Adventist Church in Norway Will No Longer Ordain Any Pastors

The Norwegian Union Conference Executive Committee has voted to stop ordaining pastors, male and female. The following statement was issued on the union's website:

The Executive Committee of the Norwegian Union voted on Sunday September 20, 2015 to discontinue the practice of ordaining pastors. The action means a change of a previously established practice, but is loyal to the vote in San Antonio this summer not to allow individual world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to make decisions regarding ordination of female pastors.

The document prepared for the Executive Committee refers to the General Conference Working Policy BA 60 05 entitled Basic Principles, which states: “The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender. The Church bases its position on principles clearly enunciated in the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the official pronouncements of the General Conference.”

The ordination practiced within the Seventh-day Adventist Church for many years has been at odds with the basic biblical principle of the equality of all human beings. The backing material for the Executive Committee refers to the priesthood of all believers and states that it is impossible for the church to respect the fundamental human right of equality without a reassessment of the way ordination has been practiced in the past.

During the past five years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has conducted a thorough study of the theology of ordination. After the comprehensive studies on the theology of ordination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church world leadership has been aware of the fact that there exists two opposing views on ordination by conscientious and loyal Adventists. World church leadership has failed to provide space for unions, which are of the conviction that the present practice is biblically wrong, to follow their conscience within the boundaries of voted church policy. This has placed the Norwegian Union in a very difficult situation.

“The Norwegian Union does not want to be rebellious or to break away from the global Seventh-day Adventist fellowship. This is very important to us,” said Finn F. Eckhoff, Secretary of the Norwegian Union.

The theme of ordination has been studied for more than thirty years. Still it has not been possible to establish a clear biblical basis for the practice followed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Now the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway has decided to encourage world church leadership to establish a biblically based practice that is not threatening the unity of the church.

The action voted by the Norwegian Union Executive Committee has six points. Point number one is a request to the Seventh-day Adventist world leadership to revisit the recommendations in the report from the Biblical Research Committee of the Trans-European Division. The 871 pages report recommends the church to admit, “there is no biblical command to ordain anyone by the imposition of hands and that there is no consistent biblical formula for how a leader is inducted to office in the Christian church." ("The Mission of God through the Ministry of the Church. A Biblical Theology of Ordination – With Particular Attention to the Ordination of Women.” Biblical Research Committee, Trans-European Division, p. 814.)

From now on, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway will have a simple dedicatory prayer for a person embarking on pastoral internship. Similarly, there will be a dedicatory prayer for those who take the step from pastoral internship to regular pastoral service.

The Norwegian Union will operate with only two categories of pastoral employees from now on. 1) Pastors in regular service, and 2) Pastoral interns. The Norwegian Union will not report pastoral employees to the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook until the General Conference has established pastoral categories that are not discriminatory.

Union President, Reidar J. Kvinge stressed the fact that the Norwegian Union does not want to be in rebellion against the global Seventh-day Adventist Church. But the vote of the Executive Committee comes as a result of a conviction that equality between the genders is a biblical principle.

“It is a matter of conscience for the Norwegian Union,” said pastor Kvinge. He added: “We cannot see any Biblical foundation for the ordination practice our church has followed for many years. That is the reason for our vote to discontinue the practice. The New Testament does not give us a command to discriminate against women in pastoral ministry. God gives his gifts to women and men. The Holy Spirit equips women and men for pastoral ministry. We want to recognize that.”

For many years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway has treated men and women in pastoral ministry with equality. Pastoral employees have the same wage scale and terms irrespective of gender even if ordination has been only for men.

Photo credit: Tor Tjeransen

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7088
5 Likes

Commendations to the Norwegian Union for clarity of conscientious and ethical values and convictions - and for acting on them.

They have clearly recognised the cultural traditions that have accrued around ordination in Adventism and are stripping them away back to simplicity.

I’m looking forward to a snowball of these types of actions and statements around the world.

21 Likes

I cannot see how the described actions or the written description of them above can be improved. Maybe the Shekinah glory hasn’t departed this movement after all!

12 Likes

We end our Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase “ ……… with liberty and justice for all.” We say it by memory and maybe skip quickly through the last line so we can get on our way. This 1892 oath, penned by Francis Bellamy and containing only 23 words in the original version, was intended to remind all citizens that we are obligated to align our allegiance with that of the nation. But what does that really mean?
Liberty means freedom; freedom to do, say, gather, read, worship, write and a multitude of other things that free people do; at least within the laws that we set out for conduct in a civil society. The Adventist church by embracing this fair and just principle of equality in ministry can be united and fair in it’s treatment of ALL persons in ministry.

