About two month ago prior to the GC SESSION 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, Pipim publicly published a short article titled “Why Am I Silent?” about his silence on the present ongoing discussion about the ordination of women (WO). In that small article, Pipim pointed out his silence as his speech and therefore vacates himself from what he supposedly regards as a “distraction”. However, Pipim could not swallow the straw of silence as perplexity seems to engulf his own Africans about the “ordination of women”. He therefore, broke out with a new book on WO with the conviction that “there are times when silence is a betrayal of Christ and His cause” (p. 155). Pipim’s new book is entitled: “COURAGE—Taking A Stand On A Defining Issue: Women’s Ordination”. In this article, I will review Pipim’s book, offer an evaluation of what he seems to be communicating, and finally offer some sincere critiques. I must quickly add that I really love Pipim and what he does. This review is purely on the basis of academic dialogue, not an open attack.
Pipim is a towering Adventist theologian and public speaker within many quarters of the church especially within the frontiers of Africa. As I have given a review of his theological ingenuity on Spectrum, Pipim’s “logic is compelling and his knowledge of Scripture is keen.” Whiles in the past he has emphasized a straight “No” to the ordination of women, this time, Pipim naively slips into Pope John Paul II’s definitive belief of “No more” to WO (pp. 10, 120)1. The first question is whether the Adventist ecclesiology has a place for the infallibility of the church to put a ban on WO. Since that is his personal opinion, it does not matter so much here.
Pipim’s approach in this 208-213 page book is on three main pillars: (1) Adventist history on WO, (2) Biblical precedence, and (3) The Spirit of Prophecy. His methodology is simply textual analysis, textual comparison, historical analysis and criticism, and his conclusion is purely by a deductive reasoning from all the former three.
(1) Adventist History on the Ordination of Women
Historically, the Adventist church has rejected and voted down the practice of the ordination of women on three GC Sessions. During the 1881 GC Session in Battle Creek, the proposal to ordain women into the ministry was discussed by eight members of the GC executive, whence the issue was given to a committee and nothing happened. The 1990 and 1995 GC Sessions in Indianapolis and Utrecht voted down the proposal to the ordination of women. The church’s advertent rejection of the practice, therefore, to Pipim, provides a tradition of the church’s “No” position. The Adventist pioneers did not endorse the ordination of women.
(2) No Biblical Precedence on the Ordination of Women
The Adventist church upholds the Bible as the only basis for all doctrines and practice. The recurring question posited by Pipim is the fact that “[t]he key issue, therefore, is whether the Bible anywhere permits women to exercise the leadership or headship roles of elders and pastors” (p. 63, 65, 88). The Bible does not provide any legitimate roadmap to the ordination of women. Headship is a legitimate place for only men (1 Cor. 11: 3, 11-12, 34-35; 1 Tim. 2: 11- 14; 1 Tim. 3: 2). Since the man is endowed with spiritual headship, ordaining women into leadership positions usurps this “divine right” (p. 65). It is this spiritual authority in the home which translates into the maleness leadership in the church (pp. 83, 84).
(3) The Spirit of Prophecy
On the basis of the Spirit of Prophecy, the author provides evidences to support the argument of the reasons the ordination of women was not supported by Ellen White. Though Ellen White is an important figure to the Church (p. 91), she never received or opted for ordination, except her honorary credential as a minister. Ellen White immensely encouraged women’s ministry but not women to be ordained as elders and pastors (p. 92). Male headship and gender-role differentiation is endorsed by Ellen White as divinely ordained (pp. 84-88). Apparently, there are no evidences in the Spirit of Prophecy that sets precedence for a woman to be ordained, as seen from scripture. So why should the Church err by deviating from scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy?
Pure and Sincere Critique
Irrespective of the high appreciation that I have for Pipim’s work, I think Pipim could not do justice to the major theme in question in his systematic approach in handling textual analysis and criticism, interpretation of Adventist history, and the Spirit of Prophecy. He also causes some injury in the manner he treats and criticizes his opponents. The following are my critique.
(1) Pipim misses his praxis, i.e. on the Adventist accepted definition for the “pastor’s office” and “ordination”. The technical term “call” which is the substance of Adventists’ affirmation as imperative into the pastoral ministry is totally suppressed in Pipim’s book, except in general terms (p. 11) and in an endnote (p. 19). Pipim seems to write it off outrightly when he defined ordination as “the church’s recognition and authoritative commissioning of individuals to perform certain functions on its behalf” (p. 66)2 Contrary, the TOSC Consensus Statement recognizes ordination “in a biblical sense, as the action of the Church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global Church ministry” (Emphasis are mine). Persons are therefore ordained into the ministry in which they were called into. The imperativeness of the divine call is the divine legitimacy that sets a person into the ministry, herein, pastoral ministry. Pipim’s biblical precedence is a bit confusing. It does not transcend over time. It is a past precedence. The church’s affirmation of the divine legitimacy, which is a call, transcends over time. It is the gifts endowed upon the individual that legitimate the person’s call. Ordination only gives the individual the right to function under the church’s authority. I think Pipim must revise his book on this serious error, except he disagrees with the church’s theological definition.
