Teresa Reeve, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, was recently appointed as the Associate Dean of the seminary. She is the first woman to hold a position of leadership at this level at the seminary, which is a General Conference-operated institution. Jeff Boyd interviewed Dr. Reeve for Adventist Today.
AToday: Before turning to questions about the seminary, I'd first like to learn more about your personal story. When did you first sense a call to ministry? How would you describe this process?
Reeve: I've never had a “call moment.” When I was in college at PUC, a lot of my closest friends were theology majors, and I went to their events. I enjoyed being involved in the dialogue, but I never even considered ministry. Those interests were just part of my Christian life.
Since I wasn’t sure about my future career, I chose to do a Multiple Subjects major, with an elementary education emphasis. That way I could study lots of interesting things and have a broad foundation for whatever career I would eventually choose. It would also make it easy to find a job because there are always teaching jobs available. I spent about ten years teaching at the elementary level.
My husband, John, did a Theology major, and we taught for a while together before he decided to come to Andrews to do an MDiv. Even at that point it never crossed my mind to study for the ministry. We spent four years in Berrien Springs, and I took the opportunity to do a degree in Developmental and Educational Psychology, just because I was fascinated by that whole area. As part of this degree I studied human development, educational and group psychology, family ministries, and religious education.
AToday: What years were those?
Reeve: We came in 1985. I received my MA in 1990. I didn't know what career would come out of that, but I knew it was an area I was interested in.
I studied with Donna Habenicht, who has worked a lot with the church in developing materials for children's ministries and family ministries. Donna got me involved in writing children's ministries and family ministries materials for the church, so I kind of backed into ministry in that way, along with serving in team ministry with my husband who served for several years as a pastor in the Minnesota conference. I wrote the curriculum for the Adventurer Club, when they were just developing it, including the Family Ministry component. I also wrote ministry materials for Junior and Adult Sabbath Schools, primary camp-meeting programs, and various others. I did a lot of trainings along with the writing projects, doing workshops training people to use the curricula.
So I did that free-lance for a few years. I enjoyed it, but I wanted to get more into full-time ministry in that area. I loved working in ministry. My sense of call has really been a process of discovering my gifts and passions. Unfortunately, I found there weren’t many positions available in the Adventist church for children's ministries specialists. There were a few opportunities to work as a secretary in a conference office, and then be in charge of children's ministries on the side. But that didn't seem quite right to me. I didn't have an MDiv at that point, but I knew that in larger churches there were occasionally a few pastoral positions available working with children and families. I think watching the pastors work, while my husband was pastoring, was a dawning realization: “That's something I could do. That's something I'd love to do.”
So I decided to come back here [to Andrews University] to do the MDiv. John has always been supportive, saying “You need to be doing a PhD. You need to be getting more education.” So when I came to this realization that I wanted to do my MDiv, he was willing to move. In fact, he also wanted to do a PhD in early Christian history. So we came back to school again.
When John was in seminary, I used to tease him because he had to study Greek and Hebrew. I used to think that would be so boring. Then when I started doing my MDiv, I just found so much joy in the studies, including Greek. It was a surprise. The degree was a means to an end, and yet once I got here, it was such a joy. I found myself walking around smiling all the time because I enjoyed the work so much.
I was here for a year—in the middle of my MDiv—and the New Testament Department was looking for a woman to become a faculty member. They had some funding to pay for the PhD, so they offered me that opportunity. Notre Dame gave me a tuition scholarship as well. We were able to use some of my previous MA credits so that I could finish the MDiv in two years, then I went straight to Notre Dame.
So I made a switch from child and family ministries to loving academia, to the New Testament Department inviting me to become a faculty.
AToday: Was the Andrews funding from a private donor?
Reeve: No, it was from funds provided by the General Conference (GC) for seminary faculty development. For ten or fifteen years, the seminary has been dedicated to bringing more women onto the faculty. So my appointment as associate dean is not a new thing; it's just a new step in a long-time commitment.
AToday: When did you finish your PhD at Notre Dame?
