The events at the recent Annual Council meeting in response to a few unions initiating women’s ordination shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Hierarchical organizations will always make sure the top of the hierarchy gets the last word. But that’s normal, and I’m not sure why anyone would have expected anything else. Neither should we be surprised at the steady magnetic draw that these leaders feel toward the least adventurous option, nor their reluctance to trust fully a democratic system. We must expect that, too.
A few months back I wrote here, as evidence of the dynamic nature of Adventist theology, of the apparent disappearance from our teachings of Turkey as the country represented by Daniel 11’s King of the North.
Not long ago my brother sent me a link to a site about abandoned places in North Dakota. The abandoned place we were interested in was Sheyenne River Academy, the Seventh-day Adventist boarding school where I and thousands of other midwestern Adventist teens got our diplomas. The background story is that after 3/4 of a century of operation, the old campus several miles outside Harvey was run down. Though it was in the center of the state, it wasn’t in the center of Adventist population.
With a couple of union conferences gathering for special constituency meetings (which are expensive, and not convened lightly) to discuss and vote on women’s ordination, there is an electric anticipation in the Adventist air right now. We may be on the verge of realizing a long-anticipated goal.
I hope, like many of you, that these constituents vote to ordain women pastors. But there’s something that could happen that might be almost as bad as losing the vote. It would be to win the vote, but not achieve what we won it for.
A few years ago I would have told you, had you asked, that I had heard of Samuel Korangteng-Pipim but I had no strong feelings about him. I knew he was a darling of the Seventh-day Adventist conservatives, that he ran a campus ministry, and that he had written some books. Later, as I began to hear more about him, I looked at his website and guessed that he was a man of robust self-esteem: he styled himself an eagle, his followers sometimes calling themselves eaglets.
I grew up in a mostly apolitical family. I only remember one strongly-voiced political opinion: that John F. Kennedy shouldn’t be president because he would let the papacy take charge of the country, and so would begin the persecution of Seventh-day Adventists. We had a family small business—a farm—and perhaps that’s why my father once told me, casually and without a lot of conviction, that he’d voted Republican, since the conventional wisdom was, and is, that Republicans are friends of business and advocates of low taxes.
Last November we learned that a popular coach at Pennsylvania State University was alleged to have had sexual relationships with underage, even pre-teen boys for many years. Exactly who in authority knew what Jerry Sandusky was doing, who was told, and what they did or should have done when they found out, the legal system is still trying to establish.
One of the benefits of studying church history is that it helps you see how much change there has been in Christian teachings through the years. By “church” I mean not just this denomination, but the whole sweep of Christianity that Ellen White reviews in The Great Controversy. In each era there are the faithful and the enemies of the faithful—and of course the whole point of that book is that in the end, the enemies lose and the faithful get their reward.