By Gabriel Akachi Mokobia
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has over so many decades been noted worldwide for her sound doctrines and practices. For several reasons, the church in most cases has been called “The people of the book.” And that fact cannot be disputed. The church, through her pioneers, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has proffered positive ideas and policies through painstaking, brainstorming research developments that have, and are still molding and improving human lives all over the world.
No doubt most of our teachings have marked us out worldwide as the Remnant Church. These include reformation in terms of health, education and religious versatility. New ideas are being proffered over the years for better improvement in these aspects of human endeavors. The church is better known as a Movement, so it is difficult for a particular individual to claim ownership of it except the Lord Himself, whose strength we have always relied on, for the overall sustenance of the entire body.
Yes, some of us are born Adventists, while others secured their membership through water baptism or profession of faith. Some have been in the church for decades while others are just coming in, and are still trying to find a foothold. If the church is indeed the Remnant of God’s people on earth, this trend will continue until Christ comes. However, as has always been the case throughout the ages, there are some among God’s people whose ideas and motives, if not critically checked, could make the whole body the laughingstock of the entire world.
Adam and Eve were living peacefully in the Garden until the devil brought into their mind a strange idea which ran contrary to the original plan of God. The idea to eat of that beautiful, attractive, but forbidden fruit eventually cost them the beautiful Garden and eventually their lives.
After the miraculous exodus the people of God still had a few ones among them who brought what they viewed as brilliant ideas into the minds of the people. They thought it wise to go back into Egypt rather than move forward. Unfortunately those who brought the seemingly good idea, including the ones that followed them, all perished in the desert. They chose to embark on a dangerous futile journey. Many of them were bitten to death by snakes.
It is very clear to Bible scholars that in the beginning, God did not form Eve from Adam’s rib to make her equal in all things; otherwise, nothing prevented God from molding a woman from dust and breathing the breath of life into her nostrils, just to clear any doubt that Eve was equal to man in all things. But the Lord saw that Eve was to take up a role in the Garden that would be clearly different from that of Adam, even though they were to work together in that Garden as partners. A help mate is not the same as the one who is in charge of affairs.
When God on the mountain provided an animal for Abraham to sacrifice in place of Isaac his son, what God gave him was a ram, a male sheep (Gen. 22:13) pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ. God could have provided any animal or any sheep, male or female for the sacrifice, as long as that animal was without blemish. But God was, and is still particular in His dealings with humanity.
As soon as the children of Israel got settled in the Promised Land, God instructed them through Moses concerning the different offerings they were to offer before Him. These include: burnt offerings, cereal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings (Lev. 1-7). Most of these offerings, especially the ones concerning alienation from, and reconciliation with God, involved the slaughtering of a male sheep, bull or ram. As it were, any priest that went contrary to the rule would suffer a consequence.
In carrying out the daily or yearly sacrifices before God, the Lord was particular in choosing a male priest to perform the rituals. Even where there was none, no female worshipper was allowed to perform the sacred act, no matter how vibrant or holy that woman might be among the people. At one point in the camp of God’s people, Miriam, supported by Aaron, tried to venture where even the ordinary men in the camp dared not venture(Num. 12:2-15). She paid dearly for this act because God was particular in choosing the men who should perform specific duties for Him among His people. In that very account, it was Aaron and Miriam who spoke against the monopoly of Moses in the ordinances. But God spared Aaron because he was a man and was also to be a priest in the affairs of God’s children.
Deborah was a prophetess of God. She knew there were specific duties to be performed by the men among the people. She asked Barak, the army commander to go to war (Judges 4:6, 7). It was the men who should go to war and not the women. Barak, who expressed fear in spite of all promises and assurance of victory, was denied the honor of becoming the hero of the war. He cowered from a task that was meant only for the men of Israel.
In the New Testament, when God was to send a Saviour to this world, He prepared a Male entity to come to this earth and perform the sacred art of dying for the whole world. Mary was found to be highly favored by God (Luke 1:28) yet she was not used directly by God to perform the duty of paying the supreme sacrifice. Else when she was told by the Angel, that she would conceive and bear a Child, Mary would have suggested to the angel Gabriel that she would rather give up her life and make herself a sacrifice for the whole world. Were it to be in today’s Adventist environment, some of our women, backed by a few pharisaic masters, would have opted for Mary to bear the sins of the world and die for humanity. After all she was pure and capable. After all what a man can do, a woman can do even better. Valid reasoning they may say.
