Please open your Bible with me to the book of Jude. Find it immediately before the book of Revelation. While you're tunring to that, let me begin with a quotations that just droppe dinto my email box a few days ago. Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist minister. That denomination is going through a dramatic problem right now becuase they have differing hermeneutics happening within their church.
At their last General Conference Session they basically stoppe dtheir proceedings and decided to appoint a commission to help them find a way to make essentially an amiclble separation between one part of the church and another if they are unable to reach a positive resolution. So this gentleman is one of the people who are on that committee to form a break-up plan.
This is what he says:
Evangelicals, centrists, and progressives do not understand our [United Methodist] core the same way. Differences of interpretation and application might mean that the core does not really unite us, but only serves as a starting point for development in separate directions.
This is the situation in a denomination that is very similar to us, and that is presently involved in a schism and perhaps going to break to pieces. there are many parts in that church that are very pro-LGBT, and there are parts that are trying to hold to the Scriptures. And so that's where they are. They say, we agree on the hymns, we like our denominational background, but we don't see things the same way. Their "core" is a starting place. So their "core" is not very effective as a core at this point.
I asked you to open to the book of Jude. Jude writes to believers. He is addressing what he regards as a salvific matter. He appeals to Jesus-followers, in their churches, to contend for the faith. God intervened in history to create His church. He broke through into His creation to reveal truth to prophets and apostles. He delivered it to His people. God does not stand by idly while truth is corrupted.
After Jude's verse three call to contend, verse four confirms the worst: the false teachers he has in mind are not outside but inside the church. They had been thought to be well-meaning workers. No doubt they started that way. Likely in their own minds they continued to be well meaning. But there they are, in the church and working against the authentic work of God. We dare not miss verse five. Verse five shows that the false teachings they are promoting are in fact a denial of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We resist error in the church because error in the church must inevitbly bring denial of the Lordship of Christ.
You and I live in an individualistic, isolationistic society. This individualism is a disease and it bleeds into the church. We assume we are to contend alone. Jude tells us otherwise. God's people plural are to unite in resistance toward error. God gives gifts to the church to arm it to oppose false teachings. What gifts? Prophets, teachers, evangelists, but especially apostles, the leaders God sends to His church.
Well then, which branch of specialists should the church turn to in order to solve this problem of erroneous teachings? Some have the idea that in times of crisis the Church should turn to its theologians.
They will help us. More study commissions and more books from the Seminary are needed. Write papers, line up academics, send output to the administrators. They will finesse policy and we will live happily ever after.
Only, that's wrong.
Don't misunderstand. We are thankful for those leaders and theologians and workers who have special skill sets who serve the Lord Jesus. There are many truly useful and upbuilding things for them to do. Their work is not empty. Far from it.
But I want to think with you about our current dilemma. A decision has been made. When God gives the same answer three times, the path should be clear: faithful compliance. Implicitly, the Church agrees to study, discern, vote, and abide by the collective decision. On women's ordination, the decision is "No" x 3. The world church three times has refused to grant authority to those who in leadership among us are obsessed with the ordination of women to the gospel ministry.
Has this led to submission to the decision of Jesus' church? No. Rather, there has been obstinant, relentless schism, disobedience, disregard, and unilateral action. There have even been calls by some asking Unions to "form a coalition" against the General Conference. There is a rebellion of one part of the body against another. Jesus, the Head of the church has spoken through His church, but there is a denial of His headship of His bride.
I want to speak of these things in a gentle and kind way. But we must also be forthright. I can love someone and sharply disagree with them, and that is what I am trying to be here. I disagree with the leaders who are acting against their world church. But I love them. I want them to change direction. I want them to return.
I find it difficult not to read the book of Jude here. It is difficult not to read Jude as a reprise of the temptation of Eve in God's Eden garden. As the serpent seduced Eve into disobedience with the promise of higher knowledge, there are teachers today who offer the church a new approach to interpreting the Bible that is more advanced than a "plain reading." We Adventists too, like the other churches before us, can partake of this higher knowledge, reverse the approach God has given us, and become respectable and relevant. All it will take is some magic dust from the right set of thinkers.
