By Wayne Kablanow

On September 21 CAP reported on the Norwegian Union and its announcement that it is proceeding in an attempt to create a single credential for men and women, placing both sexes in positions of leadership equal to those of spiritually qualified ordained males. But we did not at that time report on similar actions about the same time by Danish and Swedish Unions.

The Danish Union stated that

“In the future DUChC will only use one term and one credential: “pastor” for both men and women who successfully have completed the intern-period” (Equality and Ordination, Danish Union of Seventh-day Adventists statement, 22 September 2015, http://www.adventist.dk/nyheder/768, accessed 2015-09-25).

Similarly, the Swedish Union decided in 2012 that it was an ethical issue to treat men and women equally, so-defined that role-differentiation is rejected. The Swedish Church has set up a Task Force that has already met twice, working to implement their vision of equality in contrast to the vision of equality held by the world church (http://www.adventist.se/artikel/4277/vagen-framat-efter-ordinationsbeslutet.aspx). The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the concept of gender-specific roles, and authorizes only the ordination of qualified males to position as ordained minister.

Features in common in the actions by Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden Unions include their rejection of role differentiation along with the creation of new unisex credentials which abandon the concept of ordination as practiced by the Adventist Church. What is being attempted is to designate workers who before had been titled as “ordained,” just “pastors” in the new arrangement. This is similar to the path taken by advocates of women’s ordination in North America when the “commissioned” credential was created.

The Council of Adventist Pastors, a North American group of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, not only finds Bible evidence for the practice of ordination persuasive, but also evidence found in the writings of Ellen G. White. Some examples of this are seen in her book Acts of the Apostles, such as the following:

The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted (Acts of the Apostles, p. 95).

A council with representatives from the churches, very much like a General Conference session in which all these Unions were indeed represented, was to gather and see what solution the guidance of the Holy Spirit would lead to for the whole of the church. The practice of ordination is also a part of the divine plan:

God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.

Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God (Ibid., pp. 161, 162).

God invested His church with special authority. We seek to work together in unity. But

There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God (Ibid., p. 163).

In San Antonio the Church employed this special authority to reach a decision for the good of the entire church. We do not deny that the general feeling in Scandinavian culture is in disagreement with the position of the representatives of the world church. However, we believe that attempts to create one-sex credentials in Scandinavia and to sidestep the decision of combined representatives of the world church, are misguided and unfair to the world church. In every region, the church is called to work in harmony with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the whole body. God’s agents in the form of His ordained local workers, are to uphold a Biblical view of equality and complementarity rather than one that is captive to the culture locally. The teachings of Scripture transcend culture, and our pastors wherever they are worldwide are called to sustain the agreed understanding of the church.

The church must be faithful to its Lord Jesus and remain countercultural, even if the cultural understanding of most people in a place is dominated by unbiblical teachings. Seventh-day Adventists are people who are willing to do this. We worship on Sabbath rather than the culturally-approved Sunday. We reject the teaching of the naturally immortal soul even though most other Christian bodies teach the opposite.

The world church has repeatedly turned down women’s ordination initiatives at its highest levels. If these units wish to continue in represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that region, they are duty-bound to work in harmony with the world church. The present attempt to proceed on a pathway the world church has rejected (regional determination of ordination practice) should cease.

On September 20, 2015, the executive committee of the Norway Union voted unilaterally to discontinue the practice of ordination. They claim that the churches longstanding practice of ordaining spiritually qualified males is discriminatory and unbiblical. A new practice distinct to the Norwegian Union was announced:

From now on, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway will have a simple dedicatory prayer for a person embarking on pastoral internship. Similarly, there will be a dedicatory prayer for those who take the step from pastoral internship to regular pastoral service. The Norwegian Union will operate with only two categories of pastoral employees from now on. 1) Pastors in regular service, and 2) Pastoral interns. The Norwegian Union will not report pastoral employees to the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook until the General Conference has established pastoral categories that are not discriminatory (http://www.adventist.no/Adventist/Hjem/Nyheter/2015/September-2015/Adventistkirken-slutter-aa-ordinere#.VgBa4rShbfa, accessed 2015-09-21).