(2) This error leads Pipim to endorse maleness bureaucracy in the elder/pastor ministry. As he considers ordination as the church’s order to recognize and to commission a person to function within certain capacities, the question is, does the elder/pastor’s ministry remains a call?3 If yes, who does the gender sorting, God or the Church? If the church, how different is it from Catholicism?
(3) I think neither Paul nor any of the apostles seem to institute maleness bureaucracy. Pipim misses the essential point in 1 Tim. 3:1-2. The episkopos mentioned is not a qualification or quality. It is only a title. The phrase “A man with one wife” denotatively demands the quality of an ideal and successful marriage or family life of the person. The “man” is not a qualification because the accusative of the noun masculine episkopos has already been introduced. Nevertheless, no exegetist will overlook Paul’s psychological intent of a male overseer in this epistle. But is Paul instituting a maleness bureaucracy in the text? Two most important things to note in the pericope are the subject or nominative tis translated as “anyone”, and the direct object of address or the genitive episkopẽ translated “episcopate or office of the overseer”. It is the episkopẽ which people desire, that which is a good work, and that which gives the title “episkopos”. As long as the office of the overseer is expressed in the genitive and in the feminine, it creates no allowance for a maleness bureaucracy. Such a characterization is incongruent with the integrity of biblical exegesis because such evidence is not explicit. 1 Tim. 3:1-7 must be read, in context, as a protection of the office of the overseer with a list of suggested qualifications other than an institution of maleness bureaucracy. And today, the Adventist pastoral bureaucracy differs widely with the episkopẽ.
(4) Text and context form the basis of an accurate integrity of scriptural interpretation. The context of headship in the Corinthians correspondence differs widely with the context of authority in the epistle of Timothy. Specifically in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul carefully used the Greek terms “andros”, “aner “, and “gunē”. Whereas “andros” and “aner” often overlap to mean either an adult man or husband, the distinction in Corinthians 11, is made obvious. Paul uses “andros” for “all men” as in the male gender. And “aner” plus “gunē” becomes “the husband” and “wife”4. Verse 3 therefore becomes: “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the wife is the husband”. Also verses 8 and 9. Headship in this context is only limited in the marriage bond5. However, a man without Christ has no head. This makes Paul argument theological other than anthropological ontologies (born with headship). The figure of Adam and Eve represents “husband and wife” other than “Man and Woman”. Head covering, which without any doubt is a cultural practice, is theologized within this theological framework to speak of a wife’s submission to the husband. Headship is not a biological maleness endowment in the Pauline corpus.
(5) 1 Timothy 2:11, is unlike 1 Corinthians 11. Timothy’s church seems to be hijacked by women of autocracy. The usage of the peculiar compound word “authentes”, is a self-imposed authority to control or to domineer others. It is contrary to exousia which is a moral authority. Even though didasko “teaching” comes with some level of authority6, it is not the teaching per se which poses the problem here. It is usurp of authority that invalidates the teaching. Forbidding a woman to teach a man in the general sense violates certain biblical principles such as in Matt. 28: 19, 20 or as in the gift of prophecy which comes with teaching authority. Paul’s context in the epistle of Timothy is a subversion of power. Not all form of authority is authentes though. If the situation is viewed from this dimension, we begin to appreciate Paul’s wisdom to maintain church discipline and to restore man’s authority. The figure of Adam and Eve represents man’s “spiritual authority” which must be recognized by the woman.
*Combing all these verses, which have their various independent premises and objectives, to speak of them as a moral precedence against the ordination of women poses a problem and that’s what I find in the book COURAGE.
(6) The historical analysis of the Adventist history on WO needs to be commented. The author fails to accept the fact that the Adventist church has not released any official statement on the ordination of women as non-Biblical. That the world church has not found any Biblical precedence that makes the pastoral ministry maleness. The “No” votes signify ecclesiastical disapproval other than Biblical disapproval. This has been clear on the just recent vote. Delegates have voted against the proposal, which gives prerogative for Divisions to decide on the ordination of women.
