Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden Votes to Stop All Pastoral Ordinations

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden announced today that like Norway and Denmark and Belgium-Luxembourghave done, the Swedish Union of Churches Conference will cease ordaining pastors. In the notice posted on the union's website, the rationale was given that all pastors [male and female] will be equal. The move comes in response to the General Conference vote in San Antonio, Texas against allowing the Adventist Church's thirteen divisions to make provision for the ordination of women.

The Swedish Union issued this statement along with the announcement in both Swedish and English:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden Decides on Equality among Pastors For more than 40 years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden has followed Adventist theologians’ ongoing study concerning the role of women as church leaders. These studies of the Bible and Ellen G. White’s writings and example confirm that women are called by God to spiritual leadership. This has impacted Church policy and made it possible for women to be ordained as local church elders since 1975; and since 1992 women have, as in early Adventist history, been given credentials to work as pastors.1 But in regard to the question of ordination of women to pastoral ministry, the worldwide body of Adventists has not been able to reach consensus.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden accepts the General Conference Session’s decision voted in San Antonio in 2015 not to allow the divisions to make provision for the ordination of women within their territories. However, the decision has not solved the problem of inequality in the way we treat our pastors. In Sweden this inequality is seen by many as being unethical and discriminatory and can be questioned from a legal point of view thus jeopardizing confidence in our message and ministry. Out of respect for the General Conference Session’s decision, the executive board of the Swedish Union has decided to drop its long-standing request to allow for women to be ordained as pastors. With an attitude similar to the one which Jesus Christ demonstrated in leadership (Phil. 2:5, 6), and for the sake of the Church’s work in Sweden, we step down, placing all pastors on an equal footing by ceasing to ordain altogether.

We want to promote a spiritual climate which encourages all members to respond to God’s call to serve and to take advantage of the gifts of the Spirit to the church. We believe this gives the Seventh-day Adventist Church the optimal potential to fulfil its mission in Sweden.

Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28; NIV).

The discussion about spiritual leadership must be one about the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, servant leadership, and mutual subordination instead of power, authority, and headship. Based on Jesus’ teachings about servant leadership, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden wants to confirm the gifts of the Spirit to the church, plainly and appropriately. Those who respond to God’s call shall be given the trust to represent the Church and its mission and the credentials required to do so. The authority to conduct the Lord’s Supper, baptism and marriage ceremonies, installing elders and deacons, founding churches and leading the Church’s ministries, are functions of service rather than expressions of power or status.

We wish to follow the General Conference Working Policy in a way that promotes unity. In instances where policy is contradictory, we take the principle of equality and unity expressed in the Fundamental Beliefs, No. 14, as the starting point: “Differences between ... male and female, must not be divisive among us”. In other respects we want to encourage a form of installation which confirms the concept of the pastor as a servant among servants.

In light of this, we decide the following:

1. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden, all pastors, men and women, will be given the same credentials and designation which correspond to Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credentials in the Working Policy. The Ordained Minister Credentials will no longer be applied.

a. The following credentials will be given to pastors: Interns will be given ‘praktikantbefogenhet’ (Missionary License), pastors will first be given ‘lokal befogenhet’ (Commissioned Minister License), and then ‘nationell befogenhet’ (Commissioned Minister Credentials).2

b. After the period of internship is completed and approved, the pastor is given ‘lokal befogenhet’ and is installed through prayer by the congregation with a representative of the Union leadership present. After two years the ‘lokal befogenhet’ is exchanged for ‘nationell befogenhet’ if no objections arise.

c. Ordained pastors who are currently employed will be given ‘nationell befogenhet’ to achieve equality among the pastors.

2. ‘Nationell befogenhet’ gives the pastor the credentials needed to serve and lead in the Seventh- day Adventist Church in Sweden.