Reeve: In 2008. My daughter was born in 2000, and I started teaching in 2003. She was born two weeks after I completed my oral comprehensive exams at Notre Dame.
AToday: Also on a personal note, I wanted to ask about how you and your husband met—how two biblical scholars came together. You mentioned you met at PUC.
Reeve: Yes, at PUC. The occasion for meeting was a Bible conference up at Wawona near Yosemite. He had a van, and my friends and I needed a ride. There was a sign-up list for rides, and we ended up in his van and talking all the way up there, realizing we had similar interests.
AToday: Talking about similar interests and Yosemite, I know your husband has rock climbed there. Have you as well?
Reeve: I actually climbed in Yosemite before he did. I got to take a PUC summer class in Yosemite.
Rock Climbing was also the first class we took together. We “happened” to meet at registration, were both interested in climbing, and decided to take the class together.
AToday: Do you still have a climbing wall in your home?
Reeve: Yes, we do. There isn’t much opportunity for real rock climbing in the Midwest, but I enjoy biking and backpacking and lots of other outdoor activities. I like to bike to work whenever the Michigan weather allows.
AToday: Switching to the seminary and your new appointment: In the time you've been here at the seminary, what have you taught?
Reeve: I've taught a lot of Greek classes. I teach the Gospels; my dissertation was on the gospel of Luke. Also the general epistles, the ones not written by Paul. And a class on social issues, a new class that I've developed.
AToday: What types of social issues?
Reeve: Social ethics issues. I teach students how to dig into scripture in order to gather principles for responding to today's social issues. We work together through understanding the process for this kind of study, and then we apply it to five or six social issues chosen by the students.
AToday: What is the role of the associate dean? What will your responsibilities be?
Reeve: To describe the associate dean role simply, it's like an academic dean. I will oversee class arrangements, all the academic areas. I will also continue to teach three classes a year for the New Testament Department, which I'm very thankful for. I'll be able to continue teaching and interacting with students.
I see myself as a facilitator. The dean sets the vision for the seminary, and I help to put wheels on that vision and make it happen. The faculty are the ones who do what is important here—educating leaders. I'm here to facilitate them in doing the best possible job.
It's also my job, along with the dean, to keep the big picture in mind. Each faculty and staff member pursues what needs to be done for their area. I'm the person who helps ensure that we don't over-emphasize one area at the expense of another, that our efforts flow in the direction of the vision. I'm really big on mission and vision. If we keep the big picture—the mission and vision—in mind, we can keep all the details flowing together to accomplish our purpose. I'm excited about that task.
What I've been spending most of my time doing since I started a week and a half ago is talking to people. My first priority is to listen, so I've been talking to the department chairs and the program directors, just saying, “What do you want me to know about you and the work you are doing?”
Another important part of my work as associate dean is dealing with assessment and accreditation. I'm in charge of making sure we are accredited successfully. Our main seminary accreditation is with the Association of Theological Schools. It's basically a group of schools all getting together and agreeing to hold each other accountable to best standards and practices.
In 2009 we had a ten-year accreditation, so a team will come here again in 2019. We'll start writing our self-study in a couple of years. Once we finish the self-study, a team made up of faculty from various theological schools will come and look at our self-study, look at what we have, and help us to analyze how well we are meeting the standards we have set in the context of our own goals and purposes as an Adventist seminary. So that's part of my task, to interface with ATS and our regional accrediting agency and to use these accrediting opportunities to help us be the best seminary we can be.
AToday: What reactions have you received to your appointment?
Reeve: I've only personally received positive reactions. I know there are others out there, but I've been blessed to have received many kind comments and emails from people from different parts of the world, even from people I wouldn't have expected to react positively. It gives me a sense of support as I start out.
I think many of these reactions are not so much about me. They are about this moment for women in the church. I just happened to be the one who was in the right place at the right time. I've been blessed to be a part of that sense of celebration, and to have the opportunity to benefit from it.
