Statement emphasizes equality of men and women as members of the body of ChristAugust 24, 2014 Adventist ReviewThe faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University has voted a statement on Biblical concepts of headship, the university said Friday. Teachers at the church’s main North American training ground for pastors adopted a seven-page study titled, “On the Unique Headship of Christ in the Church.” The document, approved Thursday, “represents a consensus of the seminary faculty who created this document as a service to the worldwide church,” the university said in a statement. “I am excited to offer to the church this biblical-theological study that uplifts the unique headship of Christ in the church,” seminary dean Jiří Moskala said. “It is my hope that it will significantly contribute to the current debates on leadership.” The document opens by unequivocally declaring that the church’s head, or leader, is no one other than Christ. “While there exists legitimate leadership in the church, no other human being may rightfully claim a headship role in the church,” it says. “As head of the church, Christ provides the ultimate manifestation of God’s love, demonstrating and vindicating God’s moral government of love, and thus defeating the counterfeit government of the usurping ‘ruler of this world.’” Later, the statement addresses Biblical understandings of the roles of men and women. “Since Christ is the unique Husband of the church (Christ’s metaphorical bride), the members of the church cannot themselves be husbands of the church but collectively, men and women together, are the bride of Christ,” it says.
Response to the statement from Andrews:
A group of 25 Adventist theologians and pastors has appealed to faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University to reconsider a recent statement on Biblical concepts of headship.
The group — which includes a current and a former seminary faculty member, alumni, and students, as well as professors from other North American Adventist universities — has sent an eight-page open appeal to the seminary, the church’s main North American training ground for pastors, in connection with the document approved by consensus in late August.The appeal, dated Monday, “urges the faculty to reconsider their statement and adjust it so that it considers the full biblical counsel on this subject and be in harmony with the vital Protestant and Adventist principle of ‘the Bible and the Bible only.’”“Instead of unifying church members, it seems that the document has brought confusion in regard to the Biblical view of Christ’s headship and its implications for leadership under Christ in the church,” the appeal says.The appeal opens by concurring that Christ’s headship over the church is absolute. But it also says “the arguments in the seminary document to support His headship role are at times problematic.”“We see the need to recognize that Scripture is clear that Christ has delegated leadership responsibility for His church to ministers and elders as undershepherds in His stead with His authority,” it says.The appeal lists four“problematic arguments” from the seminary statement, and follows each with a reply.The appeal makes no mention of women’s ordination, a divisive issue among some church members that may face a vote at the General Conference session next July.Contradicting the seminary statement, the appeal affirms that God established the headship of man over woman in the Garden of Eden and says that God desires to maintain that hierarchy.“There are clear indications in both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White that Adam had a leadership role before the entrance of sin, one that continued after the Fall, because both are created in the image of God,” it says.“This view is in harmony with the plain teaching of the apostle Paul with regard to the equal value of men and women as heirs of salvation (Gal. 3:26-29).”The signatories said they hoped seminary faculty would use their suggestions.“We feel strongly about the reputation of the seminary and are concerned that this statement … will not solve the current controversy over gender and leadership roles in the church,” it says. “To the contrary, it may hurt the seminary’s reputation, trust, and credibility among members in North America and worldwide, and may undermine our credibility among thinking scholars in other denominations.”