Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Adventist Women + Equality = Unity

Meet Pastor Brenda Billingy from Spectrum | Adventist Forum on Vimeo.

Spectrum is rolling out a new video series documenting stories of Adventist pastors who have been ordained—pastors who happen to be women. I've discussed the women's ordination controversy in the Adventist Church before, so I won't retread that path except to say that I don't think women should be ordained, but neither should men.

In this post I will comment on the documentary itself—what I hope it accomplishes and what it cannot.

The production quality is high as expected. (Isn't it nice to be able to expect Adventist media to be well produced?) The director and editors pulled off the packing of one pastor's story into 7+ minutes of run time. You come away feeling that you have a relationship with this woman in some way, or at least that she's the kind of person you would like to get to know—warm, energetic, and capable—in other words, a good pastor.

So why should she not be ordained? Who could possibly oppose this, when, apart from gender, she is clearly an equal among her male colleagues?

Here is where theology by story falls short. In Adventist theology, the Bible is the primary authority, because we believe that is where the will of God is now most clearly discerned. Our experiences are important for helping us understand scripture, but scripture is the standard by which we judge our experiences. So if God instructs us through the written Word not to ordain women, we must defer to that revelation. We cannot use a compelling story to sidestep Scripture.

The fact is that there are Bible texts indicating we should only ordain men, texts indicating that we may also ordain women, and texts indicating that we shouldn't be ordaining at all. Our church is currently in the process of figuring out just how these texts relate to each other and what they mean for the Adventist movement today. So what then is the the use of telling stories like Pastor Brenda's?

As much as it's critical that we understand God's prior revelation in Scripture, it's also important to understand what God is doing in the world today. If we miss the second part, we will surely make the same mistake as the scribes and Pharisees (cf. Mark:3:22-20). No one who has watched this film will be able to gainsay the fact that God is working powerfully through women who are also Adventist pastors. This must send us back to the Bible to seek understanding of how God wants us as a church to cooperate with what he is doing through Adventist women pastors.

I realize that doesn't settle the issue, but hopefully it clarifies it. And that is what I trust this documentary series will accomplish.


  1. I like this documentary, especially the part about China.

  2. I stand with pastor Stephen Bohr in that women may do all aspects of ministry work, but should not be ordained. Nor should they be top church leaders. I find no evidence for the contrary position, and plenty for my position. I did find a EGW quote that women who do family minstry work should be consecrated by the laying on of hands, but she is also clear these women are to work under the supervision of their pastor.

  3. Inspiring video. I also recommend "Meet Ordained Women Pastors in China":