Will Credentialing Policies be Refined at Annual Council?

Will credentialing policies be refined at Annual Council? Two world Divisions of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists recently recommended such changes. Dr. Lowell Cooper, retired General Conference Vice President has also called for this. Would some such change help Adventists toward a resolution of the continuing debate about such matters? Would a debate about such issues at Annual Council end with all Adventist pastoral leaders being equally affirmed, blessed, and commissioned for their individual roles in Christ’s ministry and mission to the world? Could such debate aid in restoring the perception of a real and enduring collegiality among Adventist leaders, who may truly be characterized by a bottom-up approach to leadership?

The 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session defeated the proposal to make each of the world Divisions responsible for deciding whether or not to ordain women to the gospel ministry in their respective territories. Many Adventists imagined that this vote would bring discussion and unrest concerning this issue to an end, regardless of which way the vote went. Many appeals have been made to this end. Perhaps, if the vote had authorized the ordination of women in Divisions wishing to do so, there would have been as much discussion and unrest as there is now. What Adventists need more than ever is for the General Conference Executive Committee to revisit the issue once more!

Personally, I believe we can honor the 2015 San Antonio General Conference Session vote concerning ordination while at the same time refining the existing credentialing policies. The Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) presented Adventists with a Consensus Statement on the Theology of Ordination. Adventists can refine our policies building on this agreed biblical approach. There is little to be gained by adopting regional credentialing policies before attempting to refine our global policies. Intransigence and inflexibility are characteristics of those who want to create unauthorized regional policy as much as of those who may wish to inflict grave consequences and who have determined that the last word on such policies has been spoken. There are a host of Unions in our global communion who wait patiently for our leaders to create gender equality within our credentialing policies. Yet these Unions may not wait indefinitely! Adventist credentialing policies are at their heart missional in nature. Continuing debate about them is distracting from the mission of the church and also damaging the image of the church. Adventist leaders may yet address them within a refined policy framework at any Annual Council!

Specific Requests for General Conference Consideration

From the South Pacific Division Executive Committee

At the Year-End Meetings of the South Pacific Division Executive Committee in November 2016, the following formal request was made to the General Conference:

In harmony with our statement of fundamental beliefs #7, #14, and #17, and recognising that the General Conference has affirmed the call of God to both men and women in ministry through the conferring of both ordination and commissioned credentials, the members of the executive committee of the South Pacific Division respectfully request the General Conference that consideration be given to changing policy to allow commissioned ministers to fulfil all duties, privileges and responsibilities as those entitled to ordained ministers.

This request was formalized following a period of discussion of issues of concern that were not on the formal agenda of the Year-End meeting. The South Pacific Division leadership have long had a de-facto ruling that there will be little or no discussion of the ordination of women in any official regional Adventist media or in any official regional forums. Neither have Unions and Conferences in the South Pacific Division sought to depart from the policies adopted by the denomination. Yet this doesn’t mean that Adventist leaders and thoughtful Adventists have no convictions on these matters.

From the Trans-European Division Executive Committee

In an extraordinary meeting of the Trans-European Division Executive Committee in mid-February 2017 that was called to discuss this issue, the following strong request was voted unanimously:

Recognising that the current system of ministerial credentials (ordained) and commissioned credentials function for most of the church, and wanting to respect the decision made by the General Conference in Session in San Antonio, we would request that consideration be given to:

A single ministerial credential which is issued to all who are engaged in pastoral ministry, so bringing Working Policy in line with Fundamental Belief 14. This would entail amending Working Policy by deleting the parenthesis and footnote to BA 60 10 and/or amending/deleting E 60 to reflect a single credential.

An alternative suggestion was also made that the system of existing credentials be amended to make them more inclusive (much as the South Pacific Division had requested). This request followed months of careful consultation, listening, and prayer. Note as well that the preamble to the request included a commitment to respect and uphold decisions of the General Conference in Session while at the same time recognizing that such decisions will be implemented within a local context.

