Two Women of the Year Honored at GC

Two women who have served the General Conference with incredible spirit and grace were honored as Women of the Year at a Women’s Ministries (WM) Dinner Monday evening.

Carol Banks (pictured left), the enthusiastic song leader at General Conference Sessions, and Charlotte Ishkanian (pictured right), the longtime Mission Guide editor who traveled the world bringing back remarkable mission stories were awarded Women of the Year Awards. While Banks is retiring after 20 years of service to the General Conference, she said she told the Lord she would go wherever He wanted her to go, and Cuba is in the offing. Ishkanian also recently retired. She worked at the GC for over 46 years. It was a trip to the Sudan where the major road was like a tractor path through a corn field that made her decide it was time to stay home. But she said that Sudan is still her favorite place in the world, and she has traveled to over 140 locations investigating 13th Sabbath projects.

In this 20th anniversary year of Women’s Ministries, there was much to celebrate as the 45 women on the General Conference Executive Committee gathered for what has become a yearly event during Annual Council. WM Director Heather-Dawn Small reported that in the last twenty years her department has reclaimed 587,647 members, held 1,036,409 outreach meetings, sponsored 720,962 training events, and conducted 2487,511 other meetings. Proclaiming, “We love retreats,” she said that 413,711 retreats were held around the world, and that 2,276,416 women have attended. The department also sponsors an active scholarship program for women and has given out $1,103,450 in scholarships to 2,295 women in 130 countries.

And while the ordination of women ministers has never been part of Women’s Ministries agenda, she noted that through the various meetings and trainings there have been 1,902,955 baptisms.

Raquel Arias, the associate director of the department, shared photos and brief comments about some of the students who have received recent scholarships.

It was at the General Conference Session in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1995 that the Department of Women’s Ministries was created. Rose Otis was elected as the first director and Ardis Stenbakken, the associate director. The mission of the department is to uphold, encourage, and challenge Adventist women in their pilgrimage as disciples of Jesus Christ and members of His world church.

For several years, a devotional book produced by the department has raised funds for the scholarship program. Ardis Stenbakken co-authored the book for 2016 with Carolyn Sutton.

Stenbakken was at the meeting Monday, signing the devotional books that were shared with everyone present.

Other previous Women of the Year who were present such as Kari Paulsen, Linda Koh, and Stenbakken joined in blowing out the candles on the birthday cake.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Without detracting in any way from the merits of these two fine women who have been honored thus, it is nonetheless disappointing that the GC has snubbed Pr Sandra Roberts, the duly appointed President of Southeastern California Conference, by refusing to print her name in the official yearbook.

It seems the GC is prepared to honor women, so long as those women “know their place”.


Recently retired GC Associate Secretary Dr Rosa Banks, who for many years was in charge of placing mission appointees, aka Inter-division Employees or IDE’s, for all three African divisions probably deserves the honor of Woman of the Year. I’m curious and disappointed, she wasn’t selected.


It is said one should not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence or ignorance. Whoever did the selecting of the recipients must have different values to me.

I don’t know what the women in the church will make of this presentation, but I know that I found the following sentences insightful

When did you last hear a man described as “having grace”. This is a rare virtue among leaders, and is usually a code word when applied to women meaning “doesn’t rock the boat”.

That’s it? They picked a woman who did nothing momentous excepted leading a song service and “retiring after 20 years of service” as Woman Of The Year?

This really illustrates Edward Deming’s observation that handing out awards in public is a really bad idea

  • The person who gets it usually feels unworthy
  • Often a significant fraction of the audience know that the person didn’t do what it is claimed that they did (probably not applicable in this case)
  • Almost all the audience knows someone else who did something equally significant who did not get recognized

Thank you to the women in our church who have given their talents and life to ministry. There are many who have worked tirelessly without being thanked or recognized and have made personal sacrifices to help spread the Good News.

The Adventist church needs to end it’s policy of gender discrimination for women clergy. Any recognition given to women does not make up for the lack of respect and fairness in closing the door on ordination. The practice of making only a perfunctory effort, a phot op, or symbolic gesture, is a poor and unacceptable substitute in reaching the goal of gender integration in ministry. To make a token gesture means to show a very small sign of appreciation. How do we all proceed when there’s no give and take from the hierarchy?
How can we support women called to ordination in a church that doesn’t accept their call?
Even the fundamental question of “What is the priesthood of all believers?” is a key question we need to examine. There are, of course, any number of answers to these questions; each of which should help shape the future of the church that we want to create.

Because of women like Susan B Anthony, Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; and Sojourner Truth, a black traveling preacher woman, we have doors opened today that were closed before. These 19th century religious women not only were abolitionists, who sought the abolition of slavery, but suffragists, who sought the right of women to vote.
Because of women like that, women today are born into a world where we expect blacks and whites to be treated equally, where we expect women and men to be treated equally, and where we expect the call of God to serve as ordained pastors to be honored equally.

What a privilege to be born into a world like that.

And you know, the more I think about that, the more I realize the granting of full clergy rights to Seventh-day Adventist women is a big deal, a very big deal.

You see, not every woman is born into a world like that.
A world where she can envision living free and unfettered, doing anything she puts her mind to.

