Netherlands Union Conference Postpones Ordination of Female Pastors

In a surprise effort to appease the General Conference and its Unity Commission, the Netherlands Union Conference (NUC) Executive Committee has “decided to postpone the ordination of female pastors until after October 2017 to contribute to the process of dialogue and reconciliation” within the Adventist Church.

The statement came as part of a 25-page question-and-answer document for NUC delegates, written in preparation for their upcoming Constituency Session held on May 4-6. The document was uploaded on April 21 to a secure part of the union’s website accessible only by delegates.

The response regarding the postponement of women’s ordination followed the question:

“Many are under the impression that the Union is trying to slow down the reconciliation process with actions that delay acceptance of the San Antonio decision on the matter. To avoid more difficulties in the church, why hasn’t the Union embraced both the San Antonio decision and the reconciliation process, by implementing a moratorium on women's ordination to the Gospel ministry?”

The response, written by Wim Altink, president of the NUC, read in full:

“A. The Dutch Union regularly consults with TED on this issue; B. On April 27-28, the Executive Committee will hold a meeting with the GC Commission on Unity In Mission – Procedures in Church Reconciliation; C. The Dutch Union is always open to discussion and prayer; D. The Executive Committee has decided to postpone the ordination of female pastors until after October 2017 to contribute to the process of the dialogue and reconciliation.”

The announcement, as noted in Altink’s response, came just days before the GC Unity Commission attended the Trans-European Division’s (TED) Executive Committee session held on April 27-28. Present at the meeting were Elder Tom Lemon, head of the Unity Commission, TED officers, and the officers of four unions within TED.

Long-time proponents of women’s ordination, the NUC Executive Committee voted in November 2012 to support the ordination of women and stated in an announcement that they had “decided to ordain female pastors, recognising them as equal to their male colleagues.” In September 2013, the Netherlands became the first union in Europe to ordain a female pastor.

Immediately following the discussion and vote on ordination at GC Session 2015 in San Antonio, the Netherlands issued the following statement, holding firm to their decision from almost three years prior:

“The delegates of the Dutch churches voted at their Session in the autumn of 2012 to ordain women in an equal way to their male colleagues. The vote took effect in June 2013 and will remain in effect. The decision of the General Conference Session in San Antonio does not change this.

Female pastors will continue to be ordained in the Netherlands Union Conference. We thank God that he calls men and women to serve him. We want to enthusiastically confirm that call by the laying on of hands.”

The Trans-European Division (TED), which oversees the NUC, unanimously voted in February 2017 a “strong request to the General Conference that consideration be given to issuing a single credential for those in ministry or to alternately amend existing credentials making them more inclusive.”

The situation within the European divisions is more complex than in other world divisions due to legislation under European Union law that requires men and women to be afforded equal opportunity for advancement. Because of this, European unions have taken their own routes to fulfill this law. While the Netherlands and Germany voted to ordain women, Norway, Denmark, and Belgian-Luxembourg unions suspended ordination for both male and female pastors following GC Session 2015.

In its February statement, the TED Executive Committee expressed a desire “to work closely with the GC to find a solution that will both fit within the needs of national legislation and resolve those variance issues. Within that remit the committee also requested unions within the TED to put on hold any variation to working policy in regard to credentials while discussions are in progress up until the time of GC Annual Council.”

So although the Netherlands new hold on ordination has come as a surprise to many, officials within the NUC and TED say the NUC is simply showing good faith by upholding TED’s previous commitment to the GC.

When asked for comment, Victor Hulbert, communications and media director for the Trans-European Division, stated that the aim of TED remains the same as it was in February, and that while the latest meeting was a “significant part of the continued process of dialogue,” it was also “a low-key consultation that took place in an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding and prayer.”

He added that, “we call on all people of good-will to continue in prayer and positive dialogue as we continue to seek ways to share God effectively across the 22 countries of the Trans-European Division.”

Another official, who requested anonymity, stated that the NUC’s compliance with the hold on ordination was decided in March by the outgoing Executive Committee whose 2012-2017 term ended during the Constituency Session held May 4-6. This is the same committee that voted to ordain women in the first place.

