I am pleased to welcome the newest blogger to the A2 team–Landon Schnabel. Below is his first post here, which considers issues surrounding ordination.
Landon is currently a graduate student at Andrews University. An egalitarian deeply opposed to hegemony with broad concern, his major areas of focus are subordination of and violence against women in religious contexts, peace, justice, power, authority and the Religious Right. Furthermore, he is interested in the presuppositions and subsequent worldviews that impact these areas in particular, and the conflict between and division of stratified humanity in general. He created the group “I Support the Ordination of Women in Adventism.”
Why Men Should not be Ordained
I am not in favor of the ordination of men. There are no biblical grounds for it.
It is part of Catholic sacramental theology. The word sacramentum comes from a Roman soldier’s oath. There is a belief that developed in Catholicism that the sacraments, including ordination, produced efficacious spiritual results because the Catholic Church, as the representative of Christ on earth, controlled the keys of heaven and hell. In this they also believe that the priest is actually offering Christ as a sacrifice during each mass. Thus each Catholic Church is a true temple with a true priest, as long as they are ordained (Thus no need for Christ doing anything in heaven, negating the Adventist sanctuary message). The Church was the only vehicle of God’s grace and thus ordination ensured that the hierarchy was not undermined. The reason only men could be ordained is that they were, as Christ’s vicars (standing in the place of), married to the church. Only men could be ordained, which makes them Christ’s vicars, because the church is presented as female and married to Christ (see, for example, Revelation 19:7 and 21:9).
Furthermore, ordination allowed the “one true Church” to keep out heretics. Only the hierarchical church structure could control who would offer a valid sacrifice of Christ (in the mass) and carry out the other sacraments. Thus only an ordained minister could offer salvation because salvation came through the sacraments. It also provided a proof of apostolic succession, with succession supposedly being unbroken back to the first apostles. Thus you had to follow what is said by those who could trace their authority back to the original “bishops,” (Catholics see the apostles as bishops, and Peter the lead bishop, or “pope”) rather than to the message of the apostles themselves (the Bible). This idea of succession was borrowed from the Gnostics, who had a succession of teachers to ensure that they had the “true” secret knowledge. In the name of unity the Catholic Church adopted apostolic succession from the Gnostics so that heretics could be excluded (and they did a pretty good job marginalizing “heretic” groups until the Orthodox Church broke away in 1054, and the Protestant Reformation hundreds of years later).
Tertullian, an important figure for the Catholic Church, was central to the foundation of this idea of apostolic succession. In Adversus Haeresus he declared that the only legitimate tradition is the one “which orginates from the apostles and is preserved by means of the succession of bishops in the Churches.” Ignatius was another important figure. He changed the scene of church leadership from what was presented in the Bible, where a variety of terms labeled diverse roles such as apostles, deacons, elders, prophets and teachers. Ignatius elevated the position of the bishop and made it a three-fold ministry which was the foundation of the mon-episcopate (monarchical episcopate), in which the bishop’s role became (1) the administration of rites, (2) preaching and teaching, and (3) caring for the community. What had been a variety of roles was consolidated into one person for the sake of control. The result was unity – but unity through uniformity, not a unity in the diversity of the priesthood of all believers. Iit was a unity of obedience to the bishop. In the priesthood of all believers everyone obeys Christ. In the mon-episcopate, everyone obeys the “minister” who acts in the place of Christ. Thus “apostolic” had changed from adherence to the message of the original apostles to obedience to the divinely appointed (by the one true Church) vicar of Christ. The laying on of hands is how the Church can ensure control over their “vicars.” The laying on of hands became a special gifting of spiritual power to make the sacraments efficacious.
In the NT there were not separate orders of clergy and laity. The distinction between ordo clericorum (clergy) vs ordo laicorum (laity) is correlated with the laying on of hands becoming “ordination.” This separation was declared by the authority of the Church, which believed it could declare further teaching separate from the Bible. This was possible since they were the voice of God on earth and could not be wrong. In the NT there was not a settled pastor or priest over a single congregation. Instead, we see that Paul travelled all over the world doing full-time ministry (his tent-making should also be seen as “ministry”; we all too often make a distinction between what we consider secular and sacred, but this a development based upon dualistic philosophy). He would get a few believers together and then take off and leave them as a lay-led church and minister to them as he could through letters, and in some cases a future visit. Paul and Silas were sent off with a laying on of hands in Antioch, but this was for the Spirit’s aid on a certain mission. The Holy Spirit was also invoked by a laying on of hands for healing (for example, Acts 28:8) and impartation of the Spirit upon believers as “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (for example, Acts 8:17-19).