It becomes a defining characteristic of being American to treat all persons equally and with respect. These good people from Norway have reminded us here in the USA that all of us are equal and that we can stand united. Thank you dear brothers and sisters. Even if it is not easy, each of us is responsible, if we say the pledge, to promote both liberty and justice FOR ALL. We are all grateful for this gift from Normay.

24 Likes

I applaud those people for having the necessary wisdom to recognize that discrimination of women does not belong in Church.

This issue is worth to discuss in great depth since it’s a crucial theme related to the Church’s spiritual health. Those interested in contributing with more input to the conversation (not just “one comment”) can ask Jared for a (permanent) pass to the “Lounge,” where discussion is ongoing and unlimited (on all issues addressed here).

  • = - = - = - = - = - =

@sam, Sam, your post is so meaningful that I took the liberty to copy it to the threat at the “Lounge” so that we could discuss is more. This is a brilliant comment of yours. Come to the Lounge!

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

Kevin, can you show us why is this rebellion? What written policy is it violating?
Also, does a pastor have the right to choose NOT to be ordained?
You didn’t like their brilliant solution, eh? It must be bothering many that they decided to eliminate discrimination against women in their Church.

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@eyethink2

[quote=“eyethink2, post:15, topic:9538”]
one would expect those that for cultural and other reasons reject women’s ordination (and reject women pastors), I would expect those other churches to consider leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination.
[/quote]I don’t see a reason for them to leave the “corporation.” Unless their thirst for discrimination is really a mental dysfunction, but not otherwise. They should accept the fact that they have freedom to do it their way oin their territories, but they can’t expect to be able to legislate in other territories.

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@andreas

Andreas, God stuff always comes from Europe!.. LOL :wink:
I hope it will generate a domino effect in those regions that are more developed and no longer tolerate discrimination of women.

I am just thinking on what a blessing it has been for the RCC having two Popes concomitantly. Look at their energy now! Do you think that we too could benefit from having TWO GC PRESIDENTS?.. :wink: :innocent:

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@ezbord

I see the church train still on tracks, but unfortunately since 2010 the locomotive has been working on reverse, going backwards.
Well, if “Back to the future” was possible, maybe they are trying “Forward to the past” now. By my calculations the GC has already reached somewhere around 1910, and counting down. Next station is 1905… Anything to preserve and perpetuate discrimination of women. What a tragedy!!!

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@Beth

Actually Beth, it is not important for their theology. It is important, yes, for their EGO, for their INSECURITY, for their need to retain POWER & CONTROL, and to find some kind of psychological relief related to something very personal in their lives. This issue (women discrimination) was never of spiritual nature. It is a psychiatric/psychological issue.
I wonder what Dr. Cupino @elmer_cupino thinks about this issue. He always has it right!!!

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@plobdell3

Peter, people usually do that, they use “selective quoting” and manipulate the message making it fit what they want it to be. Anything to perpetuate discrimination of women.

  • = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@Hebewa

It’s becoming more evident that the SDA Church has actually TWO churches blended together, which is not working well and the differences are becoming more troublesome now. You mention “Sola Scriptura,” but this applies only to those who belong to the SDA Christian Church. Then there is the SDA Whiteist Church, that extracts its doctrines from the SOP and not exclusively from Sola Scriptura.

There is no way to make them one united, unified, uniform church. The best would be just respect one another and move on without fighting. (Possible???..).
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

@oleutaker

You have an extremely important point, but I am afraid it’s not realistic to expect something like that to happen any soon, at leasy not with Ted Wilson as President.
The way the SDA church was formed created a culture of superiority, of self worth, of triumphalism, of religious elitism, of spiritual arrogance, of denominational exclusivity, etc. - a true “religious combo” - that was spread around the world along with the missionary and educational efforts.

All that supposedly because God chose this church to be His only channel of communication with the world. So, how can we NOT be special, separated, more loved, etc? And to make it “more effective” we have to bash other religions, especially the RCC.