An almost entirely new team was voted in during the May Constituency Session. The elections include Rob de Raad, who replaced Wim Altink as President, Enrico Karg (new Executive Secretary), and Istrahel Schorea (re-elected Treasurer).

The postponement of ordination has had a direct impact on at least one female pastor who inadvertently became caught in the middle of the ongoing policy debate. Last year, the NUC voted to permanently employ Tabitha Cedenio-Cummins, known as Pastor Purple to her congregants. Her date of permanent employ was set to begin in March 2017, and in keeping with the NUC’s previous policy, this meant that Pastor Purple would be ordained at that time.

However, the pressure from the GC’s Unity Commission, and the February statement from TED, complicated the situation. The NUC decided to postpone Purple’s ordination until after Annual Council in order to fall in line with TED’s request. In the meantime, the NUC decided that a commission would serve as a placeholder to ordination, thus allowing her to exercise the full abilities necessary to do her pastoral work. For instance, a commissioned minister has the authority to baptize, lead communion, and perform weddings.

Several officials within the union confirm that the commission ceremony was originally scheduled to occur at Pastor Purple’s local congregation. However, because of the highly charged political atmosphere surrounding the recent meetings between the Unity Commission, TED, and the unions, several pastors fought to have her commissioning occur at the union level instead. They felt this would add a level of transparency and show that Purple’s commission is fully backed by the NUC. The pastors succeeded and the commissioning was moved to Sabbath, May 6, following the Constituency Session. Markedly absent from the event was the laying on of hands that an ordination ceremony would have included.

“[Pastor Purple’s commissioning] caused a lot of confusion internationally due to a number of factors,” an official close to the situation admitted.

The official continued, “It is perfectly logical that internationally, this would raise questions whether the new leadership has changed current policy. This is absolutely not the case! Nor is the (almost) complete change of leadership tied in any way with the topic of women’s ordination…The newly elected administration will meet after the 1st of June for the very first time. Up until that time, nothing has been decided nor discussed. They have been elected with extremely huge support from the delegation.”

It should be noted, the official added in closing, that “a very large majority of the membership in the Netherlands is highly in favour of women’s ordination. That hasn’t changed.”

Regarding her commissioning, Pastor Purple stated, “I thank God for this moment of blessing. My family and I are thankful that the Dutch church and Rev. Audrey Andersson have created such a special moment. I’m looking forward to continuing to serve God in His churches.”

Departing President of the NUC, Wim Altink, said, “A growing church is blessed by the calling of new ministers. I am particularly pleased that Tabitha, together with her family, has successfully strengthened the work of God. We wish her much wisdom and ambition.”

It remains to be seen whether TED will get its wish to unify its unions under a single, inclusive credential during the GC Annual Council, scheduled for October 5-11, 2017. Meanwhile, NUC officials say that Pastor Purple’s ordination is still scheduled for October, after Annual Council concludes.

Alisa Williams is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: www.adventist.nl

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8008

it doesn’t sound like the Dutch of my roots.

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Deeply disappointing. The iron hand of the G.C. is pressuring our brothers and sisters in The Netherlands. Deeply disturbing.

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Interesting!!

I dislike seeing a hierarchy in operation. I would much prefer that our church structures be seen as wheels within wheels. Or as a grouping of nested and interlocking entities confering with one another. And it is true that some of these nested and interlocking entities have wider spheres of influence than others do - the General Conference having been tasked with the widest possible sphere of influence.

The authority that individuals and entities exercise within our global communion is not an authoritarian authority. Rather it is an authority derived from Christ himself (Matthew 28:18). It is the believer’s commission from Christ himself that authorizes that person to make disciples. Likewise, it is a commission from Christ Himself that authorises Adventist entities to continue His mission and ministry. That ministry, whether from the believer or from an individual entity is legitimate only as Christ is working through that agent or agency. Hence their authority is solely the authority to fulfil their commission from Christ. Their authority is simply the authorization to perform the functions necessary to fulfil their commission.

The good order of our mission enterprise may therefore mean that there are times when we suspend our intentions to move forward awaiting the pleasure of others. This need not discourage us.

And I say again that the Netherlands Union of Churches, as indeed the Pacific Union Conference and the Columbia Union Conference seem so attached to an old paradigm of Adventist leadership and the ordination of leaders within that. To this old paradigm, they want to add just one slight modification - the ordination of women.

