Women in Ministry and Ordination

By Al Reimche

A very significant decision was made on July 8th concerning an issue some see as potentially impacting the unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That decision, by the General Conference in business session, was to not allow individual divisions to make their own determination regarding the ordination of women within their territories.

This decision led to a flurry of social media comments, videos, and books, and has caused great concern for the Adventist church in some circles. Let me address a couple of the questions that have been circulating since that decision.

Does this action mean that there are to be no women in pastoral leadership? No. The General Conference in session previously approved women as pastors with commissioned credentials, and approved ordaining women as elders and deaconesses. Nothing in the vote this last General Conference has made changes to those previous decisions.

How does the Oregon Conference respond to women who have been called by God into pastoral ministry? We are not recommending women for ordination at the present time. However, we do believe that God has placed a call for pastoral ministry on both men and women. We will continue commissioning services for women in agreement with the global church, while looking at all possible ways of affirming the Holy Spirit's plan to unleash God's whole family in ministry.

What conclusions can be drawn from this discussion and vote? The most obvious result of this vote was that divisions should not make decisions separate from the world church. But maybe the obvious is not the same in God’s eyes as ours. In fact the Bible is clear that God has called all to be functional parts of the body. Could it be that what we thought was a vote against women was rather God keeping us from maintaining a hierarchal concept of ordination? Globally, the church's view of ordination has continued to be that of a successionary hierarchal model. This cannot be blessed by God. Had it been a "yes" vote, there would be no further need to understand ordination/commissioning and our current thinking would be enshrined.

Beyond the questions which will continue to circulate, please understand that this decision does not detract from being "Called by God to Go...." More important than the events taking place at the General Conference is the fact that God has called us to the mission of sharing Him in our world. We–everyone that He calls to ministry–need to use every resource that God gives us to meet this task. Our task requires that every "member in ministry" is fully engaged. Those who are called by Christ and respond to that call need to be acknowledged by the body of Christ and entrusted to serve.

Ephesians 4:11-16 states that God gave servant-leadership gifts “so that the body of Christ may be built up.... From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

To complete the task given us by God will take every "supporting ligament." We call each member in the Oregon Conference to pray with Christ in unity (John 17) that God clarifies His call to each member in ministry in the Oregon Conference, that each member knows the motivation of His Spirit and  freedom to joyfully serve in and from a supportive congregation, and that today, you will be blessed by God to call others to know and share His love as never before.