The Great Disappointment of 2015: The De-Valuing of Women

In the weeks leading up to today, October 22, 2015, I’ve seen numerous articles about the Great Disappointment of 1844 sprouting up around the Web. Some are humorous, others poignant and thought-provoking. Many mention the more recent heartache of the General Conference Session in San Antonio, that some are calling, aptly, “The Great Disappointment II.”

1844 seems a very long time ago. Trying to ponder an event that happened (or in this case didn’t happen) over 170 years ago is probably especially difficult for those of us who are only in our twenties and early thirties. On the surface, it seems so far removed from the church today. But in the aftermath of that day so many years ago, what those believers were feeling and experiencing is undoubtedly not so far removed from those of us who experienced #GCSA15. Granted, presumably none of the attendees at GC 2015 sold all their possessions and fields to take up the night watch. Those peripherals aside, I think the tears, the fear, and the wondering, “what just happened?” were present at both.

I had never been to a General Conference Session. I’d been told it was like a big campmeetinga reunion with people I hadn’t seen since childhood, a chance to see Adventists from around the world in their traditional attire, all of us celebrating together as one big happy family. All air and light and everything nice.

Thanks to this cotton candy-infused description, I was completely unprepared for my crash course in the dark side of Adventism: dirty politics, the boycotting of an expensive electronic voting system, and the multitude of delegates who arrived in San Antonio (all expenses paid by the GC, mind you), but couldn’t manage to find their way to the Alamodome to vote on important issues like youth ministries, missions, and the rewriting of our Fundamental Beliefs.

These were all disappointments over that 10-day period, but the most disheartening part of the Session for me was observing the lack of value placed on the women of our church. Delegates on the floor, individuals stopping by the Spectrum booth, and Adventists proclaiming “The Truth” over Twitter, reminded me and the other women present that the value a woman has to the church and to God is as a wife and mother. For women like me who are neither of these things, the message that we are worthless from those presuming to speak for the church was crystal clear.

I absolutely agree that being a wife and being a mother are high callings. The highest callings as one female delegate stated? For some women, perhaps. The only callings, as I was told repeatedly by well-meaning men (and a few women) throughout the course of the Session? On that, I will vehemently disagree. Not all women are called to be wives. Not all women--wives or otherwise--are called to be mothers. God’s blessings to women are not limited to these roles, and we do a disservice to the women in our church by perpetuating the belief within our homes, from our pews, and from our pulpits.

On the first Sabbath of General Conference, two young men, barely old enough to grow facial hair (and not old enough to do so very successfully) approached the Spectrum booth and zeroed in on the two youngest women there: me and our writing intern, Rachel. They had clearly come looking for a fight regarding women’s ordination and a woman’s role in general, and proceeded to throw mis-contextualized Bible verses and Ellen White quotes at us for the next 30 minutes.

One of them had brought his little sister, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, in tow, and she remained quiet (seen but not heard, as a woman should), partially hidden behind her brother. As the boys were losing steam with their antiquated arguments, I turned to the girl.

“What do you think about all this?” I asked.

She looked first to her brother and then to his friend before replying, “Well…as a woman, my role is as helper to the men.”

It broke my heart that a girl her age had already internalized the lie that she has no value outside of what has been defined for her by the men in her life.

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” I continued.

She seemed surprised to be asked, as if no one had ever posed this question to her before. Maybe no one had. She responded with, “Oh…I don’t know…I mean, I’ll be raising my kids, of course.”

The boys nodded in approval. But then she looked up shyly and added, “And…maybe…I’d like to be a nurse, too.”

The boys were less than thrilled with this off-script answer. “Those are both admirable goals,” I said. “It sounds like you’re very compassionate and have a heart for helping people.”

The boys ushered her away after that, and though they came back to the booth days later, to gloat about the women’s ordination vote, they didn’t bring her along this time. Too dangerous for her to be around an educated, single woman, perhaps. I wonder if that little girl even remembers our conversation now, over three months later. Even if she doesn’t, I hope she holds on to the idea that she can be and do anything she wants. That she’s not defined by what men or the church have told her; that she can decide her own goals for herself. God has given her talents that are uniquely hers, and He desires that she uses them. Those talents may be in the realm of child-rearing, or medicine, or rocket science, or preaching. I don’t know, and neither does the church. But what I do know is that no one should stand in her way or try to exert their will, or even more harmful, their idea of God’s will, over her.

