I WOULD BE LIKE JESUS

I have been privileged to come in contact with some wonderful young adults in ministry throughout my life. But none have done more to transform my ministry like the young women I have encountered. To speak of it fills me with deep emotions that many times I have had to stop writing.

Some months ago in 2016 after another unfortunate incident of senseless racial violence, I received a text from one of my brothers in ministry who expressed his deep pain for what the nation was experiencing. He expressed his kinship with me in this painful experience that our nation seems unable and unwilling to overcome.

I felt at the time a text response was insufficient and decided it was best to connect personally with him and reflect together about where we are in earths epic journey and what all of this really means. What was God trying to tell us? Having a rare opened Sabbath on my schedule, I decided to visit his church hoping to run into him in person and talk after the service. I thought that was my mission, but God had other plans.

When I arrived I discovered that the speaker was another pastor, a female and a former student who I was privileged to minister with as a Chaplain at Andrews University.

After the service I found her to see how she was doing. While her ministry was going well, I was surprised to learn that her camp meeting experience earlier that summer was not quite as enjoyable. She did not go into details but the incident was so unpleasant and demeaning among her male colleagues in ministry that she did not want to repeat the experience again. It was quite shocking to hear and it was then that I realized this was the reason I was impressed to attend the church I did that day. It was not to connect with my male colleague, but this female pastor. I encouraged and affirmed her but I knew then what I had to do. I had to author this blog. It was time.

What are we doing as a church? Questioning the authority of God and the authenticity of a woman’s calling to ministry. How dare any person, male or female, do that and oppose scripture. If you do, you must oppose Joel 2:27, 28, Acts 2 and Pentecost.

What are we arguing about when we argue about ordination? Ordination is NOT BIBLICAL. So why is a church that claims to be so Bible based so staunchly divided on an issue that is NOT BIBLICAL.

Does anyone know where ordination came from? You don’t need to be a theologian, Bible scholar or historian to unearth this information. You can Google this.

Historically the early church was not hierarchical and in the churches of Asia Minor formed by the Apostle Paul, ministry was not a function of office, but a gift of the Spirit. There was a radical equality of all in Christ, including an equality of gender and the gifts of all were recognized and allowed to flourish. There was no need for ordination – indeed there was no official clergy or priesthood. The brothers and sisters gathered to share a meal, literally and ritually, and to remember the Lord. The entire community celebrated, the entire community prayed, and if there were a presider at all, that person was called from the community to lead it in prayer.[1]

Gradually, especially after Paul’s death, a natural leadership emerged in the communities Paul founded. In Paul’s letters there is mention of elders ‘(presbeteroi), and leaders (episkopoi), though no distinction is drawn between the two, and there is no claim of authority based on a call from the apostle through ‘ordination.’ In fact, there is NO mention of “ordination” in the New Testament…Paul…never asserted an authority of coercion, never attempted to impose uniformity or conformity, or centralized authority (his or anyone else’s) on the communities he founded. Paul was content to trust in the Spirit to guarantee unity, precisely through the diverse gifts of the members of the community, and in particular through the “greatest” of the gifts of the spirit – agapic (selfless) love.[2]

Women, it is clear, played an important role in the early church – Paul addresses women, as well as men, as his synergoi, his “fellow workers.”[3] At the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul acknowledges twenty-nine leading Christians in the Roman community to whom he sends greetings – ten of them were women. He calls Phoebe[4], a “woman active in the Church in Cenchreae, a diakonos, indicating that she was the leader of a home church. He writes of the woman Junia as being “distinguished among the Apostles[5],” suggesting that she was instrumental in spreading the faith, and eminent in the Christian community – in every respect Paul’s equal.[6]

Women in the early church were welcomed to share their gifts as the Spirit gave them; many women were considered prophets, and teachers, both regarded as higher gifts than the gift of leadership. Though cultural biases against women would gradually take root, in the earliest Christian communities Paul in his writings recognized women in ministry as his equal and welcomed their participation in leadership.

Over the course of the first hundred and fifty years of Christianity the function of church leader or bishop slowly developed into a distinct clergy over and against the “laity.” Bishops, at first merely the informal leaders among the many priests in a community, took on increasing authority, especially after the conversion of Constantine, when the monarchic episcopacy began to develop, and bishops emerged as powerful authorities in both civil and ecclesial society. More gradually still, the bishops of the great cities of the Roman Empire, Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, emerged as the Episcopal powerbrokers and Rome, claiming association with both Peter and Paul, and assuming central authority. What had been born as a gathering of people proclaiming the Lordship of Christ had become the world’s first fully functioning bureaucracy – the Institutional Church.[7]

There are two very clear conclusions to gather from this history. First, clergy ordination is of Catholic origin. How ironic that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has become a champion of a Catholic institution. Second, ordination’s original purpose was hierarchical and political not spiritual. It was intended to elevate the clergy above the laity and was imposed by Pagan Rome when Emperor Constantine joined the Christian church and gave civil authority to Papal Rome.

