Growing "Cloud of Witnesses" Exchanges Ordination Credentials for Commissioned Credentials

The number of male Seventh-day Adventist ministers relinquishing in their ordained minister credentials in favor of commissioned minister credentials—the credentials available to their women colleagues—grew again last week as pastors in the North Pacific Union Conference handed in their ordination credentials. Exchanging ministerial credentials represents one of many ways Adventist pastors have worked toward gender equality after a vote of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists last July disallowed the denomination's thirteen world divisions making provision for the ordination of women within their respective territories. Because the General Conference voted no on the question, it remains the prerogative of unions and conferences—the structural units below the division level—to recommend and approve ordinations (General Conference leadership has disputed this).

Moves to achieve gender parity in the face of the General Conference's intransigence concerning women's ordination have included continuing with previous policy to ordain women (Netherlands and Southeastern California), abolishing ordination altogether (Norway, Denmark and Belgium-Luxembourg), continuing working to implement women's ordination (Berlin-Central Germany), and making commissioning equal in function and in pay to ordination (Washington, Oregon and elsewhere). For more actions, see "2015: The Year of Regional Autonomy."

Since San Antonio, male pastors have sought commissioned credentials instead of ordination credentials as an act of solidarity, and conference and union leaders who have made commissioning equal to ordination have helped smooth the way. However, nine professors from the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University requested commissioned credentials from the General Conference last Fall, but were told that current policy does not allow it. For the professors, the matter was one of conscience and integrity, arising from a deep sense of injustice and unfairness done to women colleagues who also serve in ministry.

UPDATE: It has also been called to my attention that in September 2015, the Trans-European Division executive secretaries issued a statement that disallowed ordained ministers from exchanging their credentials to commissioned minister credentials. The statements said, "Once a pastor has gone down the ordination route and is ordained, there is nothing which opens the door to 'undo' the ordination and opt for a 'commissioned' status. Within the TED we have done everything that we can to ensure equality and will continue to work within the structures to achieve this. Given the current situation, we are unable to support that ordained pastors return their credential and are issued with a commissioned credential."

During its regular meeting on March 2, the North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee approved the request of 10 pastors to exchange their ordination credentials. In a public notice reporting the meeting, the NPUC wrote,

In other action, the committee approved the request of 10 pastors—eight within the Oregon Conference and two in Washington Conference—to voluntarily relinquish ordination credentials and accept instead commissioned minister credentials. Both conferences have recently voted to allow both ordained and commissioned ministers within their territories to fulfill the same responsibilities. This action acknowledges the wish of these pastors to be assigned the same credentials as female pastors under current world church policy.

The pastors whose requests have been granted are:

Oregon Conference:

Greg Brothers Chad Carlton Steve Lemke Tim Mayne David Smith Monte Torkelsen James Wibberding Lonnie Wibberding

Washington Conference:

John McLarty Mark Pekar

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Whether current policies allow it or not, the request itself makes a significant impact. It causes the governing committees and the public to discuss the issue, to sleep on it, to wrestle with it, and to assess and attempt to defend the justice of the policy as it affects the people involved. That process can make transparent the motives of the policy-makers and the reasons, good or bad, for those policies.


Thank you to those who have the courage of their convictions. Rene G.


More like growing bunch of rebels. I notice the Victorian Conference, in its list of which ministers are assigned where, now refers to all commissioned female ministers as Pr, whereas in previous years they were listed as “Mrs”. Not yet commissioned are still listed as Mrs.


something that has festered and festered after decades of corporate bible study, which a majority of our biblical experts has approved, and which many of our leaders, including a two-term general conference president, have explicitly endorsed, cannot be called rebellion…what is needed is a greater realization on the part of no-voters that they cannot impose their private will onto the church through political maneuvering…political maneuvering always produces a backlash, which is really what we’re seeing now…


nymous, the no-vote was an imposition of private will since our flagship seminary, our bri, a significant number of our world leaders including a twice-elected gc president and a gc-appointed tosc recommended a no-vote…in addition, the biblical example of the apostolic church’s decision to pursue the gospel in two distinct fellowships, over and above a literalistic reading of Gen 17:10-14, see Acts 15: 6-21; Gal 2:7, not to mention egw’s explicit call for women to manage our churches, 19MR:56, was blatantly set aside…there is no other way to characterize this course than an imposition of private will that deliberately ignored what constitutes the authoritive fabric of our church…

had the vote been yes, the bible, egw, and the institutions of our church would have been honored…this result, which some would have been unhappy with, cannot rise to the level of rebellion against authority that the no-vote represents…in any event, no-voters would have been able to pursue what they wanted with a yes-vote, which means it is unlikely that we’d see the backlash we’re seeing now…


Congratulations to these courageous men, church pioneers of our age for the most basic foundational doctrine of Protestantism: The Priesthood of All Believers. They join an army of men and women in previous centuries who made huge sacrifices, even to being burned at the stake, for their beliefs in the Priesthood of ALL Believers.

May God bless their selflessness.


So, “commissioned” is no different than “ordained”? Or the ordination service, setting apart by laying on of hands, doesn’t matter, only the current card matters? Or the laying on of hands for ordination is different from the laying on of hands for commissioning, both of which are intended to set someone apart to preach, and teach, and preside at the Lord’s Supper and baptism?

This seems to me to be but another sign of the confusion about ordination, with layers of unbiblical terms and practices and concepts.

