Southern Union President's Council Votes to Uphold Ordination Protest

On September 27, 2015, the Southern Union’s President’s Council voted to approve the appeal of two local pastors, Pastor Furman Fordham II and Pastor Kymone Hinds, who are protesting the discriminatory practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church against female clergy. The appeal requests that their status as ordained pastors would be waived in favor of taking on the classification of commissioned ministers (a classification traditionally reserved for female clergy). Pastor Hinds of the Overton Park SDA Church in Memphis, TN, explains, “When I look at the statement our church has made, saying that women are fit to be trained, women are fit to preach, and women are fit to pastor, but women are unfit to receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts, it is clear to see that we have an inequality issue.”

This type of protest is not the first of its kind. Over the past ninety days, multiple pastors throughout the western hemisphere have opted to take on the classification of commissioned ministers in order to bring more attention to the decades-old “glass ceiling” that has been placed over female, Adventist clergy. In his official letter to the South Central Executive Committee, Pastor Fordham of the Riverside Nashville Church in Nashville, TN, argues, “This request is based primarily upon my personal conviction that we have ‘arbitrarily determined’—without any biblical basis—that certain functions can only be performed by, and certain offices can only be held by, ordained ministers; and since by policy we do not ordain women, they are prohibited from performing these functions and from serving in these offices.”

Protests like these have grown in popularity since the delegates of the 60th General Conference Session “turned down a motion that would have allowed each division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to decide for itself whether [or not] to ordain women to the gospel ministry.”1 Although the July 8, 2015 vote attempted to end the debate on women’s ordination, local pastors are discovering creative ways to stand in solidarity with female clergy as women continue to fight for equal standing within the denomination. Pastor Hinds comments, “God was showing me something that wasn’t right, and here is something I can do to express my solidarity with my sisters in ministry.” Pastor Fordham’s official letter echoes these sentiments:

According to our church policy there are only four differences between ordained (male) ministers and commissioned (female) ministers. The differences are that only the ordained can: 1) serve as president of a conference or union; 2) participate in the ordination of local elders, deacons and deaconesses; 3) participate in the portion of [the ordination ceremony] where the ordained pastors lay hands on the ordinand(s); and 4) organize churches. . . This means that by policy we currently allow women (commissioned ministers) to serve as senior pastors of our churches, presidents of our [educational] institutions, and even as general vice-presidents of our world church, but we deny them the opportunity to serve as conference and union presidents because we have “arbitrarily determined” that these offices can only be held by the ordained and we don't ordain women. In my humble opinion, that is institutional discrimination.”

Both pastors are hoping that this bold step leads to other bold steps being made in support of combating discrimination against women within the denomination. Pastor Hinds entreats, “Adventism is a movement that follows God’s leading and speaks for truth . . . so, if we are not going to make our sisters equal with us, I want to stand with them where they are. We challenge others to take their own bold and courageous step towards gaining equality for our sisters in ministry.”

1McChesney, A., & Paseggi, M. (2015, July 8). Delegates Vote ‘No’ on Issue of Women’s Ordination. Retrieved from: http://www.advenistreview.org.

Michael Polite is a blogger and freelance writer. He is also the Lead Pastor of the New Life Fellowship and Associate Chaplain of Andrews University. You can read more of his articles on www.30withbraces.com.

Photo Credit: www.riversidenashville.org and www.opconnects.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7114
1 Like

Thank you, Pastor Furman Fordham II and Pastor Kymone Hinds, for your support of non-discrimination of women in spiritual leadership.

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Thank you Pastor Fordham and Pastor Hinds.
I live in the Southern Union.
It is time the Southern Union Conference presidents recognized that when some group of Guys wrote the First Chapter of Genesis, and said God created “Man”, they were saying Mankind was created in the Image of God, and all God did was just give some male apparatuses and some female apparatuses, but BOTH were in the Image of God and BOTH were equal.
It is Time for the Southern Union MEN to stand up and Vote that Discrimination is performing a dis-service to the Creator of Beings in His Image.
This discrimination of Women is really a slap in the face of Jesus Christ, who the New Testament says was the Real Creator. Saying that Jesus Christ made a MISTAKE when He created a Woman Human. That the Woman Human Jesus Christ created is Defective.
It is TIME that the Leaders in the Southern Union take a stand, make a resolution to give Full honor to Jesus Christ our Creator, by declaring with Jesus Christ when He created Woman, that she is Good, she is Very Good.
EDIT-- Someone suggested beginning a grass roots event where Women of the Church become “Silent”. Resign from their positions – Sabbath School [children, adult], Deaconesses, Greeters, Organist, Choir Director – maybe choir member, etc. I see this as difficult to initiate. 1. Most women of the church have been programmed [brain washed] to understand that it is ONLY MEN who can have responsible positions in the church, that is DEACONS, ELDERS, PASTORS. 2. Only a very few of the women, at least in North American have ever wanted to be a pastor, so 99.9% of the women of the church cannot understand WHY a Woman would WANT to become a church pastor.
The idea sound good, but only a few churches would have women who would consider this idea having any merit. The husbands would rebel. And in a couple of weeks the women would be back to “work”.