A few short days after this incident, Women’s Ordination day was finally upon us. I inadvertently found myself sitting in what was clearly an anti-women’s ordination section of the Alamodome. As the day progressed, the level of vitriol toward not just the issue at hand, but women in general, became evident. Points of order were used as weapons to prevent supporters of women's ordination to speak. When Elder Jan Paulsen was given a reserved speaking spot, he was booed from the floor by delegates who were furious that he spoke in favor of ordaining women. Though everyone was asked numerous times not to clap when the decision was read, loud cheering and shouts broke out all around. It was the first time I’ve ever felt unsafe surrounded by people who profess to share my faith.

The fact that the women’s ordination vote has proven a catalyst for underhanded politics and threats against female ministers is very telling of the tumultuous state and waning mental health of our church. How quickly we forget that the Christian message of our risen Savior was built on the backs of women (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20) and our own Adventist denomination has the works of an ordained woman interlaced throughout our teachings, even permeating our Fundamental Beliefs which used to be (until about three months ago) sola scriptura.

Though the great disappointment of our ancestors and Adventist founders seems long ago, our fervent belief in our own rightness and righteousness is just as relevant today as it was then. The disappointment of 1844 was so great, it fractured the community of believers who had all stood united under an overarching belief in Jesus’ soon return. When they split apart, a new church, our church, rose from the ashes and declared itself the remnant, the chosen, the truth-holders.

When I look at the church today, I see fissures splitting open and deep divides appearing that threaten to split us apart again. Because of San Antonio, those on both sides of the women’s ordination issue have drawn battle lines and shout their rightness from the mountaintops. I think many expected the dust to settle by now on this issue, but if anything, the dust cloud seems to be getting larger, gaining momentum, and threatening to blind us all.

I don’t know what will happen. Maybe this merry band of believers will split apart--once again due to a disappointment too great to overcome. Maybe it should. The only thing I know for certain is that my patience with this devaluing of women in the name of God and Holy Scripture has officially run out.

I look around now, 171 years after Adventism began to take shape under the leadership of a woman, and I see the women of this church poised to take Adventism back. I see more and more men standing in solidarity with us, potentially sacrificing their own futures within our church for a cause they so fervently believe in, too. We are on the cusp of creating a better future for the church and all the young Adventist girls who have had their worth narrowly defined and their value reduced to a quantity that doesn’t threaten their male counterparts. The question now is: will there be enough women left in our church in the aftermath of the Great Disappointment II to answer the call?

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for writing, Alisa.

What do we do when our patience has expired? How do we care for ourselves, and still live out the callings that we have in or beyond communities that don’t make space for us?

I’m in your corner as you and others across the denomination work this out over the upcoming months and years. I would love to see what emerges from these “ashes.” Thanks again.


I appreciate your observations and along with you 100’s of other members were disappointed! It is appalling that our church is arguing about the value of women in this day and age! We should be the leaders in treating others just like Jesus did and would. He respected women and tried to show that they are equal and have value. He created women as the crowning act of creation to be equal and a team member with men. Anti womens ordination is nonsense!


Thank you for your article, I know my patience has run out.


I’ve been waiting fifty years for the church to fully recognize women. There was a time during my teen years when I planned to leave the church because of its treatment of women, but I decided to hang in there. Over the years, we made some progress–women elders-- and then women ministers. I figured ordination would eventually come as well. And then along came San Antonio–and not only San Antonio–suddenly some people were trying to roll back the progress we had already made. And so now at the age of 66, I have become much more active in promotion of women’s ordination. But I have to admit it’s very discouraging. I’ve done my best over the years in the church’s education system to promote equality of gender, and I hope I have made a difference.

