“Don’t put a period where God has placed a comma.”
– Grace Allen
The United Church of Christ has been waging and all-out campaign of love, inclusion, compassion, and Christ-centered tolerance with “God Is Still Speaking.” What a beautiful concept! I cannot help but get that unexplainable tingling feeling of excitement when I think about the work that the United Church of Christ is doing – godly work. Their campaign prompts me to ask, “Where does this place other denominations in general and Adventism in particular?” And, “Is God still speaking in the Adventist church?” It is important that we ask ourselves, “What is God saying to our Church right now?” I can’t help but think that some in our Church have stopped listening—completely stuck in the time of Ellen White and the Founders of Adventism.
Long have there been individuals in the Adventist Church that have been a seemingly progressive force within Christianity—it’s our birthright as Progressive Adventists. Our founders were kicked out of their home churches for “radical ideas” and claims of heresy! Some were disfellowshipped—including a Messenger of the Lord and her family. What can our denominational history teach us about the ethos of our Church; an ethos that—when the Church is focused on the Gospel of Christ—I would submit, is one of earnest searching, compassion for the outcast, striving for equality, and an unquenchable desire to follow after Christ.
The most volatile of issues tackled by the “God Is Still Speaking” campaign are those issues concerning the ordination of women, racial tensions, and homosexuality. This post will be one in a series that will briefly look at these issues within the greater context of Christianity and more specifically within our own Adventist microcosm. The topics will broaden as our e-discussion proceeds. Through the guidance of the works of the Rev. John Shelby Spong I shall list some of the “holy” texts of Scripture that have traditionally been used to oppress, discriminate, vilify, demean, and demoralize women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals and that have been used to thwart the progress of Christ’s Gospel.
“Women should remain silent in the churches.” I Corinthians 14:34
Antoinette Brown was the first woman to be ordained as a Protestant minister. The Congregational Church of South Butler, New York inducted Brown as minister on September 15, 1853, making her the first woman minister ordained to a mainstream Protestant denomination in the United States.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church from the years of 1884 to 1975 there were approximately 161 ministerial licenses issued to women. Ellen G. White and Mrs. J.S. [Lulu] Wightman were the only two women to receive official ordination credentials. The distinction is made that, “the terminology used in the early official lists [of the Church] was “Ministers” for those who carried ordained ministers’ credentials and “Licentiates” for those who had been issued ministerial licenses; later the corresponding categories in the “Yearbooks” became “Ministers” and “Ordained Ministers.”” For more information please see, http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/wo/index.htm.
Some years back, researchers at Hartford Seminary examined Christian denominations that ordain women from 1977 to 1997. Researchers found that the number of clergywomen has increased dramatically between these twenty years. The study concluded that ordained women:
in the American Baptist Church has increased from 157 to 712;
in the Episcopal Churches in the USA has increased from 94 to 1,394; and
in the United Methodist Church has gone from 319 to 3,003.
Some questions come to mind:
Is God still speaking to Adventists?
Are women hearing His call in our Church?
What do these females called to the ministry of Christ do when facing the unsurpassable obstacle of a Church that only ordains men?
Mainstream, Protestant churches have settled the issue of women’s ordination and for the majority of churches it is no longer up for debate within the Body of Christ. Theological arguments have been exhausted on both sides and it is time for our beloved Church to act. Adventism must recognize and cherish the value and self-worth of women within its congregations or cease to exist as a relevant denomination. God is speaking on this issue, yet some willfully ignore His guidance. I have heard so many terrible stories of women in our churches who are “associate pastors,” but who are not granted ordination – with such blatant sexism and discrimination present among Adventists, I find myself asking, “How this can be associated in any way with the loving message of inclusion present in the life of Christ?”
We serve a God of inclusion—that should be the end of the matter. Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This should settle the argument—women need to stop letting men decide their position at the table. It has long been jokingly said that, “Should women want ordination in the Adventist Church all they need to do is withhold potluck.” Ladies of Adventism, beloved daughters of God, unite together to end this sexist policy within our Church, God has spoken and we must answer.
“Don’t put a period where God has placed a comma.”
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I had a dream last night, a dream of General Conference Sessions past and future. I stood in the center of a stadium, packed with people, all captivated by the music and stagecraft in front of them. I looked around and felt a sadness that kept growing inside of me until it was overwhelming.
Some time ago I was sitting in what quite possibly was the most boring church service I have ever been in. (No, I won’t tell you where I was.) There couldn’t have been more than 50 people in the sanctuary, and I’m being generous. We sang no less than 5 hymns. All hymns were sung in a dry, slow manner. The sermon seemed uninspired, barely prepared, and was presented with no sense of conviction. It felt like we were in church for three hours. We were in church for about 70 minutes.