Elder Stephen Bohr recently released through his ministry, Secrets Unsealed, an article entitle, “Reflections on Deborah & Huldah.” The purpose of Elder Bohr’s article is to refute, “the women’s ordination advocates” whom “take exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary cases and make them the norm to be followed in all situations.” In this instance he is addressing specifically the lives & ministries of Deborah & Huldah as related in scripture.
Elder Bohr loves Jesus and I know he loves the church. Many individuals have been blessed & will continue to be blessed by his ministry, and I praise the Lord for all that Elder Bohr does that helps people to fall more in love with Jesus.
While it is known from those that read my blog and know me personally that Elder Bohr and I disagree on this particular subject, I am not in this post attempting to prove that the ordination of women to the Gospel ministry is the correct position. The purpose of this post is to address specifically the errors I see in “Secrets Unsealed: Reflections on Deborah & Huldah.”
Within this article I found a number of leaps in logic and assumed deductions made by Elder Bohr which is the very thing he is criticizing those who support women’s ordination of doing.
First off on page 7 of the 3rd Quarter Secrets Unsealed publication Elder Bohr points out that the time of the Judges in which Deborah the prophetess lead the people of Israel was not the ideal organizational system. On this point Elder Bohr and I do not have argument. Elder Bohr then states that the ideal, what Mrs. White referred to as the ‘perfect organization’ is the system of leadership that was established under Moses (Exodus 18), again I agree. What seems to be Elder Bohr’s focus though of the perfect system is that Moses chose all men, men over thousands, hundreds, fifties, & tens. I would like to ask Elder Bohr is the perfection of the system in that men were chosen or the specific structure of governance that was chosen? If the system was perfect because of men, then he is right we are out of line and should not allow women to lead over men. If the system was perfect because of the structure, then guess what? We are still out of line! Because the system of governance that we have at least in my church is not of a Moses figure, but rather as the church in business meeting as the final word, and then the church board, etc.. We do not have a central Moses figure as the head. Even at the highest levels, Elder Ted Wilson does not get the final say, he as he has always stated does and will submit to the collective decision of the church. Could it be that when Mrs. White speaks of this being the perfect organizational system that she is speaking of the principle of “shared leadership” “shared burden” rather than men were chosen or even the exact structure? Would this not seem like more sound exegesis of all of Mrs. White’s writings and this specific text of scripture?
Elder Bohr continuing along the thought line of the time of the judges being an unusual point in Israel’s history (pp.8-10), which I would agree it was definitely a time of Israel in a constant back and forth limbo with God, Bohr states that Deborah’s “service” (he seems to want to completely stay away from acknowledging her as any ind of leader) was “outside the norm.” Bohr points out that Deborah was one out of 17 judges and he says, “What stands out in this list of seventeen judges is that only one of them was a woman!” He then in the next several pages sets forth in positioning arguments to show that she really wasn’t a leader but the people simply saw her as that. He seems to put forth great effort to show the actual leader was Barak, I deduce this from his statement on page 9 where he says, “all the judges from Othniel to Samuel served as military leaders, Deborah being the lone exception!” Bohr then on the last full paragraph of page 9 says, “Deborah was a perceptive woman who provided wise prophetic counsel to the military commander, Barak…Contrary to what pro-ordination advocates claim, Deborah did not summon and lead Israel to battle but rather advised Barak to do so.” Page 10, “It will be noticed that Deborah provided support for Barak’s efforts not he hers.” So in Elder Bohr’s heart I would ask who was the true leader? Deborah the one named by the Bible as judge or Barak as would be more acceptable to the idea that women can’t or should not lead men? To go with the latter would seem to be trying to force scripture to fit with an individuals ideal rather than allowing our ideals to be conformed to scripture.
