On June 19 Pastor Ty Gibson of Light Bearers published “Women’s Ordination: Is the Church Free To Act?” —a powerful follow-up to his excellent “A Closer Look at Women’s Ordination.” Ty explains that the church is free to act on the ordination question, to do what is best for the mission of spreading the Gospel. It is an ecclesiastical (church operational) decision, not a theological issue.
Ty also explains that “What we call ‘ordination’ in our modern ecclesiastical context means one sort of thing, but it certainly doesn’t look much like what was happening in the apostolic church. Does that make our modern system bad? No, not necessarily. It just makes it what it is: our particular system. The fact that we have used a quasi-biblical word—’ordination’—to describe a modern mode of operation, creates an unusual situation in which many well-meaning, modern Seventh-day Adventists assume they’re standing up for a biblical model of “ordination” when, in reality, very little about our version of “ordination” is biblical at all!“
In addition to Ty’s important insights, we would like to point out that many Adventists misunderstand what the vote will decide at the General Conference Session. The current debate about whether women should be ministers, is needless because the vote is not going to decide whether women should be ministers.
Women pastors were already fully authorized by the General Conference as “commissioned” ministers in 1990. They already perform the same functions and have the same leadership role in the local church as ordained ministers. They will continue to do so, regardless of the vote.
Women pastors already go through the same kind of consecration ceremony with a laying on of hands. The only real difference is the word (“commissioned” instead of “ordained”) that is printed on their certificate after the ceremony.
There is no point in debating whether women should be ministers, because that is not what the GC will vote on. When you boil it all down, the only real issue now is whether the individual world divisions can choose to call these female pastors “ordained” instead of “commissioned.” It is a matter of semantics.
There is no logical (or theological) reason to continue to discriminate between these two terms. The Spirit of Prophecy uses the terms “commissioned” and “ordained” interchangeably. They mean the same thing. There is no reason not to use the word “ordained.”
After all, the Spirit of Prophecy makes it clear that ministers receive “their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands [ordination] add[s] no new grace or virtual qualification.” It is simply a human recognition of God’s calling: “By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God” (AA p. 161).
The General Conference Biblical Research Institute concluded 39 years ago: “If God has called a woman, and her ministry is fruitful, why should the church withhold its standard act of recognition?” (In other words, why call her “commissioned” instead of “ordained”?)
This viewpoint puts the issue in perspective, in the context of what will actually be voted on. When viewed this way, it becomes clear that it is not really a theological issue. It is a question of semantics, and there is no logical reason to continue discriminating between the term “commissioned” and the term “ordained.”
William G. Johnnson (retired Adventist Review editor) put it this way: “If God has given His stamp of approval to women in ministry [through the General Conference policy of 1990], who are we to withhold official recognition?”
See also: Amazing FACTS about Women’s Ordination.