German Pastor Explains Why He Turned in his Credentials

Pastor Stephan G. Brass, pastor in a three-church district in the Southern German Union, has asked for commissioned credentials, in solidarity with Adventist women pastors. He talked to Spectrum about why he made the decision, and the reaction of colleagues, churchmembers and administrators.

Question: In October, you turned in your ordination certificate and ministerial credentials to the Southern German Union during a meeting of the conference committee, asking for commissioned credentials instead. This was because the Southern German Union (unlike the Northern German Union) has not voted to ordain women as pastors. What was the response of the conference committee and your colleagues when you did this?

Answer: They accepted my move with respect and they assured me that nothing in my work commission and position will change. When we talked about the decision of San Antonio I made a speech before the conference committee, of which I am a member, and to make it clear I walked up to the conference president and handed him my ordination certificate along with my pastoral ID card.

There was a moment of silence (probably showing astonishment) and some women expressed their esteem for this move. There was no response from the executive officers. They have merely taken note of it.

What response have you received since that day, from administration, other pastors and church members?

The majority of responses I received were from women in the church — both women pastors and lay members. They were all positive and supportive. Male colleagues made comments like: “I don’t want to mess up my career” and “Why all the fuss? The women can do everything that we male pastors can do, except become a president.”

On Sunday, during a pastors’ family retreat, our conference president asked all pastors not to follow my example and hand in their ordination certificates. He explained that our goal is not to give up our ordination but to support the ordination of women. I understand that some administrators urged our conference president to cut my salary.

Do you believe the Southern German Union in time will change its stance? Why do you believe it has acted differently than the Northern German Union?

I really can’t tell if there will be a change. I do hope so. There is a shift generally in Germany’s culture when you go from north to south. The south is generally considered more conservative. I am not sure what will happen. The union president was just last week called to the family ministry department of the division, so next week’s union constituency meeting is more concerned with finding a successor than handling the women’s ordination question.

Do you have colleague pastors who are women?

Yes, I do. Interestingly enough the conference in which I serve (the Bavarian conference) has employed the most women as pastors in all of Germany (4,550 members, 70 churches, 29 male pastors, and three female pastors).

You clearly have strongly-held views about ordaining women. Why do you feel they should hold the same ministerial credentials as men?

I have read all of the TOSC material. I have listened to all of the debates at General Conference sessions (I have attended all sessions since 1975 in Vienna, where I decided to enter the ministry). I was translating the debate in Indianapolis in 1990 and also in Utrecht in 1995. I heard the plea of Gerard Damsteegt against women’s ordination and the response of Raoul Dederen in Utrecht. None of those incidents convinced me of a biblical argument against women’s ordination.

In contrast, I find equality when it comes to spiritual matters for both male and female. And since the New Testament endorses a kingly priesthood of all believers, the distinction we experience is a merely cultural one. I will respect those cultural practices and their underlying understanding.

However, I do live in an environment that supports equality of male and female, and which is also rooted in its constitution. So I do believe that God empowers male and female likewise with his spirit and makes no distinction. When it comes to leadership roles the Bible also makes no distinction between male and female. And finally, I have worked with women in pastoral and administrative leadership that far outreach their male counterparts. So why not have men and women fill positions according to their abilities and gifts rather than according to their sex?

Were you surprised by the outcome of the discussion on ordination at the GC session in San Antonio?

No, I was not. Knowing the cultural setup of the delegates I expected that outcome. I don’t believe that we will solve this question by democratic procedures. So in my opinion the questions we are asked to vote on need to be asked differently.

What do you believe the Southern German Union should do about this issue, and why? What about the world church? What would you suggest as a way forward post-San Antonio?

With my move I wanted to keep the discussion alive. I also want equality in pastoral ministry. We should seek a solution within the Adventist setup that enables equality and does not discriminate against woman pastors.

Unity is not at stake in this question, I believe, but the authority of the GC and its president have suffered a lot since San Antonio.

Do you think it's possible, with various cultural differences to overcome, that the church in Europe and North America can continue to co-exist with the church in Africa and South America?

Yes, I do. Unity in diversity is a healthy challenge and not a threat. It is obvious that it must be intended by God.

How long have you served as a pastor? Where did you study, and where have you served? What kind of church do you pastor now?

I began serving in September 1981 after I felt called to the ministry by E.E. Cleveland’s appeal at the ministerial conference prior to the GC session in Vienna, 1975. I started my studies at Marienhoehe Theological Seminary in Darmstadt, Germany. I then continued at Newbold College in England (Jan Paulsen was principal at that time) with a break of one year, in which I served as language teacher in my home town in Germany. In 1980-81 I caught up with my studies at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland, and finished in the summer of 1981 with a B.A. in theology and a minor in radio and TV communications.