It would be far better to deconstruct this old paradigm that embraces both clericalism and institutionalization, and build again a paradigm of Adventist leadership based upon the twin key Bible teachings of spiritual gifts and the priesthood of all believers.

THUS, for me if one can’t do what several other unions in the Trans-European Division have done and create a new paradigm that anticipates the deconstruction of the old paradigm, one should do nothing.

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Brethren, We are moving forward together. Christ is our Head , and President Ted Wilson is His man . Let us put aside our differences and in prayer ask God for directions. What will separate us from the love of God ? Let not this , or any other issue attempt to do that . Nor should we a[low it. Why would we allow social issues to move ahead of preaching the gospel. What is your agenda ? It should be only what we can do for Christ that matters.

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Who can talk anymore about unity when you have pressure and coercion and fear for losing your job? All these pretending with “prayer and discussion” and “more prayer and discussion” is nothing more (or less) than GC’s attempts to force their subsidiary units to comply. I know very well this form of enforcing someone’s opinion to the other one, especially if the other one happens to be younger, weaker or otherwise subordinated. You can pray with him till the bones of your knees expose themselves and the outcome will always be as he has wanted it from the beginning.
If SDA church had saints I think all female pastors could be immediately pronounced as some. I admire their patience and commitment. But to say only “God sees them and will pay someday” is also as hypocritical as the official standpoint of the Church on WO.

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That statement is about as truthful as the statement that “97% of scientists agree with global warming/climate change”. When is the Spectrum report on the results of the NUC constituency session coming out? It shows the huge disconnect which exists between the laity and the leadership. What happened at the constituency session shows that the laity are not happy (and are not in favour of WO) and have decided to do something about runaway leadership.

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This Pastor has it right, his cautionary words should be listened to by all women. The discriminators will not like his direct and clear explanation of the real problem:

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Pagophilus, that is wishful thinking of the unnamed official - it has never been evaluated how many members in this field are against or pro WO, because the discussion has never been transparently held. In 2015 803 signatories of the average 2400 PERSONS visiting the local churches on Sabbaths requested a meeting on the subject (and issues as homosexuality and creation and One project) through a Members Manifesto. That meeting (June 2016) was a disgrace to God and a display of order violations and power play, coercion by the runaway leadership. The 803 signatories are more than 30% of the church-going part of this union, while not every local church gave their members opportunity to sign because of coercion from “the establishment” pastors and boards. In some churches those who went around with the signature’s list were rudely rebuked and some even threatened.
At the latest session a motion about being in total harmony with the World Church because of the AC2016 Unity in Mission action was voted down 88 to 84 (in the June2016 session this was 87 to 86 FOR harmony). This only shows how divided this field is and that one can hardly speak of “a very large majority”.
Some persons have a hard time in abiding by church structures, but with a heavy hand they demand the same when it suits them right.
The commissioning of Pastor Purple at the session was a statement of deviance to the GC/TED officers present, and coercing the delegates who are otherwise convicted to be present, or rudely leave the room. Ordinations are usually conducted on Sabbath afternoons giving everyone the opportunity to attend or not. That courtesy was not given.