Our biblical scholars must have asked whether Jesus was gender-biased when He chose His twelve disciples and did not include a single woman. He would have been condemned for this singular act if it were repeated in our present day because the advocates of women’s ordination would see it as social and gender discrimination. Yes, Jesus had an encounter with different women at different times during His earthly ministry. He saw many of them as candidates of heaven: Mary sat at His feet at Martha’s place (Luke 10:39). He forgave a woman that was a sinner (Luke 7:47). The woman of Samaria preached the gospel of Jesus to her townspeople (John 4:28-30). Yet Jesus did not call any of them to be part of the ordained Apostles.
At the close of His ministry, during His forty days of appearances to His followers, Jesus held a special meeting with the remaining eleven of His disciples on Mount Olivet, while the rest of His followers, including the women remained in Jerusalem (Acts 1:2-4). No single woman was said to be part of that Olivet meeting. It was after the Ascension that His disciples, including the faithful women at the temple in Jerusalem, were empowered through the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Even at that, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, many of the Apostles chose to do the major work of the ministry alone, without involving the women or their wives in the Church, except in very few cases. Priscilla was not ordained, yet she worked with her husband Aquila in his ministry (Acts 18:2).
When the first Jerusalem council was held to decide how the Gentiles were to be grafted into the mainstream early Church, it was only the Apostles, elders and some of the brethren that were present (Acts 15:4-7). No woman was recorded to be present at that crucial meeting. No wonder it was read that when Jesus fed the five thousand and the four thousand, only the male folks were counted, beside women and children (Matt. 14:15-21; 15:32-39).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is now an all-comers affair because of the beliefs, writings and practices of our contemporary professors in the field of theology. Therefore, “anything goes” when it comes to our beliefs and practices. This should not be so among the people of God. Sentiments aside, women have been known to perform creditably in the affairs of the Church, sometimes, even better than their male counterparts. Nevertheless, we should not be carried away by the wonders of our women and relegate to them the sacred duties of the ordained pastors. The Bible made it clear that any man who aspires to be a Bishop should be a husband of one wife, being able to love and care for his family (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Nowhere in the Bible was it stated that, “Likewise a woman who aspires to be a Bishop should be a wife of one husband,” else the contradiction would have been palpable. When a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor is ordained, he is expected to perform special duties in addition to those of the licensed and/or un-ordained pastor. An ordained pastor of our Church today is seen as a priest of God as in the Old Testament period, who performed most of the sacred services in the temple. However the fact that the ordained pastor performs most of the sacred duties in the Church does not, and can never make him the head of the church.
The Head of the church is still the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for the entire human race. He is personally present in the Church today as before, represented by the Holy Spirit. Man, on his part, should be the head of his household and a co-worker with Christ in the Church. It is he who performs most of the altar ceremonies in the house, except where he delegates his wife or his son to do it for him. When he delegates his normal routine, it does not remove him as the head of the household.
When a woman is ordained, she is expected to perform most of, if not all of the functions of her male counterparts in the ministry. It therefore implies that there are no more special duties to be performed by the male ordained ministers of God in the church. In essence we should be asking God why He had to choose a ram (male) for most of His sacrifices, and not any sheep that was without blemish. We should be asking God why He had to choose a male entity in the Person of Jesus Christ, to come and die for the world instead of a female entity.
We should be asking our Lord Jesus Christ why He had to choose only men to run His ministry on earth when He had the likes of the woman of Samaria, Mary, Martha and Peter’s mother-in-law around Him. We should be asking the Jerusalem Council why they did not invite the women at their crucial meeting: women such as Dorcas, Priscilla, Eunice, including all the women that received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were not at the council. Even if they were there, none of their voices were heard.
Women’s ordination is alien to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, no matter how long it has been on the front burner. Perhaps one question one needs to ask here is who are the brains behind women’s ordination in the church? Is it the men or the women? On the one hand, if it is the men who are advocating for women’s ordination, then could it be said that they are no longer capable of serving in the Church of God? Or could it be said that there are some in the fold who have politicized this issue so much that they are “weeping more than the bereaved?”