I have served in different conferences within the North and South German Unions. I have also worked for the Adventist publishing house, as well as with ADRA as public relations officer.

For the last eight years I have pastored a three-church-district in the Bavarian conference northeast of Munich. The churches are very different. The biggest one has 150 members with about 60% of German-Russian background, quite a group of Romanian citizens and the rest native Bavarian people. In addition to being a pastor for those three churches I am the leader of one of the seven pastoral districts in Bavaria (called a convent).

I have also been asked to be the press spokesperson and public relations officer for the conference, and look after the internet presence of the conference. Every five years I conduct “footprints of the pioneers” trips to the US and the GC session on behalf of the two German unions.

What do you love the most about the Adventist church? What keeps you as an Adventist pastor?

I do believe that the Adventist church has a peculiar message for an end time generation. I also believe in the ministry of EG White and that this movement has prophetic importance.

I have the impression, however, that more and more this church establishes a presidential and kingly power within its administrative structure that is neither healthy nor helpful. There should be much more freedom for the different cultural aspects of our church.

I stay in this church because my calling is not from humans but from God. I still believe in the divine nature of the calling into the existence of the Adventist church.

What advice would you have for your fellow pastors, in Germany and beyond, both women and men, as the Adventist church continues to evolve into the 21st century?

Let’s serve our Lord in whatever capacity and let’s do our best to get rid of injustices that may be obstacles for others to find the Lord.

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

I applaud Pr Brass for having the courage to follow his convictions.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the San Antonio vote was really about preventing women from entering senior leadership positions within the church administration. It is gender discrimination pure and simple.

Edited after 9 “Likes” because in line with Spectrum’s policy I’m not permitted to post a second comment…

Tongkam, are you aware that it is official church policy to allow women to be commissioned ministers? And further, that commissioned ministers are referred to as “pastor”? How do you reconcile the above two statements? On the one hand, you clearly want NO women to be pastors. On the other, the church already has a clearly defined policy that allows women to be pastors, and you believe that to go against the church, would be the same as going against God?

Now it seems you’re just being downright nasty. Commissioned ministers are also referred to as pastor. Please refer to this commissioned pastor by his correct title.


I appreciate and applauded his stand. Yet a much deeper issue is burning in my soul. the dispair, disillusionment of young sensitive Adventists. Just this week a young male Adventist in dispair took his own life. The Judgment hour message is a killer. When both John and Paul make it a release from bondage. The Gospel is about freedom. the book of Roman’s is about being set free. Why distort Daniel, Hebrews and Revelation to place sensitive minds and hearts into unrelenting fear and Dispair? tom z


Bravo, Pastor Brass…Bravo! The Adventist Church needs more of those like you who sees the moral and ethical implications of their decisions. Discrimination against women needs to stop in the Adventist church.

"Some people should enter politics rather than the ministry."

I know…I have been telling Kevin Paulson this for years. :wink:

@GeorgeTichy @elmer_cupino
My kitty cats, Anastasia and Tatianna, have been quiet also. They only believe what you tell them when it is bolstered up by action- like more canned food or such. But since they are females they would really love it if their human sisters would get the jobs that they deserve…regardless of gender. :smile:


Pr. Brass’s reference to one member’s suggestion that his salary be reduced implies that credentialed pastors (women) are not paid equally to ordained ones (men)? If so, is this a legal issue in Germany? Or is someone simply being mean-spirited?


That is the call: to do what is right. Regardless of political considerations. Are you the only pastor in Germany so far, who decided to do what is right? To those who don’t want to mess up their career…forget your call! There has never been a call for career!


Amen. I too am deeply troubled by the current direction the church is taking, and believe that the decision not to allow women to be ordained to be morally wrong, which means I cannot support that decision and that I must peacefully and patiently protest it however and wherever possible. I am not a pastor, so unfortunately I cannot do as you have done, but I stand in solidarity with you nevertheless. I hope that 100 times more pastors do just what you have done, so the leadership is forced to reconsider their stance against women. God Bless!


Since I work in admin, let me explain the system. The salary payscale is three-tiered: internship, pastor (credentialed), ordained pastor. internship (after graduation with an m.a.) is one year. After that the candidate enters the next level of pay by being hired as pastor (ususally the next three years). On ordination the candidate experiences another raise in pay (which is legally justified by an increase of responsibilities). Not all ordained pastors earn the same, there are different nuances as to the actual responsibilities one carries (district elder, mentoring, convent leader).