3. This regulation is valid until the General Conference creates a new and mutual policy for the accreditation of pastors which fully confirms the gifts of the Spirit to the church through all those whom God calls and equips for ministry, in accordance with the fundamental principles of unity and equality in the Fundamental Beliefs (No. 14 and 17) and Working Policy (BA 60 05 och BA 60 10).

____________________________

  1. In early Adventist history several women were licensed to preach and be evangelists. Ellen G. White held credentials as an ordained minister even though she was not formally ordained by the laying on of hands.
  2. According to Working Policy the practical difference between the ‘license’ and ‘credentials’ can be described in general terms as rights and duties limited to the local church(es) to which the pastor is assigned and rights and duties valid throughout the Union, respectively.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7364
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Thanks God, injustice is the last thing the church has to support

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The issue is more than WO, The issue is the heavy hand of central Leadeship. One phrase lingers as a challenge —“Dire Consequences” It is going to be a Rocky 4 more years. tZ

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Tom
It appears that “Dire Consequences” turns out to be that Pastoral Leadership is no longer unethical and discriminatory. All pastors are placed on an equal footing. Pastoral Leadership confirms the concept of the pastor as a servant among servants, and no longer Headship and Power.
A TRUE Setting Apart.
It is TIME for the North American Division to do the same.

3/15 Edit-- Global Transferability.
This is VERY EASY to do. Other Unions [or Divisions] can just make a statement that Pastor’s credentials from these various Unions will be recognized as valid in their Union [or Division]. No different than a Professional person with a license to practice moves from State to State or Country to Country.

3/16 Edit – Nymous you MISSED IT AGAIN!
AHHHHHH! YES!
One person cannot be Everything.
But it is God who decides what Body role a Body Part is to be and NOT man through restrictive church policies.

The Church SHOULD be an Equal Opportunity organization. It should be an organization which promotes, which fosters the complete development of the person. It should be a place where talents and abilities are encouraged and given opportunity to grow and multiply. A place where Hidden Gifts are discovered and encouraged.

Do any of you enjoy watching movies or plays that are based on the life-styles of the British homes in the middle to late 1800s? It is interesting to see what roles Women were allowed to have in the home and in the community. It is also interesting to understand how Men viewed women when they wanted to have the Vote both here in American and in Great Britain. If one notices, the Seventh day Adventist church has not moved into the 20th Century, much less into the 21st Century yet in regards to the allowable roles of women in the Church. There is still the 19th Century mind-set of women’s roles.

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“Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden Votes to Stop All Pastoral Ordinations”
Spectrum, reported:
“In Sweden this inequality is seen by many as being unethical and discriminatory and can be questioned from a legal point of view thus jeopardizing confidence in our message and ministry.”

One of my favorite saying in Swedish is Cow in the ice“Ingen ko på isen” – There’s no cow on the ice. “This is a popular saying in Sweden, which quite simply means “Don’t worry”. It remains unknown how often Swedish cattle are milling about on frozen lakes, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to understand that a cow on ice would be definitely worth worrying about.

How long before WE in the USA decide and do something to remedy what many of us consider as “being unethical and discriminatory and can be questioned from a legal point of view thus jeopardizing confidence in our message and ministry”?

Is the USA-Adventist church the moral and ethical equivalent of the “the cow in the ice”?

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Almost forty years ago, as the women’s ordination issue was beginning to percolate in the General Conference and Sligo Church, I asked Elder Neal Wilson how long it would take to move from ordaining women elders to ordaining pastors. We had just learned that he supported the position that ordination must be a decision of the world-wide church (to preserve unity). His answer shocked me, particularly since only six years earlier, while serving in the Atlantic Union, the Southern New England conference had already voted to ordain women as local elders in their churches.

“At least fifty years,” he said.