U pray and cry more than the bereaved when the rich and powerful are hurt but you offer no tear, no prayer, no protest and no outrage when the poor are slaughtered by evil men whilst those in power remain silent and look the other way. Shame on u!
— Femi Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) December 28, 2017
Then ask these men what they stand to gain by allowing women to take their place in Church activities. On the other hand, if it is the women who are clamoring for ordination, maybe due to the current agitation for equal opportunities, rights, justice and condemnation of gender discrimination, they should also note that religious and spiritual matters are quite different from politics and societal issues. God is not a God of confusion. He always has valid reasons for whatever He does.
Most times we want to look up the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy to support or debunk our claims on certain issues. This in itself is not bad because as Seventh-day Adventists, we know our beloved sister Ellen Gould White was profoundly used by God to reveal a lot of things to the contemporary world. Nevertheless, with regards to the ordination of women and Sister White, what we need to ask ourselves is, in spite of all the works that E. G. White did in her time, was there any time in her ministry that she was ordained with the laying of hands? Or was there any time in her ministry that she joined her male counterparts in the ministry to ordain a fellow female worker in the vineyard of Christ? If there is any record or photograph that points to such an occasion, it would be well at this time for proponents of women’s ordination to put forward such photographs on display for everyone to see. Of course there’s no such thing as women’s ordination in the time of Mrs. White.
Come to think of it, during the ordinances of the Holy Communion as observed in our Churches worldwide, when it comes to foot washing, it is expected that women move aside to wash the feet of their fellow women while the men are made to move to another side to wash the feet of their male counterparts. Sometimes during this foot washing, only the married ones are allowed to wash the feet of their spouses. Has it ever occurred to proponents of women’s ordination that it is an abomination for a man to place his hand on another woman’s head in whatever form, especially when she is a married woman? In some cultures, Eastern or African, it is only the husband of a woman that has the right to place his hand on his woman and not any other person. That is why the husband is described as the head of the woman (Ephesians 5:23). No man is allowed to place his hand on the head of another man’s wife. It is a shame on any man who allows another man to place his hand on the head of his wife for whatever reason.
We may cite baptism as an example to the laying on of hands on the head of women, but we should also note that not all the people of God, including our Patriarchs, went through the rituals of physical water baptism before they were saved (1 Corinthians 10:2). It is grossly unethical for a group of men and women to come together and call out a married woman in the presence of all and lay their hands on her head. In some parts of the world, any woman that allows this ceases to take her place as the wife of her house, because it is a shame to her husband.
Come to think of it still, how would it look like in the home of a typical Adventist family, where the husband and father of the house is not an ordained minister, whereas the wife whom he has under his charge happens to be an ordained pastor? Or, what if the two of them are ordained ministers living under the same roof, how would it feel? Or, what if out of ministerial indiscretion, the husband falls and is defrocked? What would the situation look like in such a home?
Any man or woman in this present age who tries to push for women’s ordination would only end up becoming the Aaron and Miriam of our time who would be questioning the authority of the Moses of our time, the ordained ministers of God. And any woman who agrees to submit to the ordination rituals can only be prompting God to ask if there are no prophet or true men of God among us that He can use to reveal Himself and perform all the sacred duties assigned to them.
Sometimes one needs to ask if women’s ordination should even be a matter of discussion among Seventh-day Adventists. If we are truly the church of the living God, of which we are, then we should understand that proponents of women’s ordination are only out to destroy the Church. We should know that the evil one has infiltrated the Church through destructive agents.
The Lord is not asleep. He is keeping watch over His people. Let us not forget also that, “God keeps a reckoning with the nations … When the time fully comes that iniquity shall have reached its stated boundary of God’s mercy, His forbearance will cease. When the accumulated figures in heaven’s record books shall mark the sum of transgression complete, wrath will come.” (Testimonies for the Church 5:524).
The fate of the church could only be determined by the prayers of the faithful in this matter. Perhaps, what seems to tear us apart now could be what unites us in the end. The sifting of the Church is currently ongoing. Christ is raising His voice every night and day for those true believers to come (John 10:16). When the time comes, He will separate the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). May God continue to work with His people in these trying times until He welcomes the elect in His glorious kingdom in Jesus name.
About: Gabriel Akachi Mokobia is currently Vice Principal, Chaplain and Christian Religious Studies teacher at Adventist College in Modakeke, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He can be reached through the following email: email@example.com