In my post on the ordination discussion at last month’s General Conference Annual Council meeting (#GCAC14), I shared several background resources including the 1973 Camp Mohaven Report; Dr. Olive Hemmings’ book on ordination, interpretation, and culture; and the three positions that the Theology of Ordination Study Committee presented to the wider church:
(1) the headship principle means that only men may be ordained;
(2) the Spirit gifts without regard to gender, and so men and women may be ordained;
(3) the headship principle is the norm but the ordination of women is God’s Plan B to rebuke failed male leadership.
I’ve just received a fourth position on the theology of ordination that was shared with some Annual Council delegates but not presented at GCAC14.
The author, J. David Newman, is editor of Adventist Today and adjunct professor of religion at Washington Adventist University. He writes:
“The three positions stated in the TOSC report assumed that there is no issue with the term
ordination itself. In fact the word ‘ordination’ was used synonymously with ‘select’ and ‘appoint.’
But the word ‘ordination’ has a very specific meaning in our church and that is why there is so much debate on whether women can be ordained as elder or pastor. It is interesting to note that the church has already approved the ordination of women elders but now debates whether a woman pastor can be ordained.
The TOSC does not explain why we have three ordinations in our church—deacon, elder, pastor.
It is the position of this paper that the real issue is ordination itself, that it is actually a Roman Catholic practice and not a Biblical practice. If we were to cease to ordain there would be no issue over women’s ordination. This paper examines whether the practice of three levels of
ordination can be found in the New Testament.” —J. David Newman, “A Fourth Option”
Newman is writing a book on the history of ordination from the Roman Catholic church through to early Adventism. He hopes the manuscript will be available in time for the 2015 General Conference session in San Antonio, TX, and tells me that “for those who want a deeper study, there will be extensive end notes to each chapter and several appendices.”
In this article, Newman describes the church’s practical ordination policy, analyzes the 5 distinct words translated “ordain/ordained” in the English King James Bible, and explains that the denomination’s method of setting apart distinct leadership classes with differing levels of authority over church rites may have organizational merit but “cannot be found in the New Testament.”
Read the 17-page paper on his website.