What a disastrous result from promoting denominationalism and worshiping a pile of extra-biblical “boox!”…
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - = - =

19 Likes

For a man an who deals in consequences, I bet he didn’t’ see this one coming. brilliant! Although my wiife is Swedish. Tom Z.

6 Likes

Wow…so impressed; lots of respect coming from me

8 Likes

With all due respect to the leadership of the Norwegian Union, rebellion by any other name is still rebellion. By this statement they have declared denominational practice, as defined in the General Conference Working Policy (2013-2014 edition, p. 113) to be “discriminatory” and without Biblical foundation. Such a posture on the part of any structural entity within the worldwide Adventist body is intolerable.

4 Likes

Congratulations for your courage Norwegians! I really hope Germany will follow soon!

15 Likes

I guess we get to see who are the true apostles.


Addenda 1: A Short History of Ordination

Trust God.

12 Likes

Tucked at the end of their 5-page extended document is this request to the General Conference for an impartial investigative commission:

“Based on information from well informed sources, the GC is requested to appoint an impartial commission to investigate allegations that some delegates at the GC Session in San Antonio in 2015 were required to vote no on the question concerning ordination, and that they would be held accountable for their vote on returning to their home area. If there are realities behind these allegations, this is both a violation of the basic democratic vision within SDA and a threat to the democratic processes used by SDA at all levels. In case these statements describe a real situation, this raises a serious question regarding the value of the entire vote that was conducted in San Antonio. On the basis of the votes cast, a mere 203 no votes changed to yes votes, would have changed a no majority to a yes majority.”

You may read the entire document of notes and voted points here

@kevindpaulson Forced voting is what is intolerable with some delegates weeping privately over their keyboards admitting the farce of the voting procedure. Before you blast others as “rebellious,” perhaps a revelation of the facts through an impartial commission is in order. Your hurry to drive back existing policy to eliminate women commissioned pastors and elders is what is in rebellion to existing church policy for many years.

@DV2000 Here we go again with the Korah accusations. On comment boards everywhere the “Korah” issue is erroneously connected to eliminating gender discrimination. So sad to see that you have introduced it here, too.

@DV2000 You write: 'To accuse others within our church family who believe that God ordained different roles for men and women, of being discriminating pontiffs who is exercising kingly powers, is very, hurtful and unkind." could you reference where the word “pontiffs” was used and in what context? I stand by my objection that you trotted out “Korah” as someone worthy of death in reference to those who disagree with you. To be compared to Korah, Dathan, and Abiju who were destroyed, killed, wiped out, is also “very hurtful and unkind.” Discrimination. That is exactly what is going on when women are prohibited because of their gender from using their Holy Spirit given gifts of spiritual leadership. You may agree with that discrimination, but it is still discrimination.

18 Likes

WHERE IS IT IN THE LOUNGE?

Norway, brilliant move!

5 Likes

I read the full statement from NUCEC, (thanks for the link Harrpa), a brilliantly written document.

The essential argument is that the practice of ordaining a pastor 4-6 years into their ministry is not in and of itself a biblical device and that to do so only for men and not women is not biblical and it is arbitrarily discriminatory (and also potentially illegal in Norwegian law).

In current SDA practice the difference between ordained and commissioned pastors is that ordained pastors can start a church, preside over certain types of meetings and can be Conference Presidents (and some other Church Officers). Those who do not support women’s ordination are not attempting to end women in ministry (although many would do so if they could). I do not see anything within those tasks listed above that from a biblical standpoint would justify a discriminatory policy, unless you include all pastoral functions and thus the issue is not about ordination, but about women in ministry at all (a vote that would go a different way).

Perhaps the various Unions within the NAD and other Unions around the world will follow Norway’s lead. It would be interesting to see how the GC responds if suddenly none of the pastors in the NAD are now listed as Ordained (which would mean many within the GC offices itself).

Although to be clear, if the “Western” churches prevail in the name of justice, one would expect those that for cultural and other reasons reject women’s ordination (and reject women pastors), I would expect those other churches to consider leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. Of course many of those new fields depend heavily on the funds that the “Western” churches provide so it would be an interesting test for them, are their belief that the bible forbids women in leadership and ministry (which is what we are talking about) more important than their need for funds?

