About Belgium, and Rome, etc.

[Morning January 19, 2015] I am back behind my desk in Zeewolde. I always try to write my weekly blog on Thursday or Friday, but I did not get to it at the end of last week. My wife and I went to Belgium for the weekend. We stayed with friends with whom we always have more than enough topics for long talks. On Saturday morning I had the pleasure of preaching in the Adventist church in the Lange Lozannastraat in Antwerp. On Sunday I participated in Brussels in a day of study and discussion about the role of women in the church. The Belgian church leaders had invited two speakers: Dr. Jan Barna (a professor from Newbold College in England) and myself. I was given the morning program. My assignment was to speak about the historical background of the issue of women’s ordination, while Barna would focus in the afternoon on the biblical-theological aspects.

With a power point presentation I tried to chart the historical background of the topic of the ordination of women in the Adventist Church. I addressed questions such as: How could this issue develop into such a huge problem? What are the most recent developments, and where do we go from here?

Our day in Brussels was a clear demonstration of what we see in many different places worldwide in the Adventist Church. There are different camps and each has dug itself in in their trenches. From time to time someone briefly raises his head from his dugout and fires a shot at the enemy (I use this word intentionally, as there is indeed a war going on), and then each group withdraws to its position. The two camps hardly listen to each other and do not seem to really weigh the arguments of those with whom they disagree.

In his presentation Jan Barna emphasized, in particular, that those who defend and those who oppose the ordination of female pastors each have their own ways of dealing with the Bible. For those who oppose it the Bible is abundantly clear: a woman does not have the same authority as a man. The other party is convinced that one must translate the principles of the biblical message in such a way that they be can applied to our present situation. And if one does this, it is abundantly clear: just as slavery and polygamy are things of the past, so is the inequality between male and female.

In Belgium the situation may be a little more sensitive than it is (in general, though, not everywhere) in the Netherlands. The ethnic and cultural composition of the Adventist Church in Belgium is much more complicated than in the Netherlands and the fact that Belgium has been saturated with Catholic culture no doubt also has to do with it. Nonetheless, it was a good day yesterday and some people even told me, at the end of the day, that they may have to rethink a few of their convictions.

Now, on Monday morning I will need to concentrate on a few other things. Tomorrow is the deadline for an article that I have promised to write. That must, therefore, be the first item on my program. Then I will have to spend time on the preparations of a trip to Rome for a group of seniors that is scheduled for April 30 to May 7. My colleague Hans Ponte was to be the tour leader, but his departure to a new job in Curacao has made that impossible for him. With some initial hesitation I have agreed to assume this assignment. I must admit that I am beginning to look forward to it. And most of the preparatory work has been done, and it is therefore not very complicated and demanding. (By the way: there are still a few places available. For more info, mail to  admseniorenreis@yahoo.com).

Later in the week we will attend a concert in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. We have been given tickets by the guest conductor who this week conducts a number of concerts in Amsterdam. It is the Swedish maestro Herbert Blomstedt who all his life has been (and is) an active member of the Adventist Church.

And then there are enough other things that will make the coming week into a rather ‘full’ week. We will have no reason to complain that life is boring.