Clarification of Roles on Women in Ministry

General Conference President Elder Ted Wilson has requested that each division president of the 13 world regions, clarify the meaning of the vote taken on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

North American Division (NAD) President Daniel Jackson would like to make the following statement:

Firstly, we want to acknowledge that we will comply with the vote of the world church.

Secondly, the vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

Thirdly, it is important that we identify what the motion did not do:

It did not disallow women from serving as commissioned church pastors. It did not disallow women to serve as ordained elders in the local church It did not disallow the ordination of deaconesses.

Since the motion did not disallow these things, we therefore continue to encourage those who have been serving in these capacities to continue to do so.

It is vital to understand that the NAD will continue to follow the directions found in the General Conference Working Policy allowing conferences and unions to license women as Commissioned Ministers in Pastoral Ministry.

We will also continue to encourage utilizing the services of women as ordained local elders and deaconesses. The following is a series of policies which are drawn from the Working Policy and that inform our direction:

Church Manual Policy BA 60 05 on Human Relations 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.”

Church Manual Policy BA 60 10 which states:

The world Church supports nondiscrimination in employment practices and policies and upholds the principle that both men and women, without regard to race and color, shall be given full and equal opportunity within the Church to develop the knowledge and skills needed for the building up of the Church. Positions of service and responsibility (except those requiring ordination to the gospel ministry*) on all levels of church activity shall be open to all on the basis of the individual’s qualifications.”

*The exception clause, and any other statement above, shall not be used to reinterpret the action already taken by the world Church authorizing the ordination of women as local church elders in divisions where the division executive committees have given their approval.

The 1989 General Conference Annual Council vote which allowed for:

Those who have, without regard to gender, been recognized as commissioned ministers or licensed ministers may perform essentially the ministerial functions of an ordained minister of the gospel in the churches to which they are assigned, subject to division authorization of this provision, if the following conditions apply:

“1) The individual has completed approved ministerial training. “2) The individual has been called by a conference to serve in a full-time pastoral-evangelistic-ministerial role. “3) The individual has been elected and ordained as a local church elder.”

North American Division Working Policy L 33 10 which states:

A commissioned minister in leadership position is authorized by the conference, union or division to perform substantially all the functions of the ordained minister within the territory of the organization he/she serves. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a Church, Uniting churches, and Ordaining local elders or deacons.”

It is important to keep in mind that God calls all of his children to serve Him in ministry. He calls both men and women to serve His church and the NAD will continue to support the filling of these positions regardless of gender. The NAD will also continue to utilize all of its efforts to recognize the call of those who feel moved by the Holy Spirit into pastoral ministry.

Prepared by the Communication Department of the North American Division Photo credit: Josafat Zemleduch

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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What does that statement mean for the SECC President? It was my understanding that to be President of a Conference, one must be an ordained minister?

S.A. Is history. A very sad one. There is absolutely no reason for me to voice an opinion. something that many have suggested. But I have one more story. while a member of the LLU Board, the Marikay Sikver case was in pre trial. I was senior Affirmative Action Officer at the Medical College of Georgia.At break, I approached a senior officer of the GC. And advised him to settle. the law was clearly in her favor.,The answer I got ended all discussion. "Tom, he said, If we settle it will financially ruin the Pacific Press and the Church in North Anerica. That mind set prevails. so sad…Tom Z

P.S. My grave site is hill side looking directly into the Augusta National can anyone have a better resting place?

(You just have to hope none of the golfers severely hook one :slight_smile: - webEd)</stron

If a ball landed on my sod, it would be a 500 yard out of bounds.


That is quite correct. And what the North American Division President has unfortunately left unsaid is what exactly he is prepared to do with those two Unions within his territory which are presently in violation of the newly-affirmed policy of the church regarding ordination, or what he will do if any additional Unions join in the rebellion.


I would like to see the statements made by the other 12 Divisions.


The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, color, or gender.

This is plainly false.

Secondly, the vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church or any of their entities from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

Am I reading this correctly to be saying that the unions are prohibited from ordaining women? It is unclear to me how the NAD has such authority.


