Searching the Scriptures
The Berean believers were "more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." The result was that "many of them believed: also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few" (Acts 17:11, 12).

The example of the Berean Christians in searching the Scriptures is instructive for Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that "the Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His [God's] will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history" ("Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists," No. 1). This cardinal belief demands that, on the issue of the ordination of women, no less than on other issues of faith and practice, Seventh-day Adventists must maintain fidelity to God's Word. The North American Division (NAD), therefore, should be commended for making biblical fidelity an important objective in its bid for women's ordination.

The Current Situation

At the 1994 Annual Council, the North American Division made a request to the General Conference to vest each division with the right to "authorize the ordination of qualified individualswithout regard to gender." This request was prompted by the inconsistent and "untenable" position of the church in allowing women to be ordained as local elders but not as pastors. Believing that to turn back would create "havoc" and result in the loss of "our credibility and sense of fairness," the NAD president pleaded, "We humbly ask that you give us a hearing and prayerfully seek ways to help us address a dilemma." He added, "Our objective must be fidelity to God's Word, providing unity in diversity, while recognizing and preserving the ability of each member or region of 'the body' to best function in its unique sphere." [1]

Shortly after the NAD made its request, an editorial titled "Speak Up Now, or Hold Your Peace" appeared in the December 1994 NAD edition of the Adventist Review. In it the editor urged readers "to voice your convictions on issues facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church at its world

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session in . . . Utrecht, Netherlands." It listed women's ordination as one of the "top agenda items" for the upcoming General Conference session and provided a full list of the North American Division delegates, with the explanation, "This gives you the opportunity to voice opinions ahead of time on the issues coming up--and then hope that the delegates will vote your way!" [2]


This book responds to the invitation in the Adventist Review to "Speak Up Now, or Hold Your Peace." It contains recommendations in response to the NAD president's earnest plea for "ways to help us address a dilemma"--the potential "havoc" and loss of "our credibility and sense of fairness"--created by the inconsistent and "clearly untenable" position of the Seventh-day Adventist church on the issue of women's ordination.

The Two Choices Facing Us. The NAD president highlighted the biblical inconsistency of the church's present position: "It appears to be ecclesiological hairsplitting to say that we will recognize ordination of women [as local elders] on one hand and refuse to recognize it [their ordination as pastors] on the other hand, while calling them both scriptural positions." [3] The implication should not be missed: If women can be ordained as local elders, it is equally valid for them to be ordained as pastors. But by the same token, if the practice of ordaining women as local elders is unbiblical, it is also unbiblical to ordain them as pastors. So the question really facing the church is this: Is ordaining women as elders biblical? If it is, we must continue the practice and extend it to include ordaining women as pastors. On the other hand, if ordaining women as local elders is not scriptural, we must reconsider previous church council actions in order to come into harmony with the Bible.

Fidelity to God's Word. The NAD president rightly maintains that in resolving this dilemma, "Our objective must be fidelity to God's Word." This explains the title of this book--Searching the Scriptures: Women's Ordination and the Call to Biblical Fidelity. But though the NAD apparently does not consider the ordination issue as theological, [4] we hold that the question of women's ordination is a theological issue, and therefore it can only be resolved legitimately on the basis of the Bible.

So this small volume will provide a biblical--not pragmatic or socio-cultural--investigation to try to determine whether the practice of women's ordination is according to God's plan. We will examine the Bible's portrayal of the partnership of male and female in both the home and the church, to see whether God has established distinctive roles for men and women, and whether the relationship of male and female is one of equal-

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ity or of superiority/inferiority. Gaining a clear understanding of the Bible's teachings on these and related matters and applying those teachings to our situation offers the best hope for "preserving the ability of each member or region of 'the body' to best function in its unique sphere"--one of the very things sought by the NAD.

Church Unity and Empowerment for Mission. The NAD president correctly set the goal, in attempting to resolve this dilemma, that we not "embarrass," "divide" or "bring dishonor upon this church that we love." Rather, our objective must be to provide "unity in diversity" and to "empower people for mission." [5] But we hasten to add that on theological issues--such as the one confronting us with regard to the women's ordination question--unity, and not diversity, is the biblical obligation. Unity ensures harmony and peace in the church. The Bible urges believers to be "of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil 2:2). Again we are told, "Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (Rom 14:19). But the unity which the Bible speaks about is not a conformity to popular opinions which compromise biblical truth. Instead, Scripture urges us to pursue a "unity of the Spirit" which leads us "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph 4:3, 13). True unity and consequent harmony in the church always derive from agreement in truth. This is why the Christian's armor in the battle for "the gospel of peace" begins with "the belt of truth" and ends with "the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God" (Eph 6:12-17). This truth alone, found in God's Word, can make us free (John 8:32). Any departure from biblical teaching results in "divisiveness and disunity"--the kinds of things that the NAD does not want to happen.

