In an attempt to elevate women ministers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, many regions have created workaround solutions to the problem of the General Conference's refusal to ordain women at the denomination's highest administrative levels. One increasingly-common solution is to make women's credentialing functionally equal to men's credentialing by allowing commissioned ministers the same rights and privileges as ordained ministers.
The trend toward separate-but-equal-credentialing has created a situation in which male and female ministers may perform the same tasks and receive the same pay and benefits while remaining in distinct, gender-divided ecclesiastical categories. Within Adventism worldwide, ordination remains the highest ecclesiastical designation, and with only a few exceptions, it continues to apply only to men. Some territories within the Seventh-day Adventist Church have been reluctant to extend even commissioning to women pastors though commissioning women has been a voted General Conference policy for many years.
Yesterday (Tuesday, March 29), the Executive Committee of the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (UCC), which encompasses Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Northeastern Oregon, voted a policy to clarify the role of commissioned ministers who serve within the conference. UCC leadership clarified that going forward, commissioned ministerial credentials in the conference confer the same responsibilities and privileges as ordained ministerial credentials do, the key difference being that men may be ordained in UCC and women may not.
Explaining its executive action, the Upper Columbia Conference wrote,
The North American Division working policy states, 'A commissioned minister is authorized by the conference to perform substantially all the functions within the scope of the tenets and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the members in the church or churches to which the minister is assigned…' L 32 10 NAD Working Policy.
The conference executive committee authorized commissioned ministers to perform the same functions as ordained ministers with in the UCC territory. This extends permission for them to perform weddings and baptisms, ordain local elders, deacons and deaconesses within their appointed district and to organize and unite churches in consultation with conference administration (as is the case with ordained ministers).
The efforts of the executive committee are to honor the decision of the world church to commission women rather than ordain them, and at the same time affirm and unify the gospel work of commissioned ministers.
The full policy statement, as voted by the Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee, linked below:
Upper Columbia Commissioned Ministerial Policy Voted 3-29-16
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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