While the believers in Antioch laid hands on Paul and Silas in Acts 13 for a specific missionary journey, Paul had already had hands laid on him in Acts 9 by Ananais so that he could see again, as well as be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus we cannot equate the biblical “laying on of hands” with “ordination.” This view developed through the aforementioned Catholic history. The biblical sending aspect of “laying on of hands” is connected with the shaliah of the rabbinic tradition. The Greek word “apostle” is basically equivalent to the Hebrew word “shaliah.” The origin of what it means to be “apostolic” is rooted in the rabbinic tradition. By looking at what the understanding of “apostolic” held by Jesus and the original apostles we can see how authority, and the passing on of authority, should work. The authority of the messenger was equal to that of the sender, but they were to stay true to the original message. They were sent in the name of the sender and their mission was clearly defined and revocable. There could not be succession. Only the original one sent had the authority of the sender. Thus faithfulness should be to the message given by the shaliah of Christ who provide an original, authoritative message (which we possess as the New Testament). There is no authority to be passed on. If the church passes on authority, the authority comes from the church, not from Christ. Thus ordination should only be seen as a stamp of approval, not from God, but from the church. The meaning of the word has developed to make it seem that an “ordained person” speaks for God in a way that the “lay person” does not. This is not true. The ordained person only speaks for the church in ways the lay person does not. Ordination should be seen as only a ministerial credential to show that you are an employee of the institution and can speak on their behalf.
It seems ridiculous then to have a distinction between men and women when we do not believe that ordination provides a spiritual gifting to be the vicar of Christ (and thus married to the church). Pastors are not married to the church, and by power of their clerical position alone don’t have a special authority coming from God that is not equally available to all people. They simply can speak on behalf of the institutional church as a credentialed employee. When we make a distinction between clergy or laity, and when we distinguish between gender for the laying on of hands, we are Catholic.
And may I point out Junia, a female apostle in Romans 16:7. Though some Bibles translate this word as the masculine Junias, in Greek it is a female name. Some Bible translators have their own beliefs in mind as they translate. This is why many times words that should be translated as “the grave” get translated as “hell.” They might not be purposefully trying to confuse the reader, they are just reading their own beliefs into the text as they translate. That is why I suggest that all who have opportunity should learn the original languages so that they can get as close to the message of the shaliah (the apostles) as possible.
The Church developed the idea of a priest for a church and believed that a church had to have a priest to be a true church, because the priest was the church and the church was the priest (this idea was set forth by Cyprian). For the Catholic Church, ordination has removed the need for faithfulness to the apostolic writings because now it is only necessary to be faithful to those ordained. They have the certain gift of truth and are themselves the voice of God, especially when the bishops are in session.
Ordination is a Catholic institution providing a certainty of “order.” The logical result of this “order,” which comes from the same Latin root as “ordination,” can be seen in the Catholic Church. I fear that if Adventism continues to move towards unity through the uniformity of “order” we will get to where the Catholics are faster than they did. They started rooted in the apostles. It didn’t take very long until a concern over “heresy” caused them to see themselves as the authority, as the stand-in for God on earth. They soon forgot that everyone has a direct connection with Christ and the Bible as a priesthood of all believers.
I am not in favor of the ordination of men. There are no biblical grounds for it. Ordination was a Catholic development which excluded women since they cannot be married to the church as priests. Thus ordination is a Catholic problem, and if we would move to something like ministerial credentials (which takes care of the original purpose of instituting ordination in Adventism – they wanted to be able to distinguish who could rightly speak for the churches positions) this Catholic problem would go away. But if we are going to continue to call full ministerial credentials “ordination,” we cannot keep this affirmation from women who, since Bible times, have served God and are an equal part of the priesthood of all believers.
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I would like to thank Drs. Darius Jankiewicz (Andrews University Seminary), Bruce Johanson (Walla Walla University) and Darold Bigger (also WWU) for stimulating my thinking on this subject and informing me on this topic.