EDIT-- The Best Move toward equalization and to not go appear going against the GC Directives is to follow in the foot steps of our brothers and sisters in the Netherlands and Denmark.

  1. Just have Pastors and Interns.
  2. Create a Blessing Ceremony instead of an Ordination Ceremony.
  3. Create a Policy that allows any Pastor to be eligible for consideration of any office in the Southern Union Territories.
    4.Work with other Unions in the North American Division, and possibly Unions in other Division for Reciprocity of Pastors and Interns to accept positions from one Union/Conference/Division to another as positions occur in those areas.
  4. Encourage Division Leadership to create Policies that allow for any Pastor to be eligible for any position in the North American Division without being called “Ordained.” This would include Division President.
7 Likes

I appreciate the courage and the self-sacrificing spirit of our male pastors who continue show their support for their female colleagues. I hope many more will follow their example so that God’s plan for both men and women to share in spreading His Gospel will be followed.

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I believe going the way of ‘commissioning’ is a positive route which will be taken more often by thoughtful pastors, and upheld by parts of the world as we see now in Scandinavia. The argument that ‘commissioning’ will hold back these in ministry from promotions which require an ‘ordination’ certificate might be pretty feeble, considering the numbers. Could someone with better access than I add this up? How many positions in conferences, unions, divisions, and the GC require the ordination certificate? What percentage of all ordained/licensed/credentialed persons is this? As to the job duties ‘permitted’ (laying hands on other people, performing baptism, etc) nothing forbids any follower of Christ from doing those things, particularly as Christ commissioned all believers to go, teach, make disciples, and baptize. Certainly his command trumps church tradition - it does for me, anyway, and I wouldn’t and haven’t hesitated to do those things. Of course those ‘outside church structure’ don’t get into the denominational census bean count, but hey! God knows.

6 Likes

Great move, but it is time to look beyond policy to the the Biblical view that formed LGT, which is at the heart of the entire ego centric leadership. When Grace is interpreted as privilege it is time to take a walk. Tom Z

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I attempted a count of that very thing recently. Out of a church of 18+ million members approx 386 positions currently require an ordination certificate.
What will really blow your mind is the extension of that fact.
Next question is how many of those 18 million members will vote for a woman candidate as President etc? 20%? Lets say so for an example. So 20% of 386 is 77.
77 is the number of positions where a woman would conceivably even be in contention for the job. Most in Europe and the NAD yet within those places are also places where people disagree on WO so all of the 77 are not a given that women would be elected given other equally viable candidates. Just because a woman is a viable candidate is not the same thing as saying the best one for the particular job but lets be generous and say that 50% are the best for the job. That makes 38 positions.
Next comes the realization that all the extraneous hyperbole of splitting the church and Unions going against the world church is over 38 potential jobs.
The next realization is that the 38 jobs isnt the real issue. Its not that 38 female Presidents will fix the church, fix the world, all the invisible angels will sing Ave Maria and then Christ will come. Its an idea… an abstraction that causes the rabid bomb throwing attitudes. A perceived injustice. Yet that perceived injustice isn’t a new thing. It has been that way since before the old testament writings. So why the gnashing of teeth in the last 100 years? The rise of Secular Humanism. The atheistic concept that my God is like this, (A,B,C) or he isnt worthy of my worship or full on atheism that says, “I dont need religion to be my source of right and wrong. I have my own sense of right and wrong and what I think is…”

1 Like

Bravo to these brave pastors of color, who unlike their white counterparts maybe more discerning of discrimination when they see it!

In fairness, many white pastors especially in Europe have taken similar action.

My only fear is that by taking voluntary demotions and “kicking themselves downstairs” they impoverish themselves of future promotions. They make themselves vulnerable to being black listed, boycotted, and labeled as “troublemakers”.

Rather than subjecting our courageous pastors to such future blackmail, let us institute widespread voluntary DEMOTIONS by church MEMBERS—our WOMEN,

The Headship Dogma devotees base their discrimination of women on Pauline texts which are explicitly clear: women are to be silent in church, nor have “authority” over men . All women sabbath schools superintendents and teachers, including the tiny tots “cradle roll” are in flagrant disregard of this proscription. Including women who read the scripture or responsive reading, or pray during the worship hour. Our women organists and choir conductors make more “noise” than any other participants, male or female, during worship hour.
LET ALL OF THEM RESIGN – THEY NEED TO BE “SILENT” IN THE SANCTUARY.
The Headship Dogma devotees are selectively discordant in their application of the Pauline texts. (Also dismayingly discordant in their application of scripture in general-- They should be stoning gays in the church parking lot, and reverting to slave ownership if they wish to “slavishly” adhere to every morsel of Paul’s messages.

They should be burning EGW’s TESTIMONIES TO THE CHURCH, filled with authoritarian pronouncements to male Adventists of the day, resulting in the ruin of many reputations.
Males from pubescent boys ( warned against masturbating) to prominent professionals like Dr Kellogg were under her sway.
Also she was NEVER SILENT but vociferously voluble in many churches over many decades and continents.

