I saw jets of light shining from cities and villages, and from the high places and the low places of the earth. God's word was obeyed, and as a result there were memorials for Him in every city and village. His truth was proclaimed throughout the world. --Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 28, 29. {ChS 112.2}

Monday, November 02, 2015

A Matter of Conscience

Adventists were originally very much committed to the concept of non-combatancy, a form of conscientious objection that while it saw the "bearing of arms" as against the teachings of their Christian beliefs, allowed the individual the opportunity to serve as a Medic or a Chaplain-Padre in the military services to their country. Recent outgoing Pastor of the Azure Hills Church, John Brunt, in an interview with Spectrum magazine, reflects:

...there are areas where we as a church have regressed.  When I grew up, to be an Adventist included a commitment to peace and a refusal to engage in combat.  We were conscientious non-combatants.  That has almost entirely been lost today, and I think we are the poorer for it.

As Remembrance Day draws near, it is my desire to pass along a little of our Adventist "tradition" around the issue of non-combatancy, and peace-keeping/peace-making.  The self-supporting ministry called Adventist Peace Fellowship is a highly recommended source of information and learning, celebration of our denomination's PeaceMakers, and even a certification program for becoming a "Peace Church". Peacemaking has as much to do with Social Justice as it does with conscientiously objecting to bearing arms in a time of war.  Reading through the Adventist Peace site will provide you with inspiring stories, a call to action, and examples of some of the campaigns currently underway that might speak to your heart, or that might spark similar initiatives in your own community.  Something for everyone who wishes to follow in the footsteps of our great Prince of Peace.

Here is a video from the British Conference of Seventh-day Adventists that highlights the hardships of the young conscripted Seventh-day Adventist soldiers from WWI.  I plan to show this to our congregation this Sabbath, with discussion to follow. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

In Support of Women's Ordination in the Adventist Church

My dad wanted to be a minister since he was 6 years old. His first ‘sermon’ was to the farm cows because it was the only attentive audience he could find. By the time I became an attentive member in his audience he was a much loved and respected pastor. He is the big reason I became and still am an SDA church member with a deep commitment to and love of my church. It is a church with a remarkable history of commendable and often exemplary ministry to our world.

If you were a member in his church and had opportunity to be shepherded by him you may begin to understand why I wanted to be like him. He still is my ideal of a shepherd pastor. And yes I did want to be like him. I want my children, especially my daughter and granddaughters to look at my life and give them the opportunity to continue this legacy of ministry.

By his example of acting to correct injustices and holding fast despite backlash, I am inspired to do and be what I now see is the essence of Christianity. This can be a costly journey and most often is, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t walk the talk like he did. This is a journey between each soul and the Holy Spirit. No man has the right to dictate that path!

And bare soul rock bottom reason? I love Jesus and believe there is a super special connection from the heart of those hurting, marginalized or needy souls to His heart and I want to be on that path! So……

As I sit down to write these words of my reaction to and thoughts on the vote of the issue of Women’s Ordination at General Conference 2015, I wonder if the dust is settling, or if it is as Madame Mallory said in movie The Hundred Foot Journey, “You tell your friends that these bombs have ended a war. They have brought peace. Bravo. You’re a chef, I do not pay you to burn things. Take your knives and go.” And a new resolve is beginning.

If we had taken the intent of Gamaliel’s council in Acts 5:35-39--“Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re going to do to these men… stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men it will be overthrown, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” At the outset of these discussions, arguments and research of almost 50 years, had we listened, much hurt and misunderstanding—never mind the unsubstantiated or weak arguments—could we have been spared!

At the very heart of Christianity is a harmony that God began in Heaven and placed in Eden. This harmony of Creation is foundational for peace in our Christian journey, and I believe God draws us back to this harmony in every way possible and at every possible opportunity. This He desires for every one of His children.

