Issues Related to Women’s Ordination at the European Pastors Council
by AT News Team
Although no dramatic developments occurred, the ordination issue provided an interesting undercurrent during the European Pastors Council in late August in the Trans-European Division (TED) of the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A GC vice president who made presentations at both the Columbia Union Conference and Pacific Union Conference constituency sessions spoke about “A Crisis of Leadership” in the denomination. A well-known female senior pastor from the Southeastern California Conference was among the key speakers. The division president reviewed the issues and clearly stated his support for ordaining women to the gospel ministry.
Elder Lowell Cooper, a GC general vice president appeared with GC President Ted N. C. Wilson at the Pacific Union Conference session on August 19, appealing for the delegates to hold off on authorizing ordination for women pastors, and then traveled to Slovenia where the European Pastors Council was held and spoke on August 23 to a general session. “There is a crisis in confidence in leaders,” said Cooper in his opening words to the European pastors. “Leaders are held in suspicion. And yet, a trustworthy God will never be made know by untrustworthy people.” He made no reported comments on the ordination issues, but in view of the timing is entirely possible that they were on his mind.
“Cooper went on to say that the most important human resource for the church is trust,” according to a news release from the TED. He discussed seven key principles of leadership: humility, integrity, trust, respect, accountability, collaboration and excellence. “Humility is a much misunderstood concept today,” he said. “By many it is thought of as weakness or insecurity and leaders in the world are thought to need a huge ego.” In the church however things have to be different. Humility is an essential quality for the church leader.
Trust is an essential foundation for any organization and, according to Cooper, two things are required for its establishment: moral character and competence. These are significant at two levels – the personal level and the corporate level. Breaking this down to specifics, he stressed the importance of maintaining confidentiality, while at the same time being transparent with the information that it is legitimate to share.
Cooper also said that collaboration is becoming more and more important in church leadership. “Anyone who believes that they are the center of everything is heading for disaster,” Cooper stated. In the church we cannot afford to encourage a celebrity mentality.
Pastor Chris Oberg addressed the assembled European pastors the next day, August 24. “Getting Out of God’s Way” was the title of her presentation. She is senior pastor of the La Sierra University Church. The conference in which she is employed is one of several in the North American Division that have issued ordained minister credentials to the women who had previously been commissioned.
Before the European Pastors Council concluded, Pastor Bertil Wiklander, TED president, made a lengthy statement on “Women’s Ordination to the Pastoral Ministry.” He reviewed the many times since 1982 that the TED has discussed this topic and made specific request of the GC for policy variances, culminating in a vote in November 2010, “To request the GC for permission to ordain women to the gospel ministry.”
Wiklander made his views clear. “I have never made a secret of my own personal conviction. I accept women’s ordination as being biblical and appropriate. But I am also very concerned that we manage this important matter in harmony and cooperation with the world church.”
He also urged the pastors to read a new book by John Lorencin, retired president of the Yugoslavian Union. Lorencin “used to be very much opposed to women’s ordination. He admits that he took a traditional view and under the influence of his cultural context where there were three main religions, Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Islam. He had not formed his opinion on the basis of the Bible, so when he retired he decided to study ordination in the Bible. … In simple language, he goes through the whole Bible.
Lorencin “finds that in the New Testament, Christ has taken over the sacrificial priestly office from the Old Testament, so it is no more. Instead, Christ has fulfilled the sacrificial system and become our high priest in heaven where he now offers his benefits for us to God. As our high priest, he is also the head of the body of Christ, the church, which consists of the priesthood of all believers, which makes no distinction between male and female.”
Lorencin “points out that there is no word for ‘ordination’ in the Bible. It is used in the King James Version from 1611, but it is there based on old Roman Catholic translations from the 14th and 15th centuries. In fact, pastor Lorencin warns against letting pastoral ordination be influenced by the Roman Catholic, unbiblical practice, which is rooted in the pagan Roman system of being promoted (Latin ordinatio) to a higher ‘order’ (Latin ordo) in the state offices. Any sense of the rite of ordination conveying a special status or character that is not already there through the gift of the Holy Spirit is unbiblical. Ordination is therefore a work of the Spirit and only recognized and confirmed by the church.”
Lorencin’s book was published earlier this year in English as well as other languages. It is entitled Priestly Ministry in the Old and New Testament: Should Women be Ordained? Clearly views are changing among the few who in Europe have opposed the ordination of women and Wiklander hopes that the process of Bible study and the influence of the Holy Spirit will change the opposition around the world so that the denomination can unite in a new position.
The full statement is available on the Web at: https://www.ted-adventist.org/news/statement-on-womens-ordination-to-the-pastoral-ministry
Adventist Today thanks TEDNews for daily reports during the European Pastors Council.