Washington Conference Adopts Policy Granting New Rights to Commissioned Ministers

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the State of Washington adopted a policy Tuesday, October 20 that grants new rights to commissioned ministers within the Washington Conference. During a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Washington Conference Executive Committee, leaders approved a Mission-Focused Leadership Policy that provides what the committee has described as "a practical approach to allow commissioned ministers to participate, along with ordained ministers, in the new General Conference Total Member Involvement (TMI) initiative, to fulfill the Gospel Commission commanded by Christ Jesus in Matthew 28."

TMI is a key part of General Conference president Ted Wilson's second term agenda, announced during the General Conference Session in San Antonio Session, and fleshed out during the 2015 Annual Council meetings held in Silver Spring, Maryland this month. Taking the initiative seriously for the Washington Conference has meant a change in policy that will allow women (who in most territories within the Adventist Church are commissioned rather than ordained) to perform many of the tasks previously restricted to men.

Women ministers in the Washington Conference who hold commissioned minister credentials will now be able to perform baptisms or weddings outside their districts (within Washington Conference) without first asking permission. Additionally, commissioned ministers may now ordain local elders, deacons or deaconesses; plant a church in cooperation with Washington Conference; and hold any leadership position in the Washington Conference. This policy applies only to the western Washington territory.

A statement of belief accompanied the Leadership Policy, reading in full:

The recent Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) consensus statement recognized that “Through the saving work of Christ” church members constitute “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2: 5, 9) who are “given the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20), called, and enabled through the power of the Spirit and the gifts He bestows on them to carry out the Gospel Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

In addition to recognizing that it is God who calls and chooses who He will to complete His work on this earth, the TOSC committee also agreed that over the years ordination “has acquired meaning beyond what was originally implied” in the Bible. On the basis of these findings committee members overwhelmingly supported two options that would allow for the ordination of women. In spite of this action, the GC session voted to not allow divisions self-determination regarding ordination.

While we desire to respect this vote, we also desire to live in harmony with Scripture and the Seventh- day Adventist belief that it is the responsibility of the Church to recognize those individuals whom the Lord has called and equipped for ministry in a local setting. We further desire to reconcile and live by the voted theology of ordination which is based in scripture but which our church policies do not allow.

Thus we, the Washington Conference Executive Committee, have adopted the following policy for Mission-Focused Leadership.

VOTED: October 20, 2015

The document released by the Washington Conference and embedded below is the first of its kind, extending to women the same rights and privileges that had long been unavailable to them because of their second-tier credentials. While women will continue to receive commissioned minister credentials instead of ordained minister credentials, they will no longer be restricted in the tasks they may perform.

Washington Conference Mission-Focused Leadership Policy by Jared Wright (Spectrum Magazine)

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7147

Praise the Lord! There are still many christians among our leaders.


In various ways in different parts of the church the staus of women pastors are being acknowledged in harmony with the Working Policy without having to be ordained. Creative ways to get around the ordination cap are being brought to bear on the work, maintaining harmony with the working policy and being respectful to the SA vote. At some point leadership is going to have to acknowledge that the vote was the wrong way to go in solving this problem and go back to square one: finally addressing the Working Policy and what it means to be in harmony with in regards to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. They are going to have to acknowledge and respect the findings of TOSC.


It’s all about preserving integrity. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the State of Washington adopted a policy on October 20 that grants new rights to commissioned ministers within the Washington Conference. There is a valuable lesson for all of us to learn in this action. In church leadership we need to be consistently making the right choices as we implement policy in accordance with our God directed discernment.

As a church leader you do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest. – American writer, Robert Brault. Many of us have to make decisions that define who we are and what we believe in. Most often, the choices we face may seem insignificant. But this doesn’t mean that they’re not important to us: even the smallest action can have an impact on our self-respect, our integrity, and ultimately, our reputation. In a world where headlines are often dominated by people who make the wrong choices, people who make the right ones can seem to be rare. The leaders of the Washington SDA Conference have decided to live and work with integrity in respecting women in ministry. When we as a church become known for this highly valued trait, of being open and fair to all regardless of gender, our lives and our careers can flourish.

Integrity is a characteristic that many of us value in ourselves, and it’s one we look for consistently in our leaders. But what does it really mean to have integrity?
The Random House Dictionary defines integrity as:
Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.
Doing away with gender bias, treating all persons with respect, this is the example I choose to accept from the actions of the Washington Conference.


As much as we disliked the Vote at SA2015, perhaps it was a good one.
It is forcing everyone to look at what it means to be a pastor, how we recognize the calling in a pastor, how to recognize that calling in ceremony. How much authority we give a pastor, and does outward appearances and outward dress restrict one pastor’s duties over another pastor’s allowable duties.
We are witnessing creativity. First in Europe, and now in the Washington Conference of ways to respect the Working Policies of the GC, but to also be able respect the Calling of the Holy Spirit in all persons, all genders, to Ministry of the Word to the church and to the world around.
We want to salute these quiet leaders who are leading out in their respect for the Holy Spirit’s Called.