By the way, I have been a wife for over 40 years and a mother of four grown kids. Yes, motherhood was a full-time occupation for me when my kids were preschool, but that time is only a small part of a woman’s life. I have been able to contribute quite a few years to Seventh-day Adventist education since then. My mother before me was a church school teacher and she was insistent that every woman needed a career, needed to be able to fend for herself if she needed to, and so my three sisters and I each chose a career, one of the smartest things we ever did!


Women are De-Valuing themselves when they cheaply allowed men to treat them like trash or dirt mats. It is time women with no excuses, where you always fail, believing that it is not Christ like, to getting get even with these idiots running your lives. The San Antonio episodes are pack of wolves running loose marking their masculinity on you with their incontinent brains. Church or no Church. Christ or no Christ. Enough is enough.


The episode you mention with the little girl and her two brothers really breaks my heart…Isn’t that more than just a sad exception? Isn’t that more something like the bad fruit of some other deeper problem inside our church? What is the real reason for this ignorance, pride and blindness?


No! People should not split apart. They should rather stay and fight this outrageous condition our church is being put through by a group of individuals that don’t have the ability or spiritual discernment to reject fanaticism and the shameful male dominance illness they call “headship.”

The main problem is the leadership (or better, lack of it) on the top. If Ted Wilson is the best person this Church can come up with to be its leader, then the Great Disappointment II will certainly be another nightmare for a long time.
Those who refuse perpetuating discrimination of women cannot leave the Church. Where would they go anyway? I think that if we are realistic, this headship issue may well be one of the Enemy’s tools being used to shoo people off the Church.

Let’s not give the Enemy the satisfaction of victory, let’s stay and fight the Enemy and those who are propagating and perpetuating his cause.


One joy in my life is having a library card and time to use it. A second book by Harper Lee, (author of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”) was on the shelf and no reservation list. With the title, “Go Set a Watchman”, it’s got plenty of descriptions of early 1950, small southern churches. They have already split hairs and are so rooted in their beginnings one could get a very accurate DNA sample from each hair to prove their individuality. So how do we get to the unique root of the SdA church? I was baptized in a hurry because 2 friends were scheduled, and I was jealous not to have been part of their plan. I didn’t read the fine print. And my parents never said anything about it. In grade school, there was a yearly play about the early church. I was asked to be Ellen Harmon/White and turned it down. Hiram Edson was a better fit. All the yearly school handbooks, with the rules backed up by quotes from Ellen G. White gradually helped me develop a split of my own mind. That’s not a tolerable state to live in. And I guess someone could point to any # that was printed weekly along with get your orange order in, Pathfinder meetings and all the other announcements, and rightly say I’d done the opposite. Except I hadn’t started to binge on coffee. It ended with a request from a pastor I’d never met asking me if I wanted to move my membership to the conference or remove my name as a non-attending ingathering burden. It became a money issue and it still is. Equal pay for equal work seems to threaten this church. And as Ronald Reagan said so eloquently, “A woman’s place is in the stove”.


George, you give sensible, but unrealistic advice. As one woman mentioned above, she’s now 66 and in all her time in the church it has moved forward but now is moving backward.

It is the same refrain heard so many times before and during Civil Rights: “Why don’t those protesting have more patience and in time, they will achieve all the rights they are now fighting for”. Thank goodness there were thousands that did not accept further delay and decided to take action.

Action can take many different paths, but the one that is now working is like conferences such as Washington (see the Spectrum site) where they have informed all constitutents that they will now give commissioned women all the same duties and responsibilities of ordained men. So, for Washington, they have declared equality conforming with the TOSC study that declare there was no scriptural reason that women should not be ordained.

Does anyone doubt more will follow Washington’s lead?


Yes, July 8, 2015 will go down in history as another “Great Disappointment”. The internal earthquakes that followed were far heavier than expected: hurt people, crushed hopes, destroyed motivation, and a considerably weakened church organization. No doubt, it was derogative towards women, it was theologically ill advised … and an eye opener to many (as the author of the essay points out … we also officially left the sola principle).