Jankiewicz, asserts the pagan origins of the word ordination. He writes, “It is well attested historically that pagan Roman society was ranked according to various strictly separated classes, which were called “orders” (from the Latin plural ordines).”[8] The notion of rank and order is a pagan idea that originates in the pagan Roman society of patronage. This concept of rank and succession crept into the church and became church dogma, just as other false teachings of the Roman Church became doctrine. Jankiewicz traces the origins of hierarchy in the church and identifies Ignatius as one of the earliest church leaders who sort to elevate the clergy above the laity. He writes, “Ignatius strived to elevate the authority of the bishop in the congregation.  It is in his writings that we find the prescription that only one bishop is to govern each church (known as mon-episcopate)…He is the first church thinker, thus, who presents a bishop as the undisputed head of the congregation, surrounded by a council of presbyters as well as deacons, who, in Ignatian writings, appear to be at the bottom of the hierarchical ladder.  “Let the bishop preside in the place of God,” he wrote, “and his clergy in place of the Apostolic conclave, and let my special friends the deacons be entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ.” [xii] “Obedience to the bishop was equal to obedience to God, whom the former represented.” Jankiewicz continues, “Building on the Ignatian understanding of ministry, Irenaeus developed the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, a doctrine that continues to lie at the foundations of Roman Catholicism today.”[9]

When we defend ordination and exclude women what is it that we are actually defending? Is it even a system that should be apart of a church that teaches the priesthood of all believers and preaches about the antichrist? Look at the inference of Ignatius, “in the place of God,” really. Christ came to remove every wall of distinction and every system of inequality that humanity created. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but all are ONE in Christ.

Spiritual gifts are supposed to bring unity and harmony to the body of Christ, not create disunity and hierarchy. Its purpose is to build up the church into the perfect “man” Christ Jesus. The ultimate goal is for the gifts to bring the kind of unity that Jesus spoke of in John 17:27. However, ordination was not introduced or created to bring unity but hierarchy and division, to elevate the ministry above laity suggesting that the clergy are on a superior spiritual level above the laity.

So why is the church allowing ordination to be used in the same manner today? It is not Biblical. It is not bringing unity but division and it is being used to suggest that men are on a higher spiritual plane than women. None of this is biblical and all of it contradicts the purpose of spiritual gifts.

I remember at the General Conference session, when the ordination vote was taken and those whose side won the vote began to cheer, I felt that God had left the room. We had reduced the issue to a contest, a sport; a best of seven series. What next a free agent signing to see who wins the vote five years from now?

It is a mockery to God to Christianize and spiritualize something that was originally intended to divide the church without analyzing how it is now being used. Aren’t we using it the same way?

When a female minister is made to feel by men that somehow her call to ministry is less authentic or inferior to theirs then something is very wrong. When the first reaction to the vote, after the GC session, is to question whether women who have been serving in the church for decades as elders and pastors has been revoked, something is very wrong. When derogatory and harassing phone calls are made to women pastor to leave their calling in ministry and return to exclusive motherhood, something is very wrong.

Is this God’s ideal to bring unity and unleash spiritual gifts in the body of Christ? Is this the path God would have us take in uniting the church to build the perfect man Christ Jesus?

There is something to consider about leadership in the church. It represents an inconsistency in our hermeneutic. We often go to creation as the original model for marriage. We especially refer to this when marriage equality is discussed and people argue for the rights of same sex marriage, we are quick to say that when God selected a mate for Adam he created “Eve” not “Steve.” However, the creation account presents not only the original marital relationship that reflects the image of God but also the original leadership paradigm that reflects the Godhead. When God created Adam’s partner for leadership He created “Eve” not “Steve.”

The Bible says God gave “them” dominion of the earth[10]…”THEM” not “HIM.” And God said it was NOT good for the man to be alone. When God made that statement He was not just talking about His physical companionship, He meant His complete co-existence. That alone was not just numerically but alone in gender as well. Every aspect of Adam’s life was to be lived in community, a reflection of the Godhead. While their roles may not have been interchangeable, their status was no less equal. Adam and Eve’s existence was to reflect the relationship of the members of the Godhead fully equal and fully God, while existing in mutual submission to one another.

The leadership paradigm in Eden was completed when Eve was created, not Steve.  So why is it that in the church we preach heterosexual marriage as the original plan of God established in Eden but homosexual pastoral leadership? Man stands alone as sole head with other men, no women allowed. Could there be anything more unbiblical and anti-creationist. How opposed this is, to the plan that God declared as NOT GOOD in the beginning before sin.

Consider for a moment that when Christ ministered on earth he made no distinctions in whom he allowed to be his disciples. Luke’s Gospel tells us that there were a consistent number of women who followed Jesus and who supported Christ and His disciples financially from their own resources.[11] And in Jesus’ most desperate hour when all the  disciples, save John, forsook him, it was women who stayed with Him to the very end at the cross;[12]they attended his body and laid it in the tomb[13]and women were the ones to discover that Christ had risen and announced His resurrection to the world[14]while all of the men were in hiding. So how can men claim some exclusive position as the heralds of the Gospel when they were missing in action during the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?

So what’s next? Oh it’s the title of my blog. The words of a song came to my mind as I thought about this subject. I could not get it out of my mind. It goes like this,

Earthly pleasures vainly call me; I would be like Jesus;

Nothing worldly shall enthrall me; I would be like Jesus.

Refrain

Be like Jesus, this my song, In the home and in the throng;

Be like Jesus, all day long! I would be like Jesus.

2 He has broken every fetter, I would be like Jesus;

That my soul may serve Him better, I would be like Jesus.

3 All the way from earth to glory, I would be like Jesus;

Telling o’er and o’er the story, I would be like Jesus.

4 That in Heaven He may meet me, I would be like Jesus;

That His words “Well done” may greet me, I would be like Jesus.

So I dedicate this blog to all of the wonderfully gifted, dedicated, talented and anointed women who have blessed me over my years of ministry…More and more like Jesus…

[1] Rich Hasselbach, “History of Ordination within the Catholic Church: A Selection from: Eucharist and the Church. 2005.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Romans 16:3,6,9,12

[4] Romans 16:1

[5] Romans 16:7

[6] Hasselbach.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Darius Jankiewicz, “A History of Ordination (Part 1), April 5, 2013. Memorymeaningfaith.org.

[9] ibid.

[10] Genesis 1:26

[11] Luke 8:1-3

[12] Matthew 27:55

[13] Luke 23:55

[14] Matthew 28:5-8

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