Many believe that at the heart of ordaining women is an issue of gender equality and many are snagged upon this point. While I want to make it crystal clear and heartedly felt that I stand in total and complete solidarity with my worldwide sisters on this imperative and vital issue; it is a noble, justifiable, and albeit closely parallel issue to me, one of greater consequence is that of call equality. As you can see from my quote of Gamaliel, I agree with him that we “may even be found fighting against God.”

To officially deny these women
-who believe God, through His Holy Spirit has called them
-who are trained and equipped to serve,
-who give bountiful and exemplary service to our church,
-and who show indeed that God has anointed them and is blessing their ministry
suggests that we feel our approval is higher than God’s divine prerogative to act as He sees fit for the needs of our world today. Do you not think He looked forward to this day of the shameful treatment of women worldwide, and stated first in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 that He would pour out His Spirit on his sons and daughters, preparing for the ministry of those mistreated and abused or violated women who cannot be ministered to by a male pastor? Do not say that this is already being done by many women pastors, as I know it is; these women need to know that the church has officially empowered our women pastors to ministry, demonstrating that the church officially takes a stand against this abuse— just as we issued an official apology for our Church's behavior in WWII. An official stand is imperative.

We have exponentially increased our offensiveness to God first by disrespecting His choice of workers, and secondly by our neglecting to restore equality before God for all people through our lack of emphasis on social justice, and our lack of echoing His love for the least in all our interactions for and with each other. It brings to mind 1 Samuel 8:7—“They have not rejected you they have rejected Me.” I say this because treatment of people, how we should act and react, is an issue that has much more Biblical council than the issue of ordination.

We need to move past Acts 10:34, “God is no respecter of persons,” and Acts 11:18, “They held their peace,” after the apostles examined the evidence and stated “They have received the same as we.”

When at last will we make our religion one of heart and head, not one at the neglect of the other? When at last will we hold each life, no matter how it presents or we perceive it, (for Life originates in the mind of God and is therefore sacred), of inestimable value and of urgent restoration, thereby meeting a desperate, dying world’s need of a Savior? This must undergird our theology and its expression.

Then and only then will this restore the harmony God desires most imperatively for us. We are to be that change, we are to be forward acting, not waiting until politics and policies tell us and mandate us on the treatment of people. How neglectful have we been of our implicitly articulated Biblical injunction of service for mankind. What a witness to the world we could have been had we officially ordained women to the ministry at Utrecht, along with a rededication to lift oppression and do justice.
Put aside your arguments, your own reasoning, and your own wishes, and think of God’s desire that all should come to Him and be saved. Our church was founded by a woman called and ordained by God. The unintended result of this vote lessens not only the impact of women currently in ministry but diminishes the legacy and validity of Ellen White.

While we believe in the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and we as a church body do need to be more receptively active; as well we need to state by our stand that this acknowledgement for ordination of women is official thus increasing our efficiency. We need to renew our commitment to Jesus' actual ministry by Christlike treatment of and for all people, but most specifically for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the weak, the small, the least, and make it an official policy of the true understanding of God’s ministry for all His children without reserve or bias, with the best of our heart, mind and soul.

The first injury to the total scope of women’s rights (while I stated at first that gender and call equality were parallel, it can now be seen so closely parallel as to be one line!) has been the “no” vote at GC15, the second and more consequential injury would be inflicted if we remained silent. By silence we are culpable. I cannot remain silent.

I’m reflecting on a story set in post WWII Germany. A much anticipated orchestral concert was to be directed by a maestro who was a survivor of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Before the war he had been the world’s leading violinist of such renown for the profound effect his playing had upon his listeners. By the hand of his captors his hands had been so mangled that he was now unable to play his violin. The tragic thing is while one incidence had achieved its evil purpose his captors had repeatedly marred his hands. It was as if his captors were trying to destroy not only his gift but the Giver as well.
Mary Kaye Schander Manchur, our guest blogger, orginally wrote the above post for the Facebook page I Support The Ordination of Women in Adventism.  Printed by permission of the author.
©Mary Kaye Schander Manchur
Image "Landscape with a Whale" courtesy of François Charest at Free Images