An Illustrative Policy Development Proposal from Dr. Lowell Cooper, retired Vice-President of the General Conference

Dr. Lowell Cooper, a noted Adventist policy specialist, presented a paper titled “General Conference Working Policy – The Challenge of Enforcement and the Opportunity for Development” to the Adventist Unity Conference, June 2017 in London, UK. This conference was sponsored by ten union conferences from the Trans-European, the Inter-European, the South Pacific, and the North American Divisions. It searched for a way forward from the present policy standoff concerning ordination, having respect for church unity, denominational structure and authority, and the inviolability of individual conscience.

The above-mentioned paper clarified the role of policy in church unity and in the organizational mechanics of Adventism. It also presented a very helpful illustration of policy development with respect to ministerial ordination. Its objective was to illustrate that such policy development can function as a conflict resolution methodology, given our present predicament. Cooper presented his policy proposals as follows:

1. Discontinue the practice of ordination altogether. Replace the current ordination service practices with a commissioning service for ministers, elders, deacons and deaconesses, and perhaps other leaders (Sabbath School teachers) in the local church. Doing this would be fully consistent with the theology of ordination while avoiding the unbiblical connotations that have become attached to the term “ordination.”

2. Suspend the issuance of ministerial licenses and credentials. In their place use the Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential. Revise policy language concerning the role and leadership functions of individuals holding Commissioned Minister Credentials.

3. Amend gender-specific language in General Conference Working Policy, section L 45 10 and L 50.

4. Clarify the territorial authorization associated with Commissioned Minister Credentials. Approve the world-wide validity of the commissioning service for deacons/deaconesses/elders and those holding Commissioned Minister Licenses/Credentials while re-emphasizing the safeguards that protect the world Church from individual abuse of privilege.

5. Revise Church Manual and General Conference Working Policy credential requirements for a local mission/local conference president. In a similar manner, revise the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws, Model Constitutions and Bylaws, and Model Operating Policies to indicate that the president shall be a “Commissioned Minister of experience.”

6. Amend other policies whose language limits ministerial duties to males.

7. Recognize that permission for women to serve without restriction in ministerial roles does not constitute obligation to do so. The normal selection processes for any employee give discretion to the employing unit. The permissive stance for the ordination of women as local church elders can serve as a pattern for the commissioning of women as pastors.

Cooper, in the introduction to his paper, emphasizes his enthusiasm about Adventist mission, his protectiveness of its global structure, his devotion to its polity and organizational ethos, and his firm convictions regarding ordination.

Needed, a Willingness to Find a Workable Global Solution

Each of the above three policy proposals differs in their details. They have arisen from different quarters of the Adventist world. Interestingly, they all fit well within the TOSC Consensus Statement on the Theology of Ordination and each of them proposes a more refined and inclusive credentialing policy. All that is needed is a willingness to debate such proposals and identify the most workable solution for all parts of our global communion!

An Excursus Exploring the Foundations and Nature of Commissioning in the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army paradoxically has both an intentionally anti-clerical mindset and a highly visible hierarchical structure which have impacted mission, ecclesiology, and leadership. From 1888 to 1978 Salvation Army Officers of both genders were commissioned. Since 1978, all newly inducted Officers have been both commissioned and ordained, though hands are not laid on such people. The history of these practices is rooted in several theological principles. The changes that have been made to these practices illustrate subtle changes in their theology which have invited much discussion and debate in Salvation Army circles. I believe that Seventh-day Adventists may learn much from these principles.

William and Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army on a few centrally held principles. Several of these principles are examined below since in their approach to both “female ministry” and lay ministry they have charted a unique course. For many reasons Adventists should find these principles easy to emulate and also biblical.

Principle One: Women are to have an Equal Share in Ministry with Men

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was married to Catherine who was often known as the Army Mother. Her influence on the development of the ethos of the Army was very pervasive. Only once before their marriage did William dare to express the popular understanding of mid-nineteenth century Britain that women were less endowed intellectually and spiritually than men. In response, Catherine insisted that he perceive the issue of women’s equality as she did, or they would have little prospect of a life together.

