Recently, the subject of women being ordained to the ministry has become a huge topic of debate in the Adventist church. Here is my take on this touchy issue.
This subject delves much deeper than just segregation of genders in leadership positions, it strikes at the very core of how God has ordained the church to run. In 1 Timothy 3 Paul is admonishing Timothy as to how the bishops and deacons, leaders of the church, should conduct their lives. Among the qualifications was that they were to be husband unto one wife, blatantly implying that they were to be men. When Christ was on earth He chose 12 men to work closely with Him and carry on the work when He was gone. When the early church was first forming and the apostles felt a need for deacons to be ordained, it was "seven men of honest report" that were chosen. From the beginning Christ ordained husbands to be heads over their families, even as Christ is head of the church. All through the Bible you see special attention placed on the men, the patriarchs of the family. They were the leaders, the ones who led their families into worship of the true God. Through their actions, the fate of nations and kingdoms were secured.
For many people, this is common knowledge. What they want to know is "Where do women fit into the picture?" I believe women play a key role in the work of the church, but being ordained elders or pastors is not one of them. When Jesus was on earth, the Bible makes special mention of the women who followed Him, ministering unto Him. Also, it was to a woman that the first promise of a Redeemer was given to the human race. It was also through a woman that the promise was eventually fulfilled. Throughout the Bible you read of women like Jochebed, Hannah, Elisabeth, Mary, Lois, Eunice, all ordinary women who did not look for earthly honor and glory but instead faithfully fulfilled the Lord's calling in their lives. From their humble efforts in teaching their children, millions of slaves were led to freedom, a mighty prophet was commissioned to the work of governing God's chosen people, men were called to repentance and the way was prepared for the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour of the world was prepared to accomplish His saving mission, thousands of people heard the gospel message. If you were to trace the successes of any man back to their origins, the result would always lands on their mothers. A favorite quote from Patriarchs and Prophets reads: "Then [in the solemn day of accounts] it will be found that many who have blessed the world with the light of genius and truth and holiness, owe the principles that were the mainspring of their influence and success to a praying, Christian mother."
Obviously though, not all women can perform the duties of a mother as the Lord's calling in their life. The Lord calls different people to do different things. In the Bible you can read of women prophetesses and seers who co-led armies and instructed men as to the Lord's will. But I believe shepherding the flock is something that God has reserved for men to perform, to be a living object lesson as to how He leads the church. When God created Adam and Eve, He made them to work together. He made THEM in HIS image. He placed His characteristics of gentleness, compassion, and tenderness to be stronger in the heart of the woman. He put the characteristics of leadership, self-denial, and strength to be more pronounced in the man. Men and women working together in Divine accordance form a strong force that can do mighty damage to the enemy's cause. God created the woman to submit to the man, following his lead. God created the man to lead the woman, to guide and protect her. When you place women in leadership positions, this special design that God has placed in the human race is broken down. Gender roles begin to get confused, and the whole organization is eventually broken down. So does this mean that women should be totally neglected as a "lower class of society"? Absolutely not! As already mentioned, they have a special duty that no man can ever perform. Their counsel and wisdom is something that should be recognized for what it is and wisely heeded.
Let me give an example from our early Adventist church. Ellen White was a powerful speaker and Godly seer and admonished many people to follow Christ with more fervor and devotion. She spoke at many of the early conventions and gave needed counsel from the Lord. However, she was never ordained as a minister of the gospel. Why? It was not her place to lead the church as a minister, but to give counsel as the Lord gave her instruction. It should be the same way today. If a woman feels the Lord calling her to the ministry, she should go forth and fulfill the calling. But I believe the task of leading the church should be left to the men.
This subject could take a whole book to cover all of its aspects in depth, because as you can see the topic of ordaining women to the ministry does not end there, but works its way into the very roots of how God ordained the church and society in general to function. If you have any questions, comments, negations, or general concern or advice please let me know. I believe this is a very important subject, and the better we are grounded on Biblical principles the better we will be able to function and fulfill the Lord's command to spread the gospel to the entire world.