Agendas and Theologians
It is not the task of theologians to solve crises. Rather, God has appointed leaders, most of whom have leadership experience, not theological skills. The task of guiding His church through crises is assigned to these leaders. These must prove faithful. God has permitted crisis to come but it is not going to be solved by a committee even of highly skilled theologians. We need to realize how things actually work in the church.
Consider again with me one of the spiritual gifts lists. I have in mind 1 Corinthians 12:27-28:
Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Do you see some priority here? Theologians, which of course are teachers, are third in the list, after prophets, which are only second. Top leadership, the "apostles," are placed first in this list, and their inspired author goes out of his way to clarify this ordering.
God builds His church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). And please notice that they are to work together. We can look today for the modern equivalent among those top leaders in the church who labor side-by-side in unity with each other and with the decisions collectively made in General Conference session.
Some seem interested in putting academics and theologians in first place and to have them work out velvety corrections for us. But we need to understand that we do not have this crisis today because our theologians have discovered new light regarding women's ordination and the church is just having trouble accepting that light. Rather, certain leaders decided what they want to do and then they assigned theologians the task of creating a theology to support what they want to do.
For example, in his 2012 letter to Adventist leaders of unions and conferences in the NAD regarding the E-60 crisis (which I will explain briefly later in this talk), the NAD president called for
. . .the development of a theology that demonstrates the basic Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy foundations that emphasize not only the necessity of women in ministerial and leadership roles but also the theological mandate that they be active in specific roles (Dan Jackson, Letter, January 31, 2012).
This kind of thing is not the exception. Many times theologians are not the drivers but the passengers. They are tasked to develop theological justifications in the support of decisions already made. We need to keep in mind that there are justifications which are consistent with Scripture and do reflect and outline what is actually in Scripture. And, there are those which make the best arguments they can for that which is not in the Scripture. Those kind of arguments are particularly isogetic in nature. They read into God's Word what is not there, and then proclaim that it is there.
So, in 2012 NAD leadership wanted theological justification for the practice of women's ordination. The 1998 seminary book Women in Ministry had failed to deliver persuasive arguements. So the NAD president made a new call for such a theology in 2012. And then again in 2014 the North American Division section of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) delivered the NAD TOSC Report as the latest attempt.
Hundreds of pages were handed over to the GC TOSC committee and several papers provided. A motion was prepared for the 2015 General Conference session and introduced thusly:
WHEREAS, The unity for which Jesus prayed is vitally important to the witness of Seventh-day Adventist Church, and; WHEREAS, The Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to engage every member in its worldwide mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ among people from every nation, culture and ethnicity, and; WHEREAS, Various groups appointed by the General Conference and its divisions have carefully studied the Bible and Ellen G White writings with respect to the ordination of women and have not arrived at consensus as to whether ministerial ordination for women is unilaterally affirmed or denied, and; WHEREAS, The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms that "God has ordained that the representatives of His Church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference Session, shall have authority", THEREFORE, The General Conference Executive Committee requests delegates in their sacred responsibility to God at the 2015 General Conference Session to respond to the following question:
After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and; After your careful consideration of what is best for the Church and the fulfillment of its mission,
Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.
The delegates voted. The NAD "theology" that had been "developed" was rejected by the church. A decision was made.
In this case, the Church appointed its members, theologians and laymembers, to study. Then, it decided. When this has happened, when this process has been accomplished, leaders need to lead onward. You go forward. Today is August 2, 2017. We are in not the first, nor second, but third year after the San Antonio decision not to grant subsections of the church authority to ordain women. The duty of leaders now is to lead us forward. We need to contend for the faith that God has delivered to us. Make no mistake, the San Antonio decision is part of the faith that God as given to us. Leadership is duty-bound to support the decision made.