Throughout their lives together William trusted her judgment implicitly and knew her to be the more theologically astute. She developed as one of the best-known preachers of her generation. Together, they recruited women for the ministry, and often placed them in leading roles. The Salvation Army took that name in 1878 and from the very beginning the role of women to undertake any ministry task for which they had been gifted was firmly established. All except one of their three boys and five girls developed into remarkable Salvation Army leaders and gifted preachers.

In 1895, William Booth drafted Orders and Regulations for Staff Officers, including the following:

One of the leading principles upon which the Army is based is the right of women … to an equal share with men in the great work of publishing Salvation to the world…. She may hold any position of authority or power in the Army from that of a Local Officer to that of General…. Women must be treated as equal with men in all the intellectual and social relationships of life. –Quoted in Paul A Rader & Kay F Rader, “Lest We Lose our Legacy: Officer Women in the Salvation Army,” Priscilla Papers, Vol 22, No 3 (Summer 2008), 19.

In the 1959 Salvation Army Year Book, Salvation Army General Frederick Coutts wrote concerning the ordination of women,

In the economy of the kingdom, God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. In vain do men debar those servants whom He employs…. Seeing that the grace of God and the gift of the office of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher has been – and are undeniably granted to women as well as to men … who are we to withstand God.” –Ibid.

Principle Two: The Salvation Army was about a Mass Mobilization in which there was No Distinction between Clergy and Laity, and No Ordination or Priestly Caste

The soldiery of the Salvation Army is to be a comprehensive whole, composed of full-time members who were commissioned as officers and volunteer members who served as regular soldiers. The historic status of Salvation Army officers as non-ordained persons of both genders has often been in question because of its uniqueness. Both the world outside expected these people to be the equivalent of clergy, and the officers themselves have often preferred to think of themselves in those terms. Yet, from the beginning it was not so.

Florence Booth, wife of the Army’s second General, Bramwell Booth, was in 1928 moved to protest such pressure to claim clerical status in the following words:

The kingdom of Satan and sin will never be overthrown by a body of officers, as officers only…. The churches have erred by shutting out the laity and making God’s work depend on the leaders only, and the Army was raised up as a protest against this very mistake. Do not ape the parson. Do not imitate the church. –A transcript of “But What Shall We Do,” on Earshot, Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Commission

Retired Salvation Army Commissioner Phillip Needham, a past Territorial Commander in the USA, spelled out the negative impact on Christian ministry and mission of moving to such an alien theology:

To move into ordination theology, exclusively reserved for a priestly caste, if you like is to undermine the priesthood of all believers. It’s to encourage our soldiery, our members to become more passive and to take less ownership of, and initiative in our ministry and mission. –Ibid

Dr. Harold Hill, retired New Zealand Salvation Army Officer, authored the book entitled Leadership in The Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006). Hill makes the case that the Salvation Army has institutionalized, and as a by-product of that it has engaged in a process of clericalisation or religious specialization. Through this process, a separate ministerial caste has been developing. The universal duty of serving others, with wide differentiation of functions may thus be forgotten in the pursuit of status. The fellowship of all believers, and indeed the collegiality of all believers, and the equality of status easily gives way to the collegiality of a special ministry within the whole community. Thus the division between “clergy” and “laity” becomes a reality. The adoption of the term “ordination” in association with the commissioning of The Salvation Army Officers in 1978 well illustrates this tendency.


Adventist believers may well have followed a similar trajectory to that of the Salvation Army. I believe that human nature tends toward an almost inevitable drift toward seeking for status. This will happen both in terms of relegating one gender to an inferior status, and also in seeking to exchange the collegiality of all believers for a two-tiered division within the whole people of God. And so, the old structures of power and domination seek a successful re-conquest of the new community of believers.

The adoption by the General Conference Executive Committee of some more inclusive policy settings, such as have been outlined above or similar, could challenge and even reverse this almost inevitable drift. It could challenge the subtle, even sinful changes in attitude and in our theology and produce much needed renewal and reformation. I am praying for this!

