Seventh-day Adventist Church Women’s Ordination


On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, the Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference voted on the issue of Women’s Ordination.

Motion Read in Full:“After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and after your careful consideration of what is best for the church and the fulfillment of its mission, is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry?  Yes or No.”

Yes Vote means: You support each division to make their own decisions regarding women’s ordination. 

Women’s Ordination Vote, General Conference, 2105

No Vote means: You oppose each division from making their own decisions regarding women’s ordination. 


Source: Adventist Review General Conference Session Bulletin 6, July 9, 2015, p. 4


The vote prohibited the 13 world divisions of the church or any of their entities from making their own decisions regarding the consideration and potential implementation of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry.

While the delegates’ votes decided not to accept each division to make their own provision regarding women’s ordination, the real debate on whether or not women’s ordination is even biblical is far from settled.

The results were largely decided on two main opposing views. Those in favor of women’s ordination voted yes, and those oppose (and also believe that it is unbiblical), voted no. The North American Division (NAD) is one of the strongest supporters in favor of women’s ordination.

Because our theologians have not been able to reach a consensus, many Adventists, who are in favor of women’s ordination, have concluded that this issue is a matter of church policy and not a theological issue. This is what some Adventist scholars mean when they tell us that women’s ordination is a matter of ecclesiology rather than theology. By this argument proponents mean that the issue of women’s ordination could be settled not by the Bible, but by administrative “policy” of church leaders. In other words, since the Bible expresses no definitive position, the church is free to do what it deems best in the matter for the advancement of the gospel. 

However, many other Adventists who oppose women’s ordination, believe this is a matter of Scriptural integrity and firmly hold that the church would have strayed from God’s plans if the vote had been “Yes.” With 59% of the delegates voting “No” to 41% voting “Yes,” it is clear that opinions are strong on both sides of this question.


    1.    It did not disallow women from serving as “commissioned” church pastors. 
This vote did not determine whether or not women can serve as ministers. But as several delegates pointed out during floor speeches, this vote was NOT about whether female pastors should be ordained, but WHO should decide whether or not to ordain them.

    2.    It did not disallow women to serve as ordained elders in the local church.
The vote does not change the current GC policy on the ordination of women as local church elders, as stated in the 2009 Seventh-day Adventist Minister’s Handbook, p. 94: “Elders and deacons should be persons of experience, chosen wisely. By action of the Annual Council of 1975, reaffirmed at the 1984 Annual Council, both men and women are eligible to serve as elders and receive ordination to this position of service in the church.” 

    3.    It did not disallow the ordination of deaconesses. 
The 2010 Edition of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church manual states: “Ordination Service for Deaconesses – Such a service would be carried out by an ordained pastor currently credentialed by the conference. The ordination service should be characterized by simplicity and performed in the presence of the church.  If they retain church membership, deaconesses do not have to be ordained again if they move their memberships to other churches.  When the term for which they were elected expires, they must be reelected if they are to continue to serve as deaconesses.” (pp 78-79)

(Source: The President of North American Division (NAD) response to the vote. Click HERE to view the entire newsletter.)


The recent decision still leaves many unanswered questions as to where our church’s official position is on the issue of women’s ordination. Moving forward, neither the GC president, Ted Wilson, nor the office of the General Conference have clarified whether or not the church would continue to allow or disallow women to serve in any pastoral function, be it an “ordained minister,” a “commissioned pastor” or a “licensed minister.”

According to the 1990 General Conference decision*, our church’s current policy still disallows women to serve as “ordained” ministers, but NAD and other divisions have already forged ahead in recognizing women as ministers based on the 1989 GC Annual Council vote*, which allows both men and women to serve as “commissioned ministers” or “licensed ministers.”  While the names of the offices may be different, “commissioned pastors” and “license ministers” substantially share all the functions of an ordained minister including officiating weddings, baptism, and communion. The functions of an ordained minister that are excluded for a “commissioned pastor” or “licensed ministers” are listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a church, Uniting churches, and Ordaining local elders or deacons (*see below: “Seventh-day Adventist World Church’s Official Position on Women’s Ordination”). 

Those who oppose women’s ordination regard the 1989 GC vote (which allowed women to serve as “commissioned” pastors) and the 1975 Annual Council’s vote (which allowed women to be ordained as local church elders) as terribly confusing compromise allowing various divisions to essentially sidestep the real issue. The opponents contend that as long as these two policies remain, nothing would deter the unbiblical practices of ordaining women as both elders and pastors, irregardless of how churches are choosing to justify it by calling it something else. 


As one of the strongest supporters of the women’s ordination, there is no other group more formidable in shaping the culture and the discussion of the women’s ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church than the North American Division’s (NAD) and its leaders and scholars. Here is a list of the some of the influences they have in: 

(Source: Must We Be Silent? Issues Diving Our Church, Samuel K-Pipim, PhD)



Summary: The recommendation to give each division the right to authorize the ordination of individuals within its territory came from the North American Division through the 1994 Annual Council. It was rejected by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent.

Official Church Language Follows:

North American Division Request — Ordination
56th General Conference Session, Utrecht, Netherlands — July 5, 1995, 2:00 p.m.

Voted: To refer to the 1995 General Conference Session the North American Division request that the General Conference in Session adopt provisions on ordination as outlined below:

“The General Conference vests in each division the right to authorize the ordination of individuals within its territory in harmony with established policies. In addition, where circumstances do not render it inadvisable, a division may authorize the ordination of qualified individuals without regard to gender. In divisions where the division executive committees take specific actions approving the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, women may be ordained to serve in those divisions.”