The Relentless Track
Many may know relatively little about the road that has led us to today. Even many faithful workers around the world may not realize how relentlessly this matter has been pushed in opposition to the decisions of the world church by pro-women's ordination activist administrators in North America.
I want to remind you of a set of decisions that were made way back in 1997, not long after the 1995 General Conference rejected women's ordination. I want you to hear some of the plans they made at that time, and now here we are 20 years later.
- I'll just give you a sample of some of these. These are ways that they intend to increase the traction that the ordination of women would have. They want to extend a "four-year intern budget" instead of usually three years. When a new minister comes into the Seminary there is extra money fpr Seminary iterns, they want to give more money for lady interns.
- Here's another one. The NAD "requests local conferences to set realistic goals to increase the number of women in pastoral ministry in their field during the next three years." I don't think that has probably stopped.
- "That Adventist colleges and universities in North America be encouraged to recruit young women" for this women's ordination type of pastoral ministry.
- Here's another one, recommended that Adventist colleges and universities encourage women be invited to speak during the sabbath morning worship services and other general sessions in Adventist camp meetings."
- "Publish profiles of women serving in pastoral ministry several times a year in our magazines."
- "Multiples exposures are to be given to gift-based ministry taking place in congregations throughout the NAD."
- "Concrete portrayal and affirmation of women in ministry."
- "Indirect portrayal of women with men in creative approaches in pastoral ministry," so if you see a picture i Ministry Magazine or Adventist Review, or denominational publications like your Union paper, go back and look at your pictures and you'll often find pictures of women alongside with men. Not that that's an evil thing, but if it's a propaganda thing, I have a problem with it. "Use in both print and video media."
- "Recommended that each conference and union in the NAD set realistic goals for diversity on boards, committees, and staff reflective of the gender and other diversity preeent among its membership."
- "Multiple articles in denominational periodicals."
- "A hermeneutics conference sponsored by the NAD."
- "The more advocacy bechanneled through Union papers and other media for mass distribution."
- Voted, that they want the NAD to produce "only gender-inclusive resource materials."
- And that "The Division president issue a call for gender inclusiveness at all levels of the Church, boards, committees, pastoral assignments," and so on. This has been happening for years. Again, we're not necesarily opposed to women serving in proper modes of ministry, but to force them into the place of the ordained elder position of being a minister is, again, not supported by the Scriptures.
In the NAD president's 2012 letter I referred to a few minutes ago, we recognize this same, relentless path. Here the NAD president describe "lessons" he wants the church to have learned (from page four):
- "1. We need to continue to listen for God's voice,"
- "2. We need to strengthen our understanading,"
- "3. We need to be more intentional" (boy, have they been more intentional).
Hear this added detail under number two: "I amnot speaking about the ordination of women, as this related topic will be taken up by other groups as taken up by the General Conference." That's sentence one. But as you'll see, that is exactly what he is taking up. "I am, however, speaking of the development of a theology that demonstrates the basic biblical and Spirit of Prophecy foundation that emphasizes not only the necessity of women in ministerial and leadership roles, but also the theological mandate that they be active in specific roles." So, sentence one, "I'm not going to speak about this." Sentence two, "You are to develop a theology that supports this."
He goes on to say, "The time has come for us to become more practical in our application of philosophy and belief. You see, there is a philosophy and belief involved in supporting and sustaining women's ordination. There's a belief in it, a whole system. He also says, "We must develop intentional methods of mentoring woemn who can take on executive leadership psoitions within our conferences." That's women in ordained positions.
Then down the page he says, "We must continue to move this matter forward throughout the North American Division in the belief that God will continue to guide His church to the ultimate achievement of His mission on earth." See? Push it forward! Push it forward!
One more bit here, from page three of this letter. And reading it from 2017 is interesting because it was written in 2012. Here's what he said. He's talking about the E-60 matter:
"Could it be that the E-60 matter was allowed to make the progress it did to clarify decisively the thinking and beliefs of the Church in North America on the role of women in ministry and leadership? Perhaps it has made the issue so obvious that we can now develop our thinking with far more clarity and power than ever before."