To be fair a few things ought to be mentioned as well:

  1. The outcome of the vote was not unexpected. Unexpected was the close outcome of the vote. In this it differed from Oct 1844. For me this is not so much a sign of hope, as it is a sign of the split our church is experiencing.
  2. Those opposed to women’s ordination would strongly disagree that they “de-value” women. On the contrary they honour them in their God given roles (or so they say). Apparently we were unable to counter this argument - perhaps focussing too hard on the Western thought of gender equality, rather than the concept of calling: God calls whomever he wants. In other words: we need to talk theology (and a little less anthropology) - if we can be so daring.
  3. While it is easy to blame certain people “at the top” for their manipualative behaviour (e.g. ignoring TOSC, when it didn’t provide the desired results, despite handpicking vocal, but unqualified opponents), we also need to ask for the systemic reasons of the mess … beyond a “leadership”.

This week as a very appropriate though unintentional commentary on the events the church was given Jeremiah 14 to read …

Thank you, Alisa, for your essay.


Paul a preacher, and an apostle ordained by God not man said," (I speak the truth in Christ; I lie not.)… I WILL THEREFORE ( BECAUSE HE SPEAKS THE TRUTH IN CHRIST AND LIES NOT) that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting…
and I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. stillness, (i.e. desistance from bustle or language)
Why did he say that? Well it just so happens that Paul through Christ who lies not tells us.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1Tim 2:7,8,12-15)
And that should be the end of it. WE might not like it, understand it, or agree with it; but there it is, a thus saith the Lord through a Preacher in Christ that lies not. Paul’s reasoning behind his statement nullifies any assertion. It is stated in context, in relation to our race and how we were made from the beginning. Paul said, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
If there would been another reason for him to make the statement he did he would of; because he speaks the truth in Christ and lies not. But he didn’t. He through the spirit did not say, " because we live in misogynistic society I recommend that women do not usurp authority over men because it will only cause problems."
So with what he said being plainly written and easily understood we move forward weather we like it, understand it, or agree with it. That is faith and that is where we are to stand. Not in our own reasoning and logic.

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Alisa, are you ready to throw the towel in and just give up on the Adventist church? I do not believe that. You are having a “lovers quarrel” and your continued care patience and love is extraordinary and appreciated. I found inspiration and hope in your article.

Now, do me a favor, please! Take your hand and place it over your heart. Feel that? That’s your purpose; you woke up breathing this morning for a reason. Do Not Give Up. We have all heard that old saying, “when there’s a will there’s a way”.
Life in this world and in this church is not going to be easy; if it was, would it really be worth it? Live your life: the good and the bad. With every up and down on the roller-coaster of life, as individuals and as a church we can and we must learn lessons that will have us respect each other as equals.

One of the hardest decisions you and I will ever face is deciding if we should give up or give it one more try. I promise you – if you pick yourself and try again, one day – maybe not today or tomorrow or even within the week, but one day – things will start to get better. They did for me as soon as I read your inspiring article this morning.

Alisa, here’s something that works for me. The minute I think of giving up, I also think of the reason I held on so long. Why? What? How? And now I will think about you wrote in this article. The point is, that you are not alone. What you shared has helped to educate me to understand better, as a man and as a minister, how important it is to continue efforts to end gender discrimination in our church. I hope you’ll start to see how important it is to you that you do not give up. I know it is very important to me.

“The value of our life does not depend
on the place we occupy.
It depends on the way we occupy that place.”
------Pérèse de Lisieux

Alisa, our God will help us all to occupy with love, respect, and humility, the place he has promised us!

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Ah, the Devaluing of Women.

The representatives from the west want to ordain women, while those in the third world hue to specified gender roles.

The west sexually exploits women while the third world protects them.

The west floods the world with R and X rated material inflaming both the developed and the undeveloped world with unrealistic sexual aspirations, and passions.

The west’s sexual desires are satisfied by the developed world sending their girls for exploitation, etc…

So, tell me, who is devaluing women??

