By AT News Team, Jan. 30, 2015: The Loma Linda University Church (LLUC) of Seventh-day Adventists hosted a two-day event on January 23-24, 2015, titled, “Women’s Ordination: The Road to San Antonio.” Six speakers presented various arguments in favor of ordaining women as pastors within the Adventist Church. The event moderator, LLUC senior pastor, Randy Roberts, commented that other church media had carried the arguments opposing women’s ordination. Therefore, the LLUC was intended to provide “balance” by presenting evidence from the Bible and other sources touching on the ordination of women. Roberts also noted that the LLU church had long championed women in ministry in the Adventist denomination.
The LLU Church sponsors a “mind and spirit” weekend each year in January to address a theme at the intersection of academia and the church. Until his recent retirement, Bernard Taylor, scholar in residence at LLUC, led out.
The six presenters at this year’s gathering were Darius Jankiewicz and Richard Davidson (professors at the Adventist Theological Seminary), John Brunt (pastor), Kessia Reyne Bennett (Ph.D. candidate at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Jon Paulien (dean of the LLU School of Religion) and Dilys Brooks (LLU associate chaplain).
On Friday evening, Jankiewicz gave a presentation on the history of Christian ordination and Brunt spoke about women’s ordination in the New Testament.
Davidson’s Sabbath morning sermon, entitled “Egalitarian from the Start,” was based on the first two chapters of Genesis. Davidson sees in the Adventist Church today a standoff between the “egalitarians” and the “complementarians,” with the latter group seeing male headship and female subordination in Genesis 1 and 2. Davidson, who is an Old Testament scholar, does not see a “hint” of superiority in Genesis 1—both Adam and Eve were to take dominion.
Bennett also preached, and her sermon title was “Rights and Wrongs.” On Sabbath afternoon, Paulien spoke about how circumstances alter cases, and Brooks spoke about delays. To conclude the event, Roberts moderated a panel discussion.
Ordination, which is one of the most contentious issues confronting the Adventist Church, will be addressed at the July 2015 Seventh-day Adventist General Conference (GC) session in San Antonio, Texas. Delegates will vote to allow or forbid each Division of the world church to decide for themselves whether they will or will not ordain female pastors. During the panel discussion, a number of participants spoke cautiously about the potentially serious repercussions, especially in the North American Division (NAD), if the GC session fails to allow each Division the option of ordaining women.
In the panel discussion, Roberts read questions that audience members had written earlier. An AT news team member present at the event recorded the following questions and responses:
Q: If the GC session votes Yes, would this set a precedent for Divisions deciding other issues on their own? Brunt responded, “The die is already cast.” He explained that Divisions already handle certain issues differently, as witnessed in each having its own handbook. One handbook deals with polygamy, but the NAD handbook says nothing on polygamy.
Q: What do we do with Gen 3:16? Davidson took this seriously and made several points: “After sin came in, nature turned inward and one blamed the other…” and “marriage was at risk.” He referred to Patriarchs and Prophets, page 58, speaking of a remedial plan. Husbands were to be “servant leaders” and woman to respect. He referred back to Paulien’s “circumstances alter cases.” Genesis 3:16 is not ideal, and it’s not quoted in the New Testament. He cited Song of Solomon as an illustration of a “reversing of the curse” because here we see man sexually desiring woman. Davidson cited Genesis 2 as the ideal.
Q: What are the consequences of keeping the status quo at the GC session? Brooks spoke passionately, saying that culture has changed; it’s post Christian. “We can’t afford to not make a decision, because it would hamper our ability to preach the gospel to today’s world.”
Q: Isn’t this the same question that came up in previous GC sessions? Paulien said that in 1990 the issue dealt with the whole church; in 1995 it dealt with the NAD; and in 2015 it deals with a decision that would treat all divisions the same.
In her closing remarks, Brooks said that if the GC says No, it’s just a church speaking—not God. She said: “Just listen to God’s call.”
Davidson said in his closing remarks that he sees big obstacles to a Yes vote, and he sees a few key leaders holding immense control. He says he prays three times a day that God will work on the “King’s heart.”
Brunt’s final words were, “Unity in purpose, diversity in practice.”
To conclude, Roberts addressed a complaint he had heard from some attendees that there was no representation from the other side of the ordination issue. He was unapologetic, calmly and pastorally stating that because of all that has been said from church leadership against women’s ordination, the LLUC event is providing the other side of the issue.