Now for the women: they have since long been payed equally. While their male colleagues are ordained to the world-wide ministry, they are ordained as local elders, but get the same pay than their ordained male colleagues. So the comment by colleagues to downgrade Pastor Brass is just nonsensical or plain ignorance of the system. As long as his actual responsibilities stay the same, there will not be a change. and even, to finish this off, if his responsibilities should de facto decrease his pay would stay but he wouldn’t experience any (yearly) raises until the pay matches the responsibility. To sum up: the church’s payscale is in accordance with legal requirements: responsibility/qualification is the only legal justifiable reason for differences in remuneration.


Is this kind of “solidarity” better or more important than solidarity with God’s world-wide church of believers and solidarity with God Himself? God has informed us that we are to respect the decisions made at a General Conference Session of delegates from all parts of the field as if it were His voice to the church. Does this man (do I say “pastor” when he has turned in his credentials?) not recognize God’s voice? Is the issue of women’s ordination more important to him than serving God to the best of his ability among those whom God has given him? Is he willing to give up his ordination for this political issue?

To me, the answers to questions like these and many others seem to indicate that a wall of separation is being erected in the minds of many sincere people between God’s will and their own opinions. How can they not see and understand this? Not even Jesus took on every issue in His day. If women are to be ordained, is it not God’s battle and responsibility to bring it about? Is God not capable of doing so, in His own time and way, if He wishes? I would ask, does Mr. Brass feel God has told him to do this? If so, how does he know so?

Could it be that someone is looking for their proverbial 15 minutes of fame? There are many issues, human issues, that complicate our hearts. The Bible says we cannot know our own hearts, much less someone else’s. But answers–where can we find the answers to life’s most important questions? If they are not in the Bible, they cannot be found.

I’ve found that the Bible teaches some plain truths. Many do not like them because they are so plain and strait. They are not easy to understand, accept, or follow. But they are the only guides toward happiness we can have.

When the Bible teaches that women should pastor churches, I will accept it. But it doesn’t. It says the church elders are to be husbands, not wives. Many are so caught up in the modern culture as to have lost sight of these traditional values upon which Christianity has stood for many centuries. The Bible could hardly speak more plainly on the topic than it does. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

Marianne, please remember there is a difference between the North- and South-German Union Conference. The former was the first Union to vote for women’s ordination at a regular Union session. This mandate has not been revoked yet.

Having said that … I do have first hand information that there are also other developments going on which are not public knowledge yet - and confidentiality issues do not allow me to divulge them as yet. Stephan is not the only pastor in Germany, to be sure.


I would really love to talk to you one day! Too bad you are so far away! I like your comments very much!


Some people should enter politics rather than the ministry.

1 Like

Politicians sometimes do the Lord’s work, too.


And this “certain developments” I gather by your tone bodes well for both German Union Conference constituents as no prophet is needed, other than our own Spectrum prophets-in-residence @GeorgeTichy and @cincerity to declare soon that the South German Union Conference will follow suit.

Pastor Brass we need more principled men like you “who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” You have impressed me.



There is no place where politics is not found unless one is a hermit and lives in a cave, alone. Humans, and many animals are political beings.


Congratulations on your stand for justice during this time in your career Pastor Stephan. Some employees wait until they are safe and comfortable in their retirement and then speak out… which is a cowardly act. The effects of your action will flow on and give others courage to take a stand also. We value your support. Rene Gale


There is a difference between being converted and being sensetive. A mind that is surrendered finds no place for, me or I , that panders to sensetivity.Why ? because when we give our minds to God in Surrender he leads us and we follow wherever he may choose to leads us even if we don’t like where he is leading t. What happens to Romans 8:28 ? I guess we no longer believe those texts anymore.
I guess all things work together for good only if it fits my,suits my fancy.

Why does a piece of paper from humans make such a difference to you then?


Please give me book, chapter and verse where God gives this information??? Or is this from the pen of EGW, a woman of all things!!! If she was alive today, I believe she would have supported women’s ordination. The duplicity of those who oppose women’s ordination all the while clinging to the writings of EGW as the voice of God in total is outrageous.


@Tongkam is in “rebellion,” as Kevin Paulson would say, to existing, long-time church policy to recognize commissioned women pastors. This policy is now “classic,” as Kevin Paulson would say, “Adventism.”

Ironically, @Tongkam consistently opposes women as divinely blessed by the Spirit with gifts to lead, while at the same time he clings to the authority of Ellen White, an ordained Adventist pastor, as the source for his anti-female leadership beliefs.