresies And Practical Implications
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
This is a profound, powerful truth and a beautiful word to live by. Whatever happens with us, though it is not God’s will per se, if we love Him, if we choose to let Him, He will make it work together for good! This also includes strife, debates and heresies.
We serve a God that is a master in turning things around for the good, in overruling evil things for His purposes and to the furthering of His cause.
So why then, does God allow erroneous theories of various kinds to find their way to you and me? What does God accomplish through the ministry of heresies?
There are several reasons; I will leave you with one quote and a few thoughts.
“I have been shown that many who profess to have a knowledge of present truth know not what they believe. They do not understand the evidences of their faith. They have no just appreciation of the work for the present time. […]
God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat. The Lord calls upon all who believe His word to awake out of sleep. Precious light has come, appropriate for this time. It is Bible truth, showing the perils that are right upon us. This light should lead us to a diligent study of the Scriptures and a most critical examination of the positions which we hold. God would have all the bearings and positions of truth thoroughly and perseveringly searched, with prayer and fasting. Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God so that when the testing time shall come and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, 707.
Dear reader, may we let God use the current debate and confusion on the question of women’s ordination accomplish its purpose in our lives.
May it lead us to earnestly study and contemplate true, biblical manhood, womanhood and God’s plan for Christian families and for His church.
May it lead us to be more grounded and to find out how He wants us to view and relate to the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy and the issue of hermeneutics.
May it lead us to our knees to more earnestly and frequently pray for our brothers and sisters, for our church, for unity, revival and more Christlikeness in our individual lives.
May it lead us to a stronger commitment to God’s remnant church that finally will triumph and finish God’s work in these last days.
And most importantly, may it lead us all even closer to our great Lord and Savior and Everlasting Friend that gave His life for us so that we can live together with him through endless ages in the perfect bliss of the New Earth.
Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- See for instance: “The Top 25 Best Countries To Be A Woman,” Huffington Post, accessed July 4, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/best-countries-for-women_n_4549918.html and http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2013/.
- “Förskola – utan flickor och pojkar,”Aftonbladet, accessed July 4, 2015, http://www.aftonbladet.se/wendela/article12531124.ab.
- 1 Samuel 13.
- 2 Chronicles 26:16-20. See also Exodus 30:7,8; Numbers 16:40; 18:7.
- 1 Chronicles 13, Numbers 4:15, 7:9, Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 705.
- For instance, Ellen White quotes Mark 16:15 over 200 times in her writings to indicate that every believer is called to preach the gospel to every creature.
- John 7:17, 8:43, 12:35, Jeremiah 17:9, 29:13, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hebrews 4:12, John 6:63, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14, 3:1-3, John 3:5, 10-12.
- Romans 1:17, Matthew 4:4.
- Numbers 17:10.
- Numbers 16-17.
For Further Study**:
- “Biblical hermeneutics: blest be the tie that binds us,” Jay Gallimore, ADvindicate, http://advindicate.com/articles/2014/3/15/biblical-hermeneutics-blest-be-the-tie-that-binds-us.
- “A house divided: why regional ordination is the wrong answer,” Skip Dodson, ADvindicate, http://advindicate.com/articles/2015/4/28/a-house-divided-why-regional-ordination-is-the-wrong-answer.
- “Ed Reid entreats Adventist Review to correct misinformation about women’s ordination,” G. Edward Reid, ADvindicate, http://advindicate.com/articles/2015/4/19/ed-reid-entreats-adventist-review-to-correct-misinformation-about-womens-ordination
- “Ty Gibson’s argument still falls short,” Kevin Paulson, ADvindicate, http://advindicate.com/articles/2015/6/7/ty-gibsons-argument-still-falls-short.
- “Women’s Ordination: Shall Angels or Demons Guide Us?,” Ty Gibson, Lightbearers, http://www.lightbearers.org/shall-angels-or-demons-guide-us/.
- Adventist Home – Ellen G. White
- God’s Gift to Women: Discovering the Lost Greatness of Masculinity – Eric Ludy
- Set-Apart Femininity: God’s Sacred Intent for Every Young Woman – Leslie Ludy
- “Women’s Ordination and the Rebellion of Korah,” https://vimeo.com/132465091.
- “Ministry of Heresies,” W. D. Frazee, https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/569/ministry-of-heresies.html.
- “Avenues for Deception,” Adam Patel, https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/6511/avenues-for-deception.html
- “The Dark Side of Feminism,” Laurel Damsteegt, https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/6869/the-dark-secrets-of-feminism.html.
- “Gender Roles and Ordination,” Laurel Damsteegt, https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/6873/gender-roles-and-ordination.html.
- “Women in Ministry,” Laurel Damsteegt, https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/6871/women-in-ministry.html.
**Though you might not agree with everything in these resources don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and loose what is true and what you do agree with.