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Have you tried reading the Old Testament? Abduction, rape, murder, human sacrifice…

Perhaps you need to look for more information about female genital mutilation, child brides, the rights of women in countries like Saudi Arabia, the raping of women in India, the use of rape as an instrument of war in Africa, …

You are, by failing to properly learn about and analyze the situation, and by using unsubstantiated claims to further your goals of stopping women from reaching their full potential within their church the day after Hilary Clinton’s example of women in leadership showing calm authority and leadership under the extreme duress testifying in front of her enemies on the Benghazi Committee.



Your campaign includes silencing women who are
church school teachers
academy teachers
Sabbath School teachers
Pathfinder leaders
Professors in Adventist universities and the Seminary
Medical School professors
Women’s Ministries leaders
G.C. Departmental leaders
Union Conference educational directors
Conference educational directors
Singers and vocalists
Those who offer public prayer
Junior Department leaders
Earliteen leaders
Youth leaders
Nominating Committee chairs
Choir Directors
Song leaders
Instrumentalists (one type of lifting up one’s voice with the language of music)
Prayer ministry leaders
Church Board members

Scott. Clarify please. If you are an Adventist, women are already in these positions.


Allen, do you never read a newspaper or watch a newscast? I am astounded that anyone could believe this, let alone commit it to writing.

We live in a world where ISIS sells non Muslim women captives into sexual slavery where they are subjected to systematic rape. Girls are treated as chattel and sold as child brides. Thousands upon thousands of Asian women are sold into the sex trade. The east has no shortage of home grown pornographers, eg see Japan. Rape is used as a weapon of war. Muslim guerillas in Africa have famously kidnapped hundreds of girls at a time, and no one seems to care enough to gett around to rescuing them. And the list goes on. How does this in any way constitute protecting women? Please think about this, you can certainly do better.


Dear Ailsa, You are a talented woman with courage and spirit. If your patience has run out, please remember that ministry cannot be boxed in by denominational boundaries. Take your God given gifts and use them where they are needed. We are not here to prop up denominations, we are here to preach the words and actions. As a married couple, we participate in contemporary evangelism to diverse populations with Christians who don’t get bogged down in these irrelevant issues. The Jews believed that they were the chosen people long after their theology became obsolete by the sacrifice of Jesus. I think that there is a message in that for Adventism. Blessings from Rene Gale


i think hillary looked completely like a president during that ordeal…she is the only contender who has that certain gravitas that gives any assurance that knowledge, wisdom and self-control are being brought to the table…

i think this sentiment is widely shared in the wake of san antonio…because it has the weight of inspiration behind it, i believe it will succeed in the not too distant future…i actually half-expect indianapolis 2020 to convene specifically to re-do the disaster of san antonio, which isn’t sitting well with vast swaths in the church - and i believe our leaders are seeing this…if the washington example holds, in which commissioned pastors are the legal equivalent to ordained pastors, a yes vote in indianapolis may actually be anticlimactic…

scott, your basic problem is the fact that egw disobeyed paul’s counsel to women, not once or twice, but during an entire 70-yr ministry, which was much longer than paul’s ministry…why do you think god never reproved her…and before you say that egw was a prophet and therefore an exception, understand that our church yielded to her judgement in everything from building sites to general conference structure, even when she hadn’t received a specific vision for the case…egw herself said she was much more than a prophet, and perhaps you should be agreeing with her…


@GeorgeTichy, I love and value your comments and almost always agree with them and I so appreciate your kind support. With this response I want to give you a brief (I know you read my article a few years ago) first-hand account of how this hateful vitriol and abusive Male Headship affects me presently. It is even too painful to read some of the comments of various commenters on Spectrum. My head and my heart are so weary with sadness. Jesus would NEVER treat women like this. I can no longer even refer to the church as “my” church because it has become unrecognizable to me. I hear the words of the women pastors and other men and women of the world church who comment supportively on Spectrum. You all are the dearest contact with the community of believers I now have. I have been fighting this battle for 50 years now, most of them from “within” the church, and I am weary of the struggle. I think those of us wounded warriors must somehow revive the custom of home churches where we can seek solace and gain strength from one another. I appreciate the blessings of my fellow believers more than I can express. Those who wish to send me a private message can do so via my Facebook page. I love you all.