Frequently Asked Questions

About Women

Does the world church allow female pastors or not?

The world church allows female pastors. In certain areas, where it is deemed desirable, female pastors can be so called ‘commissioned’ on the authority of their world division. The world church absolutely recognises that women can be employed as fully functioning pastors. With the exception of the final step, the equivalent ordination for male and female pastors, which is as of yet not recognised.

What is the difference between licenced, commissioned and ordained?

The commissioned credential has come into being for people who work for the church, but have not been called as pastors: e.g. treasurers, department heads, executives of church organisations etc. This credential should also be given to female pastors even if they have received the call to pastorship. The ordained credential is for people called as and employed as functioning pastors. The licence credential is for ministerial interns, gaining experience necessary for ordination.

What is the difference between a pastoral worker and a female pastor?

Pastoral workers are men and women from diverse backgrounds and education, who assist pastors in their responsibilities. They have no independent responsibilities toward a church congregation and are not permitted to conduct communion, unless they are a local elder.

How many female pastors are there in the Adventist church?

There are two female pastors in the Netherlands and more than 60 in our Division and numerous more in the world church.

Is it true that a woman leads the largest congregation in China?

More than half the pastors in China are female. The biggest Adventist congregation in China has more than 7000 members and a female pastor: Hao Ya Jie. She founded the congregation in 1985 in her living room. Another female pastor, Zu Xiu Hua, has founded more than 400 congregations in China.

Read for example this report from the former world president when he visited China. Also read this report written by the church in North America.

Why did the church, in 1975, decide to ordain women elders?

As early as 1968 the church of Finland requested permission to ordain women. In 1972, the first female elder was ordained in the Potomac Conference. As a result of this, the leaders of the world church, decided to establish a study committee. During the spring session of the world church In 1975, it was decided that women can be ordained as deaconesses and elders, provided that the
due care was taken into account. This decision was reiterated in 1984.

Ellen White

Is it true that Ellen White states that she was ordained by God himself?

Ellen White wrote in 1909: ‘The Lord blessed me as a messenger in the city of Portland, and it was here that I did my first work in the interest of the present truth’ (Letter 138 1909). Ellen white believed with her whole heart that she was ordained by God to her prophetic office.

Was Ellen White ordained or not?

Ellen White was never formally ordained as pastor by the laying on of hands. She did, however, often receive the affirmation of ordination from a pastor. She personally asserted that she was ordained by God.

How did Ellen White express God’s attitude toward the ordination of women in general (deaconesses, elders)?

In general Ellen White placed far more emphasis on the ordination which a person receives from God, than the human ceremony of laying on of hands. She saw this ceremony purely as recognition of the Godly ordination. She often suggested the laying on of hands for women. In 1895 she wrote an article about the task of the pastor: ‘Women who give a portion of their time in the service of the Lord, must be appointed to visit the sick, care for the youth, and help the poor. She must be set apart for this work through prayer and the laying on of hands’ (The Duty of the Minister and the People, 434). She was a strong advocate of women ordination in general.

How is it possible that a church which for decades had a women – Ellen White- as their spiritual leader (and still is through her publications) can as yet be discussing the ordination of women? Has God not made a statement?

The opponents to the ordination of women regularly maintain that Ellen White was never officially ordained. One often hears the remark that God only uses women when there are no men available.

About Theology

Is the Bible against the ordination of women or is it more a policy issue?

On this opinions are divided. The world church formed a committee to study the theology of ordination. (TOSC Committee). 34% of the theologians in this committee found that the ordination of women is unbiblical. The remaining 66% found no biblical problem with ordination. These 66% were divided over two points of view, both found that women should be allowed to be ordained in countries which so desire. Their differences of opinion were in theological details.

Read the report of the TOSC-committee here:

What does headship-theology mean?

Headship theology has spread from other American denominations over the past decades. It maintains that there is a hierarcal order in creation: God, Jesus, man, woman, animal. On the basis of this theology man stands above woman. This headship of men should apply to the church as well, whereby a woman can never have authority of a man. This theology goes against the Adventist Fundamental Belief concerning equality. In August, 2014 the professors of the Adventist Seminary, Andrews University, pronounced their disagreement with this theology. Read their report here:

Ellen White would not have advocated this theology, she writes: ‘Woman should fill the position which God originally designed for her, s  her husband’s equal'(The Adventist Home, 231).

There were no female priest in the temple of God, why should we now have female pastors?

The levites in the ancient Israel had four duties: service in the sanctuary, teaching the people about the faith, the management of the temple, and prophetic tasks. Female priests were permitted to carry out three of these four tasks. The reason that females were not permitted to do temple duties was mainly due to their monthly cycle and the corresponding impurity.
With the coming and death of Jesus, the old testament temple system was done away with and the priests made redundant. Jesus is our high priest, and all members (also the female members) are priests. (1 Peter 2:5-9). The pastors are not comparable to the old testament priests which were discontinued by Jesus.


If we ordain women, will this not result in allowing homosexual pastors in the near future?

Woman ordination has nothing to do with homosexuality. The present discussion concerns how we acknowledge the work of women who for years have functioned as pastors.The ministry has been open to women for many years, however with a second-class status. Only this inequality is now being discussed. The discussion has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Is women’s ordination not just a result of feminism?