Creative and appreciated!!! We need more of this from other conferences! Thank you Washington Conference!


This is in agreement with the TOSC which found there were no biblical reasons that women should not be ordained as equals of men. The Washington Conference’s decision is in full harmony with the TOSC which the G.C. authorized. There can be no “grave consequences” for putting Scripture before men’s decisions.

More will be following, without doubt.


Thank you, Washington Conference Executive Committee, for adopting a policy of equality in ministry. All talents are needed to spread the Gospel. This member of your constituency salutes you.


where there’s a will, there’s a way…as i see it, this washington way is likely what most of nad will be adopting…


These are the coming more listless, relentless, criticism global warming Seventh-day Adventist parties president conferences policy makers that they – of fermenting hops argue that competent, proven, and ready women are “just not ready” to the ordination of women? Times have changed – men have not. The “Just not ready” is no longer an argument. Women of proven competent are ordained to serve, being seen and heard in profundity of sounding pluralities approved by God - God listens with compassionate, passionate heart and ears from the prayers of his more than ready competent women pastors…


A follow up to the original article re Southern Africa Union Conference Report on WO which has relevance to current topic.

On 4-5 August 2015 the SAU Ministerial Dept with the President’s office convened a meeting of all pastors and administrators and took this resolution that was ratified by the full SAU EXCOM on Sept 6 2015:

WHEREAS a Pastoral Consultative Meeting for administrators and pastors with the Southern Africa Union Conference was held at SAU Headquarters, Bloemfontein on August 4-5, 2015 to consider the actions taken at the 2015 GC Session held at San Antonio Texas with specific focus on:

  1. The revisions made to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs;
  2. The revisions made to the Church Manual;
  3. The action taken with regard to the motion whether it is acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry; and

WHEREAS at the end of the Pastoral Consultative Meeting the assembled group issued a resolution pledging acceptance and support of the policies and practices of the church with regard to the decisions taken at GC; and

WHEREAS the Pastoral Consultative Meeting referred their resolution to the SAU Executive Committee for consideration;

VOTED to adopt the resolution of the Pastoral Consultative Meeting and adapt the wording so as to have the statement express the resolution of the of the SAU EXCOM as indicated below;

FURTHER that the following statement be circulated to all sub-organizations and churches within the SAU territory;


We, the Executive Committee of the Southern Africa Union Conference, on behalf of its sub-organizations and constituency, pledge ourselves to be united in fulfilling the Gospel Commission as stated in Matthew 28:18-20; to the nurturing of our church members and the discipling of all into a saving and serving relationship with Jesus Christ.

We affirm and accept the revisions made to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs and Church Manual as voted by the 2015 GC Session.

We affirm and accept the Theology of Ordination Consensus Statement as voted by the Autumn Council 2014 and affirmed by the 2015 GC Session.

We affirm and accept that currently the World Church does not ordain women as Pastors.

We affirm and accept the position of the World Church that women may serve the church as:
• Deaconesses, and be ordained to the said office
• Elders, and be ordained to the said office
• Pastors, and not be ordained to the said office, but serve as commissioned pastors.

We affirm and accept that the church recognizes the call of women to full time gospel ministry and that the church can demonstrate its recognition of this call through the Commissioning of Female Pastors.

We urge all organizational units within the SAU to support and abide by the policies and practices of the Church;

We urge all employees within the SAU to support and abide by the policies and practices of the Church;

We urge all lay leaders and Church Boards within the SAU to support and abide by the policies and practices of the Church;

We urge all church members within the SAU to support and abide by the policies and practices of the Church.

September 6, 2015

Further to the above, the following policies were tabled by the SAU EXCOM in November 2014 and voted by the June 2015 EXCOM. The actions below form part of the Working Policy of the Southern Africa Union Conference.


  1. The Church does not yet ordain woman to the ministry. 2, The licensed woman minister is ordinarily granted a Commissioned Minister Credential (see def of “Commissioned” E 10 10 (2)) after she has satisfactory fulfilled a period of pastoral/evangelistic service during which time she has given evidence of her call to the ministry. The granting of a Commissioned Minister’s Credential currently constitutes the official recognition by the Seventh-day Adventist Church of her divine call to the ministry as a life commitment, and is her endorsement to serve as a minister of the gospel in any part of the world.

It is recommended that an appropriate commissioning service be conducted when an employee is granted a Commissioned Minister Credential. The commissioning of a female pastor grants them the same status as an ordained minister except they are not eligible to become a president of a Conference, Union, Division or the General Conference, which requires ordination.