9 Likes

Kevin, old friend, I trust that you are well. By your response, it appears that you are calling “rebellious” any move by Unions other than the status quo of ordaining male pastors. In the past, arguments of “rebellion” seem to be based on the premise that Unions who ordain women are exercising authority not allowed to them under the accuser’s interpretation of GC policy. The Norwegian and Danish situations are very different in that these Unions have simply elected not to ordain or commission anyone; they are electing not to use the authority granted to them under policy. Why would it be rebellious for them not to exercise any ordination authority? Is it your position now that the GC’s interpretation of policy is a mandate for male only ordination? In other words, are Unions required to ordain?

And, if policy differences are the measure of “rebellion,” please comment on those of the “male headship” persuasion who are advocating that women not be placed as pastors at all, that women can’t be elders, and that deaconesses can’t be ordained? GC policy allows each of these - only to be attacked by those who differ.

May God grant us all the grace and graciousness needed to be a church of differences, not mandates.

21 Likes

This in my opinion is a brilliant work around. Good for them. I also like how they made their opinion on WO clear for all to read.

11 Likes

This is indeed good news from the Norwegian Union. It also addresses two different issues: gender bias and the legitimacy of ordination, in general, as a protestant practice. I’d be curious to know how it plays out in regard to top administrative positions at the conference level where ordination is a requirement. Would the Norwegian Union be forced, after awhile, to place people from outside of their union in the position of president in order to fulfill the ordination requirement for that office (and for the GC to consequently recognize those union officials)?

The Spirit of God moves in the Norwegian Union. It took a clear sense of justice, a love for mercy, and much humility to vote approval of this motion (humility; especially on the part of all the men who will give up any advantages - whether real or perceived - that come with ordination) . I hope that, with this action, many other unions find inspiration to do something similar. We look forward to a church with but one head and one foundation.

10 Likes

Kevin, in this case, as I see it, the word «rebellion» is a word of honour and moral hope on behalf of the church. The refusal of WO by Ted Wilson et.al., you included, is grounded on a claimed “natural” vocation of women, legitimized by reference to rigid truth claims based on a strong and oppressive metaphysical theology of “God’s created order”.

What the leadership of the Norwegian Union just did, on the question of WO, was to deny the truth claim of such a theology. Their decision is a courageous and ethical decision with rock solid biblical support. I’m very proud of them, and I know several of them personally. By doing this, they place the value of equality and servant leadership above the self-proclaimed top-down, absolute authority of the present GC. And, they are in their full right, because power in the SDA church has always flowed bottom-up, not the other way around, and this structure is rooted in the constitutional architecture of the church.

The “popes and bishops” at the GC-level, who don’t like to be torn down from their “high” positions, need to humble themselves and stop thinking that they have a privileged status when it comes to exercising power. Just like the Catholic Church, the GC leadership, without risking marginality, can no longer continue to act as “feudal lords”, obsessed with the force of power and authority. If they do, they will marginalize themselves in relation to large groups of their own membership, and the people they want to reach in secular society.

The “truth that shall make us free” (John 8:32) is not an oppressive theology, but the realization that God has called us all to be servants of love and charity. To realize this calling, the church should be a pastoral church of the “present time”, not of the past, who are able to preach and practice the “present truth” of the gospel to all communities, both inside and outside it’s walls.

To do so, it must be a church able to embrace the diversity and situatedness of human existence, without falling prey to discriminatory moral practices, grounded in oppressive theologies. It requires a rejection of strong patriarchal hierarchies, rooted in the concept of the Sovereign, in favour of a servant leadership in the “service of the servants of God”.

31 Likes

The word has been used at least twice, but I want to use it as well: “brilliant.” What an example of Christian thoughtfulness in dealing with a working policy so incongruous (not to mention so out of touch with the vast and varied differences within world work) with itself that something needs to be done to make it coherent through out. By not ordaining anyone in ministry of which both male and female study equally, train equally and serve unequally, equity has been achieved all across the board with pastoral development and deployed service. I am thrilled about this move from Norway and its potentially therapeutic means to heal this awful divide between ideologies and cultural realities that have developed over a tradition of ordination.

18 Likes

Wow!!! That’s a very brave move. Standing by your principles and conscience and trying not to be “rebellious” at the same time.

13 Likes

When the news reached FB on Sunday night in Europe, the congratulatory responses flooding in on several threads felt like a breath of fresh air.

The Danish Union - quite independently from the Norwegians - voted basically the same position. Again - a stream of well wishers, relieved, excited, encouraged ensued.

Indeed a radical courageous and sensible stand.

17 Likes