I also recognize a huge responsibility is involved. Women always feel this to some degree when they're in an area where women haven't normally been accepted—you have to do twice as well, you have to be twice as exemplary. When you're the first, this pressure is even stronger, so I feel that responsibility. But I'm grateful for the opportunity.
AToday: The seminary dean, Jiří Moskala, called your appointment a historic nomination because you're the first female in the seminary administration. You clearly acknowledge this, but you have also downplayed it in some ways.
Reeve: For me it's not first of all a gender issue. For me it's the opportunity to serve the seminary in a way that fits my passions and skills. Jiří is excited to have a woman, but the primary thing is that it's about being able to put a person in a particular office who has gifts and skills for that office.
I believe it’s important—and I think it's important for the future of women in leadership in the church—to say it's not just about choosing a woman to put in the office. It's saying, “We need someone who can do these things, and here's someone—who happens to be a woman—who is skilled to do them.”
Dr. Moskala sought input from faculty members and from leaders in the NAD and GC, which is standard for all faculty hiring here because we're GC-run. All appointments need to be approved at the NAD and GC levels.
AToday: You've mentioned some of your skills that will be needed for this position. Tell me a little more about what you bring to this role.
Reeve: One of the things that excites me is I love big-picture thinking, and I love helping a system to work efficiently towards its vision. I have huge respect for our faculty, our staff, and our students. My leadership style is a collaborative style, based on listening and working together toward a common goal.
I even like—and I'm not sure if I should admit this—but I like committees. I think one of my skills is to help a committee to be more than a stereotypical committee that talks but never does anything. I'm always moving towards a goal. I enjoy working with small groups to make things happen. I'm very pragmatic. Even as a faculty member, the classes and things that I get most excited about are pragmatic, action-oriented things.
AToday: How many female professors are there currently at the seminary?
Reeve: Most departments have a woman professor. In Theology we have Jo Ann Davidson. In Christian Ministries we currently have Hyveth Williams. Lisa Clouzet teaches for NADEI (North American Division Evangelism Institute). Connie Gane teaches for Old Testament. Kathy Beagles is faculty in Religious Education along with Jane Thayer, who is emerita but still teaches occasionally. Esther Knott is program director for the MA in Pastoral Ministry (English Track). Cheryl Doss, who works with GC Mission Institute, also teaches classes for the department of World Mission.
AToday: And how many female students?
Reeve: About sixteen percent of seminary students are women. It's been hovering around 12 to 15 percent for a number of years, so it isn't growing significantly. But the opportunities in ministry haven't grown much in the last few years either. We’ll see how the next year or two plays out.
AToday: You have talked about wanting to promote greater learning and leadership. Even though you’ve only been in this new position for less than two weeks at this point, what do you have in mind in this area.
Reeve: Our mission, very simply stated, is to make leaders for the church—leaders that will reach out to the world with the message of Jesus’ kingdom and of His soon coming. We want to make great leaders for the church, leaders of excellence.
The seminary is doing so many things already. We provide degree programs and other educational opportunities that develop leaders for the NAD and around the world. We are considered by many around the world to be the best place to go for theological and ministerial leadership. I would like to see us not just rest on our laurels but to really pursue excellence in this area.
I'll give you an example of one thing we're currently working on, that was initiated before I started. This Spring the seminary voted to begin work on an MDiv curriculum revision. (It's one of our two biggest programs; the DMin is the other.)
In a curriculum revision we consult student feedback, seminary assessment data, and input from church leaders and administration to re-evaluate the program we offer the MDiv students, including the courses required, options available, and possible methods of delivery. In our last revision in 2007 we recognized that almost half of our students were now second career students who don’t have a theology undergrad, so we put in place a two-track system. We’ve got students who come in recently baptized, so they have almost no theological background, along with those who sat in undergraduate theology programs for four years. So it’s a huge spread to try to deal with.
This year, in initiating a new curriculum revision, we are blessed by the fact that the NAD is at this time doing a comprehensive review of pastoral formation through the lifespan of the pastor. They’re gathering a group of leaders from the NAD—unions, conferences, colleges, and the seminary—to work closely together in order to step outside of our individual boxes and create an integrated plan for pastoral development in the NAD.