As Elder Bohr moves forward in his arguments he moves into a position that I am not personally comfortable with, and that is that the authority of the prophet is submissive to the position of leadership, “Thus the prophets inspired the leaders but did not usurp their legitimate authority. This is the role of a prophet.” (p. 11) Bohr asserts correctly that even Ellen White submitted to the authority of the church, i.e. the male authority of the church. He states that this proves that prophets do not have authority over leadership, thus Ellen White a woman did not have authority over any man, thus she nor any other female prophet is an example that one can use in supporting the authority over men. I believe all this proves is that Ellen White was a better person than the rest of us 🙂 She was humble and willing to submit, not because they were men, but because that is what God called her to do in those instances. Bohr states that a prophet does not usurp or have authority of and over an “elder, a pastor, or a Conference, Union, or General Conference president.” I would strongly disagree with this position as I would hope most Seventh-day Adventist ministers would, male & female! Every prophet in the Bible from Deborah to Isaiah to Huldah & John the Revelator, I submit to each of them as they were inspired individuals that are part of Holy Writ. In like manner I submit to the testimonies of Ellen White as she also was an inspired individual. If Mrs. White were alive today and she was sitting in my congregation and got up to speak against me, would I because of my position as an ordained minister of the Gospel have the right to dismiss her? Would it be acceptable of me to ask her to be quiet because I have a higher position of authority over her? I say absolutely not, because I DO NOT have authority over her. In fact if I were to say, “get out of my church and go to Australia” if she did this, it would not be a sign of her affirming my authority or my male headship, it would simply be her following the example of Jesus. Jesus whom in like manner if I were to say, “get out of my life” would also submit to my wishes. NOT because I have authority over Him, but because He honors the wishes even the wrong wishes of His people. A prophet who stands in the highest authority within the church is the first representative of Christ and thus performs and acts in like manner of Jesus. I believe this thread of thought that Elder Bohr carries throughout his article is a dangerous premise to stand upon and it is not helpful in a church that is already undermining & or strongly questioning the authority of prophetic truth!
Elder Bohr in his continued refuting of Deborah throws in the statement, “Notably, God called two males to be His prophets before Ellen White, and neither of them accepted the call so God chose the weakest of the weak as His prophet. He chose the most unlikely of candidates–a poor, sickly, young, unstudied woman!” It seems here that Bohr is implying that God would prefer to not even have women as prophets, but almost He is forced to, to make a point, or because men said “no” again a premise I am uncomfortable with. But let us just say this premise is true; whom, whether Stephen Bohr or myself or any other individual could say that God is not once again calling women to step-up in the place of men to a position (for the sake of argument pastoral ministry) that God originally set aside for men whom have dropped the ball or refused the call? Isn’t this what Elder Bohr is arguing that God called Deborah to Judge, even Ellen White to be a prophet because men were not fulfilling their role? So would Elder Bohr based on his own argument be comfortable in saying that God would never at this point in history call a woman to step into a role that Elder Bohr originally sees as set aside for men? I would not be comfortable with such an assertion unless I had had a direct revelation from God. Elder Bohr states and I agree that simply because a woman served as a judge and prophetess it automatically concludes that a woman can be a “priest”/pastor. Elder Bohr you and I agree on that and I think it is a leap in logic to make this the sole premise of women’s ordination, however, the absence of a woman in the priesthood does not eliminate God using women later in history as pastors & elders. And I think that is the point that you actually prove yourself in the fact that you acknowledge though timidly and it seems regrettably that Deborah was a judge, but the only female out of seventeen. Thus though it was the exception she was still a woman God called to judge, I would say “lead” Israel. It had never happened before, yet God allowed it.
Elder Bohr’s argues against this however, “The Bible allows for gender inclusiveness when it comes to prophets, but it does not allow for this in the case of elders or pastors. In fact, there is not a single instance in Scripture of a woman prophet who was one of the twelve founders of Israel, a member of the council of the seventy, a Levite, a priest, a king, an apostle, a deacon, an elder, a bishop, a pastor, or a husband of one wife!” I could have just smiled at this entire statement accepted that we see the meaning of this differently and moved on until Elder Bohr threw in that last statement, “or a husband of one wife!” If we were to apply this literally then that would mean that any man that has never been married could not be a minister. That is not a position I know of anyone holding. This cannot be applied literally as one of the qualifications for a pastor, elder, deacon unless we are going to truly apply it across the board!
Later Elder Bohr asks the question, “Is the role of a ‘prophet’ interchangeable with that of an elder or bishop/pastor? Were prophets called by God to be leaders in Israel? I would simply say “yes” to this question which seems almost foolish. Let’s mention a few that we believe had inspired prophetic gift and were also leaders: Moses, David, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, John the Revelator to name a few.
As you can see there is much I find in error and contradiction in this article by Elder Bohr, maybe some of my very countering points are untenable and others may point that out to me. I am open to learn.
In conclusion I want to say this, I am absolutely okay with Elder Bohr having a different position on this issue than I do. I do not think that undermines or devalues his ministry. One of the great things about a being a Seventh-day Adventist is that there is a very large umbrella under which hopefully we all operate. We have yes fundamental teachings which should be held onto with a tight grip, but in areas in which there is no clear “thus saith the Lord” I am glad we are able to have cordial discussion & even disagreement. I would simply pray that no matter our position we would all agree to not be disagreeable in the midst of our disagreements.
In 2015 hopefully much of this will be decided and the money & time many of us are spending…maybe even wasting on this debate will be put to the greater mission of telling people about Jesus’ love, Jesus’ truths that reveal His true character, & Jesus’ soon coming!