In favor of the recommendation: 673
In opposition to the recommendation: 1,481

(Source: Adventist Review, July 11, 1995, p. 30)


Summary: The recommendation to not approve the ordination of women came through the 1989 Annual Council of Church leaders. By a margin of 75 percent to 25 percent, session members voted not to ordain women as pastors.

Official Church Language Follows:

Ordination of Women to the Gospel Ministry, 55th General Conference Session, Indianapolis, IN — July 11, 1990, 9:15 a.m.

Voted: To accept the following report and recommendations of the Role of Women Commission as recommended by the 1989 Annual Council:

“While the commission does not have a consensus as to whether or not the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen G. White explicitly advocate or deny the ordination of women to pastoral ministry, it concludes unanimously that these sources affirm a significant, wide-ranging, and continuing ministry for women, which is being expressed and will be evidenced in the varied and expanding gifts according to the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Further, in view of the widespread lack of support for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry in the world church and in view of the possible risk of disunity, dissension, and diversion from the mission of the church, we do not approve ordination of women to the gospel ministry” (bold emphases added)

In favor of the recommendation: 1,173
In opposition to the recommendation: 377

(Source: Adventist Review, July 13, 1990, p. 15)


“Those who have, without regard to gender, been recognized as commissioned ministers or licensed ministers may perform essentially the ministerial functions of an ordained minister of the gospel in the churches to which they are assigned, subject to division authorization of this provision, if the following conditions apply:
“1) The individual has completed approved ministerial training.
“2) The individual has been called by a conference to serve in a full-time pastoral-evangelistic-ministerial role.
“3) The individual has been elected and ordained as a local church elder.”

North American Division Working Policy L 33 10 which states:
“A commissioned minister in leadership position is authorized by the conference, union or division to perform substantially all the functions of the ordained minister within the territory of the organization he/she serves. The functions that are excluded are those listed in the Church Manual as follows: Organizing of a Church, Uniting churches, and Ordaining local elders or deacons.”

(Source: Online News Letter prepared by Communication Department of NAD on “Clarification on the Roles of Women in Ministry”, 7/10/2015)

For further study on this subject, please scroll below for Videos, Free e-Books, Articles and other Resources.


Women’s Ordination-Whiteboard Video Scribe Animation,

Women's Ordination and the Rebellion of Korah from CAP on Vimeo.

The Women’s Ordination Crisis, Part 1-Doug Batchelor
The Women’s Ordination Crisis, Part 2-Doug Batchelor
Women’s Ordination #1 – “Are You Sure? Issues and Answers” – Steven Bohr
Women’s Ordination #5 – “Male Headship in the New Testament” – Ingo Sorke, Ph.D., Secrets Unsealed

Time Magazine, 1-26-2015 Issue, Link between Women Ordination and LGBT

The Impact of Spiritualism on Feminism and Gender Issues Today-Laurel Damsteegt, Secrets Unsealed

An Appeal to the Delegates of the 2015 General Conference Session-Ordination of Truth



God’s Role for Women in Ministry (English)

The Adventist Ordination Crisis (English)

Women’s Ordination-Does It Matter?

Women’s Ordination and the 10 Commandment Solution (English)

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Women’s Ordination-31 Popular Arguments & Biblical Answers

Courage-Taking A Stand On A Defining Issue: Women’s Ordination

Must We Be Silent? Issues Diving Our Church


Records Pertaining to Ellen G. White’s Ministerial/Ordination Credentials (web)

Answers to Questions about Women’s Ordination Some Fundamental Questions-Adventist Affirm (web)

Why Is the Episcopal Church Near Collapse? (web)

Reflections on Women’s Ordination Issue-Steven Bohr (pdf)

To Ordain or Not to Ordain? Part 1 The Campaign for Women’s Ordination-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (pdf)

To Ordain or Not to Ordain? Part 2 The Liberal-Feminist Campaign Continues-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (pdf)

To Ordain or Not to Ordain? Part 3 Moving Beyond the Feminist Ideology-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (pdf)

Does the Bible Support Ordaining Women as Elders or Pastors?-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (pdf)

Women’s Ordination-Ingo Sorke, Ph.D. (pdf)

Here We Stand-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (pdf)

Leadership in the Church-Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD (web)

Reflections on Deborah and Huldah-Pastor Steven Bohr (pdf)

Reflections on Phoebe the Deaconess-Pastor Steven Bohr (pdf)

Junia the Apostle. Really?-Mike Lambert (pdf)

The Journal For Biblical Manhood & Womanhood-Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (pdf)

Theology of Ordination-Study Committee Report (pdf)


The White Estate possesses six paper credentials that were issued to Ellen White:

In a letter dated Nov. 17, 1935, Dores E. Robinson replied on behalf of W. C. White (Ellen White’s son and Robinson’s father-in-law) in response to a query concerning Ellen White’s ministerial credentials. He wrote: “[W. C. White] tells me that Sister White was never ordained, that she never baptized, nor did she ever give the ordination charge to others.”

On March 5, 1909, Ellen White’s biographical information form was filled out by her assistant, Mary Steward, as requested for General Conference records. Question 19 asked, “If ordained, state when, where, and by whom.” The line was marked with an “x” indicating that she had not been ordained, just as an “x” was recorded for question 26, “If remarried, give date, and to whom.” (see below)

More Information

Prove All Things: A Response to Women in Ministry – Book by Mercedes H Dyer

Daughters of Inheritance-Book by Wellesley Muir

The Tip of an Iceberg: Biblical Authority, Biblical Interpretation, and the Ordination of Women in Ministry-Book by C Raymond Holmes

Ordination of Truth-Website

Adventists Affirm-Website

Ad Vindicate-Website

Christ or Culture-Website

Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual-Revised 2010 18th Edition (pdf)

Pro Women Ordination

Ty Gibson, A Closer Look At Women’s Ordination