So now as we do our curriculum revision, we can do it in conjunction with what the NAD is doing. They'll consider such things as what the colleges are doing, what the seminary is doing, and how we can best coordinate our programs so they function for the best benefit of our pastors and the constituencies they will serve. It's really an exciting opportunity to think about ministerial leadership and how best to equip them at 20 and 30 and 40 and 60. Like all of us, pastoral leaders need support and resources that vary at each stage of their lives.
AToday: There's a lot going on at the seminary, and you've highlighted some things here. Are there any other things you'd like AToday readers to be aware of?
Reeve: I can mention a few things. We have a number of opportunities for anybody who's interested in coming for weekend seminars. We have a Music and Worship seminar every year, which is open to anyone who wants to register and come learn about leading music and worship. We have one on leading youth and young adults—the 180 Seminar. We also have annually a Christian Leadership Conference, a Conference on Family Research and Practice, and the H. M. S. Richards lectureship on Biblical Preaching, among many other opportunities open to interested individuals who are not Andrews students.
We have a growing distance education component. Right now we have three official extension schools in Romania, India and Russia, where we offer an MA in Religion. We're looking at adding locations as well. Our Doctor of Ministry program offers cohorts in various places of the world that provide advanced ministerial leadership in various ministry concentrations. We see the incredible growth of the church around the world and the need for ministerial or pastoral leadership in these areas is so key.
Regarding our faculty, a former graduate dean said to me on Sabbath, “I don't think many people realize the sacrifice that seminary professors make for the church. I look at some of these people's schedules, and some of them spend a huge percentage of their time traveling—going to teach in the DMin program, leading a workshop here, giving a seminar there. Then they return and teach full time.” We have an awesome faculty that joyfully sacrifices a lot because of their commitment to Christ and their desire to help prepare leaders for the church.
We have some online learning opportunities as well, which has been growing dramatically since Griggs University moved here from the GC. We don't have any fully online degrees yet at this point, but many degrees have some classes that can be taken online.
AToday: Could readers who are interested in taking a class register for these online courses, or are they only available to official Andrews University students?
Reeve: Yes they are, although they are primarily oriented toward students pursuing a degree. We have also begun to offer free video lecture series dealing with challenging current issues in the church. The first one, entitled The Trinity Project, has been completed and can be accessed from the seminary website home page.
AToday: I'd like to ask a few questions about theology. Because New Testament studies are your focus, what perspective can you share about women in leadership in the New Testament time period?
Reeve: I wrote a paper for TOSC on women in leadership in the New Testament, and my husband wrote one on the early church. It's hard to boil it all down into a few sentences, but I can tell you that my belief from studying scripture is that God created both men and women in His image. As a result of the fall, and the presence of sin and conflict in human lives, God made provision for one person, the husband, to take leadership within the home. But this was not His original plan, it was the result of the fall. And certainly, nowhere in God’s law is this stated to apply to relationships outside the home.
While men certainly dominate the narratives of the Old Testament, I also see bright spots where God was able to raise up female leaders. God did choose male priests at the time of the exodus, but when we come to Jesus, that male priesthood was completed with Jesus, as the book of Hebrews makes clear. Rather than a male priesthood, all believers are now part of the royal priesthood, which began at Sinai and is gender-inclusive.
The New Testament repeatedly speaks of the royal priesthood, as something we are now, not simply will be. The pastor is not some kind of continuation of the Levitical priesthood; the pastor is a person with a certain set of gifts that are recognized by the church, but as a member of the royal priesthood of believers, not as an exclusive pastoral priesthood. Also the Sabbath School teacher and the community services leader have certain sets of gifts as part of the royal priesthood. So each of us functions as part of the royal priesthood. According to the NT, Christ alone is the priest and head of the church.
