In this series, Adventist female pastors reflect on what women’s ordination means to them. Spectrum includes video interviews as well as their written thoughts.
You asked what ‘Women’s Ordination’ means to me? Had you asked me this when I was 17, I would have said it meant that I could not serve as God had called me, for women could not be ordained. God and I had many discussions over this and I went into nursing instead of the ministry.
While working as a nurse, I ministered to my patients’ spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. My colleagues would ask me about my faith and come to me with their questions and we would pray together. Yet, there was something not quite complete inside of me. God was continually speaking to my heart to go further; still I was not so sure ministry was for me.
God and I had this conversation until one day two non-Adventist chaplains approached me at the hospital and encouraged me to take Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I started in a CPE program finding the ministry God had chosen for me. As I looked at the requirements (the need for ordination) the fairness of ordination for women became an issue. I lost sight of the God-chosen part and looked at the principle of ordination for men only.
It was at my commissioning in 2004 as Elder Henry Lee spoke of the ministry God had called me to, continued to challenge me and the men being ordained in the ordination service, when the non-Adventist male pastors came to me after the service to lay hands upon me and have a prayer of blessing for me in the ministry I do at Lehigh Valley Health Network that I understood the true meaning of Ordination. It is the Holy Spirit who ordains not men.
I am pleased with the outcome of the Columbia Union Conference decision to ordain women. Presently, I receive my credentials from the Pennsylvania Conference and at this time they have decided not to ordain women. It remains a difficult topic, however I continue to believe it is the Holy Spirit who ordains. It would be wonderful for my parents, who have been in favor of ordination without respect to gender, to someday see me ordained by the church and hopefully, that will happen.
Therefore, today I look at ‘Women’s Ordination’ as a turning point for the Adventist Church. It is a humbling experience to be set apart to do God’s work. It is an awesome responsibility. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Lk 12:48 I have found this to be very true in my 19 years of chaplaincy, half of which has been in management of the pastoral care department. Those of us in ministry are called by God without respect to gender. The issue of gender and ordination is taking our time and our eyes off of the main reason we were called to ministry; that is to proclaim the soon coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Let us get about our Father’s business knowing we have already been ordained by His Spirit.
Barbara Rutt is currently the manager of the pastoral care department at Lehigh Valley Health Network. She was called to ministry at age 17, but resisted. Rutt used her knowledge in practice as she nursed her patients in the local church ministries and in the church schools where her husband taught. She was the first Seventh-day Adventist to attend Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Penn., and built her curriculum after the Andrews University Seminary curriculum, graduating May 11, 2004. The Association for Professional Chaplains Board Certification certified Rutt to chaplaincy in August 2004, and the Pennsylvania Conference of Seventh-day Adventists commissioned her June 19, 2004.