Candy Swartz Becomes First Adventist Woman Pastor to Receive Commissioning in Africa

On Saturday, November 28, Xolisa “Candy” Swartz became the first Seventh-day Adventist woman pastor in Africa to receive a commissioned minister credential. The historic service took place on the campus of Bethel College, Eastern Cape, Cape Conference, during the Cape Conference Constituency 3rd Business Session. Along with Swartz, six male pastors were ordained during the service.

While there are several women serving as pastors in the Southern African Union Conference (SAU), Swartz became the sole woman pastor in all three of the divisions on the African continent to be commissioned. SAU Ministerial Association Secretary Gerald T. Du Preez, who presided over Saturday’s proceedings, noted that at the last SAU Executive Committee Meeting, the name of a second woman ministerial candidate was approved for commissioning--that of Nandi Fleming.

Pastor Xolisa "Candy" Swartz, in yellow, with four other women pastors standing in solidarity.

The South Africa Union Conference has emerged as the African leader in advancing women ministers. In November 2014, before the San Antonio General Conference Session vote on ordination, the SAU Executive Committee voted the following statement as its official position on women’s ordination:

It is the conclusion of SAU that there is currently no conclusive argument that prohibits the ordination of women to pastoral ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The SAU, therefore, concludes that ordination to pastoral ministry should not be determined by gender.

FURTHER that this is the SAU position and contribution to the Study of Theology of Ordination and Ordination of Women and

FURTHER that the implementation of this action is subject to the outcome of the 2015 GC Business Session.

Following the General Conference Session in San Antonio, the SAU Executive Committee noted the decision of the Church and stated that it would abide by that decision. The union adopted the following policy concerning women:

L 20 30 10 - The Seventh-day Adventist Church appoints women to serve as pastors in the gospel ministry. They are authorized to perform all the ministerial functions as their male counterparts at the different levels of ministry, which are internship, licensed and commissioned.

With Saturday’s service, Swartz becomes the forerunner of SAU policy, and it happened in as large and public a venue as possible. Southern Africa Union Conference president, Dr. Tankiso Letseli delivered the sermon with Du Preez presiding. Swartz was introduced to a congregation of over 2,000 by the conference secretary, Dr. Mzonzima Gwala. The Charge was done by the Conference president, Pastor Randall Gelderbloem. Ordination and commissioning certificates were handed out by Du Preez with assistance from Union Secretary Pastor Trevor Kunene.

On stage for the laying on of hands were the SAU Officers (Letseli and Kunene); the SAU Directors (Dr. Jun Negre, Dr. Gift Mweemba, and Pastor Peter Maligudu); the Cape Conference officers (Gelderbloem, Gwala, Frank Hayter - Treasurer, and Andre Niemandt - Vice President); the president of the Northern Conference (Dr. Dave Spencer); and two former conference Presidents who are now retired (Dr. Oscar Mngqibisa - former president of the Southern Hope Conference and Pastor Aubry Nzimande - past president of the KwaZulu Natal Free State Conference).

Du Preez noted that other women have been granted Commissioned Minister Credentials before, but as departmental leaders, “not as female pastors being granted ecclesiastical authority as their male counterparts,” he said. Those women granted credentials previously were issued their credentials on the same basis and in the same manner as treasurers, auditors or other employees who would normally not be eligible for ordination.

Swartz (56), a former radio journalist for the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation), left her career to study theology at Helderberg College, where she graduated with a BA Theology in 2010.

She served as an intern from 2010-2013 in the Cape Midlands District. Recognizing her unique gifts in working with young adults, she was given the responsibility of managing the student churches in the campuses of four secular universities, where she serves as the chaplain to those campuses and the pastor of the student churches. 25 persons have been baptized as a direct result of her ministry. (We were unable to reach Swartz for comment.)

Swartz’s supervisors, Pastor Bucwa, Pastor Gelderbloem and Pastor Njingolo, guided her through the internship program and recommended her for commissioning, Du Preez said. She was recommended by the conference Executive Committee, interviewed by a panel of eight senior employees under the guidance of the Union, recommended to the SAU President's Council and finally voted by the SAU Executive Committee--the identical process as for her male counterparts.

