The Adventist Church is Led by Old White Men

Am I the only one kind of unfazed by the pronouncements and decisions made at Annual Council last week? Or maybe I'm just jaded? I don't know.

We have a church that is, in my opinion, almost too organized and very hierarchical, with a bunch of old White men in leadership positions and not enough representation of POC (people of color) and women making decisions that will affect the 20 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide. I know that there were ethnic delegates. I know that the resistance against women’s ordination comes mostly from our Latin and African brethren. However, the senior administration of the church is very homogeneous, at least in terms of age and gender and thinking. And I do not have stats, but I'm sure that if we are talking about voting members and delegates, it's not representative of at least the gender diversity in our church.

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ — regardless of gender, race, nationality, or differences in opinion. But representation matters, and when it comes to GC leadership and conference leadership and division leadership and union leadership, the representation is not there. Leadership — I'm not talking delegates, but there are problems there, too — is not reflective of our diversity. And it's a shame because we are one of the most diverse denominations in the world.

Our church is steeped in patriarchy and colonialism; for example, the idea that quiet, less exuberant forms of worship is the only right way to worship, and the tacit discrimination against female clergy members that ensures that administrative and senior leadership positions remain inaccessible to them.

And then there's the doublespeak and doublethink — we can have ordained female elders but not ordained female pastors. We'll have commissioned female pastors but not ordained female pastors — even though the work is the same. We'll look down on people who go shopping or go to the amusement park after church on Sabbath, but we'll schedule alllllll of our many committee meetings during Sabbath hours. We'll smile at you during the welcome song but we'll excoriate you during nominating committee meetings. We preach self-crucifixion ("die daily to the flesh") and yet so many people (read: pastors) hold onto their egos for dear life, to the detriment of the people they are called to serve. We're so good about not eating pork, but when it comes to things that matter — like taking a stand on moral and social issues and doing advocacy, making sure our churches are safe spaces for children and people of all walks of life — we are suddenly silent. We are impotent.

What I see is a church that insists on doing things a certain way because that's how it's always been done (cue 1888 theme). I feel like half of the things we do as a church don't even make sense.

As a young woman, as a Millennial, as a POC, as somebody who (at least I'd like to think) has some progressive, albeit provocative beliefs, I've been feeling like an internally displaced Adventist for quite some time now. I'm not even surprised by any of the decisions made. It's business as usual as far as I'm concerned.

What was said at Annual Council last week does not change how I worship, or the plans that God has for my life or any calling that He has bestowed or plans to bestow. It doesn't change or challenge my relationship with Christ. And, last I checked, it's allegiance to Christ and not membership in a church that is the prerequisite for heaven.

The Church can say whatever it wants to say. My allegiance is to Christ. And while one would hope that the church would reflect Christ, well... the church is not Christ.

Simone Samuels B.A., LL.B., B.C.L, is an ordained elder, a writer, a speaker, a YouTuber, a former public servant, a group fitness instructor and most importantly a child of God. She’s single (hey!). In her spare time, she likes to read, write, cook, and pontificate.

Image: Executive Committee Members gathered at the Battle Creek Tabernacle for worship on Sabbath, October 13, 2018, during Annual Council 2018. Photo credit: / Brent Hardinge / Adventist News Network

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Reminds me of a trip to Paris years ago, with my two teenage daughters.
We were there on Christmas Eve and went to the midnight mass at NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL—- not because we were devout Catholics, but to hear the sublime music.

A packed congregation forced us to stand at the very rear, in front of the sixty foot high entrance doors.

On the stroke of midnight, the doors swung open, pushing us to the side.
In swept the crimson cloaked Cardinal, followed by his retinue.
Not a single nun, not even Mother Teresa, in that processional.

My astute sixteen year old daughter acerbically remarked
”Just like the Adventist Church, Dad, No women!”

No wonder the millennials exit in droves.

Not only are they raised egalitarian, with high regard for their mothers, sisters and female cousins, but their bright minds demand avant garde, cutting edge, church management, not the medieval mindset displayed by our “old white men”


Well written. Great insight.
As Simone brought out, so many ways to worship in other Christian communities
are spoken of as “Satanic worship” by SDA members. This includes so many
pleasant sounding musical instruments. What we need is the Singer of Israel –
King David. HE KNEW HOW TO WORSHIP!! Read the Psalms.
Yes! The church is Not Christ. Its members are only called to Reflect, Imitate Christ.


I am really sad with this thought. We are a church, not a country. We are not led by man, but by God. When the leaders decisions coincides with your opinion, then they are chosen by God. But when the votes are against your heart, they become a form of patriarchy and colonialism. These therms, used frequently by the left, just shows us the great problem with our church: people are concerned with rights, not with what is right. Just a reminder from Ellen White:
The Lord never blesses him who criticizes and accuses his brethren, for this is Satan’s work. - Manuscript 21, 1894.
Let’s stop with this revolutionary mind and remind the first revolutionary and the consequence of the revolution.


As a younger white male, I’m feeling a bit racially profiled. Samone, you are making an accusation that is not necessarily true. The administrators in my conference are African American, Hispanic, and a White female but most would say I serve in a “white” conference. The elders in the churches I lead are multicultural, white being a minority. I have a Hispanic wife with multi cultural kids. Please don’t profile me because I happen to be born as a male with white skin. Ted Wilson and his crew don’t represent me. We are not all who you think we are.