The New Testament speaks of a re-creation in Jesus. Jesus pointed His followers back toward God’s original ideals which had been lost across thousands of years of sin. We don't see the New Testament advocating a sudden or drastic switch in gender expectations, any more than we find explicit instructions to end slavery. It's the roots that are attacked. The principle of Jesus is that every person is of value. Every person is created in God’s image. Every person is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit in order to serve. There is in Christ no status differentiation between Jew and Greek (ethnic groups), male and female, slave and free (socio-economic groups). Through Jesus, God has called His people back to the Eden ideal—the Eden ideal in regard to Sabbath-keeping, the Eden ideal in regard to diet, and the Eden ideal in regard to male-female relations.
Jesus and His apostles treated women in markedly different ways than the traditions of the societies around them dictated. In Luke 8:1-3, you have women traveling with Jesus. For a rabbi to have women accompanying him, especially without their husbands, that's really radical, huge risk-taking. You see some evidence of it in other parts the New Testament with Junia and others. Priscilla, for example was teaching men, whereas some people say that a woman should never teach a man. And Peter reminded people at Pentecost that the Spirit would be poured out on sons and daughters, male servants and female servants.
So you see the evidences of the inclusion of women in leadership beginning to happen. But then, as we Adventists know, the NT church met the Greco-Roman culture and politics. We know that the Bible doesn't teach the immortality of the soul, but when the New Testament church ran into the Greek philosophy, it got bent to teach immortality of the soul. Sabbath runs into political considerations and so on and gets bent. The same thing happens with the growing inclusion of women, so that the way the empire was run becomes how the church is run, and the way society viewed women becomes how the church viewed women.
The way I understand why Jesus did not instigate drastic social changes is that He recognized that the only thing that's really going to change society, the only thing that's going to make a real difference in people's lives, is coming into covenant relationship with him, surrendering to him as Master and Lord, and living life the way he designed it. He knows how life is made to be lived, and he knows that until we come into that relationship with him, all these external things we try to fix are going to be hopeless.
So when Jesus came and was faced with limited time and the very slow human ability to change—look at his disciples who couldn't even grasp what Jesus was doing even though he explained it in clear, explicit terms—he chose to go for the core of changing the human heart, bringing the human heart back into relationship with him so he can transform it. And He knew that those principles of transformation would transform His church, would transform his kingdom as the seeds became rooted. He's had to be pretty patient with us!
It's a shame that, although the Adventist church early on appointed a number of women at various levels of church leadership, just as in post- New Testament times, ideas from outside the church came in to quench the Spirit's work through women. Some of the arguments about women in leadership aren't coming from the Adventist tradition.
AToday: I've seen graphs by Zack Plantak that highlight this history. The numbers just drop off around 1910 or 1920.
Reeve: In the early 1900’s there was a strong reaction that came to a head against the increasing liberalization of the Christian church. This was spoken of as the “fundamentalist” movement (that's where the term was coined I believe). Adventists naturally agreed with the stand the fundamentalists were taking in opposition to this growing liberalization. We wanted to stand for Scripture, the truth of scripture, the historicity of Scripture, so we got swept into other aspects of the fundamentalist movement by mistake. Innocently we didn't realize all that we were buying into at that point. Gerry Chudleigh has written an interesting book on this topic which can be downloaded for free.
AToday: You mentioned some of the ways the Christian church changed in the early years. One significant shift was the transition from the early home churches to the more institutionalized church of today.
Reeve: I think there are strengths and weaknesses on both sides. I think we've lost a lot by leaving the house church model, as far as community goes, and connectedness with people, as far as fluidity of being able to adapt to a neighborhood. But at the same time, there were very good and valid reasons for instituting more systematic ways of working together, otherwise you tend to shoot off in all kinds of directions.
I think one of the strengths that we have as a church—and I think it's a core, fundamental strength—is that we are able to work together as a global church. We make missteps regularly. We make the mistake sometimes of valuing the bureaucracy over the Spirit. We make the mistake of trying to use force and power as a way to accomplish things.