L 20 30 10 - The Seventh-day Adventist Church appoints women to serve as pastors in the gospel ministry. They are authorized to perform all the ministerial functions as their male counterparts at the different levels of ministry, which are internship, licensed and commissioned.

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Even though there is lots to like about the statement from the Southern Africa Union, this bit is where the real damage lies. Requiring ordination for leadership positions is where the discrimination against women lies.


I note the Washington Conference letter failed to mention any salary differences between Commissioned vs Ordained. I wonder if this info could be teased out of them?

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Thank you to the Washington Conference administrators and board for the courage and compassion to show real Christian leadership! Makes me proud to have served as a pastor there.


It is too bad South Africa did not see the wisdom in doing what the European Brotherhood has been doing and just not Ordaining or Commissioning at all.
Just appoint Pastors and have a Blessing Ceremony on their Pastorship. And declare that any Pastor may assume any position in that territory who demonstrates the qualifications needed to perform the duties.

As it is, we are still seeing discrimination based on Gender and disallowing capable persons to fulfill needs in that area of the world just because they have an XX chromosome instead of an XY. And we are telling the Holy Spirit he makes mistakes when He pours out on XX persons special Spiritual Gifts. That it is just a waste of His time to do so.

thank you Washington for seeing the “Light” from the Holy Spirit.


We cannot equate the Washington Conference with “the SDA Church in the state of Washington” because much of that state is included in the Upper Columbia Conference.

The only “grave consequence” is that th SA vote is backfiring on the GC. The komandature could never guess that someone would come up with the bright idea of everyone becoming comissioned, or to expand the commissioning rights and privileges.

And now, what will the KGC do???


I find it difficult to be altogether positive about such policy refinements as the Washington Conference has recently adopted. Here is why!

I am looking for a paradigm shift in the way Adventists view ordination.

Some have argued loud and long for a man’s right to serve as spiritual head of a congregation. [I find such headship theology impossible to align with the fact that in the Scripture Christ is the sole bridegroom of his church].

Other’s argue for a woman’s right to serve in leadership positions with full equality with men. [I find such gender machinations disturbing for the simple reason that such a philosophy speaks in terms of power and authority].

I have a strong preference to accept God’s right to choose whoever He wills to serve in Adventist leadership.

Further, Adventists have too much and for far too long perceived the Adventist ordination paradigm in terms of sacramental empowerment.

Adventists in Norway and Denmark in appealing recently for the GC to investigate the brief recommendations made by the Trans-European Division early in 2014, made it abundantly clear for all to see that they wish for an Adventist ordination paradigm shift to occur. Their new policy concerning the theology and practice of appointment to Adventist leadership constitutes such a paradigm shift.

This is more than can be said for the new policy of the Wahington Conference.


I have always supported the use of rites of appointment to Adventist leadership.

Further, I support the appeal of Norwegian Adventists to study the recoomendations of the Trans-European Division to TOSC (6 Jan, 2014). For everyone’s convenience I list them as follows:

  1. Focus on the Mission of God and All Being Servants for the Salvation
    of the World.

  2. Remove the Current Distance between Clergy and Laity, and the Levels of Ordination. (Six ways to do so are suggested here. One of
    these ways is as follows, "removing the levels of ordination between
    all the different ‘servants/ministers’ who work in the church
    (globally and locally) and applying, rather, one concept of
    servanthood under God with distinctions of duties and responsibilities which are documented in written credentials).

3 An Inclusive Ministry

  1. Recommendation to the GC Session in 2015

5 Theology and Practice of Ordination - Education of Members.

  1. Consider the Best Terminology. (We recommend therefore that terms that are closer to biblical terminology are introduced, such as
    ’appoint,’ ‘commission’, ‘dedicate.’).

  2. Remove Ritualistic and Consecrational Flavour.

  3. Make the Imposition of Hands Optional

  4. Emphasis on God’s Blessing and Practical Aspects.

  5. Review Who is to be Ordained in the Church.

  6. Separate Ordination from Election to an Organizational Office of Leadership

  7. Improve Ministerial Training, Education, Preparation for Ordination and Clarify Processes, Requirements and Qualifications.

My own study and research on this subject comes to surprisingly similar conclusions. My research is summarized in South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination Chapter 13 "


Peter, it’s been very clear for several years that you will not be pleased until ordination is totally done away with. While this is idealistic, we must be practical in a culture where ordination has been entrenched and our founder, Ellen White, even has six ordination certificates.

What Washington offers in the situation the church faces in the wake of San Antonio and the total shut down for the option of choice, is a way through. A way to keep from splitting the church. A way to move forward with grace.

I applaud them for finding a way to move forward.