Editor’s Note: On April 25, 2021 the North German Union voted to ordain women and men equally to pastoral ministry. The full press release originally appeared in German on the Union’s website and was also distributed by the Adventist Press Service.
An English translation of the press release is provided below (translated to English via DeepL.com):
North German Adventists decide to implement equal ordination of female pastors
In its regular meeting on April 25, the governing body of the national church leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Northern and Eastern Germany (North German Union/NDV) decided to finally implement the equal ordination of men and women in pastoral ministry. The implementation of the decision, which was already taken in 2012, had been postponed several times for reasons of church politics.
The motion of this online meeting of the executive committee of the NDV, a decision already made in 2012 by the constituency meeting of the NDV has been implemented. The current motion reads, "the Seventh-day Adventist church, North German Union, ordains men and women to the worldwide pastoral ministry with immediate effect, as decided by the constituency meeting [session] of the church in the NDV in 2012. Pastors who have received a "blessing" since 2012 based on the interim solution decided by the NDV Union Committee [exec comm] will retroactively receive credentials for "ordination." The resolution was passed with 24 YES votes, 2 NO votes and 4 abstentions.
According to Pastor Johannes Naether, president of the NDV, the 2012 decision at the time was not implemented. For one thing, there were no female pastors in the NDV area who had received an ordination recommendation at that time. Also, a theological study group (Theology of Ordination Study Committee/TOSC) had been appointed in 2013 to work on the issue of ordination of women. The NDV did not want to act prematurely because of church policy considerations. Finally, as a result of TOSC's work, a motion was to be made at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio to give subcontinental church leadership (divisions) the freedom to ordain women as pastors. Again, the NDV did not want to act prematurely before the vote of the General Conference in session with the possibility of a positive vote. However, this motion did not receive a majority vote in San Antonio in 2015.
Weighing the decision of 2012, the preservation of the unity of the universal church and as a sign of accommodation, the NDV governing body decided in 2016 in a principle decision to grant men and women without distinction a commissioning in the form of a "blessing." With this interim solution, female and male pastors in the region of the NDV should equally receive a "blessing" by laying on of hands according to the biblical model.
Warning against the NDV by the World Church Executive Committee
Naether further explained that the NDV had to accept that this compromise line was met with rejection by the World Church Board (General Conference/GC) and resulted in a warning by the Executive Committee of the GC, even though the NDV was within the framework of the Church Constitution (Working Policy/WP) with its 2016 decision. This resulted in a request in December 2019 to the NDV executive committee to "implement or retroactively certify the Geseke (2012) decision to "ordain women" in the future. However, this request was postponed until after the GC Session scheduled six months later. The pandemic upset these schedules, so the GC Session was postponed twice and is now scheduled for May 2022.
Plea for justice and equal treatment
Since currently "the crucial messages on these issues come outside of church, mostly through civil society engagement," Naether said, "we should learn to lovingly but courageously shake our own system and not just act according to a familiar pattern." That put the December 2019 motion back on the agenda to ordain women to the global pastoral ministry and to "stand up for biblically based values such as justice and equality." Naether assessed this as a "valuable contribution to the development of his church" and he sees it also in line with Reformation thinking.
Reference to the situation of the world church
Pastor Mario Brito, president of the Seventh-day Adventist church for the region of Western and Southern Europe (Inter-European Division/EUD), who was present, followed the lively debate and asked the members of the executive body not to lose sight of the situation of the world church. "I am not against women's ordination being done in Europe, while other parts of the world may choose not to do so. My concern is that we do that against the vote of GC in session. It will open a precedent that will backfire against us even in our own territory." He recommended that the decision be reconsidered.
Asked about the possible consequences of the decision, Naether replied, "I don't know. We need (but) a leg for stability and a leg for conquering spaces of possibility, for developing into the open, into the catchment area of the Holy Spirit."
North German Union (NDV)
The Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany consists of a national governing body in northern and eastern Germany (North German Union/NDV), with headquarters in Hanover, and in southern Germany (South German Union/SDV), with headquarters in Ostfildern near Stuttgart. The NDV, with nearly 19,000 members and 338 congregations and groups includes four local conferences with the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. Worldwide, there are nearly 22 million Adventists in over 169,000 congregations and groups (Annual Statistical Report 2020).
The original press release in German:
Press release and photo courtesy of the APD.
(Update: April 26, 2021 at 12:30 p.m. EDT): Minor edits have been made to this translation.
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