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Reading with the TOSC: the January Session Papers


Papers presented this year at the two Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) sessions have now been posted on the Adventist Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR) website, giving the most detailed look yet at the material shaping the committee’s conversation.

There is much to read: 24 papers overall, plus devotionals. In this post, I will list the title, author, and a sentence about each paper.

At the January session when the topic was simply ordination (not women’s ordination), seven papers were presented.

The January index page also includes a link to the statement voted at the 1986 Annual Council on Bible Study: Presuppositions, Principles, and Methods, because “a presentation on the statement was made during the committee session,” although it is not mentioned in the program that is provided. One further note, the devotional presentations are not included for this meeting. Kendra Haloviak-Valentine’s devotional was the only presentation by a woman at this session.

The January presentations were:

1. “Dealing with Doctrinal Issues in the Church—Proposal for Ground Rules” by Paul S. Ratsara and Richard M. Davidson. The 45-page paper concludes “that more is required of us today than of our early Christian and Adventist pioneers.” The August issue of Ministry has a four-page article by the same authors on the same topic.

2. “The Proper Role of Ellen G. White’s Writings in Resolving Church Controversies” by William Fagal. The 22-page paper concludes that Mrs. White taught that the Scripture was intended to be our standard not her writings. In addition, Fagal says White gave instructions “about how to relate to each other while working through the issues: in respect and love for one another, in tender care for one another’s reputation, we are to come in the right spirit, pray and search the Scriptures together, listen to one another, and protect the church.”

3. P. Gerard Damsteegt on “Ellen G. White on Bible Hermeneutics.” He ends his 17-page paper with Mrs. White’s warnings about higher or historical criticism, noting that she identified higher criticism as one of “Satan’s tools to deceive.”

4. “Ordination in Seventh-day Adventist History” by David Trim. In 29 pages, Trim traces the evolution of ordination, not only for ministers, but for licensed ministers, elders, and deacons. He is particularly strident in stating where the authority for choosing ministers resided.  “However, the authority exercised by the conference and now the union is a limited one: to select candidates based on “qualifications” established, since 1879, by General Conference Sessions, and supplemented, since 1930, by Annual Councils of the Executive Committee. Furthermore, the most fundamental of those “qualifications”, in that it is the longest standing, pre-dating all the other current criteria, is that ordination is “not for one local field alone, but for the entire church”. In the light of the recent trend towards unilateralism in the matter of ordination to the ministry, and of allied claims that such ecclesiological particularism is entirely in accord with historical Adventist practice and policy, this is a point that needs to be made—and to be emphasized.”.

5. “The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History” by Darius Jankiewicz concludes his 30-page paper with a series of questions: “Could it be that, as we have been experiencing the delay of the Second Coming of Christ, we may have begun placing more emphasis on the institutional aspects of the church, where rank, status, and position matter more than the preaching of the gospel? Have we tended to ascribe “unwarrantable importance” to the simple New Testament custom of laying-­on-of-­hands — thus inadvertently repeating the mistakes of early Christianity? Is the distinction between ordained clergy and un-ordained laity, as accepted and practiced within our denomination, in agreement with the biblical principle of the priesthood of all believers?”       

6. “Magisterial Reformers and Ordination” by P. Gerard Damsteegt looks at ordination through the eyes of Martin Luther and John Calvin. He concludes his 28-page paper by saying, “The separation between pastor and other church members is not ontological but functional for Calvin.” And then this on women’s ordination:“Calvin’s theology of ordination in itself does not contain any theological force stopping women from being ordained. Instead, Calvin, like Luther, prohibits women’s ordination for pastoral ministry on basis of injunctions in 1 Cor 14:34-37 and 1 Timothy 17 2:11-15.”

7. “Towards a Theology of Ordination” by Angel Rodriguez, et al, at 52 pages was the longest paper presented at the January session. Rodriguez (and team) was given two hours to present the paper and an hour of discussion immediately followed. The paper moves through the Bible discussing the meaning of the “laying on of hands” first in the Old Testament and then in the New. “The divine election, call, and the laying on of hands transform ecclesiastical leaders into servants of the Lord and of His church,” the authors say. Who the other authors of the paper are, in addition to Rodriguez, is not disclosed.

The list of papers presented in July will be the subject of a separate post.



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