Warren Rudman had been speaking for some time on the Senate floor in favor of a piece of legislation. Then-Majority Leader Bob Dole quipped, “Sit down, Warren, some of us are still for it.”
I’ve been feeling that way a great deal lately when it comes to the issue of women’s ordination. I’ve been on record for more than 20 years saying that I favor it. It is not my purpose to rehash that here — quite the opposite. In fact, I hope to encourage both sides on the issue to stop rehashing their positions.
We get it. Everybody gets it! Those who oppose women’s ordination believe it is a matter of scriptural necessity, and accuse everyone who disagrees with them and who intends to act in accordance with their beliefs of rebellion. They go so far as to threaten to disestablish Union Conferences that continue to exercise their authority to ordain women.
And we get the other side, too. We have heard the arguments about equality in Christ, and so on.
Without commenting on the merits of either position — after all, I’ve already said where I stand — I want to request both sides to do two things:
First, turn down the heat. For those who oppose women’s ordination, not everyone who disagrees with you is committing the sin of Korah. Telling them over and over again that they are in rebellion, and are sinning against God, has not been in the least effective so far.
For those who favor women’s ordination, repeating the same arguments that we’ve heard already, and declaring any who oppose your view to be male chauvinists, sexists, insecure, heretical — whatever the list—that’s not working either. Turning up the heat is only hardening the opposition. On both sides.
When two people are shouting at each other, you know for certain no one is listening. And if no one is listening, no one will be persuaded. So the shouters aren’t really interested in persuasion. They just want to vent. Once again: This. Is. Not. Helpful.
Second, once you stop shouting and take a breath, try to find a different approach. An example of that is Shane Anderson’s article in Adventist Today. Another is the approach I took in my recent book For Such A Time. Instead of asking about ordination, I asked a more general question: how does God respond when women take the lead?
Both of these offer a fresh perspective on the question. I’m not suggesting that you, dear reader, must agree with either one of them. I do suggest you read them and engage the arguments they put forward. If neither satisfies, then find an approach of your own.
That is the only way this issue is ever going to be resolved and result in anything approaching unity. The vote in San Antonio was 1,381 – 977. In one sense, it doesn’t matter which way the vote went, because it reveals a deeply divided church.
Let no one suppose that if the vote had been the same numbers, but in favor of Women’s Ordination, that the issue would have been settled. If such a vote could settle an issue, it would already be settled. Either way, more than 40% of the church would be dissatisfied.
While 100% may not be achievable in a sinful world, we should certainly strive in that direction. Even 80% support would mean that one in five members were strongly opposed. We must find a better way. That is what I’m calling for. Only new approaches to this issue will make a better way possible. Shane Anderson has proposed one. I have proposed another. I challenge you to examine these approaches, and if neither satisfies, come up with your own.
Simply repeating the old arguments over and over again sounds very much like insanity, and we have demonstrated that it is futility. It’s time to try something new.