Or what he will do if any other unions join in the rebellion. A very unfortunate use of words Kevin. It appears as though you wish to reduce things to a gutter fight. This speaks volumes as to the heart. More should be expected from Christians. Those who supported WO prior to the vote this past Wednsday in San Antonio for the most part don’t see this as “rebellion”. I would dare say the vast number of individuals who supported WO prior to the vote respected those opposed to a greater degree than you seem to be able to show your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. At some point Kevin you will need to understand the importance of respect if you wish to be heard.


I would strongly recommend that this 14 page analysis by Dr. Stanley Peterson be studied carefully by all interested parties BEFORE proceeding with a response to Ted Wilson’s request. Why is clarification needed at this point?

Pages 7-9
“The Representative model recognizes authority as residing in the body of members and
flows up through elected leaders who lead and manage the church as stewards of that authority
but remain accountable to the members. The following quote from E.G. White expresses this election and authority arrangement:

“Every member of the church has a voice in choosing officers of the church. The church
chooses the officers of the state conferences. Delegates chosen by the state conferences choose
the officers of the union conferences, and delegates chosen by the union conferences choose the
officers of the General Conference. By this arrangement every conference, every institution,
every church, and every individual, either directly or through representatives, has a voice in the
election of the men who bear the chief responsibilities in the General Conference.” (1)

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is organized as a representative model with the
somewhat unique element of authority buffers that limit the exercise of authority between the
four levels of church organization—Local Church, Conference, Union Conference, and General
Conference.ix Each level of this organization functions under a constitution that defines its
territory, boundaries, and function and the higher organization is limited in its exercise of
authority beyond the boundary that separates it from the next level. These boundaries of
downward directed authority have served to check the tendency of organizations to consolidate
authority at the higher levels that can when unrestrained result in a ruling rather than serving
model. Again, E.G. White supports this organizational model that limits directive authority by
higher organization in comments made in regard to the value of union conferences:
“It has been a necessity to organize union conferences, that the General Conference shall not
exercise dictation over all the separate conferences. The power vested in the Conference is
not to be centered in one man, or two men, or six men; there is to be a council of men over
the separate divisions.” (2)

These boundaries are not only being currently blurred in practice but as such are slowly
being incorporated into the mental model of how we see the governance behaviors of the church.
Evidence is available that clearly reveal mandates being made at higher levels that infringe on
the constitutional mandates of union and conference authority. Both casual and legal challenges
are being made that involve arguments as to whether the local church has any legal authority in
the Seventh-day Adventist system. As the representative model is weakened in response to the
logistical and financial challenges of a growing membership it stands to reason that there will be
a commensurate increase in expressions of frustration and even rebellion from those who sense a
degree of powerlessness in contributing to the process that directs the future of the church.”

  1. White, E.G. (1948) Testimonies to the Church, vol. 8. Mountain View, CA, Pacific Press. pp. 236, 237.
  2. White, E.G. Manuscript Release 14, p. 279.2

Thomas Zwemer, I agree that S.A. was a heart-breaking spectacle in a number of ways. I am so tired of the old chain-rattling mindset that warns of catastrophic ruin if the church does the “right thing,” such as paying Merikay Silver and all women employees the same wage as men, or recognizing that All Members make up the body of Christ.

The same fear-mongering is evident in recent warnings of “dire consequences” if women are ordained, or if Unions don’t stop ordaining women, or if Divisions make their own local decisions on ordination. These warnings evidence a huge lack of faith in God on the part of church leaders. Do they really think that God needs our feeble human efforts to protect the church? That is for God to do. Do they really think that having ordained women in the pulpit will cause the church to fracture? Do they really think that if we politely decline to march into the Kingdom in mental lockstep we will all be lost?

I wonder if any of them have considered the unintended consequences of this fearfulness; how does it look to study one particular topic over and over and over again, ignoring the counsel of respected theologians, special committees and sincere Bible-believing members for well over 40 years, spending untold million$ so continue this fight when even they themselves have admitted that there is no Biblical basis for not ordaining women? I think it must make SDAs look pretty foolish/stupid/backward (choose your favorite).

Such leaders are operating in fear instead of faith. Those who spread such warnings are becoming their own worst self-fufilling prophecies. Trust God. Because…Mustard Seed.


The truth is sometimes unpleasant for those who don’t wish to accept it.