The Norwegian Union, it seems, has judged the practice of the world church and found it wanting. The Union has voted to embark on an entirely different practice than the world church. Effectively, they have not merely declared but enacted an unauthorized regional policy. They have rejected the decision of the General Conference in session on July 8, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. In that decision, a substantial majority of delegates voted not to permit regional decisions on the question of pastoral spiritual leadership—the very thing Norway Union has now enacted.

The Norwegian Union is not an autonomous regional church. It does not have an inherent authority separated from the world church. Its authority is derived from the General Conference. The authority that it does have is limited. The Seventh-day Adventist Church considers ordination to be a global, not a regional matter.

The Norwegian Union isn’t fooling anyone with its claims to want to be in harmony with the world church. It has acted exactly contradictory to the San Antonio decision. The Union has exceeded its authority. Nor is it alone. Immediately to the south, the Netherlands Union of Churches is also engaged in forging an independent pathway on the ordination question. That Union is also operating unilaterally with its positive policy on homosexuality, embracing the cultural tide of immorality. (To revisit the action of Netherlands Union on the homosexuality question, see “Homosexuality or Christianity? Netherlands Union again places itself in opposition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” at http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/homosexuality-or-christianity/, accessed 2015-09-21).

In hardly two weeks Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders will meet in Annual Council. At that time it is imperative that church leadership act to correct the action of errant unions including Columbia Union, Pacific Union, Norwegian Union and Netherlands Union of Churches, along with other insubordinate entities. The world church has decided that women’s ordination—the question of spiritual leadership—is not to be determined on a regional pattern. We collectively are all part of a world church organization. The Council of Adventist Pastors believes that our leaders will be acting with the best spiritual interest of the church at heart in taking whatever action necessary to maintain the unity of the world church and prevent fragmentation by rebel units—including the Norwegian Union.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE GENERAL CONFERENCE DOCUMENT: Unions and Ordination to the Gospel Ministry


Prior to the August 19 North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Executive Committee meeting, the General Conference Secretariat released a document entitled, “Unions and the Ordination to the Gospel Ministry: Brief Summary and Comprehensive Working Policy Explanation.” General Conference President Ted N. C. Wilson wrote to division presidents to explain its purpose.

In his accompanying letter, he states, “The document is provided since there have been some who have proposed the idea that unions have the full prerogative to decide about all aspects of ordination including criteria. As the GC Secretariat document shows, the authority for the unions to make decisions about the approval process for ordination candidates is delegated by the GC Executive Committee and is limited to that review and approval process. The authority for setting the criteria for ordination is not delegated since that is the purview of the world church as outlined in GC WP L 35 and voted on by world representation at Annual Council.”

The letter’s tone is clear and positive. Each division president is requested to forward the material promptly to their respective division officers and to all union presidents. We are grateful to God for the work of responsible leadership at our General Conference to correct a misunderstanding regarding the authority of unions that has created confusion and disunity.

The Secretariat document is a reminder of the principle of delegated authority. Workers across the global field operate under this plan. Members from every part of the world are represented at the GC Session, and this authority is delegated to the elected GC Executive Committee. One of the responsibilities of the GC President as Executive Committee Chair is to help the various units of the church to work together harmoniously according to the authority vested in them by the world body.

We appreciate the work of the Secretariat and the leadership of Elder Wilson and all of our leaders at the GC in producing this wise and well researched policy and historical review document to bring clarification, correction and encouragement to the Church. The clarification should aid units of the church which have erred to make immediate substantive changes so as to come into harmony with the divinely-led vote July 8 in San Antonio. At the General Conference Session in San Antonio, the Church in session agreed with the longstanding Seventh-day Adventist practice of appointing only qualified male spiritual leaders as ordained clergy and as presidents of conferences, unions, and divisions.