Peter Marks has taken early retirement from a lifetime of denominational service in Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea as a pastor/evangelist and as an English Professor. He is a graduate of Avondale College of Higher Education (BA Theology), of Newbold College (MA Religion), and the University of New South Wales (Master of Information Management – Librarianship).

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8269
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I appreciate the optimism, but I feel pessimistic about the upcoming meetings. I fear things may well go from bad to worse.

Where are you finding these items?


I agree. After taking a look at the 100+ page agenda document and the alarming powerpoints about rebellion, crises, and worse with case after case leading right up through Desmond Ford, things are not looking conciliatory.


This is not about optimism or pessimism. I am all about highlighting options. There is a way forward. My only question - will Committee Members give the policy refinement or policy development option the consideration it deserves.

In 1987 while a student in the UK I took a vacation to Scotland. The accelerator in my car stuck on a motorway in the far north of England. I exited the motorway and found myself with my runaway car in the middle of a residential district of Newcastle. My car was revving as I planted my foot on the brake. Next I put the hand brake on and put the car into low gear. Finally, I turned into a dead end street. Something then seemed to say, “turn the key off.” The car finally stopped about 20 or 30 yards from a brick wall. My engine had been steam cleaned. The acclerator cable had been dried out.

Will someone please stop this madness moments before impact!

Please do read of the theology and practice of the Salvation Army. It is a very cautionary tale concerning ordination.


If there were psychological underpinnings that led TW to drawing a red line in the sand over WO, one has to consider the normal and expected developmental milestone of a child wishing to be like his father. They come in different guises, religious or secular. Whereas his father had the Merikay issue, TW found his whipping post in WO. I’ll play the percentages and say TW would force the issue and demand no resolution but his way, even at the cost of splitting the church. Let this be a lesson to the nominating committee who finagled to elect him. They should share the blame for dividing our beloved church.

I[quote=“GeorgeTichy, post:7, topic:14379”]
If that pattern that you mentioned of Father/Son holds, we can already bet that the “verdicts” for this AC are already written and safely secure in the GC’s safe (as it happened in 1980)

A careful reading of the AC program gives a glaring clue to its already resolved “verdicts.” The program reads “Faithfulness to His Word,” a facade to the TW’s real message of steadfastness to his threat to those “rebellious” Unions. No deviation. You don’t need a psychiatrist to lay bare TW and his EXCOMM’s true agenda. The power of subconsciousness?


check out fall council’s agenda here:

it’s fascinating reading, especially the parade of rebels, pp. 29-41, like canright, kellogg and ford…i’m noticing they left out ballenger, who was ford’s prototype, and who brought MUCH grief to egw…

let’s not give up quite yet, Jeff…it ain’t over 'till it’s over, as they say…we have several days yet to pray that someone in fall council will notice that the apostolic church left us an example of a two-policy solution, which conveniently fits our dilemma on WO…

this example really is the answer to our problems…i can’t believe none of our leaders seem motivated to act on it…it’s like they’re all zombies, marching our church down a precipice, despite the crowds on either side yelling for them to stop…

i doubt it…it’s too comprehensive a change, even though it’s a good strategy since it doesn’t challenge the san antonio vote…

TW will show a lot of courage if declares san antonio a mistake, and works to pose a dual-policy question to the delegates in indianapolis 2020…if we can line up with the apostolic church’s example at their council of jerusalem, even now, we’ll be in harmony with the bible, despite the disaster at san antonio…

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I bet @harrpa can remember the alarming proportion of the procedures during the “Ford trial” - At Glacier View - when as we know (public knowledge from that time) the verdict against Ford was written before the meetings even started.

If that pattern that you mentioned of Father/Son holds, we can already bet that the “verdicts” for this AC are already written and safely secure in the GC’s safe (as it happened in 1980). @gford1

Especially if after the last slide about the “rebellions” comes a slide about …“AUSCHWITZ.” May this be a suggestive slide of what the GC intends to do with the Unions??? It wouldn’t be surprised…
= ========================

Believe me, not even a prophet has a clue at this time… :wink:


Please Jeremy! Not so fast! Please don’t condemn Annual Council to failure even before it has begun!

