by Val Loumber, August 26, 2015: While many people continue to debate whether the practice of women’s ordination (WO) is biblical, I find myself still stuck on first base, unable to justify the historical and ongoing procedural failures of the WO agenda.
So what if WO is biblical, if it is introduced in an unbiblical way!
Even if biblical, WO must still be implemented and practiced in accordance with the biblical principles governing the process by which all disagreements are resolved, all biblical truth is established and all parties to the disagreement are reconciled to each other.
Just because something is biblical does not automatically mean that it should be implemented and practiced in the timing and way proponents see fit. God never utilizes truth impulsively, rashly or hastily.
God has often deferred establishing truth among His people because it would have defeated the ultimate purpose of the Gospel – the salvation from sin of as many as possible. God’s utility of biblical truth is always calculated to advance the salvation of as many as possible.
God’s greatest skill in dealing with the controversy between good and evil is not amassing truth. His greatest skill is in knowing whether, when, where and how to utilize truth so He could bring salvation to as many as possible, reconciling us to Himself and to one another. That is, God is not willing that anyone should perish!
Do not misunderstand the point! While truth is indispensable, knowing what to do with it is as indispensable.
God establishes biblical truth among His people not because He is right and we are wrong or for the sake of truth itself. He introduces biblical truth for the purpose of bringing salvation to humanity.
In other words, truth does not exist and it is not to be practiced in a vacuum, aside from the purposes for which it was given and established. Truth is only a means to an end and not the end. The end objective is the salvation of as many as possible. Such salvation is achieved only through a process, without which truth is devoid of context, meaning, purpose and value.
Humans were not created for the sake of truth. Instead, truth is being given and it is being established for the sake of our salvation. Without the ultimate objective for which truth was given – humanity’s salvation – truth has no intrinsic value.
Accordingly, introducing biblical truth without advancing the salvation of others is not biblical, no matter how biblical the truth is that is being introduced.
If the introduction of biblical truth among God’s people is not restrained by the biblical principle of truth’s having to advance and not hinder the salvation of others, then truth is elevated in value above the salvation of others – the overriding objective of the plan of salvation. This is unbiblical because it elevates truth, as abstract knowledge, above the Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, Who came for one purpose only, “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10, NKJV).
Even though biblical truth as abstract knowledge is principally doctrinal in nature – without direct impact on the salvation of others, the Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ is both relational and doctrinal. The Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ is concerned with the introduction of biblical truth for a particular purpose – namely, the establishment of a relationship with others and their consequent salvation. Jesus practices biblical truth, then, only within the process that leads us to salvation in Him.
This is why truth as abstract knowledge cannot be practiced by us without adherence to the biblical principles governing the process by which that truth is to be established and is to become salvational in reconciling us to God and to one another.
Even if biblical, then, WO must still be implemented in a way that adheres to the biblical process governing the resolution of conflicts within the Body of Christ. It must be implemented to advance and not hinder the ultimate purpose of the process (the salvation of others by reconciling us to God and to one another).
After so many years of going back and forth on the WO question, where are we today? Now that three General Conference (GC) Sessions in a span of 25 years have addressed questions directly pertaining to the practice of WO, many among us are starting to question the authority of the GC.
Once again, the process sheds light on the problem. If the GC did not have authority to address the WO questions presented in the 1990, 1995 and 2015 Sessions, why did the WO lobby bother bringing these questions before the GC? It is like going to a judge and saying, “I know this is not really within your jurisdiction, but please bless it anyway!”
Bringing a question to the GC and then questioning the authority of the GC to decide the question, after obtaining an unfavorable ruling, certainly highlights the ineptness and inconsistencies in the advancement of WO.
More, if the unions indeed have the authority to address the WO question posed at the 1990 GC Session, why was the question not taken to the unions first and why did the practice of WO start at the conference level, without prior approval from the unions?
For instance, the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) ordained women in or about September 1995, within days of the 1995 GC Session. Yet, that was not done with the prior approval of the Pacific Union, which did not address the disparate WO practices among conferences until 2012.
If the unions are indeed entrusted with the authority to decide the WO question, why did the SECC not seek permission from the Pacific Union before commencing the practice of WO?
Moreover, when conferences finally sought the blessing of the Pacific Union for their practice of WO, that blessing was given without any question about the authority of individual conferences to practice WO in the absence of prior permission by the Union.
While WO has been practiced in various forms by individual conferences within the Pacific Union for over 20 years now, it was not until 2012 that conferences within that Union sought and obtained the Union’s blessing for their WO practices.
Nonetheless, the Pacific Union sought no accountability from conferences for exceeding their authority in ordaining women for the years prior to 2012. If the authority for permitting WO indeed lies with the unions, the Pacific Union should have at least questioned the authority of conferences to ordain women without prior permission from that Union.
Further, if individual conferences had the authority to ordain women prior to 2012 without the Pacific Union’s permission, why did they bring the WO question before the Union at all and why did the Union even take up the question?
Also, if the Pacific Union addressed the question solely to resolve a conflict in WO practices among its conferences, how could the Union resolve such a conflict if it does not have the authority to shape ordination practices?
The dumbfounding precedent (or apparent precedent) established by the Pacific Union in 2012 was that individual conferences may engage in divisive practices with impunity, for many years, thus undermining the authority of the Union itself.
Furthermore, if neither the GC nor the unions have authority to decide the WO question, this leaves the individual conferences as gatekeepers of deciding whether to permit WO. If that is the case, however, why all the headache and bickering of bringing WO questions to the GC level, thrice?
The foregoing conundrums have caused much aggravation and stumbling in the faith of many because, even if they can be somehow explained in some convoluted technical way, the cloud of appearance of impropriety has already been cast.
After considering the foregoing, a much worse picture emerges of the WO conflict. As if there has been an ulterior purpose for advancing the WO agenda, that has nothing to do with whether WO is biblical!
We now have a procedural nightmare within our Church’s organizational structure – a nightmare because the foregoing disparate practices are now a precedent in the minds of many people, especially those in leadership, over how we are to handle future disagreements within the Church.
What will prevent individual conferences now from doing something that does not agree with established Church practices, although not expressly forbidden, such as compelling all pastors to take a spiritual formation course or ordaining transgender pastors, without prior permission from their respective unions or the GC?
The biblical process for establishing biblical truth within the Body of Christ has been botched in the advancement of the WO agenda, whether or not the practice of WO is biblical.
So much for “things [being] done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40, NKJV), and so much for “[a]bstain[ing] from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21, 22, KJV)!
No secular entity with a well-established organizational structure would permit what we have done in the name of advancing WO – allowing a culture of subversion of authority (or at the least the appearance of subversion of authority) to persist. Why has this happened then among God’s people!
This trial of our Church has not been about who prevails over whether or not WO is biblical. Rather, it has been about how we resolve disagreements within the Body of Christ and whether we esteem the salvation of others, while in the search for and establishment of biblical truth.
When issues of process are involved, the ultimate question is not who is right. After all, God alone is right about anything and everything! The ultimate question is whether the one who is right vindicates not only the truth and his or her character, but also the rights of others and the integrity of the biblical process, by which God Himself is vindicated.