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Author: Adrian Ebens
Published: Aug 01, 2012
Written: Aug 01, 2007
Downloads: 9,355

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Over recent years, I have become increasingly concerned about issues related to church governance or more specifically the impact gender neutral ordination and its impact on families and on family blessing structures with the dismantling of Male Headship. As I explored this subject, I came to the realization that my study had followed the path expressed by V. Norskov Olsen where he states

Whenever an issue regarding ecclesiology arises it should be solved in the light of theology, Christology, pneumatology, and soteriology, for the church is not an organization or institution of man, neither should it be administered as such, but a living organism – the body of Christ[1]      

In my effort to understand family and church structures, I have been led to consider Theology, (the study about God) Christology, (The study about Christ) pneumatology (The study about the Holy Spirit) and soteriology (The study about salvation). When I was able to connect a common thread through all of these disciplines, I sensed an amazing revelation of truth and something deeply profound.

From those who have read this manuscript so far, the predominant response lies in the area of theology and Christology, but it must be understood that while I am challenging concepts in these areas, my starting point has been primarily ecclesiology and its impact soteriology. This is why the title of the manuscript is called “The Return of Elijah” which takes its inspiration from Malachi 4:5,6. At the heart of this message is a restructuring of family (and I perceive) church leadership – the turning of hearts of children to fathers and fathers to children. If the reader seeks to assess this manuscript without these thoughts in mind, the main objective will be completely missed and the document will not be comprehended.  It is conceded that there is a great deal of time spent addressing Christology and more specifically the nature of Sonship, but I find that Dr Olsen has labeled the urgency of my search and study when he states:

The understanding of the nature of the church and the formation of any structure of the church and its ministry become – for better or worse – a test or expression of one’s understanding of Christ and Biblical revelation.[2]

If what Dr Olsen states above is correct then it must be clear that current moves within the denomination to sanction the ordination of women to pastoral ministry as well as the ordination of women to eldership – whether for better or worse – must signify a change in our understanding of the person of Christ. Therefore it must be noted that any intensification of attempted shifts in Church structure and governance must automatically challenge our perception of Christ.

I confess that I have lived happily as a Trinitarian believer for over 20 years and never felt the need to systematically examine the foundations of this teaching; It was my understanding that the Divinity guaranteed by the Trinity was the only means of safeguarding the sacrificial atonement of Christ. With difficult questions, I rested content with its mystery. It has been the growing call for shifts in church governance that has brought me face to face with the question “Who is Jesus Christ, is He God’s true Son or is He the second Person of the Godhead assigned/volunteered to the role of a Son?” The impacts on ecclesiology derived from this question are vast and far reaching. The Father/Son/Spirit structure is the benchmark for all structures, for all structures that work effectively and benevolently prosper must indeed be a reflection of God. [3]

I find it interesting that the rise and growth of the movement against the Trinity began around the same time as elements of the church were pushing for Women to be ordained to pastoral ministry at the 1995 General Conference Session. For at least a generation the church had been relatively silent on the topic of the Trinity until the early 1990’s. Is this a coincidence? No it is simply a confirmation of the link between ecclesiology theology and Christology. Though not stated explicitly, Fred Allaback seems to have instinctively made this link with the release of his book in 1995 “No New Leaders, No New Gods” and while I would not support many of the claims made in the book both in regard to theology and concerning church leadership, the connection is still noteworthy.

With reference to the growing movement against the Trinity within the church I would state the following. It is my observation that many Adventists hold an anarchist view of sharing what they believe is truth and important for the church. I have witnessed several people seeking to hand out materials in church settings that are outside the established position of the church. Church leaders are side stepped and new members are often targeted. It is my conviction that those who seek to present a view of Christ as the true Son of God and yet disregard his established authority structure do not know the Son of God at all. Christ does all things decently and in order. We as a people are to move as a body and not each man presenting his own views regardless of church governance.

On this basis I must state clearly that anyone who would seek to use the material in this manuscript to undermine or destabilize the confidence of membership in the leadership of the Adventist Church is acting incorrectly and without my consent.

Others within the church have accused me of failing to submit to leadership by preparing this document before seeking Guidance. Such fail to understand the tension between the principles of Protestantism and Gospel Order. We must move forward together as a body but no man’s conscience must be blunted when he comes to the Word. If one man is responsible for molding the thoughts of another regarding Scripture, neither can be considered Protestants. We must study, challenge and exhort one another regarding the truths of the Bible. A submission to Church Governance is not an agreement to become brain dead. So I hold these principles in tension – a firm determination to submit to Gospel order combined with a fervent desire to seek out all the truth of God’s Word.     

Yours in the Blessed Hope

Adrian Ebens


[1] V. Norskov Olsen. Myth and Truth Church, Priesthood and Ordination (Loma Linda University Press, Riverside California, 1990) Page 3

[2] Ibid.

[3] Col 1:17,18  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.