Recently there has been a remarkable shift taking place in the discussion regarding female pastors in the church. Originally, the discussion was directed on the question of whether or not it is a step too far to ordain women pastors. At the moment the remark is often heard that there should be no female pastors appointed, and that all ordinations of women should be reversed. This would mean that all female elders and deaconesses would no longer be ordained and (as is defined in the Church Manual), unable to, or not properly able to, carry out their tasks.
This shift is especially noteworthy because members say this, while referring to the decision of the General Conference Session in San Antonio. The question that was decided on was about delegating a specific decision-making possibility to the divisions.
‘Is it 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? Yes or No’?
The answer to this question was ‘no’, as most of us are already aware.
Subsequently elder Ted Wilson, the president of the General Conference, explicitly stated that the present situation will be maintained. The present situation allows the ordination of women as deaconesses and elders and also that female pastors may be commissioned. One could call this ‘semi-ordination’. Commissioned pastors may perform most of the tasks of an ordained pastor, with the exception of organising a church and becoming president of a conference, union, division, or the General Conference.
In the Netherlands we created equality between male and female pastors in 2013. We did this on explicit request of the delegates of the union congress of 2012. Female pastors in the Netherlands are completely equivalent to their male colleagues and as such also get ordained. Therefore it is only the very last bit of ordination that places the Netherlands out of step with the regulations of the General Conference.
The idea that the Dutch Adventist church totally ignores the Working Policy of the General Conference is therefore not correct.
Besides that there is another strange phenomenon circulating. Opposers of ordination are calling upon the authority of the General Conference in session. This authority is seen as the highest authority under God. When the delegates have spoken, it is binding. It is therefore also very strange that it is being suggested that the ordination of all women must be reversed. The ordination of deaconesses was voted on during a session of the General Conference. If we now decide that this must be reversed, do we then still acknowledge the highest authority under God? Or is it too a deviation from church pronouncements?
During the session of 2015, the Church Manual and the Fundamental Beliefs, were as far as possible, changed to gender neutral language. This is an indication that also the General Conference acknowledges the importance of women in leadership. There are diverse areas in the world where the church would not exist without the powerful leadership of women. The leadership of the church acknowledges this and supports these women.
Let’s be honest. If all women in the Dutch church declare solidarity and start protesting, it will be a bad prospect for the future of the church in our country. Without women the church will scarcely function or not at all.
The Working Policy of the church offers ample opportunity for women to be leaders in diverse functions and to be ordained. Female pastors are fully recognised in the church and have the support of the church leadership. In areas where it is deemed appropriate, women can be ‘commissioned’ without any problem.
The conclusion is that the Netherlands Adventist church, by the ordination of female elders and deaconesses and the appointment of female pastors, is in total harmony with the policy of the General Conference. Only with regards to the last piece, namely the equal ordination of male and female pastors, do the Dutch fall slightly out of step.