This has been a big year for the conversation on women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
From Annual Council votes to ordination ceremonies, here are fifteen of the biggest women’s ordination stories we reported on in 2014, placed in chronological order.
January 30. ANN Confirms Shift Toward Acceptance of Women’s Ordination, but then Removes Statement from Website.
In January, the Adventist News Network, the official news outlet of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, released a statement indicating that the takeaway from the January Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) was that “At least 10 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 13 world division Biblical Research Committees say they would either recommend the ordination of women to ministry or would allow it in some world regions without the matter harming church unity.” However, shortly after ANN published this statement, it was removed from their website. A cached version of the original article is available here.
June 5. Majority of TOSC Backs Women’s Ordination
In June after meeting together numerous times, the General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee delegates voted on the ordination of women. With a new a third option proposed allowing for the ordination of women in the denomination while affirming a biblical pattern of male leadership, the vote was complicated. However, the vote revealed that the large majority of TOSC delegates favored allowing women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to proceed.
August 22. Andrews Seminary Publishes Statement on Headship.
In August, the seminary at Andrew’s University released statement asserting that “male headship” in Adventist church leadership was “non-transferable,” referencing Ellen White and the Old Testament as evidence. The statement supported a democratic church government and refuted the notion that male headship became the church’s model of leadership after The Fall in the Garden of Eden. “We, the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, affirm that Christ is the only Head of the Church. Therefore, while there exists legitimate leadership in the Church, no other human being may rightfully claim a headship role in the Church,” the statement said.
October 1. Why Stephen Bohr Wants Male Headship in the Adventist Church.
At a four day long Women’s Ordination symposium in hosted and produced by Fresno Central Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Stephen Bohr, Bohr spoke out strongly against ordaining women as pastors and advocated rescinding previous church actions that allow women to be ordained as elders and deacons. The symposium was organized by fifteen male headship proponents, some of whom (including Bohr) sat on the GC Theology of Ordination Study Committee. The symposium came only a few weeks before the Annual Council meetings where women’s ordination was a major topic of discussion.
October 2. Male Headship Symposium Day Two: Satan is Behind Feminism.
Laurel Damsteegt, a member of TOSC, spoke on day two of the headship symposium, arguing for a link between feminism—and through it women’s ordination—to Satanism. Damsteegt introduced what she called “Type Two Spiritualism” into the vernacular, referring to covert satanic influence. Although she herself had felt drawn to the ministry, she said, Damsteegt felt her role, according to Scripture, was to support her pastor husband in his work for God.
October 8. Before Annual Council, Damsteegt Attempts to Change Seminary’s Headship Statement.
In the days leading up to the 2014 Annual Council, Gerard Damsteegt, a professor in the Seminary at Andrews University and husband of Laurel Damsteegt, led an attempt to revise the Andrews University Seminary’s Statement on Headship. In an email to colleagues, he urged reconsideration of male headship and supported his arguments with an attached appeal, detailing his and colleagues’ reasoning. Seminary faculty rebutted the attempted revision a few days later.
October 12. Artur Stele: No Theological Solution to Women’s Ordination.
During a meeting of young adult delegates at the 2014 Annual Council, Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) chair and GC General Vice President Artur Stele stated that the issue of women’s ordination has no clear theological solution. When the issue has no theological solution, administrators must solve it ecclesiastically, Stele said. Stele’s comments provided a resounding answer to those who argue that the Bible makes the issue clear.
October 14. Annual Council Votes Women’s Ordination Question for 2015 GC Session.
At the October Annual Council session, delegates voted and approved a question concerning women’s ordination to be sent to the 2015 General Conference Session. The final vote was 243 in favor, 44 opposed, and 3 in abstention. After lengthy discussion in a tightly orchestrated business session, delegates approved a neutral question crafted by the General Conference and Division Officers.
November 14. Pacific Union Conference Votes Statement in Favor of Divisions Deciding Ordination Policies.
Members of the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee called a special meeting to vote a document supporting “the statements and actions voted at NAD TOSC, at GC Annual Council 2014 and at NAD Year End Meetings 2014, affirming unity in diversity. And we stand in support of a vote at General Conference Session 2015 that will authorize each Division of the church to develop and practice its own policies on women’s ordination.”
November 21. Columbia Union Conference Recommends ‘Yes’ Vote on GC Ordination Question.
In anticipation of the 2015 General Conference session in Texas, the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee released a statement in support of the regional bodies of the Seventh-day Adventist Church the authority to decide how and when to handle the delicate question of women’s ordination. Columbia Union Conference President Dave Weigley believed a vote towards women’s ordination would strengthen church unity and mission around the world.
November 21. Adventist Society for Religious Studies Votes Support for ‘Yes’ Vote on GC Ordination Question.
Members of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies meeting in San Diego, California voted to support a “YES” vote on the Women’s Ordination motion that will be considered at the 2015 General Conference Session. The group includes many of the Adventist Church’s top scholars, theologians and administrators.
December 5. Viewpoint: Why Unions Should Assert Their Right to Decide Women’s Ordination
Retired Seventh-day Adventist university administrator and theologian Sakae Kubo argued in a guest column that unions and conferences should assert their right to decide the question of ordination within their territories. Kubo contended that women’s ordination is a regional issue that should be determined locally, and should not be decided at the General Conference. In the event that the GC votes “NO,” it would be much more difficult to make claims that legitimize ordinations, he warned.
December 15. Potomac Conference Ordains Pranitha Fielder, a First for Indian Adventist Women.
The Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventists demonstrated that there will be no turning back on ordaining women. Conference President Bill Miller presided over the ordination of Pranitha Fielder, an associate pastor at the Sligo Church. It was the first ordination of an Indian-American woman in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
December 17. How the Humble Ampersand Became a Powerful Symbol for Women’s Ordination.
Virginia Davidson, an artist living in Washington State, created an icon that became the symbol for the grassroots movement to ordain women. Davidson, a member of a Facebook group supportive of ordaining women, created a logo out of the ampersand character, representing God’s calling of women & men to gospel ministry. The significance of the story, like the ampersand icon itself, was the symbolic power of a ground-up movement finding its voice and literally making its mark.
December 23. Netherlands Union Lists Job Opening for Female or Male Pastors.
The Netherlands Union Conference, part of the Trans-European Division, listed a vacancy for a pastor, and called for female candidates to apply. In and of itself, the act was not noteworthy, except that it demonstrated one union’s intentionality in recruiting more women pastors. NUC was the first union in Europe to ordain a woman, and has signalled a clear intent to continue bringing women into ministry.
Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.