So again, I am pointing out to you that this is something that has been pushed, and the theologians were assigned to develop a theology.
Someone may ask, Then haven't the women's ordination-favoring leaders been doing the right thing and leading?
First realize: no consensus in favor of ordaining women to the gospel ministry exists among the membership in the NAD. It is true that many leaders in NAD embrace women's ordination. But after you get past those few hundred workers in NAD who are in Conference, Union, and University leadership, and, past the few thousands of Adventists living in proximity to Adventist denominational universities, the membership in general in North America is thoroughly divided. Long and winding efforts by NAD leadership to "educate" the broader membership have seen but limited success.
I have a book I just read on the way down here. This is about the United Methodist Church, and is titled, The Rise of Theological Liberalism and the Decline of American Methodism, by James. V. Heiginder II. This isn't Hiedigger the philosopher, this is a different person. I want to read to you two short items because again, the United Methodist Church is very much a parallel to our church. In fact, one of my professors at Seminary told me that he thought women's ordination was going to work ou tthe same for us as it did for the United Methodists, because we ar eso like them in so mamy respects.
This is what William Abraham says in the foreward. they are talking about the probem in Methodism:
All the historic mainline denominations in North America are facing the same challenge. All have been infected by the same virus, with familiar feverish symptoms: membership loss, lack of spiritual vitality, loss of the authority of Scripture, doctrinal confusion and even abdication, bureaucratic domination, pro-homosexual activism, and the embracing of trendy, non-orthodox theologies.
Of course, that's not us! But it sure sounds a lot like us.
Now you and I all know that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not a "mainline" denomination. But as the mainline denominations are shrinking, and losing membership at a remarkable rate, the United Methodist Church has lost membership every year for forty-four years. Could you imagine that? And you already heard: they don't really have a "core." They have a "core," but it's a "starting point" so it essentially doesn't function as a core.
I regret to suggest to you that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been infected by the same virus. And if you are infected by a virus and you don't do anything about it, there are medical outcomes that may eventuate.
Now here's an interesting piece to this that might give you some hope. This is from page seven by the book's author, and I thought this is parallel to Adventism I think as well. Remember, he's talking about the Methodist Church:
The doctrinal changes taking place during this era [he's talking about the 1880s to 1929] they would soon be accepted and institutionalised by the leadership, bureaucracy, and educational institutions of the Methodist Episcopal Church [became the United Methodist Church eventually]. They were not, however, understood or affirmed by the preponderance of Methodist members in local churches across the land.
You see, there was a great movement, the social gospel, these things that happened in that period from 1880s to 1930. You and I have heard many times the word "fundamentalism," referred to more or less as a swear word. If you're a fundamentalist, you're a bad person. In the Adventist Church, in the official print publications we usually hear about fundamentalism in that way.
Well, why did fundamentalism arise? Because previous to that and coming up to that time there was the rise of higher critical, histirical critical methodology. That led to a reaction and you have the fundamentalist reaction. And I'm not supporting everything about fundamentalism there is to support, but why don't we ever hear about the reason that there was such a thing as fundamentalism? Why don't we hear about the rise of higher critical assumptions?
That's what split the United Methodist Church but guess what? By and large the members didn't embrace higher criticism. It was the leadership, the theologians, the beeaurocracy of the church. And so, there is a great divide between those two in Methodism. I have to suggest to you today that in North America, there's a great divide rather similarly in the Seventh-day Adventist Church between our members in the pews, and our theologians in our Seminary and our different schools.
To push forward in the face of so little consensus is to guarantee contention and disunity. More than this, consider a second fact: NAD leadership lacks authority to enact women's ordination.
From the earliest expansions of Adventist work, ordination has always been global in authority. The criteria for ordination has always been set by the General Conference. For the Unions or Divisions to attempt to take over the authority to set the criteria for ordination from the General Conference is, by definition, to attempt to usurp. What would drive people to attempt to usurp authority?
