Should Women Be Slaves?

By admin On October 8, 2016 Under Seventh-day Adventist Issues

“The laying on of hands is ordination to slavery.” – Dr. Darius Yankiewicz

womenShould women be slaves? Some of us think so…

A Misunderstanding of Authority

Jesus insists that the terms “slave” and “servant” are the terms through which His followers should view authority (Matthew 20:26). What kind of authority does a slave have? It is certainly not “power” as we understand it today. It is this issue that has sidetracked many Seventh-day Adventists when considering the ministry of women in the church.

In the 1890s-1920s Christian Fundamentalism crept into the Adventist church as a reaction to the excesses of liberal theology. Although this was not all bad, an unfortunate result of joining forces with fundamentalism was that we accepted a skewed idea of authority, gradually accepting fundamentalist ideas on authority and women in the church. In the Adventist church, this is like trying to blend oil with water, the biggest obstacle being the gender of our prophet.

“The models of ‘headship’ to which even many Christian males appeal come straight from the battlefields and corporations of the gentile world.” – Scott Bartchy, NT scholar

Not the Same

What the Adventist fundamentalist are doing is equating the secular women’s movement (that is focused on authority, i.e. women should have authority over men) with what Christ is seeking to do with women within His church. They are opposites. Remember, according to Jesus, the authority (greatness) that some associate with ordination actually involves becoming a slave (Matthew 20:26). Dr. Darius Jankiewicz restates that truth this way: “The laying on of hands is ordination to slavery.” Consequently, when people say that women should not hold authoritative positions in church, do they mean that women cannot function as slaves?

Christ or Culture

Any push for the ministry of women in the Adventist church has come to be seen as capitulation to the culture (instead of abiding by a “plain thus saith the Lord”). The opposite is actually true. Those who do not view authority through the lens of Matthew 20:26 have always pandered to the cultural norm that has kept women subservient, exploited, and misused throughout history and, indeed, still does so in many parts of the world. Christ’s teaching on authority in the upper room is just as counter cultural for much of the world today as it was when he first modeled it. Unfortunately, this includes too much of the Christian world as well.

The true capitulation to culture is to refuse to bring women into ministry, to refuse to bring men and women to the same position of servanthood within the church. The problem with either/or thinking (Modernism vs. Fundamentalism) is that there is no third option, the option of servant leadership. It is past time to confront man’s warped understanding of authority, to reclaim this co-opted cultural argument and bring it back into scriptural and historical perspective.

Christ’s Theology of Authority For His Church

  • Every believer is a minister. The distinction between laity and clergy is an artificial distinction that should not exist in a Christian church.
  • The functions in the church must be based upon spiritual gifting. All we can do as a church is recognize the gift that God has given, confirmation and blessing (nothing else). The list of spiritual gifts in Roman 12:1-8 is totally egalitarian. To pick and choose according to gender renders these verses nonsensical. None of the gifts listed in scripture are limited to one class of people.
  • Spiritual gifting is the prerequisite for the laying on of hands. The distribution of the gifts is the prerogative of the Spirit. It is not our place to decide on whom the Spirit can and cannot bestow certain gifts. (Joel 2:28-9)
  • Professional (commissioned) ministry and the ministry of others have the same goal.
  • Spiritual gifts must always remain foundational to the professional (commissioned) ministry.

Moving Beyond the Deadlock

Christians on both sides of the debate on women in ministry can find suitable texts to defend their position, but if our discussion is ever to move beyond proof-texting then we must be sure that we understand what God is calling us to do. The reason we have a deadlock on this issue is because we have a deeper problem: the way we have come to view authority. If we all viewed authority the way that Jesus modeled it, we could move out of this deadlock. This is what both sides have missed. Our theology of ministry has not been spelled out in clarity. The starting point of our theology must be an understanding of the call of the Spirit, a calling of both men and women to servanthood (slavery) according to the gifts the Spirit has given us.

“When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will see the loss if the talents of both are not combined.” – Evangelism 469

Whoever Wants To Be First Must Be Servant of All

What nails the truth about women in ministry is simply that the laying on of hands is ordination to slavery. This is a servanthood that is offered as freely to women as to men. Those who would make ordination anything else must go back to the upper room and let Jesus wash their feet.


* This article summarizes a longer presentation given by Dr. Darius Jankiewicz

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