Her certificate of commissioning read:

Certificate of Commissioning

Having given satisfactory evidence of her call to and preparation for the sacred work of the gospel ministry

Xolisa Swartz

was endorsed to serve as a pastor with all the ecclesiastical authority pertaining thereto at Bethel College, Eastern Cape, South Africa on the 28th day of November, in the year of our Lord 2015 and is duly authorized under the provisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to perform all the functions of the

Commissioned Minister Credential

Issued by the Southern Africa Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

SDA Executive Commitee Action #15-510

“The response at the event was hugely positive,” Du Preez said, “with the 2,000+ congregation, consisting of more than 85% black church members, vocally approving the process and loudly affirming the other four female pastors who were in attendance.”

A photo uploaded to Facebook shows the huge crowd present for Swartz's commissioning.

While the attending body responded overwhelmingly positively, the Cape Conference Session during which Swartz received her credentials did not come without some strain.

According to those in attendance during the Cape Conference Constituency Session, two factions emerged for two different presidents. The factions had several caucus meetings beforehand and went head to head at the session, which opened Thursday, November 26. The session struggled to choose an organizing committee and the nominating committee, which caused serious tensions on the session floor.

On Sunday, the session succeeded in appointing a nominating committee who named the president, vice president and executive secretary, and deferred all other positions to the executive committee who must meet as soon as possible.

Despite the political maneuverings, Saturday was a day of celebration as Swartz made history. With her commissioning, Candy Swartz become the mother of Africa’s credentialed women ministers, and there will be many more!

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The wind always blows from the West to Africa…but in Africa, we call it hurricane! See how many females are going to enrol in theology in the next academic year in Africa.


this is just an excellent development…none of this would have been possible anywhere in the cape when i was a kid there…


So who needs ordination? Alas, a seed has been planted in Africa. As the Holy Spirit supplies water, it will germinate and grow. And as it matures, it will sew more seeds, which will in turn do the same until they scatter to the far parts of the continent. May the Lord’s will be done.

Godspeed to Candy Swartz!

Items added after the first 9 “likes:”

Untold MILLIONS of mothers raise their children without any father involvement–FAR more than the number of single fathers. If parenting ability is a test for leadership, where do you see a household “role” difference between the genders that qualifies only men for leadership? Are women ineligible to lead in the home as you believe they are in the Church? Should children disregard their mother’s leadership at home as you believe they should in Church?

Welcome to planet Earth. We view things differently here.


Congratulations, Pastor Swartz. May God bless you, your ministry, your calling and your gifts as you serve Him. And may the church, in turn, be blessed. Thank you for being a powerful role model for the Lord.


The wind of God’s spirit blows where it will. There are many women who have experienced the call of God to full time pastoral church ministry and leadership and had the aptitude and gifts to do it. But our church has dampened that and many times crushed it. It’s great to see human leaders and church members publicly recognising and affirming the evidence of God’s calling on this sister’s life and ministry.


Germans, look at that and be inspired for the next Weekend!


If there in the West hasn’t been that “male headship” confusion, Africa would never had been fallen into those denigrating and mocking outbursts they made in SA last summer. The West should take the lead for better and not for the worst. The Africans are willing to learn. So let’s give them the right thing to do so. God bless Africa and pastor Swartz.


May Candy receive God’s richest blessings! It is a beautiful thing that we can celebrate the gifts and the calling of God, even as we press forward into God’s future! These incremental gains will certainly flow into God’s unstoppable future.

Australian Adventists talk about Adventist time which is usually about 20 minutes behind the clock, if not more. People of the Pacific Island nations often talk about Pacific time which happens at their leisure. My daughter, a medical doctor is on a mission trip to the most remote part of Zambia, as I write, and even in the operating theatre Africa time is operational. This is certainly not the ‘pally pally’ [quick, quick] culture I experienced in Korea.


A very good and positive step in the right direction. Congratulations to Xolisa “Candy” Swartz. On Saturday, November 28, she became the first Seventh-day Adventist woman pastor in Africa to receive a commissioned minister credential. This achievement as good as it is must become part of an overall program for respecting and empowering the women of Africa and other places where they lack gender equality. Empowering women and girls is not only the right thing to do: It’s also smart for church and community development and vital to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Despite a range of significant advances, too many women still lack basic freedoms and opportunities and face huge inequalities in West Africa and elsewhere. Discriminatory laws and customs constrain women’s time and choices. Women in Africa and elsewhere still need to be able to earn a salary and provide for their families. They also need the ability to own or inherit property, open bank accounts, or access inputs such as credit or fertilizer that would boost their productivity. The Seventh-day Adventist Church needs to be in the forefront of change, 100% for gender equality.
We can achieve gender equality by:
• educating girls
• increasing literacy rates among women
• increasing early childhood development interventions
• increasing women’s labor force participation and strengthening labor policies affecting women
• improving women’s access to credit, land and other resources
• promoting women’s political rights and participation
• expanding reproductive health programs and family support policies

Would Jesus want us to do anything less?