Why do you drag petty political constructs and adversarial language into the conversation?

Your statement is contradictory and misleading.
On the one hand you say the church is led by God and then say leaders decisions which implies men lead the church. Which is it?

Like so many your use of EGW is specious and out of context…again…sigh.

What is the core issue?
The leaders have by both written and verbal statements declared that the Holy Spirit cannont select whom He will for service by declaring females ineligible for service and boldly denying them, for generations, recognition of God’s calling publicly. They have also declared that GC Policy can over-rule the Holy Spirits choice of whom to serve and now are in direct opposition to Him through this decision. The core issue here can be summed up in two key points:

a) does the Holy Spirit call whom He wishes to His service
b) does GC policy voted into place over-rule the Holy Spirits choice and by extension empower the GC to deny public recognition of person who has been chosen

Can we answer with a simple YES or NO to these questions, without resorting to misdirection and obfuscating?


You condone the discrimination of women? As right?



We cannot pontificate that the Adventist organization is led by old white men and yet be disappointed that the recent compliance policy was voted in by leaders from Africa and South America, in the main…

The truth is that Adventist organizational leadership is predominantly led by men, particularly with regard to the General Conference. But many of them are not white men. For example, the GC General Vice Presidents - one is Mexican, one is Argentinian, one is Russian, two are African, two are American - one is an old white man, the other an African-American lady. (The Afrcan-American man that was there was put out to pasture).


But we can rue the fact that the majority of voters by far were men and that the head of the international organization is outspoken on his personal opinion, has issued threats about the consequences, and has shaped and framed the agendas, questions for voting, and discussions. He has also profited on cultural mores that expect affirmation of the “leader” and those that require delegates to vote in blocks.

Black blocks, white blocks, Hispanic blocks, Asian blocks. The common denominator is that the voters were predominantly men because EXCOM’s union presidents must have ordination credentials and that’s where the gender discrimination comes in.

No matter where you try to slice and dice this decision, women are sidelined from leadership and membership on these committees because of their gender. Period.


Agreed Harrpa!!

I wonder why electonic voting was not used in Battle Creek.

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i think she covered that:

one of the many good things obama did was to try to assemble people who looked like america in the white house…that goal of reflective diversity is one that the GC would be wise to adopt…of course it’s kind of hard to do that when administrative advancement depends on ordination, which depends on gender…

i can’t say i understand how ella simmons got to be GC vice president (although she’s obviously very qualified)…either it’s because ella sounds like ellen, or GC vice presidents don’t need to be ordained…


I asked him the simple questions regarding this and he won’t answer them.


I am old white guy. I am wondering why your comment isn’t racist and sexism? So these terms only work one way? I am calling you out because I just don’t like “double standards.”
I am an old white guy that feels that it isn’t an explicit scriptural right of female pastors but there are times and situations they should be allowed.
I have brought up the name Roger Nicole multiple times. He was a “Reformed Baptist” brilliant egalitarian and an old white guy. Your anger and filters don’t help your purpose but defeat it. This should not become a battle of the sexes. That is actually a part of the potential problem that prevents!


This is a key word, Patrick, in your posting. Why should men “be allowed”? Who does the “allowing”? There isn’t an explicit scriptural right of male pastors to be ordained. Unless you are Catholic, which is where ordaining men and “allowing” came from in the first place.

“Allowing” a female to act in certain situation and times or as you said “should be allowed” is pretty much sexism.


Ok, Harpa. Please show me your scriptural evidences for women Bishops and church Overseers. I will then return to the comment of allowing…which I believe.

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Show me your scriptural evidences for ordained males.

“Allowing” women to do smacks of a power move in which men decide what women can and cannot do.

If you are concerned about bishops, pontiffs, cardinals and nuns, consult our Catholic friends. That’s where “ordaining,” the topic at hand, originated.



I refer you to 1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1 ? Or, is that simply out of date?


Even more ancient writings from Joel about the last days.

Then Galatians setting down principle.

But this is not productive. You believe in “allowing” gender discrimination in the name of God.


Not sure what that means Harpa but in terms of Biblical exegesis…nothing. Again this is not a battle of the sexes which you seem to seek. Rather, a particular need at a particular time and place for women in ministry.


For me, unity in ‘the church’ lies in unity of purpose, - essentially in (i) focusing on Christ and what He stands for, (ii) on developing a personal/individual relationship with Him, (iii) praying for and being led by the Holy Spirit, and (iv) letting the Bible be our ultimate guide.

Does it say anywhere in the Bible that ‘the church’ is supposed/expected to be an organization with a hierarchical structure, written rules and regulations, and bosses to enforce these rules and dish out punishment to those who do not ‘comply’?

Can anyone give me a text in the Bible that clearly and explicitly states that females cannot serve as pastors? Does EGW clearly and explicitly state, anywhere in her writings, that women cannot, should not serve as ‘ordained’ pastors? Who bestows the spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians 4? Is it the not Holy Spirit itself? Can the church over-rule the Spirit?

The church, as an organization, it seems to me, is a human construct and, as such, a ‘convenient tool’ subject to the flaws and failings of human beings. The Bible instructs us, each one individually, to follow the Holy Spirit and, above all, keep our eyes fixed on Christ. The church should always reflect this, - being Christ-like.