Having a more systematic organization has its drawbacks, and it gives us temptations that we fall to. But at the same time I've been a part of a number of inter-religious dialogues as an NAD or GC representative—talking with Mennonites, with Presbyterians, with the World Evangelical Fellowship—and none of them have the global unity that we have. They look at us and say, How do you do it? And they sometimes wish they could have something like what we have, where we're all in such close harmony with one another. We have our sibling spats, but we're all working together, moving in the same direction. So I see the drawbacks, and I see where we've made mistakes with it, but I wouldn't want to give up that organizational unity that we have.
AToday: Thinking of this global church, you have participated in the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), writing two papers for review. I'm curious if you have any reactions? What did you think about the process? How well did members listen to each other?
Reeve: One of the things that I really appreciate is that each of the four meetings was conducted, in a sense, as a retreat where the one hundred and four members—as many as could be there—remained together in the same place for three to five days. So we not only read and discussed papers, we ate together, we discussed together. That allowed us to not only see each other as opponents but as people. It was really valuable. You know there were some painful times in the last couple of meetings, and yet we could come back together at meal times and eat in fellowship. There were occasionally hurt feelings, occasionally strong discussion, but we sat down and we ate together and respected each other as people. That is powerful. Similarly, here at the seminary, a very large majority are in favor of women in leadership, but there are a few who aren't. And yet we have an amazing collegiality here as well.
It's true that we didn't change the extreme positions. The people who were committed remained committed. The Steering Committee knows a lot more about the shifts. The shifts weren't publicized because we're not a voting body. We were to explore the research. But I know there were people who shifted, who made decisions, so it was valuable in that way.
We certainly were able to pull together a group of papers that will hopefully serve the church and those who are interested for a long time, building on what we had before. There were great papers before, and we built on that and from a world-church perspective.
I don't think anything was going to lead to consensus outside of a major take-over by the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus couldn't convince all his disciples on what he was talking about, so I don't find it hugely dismaying that we still have disagreements. I pray that God will be able to lead the church as a whole to find a way to deal with this that is according to God's will and will be a benefit to the church.
AToday: You talked about consensus, what came in this area?
Reeve: TOSC was able to agree to a consensus statement on a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Ordination. I believe that the consensus statement is a very telling and valuable document. It recognizes that ordination is not the conferring of some special spiritual quality or kingly authority on an individual, but is simply “the action of the church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global church ministry.”
What we end up with is three summary position papers outlining our respective understandings of the Bible’s teachings as it relates to the ordination of women, and three suggested ways forward. These are being passed on to the administrative groups who are involved in the decision as to whether and how to introduce the issue at the General Conference in session next summer.
I think for some who are opposed to the ordination of women it's okay for me to be in this office, because I am working under Dr. Moskala who they understand to be “the head.” I'm not the dean. I'm the associate dean, so it's an okay place for me to be. That's alright. We're growing together. We've come a long ways. It takes time for us to wrap our minds around what God is telling us in Scripture. His way of understanding things is often so different from what is natural for us as humans. But my belief is that as people continue to study Scripture and to see how God is using women, not just hearing about it but experiencing it, the change will continue to happen.
 Music and Worship Conference, https://www.cye.org/mwc/.
 180 Symposium, https://www.cye.org/180/symposium/.
 The Trinity Project, https://www.andrews.edu/sem/sdlc/trinity/.
 “Shall the Church Ordain Women as Pastors? Thoughts toward an Integrated NT Perspective” (July 2013). “1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and the Ordination of Women to Pastoral Ministry” (January 2014). All TOSC papers can be accessed at the GC Archives, https://www.adventistarchives.org/gc-tosc#.U8aTebGwJ2E.
 Zdravko Plantak, The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1998), 95.
 Gerry Chuldleigh, https://www.scribd.com/book/221093117/A-Short-History-of-the-Headship-Doctrine-in-the-Seventh-day-Adventist-Church.
 Previous studies, https://www.adventistarchives.org/study-commissions-and-committees#.U8aRUrGwJ2E.
 Consensus statement, https://www.adventistarchives.org/statements#.U8aRKbGwJ2E.
 Position and Way-Forward Papers, https://www.adventistarchives.org/june-2014-papers-presented-at-tosc#.U8hiz_ldWSo.