I realized then and there that this was a political and theological mistake of enormous proportions, a mistake his own son has reaped and now perpetuates. In the past 40 years, with unprecedented political and leadership ineptness, church officials at the highest level have done almost nothing to educate the world field on this issue and how to read and interpret the Bible and Ellen White with greater insight. A long-time friend and scientist/theologian told me over lunch two weeks ago that he has “given up” and no longer considers himself an Adventist. “When in a General Conference Session my church would ‘write off’ half the world’s population, that did it for me,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Church growth” has to mean more than adding numbers to the rolls. It MUST also mean that those on the rolls grow in tolerance, understanding and biblical literacy. If the former continues to be done without the latter, this church will never fulfill its gospel mission. Right now it is failing, not only on this issue but on a range of other important issues, sadly.

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As long as the homiletics remain the same, it will not make much difference if 50% of SDA pastors were female or 100%.
Edit:

What is the chief reason that people go to church AND continue to attend?
What is the main attraction? Music, fellowship, entertainment? People can stay home or go to a concert and listen to music. People can go to a sporting event, bar, club or other social event for fellowship. People can and often do watch TV or movies for entertainment.
What is the main impact or influence of a pastor on those who sit in pews?
The SERMON.
Why do people go to church? To be transformed so as to escape Hell.

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I like Sweden’s stance, except that this part:

While the vote didn’t move authority to the Divisions within the church to approve who is ordained, it is also important to note that really what happened is that the vote didn’t move authority. Full stop.

Upon checking the church manual, we find that the authority has always and continues to be held by the Unions. The WO vote didn’t change that.

Nice try Ted.

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I think that over time more and more conferences and unions are going to refrain from ordination and substitute another means of recognizing the call of God whether male or female since the GC refuses to address the contradictory and ambiguous language in the Working Policy. No consensus came from the TOSC and zero from the SA simple majority vote and conviction can’t rest in lack of consensus.

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it would be interesting to know how delegates who voted “no” in san antonio feel, now that time has shown that the unity they may have thought they were voting for doesn’t seem to be materializing…is it the case that the uniformity policy behind the no-vote has led to greater unity than the diversity policy behind a yes-vote, outlined in Acts 15:6-21, would have achieved…would a yes-vote really have led to greater fracture than we’re seeing now…

i think it must be concerning for those who care about our church to see the constant drip-drip of lip service to the san antonio vote that in reality is a studied departure from that vote…and can that no-vote have been correct, given that it is the institution of the general conference itself that appears to be losing respect…indianapolis 2020 may very well need to be about finding a way to undo the damage caused by san antonio 2015, which really means the decade spanning these two general conferences has not been about forward motion, but the futile spinning of wheels…as i see it, action taken that results in the destruction of the body taking that action, cannot be correct…

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Once again Europe and Scandinavia lead the way in the area of

  1. Ethics
  2. Unity
  3. Solutions
  4. Equality
  5. Spiritual Gifts

Ripple effects from San Antonio continue to show a serious problem with the handling of this issue by leadership.

It is true that this vote had long-term and serious repercussions on women currently dedicated to spiritual leadership, the upcoming Millennial generation of Adventists, as well as those like the scientist/theologian who cannot ethically belong to a group that discounts half the population and more like 65% of the Church’s membership.

While church leaders may feel they pulled off some kind of victory in San Antonio, they did not. Articles like this and stories like Dr. Londis’s will continue. The Church will be stunted in its mission. Young people gifted with the Spirit for leadership will be impacted, and many, like the population of Sweden, will see church “rules” prohibiting the participation of women in ordained spiritual leadership as unethical, discriminatory, illegal, and not something of spiritual value.

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You have used a capital letter in your post (Acts 15:6). Please be consistent in your policy of not using capital letters in your posts (which I quite like generally).

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Great to see authentic gospel witness in Sweden too…Rene G.

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How ironic that the world church began in North America as once the leader but now all the rest of the westernized church is now the tail being led by the Europeans who were first recipients of the American Adventist missionaries.

