The General Conference Biblical Research Institute is concerned about the strident contentions, accusations, and ad hominem arguments seen in the discussion about women’s ordination (and it appears to us that these tactics are frequently used by the anti-WO camp). Their modus operandi is to attack the messenger. “The BRI is quite concerned about some fallouts of the current debate…. We have the impression that the discussion is no longer on a biblical-theological and factual level but that individuals and groups are being heavily criticized and condemned by others.”
The Biblical Research Institute warns that “ad hominem arguments . . . hurt people … [and] create hostility between the attacker and the attacked, destroy trust, and hinder future cooperation and teamwork.” Moreover, “onlookers will also be affected. Non-Adventist observers of the debate may be appalled by what they see happening in Adventist circles and what they read on the Internet.”
The BRI concluded: “The ordination debate has nothing to do with the Bible’s most fundamental teachings. It does not belong to the core of Adventist beliefs. Hence, it is all the more disturbing to church members when they see people involved in the debate avoid, offend, and judge one another because they are on different sides of the ordination debate—and they see little to nothing of the divine love that Jesus wants His disciples to exhibit.”
For example, the BRI mentions that opponents of women’s ordination are claiming that WO is “unacceptable because its proponents use forms of liberal theology and critical approaches to Scripture.” The BRI disagrees: “This argument is largely not true for Adventists. While some connect the ordination issue with a liberal theology, most likely the vast majority does not. It is those that have a high view of Scripture that oftentimes support women’s ordination.”
Rather than personal attacks and strident arguments, the BRI advises that “studying Scripture and trying to discover biblical principles that can guide us in the ordination debate, weighing all biblical evidence, praying, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us need to be our focus. . . . Scripture remains first and foremost.”
Additionally, the NAD President, Eld. Dan Jackson, has made a special appeal for civility and Christ-likeness in discussions. In a May 26 editorial in the Gleaner, he writes:
I want to ask for a moment of silence. Not in remembrance of someone who is lost, but so that as a church we can take a deep breath and think about Who we serve. Jesus Christ is the head of our church, and we all serve Him. We must also remember that if this is truly His church, then He is in charge, and we must trust Him to lead, for it is His church.
Lately there have been a lot of voices talking about the many “problems” with the church — things like style of worship, who is called to ministry, the education that our pastors receive at our institutions of higher education, even simple things like the outreach methods that are undertaken. As a church, we will always have disagreements. It’s a fact of life that is magnified when you have such a diverse body as our world church. Our church is like a family. Actually it is a family, one that has God as its head: our church family.
My concern is that recently the many voices have become very loud. Not just in volume, but in intensity. When families have arguments, things tend to get nasty and heated. That is when bad things happen. Police officers will tell you the one thing they hate to deal with are domestic disturbances or family fights. They never end well, people get hurt, and bad things happen. But our family ministry directors will tell you that when a home has Jesus Christ serving as the head of the house, these conflicts are minimized and end up getting resolved. Why? Because when we focus on Jesus and not on ourselves, the conflicts are truly shown for what they are — not major conflicts, but misunderstandings that can be resolved through prayerful communication.
What does this have to do with the Seventh-day Adventist Church? If we believe that Jesus Christ is the head of our church, then we need to let Him lead. We need to stop our talking, stop trying to run the church our way and just pray for His leading. This is the only way we will survive as a church family. It is the only way to discuss our differences. We must also accept each other for who we are, not for what we aren’t. If we believe that all are called to be servants of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4–9), then we must trust Him to lead in our lives.
I truly believe that God is using each one of us to serve Him. So when we ridicule the efforts of others within our church, we are actually ridiculing God, for He put those people in the positions they are in. He called them to a life of service. We must trust Him to lead the church. We don’t lead the church; He does.
For many Seventh-day Adventists, the Great Controversy is a pivotal part of our doctrinal DNA. It helps to explain all of the things that have happened in this world’s history and gives us a glimpse of what is to come. Some people are uncomfortable with it, but when we truly understand the battle between good and evil that is taking place all around us, it gives us hope in the future.
But today, many of our members have taken it upon themselves to create their own Great Controversy. They are quick to judge others, condemning them as heretics for what they believe or teach. Voices are quick to proclaim that their way of reading the Bible is better, that they are the “true Adventists.” They even proclaim that the church will split and their brothers and sisters in Christ will be lost. Their voices have become very loud lately, and it pains me greatly. I also know Jesus Christ is in pain when He hears them as well.
If we truly believe this is the church of Jesus Christ, we must stop the voices and let Him lead. Let Jesus resolve our conflict and heal our family. Let’s put aside our differences and support each other. This is the only way that we, as a church, can move forward. If we focus on Jesus and not ourselves or each other, then He will lead us forward.
There is a whole world out there waiting to hear of Jesus and His love. Let’s stop being selfish and focus on them and not what are perceived wrongs within our church. Let Jesus heal the church. Let’s focus on the mission that He has given all of us. Let’s do it as a family. Together.