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I love it when the WebEd has a sense of humor. :slight_smile:


This sounds like some kind of required attempt at damage control. I don’t think for any intelligent supporter of WO it will be effective. After following this issue for over 30 years I’m tired of the same old arguments of fear and repression etc…in the words of Desmond Tutu: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.


The divisions can’t do anything about what has taken place in unions and which is contained within their territories. We going to be stuck with this standoff for now.


I removed my two prior comments because I wrote too fast.

A vote and a post hoc clarification about what the vote means are two different things. In a formalistic sense, the first is law and the second is an interpretation of the law.

The Clarification makes clear that the NAD will not vote an authorization of women’s ordination. It is important to note that the NAD unions who have proceeded with ordinations of women have done so without NAD authorization, taking the position that no such authorization is needed.

One interpretation of the No vote is that the status quo remains, unions are free to proceed with ordinations of women, and no woman will lose her ordination, pastorate, or office as a result of the No vote. The language of the question argues strongly in favor of that interpretation. All the No vote does, according to the plain meaning of the question, is disallow divisions from authorizing women’s ordination. The NAD in its Clarification rejects this interpretation, but the NAD’s interpretation of Seventh-day Adventist Church law, even in a formalistic sense, is not dispositive. (I’ll explain why that is later).

The second interpretation of the No vote, which is what the Clarification seems to advocate, is that we return to the status quo that existed before the NAD unions proceeded with ordinations of women. If this interpretation is correct, then no unions can proceed with ordinations of women, action must be taken to strip ordained women pastors/ministers of their ordinations, and action must be taken to remove Sandra Roberts from the SECC presidency. The rumor I have been hearing on the ground here in San Antonio from a well-placed Californian is that Ted Wilson is thinking about calling a constituency meeting of the Pacific Union Conference in order to demand that all of these actions be taken. Neither the GC nor the NAD on their own can take these actions. All the GC and NAD personnel can do is attempt to persuade others that these actions be taken. It is noteworthy that Wilson made personal appeals during the meetings in which women’s ordination was authorized by the NAD unions, but the delegates in those meetings rejected his pleas and arguments.

Obviously, if Roberts is allowed to remain in office and ordained women are allowed to keep their ordination credentials, then the GC vote is a frivolous nullity. And legal realism will predominate over legal formalism, as it always does. I see that Wilson has now painted himself into a corner. It is easy to whip up prejudice against an impersonal group, such as women, and have that prejudice manifest itself in the privacy of the voting booth. It is much harder to exercise prejudice against a specific woman such as Roberts in public. If the NAD interpretation of the GC vote is correct, then Wilson’s job responsibilities mandate that he undertake what would be an unpleasant and ugly spectacle that would inflict serious harm upon the Church.

Perhaps the lead of Netherlands Union Conference should be followed and all entities that have proceeded with women’s ordination should reaffirm that no change will occur as a result of the GC vote. Indeed, personal conscience that finds that male headship theory is the theological, hermeneutical, and moral equivalent of the Christian apology for slavery may necessitate that this be done.


The path ahead is clear now. The only way for the hypocrisy and discrimination to end is for courageous ordained ministers to request of their conferences that their licenses be changed from “Ordained” to “Commissioned” Minister. This will separate men of conscience from the ladder climbers, but this is the only path to unity that the organization will understand. Conference and Union Presidents will have their night of wrestling, but there will be consequences and potential professional sacrifice for all. The Session had their opportunity to be courageous but settled for Kadesh Barnea. Now it is left for the pastoral ministry to fix the problem, or they will become accomplices in an ongoing case of professional injustice.


If I were an ordained minister I would be first in line to switch to commissioned, and I certainly hope that we do have many brave men who will do just that. I heard an interview with someone at the GC session saying that Wilson is our Joshua. If that is so, then let our NAD ministers be our Daniels.


I have never understood the support of a “Working Policy.”

I would guess that means “We don’t want to follow the constitution, but we don’t have enough votes to change it.”

Elder Jackson has re-issued the Statement, taking out the reference to “divisions and their entities.” This is a significant change from the original version from the GC president. I am encouraged by Elder Jackson’s bold stand on this!


Wow!!! Thank you for your comment. My previous analysis now stands superseded by this exciting development.


Well, that’s the first encouraging sign I’ve seen. I read the “and entities” part and figured there goes that. Good for him for taking it out.