We believe that the church's mission--namely, the proclamation of the Three Angels' Messages (Rev 14:6-14)--will be greatly jeopardized and discredited whenever the church holds varied and contradictory beliefs and practices on theological issues. In other words, we cannot "empower people for mission" if we depart from biblical truth. The upper room experience of the 120 male and female disciples of Christ teaches us that before there can be a Spirit-empowered ministry, there must be at least three things: (1) unity (they were "with one accord" [Acts 1:14; 2:1]), (2) prayer (they "all continued . . . in prayer and supplication" [Acts 1:14, 24-25]), and (3) commitment to Scriptural guidance (they maintained that "Scripture had to be fulfilled . . . For it is written" [Acts 1:16-20]). These three requirements are also needed as the church pursues the question of women's ordination. Failure to seek the Scriptural basis for "empowering people for mission" will not only "embarrass" but also "bring dishonor upon this church that we love"--the very things that the NAD does not want to happen.

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Prayer. I firmly believe that Seventh-day Adventists' first loyalty is to Christ and His written word. This book, then, comes to you with a prayer that the biblical and theological issues surrounding women's ordination will cause us--men and women, church leaders and members, scholars and others of all professions--to earnestly pray and seek guidance from God's inspired Word, which alone is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16, 17).


A work of this kind owes much to many individuals, some of whom differ from the author's conclusions. Yet, even in their disagreement, they have shaped the outcome of the biblical investigation. I want to express special appreciation to the followig individuals:

To Raoul Dederen, who deserves special mention. In his classes and seminars on revelation and inspiration and on ecclesiology, I first became aware of some of the issues discussed in this book. Also, I am grateful that he has always challenged me to biblical fidelity on theological questions. This book is an honest effort in that direction.

To members of the editorial board of Adventists Affirm for their encouragement to address this question and for their permission freely to use their published resources.

To Paul Yeboah and Paul Nsiah, Jr., who have helped me to understand that true ministry, the empowering of people for mission, demands not only the willingness to stand for Christ and His revealed truth, but also a spirit of total commitment and selflessness.

To dedicated Seventh-day Adventists on both sides of the issue of women's ordination--men and women, leaders and lay people, students and teachers--for their willingness to read the manuscript and for their input and helpful critiques of its different drafts. Among these, particular mention should be made of John Baldwin, Alexander and Iryna Bolotnikov, Richard and Jo Ann Davidson, Ganoune Diop, Roger Dudley, Leonard Gashugi, Martin Hanna, Jan Higgins, Hermann Kuma, Kenroy Malcolm, Keith Mattingly, Jerry Moon, Trust Ndlovu, James North, Constance C. Nwosu, Emmanuel Osei, Paulina Osei, Ron du Preez, Denton Rhone, Elwin St. Rose, Reinaldo Siqueira, Artur Stele, Alberto Timm, Peter and Cobie Van Bemmelen, Winfried Vogel, Oswald Williams, and Donna Worley. Their challenging questions and helpful suggestions alerted me to some aspects of the issue that deserved further clarification. While grateful to

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all the above, I take full responsibility for the contents and limitations of this study.

To William Fagal, for his encouragement in bringing what initially started out as a short article to its present form, for his conscientious and careful editorial help, and for contributing a foreword to the book.

Finally, a word of appreciation to my immediate family--my wife Becky and my daughter Jessica--for their patience with me through the intense time of writing, for being willing to read what I wrote, for offering their clear-headed questions and critiques, for their support of the conclusions this study expresses, and most importantly to me, for their loving acceptance of me in spite of the failings of which I am becoming increasingly aware (and which they probably saw all along). They have exemplified the godly graces of womanhood and enriched my life as no one else could.


Believing that it is better to discuss an issue without settling it than to settle an issue without discussing it, and believing also that to disagree with friends is not to dishonor them, this book is being sent forth with the hope that it will clarify some of the theological questions involved in the ongoing debate over women's ordination. It is expected that readers will evaluate this present study, no less than others which attempt to address the women's ordination issue, solely on the basis of the Scriptural data. In this way we shall avoid the perennial temptation to subordinate the Bible to our individual, cultural, or ideological prejudices and self-interests.

If Searching the Scriptures succeeds in steering the debate on women's ordination to where it rightly belongs--namely, the arena of serious biblical investigation--and if it facilitates the Seventh-day Adventist church's honest inquiry towards a fuller understanding of the Bible and its saving truths, then the purpose for which it was published will have been accomplished.

Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
Berrien Springs, Michigan
April 1995


[1] The full text of the speech given by the NAD president, Elder Alfred C. McClure, at the Annual Council is reproduced in the NAD edition of the Adventist Review, February 1995, pp. 14-15 ("NAD's President Speaks on Women's Ordination: Why Should Ordination be Gender Inclusive?"). For an expansion on the reasons for the NAD request, see Gary Patterson, "Let Divisions Decide When to Ordain Women," Spectrum 24/2 (April 1995), pp. 36-42.

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[2] Myron Widmer, "Speak Up Now, or Hold Your Peace," Adventist Review, December 1994, p. 4. The list of NAD delegates to the upcoming General Conference session appears on pages 26 and 27 of the same issue.

[3] "NAD's President Speaks on Women's Ordination," p. 15.

[4] The NAD president candidly admitted that he had been troubled for some time over the theological issues raised regarding women's ordination. But he voiced the opinion that "the church crossed the theological bridge when it voted to ordain women as local elders." In his view, refusing to ordain women as pastors "appears to be ecclesiological hairsplitting" (see "NAD's President Speaks on Women's Ordination," p. 15).

[5] Ibid., pp. 14, 15.

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