Why must the process of policy development be condemned to failure before it has begun!

After all both the SPD and the TED not to mention Dr Lowell Cooper have thought that the option ought to be highlighted.

And I have nowhere stated that such a process ought to be completed this Annual Council. I have just posed the question that each Committee member can with merit ask themselves. It is all a matter of the will!

Will Annual Council refine its credentialing policies?

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**My question is a rhetorical question that should be on the minds of every GC Executive Committee Member!** We know of course from the Agenda that many changes to Credentialing Policies are foreshadowed in the already published agenda!

Yet I am speaking of such policy development as the SPD, the TED and Dr Lowell Cooper have called for.

As far as comparing the sad loses of Canright, Kellogg, Conradi and Ford with our present circumstances the following facts stare one in the face. These men wanted to introduce some theological innovations into Adventism.

The present issues are far different in character, being policy issues that seek to assist Adventists to live up to the promise of its theology.

As the SDA Seminary Dean, Dr Jiri Moskala, reminded the 2016 Annual Council it is absolutely wrong to place the present policy standoff on the same footing as any doctrinal issue. The way one seeks to address policy non-compliance must necessarily differ from the way one seeks to address theological innovation. This is a fundamental consideration in our present predicament.

This fundamental consideration is neglected at our collective peril!

I could hope that Adventists everywhere could find it useful to affirm the following theological principles that are well illustrated in the experience of the Salvation Army movement.

Principle ONE: Women are to have an equal share in ministry with men

Principle TWO: Adventists are to enjoy a Total Member Involvement in which there is no distinction between clergy and laity, and no priestly caste but rather a collegiality of all believers.

(This second principle is being threatened in the Salvation Army, and some have predicted the demise of the movement within a generation).

Policy development that serves to re-establish these two principles of Adventist theology in its polity and policy is sorely needed.


ok i won’t be negative, but understand that even if our credentialing policies are overhauled over time, san antonio is still out of harmony with the bible and egw…i really think this is the bigger issue…

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Lessons from the Old Testament —
God ALLOWED the LEADERSHIP of the Throne AND the Temple to create havoc in the Kingdom of Israel. AND God ALLOWED it to become quite bad.
Causing Great Stress upon the members of the Congregation.

We HAVE NO IDEA HOW BAD God will allow things to become at Silver Springs. In Israel it took OUTSIDE FORCES to make changes in the Throne AND the Temple.
God Does Not Force Leaders to NOT cause Havoc among His people.
Members have to Find and Forge NEW WAYS to maintain a relationship with God, and NEW WAYS to carry out God’s plans.
Some of these WAYS may not be in harmony with the Throne, with the Temple.
Perhaps THIS is WHAT it is all about.


Post withdrawn. Post withdrawn.

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Yes Jeremy! The San Antonio vote doesn’t work for me chiefly because there would be unrest and unease regardless of the way the vote went! Though I honour the aim of this vote it really can’t do what it was designed to do. The specific policy of allowing Divisions to make the decision whether to allow the ordination of women failed to get up. But there is nothing to prohibit Adventists and specifically the General Conference Executive Committee from voting any other specific policy proposal that it believes would put the issues to bed.

In a local congregational setting, if a ruling is not effectively dealing with any given situation, the whole thing is often revisited. This Annual Council may yet seek to embrace our global family of unions and introduce policy development founded on the Consensus Statement on the Theology of Ordination to end the unrest, unease and encourage reconciliation and adherence to well developed policy. Will Annual Council do this? This is the question.



This is exactly the deception of the argument! Imagine that they are about to talk on WOMEN’S ORDINATION, and as a preparation for discussing the issue they come up with the cases of theologians that have challenged a complete different issue throughout the years. Isn’t it a clear evidence of malevolent intentions?

