From Pastor to Elders

We Get Questions

James A. Cress was the General Conference Ministerial Secretary when he wrote this article.

We get questions! Everywhere our Ministerial Association team travels we get questions, often variations on the same theme. Sometimes the questions are submitted in search of information and other times they are written by individuals in search of a platform to espouse their personal views. I thought you might enjoy some typical questions which have come to our team at recent ministerial councils. 

Over the years, there have been differences of opinions expressed by pastors and local elders in respect to head covering by women and the wearing of wedding rings. Please we need to have one teaching and understanding on this issue.

Here the questioner requests the impossible. Recognizing that differences of opinions have existed for years, he pleads for one, consistent teaching. I’m reminded of a training convention for local church elders which I conducted in West Jamaica. Several hundred participants, including a significant number of women elders, listened as a man enquired whether it was custom or doctrine that demanded a woman wear a hat to church. My tongue in cheek answer was that in my culture it was custom but that in his culture it appeared to be both custom and doctrine. Then I closed the subject with admonition that in matters of women’s hat styles and dress preferences, as men we ought to remain silent. 

Issues regarding wedding rings have been settled among Adventists for decades. Wearing, or not wearing, wedding rings is entirely a personal conviction of the individual members and no pastor or elder may impose their personal view on anyone else. 

Without any bias, is it possible to prove from the Bible, with specific passages, that women should be allowed to preach in the church?

First, let me state that it is nearly impossible to answer any question without bias from our own background, culture, spiritual experience, or educational training. I’m sure the questioner believed I would be biased since my wife, Sharon, had just preached an excellent sermon at that Bible Conference. 

A simple answer, of course, is No! There are no texts that command women to preach in church. Prooftexting our way to answers, however, may be the weakest approach to finding truth. Scripture and our own denominational heritage provide ample examples of women preaching. For example, the Samaritan woman at the well was the first individual that Jesus commissioned as a public evangelist. She had amazing results. Mary, fresh from meeting Jesus at the tomb, was the first to preach His resurrection. Her results were not as great. Although her message was comprehended, Jesus later scolded his disciples for refusing to believe her proclamation. Priscilla held such an esteemed leadership role that she instructed other preachers and our own Adventist heritage has relied on the effective preaching and writings of Ellen G. White’s prophetic role. If you still need a proof text, try Galatians 3, in which the apostle declares “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The church’s polity decision to not ordain women should not be confused with the Lord’s call for every believer to proclaim His word. 

Is it our doctrine to force someone to marry a woman he has impregnated after the church board has disfellowshipped them?

The timing of the board’s action has nothing to do with the issue except to remove the church board as party to the discussion. 

Premarital sexual relations are a sin. They are also a reality. Perhaps the church should offer much more in premarital education, especially to young people, with the aim of avoiding sinful situations rather than punishing sinners. 

The answer to sin is repentance, confession, forgiveness, and walking in new life. Marrying an individual with whom I have sinned does not atone for those sins. Marriage certificates do not move past behavior from the prohibited column to the approved column. That would be salvation by works. 

I want to be further illuminated on the theology of re-baptism. 

So do I. But the scriptures are silent beyond one passage (Acts 19:1-7) which tells of twelve believers who had been baptized by John in anticipatory faith of the coming redeemer and who did not know of the reality of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and ascension. When they heard this good news, they were baptized again. 

This unusual incident is insufficient to mandate that previously-immersed believers ought to be rebaptized. Adventists have always maintained that an immersed person is welcomed into church fellowship by profession of faith in their previous baptism. The footwashing service which precedes communion is a tangible and spiritual reminder of cleansing that Jesus provides to all and those seeking rebaptism should be directed first to this meaningful service. Our own manual, however, does require rebaptism for readmittance into the church for certain moral failures which have disgraced the church’s witness in the community. Although there is no Biblical text to “prove” this point of polity, any organization has the authority to establish rules by which it will govern itself. 

Kindly tell us why people should eat the Lord’s supper apart from the 14th day of the month of Nisan (the biblical date for Passover). Why does our church conduct communion quarterly?

With the reality of the gospel being present in Himself as our Passover, Jesus clearly terminated ceremonial feasts which pointed forward in shadow to Him. Therefore, the date of Passover has no controlling relationship to the communion service which may be celebrated quarterly, weekly, monthly, or annually. Rather than prescribing a frequency schedule, Jesus simply stated, “as oft as you do this, do it in remembrance of me.”

Is it wrong for a widowed pastor’s wife to marry another man who is not a pastor? If so, why do pastors who lose their spouses marry whomever they choose?

No it is not wrong. The profession of a second marriage partner is not governed by the profession of the deceased who know not anything. Cautionary counsel might be that many pastoral spouses have invested much of their lives in a public role which is accompanied by respect and a certain “sense of place” in the eyes of the membership. Such should never marry a mate of whom, subsequently, they would be embarrassed because their new spouse’s job does not elicit the same level of prestige. If a potential spouse’s status might cause your own loss of self-esteem, then avoid inflicting pain on them. Every spouse deserves love and respect for who they are rather than unfavorable comparison with who they are not. 

Your questions? In areas of practices, theology, hermeneutics, polity, etc., we will seek input of scholars and pastors. Submit brief correspondence headlined “Questions,” to postal or e-mail addresses listed in the magazine masthead.

James A. Cress
General Conference Ministerial Secretary


Suh, Jang Ho has been a local elder of the GongHang Airport Church in Korea for the last 10 years. He is married to Kim, Eun Young. He has his own business industry and has been involved mainly in bio-technology. He develops a special ministry as a counselor of church members and he preaches a sermon once a month in his church. He is also treasurer of the Korean Union Conference Elders Association. He has made missionary trips abroad to Japan and Cambodia in which he has participated in giving Bible studies, witnessing and conducting people to baptism.