“Gender equality is not a woman’s issue, it is a human issue. It affects us all.”


It has been demonstrated repeatedly that when a nation gives women the opportunity to become educated and borrow money to start their own small businesses that the entire GDP of that nation grows. Women want the equality to be part of the marketplace and stand equally with men. Often the men use their money for drink and not what supports their families.

Everywhere that women are empowered the nation improves for all.
Men in those countries that subjugate women to their control are the most backward in advancement in every area. This church should have been in the forefront of equality for women rather than being one of the last churches to fully recognize their contribution. Who, if not mothers, trains and teaches the children ? Who is the most consistent in attending church and taking their children with them?


BRAVO!! Sam.********


As an attendee at the said event, I find the article misrepresents facts and makes serious baseless allegations regarding the session proceedings.

This article seems to be purposefully misleading the public, as far as the general church membership support is concerned.
The crowd in attendance was not ‘overwhelmingly’ jubilant and excited about the commissioning, in fact many of the session delegates were shocked at the decision taken by the leadership especially knowing that the issue regarding WO is still contentious in the conference. Furthermore the SAU policy is not a reflection of the sentiments of the majority of the membership, and it begs the question of whose view this truly represents.
This was a unilateral decision by the leadership and there is no record of the majority of church delegates approving or showing support for this action.

The sad part about this whole debacle is that the person who is going to suffer for this maladministered action is the pastor is question, whilst the leadership sits on its laurels of being pioneers.

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Would love to learn more about what the Bible says in support of woman pastor commissioning.

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I spoke with people who were present at the event and read many Facebook comments, and what I gathered from those whose remarks I read confirmed that at the event, there was affirmation (including the statement quoted in the article above). I would not discount the idea that some, maybe many, were not comfortable with the proceedings. That would certainly not come as a surprise. But there did not seem to have been vocal opposition expressed.

Now as far as baseless allegations, please also make sure not to misrepresent what this article says and does not say.


I see it was the Cape Conference that did the appointing. Interesting. Perhaps in the attempt to gauge the overall support, shock or disagreement can be helped by asking: what is the total membership of the union? How many conferences? Of those conferences were there any that voiced disagreement? How many members of the executive committee? How many on that committee disagreed vocally or in an open letter? Does anyone have any idea?

Another question could be asked: was the lack of enthusiasm that some attest to due to disagreement with the vote itself or was it more out of concern for how it will look to the world church after SA?

But no matter the gauge of enthusiasm or discontent the fact that a woman is being appointed (as this is the proper word, not ordination which tern should be abandoned in our denomination) is very huge indeed. It also calls into question just what the vote in SA meant. Did all those no’s mean they disagreed with WO itself or were there concerns over unity? If it was over unity it would be very interesting to know what the percentage of the “no” was. I think the reality is there was probably more in favor of wo than against, but many felt the unity in the church, in their thinking, was the best option to address.

Regardless, WO is here, it is here to stay, and I believe there will be eventual allowance for those areas of the work that see no barriers to giving women appointment to the gospel ministry. In fact, it could very well be that the idea of ordination will be abandoned and appointment installed, and that would be the right move and a great day in our church.


However, the paperwork does say “commissioni[ng].” Is this what the male pastors were given, as well? This is a step in the right direction, and a clear indication that “The Africa Problem,” may not be one—only a part of Africa is problematic? The Cape Conference must be proud of their progressive work.


Congratulations to Pastor Candy Swartz, I had the privilege of working with her and she is blessing to the church of God.


Having just returned from Africa I can testify that women are the heart and soul of that continent. They are the mature caretakers of everyone. They are the leaders in schools and churches. God is prevailing in Africa in far greater ways then elsewhere. God is ordaining women there and it is only his misguided children that refuse to follow God’s lead.


There is no evidence from the scriptures that ORDINATION is a Biblical teaching.