One thing that always aggravates me is when people in power (political or religious) talk to us, the people, as if we were complete imbeciles. Like this, for example: the issue is WO, but they mess up people’s minds (brainwashing??) with another completely unrelated issue. This way it will appear to the crowds that WO and challenging the un-biblical IJ issue are the same category of “REBELLION.”

Why do they treat as as IMBECILES, uh?.. This says it all, their intentions are clear and unequivocal!!! Let’s see how successful their maneuvering tools will work for them, … again…


Post deleted by author

2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV), “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

The arguments for not ordaining women sound more foolish and stupid as they get repeated in our church. I’d like to see our some of religious leaders abandon the cowardice of hiding behind Scripture and admit that they are picking and choosing from the Bible, opting only for what verses agree with their point of view. Studies have shown that women are more active and effective than most men in our churches—more likely to volunteer to serve, respond more fervently to appeals, pray daily, regularly filling most of the seats at our religious services—even though they are underrepresented as worship leaders and not eligible for ordination to the ministry. To treat women in an inferior state to men because they are women is foolish and stupid. (period!)


The Non-WO does not say woman cannot witness. They only say the Bible does not support them having official status as preachers. I am not a preacher of the church. I am a lay member. Does this mean I cannot witness to others…no far from this.
I have no problem in witnessing without getting paid for it. Actually…maybe less preachers should actually be paid less so we do not get those preachers into our church which does this as their ‘career’. We need pastors who are humbly deciding to follow Gods way…who have been touched by the HS…this kind of preachers we need more than ANYTHING today.

Why is it you pro-WO does not understand???
God choose a ‘special’ group of people as His priesthood. I adhere to what the Bible says rather than someone’s thought about what the Bible says.

Sola Scriptura…this is what you Pro-WO has a problem with…unfortunately!!!

Cut off the branch who will not follow Sola Scriptura as their ONLY baseline…but who willingly accepts human devising’s
about what the Bible says.

Danni DK,

You are so quick to categorize people and to judge their hermeneutics, even without knowing them personally.

I have rarely seen myself as a fully paid up member of either party. This is chiefly because all I understand of Adventist history and theology leads me to believe that in our best moments our movement has been anti-clerical in the best sense of the word. It leads me to have a very simple belief that a person’s calling to serve and to minister and extend the mission and ministry of Jesus is enfolded within their individual gift or gifts, pure and simple. Thus I affirm the priesthood of all, or better the collegiality of all believers.

God still has provided undershepherds who are to be respected. But they certainly should never imagine themselves to be a priestly caste or class.

Peter –
Perhaps it IS the Doctrine of Priesthood that is the MAJOR problem in the “Hiring – and paying – Laborers” in the Field, regardless of their Gender.
NEVER in ANY of our Religious writings is a Mother addressed as a Priest. Only Men. This is NOT 20th Century OR 21st Century thinking. It is 17th, 18th, 19th Century thinking that has been continued to be foisted upon us.

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[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:14379”]
2. Suspend the issuance of ministerial licenses and credentials. In their place use the Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential. Revise policy language concerning the role and leadership functions of individuals holding Commissioned Minister Credentials.
[/quote] - Lowell Cooper

Fact of the matter is current GC Working Policy provides for the issuance of Commissioned Minister License and Commissioned Minister Credential.

Commissioned Minister Credential—Issued to the following unless they hold ministerial credentials and except as provided in E 05 15; associates in pastoral care; Bible instructors; General Conference, division, union, and local conference/mission treasurers/chief financial officers and departmental directors including associate and assistant directors; institutional chaplains; presidents and vice presidents of major institutions; and auditors (General Conference director, associates, area and district directors). directors); and field directors of the Christian Record Services, Inc. These individuals should have significant experience in denominational service (usually five years or more) and demonstrate proficiency in the responsibilities assigned to them. It is recommended that an appropriate commissioning service be conducted when an employee is granted a Commissioned Minister Credential.
Commissioned Minister License—Where applicable, issued - No change
Licensed ministers are on the path toward ordination to the - No change