The leaders here were very negligent in educating third world Adventists of the message Jesus brought: all are equal in His sight; there are no second-class members or positions based on ethnicity or gender. The NT examples are abundantly clear on full equality for all. When any church fails to follow their Master’s teaching and example, they can no longer be called His true church here on earth; knowing that in heaven there will be no second classes where all will be equals.

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So. These conferences are saying that ordination really doesn’t mean anything. Pastors can do their job without it. That affirms what GC policy already is–pastors do not need to be ordained “to the Gospel Ministry.” They just need to be ordained as elders–something already allowed to women. This is the elephant in the room that the Theology of Ordination Study Committee never talked about.

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Well, satan doesn’t care whichever way we go. He is trying to stir up this church. Whether it’s women’s ordination issue or other issues that we humans fall into his trap. From what I see and the way Ellen White writes, this is a sign of the second coming soon. I am not surprised at all. The bottom line is that once the GC has voted on an issue that’s it. I believe that God has lead His church in the past and he will lead it to the truth to the end. No matter what some individuals or pastors have in mind in undermining the decision and dividing the church. It’s almost like a repeat of 1888 times. Focus on the issues brethren, we should focus on the righteousness by faith in Christ not worrying whether women are being ordained or not. It’s quite clear, that some of us are wasting time and energy in undermining the Word by trying to conform to the world by being politically correct according to the world’s standards. Follow the Word and with sincere and playful hearts. Wake up and focus your energy in evangelizing and hastening His return. I pray that the Holy Spirit will stir our hearts in the right direction.

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“I pray that the Holy Spirit will stir our hearts in the right direction.”

We just seem to disagree which direction is “correct”, Remnant, which is what the whole issue is really about.

This “issue” is not going away and it doesn’t have anything to do with Satan “trying to stir up this church”. It has more to do with allowing the Spirit to lead the various unions, etc., to make the best decisions for their places and cultures in the world. Otherwise, the SDA church appears to have a serious integrity problem (which some of us believe it does)…when it ignores its own biblical scholars and decide to make it into a trumped-up voting session.

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There is much more to it. Women pastors have ministry gifts well beyond preaching. We need those gifts.

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Whether or not the delegates at San Antonio realized it, what they actually voted on wasn’t about women in pastoral ministry - it was about whether women can be Conference Presidents or higher, within the church administration.

The reason for this is pretty clear to anybody who actually knows church policy. There is already policy in place to allow the commissioning of women pastors, and all a commissioned pastor cannot do as compared to an ordained one, is be a Conference President or higher.

When viewed this way, the San Antonio decision was gender discrimination pure and simple. If the various government authorities in the US actually knew or cared about what had really happened there, the church would now be facing a slew of legal action for gender discrimination.

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In many ways I see this move by the Swedish Union as positive! I see the move to grant the commissioned credential to individuals more or less automatically after two years of obtaining a commissioned licence as useful to prevent discrimination and favouritism in the case of certain individuals.

Yet this is not a final solution to ordination issues among Adventists!!

Problems of Global Transferability
The present global system of ordination ensures global transferability. This means that those who are commissioned are not as easily transfered because the present global system of commissioned only provides a commission to serve within the local union. Commissioning really has little or no meaning in a total global sense. It seems to me that the move by Adventists in Sweden will only complicate the potential service of Inter-Divisional Employees [missionaries] proceeding from Sweden to other unions.

If not Global, then Local and Repeatable
This is one additional reason why in the absence of global uniformity on ordination issues, which never has looked likely among Adventists, our global faith communion should at the very least investigate the possibility of developing and implementing a system of ‘appointment’ for each specific role an individual of whatever gender undertakes. Such an appointment would be signified by an associated rite of appointment. Such rites of appointment would be repeatable as and when an individual moves to a new sphere of responsibility.

Advantages of Local and Repeatable Rites of Appointment for Adventist Leaders
The real advantage of such rites is that such rites could be made culturally and situationally appropriate. I do not believe in “once ordained, always ordained” as if ordinands were sealed in their foreheads with the mark of the beast.