Women have played an important role in the church since the days of Jesus. Due to borders imposed by people, and the influence of the Roman Catholic church, possibilities for women in the church became very limited. Hence for centuries the priest-hood was only available to men. This fundamental inequality between men and women, which is in opposition to the bible, is what we wish to equalise. It is not a result of feminism, but the result of honestly looking at what the bible teaches about humanity and the role of every individual in the church.

Many pagan religions have female priests. Are female pastors not another means Satan is using to destroy our church?

Our church cannot be compared to pagan religions. It is a fact that in many parts of the world, the Adventist church would not be able to function without the input of women in the church.

About church policy

Is the Dutch Adventist church in opposition to the world church?

The Dutch Adventist church has not turned against the world church. Where possible the Working Policy of the church is followed. Very seldom different choices are made because the mission in the Netherlands requires it, or because our consciences dictate a different decision. The Working Policy acknowledges the autonomy of the regional churches in the world field.

Are we still adventists if we go against the Working Policy of the world church?

Of course we are adventist! The world church is made up of more than a hundred regions, which together form the world church. In consultation with each other we carry out our mission expressed in the three angels message to our regions. This is not performed in a uniform manner, but rather as a large family in consultation and cooperation with each other. Pastor Wim Altink, our president, is still a member of the management of the world church as well as our world region. There is no single reason to surmise that we are no longer adventists.

Why does the Dutch Adventist church just decide of its own accord? Why does it want to necessarily go against the world church?

The highest authority in the Netherlands are the delegates in session. In 2012 they de-cided with a great majority that equality most be given to the pastors in the Netherlands. This was decided after pastor Bertil Wilander, the then vice president of the world church, explained in detail that it was in opposition to the guidelines of the world church. However, the Netherlands delegates decided that the principal of equality carried more weight. This was not a rebellious action or disobedience, it is a matter of standing up for your principals and helping to make the world a better place. The Netherlands Adventist church is not the only one that has take this principled stand. Norway, Denmark, North Germany and two large unions in North America have also gone against the guidelines of the world church on this issue.

Was the decision of the delegates during the congress of 2012 with regards to the full ordination of female pastors legitimate (according to the Working Policy)?

The decision differs somewhat to the Working Policy of the world church, but it is legitimate according to our own statutes. These statues are approved by the world church.

What is the authority of the General Conference? Are we allowed to go against the world church?

In the early years of our church, the General Conference had total authority. In part based on the compulsory advice of Ellen White, in the beginning of the twentieth century, that authority became limited. Unions were established to limit the monopoly of the General Conference. The Netherlands church is such a union. Unions specifically exist in order to fulfill the mission of the church to the best of our ability in our region. In this all unions agree, as a world church, to certain guidelines. Every union stays as close as possible within these guidelines, while simultaneously upholding its original task: to bring to completion the mission in its region. These two do not always go hand in hand, and sometimes needs a diversion from the guidelines. In almost every case this happens with consultation, but in the case of women’s ordination, it has become a power struggle. Every-one concerned finds this regretful.

What is more important, the ‘purity’ of church doctrine or the people we are trying to reach, offering them a safe haven?

Both are obviously important, however sometimes it is necessary to be flexible in order to reach as many people as possible with Gods truth.

The president of the General Conference is the highest authority under God. How can we go against him?

This is a very Roman Catholic notion. The Netherlands Adventist church acknowledges the authority of the General Conference, but also has the duty of protecting its own mission territory.

Some people maintain that we have the right to ordain women on the basis of the Working Policy. How is that?

The Working Policy acknowledges the ordination of female elders and deaconesses. It also acknowledges the commissioning of female pastors. The ordination of female pas-tors is not acknowledged. But regularly an appeal is made based on a section of the policy that deals with discrimination. In this case the policy contradicts itself. It is stated that the church does not discriminate, yet in the case of female pastors, it does. This is strange.

The General Conference is now giving an interpretation of the Working Policy. Several unions explain this differently. How does the General Conference decide who has the final word in conflicting interpretations of the Working Policy?

The unions are responsible to implement the Working Policy in their area. That happens as conscientiously as possible. However, in some cases one can deviate from the Policy because local circumstances demand it.

How autonomous is a local congregation in relation to the conference or union to which it belongs and how autonomous is a union in relation to the General Conference?

I works in the same way. A union has a specific policy and requests the congregations to implement it. However, if a congregation is busy with very different programs and does not give too much attention to the union policy, it will not be sanctioned. The congregation makes its own decision. It works the same way for a conference towards the union and the union towards the General Conference.

Can the General Conference reverse a union decision? What role does the Annual Council play in this scenario?

No, the General Conference cannot reverse a union decision. If a union gets really out of step then the General Conference can intervene by calling a session of delegates.

Is Pastor Ted Wilson’s letter the official standpoint of the General Conference?

The letter regarding the ordination and the Working Policy is a product of the secretariat of the General Conference. It is official insofar as it is what the leaders of the General Conference convey. However, it is not a letter drawn up at Annual Council and signed on behalf of all the chairmen. For this reason is the letter a one-sided action of a number of leaders at the General Conference.