(7) “Spiritual headship”, unclear point. An awkward statement: “In the church, ordination to pastoral ministry entitles a person to move into the positions of male spiritual headship. If we ordain women, female headship is likewise instituted. This is something Jesus never gave authority to do” (p. 81). No such definition exist in the church. Can ordination give the “divine right” (p. 81) of the man to a woman too? Is ordination sacramental?7 Is gender found in what is “spiritual”? Where did Jesus say that [deduction?]? Did Jesus ever occupy himself with gender functionality in His ministry? I think the concept of headship is overstretched beyond borders. Or Pipim is confusing church leadership with the Biblical “headship” in Corinthians. Christ is the only head of the church. This whole concept of “headship theology” is problematic.
(8) It is very impressive how Pipim provides statistics of the spiritual demise of other churches after embracing the ordination of women (pp. 97-100). However, he fails to look into the Adventist church having allowed the ordination of women as elders and deaconesses in the 1974 Annual Council and reaffirmed in 1984 (MH., 2009: 94; Church Manual, 2010: 38, 78-79;). Have there been some dangers in churches that embraced women elders? The Adventist churches in China are reported of their fastest growth, and especially where their pastors are ordained women. In October 27, 2013, the Southeastern California Conference of the Adventist Church voted (72%-28%) to elect Sandra Roberts as president. After almost two years, have there been signs of decline? There are countless ordained and non-ordained women pastors in the North American Division have their churches dwindled? I think an internal statistics could have strengthened the author’s point more than looking farer.
(9) The use of the Spirit of Prophecy at some points are jumbled without any apparent direct link to the issue of WO. I see it as intimidating tactics, moralizing and sermon-like. They are selective quotes transplanted out of their context. For example the self-elevation of Eve to eat the fruit was not over Adam in context, else she would not have given him some to eat. Using the Eve’s predicament in connection with today’s women who seek a share in the pastoral ministry as usurping authority over the man is problematic. The application of “modern Eves” does not apply here at all.
(10) Again, I think Pipim shipwrecked his analysis of the following Ellen White quote: “It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God” (6 T. 322)8. The quote in question which is given within the context of the canvassing work must also be explained in the larger scope of early Adventists understanding of the canvassing work which at some point became almost a must for individuals seeking to become ministers. In the above quote, there is a movement of thought. The canvassing work gives experience for “those who are fitting themselves for the ministry” (6 T. 322). This phrase can be clarified here in another Ellen White statement: “Many of our young ministers and those who are fitting for the ministry would, if truly converted, do much good by working in the canvassing field” (The Colporteur Evangelist, p. 15. Emphasis are mine). There is a clear distinction between what is being defined here as “ministry” and the canvassing work. The usage of the term “pastor” in this context is in fact an embodiment of the pastoral office. A careful research will find out that Ellen White used the word pastor often to designate the minister (REF.: Counsels on Health, p. 194). There are more than 150 instances in the compilation of her writings that sustain this fact9. An example: “The duties of a pastor are often shamefully neglected because the minister lacks strength to sacrifice his personal inclinations for seclusion and study” (4 T. 266. Emphasis are mine). Pastoring is mostly associated with the Minister or in rare instances the work of the elder. She often used the term interchangeably. I think the author’s designation of the term pastoring is very flimsy, and out of context.
(11) Lastly, I am much concern about Pipim’s comportment in some of his academic works. He exhibits a high level of prowess egotism by intimidating his opponents, which leads him to deploy an attitude of theological imperialism, and merely asserting as if he has the final word. He is unsympathetic, rude, negative, and harsh towards others. There is little academic respect for his opponents, and constant branding and categorizations such as “post-modern revision of the Bible” (p. 120), “egalitarian-feminist content” (p.114), “ideological hijack” (p.183), “campaign and propaganda” (p. 197), etc. The impression I get from Pipim’s writings about the pro-women ordination proponents is completely negative, as though they are pagans. He fails to embrace their works as sincere truth seekers and people who sincerely endorse scriptural authority and the Spirit of Prophecy like himself. It is disrespectful on his part also to view his opponents’ stance through the lenses of egalitarian-feminism (pp. 74-78), even though he tries to save that assertion (p. 154). Pipim must be careful to understand that if he is really “an apostle to the Gentiles” (p.183), he must treat people the way he wants others to treat him as he lamented in the latter pages of his book (pp. 173-175). I disagree with his justification for this strange attitude (pp. 174-175) because Ellen White has said: “In the advocacy of truth the bitterest opponents should be treated with respect and deference […] Therefore treat every man as honest. Speak no word, do no deed, that will confirm any in unbelief” (6 T. 120-122). If he refuses to take a U-turn from this attitude, his ego will destroy most of his theological works in the future.