I hope and pray the elected officers will be wiser, in many ways…

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In the Acts of the Apostles by Luke we have “hidden instructions for would be pastors” as exemplified in the long-time ministry of Paul.
Ellen also takes up the “same issue” in her discussion about the Schools of the Prophets in her book Education [which most dont read anymore].
Even though Paul [Saul] had a number of Ph.D. degrees, he had a Trade by which he could support himself. His money making craft was tent making [a very necessary item in those days].
Paul was an “Ordained by God” preacher. He just happened to be an itinerant preacher – and on the road evangelist.
I would suggest that anyone who REALLY feels the Call to be a Pastor [not just a preacher] take a look at the example of Paul and decide 2 things. 1. Take Schooling in some occupation by which to support one self. 2. Prepare for the Ministry. 3. Be OK to spread the Good News of God like Paul did.
Actually, Paul lots of times did not “preach” in a building. But just found places where People sat around and talked, and he joined in their conversations, made friends, and presented the Good News, and prayed with people.
Paul created his own church congregation where ever he went. He many times made enough money to support the friends who were with him, and to afford the costs of traveling by ship from place to place.
I would encourage ANY woman who feels the call of God to spread the Good News to be OK with being “Ordained by God” to preach the Good News and to provide the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – to all she meets. Be OK with NOT preaching every week to an-ALL SDA congregation. Create one’s own congregation with the assistance of the infilling and cooperation of the Holy Spirit.
There is one lady here in Macon – she is affectionately known as Sister Veronica – who sits on the park benches in a small downtown park area and just talks to the homeless, encourages them, reads God’s promises to them, prays with them. She has become their spiritual advisor. She holds “church” on the park benches. Although not traditional, she has a very large congregation.
There have been a few times when I have assisted her with her ministry in providing assistance that she couldnt provide. And I have seen these events for me as being planned by the Holy Spirit, and I have been awed by it.
Yes, it is OK to ask others to assist in one’s ministry as she has done to me a number of times. And I have been blessed.
The Holy Spirit calls. Answer YES!! YES!! Then work with the Spirit to be creative, think outside the “box”, and GO!! Baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and present the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – saying these words, “Behold who you are, BECOME what you receive.”

PS – a bathtub can become an OK baptismal tank.
PPS: a community swimming pool can become an OK baptismal tank.

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They are not subsidiary units. We must stop using such corporate/legal language. It implies something that does not exist, but which the GC wants to exist. A union has its own constituency, and is not legally controlled by the GC as a subsidiary. Language matters.

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It was the PEOPLE of the Netherlands who voted out the old President and Secretary and put in the new ones. No one forced them–they were doing what was right. Also they changed the policy and made the laity have more say in who their elected officials are. Somewhere between 51 to 60% of laity on this Board. God is good to His people. May He bless the Netherlands especially!

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, while ADventists in the British Union Conference appear to have voted to leave EU…

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"Hij heeft de klok wel horen luiden, maar weet niet waar de klepel hangt"
English equivalent: Similar to ‘the lights are on, but there’s nobody home’.
The church leaders, the brethren, mentioned in this article who have voted
to suspend ordinations, have missed an opportunity to respect women and
demonstrate courage to do what is right, fair, and long overdue. according
to this article. These “brethren” think they know the needs of their diverse
constituency but the essence for fairness in gender equality eludes them.
“Hoog van de toren blazen” after these (mostly men) have **"blown their **
trumpet from their ecclesiastical high towers". they can muster enough
courage and stand up to GC efforts to implement faulty theology based on
insecure anthropology.

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I have a question. Why, as a religious body, do we have to abide by civil laws in this matter if it goes against our religious conviction? I have seen other articles on this page in regards to lawsuits in discrimination of a student wanting to use a bathroom of the opposite sex. I would ask the same question. Why is the government getting involved in matters of the church, or us desiring complying with umbiblical laws? Maybe I’m too American. Not wanting to cause controversy. Just trying to understand this in light of end times… Thanks

Thomas Zwemer,
Neither does it sound like the Dutch of MY roots!
My grandfather was born and raised in GRONIGEN, the Netherlands!
Robin van der Molen-- I Americanized my name to VANDERMOLEN

“Deviance”? The fact is that the commissioning of women as pastors was established by GC policy and remains so. President Wilson himself has affirmed it subsequent to the SA2015 vote.

"General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson said Friday that a vote this week on the issue of women’s ordination meant 'we maintain the current policy.' "Wilson told delegates at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that Wednesday’s vote simply barred the church’s world divisions from making decisions on the ordination of women.

"He said the vote has nothing to do with women being ordained as local elders, a practice based on church policy that has been in place for several decades.

"Furthermore, he said, the vote was not related to commissioned ministers, who can be male or female under the church’s policy.

“‘So let us be clear on what was voted on Wednesday,’ Wilson said. ‘We are now back to our original understanding, and I would strongly urge all to adhere by what has been voted. But do not place into the vote other things which were not listed in the vote. We need to be fair, we need to be open, and we all need to accept what is voted at a General Conference session.’

“Wilson asked division presidents to clarify the meaning of Wednesday’s vote in their territories.”

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2015-07-10/gc-president-says-ordination-vote-doesnt-change-current-policy/ (emphasis added)

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