Two Hermeneutics, Two Churches
In the title to this talk you see the phrase "Biblical Hermeneutics." No, this is not a symposium on hermeneutics. But one of the parameters of the present situation is that some promoting women's ordination have admitted that they have to use a different hermeneutical approach in order to support their teaching.
Hermeneutics, remember, means the approach we take toward biblical interpretation. Seventh-day Adventists, carrying forward the Protestant heritage, seek to derive our plan for interpreting the Bible from the Bible itself. We seek to let Scripture interpret Scripture. We do not ask lawyers and theologians to interpret Scripture on the basis of tradition or sophistry. Again, we choose not to follow what became liberal Protestantism, which interprets Scripture on the basis of critical assumptions brought from outside God's Book to God's Book.
No enduring, Heaven-led Church begins its work having multiple, mutually-exclusive hermeneutical systems. A growing denomination has one approach to interpretation; a dying church might have many. Calls will be heard for unity in diversity, but what is actually being sought is diversity in diversity.
No one sits down with a list of rules for interpretation and prepares his sermon or theological paper by checking its every line against them. Hermeneutics is more of a package. It is a set of precommitments. Hermeneutics is a set of presuppositions the interpreter brings to the text. It's about how you approach the Bible, about where you begin.
Where you begin with the text determines where you end with it. If you begin with the belief that the soul is immortal, you'll read the passages about hell not as a fire that consumes but as a place of endless torture. If you believe that the church has the authority to change God's commands, you will approach the Sabbath/Sunday question differently than if you see the Ten Commandments as God's unchanging law.
Do we realize how significant hermeneutics are? You see, a different hermeneutical system results in a different belief, and a different belief results in a different practice. Different practices result in the development of a different Church.
And so, when you tell me you are using a different hermeneutic than the Bible approach long adopted by the Adventist Church, you are telling me that you are a different church or that you are engaged in activities likely either to spawn a different body or remix the one that already exists.
Every church is rooted in a particular hermeneutic. Ours too. In the earliest years of a group, the method of interpretation is mostly implicit. That is true of Adventism too. William Miller's rules for interpretation are a practical elaboration on the plan to have Scripture interpret Scripture. His interest was more particularly upon Bible prophecy.
Today we call the approach that we employ the historical-grammatical method. This approach takes the Bible seriously as an inspired, true, accurate revelation communicated from God to man. God communicated inspired thoughts to the Bible writers, who communicated them to other humans through human words. The Bible writer is inspired yet chooses his own words and thinks his own thoughts, but the Spirit of God sees to it the words are adequate. Divine thoughts are embodied in human words. In the sense that the words are chosen by the human author, the thought-chunks are the word of God.
There is a combination of the human and divine. Hear what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
Then the Bible is treated as a trustworthy source of information communicated from God to humans.
But there are other interpretive plans. While there has always been a core thread of understanding that has treated the Bible like that, there are other streams.
One strand of interpretation treated the Bible as a sourcebook for human thinking. When the interpreter came to a passage that seemed to conflict with what he believed, he would work out mystical and allegorical interpretations. The text, functionally, was more of a jumping-off point. In contrast, Martin Luther sought, while not always successfully, to make Scripture its own interpreter. Rather than tradition--the writings of the early church fathers interpreted by medieval writers--the Protestant reformers sought to put the Scripture itself first.
Later, a new trend arose out of, not the Papacy, but liberal Protestantism. Not long after the magisterial Protestant Reformers died, a generation arose that adopted higher critical approaches and interpreted the Bible on the basis of human reason. And so while there was no pope but the outcome was little different. Human reason sat in judgment over the Scriptures.
