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Adventists in Northern Germany decide to implement ordination of female pastors

The resolution was passed with 24 votes in favour, two against and four abstentions.

Adventists in Northern Germany decide to implement ordination of female pastors

In its regular meeting on April 25, the governing body for the church leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Northern and Eastern Germany (North German Conference - NDV) decided to finally implement the ordination of men and women in pastoral ministry. The implementation of the decision, which had already been made in 2012, had been postponed several times due to church politics.

Resolution

With the resolution of the virtual meeting of the NDV’s governing body, a decision already made in 2012 by the NDV Synod has finally been implemented. The current resolution reads: "The Church of Seventh-day Adventists, North German Conference, ordains men and women to the worldwide preaching ministry with immediate effect, as decided by the delegates' meeting [s] of the Church in the NDV in 2012. Pastors who have received a ‘blessing’ since 2012 on the basis of the interim solution decided by the NDV Conference Committee [governing body] will retroactively receive the certification for ‘ordination’. The resolution was passed with 24 votes in favour, two against and four abstentions.

Background

According to Pastor Johannes Naether, president of the NDV, the 2012 resolution was not implemented. On the one hand, there were no female pastors in the NDV area who would have received an ordination recommendation at that time. On the other hand, a theological working group (Theology of Ordination Study Committee - TOSC) was set up by the world church leadership, in 2013, to work on the issue of women’s ordination. The NDV did not want to anticipate this because of church policy. Finally, as a result of the work of TOSC, a motion was to be put forward at the 2015 Adventist World Session (General Conference - GC), in San Antonio, to give the sub-continental church leaderships (divisions) the freedom to ordain women as pastors. Again, the NDV did not want to act prematurely before the vote of the Adventist World Session with the possibility of a positive vote. However, this motion did not receive a majority in San Antonio in 2015.

Weighing up the decision of 2012, the preservation of the world church’s unity, and as a sign of accommodation, the NDV’s governing body reached a decision in 2016. It decided on principle to grant both men and women, without distinction, a commissioning in the form of "blessing". With this interim solution, female and male pastors in the NDV area were to equally receive a "blessing" through the laying on of hands, according to the biblical model.

Warning of the NDV by the world church leadership

Naether went on to explain that the NDV found that this compromise was met with rejection by the Adventist World Church Board and led to a warning by the Executive Committee of the GC, even though the NDV was within the framework of the Church Constitution (Working Policy - WP) with its 2016 decision. This resulted in a request, in December 2019, to the NDV’s governing body to "implement or retroactively certify the ‘decision of Geseke’ (2012) to "ordain women" in the future. However, this request was postponed until after the GC Session, which was scheduled six months later. The pandemic upset these schedules, so the GC Session was postponed twice and is now scheduled for May 2022.

Plea for justice and equality

Since, currently, "the decisive messages on these issues come from outside the church, mostly through civil society engagement," Naether said, "we should learn to lovingly but courageously shake our own system and not just act according to a familiar pattern." This put the December 2019 motion back on the agenda with the request to ordain women for the global preaching ministry and to "stand up for biblically based values such as justice and equality". Naether considered this to be a "valuable contribution to the development of his church" along with being in line with Reformation thinking.

Reference to the situation of the world church

Pastor Mario Brito, president of the Seventh-day Adventist church for the region of Western and Southern Europe (Inter-European Division/EUD), who was present, followed the engaging debate and asked the participants of the meeting not to lose sight of the world church’s situation. "I am not against women's ordination being done in Europe, while other parts of the world can choose not to do it. My concern is that we are doing it against a decision of the General Conference Session. It will set a precedent that will be used against us even in our own region." He recommended that the decision be reconsidered.

Asked about the possible consequences of this decision, Naether replied, "I don't know. We need (but) a leg for stability and a leg to conquer spaces of possibility, for development into the open, into the catchment area of the Holy Spirit."

North German Conference (NDV)

The Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Germany consists of a national church leaderships in Northern and Eastern Germany (North German Conference/NDV), based in Hannover, and in Southern Germany (South German Conference/SDV), based in Ostfildern near Stuttgart. The NDV, with almost 19,000 members and 338 congregations and groups, includes four local Conferences with the regions of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Worldwide, there are almost 22 million Adventists in over 169,000 congregations and groups (Annual Statistical Report 2020).

Further information on the NDV website.