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Ordination Equality Gains Momentum

Some day when church historians look back at this era, 2012 may prove to be the year when the tide turned in favor of ordination equality in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. On New Year’s Day, a group composed of pastors, scholars, theologians and administrators launched an initiative called ONE in Christ, ONE being an acronym for Ordain Now Equally. The initiative builds on momentum from recent actions taken by the North American Division and the Trans European Division to allow commissioned ministers to serve as conference presidents. Those actions were understood to be important steps toward the egalitarian vision Paul casts in Galatians 3:28. But ultimately, as actions that allowed women new privileges while continuing to perpetuate the old, separate and inferior categories for female Adventist leaders, those actions were rejected as insufficient. The foundational first principle of oneness in Christ Jesus demanded more.

Warren Trenchard, a professor of New Testament and Early Christian Writings and former provost at La Sierra University, began to imagine what more might be done in preparation for a sermon, out of which came the seeds of the ONE in Christ initiative.

For a long time I have felt that the only potentially successful way to address the problem of gender inequity in the Adventist ministry is to do so at the local conference level. The particular catalyst that moved me to action recently was my preparation for delivering a homily for the liturgical worship at the La Sierra University Church in November. One of the assigned texts for the day introduces the story of the Deborah, the celebrated Israelite judge. It dramatically occurred to me how unlikely Deborah’s incredible and multifaceted leadership stands out in the literary context of the Hebrew Bible to the contrastingly low legal and social position of women found in the Pentateuch. I concluded from an a fortiori perspective that if Deborah could reach such levels of leadership in that context, how much more should women today be acknowledged and celebrated in leadership, especially in the Adventist Church. That compelled me to action and led me to invite a few others to join in the launch of ONE in Christ.

The group created a website with a space for readers to sign their names in support of ordination equality. The website targeting Church administrators with a message of empowerment and affirmation, encourages leaders to take swift action with the support of their constituents. Almost immediately after the website’s launch on January 1st, it began to be shared via Facebook, email and other social media. The initiative, which began in Southeastern California Conference where gender inclusivity has been church policy for over a decade,  hopes to garner grass-roots support for ordination equality throughout the Adventist denomination. Trisha Famisaran, director of the Adventist Women’s Resource Center and a member of the ONE in Christ steering committee had this to say:

I’m encouraged as I learn more about women’s contributions in our church’s history and look at the inspiring ministries of women pastors around me. It’s time for the church to collectively do the right thing–go beyond just appreciation for women to affirming that we are indeed equal.

Another like-minded group of students has started an effort called Adventist Equality. The group’s first action was to release a video calling Adventists to task for sexism. The video includes several powerful statements by Church administrators, including past General Conference presidents, who have spoken in favor of biblically-based equality.

Imagine Adventist Equality from Robert Jacobson on Vimeo.

Unsurprisingly, some responses to these initiatives have reflected antagonism toward their method of embodying Scripture’s vision of oneness. One angry email respondant argued that equality of this kind violates Scripture and the “Spirit of Prophecy.” The message may be indicative of the kind of opposition the ONE initiative will face as it spreads. Still, if recent Church events are an indicator, support for equality may have already reached a tipping point.

To learn more, visit or connect on Facebook.

Full disclosure: Jared Wright is part of the ONE in Christ steering committee.

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