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The whole idea of headship=ordination is strangely applied when a woman can serve as president of a University and not of a local conference - especially when one considers that the universities are training those who will eventually serve as conference presidents. Consider the woman who can serve as the pastor of a church congregation but she cannot plant/organize the church that she is then allowed to pastor. How does this make sense?

It is an impressive act of humility and justice on the part of those who are willing to shun “ordinations” in favor of “commissions”. My preference would be for all believers to shun the practice of “ordination” altogether (as it is currently defined and practiced), recognize no headship but that of Christ alone, and embrace a priesthood of all believers - not all believers as individuals, but all believers together functioning as one “body of Christ”.

We had ought to honor the early Quakers who embraced gender equality to the point where they were able to welcome (what they saw to be) a young female minister to their small city of Battle Creek so she and other pioneers could plant the Seventh-day Adventist church in that place.

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THANK YOU FOR YOUR COURAGE AND YOUR SUPPORT!!!
[yes, i am shouting this! :slight_smile: ]

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Another thank-you to pastors Furman Fordham II and Kymone Hinds!

When during the American Civil Rights movement our white, male leadership CRITICIZED involvement in protests for a more just America, black Adventist preachers like E. E. Cleveland and Charles Brooks broke with the leadership establishment and said Yes to witness for justice. For an illuminating account of all of this, see the book by Oakwood professor Samuel G. London, Jr., Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

It continues to be difficult for the most privileged in society (we white males are certainly among this group) to comprehend, in a full-blooded way, the pain that goes along with oppression. Or to comprehend the pro-justice message of the whole Bible story. What’s to be done?

I don’t know, or fully know. But I am grateful, certainly, to my brothers (whom I wish I knew) from the Southern Union.

Chuck

18 Likes

This needs to become a MOVEMENT! “Arbitrarily determined” and “institutional discrimination” hits the nail on the head. If this type of protest is not effective in bringing about equal treatment, can the church in the United States be suited for discrimination? The discriminatory actions in question are not based on official religious belief or church teaching, as has been made sufficiently clear by the TOSC and voted church decisions. Therefore, are actions that discriminate against women on something other than voted church teaching or belief even lawful? Would love to have the opinion of some of the lawyers on this thread.

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“The greatest want of the world is the want of [people] who will [take stands for what they think is right]…”

Who said something like that? Bravo to the courageous men who are standing for what they sincerely believe in their hearts to be right, regardless!

I, too, hope that this kind of protest can spread throughout the NAD. Peaceful resistance (as per Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.) has been shown time and again to be ultimately effective when reason or majority agreement has failed. The majority has rarely been known to vote to reverse discrimination. That is being demonstrated again in our denomination.

BTW, women pastors have been "allowed’ to conduct baptisms (at least in the NAD) for many years. I first observed this happen at least 20 years ago.

9 Likes

As they say at the end of an election ad: I APPROVE THIS MESSAGE! Thanks to these courageous men of God who are acting on conviction and the principle of fairness and equality. In any other sector, such practices of our church (i.e., ordination) would be considered discriminatory and legally actionable. It’s an open-shut “glass ceiling” case. Women pastors have the same responsibilities and expectations as their male counterparts, but are denied ordination SOLELY because of their gender. God is NOT pleased, and I would love to hear our church leadership’s rationalization before God on this matter in the judgment, with unordained EGW cross-examined as a star witness!

7 Likes

Thank you for standing up for Truth.

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I just want to commend both of these pastors on their brave and thinking outside of the box stand. I will certainly be sharing their act of defiance far and wide.

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We are seeing the makings of a Godly revolution and a growing solidarity in opening up to God’s inspiration that he does not make his blessings and callings on gender bounds. The notion that such is God’s will is a reflection of social bias that runs deep and taints the testaments.

The fact that the Southern Union is cracking on this issue is very telling and foreshadows that this church’s misogyny is in it’s death throws. There is no doubt God will prevail and that gender will be stricken from the gateway to privileged leadership in our lifetime.

Amen.

9 Likes

According to our Conference working policy, the original intent of the Commissioned License/Credential had nothing to do with women; but was a thinly disguised procedure for granting a special status to non ministerial positions such as “pastoral associates (the probable niche for women pastors), Bible workers, treasurers at the conference, union, and division levels, presidents and VPs of major institutions, auditors, and field representatives of Christian Record Services.” In other words there was no direct reference to or accommodation for women. I assume that actual practice has morphed the application of this policy without it being changed. While much has been said about the four prohibitions for a commissioned minister [as related to an ordained], not enough has been said about the questionable origins, theological implications, and low level of the Commissioned status, all of which makes our current practice of commissioning women in ministry even more discriminatory. I wish someone with more historical perspective would write on how Commissioned Credential/License was adapted as a substitute for women’s ordination. It might be a study of how yesterday’s solutions become tomorrow’s problems.

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Amen AND AMEN Again!

Thank you for your courageous and selfless act to defend God’s character, to uphold integrity, to stand for His justice, and for your bold stand to make history in His mighty name. To chose your reward in heaven rather than an earthy one is an act of His humility, righteousness and true servanthood. May God lift you both up in His blessings.

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