This approach begins by putting trust in human reason and by starting with doubt about the Bible. It doubts all that is supernatural in the Bible. It takes as its standard what can be observed today. Is anyone seen walking on water today? Raising a dead person today? Turning water into wine today? No. So if it isn't happening today it could not have happened in Bible times. So all the supernatural bits are not merely suspect, they are ruled-out. They didn't happen. Then the Bible is merely well-meaning humans trying to speak to us about spiritual things. Then it is the task of the enlightened theologian to dig the truth out of the words of men. The Bible writer is culturally impacted, he seaks out of his own culture. Then the modern day interpreter sifts through the haystack to find the needle of truth in it to help us. His work is to extract the spiritual lesson from all the human husks of error. That is the effect of higher criticism. It renders the Bible a merely human document and makes the human interpreter supreme. The mind of man is the measure.
But let's move onward to the brand new "Adventist" hermeneutic introduced by the North American Division in its 2014 TOSC Report.
The NAD told the GC TOSC committee that it used a special way of interpreting the Bible to reach its conclusions favoring women's ordination. They used the historical-grammatical system they claimed until they came to certain "more difficult" texts. Then they would employ their new approach. They called their new approach the PBHC: the Principle-based, Historical Cultural hermeneutic.
If you have seen the NAD TOSC Report you will remember its little chart. They had a line with four dots on it. On the far right was a dot signifying a completely literal approach to biblical interpretation, taking everything literally the very words are inspired. They called that approach one extreme. On the opposite end of the scale they put another dot and said that that represented the viewpoint that the Bible was not inspired at all. This was the higher critical standpoint.
There were two more dots between these two. The dot second-closest to the right was labled "Historical-grammatical" and represented the viewpoint on inspiration adopted by the Adventist church. Then they added one more dot between that and higher critical, which they called the PBHC. This is where they placed their new hermeneutical approach.
Whatever you think of the various ideas in their approach, it is clear that it treats the Bible as less-inspired than it is treated in historical grammatical. So if the Bible is less-inspired, what must the interpreter do? He must use more theological technics and skills and more of his own thinking to rightly interpret it.
Here's what we can say. As a general thing, those who take the Bible more seriously work from within the Bible; we start with the text. We start by believing that the text is inspired and that there is clear information transmitted to us in the text that is divine in its origin. The Holy Spirit moved the Bible writer with specific ideas, and the Bible writer thought those ideas in Spirit-led thought and then wrote them out for us in human words that were mediated by the Holy Spirit. Truth was transmitted to the page for the hearer and for the reader.
Under PBHC the Bible is more of a sourcebook. You grab some bits here and some bits there. To that you add some theories external to the Bible, ideas about what the Bible writer meant. Not just the Bible writer, but the text itself is treated as being culturally-conditioned. That is, the Bible is culturally-impacted from the beginning. The ideas in it are a mixture of human and divine thoughts and they are all contaminated with culture. Paul's prohibition on women authoritatively teaching men which he argues on the basis of Biblical creation order, is taken to be simply Paul demonstrating a cultural bias against women.
With PBHC the whole text is treated like this. The interpreter takes what he wants and leaves what he wants. The text is like a set of options at an oatmeal bar in a hotel. You pick the parts you want and make your outmeal your own way. Which is a wonderful plan for oatmeal but a very poor plan for the Bible. The theory is that the interpreter is extracting the right principles from a contaminated text.
Of course, this is the same approach that is used to support LGBT thinking as allegedly being Christian. Principles of inclusivity are supposedly extracted from the text, meanwhile specific prohibitions are discarded. You throw out specific things which you find disagreable and replace them with principles you find agreeable.
These are the kinds of solutions present NAD leadership wanted when it called for the deveopment of a theology that would support the ordination of women.
Now the NAD has their theology. There is even a new textbook at the Seminary incorporating many of these ideas published by Pacific Press (Women and Ordination: Biblical and Historical Studies, 2015, Special Committee SDA Theological Seminary, ed. John W. Reeve. This volume joins the 1998 Seminary book, Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives, Special Committee, SDA THeological Seminary, ed. Nancy Vyhmeister. In spite of the very similar titles, the books are each distinct productions).
Present NAD leadership is functioning under a different hermeneutic than the Adventist one. Let me offer just one recent example. On June 24, 2017 the number two officer in the NAD was preaching at the Washington Conference camp meeting. He presented two sermons that day and I am referring to the evening meeting.