Pipim’s book “COURAGE” is an excellent composition. It is filled with information. The author has spent time to analyze and to criticize his opponents’ views before drawing out conclusion. He does criticize events in Adventist history, and discusses assumptions that he finds inaccurate or non-factual. He provides information and statistics from other denominations to warn about possible dangers the Church might face in the future by ordaining women (pp. 97-103). It is not easy to miss Pipim’s thought because he writes with clarity and systematically. Persons who are against the ordination of women will find Pipim’s book quite appealing, timely, and pungent. On the other hand, persons who support the ordination of women will find the book very challenging or a reshuffling of Pipim’s old position on WO. Irrespective of the many weaknesses of the book that I have brought some of them forth for discussion, I will recommend this book to everyone, especially those who are against the ordination of women, if they seriously need to understand their opponents’ position.
- Pope John Paul II in the Ordinatio Sacerdotalis closed the discussion over the ordination of women into the Catholic priesthood. He declared: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Apostolic Letters, 22nd May, 1994). ▲
- Pipim has rightly in time past defined Ordination as “an act of commission, acknowledges God’s call, sets the individual apart, and appoints that person to serve the church in a special capacity.” It is very strange that I find him suppressing the “call” in this crucial book. See Pipim’s “Does the Bible Support Ordaining Women as Elders or Pastors? Part 2”. ▲
- Again, Pipim seems to solve this dilemma in his article “Does the Bible Support Ordaining Women as Elders or Pastors? Part 2”. In fact most of the things I am addressing in this paper have been explained in details by Pipim on his website. However, because they fall short to offer satisfaction, that is why I am bringing them back for critical analysis. The merging of the office of the elder and pastor together in fact poses problem. The office of the epispokos or presbuteros were not by “charisma”. It demanded moral qualification. From the New Testament, we have no evidence that it was by a call. According to 1 Tim. 3:1, persons who desire can take up the job. Its equivalence seems to be our today’s elders’ office in the local churches. Contrary, the pastoral office has long been identified as demanding a divine call in the form of “charisma”. The church therefore confirms a person’s call through the identification of the gifts by ordination. Perhaps Pipim can offer a proposition to merge the two offices to one and same thing. ▲
- Paul was very meticulous in using both “andros” and “aner” in the same chapter. Since all the “aner” is in the nominative, it appears the Apostle wants to say “the husband”, whiles “andros” appears as “man” as in the general sense. In places where Paul uses “andros” plus “gune”, the meaning becomes “a man [husband] and woman [wife]” depending on the context as in 1 Tim. 3:2, Eph. 5:22-33. ▲
- Ellen White understood the headship role as only in the family. She also asserted the fact that not all men can exercise headship over wives. She wrote: “The Lord Jesus has not been correctly represented in His relation to the church by many husbands in their relation to their wives, for they do not keep the way of the Lord. They declare that their wives must be subject to them in everything. But it was not the design of God that the husband should have control, as head of the house, when he himself does not submit to Christ. He must be under the rule of Christ that he may represent the relation of Christ to the church. If he is a coarse, rough, boisterous, egotistical, harsh, and overbearing man, let him never utter the word that the husband is the head of the wife, and that she must submit to him in everything; for he is not the Lord, he is not the husband in the true significance of the term” ~ Adventist Home, p. 117. Also, Ellen White used the technical term headship once and it was in reference to the family (See Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 180). ▲
- If “didasko” is to be understood from the Greek perspective as in the “didaskalos” (teacher) who has students or disciples such as in Socrates, Plato, Jesus, and Gamaliel, obviously, then the woman has become a boss who her students submits under her authority. If it is just teaching per se, then where do we stand with our Sabbath School women teachers? The women colporteurs who do house to house evangelism and teaching of the Bible? Where do we stand with our University female professors? And the women preachers? This interpretation of course poses a lot of problem to our church today. However, the verbs infinitive “didasko” and “authentein” and their direct object “andros” (man) gives a clearer understanding of a subverted authoritative teaching over the man. ▲
- In the same article by Pipim in the “Searching the Scriptures”, pp. 25-34”, he rightly affirms the Church’s opposition to ordination as being sacramental. However, the definition given that there is a movement into spiritual headship seems to contradict his previous position; I may be wrong though but I doubt. ▲
- Clinton and Gina Wahlen too think the use of “pastor” meant the ministry of nurturing people other than the pastoral office in this context. See Clinton and Gina Wahlen (2015), Women’s Ordination: Does it matter? pp. 82-84. ▲
- In fact Ellen White has used the term “Pastor” to mean the office of the Minister almost in her book Pastoral Ministry. Few other references may be found in the Acts of the Apostle, pp. 363, 393; Christian Service, p. 70; Pastoral Ministry, p. 102; 4 T. 266. ▲