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Reviewing. . .Spectrum

Spectrum – Vol. 38, Issue 2.

The author employs the metaphor of an evening meeting in his review of this issue. It is focused on Adventist women. Over two thousand copies were distributed at the 2010 General Conference Session.

THE EVENING WITH SPECTRUM began with a thirty second, big screen YouTube video that has already received over 1,000,000 hits. In it, women with fiery torches of truth and common sense drive the medieval monks who establish Adventist church policy back into their medieval monastery at Silver Spring.

After a full 3 minutes of laughter, cheers, and dancing in the aisles, Bonnie Dwyer took the stage and proclaimed that the evening’s entertainment would emphatically and conclusively establish the fact that denying Adventist women ordination is a denial of Christ’s life and teaching, fundamentally lacking biblical authority, misogynistic, foolish, shortsighted, and divisive. She went on to say that the entertainment we were about to experience would destroy the myth that the worldwide membership of the church would suffer if women were ordained. Her introduction was entitled, UNITY IN THE CHURCH. She greeted the assembled Adventist congregation with these words:

Ever since the church’s official studies of ordination concluded that there is no biblical reason not to ordain women (see Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives 1998, Andrews University Press), the concept of world church unity has been used as a reason to deny women ordination. And yet, a more divisive policy cannot be imagined. Despite our official agreement on the openness of scripture to the ordination of women, we persist in shutting more than fifty percent of members out of leadership roles.

Charles Scriven quieted the applause with his bravado tenor solo, WILL WE PERISH FOR LACK OF VISION?

But the wonder of the gift the Pioneers past on cannot hide the way it has been abused. Through all of Ellen White’s lifetime, she and other pioneers changed and grew. They rejected what they had formally accepted; they adopted what they had formerly opposed. But from the 1920s to the 1950s, Spirit-led dynamism gave way to something less daring and less faithful. Instead of searching for new vision and deeper authenticity, church leaders (despite explicit warnings from the pioneers) tried to freeze conviction into statements of official belief. They became comfortable with a look-alike Adventism, where you’d nod in agreement instead of daring to challenge convention. The Bible was less than an eye-opening story then a compendium of proof-texts. The church stumbled toward religious fundamentalism.

THE SOUTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CHOIR RESPONDED TO DOUG BATCHELOR’s ill mannered and sophomoric review with the brilliantly conceived concerto, Failures and Fabrications. Each movement’s fiery intensity was anticipated by their titles: Failure to Show a Spirit of Grace, Failure to Respect Colleagues and Church Authority, Failure to Use Responsible Principles of Biblical Interpretation, and Failure to Hold to Strict Canons of Logic

The words of Chris Oberg lovely mezzo soprano solo, APAULED, was one more brilliant response to another Batchelor tone deaf review.

It is an ugly fact that Pauline texts have been interpreted to justify a variety of beliefs and behaviors which not only destroy relationships, but actually ‘slay the Gospel.’

Beverly G. Beem and Ginger Hanks Harwood sang WHAT ABOUT PAUL? EARLY ADVENTISTS AND THE PREACHING OF “THE MARYS”. The words made the following verses of historic Adventist hymns as contemporary as tomorrow:

Appeals to women to exercise their spiritual gifts and take a more active and vocal role in the churches appeared frequently during the formative period of the Adventist Church.

Adventist scholars found biblical precedents where God used women in a multitude of tasks, providing ample and powerful support for the preaching and public testimony of women. . .

James White is a prime example of Adventist insistence that Scripture be read for understanding and interpreted in a thoughtful, sound, and logical manner.

Adventist leaders. . . exhorted their sisters in the faith to exercise their gifts in spite of the condemnation they might receive from society.

Donna J. Haerich quoted freely from a celebrated critic and a former president in her essay, IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU.

Nicholas Kristof:

Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly un ethical: the oppression of women?” He then went on to charge that abuse rises ‘out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape and not pushed hard to change’.

Jimmy Carter, in a keynote address before the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia:

It is ironic that women are now welcomed into all major professions and other positions of authority but are branded as inferior and deprived of the equal right to serve God in positions of religious leadership. The plight of abused women is made more acceptable by the mandated subservience of women by religious leaders.’ He then went on to say, ‘the truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

While the Christian Church has never condoned domestic violence, by stressing female submission and male headship, it has. . . perpetuated abuse.

Alita Byrd then brought the crowd to their feet with her rendition of the internationally acclaimed anthem of freedom, FROM NORWAY TO SUDAN: WOMEN PASTORS AFFIRMED.

In about ten percent of Trans-European churches, trained women pastors are preaching sermons, visiting members, presiding over weddings, and baptizing new converts.

Before the cheering ended, Rebekah Wang Scriven spoke and destroyed forever the myth that Adventist women cannot lead our church without official support from GC and Division leadership. STRONG GOSPEL, STRONG CHINA, STRONG WOMEN PASTORS brought the cheering crowd to their feet once again.

Today, in 2010, despite lacking an educational system, formal governance, or funding for over 50 years, the indigenous Adventist Church is probably stronger now than ever before. What accounts for the estimated 400,000 Adventist meeting in 4000 congregations that range from 10 to 20 members in homes to 5000 in beautiful mega-churches? After visiting members and churches in early 2010 with my sister-in-law Betty Wang, I believe three factors may explain the rise of a fervent faithful church. 1) a contextualized Chinese Adventism which is a communal rather than individualistic, 2) congregational governance, and 3) women pastors.

Kimberly Osborne Kim sang ORDAINED BY GOD IN AFRICA. When she finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The song was sung to the tune of Shall We Gather at the River

The women I met in Kenya changed my assumptions about self-determination for African women and the inevitable chauvinism inherent to African men. Perhaps more than anything, they challenged my assumption that one must fight for women’s ordination in order to support it.

The entertainment finale began with a crash that rattled the walls and shook the ceiling. Simulated glass shards rained down on the platform as six women stormed the stage. A banner unfurled behind them with the words: ABOVE THE GLASS CEILING: LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP FROM PRESIDENTS OF SDA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, WITH A GUEST APPEARANCE BY THE FORMER CEO OF LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY. Myrna Costa, Antillean Adventist University; Esther Diaz, Cuba Adventist Seminary; Heather Knight, Pacific Union College; Jane Sabes, Newbold College; Andrea Luxton, Canadian University College, and Lynn Behrens, former president and chief executive officer of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center waved to the assembly, stood shoulder to shoulder, and did a credible Rockettes high kick routine to Roll Back the Stone.

Needless to say, the place went crazy!

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