Let’s just simplify it all. When someone finishes seminary, and is called to public ministry that involves preaching and celebrating the ordinances, let them be set apart by laying on of hands and prayer.

Then let’s be about the work of ministry.


As the female leader of the worldwide SDA church once put it:

The greatest want of the world is the want of men - men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.

Hurrah for these men of courage who conscientiously follow a woman’s advice!


Where some see the Righteous…others are dismissive and see nothing but darkness. Such is the history of the world where the Courageous have always had to fight against prejudice and un-enlightenment. It takes men of real substance to take this stand and I salute them on International Women’s Day!

@blc @mtskeels9496 @pagophilus


If they were lead/senior pastors, would they also relinquish their current post and voluntarily assume the position of an associate? Besides surrendering one ID card, of an ordained minister credential, in exchange for another, that of a commissioned minister, what else has changed as far as their standing and privileges as pastors are concerned?

Might it be a different story if any of those AU professors and NAD pastors who’d exchanged their ordained minister credential in favor of a commissioned minister card were to be invited to take another assignment, abroad perhaps as an Inter-division employee, where they would be required proof or lack of an ordination certificate? Not answering the call? Not going, huh?

Apparently, the church leaders recognize the change as significant to them which is why there are two categories although no real difference in pay. So why has the church elected to have the two different classes?

Since the church has elected to have two separate categories, those who have surrendered their ordination are sending a clear message; otherwise, their moves would not be significant.



As far as I know, it was the worldwide church in session that said no. So, to state that the no-voters have imposed “their private will onto the church…” is really a mischaracterization, to say the least (as for political maneuvering, well, I wonder how to qualify the actions of some in the pro WO side).

Had the vote be yes, would have you said that the yes-voters had imposed their private will onto the church? Or would have said that the Holy Spirit had spoken?

Now, concerning the “cloud of witnesses” the main thing they are demonstrating is their disregard for the decisions of the worldwide church.

And how to call the behavior of these conferences mentioned in the article (like, Norway, Denmark, Netherland,…)? Is this not a perfect example of political maneuvering?

To be really effective there needs to be a mind set created at the Bachelor Degree in Religion/Theology level, allowing young men and young women to understand that there is no difference between them in abilities and gifts from the Holy Spirit.
A because this is so, there should be no difference in naming them when called to the same calling – being Pastors. And IF a Pastor, then all the Rights and Privileges of Pastors should be allowed to ALL.
But this needs to begin at the Bachelor Level. Not wait till the Master or Doctorate Level.

We ALL like to be selective as to what we believe when it comes to Ellen. This goes all the WAY up the chain to our World President.
Ellen said, There is LIMIT to the Usefulness of “one”. She did not single out a particular gender. Not did she single out a particular Occupation, or a particular Position in an organization, NOR did she single out A Organization.
But we dont like to quote this ONE saying, as it puts everyone on an EQUAL basis before God.

Edit–3/14 And NOW we have the Church in Sweden being among “The Cloud of Witnesses”. Liberating BOTH men and women, and allowing them to not only preach the good news of the Gospel, but to offer them Jesus Christ through the Bread and the Wine. To partake of the Body of Christ. To become the Body of Christ. To become WHO we feed on.


Once again, the organized church missed the essence in this matter. This has nothing to do with whether the organized church recognizes the act or not but everything to do with standing up to your convictions and beliefs. These individuals, and subsequent ones, should be all applauded.

“It is not earthly rank, nor birth, nor nationality, nor religious privilege, which proves that we are members of the family of God; it is love, a love that embraces all humanity.” Thoughts From The Mount Of Blessing (1896) Ch. 3, “The Spirituality of the Law”, p. 75

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men,–men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” --Education, p. 57.

Yet the GC has installed women to be presidents in some of our universities, tasked to teach men how to be effective leaders. Perhaps some of us males have muddied the NT in an effort to subjugate women for self-gratification.


Men of principle and courage in the arena of Church politics. Another set are attempting to address doctrinal issues through the back door with the One Project. Yet another is putting the lie to YEC. No one is openly challenging IJ or the final generation. Ithink the question should be “What does ordination signify?” Loyalty to An institution, or competence to Preach the Gospel of Grace? The norm is to preach guilt not Grace. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not the chariot of Fire to carry one home any more that anyone of dozens more that claim the “Truth”. Salvation is by Trust in the finished work of Christ an to walk with confidence and Grace in all that one encounters. TZ


Spectrum ought to give more prominence to the handful of pastors who took this action years ago before it was cool. I know they exist, and that Pastor Darold Bigger, former senior pastor of the WWU church and former Deputy Chief Navy Chaplain, is one of them.


The problem was allowing females into theology classes to begin with or pretending that the female “prophet” was genuine.

Men who were ordained to the gospel and now are handing back that ordination are in effect asking that they be removed from the book of Life as the are now in open rebellion against the Lord of Hosts.

The New Testament is clear women are NOT to have leadership roles

All this shadow boxing, while the real issues are anathema. imagine a church built upon pillars of the IJ, Tithing, the Sabbath, The prophetic role of Elllen White, The human nature of Jesus, YEC, The GC as the highest authority of God on earth, While the Cross is all but ignored. Cult is being kind. Tom Z


Yes, Tom…these are the real issues!


Will this surrender not eventually lead to the church being solely administered by the rigidly patriarchal?

Will the pastors then just as gracefully surrender their pastorates?

In other words, is this the preamble to a big fight or to a gentle retreat from the denomination altogether?