by AT News Team

Late last week the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church released via an official Web site the first of the papers that are part of the denomination's current study of the theology of ordination. A total of 23 papers are available to be downloaded by anyone who wishes to see them along with a number of related documents.
 
The papers were released in two batches at the same time, one includes the papers presented at the January meeting of the committee and the other includes those presented at the most recent meeting in July. The first set of papers focuses on more general topics while the second set focuses in more specifically on the role of women and the issue of extending ordination to women serving as pastors and local elders.
 
Dr. David Trim is the author of two papers, one in each batch, which specifically trace the history of the issue in the Adventist Church. He is an historian originally from Newbold College in England and currently serving as director of archives, statistics and research for the GC. "Ordination in Seventh-day Adventist History" (29 pages) is in the first batch and "The Ordination of Women in Seventh-day Adventist Policy and Practice" (24 pages) is in the second batch. He carefully leaves the door open to both pro and con conclusions on the larger issue while bringing greater specificity to the historiography.
 
Dr. Gerard Damsteegt is the author of four of the papers, two in the first batch and two in the second batch: "Women's Status and Ordination as Elders or Bishops in the Early Church, Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras" (41 pages); "The Magisterial Reformers and Ordination" (28 pages); "Headship, Gender and Ordination in the Writings of Ellen G. White" (40 pages); and "Ellen G. White on Biblical Hermeneutics" (63 pages). He is well known for his spirited attack on women's ordination at the 1995 GC Session in Utrecht. (The "magisterial reformers" refer to Martin Luther and John Calvin.)
 
Others who take a position limiting the role of women or against extending ordination to women include "A Study of 1 Peter 2.9-10 and Galatians 3.28" (77 pages) by Pastor Steven Bohr, director of the Secrets Unsealed evangelism ministry and senior pastor at the Fresno Central Church in California; "Man and Woman in Genesis 1-3: Ontological Equality and Role Differentiation" (65 pages) by Pastor Paul Ratsara, president of the denomination's Southern Africa Division, and Dr. Daniel Bediako, a theologian on the faculty of Valley View Adventist University in Ghana; "Biblical Hermeneutics and Headship in First Corinthians" (46 pages) by Dr. Edwin Reynolds, a religion professor at Southern Adventist University; and "Adam, Where are You?–On Gender Relations" (75 pages) by Dr. Ingo Sorke, chairman of the religion department at Southwestern Adventist University.
 
Papers that clearly present a Biblical basis for opening the door to women in the ordained clergy of the Adventist Church include "Back to Creation: Toward a Consistent Adventist Creation–Fall–Re-creation Hermeneutic" (38 pages) by Dr. Jiri Moskala, the new dean of the seminary at Andrews University; "Should Women be Ordained as Pastors?–Old Testament Considerations" (89 pages) by Dr. Richard Davidson, the noted Old Testament scholar at the seminary; and "Ellen White, Women in Ministry and the Ordination of Women" (32 pages) by Dr. Denis Fortin, who recently left the seminary dean role to go back to full time teaching at Andrews. All three men have published papers in the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society as well as in the Andrews University Seminary Studies.
 
Others with a positive perspective include Dr. Darius Jankiewicz, another church historian on the seminary faculty at Andrews University, who wrote "Authority of the Christian Leader" (29 pages) in the second batch and "The Problem of Ordination: Lessons from Early Christian History" (29 pages) in the first batch. Also "Paul, Women and the Ephesian Church: An Examination of 1 Timonthy 2:8-15" (37 pages) by Dr. Carl Cosaeri, a religion professor at Walla Walla University; and "Trajectories of Women's Ordination in History" (18 pages) by Dr. John Reeve, another church historian on the seminary faculty at Andrews University.
 
Two of the papers were written by women. Dr. Teresa Reeve, a New Testament scholar on the seminary faculty at Andrews University, wrote "Shall the Church Ordain Women as Pastors?–Thoughts toward an Integrated New Testament Perspective" (38 pages). Laurel Damsteegt, a seminary graduate who has written articles in the independent journal Adventists Affirm against women's ordination, contributed "Women of the Old Testament: Women of Influence" (23 pages). Two other documents by women included in the second batch are transcripts of devotionals presented during the July session of the committee.
 
More neutral views were presented by two other historians, both on the faculty at Andrews University: "Ellen White, Ordination and Authority" (44 pages) by Dr. Jerry Moon, chair of the church history department in the seminary faculty; and "The Ordination of Women in the American Church" (38 pages) by Dr. Nicholas Miller, an attorney as well as a historian. It includes an appendix with a seven-page table listing every denomination in the United States that ordains women clergy, the date when this practice began, its position on homosexuality and its church growth record in recent decades. (A download of this appendix is included in the full paper and also listed as a separate downloadable document.)
 
The documents from the January meeting of the committee include seven study papers. One of these has been published as a series of articles over recent months in Ministry, the denomination's journal for clergy. "Dealing with Doctrinal Issues in the Church: Proposal for Ground Rules" (45 pages) was written by Ratsara and Davidson. "The Proper Role of Ellen G. White's Writings in Resolving Church Controversies" (22 pages) was authored by Pastor William Fagal, a member of the White Estate staff. As editor of the independent journal Adventists Affirm he has taken a position in opposition to ordaining women.
 
Also included in the January batch of papers is "Towards a Theology of Ordination" (55 pages) by Dr. Angel Rodriguez, the retired former director of the Biblical Research Institute at the GC. This is evidently the working paper that led to the much shorter consensus statement released by the committee at the end of the July meeting. It is listed on the menu leading to the January papers as "by Angel Rodriguez, et al" although no additional authors appear on the document itself. The guidelines for Biblical studies acceptable to the denomination voted in 1986 at the annual meeting of the GC executive committee are included both as an appendix to the Rodriguez paper and (in different type face) as a separate downloadable at the end of this batch.
 
Adventist Today is seeking analysis from any interested writer. AT will publish pieces that provide additional insight to these study papers and the committee process, not necessarily those that consist entirely of expressing opinions.
 
The first batch of papers from the January meeting of the committee is available at this page:
www.adventistarchives.org/january-2013-papers-presented#.UgoAfz-8CzA
The second batch of papers from the July meeting of the committee is available at this page:
www.adventistarchives.org/july-2013-papers-presented#.Ugo_dD-8CzA