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Adventist History in the Making: Norma Osborn Ordains Her Son Trevan


Trevan Osborn, pastor for Young Adult Ministry at the Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grand Terrace, California, was ordained Saturday, April 11 by his mother, Norma Osborn. It was the first time in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination that a mother ordained her son. Norma Osborn is no stranger to historic ordination events; she was one of the first women to be ordained in the denomination during a ceremony on September 23, 1995 at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Over one hundred family members, pastoral colleagues, church members and friends came for the Sabbath afternoon service. John Brunt, the Senior Pastor at Azure Hills welcomed attendees, and Ernie Furness, the Ministerial Director for the Southeastern California Conference (SECC), offered introductory remarks, followed by musical selections from members of the Connect Young Adult group that Osborn serves as pastor. 

Osborn’s long-time friend Otis Coutsoumpos introduced the ordination candidate, noting that Osborn and his wife both came from families of pastors and denominational leaders. “You’ve got an incredibly storied and revered group of Adventist leaders united here through Shari and Trevan,” Soutsoumpos remarked. “It is a testament to the tireless, dedicated and passionate service offered to God by the Osborns, Keoughs and Pottingers that we are here today celebrating that their kids, Shari and Trevan are being recognized as leaders in the Church in their own right because of the Spirit of God that we have all seen demonstrated in their lives.”

Otis Coutsoumpos introduces Trevan Osborn.

Elder Furness, SECC President Sandy Roberts, and Azure Hills Young Adult member Keturah Reed led a liturgy of affirmation of Osborn’s calling, and his declaration of vows to uphold the teachings of Jesus.

Kendra Haloviak Valentine, who was ordained along with Norma Osborn at Sligo in 1995, gave the ordination homily. She preached from a biblical text that she omitted from a “Jesus and the Gospels” class that both Trevan and Shari attended in 1999-2000 at Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University). The passage was the story in which Jesus called a Syrophoenecian woman a dog. “I intentionally skipped a story found in Mark and Matthew,” she confessed, saying that she knew she would get “some really good questions I just couldn’t answer.” 

Noting that there were plenty of beautiful, inspiring passages of Scripture one could turn to on this day, Valentine asked, “Why go to Mark chapter 7 and this particular story? Why? Because I know that for Trevan and his family, and many members of his extended family, every ordination service is a mixture of both joy and pain. The difficult teachings of Scripture, the hard sayings of Jesus and Paul cannot be skipped,” she said. 

“The crumbs are enough,” says Kendra Haloviak Valentine.

Valentine delved into the many ways people have sought to explain Jesus’ use of an epithet referring to the Syrophoenecian woman, but noted that whereas Jesus challenges cultural paradigms in other parts of the text, here, he employs a standard racist and sexist label. “Call the woman a dog if you want,” Valentine went on, “but she must complete her mission.” 

“She’ll take the insults. After all, the insults are the norm in her world. And she’ll take the crumbs because crumbs are enough.”

Following the homily, SECC Treasurer Verlon Srauss, along with Elder Furness, performed the perfunctory examination, during which Osborn affirmed his sense of called-ness and his willingness to serve the Church and its people. Then the stage filled with ordained ministers called up to lay their hands on him in a prayer of ordination. In the center of the stage was Norma Osborn with Trevan and Shari.  

“You’ve chosen Trevan to help some of your people through the ups and downs of their stories, and you’ve chosen Trevan to envision a better world, and you’ve chosen Trevan to join you in making this world like the heaven you want us to inhabit,” she prayed.

Norma Osborn offers a prayer of ordination for her son Trevan.

Elder Mario Perez, assistant to the president in the conference office, issued a charge to Osborn following the dedicatory prayer, and then Sandy Roberts, another Adventist history-maker as the first woman president of a conference, welcomed Osborn to ordained pastoral ministry and presented him with his ordained ministerial credentials.

Next, Osborn gave a sometimes tearful response in which he explained the significance of the women participants in his ordination service.

I love the Adventist church. It has taught me about the love and grace of God and how life with God is abundant. It has provided myself and many of my family members with a life’s purpose and vocation. It has provided me with a great community. Everywhere I have lived, I have been surrounded by wonderful friends and support. Thank you for coming today.

It has provided me with my education. Challenging me to think for myself and not just reflect the thoughts of others. To dig deep into any subject I’m studying and come to my own convictions and conclusions. Now, it is helping provide a foundation of faith for my two sons, Luke and Zeke. I want my sons to have a rich faith experience and this provides much of my motivation for being a pastor. I want to help shape the experience in a positive way.

It is because of this, that I must share my greatest frustration with segments of Adventism.

I have to admit that today is somewhat bittersweet for me. The world church’s stance against fully embracing women in pastoral ministry is a source of great disappointment, shame, and pain. I’m sure you have noticed the prominent place women have had in this service.

My mother doing the ordination prayer. Kendra doing the homily. Sandy doing her duties as conference president is icing on the cake.

You might say that I was trying to make a statement with these choices. In a sense, “Yes.” But, really, they were the most natural choices to be part of this service.

My mother was the first person to teach me about God, baptized me, and served as a role model for my pastoral ministry. Kendra is a long-time family friend and her class, “Jesus and the Gospels” taught me how to read the Bible and has been an inspiration my whole life.

I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it is to have Sandy as a boss. She is wise, forward-thinking, and affirming and I am inspired to work in this conference.

Both sides of the ordination argument can lob Bible proof text grenades at one another but it’s really missing the point.

The fact that is undeniable is that women are blessed and gifted by God to serve his church in many ways, including pastoral ministry. You can see the fruit of their work all around. There is no difference in quality in terms of spirituality, leadership ability, or any other characteristic we look for in a pastor. I can almost guarantee that all of us have been blessed in some way by the work of a woman in ministry.We can debate Scripture all we want but the simple fact is that women are ministering and it is having a profoundly positive effect. To try and limit and deny that, only damages the Gospel and our churches by stifling the work of the Spirit which is taking place everywhere women are serving.

This must end.

I want my sons to be part of a church that embraces all God’s people as worthy of love and respect. That doesn’t try to exclude people based on any label we try to place on people. That no matter what decisions they will make in their lives, the church will always be a place where they can find people who will help them become the people God wants them to be. Jesus’ message of radically inclusive love must be at the heart and center of our experience.

This is what I’m dedicated to in my pastoral ministry. This is the church I want my sons to be part of.

My dream is that when my sons get older and ask my mom what she did for a career and she tells them that she was a pastor that it will be the most natural thing to them. They won’t even think twice about it. That there will be no question or doubt in the church, that women are just as gifted and called as men. That my mom can tell them that the church wasn’t always that way but they realized they were wrong and came to embrace the way God’s spirit was leading.

Following the response, the Young Adult music leaders led a congregational song, and Trevan’s uncle and pastoral colleague at Azure Hills, Alger Keough, offered a benediction.

Watch the entire service below.

Kendra Haloviak Valentine’s Homily only:

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

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