Even today, the status and role of women around the globe is shameful.
There is a growth of human trafficking in sexual slavery, impacting women and children the most.
Refugee women, who have escaped war, genocide, ethnic cleansing are at terrible risk of hunger, impoverishment, illness and death.
Women in countries at war all too often are subjected to the atrocity of rape.
Immigrant women are growing in number.
Much of the world is on the move due to economic, political, religious, and military upheavals.
Then there are the abused women, victims of violence.
Single mothers, Muslim women: who in so many countries lack control over their own lives.
And women of color in all walks of life, are up against phenomenal sexism.
While white women still earn less than men for the same jobs — even in churches — (women earn 9% less than men), women of color earn even less than white women.
Many women, too many women, are not born into a world in which the expression of their God-given dignity feels like no big deal.
And it’s not much better in our churches.

As Christians, we live in the sure and certain hope that God is redeeming the world.
And one day the glorious Kingdom of God will come on earth as it is heaven.
Victory over all sin — even sexism— will be complete.
And we are invited to participate in this glorious work.
Social change is what we’re talking about here.
Not biblical change — it’s already there.
Now social change requires tremendous energy.

Think back on the Civil Rights movement.
It takes the willingness to be spit upon, misunderstood, misquoted, mistreated, even killed.
Yet when we subject ourselves to that, in the cause of the Kingdom, the church is at its best.
We have more work to do.
Women’s voices need to be heard: in classrooms in sickrooms, and in children’s bedrooms,
but also in the pulpit — as deacons, elders, preachers, pastors, prophets, conference presidents,
Until girls all over the world are born into a world in which their God-given dignity and rights to self-determination are upheld. And they can say of them: big deal; big deal!



Bravo! Bravo! [hands clapping]

Is that 20 letters?
We do have to be OK for the different views women see about themselves, and that there might be, what we progressives might call, the lack of interest in Being All They Can Be.
Queen Victoria was appalled at women wanting the right to vote. Believed their role was only to be at home, in the home, stay in the home.
One of her daughters was outside the Royal Palace promoting Women Rights to Vote, right to become Physicians, right to an education.
And, the Queen was quite disturbed and angry about what this daughter was doing. [Shades of GC with SDA progressives]
The conflict between generations. Perhaps this is what we are seeing. A conflict between intellectual and Spiritual generations [not based on age, but maturity].


It is great to see these women who have given so much to this work to be honored at Annual Council. Women do great things with the talents and gifts God has given them. But what hangs over this Council like a cloud are the calls to “honor the vote” of SA GC through the document “Appeal…” and others. I think the best honor that can be done is to drop the designation of ordination and accept appointment to the gospel ministry and that each union will begin immediately to go forward with that and amending their polices to reflect it even in the fiscal obligations to those that shepherd God’s people.


Of course the AAW also honors a number of women every year. If I’m not mistaken Rosa Banks also was honored there.

And what’s wrong with being honored for having grace? Isn’t that one of the most important attributes we can have? Too bad more men don’t have that one.

I have known Charlotte for many, many years, and she certainly deserves the honor!


This recognition is no different than honoring the employee who increased production and profit by giving him a plaque and cake instead of a promotion to a higher office.

This is the G.C.‘s backhanded way of “honoring” women while refusing the recognition that their male pastoral colleagues usually get after a few years’ employment. Unlike men, women are expected to be content with applause and a cake.

There should be a “silent protest” by all those men who honor women’s ministry by their words by turning in their ordination and accepting the commissioned status with their female fellow workers.
All other talk is cheap and better not said if not followed with action.

Such discrimination is doubly shameful for those called to work for God. When will the leaders’ eyes be open to injustice in their own house?


I think it should be recognized that it wasn’t the GC that honored them, but the Women’s Ministries Department. It was at a dinner they put on for women, and actually had nothing to do with the GC, which wasn’t even involved. No, not even a back-handed compliment was intended here by the “suits.”


Another “wool pulled over the women’s eyes.” When will these token gestures give way to more substantiative acknowledgement?

As R. Reagan would have challenged TW, “Pastor Wilson, tear down this wall.”


Thanks for reminding me that it was a separate honor and not the G.C.
Such sacrificial service represents the hundreds of women who silently serve behind the scenes and go unrecognized by the administrators.


Carol Barron served as secretary in Personal Ministries/Sabbath School Dept. of the NAD.

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Bob, did you hear the one about Ted Wilson being offered a mansion in heaven @ 90% discount if he promised to attend every sermon Pastor Sandra Roberts preached in the New Jerusalem?
Apparently,he turned the offer down, pleading that he was accustomed to a flat earth and the New Jerusalem was a steep climb all the way.


She has also preached in many places around the world.

These church workers are remarkable people, certainly. However, inherent in this recognition lies discriminatory thinking. Would the Denomination recognize the unusual accomplishments of workers of color? Would being a song leader be among them? “We love retreats”? And would they participate in the ceremony by blowing out candles on a birthday cake with aspirational balloons as primary decorative graphics? “Segregation is the highest form of White Supremacy.” If women’s role in the Denomination is equal to that of mens’, (save the withholding of a professional title), this is not a indication of that.

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