He showed several slides with his presentation. Watching the internet video you cannot see these slides; they are out of frame. But I have spoken with those actually present in the meeting who indicate that they saw the slides. The slides listed a number of topics including women's ordination and homosexuality. The presenter also mentioned these topics verbally at different times in his presentation (references to WO at 1:40:11; 1:56:26).
Eventually the speaker came to what seems to have been his main point. He asked the assembly if they understood "peanut butter issues"? (1:57:41). Then he shared an anecdote. It had to do with where the peanut butter should be stored in the home.
His practice before he was married was to store peanut butter in the refrigerator. But his wife was used to storing it in the pantry. They found themselves in disagreement, then argument, then refusing to speak to each other--at least as he tells it--over peanut butter. He said this:
It had become an issue of right and wrong... And when its an issue of right and wrong, there's no give...The Seventh-day Adventist church--listen to me--we are plagued by too many peanut butter issues in the church. We take things, and we raise them to a level that God never intended, and we take our separate corners--conservatives and liberals--this group amd that group, and everbody's stuck on where the peanut butter should be. And because we place it at a level of right and wrong, God has a hard time getting through. And the devil rejoices because while we are fighting over peanut butter issues, we can't do the mission God has called us to do the way He wants us to do it.
That's right. Women's ordination and maybe even homosexuality--according to this NAD leader--are issues that are like the debate over where to store the peanut butter.
You doubt me? Here's the URL. Listen carefully and write this down:
My personal belief is that very, very few Seventh-day Adventists regard the issues of women's ordination or homosexuality as matters as indifferent as where to store the peanut butter. Someone is out of touch. Is it the members or the present Division leadership which stands in opposition toward their own world church?
Conclusion: What is Needed Now
We do not need a new study of women's ordination. It would not be productive for the Church to call on scholars, lawyers, and theologians to study while present well-intentioned but deeply misguided Division leaders dig in even deeper. There is going to be a painful event I am almost sure. But it is exactly when painful decisions must be made that we find out who is leading by the Spirit and who is lagging behind.
You do not change hermeneutics in the middle of a crisis. You do not call out the theologians to create new theologies. What must be done is that those in present leadership who are faithful must fulfill their implicit obligation. They are called to support the beliefs and practices of the church. There is a hermeneutic already. Those whom Heaven has appointed to lead are implicitly responsible to support the longstanding hermeneutic of the church. They must be faithful to Scripture. They should use the method of interpreting the Bible out of which the very movement arose.
They need to make hard decisions. There will be trouble. There will be tears. There will likely even be persons who are so persuaded of their position that they refuse to surrender their personal opinion to the collective, spirit-led will of God as He has revealed it to His Church.
The leadership of denomination after denomination has faced similar crises and become paralyzed. They studied and studied and waited and waited and all the meanwhile the forces of so-called progressivism were making inroads, propagandizing their churches, teaching different approaches to biblical interpretation to their children right before their eyes. And they found themselves almost helpless. No strong action was taken as their denomination tumbled into fragments around them.
Adventism deserves a better fate than that. Through His Bible writers our Lord has urged us not to permit continued denial of His ways but to contend for the faith which He sent to us so long ago.
My prayers ascend daily that the men and women who compose our present General Conference Executive Committee will be led to contend for the faith, and to act with decision to help the Church in this hour of peril. We must not halt between two opinions.
I want to enlist every person in the hearing of my voice to pray earnestly for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church between now and the close of Annual Council 2017. Pray that their eyes and ours will see past all the easy solutions that will be offered.
Pray for clear seeing, clear vision, discernment about our present peril, and boldness of heart to take whatever action is needful to effectively and decisively address non-compliance in the NAD and other Divisions where it continues.
Secrets Unsealed Studio, Fresno, CA 2017-08-02 (presentation 3 of 15 total, first of two by Pr. Kirkpatrick)