by AT News Team

Today (September 26) the executive committee of the Columbia Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted to approve the ordination of 15 women who are currently employed or are retired from employment as pastors in the denomination. This follows a four to one vote by delegates at a special constituency session July 29 to ban gender discrimination from ordination to the gospel ministry.
 
Three pastors from the Allegheny East Conference, four from the Ohio Conference and seven from the Potomac Conference were approved for ordination, as well as one retired pastor. The retired pastor is Dr. Josephine Benton, the first woman to serve as a solo or senior pastor in the Columbia Union in the second half of the twentieth century. She is also the author of a book with profiles of many women who served as Adventist ministers during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.
 
The decision was not unanimous, but it had very strong approval observers told Adventist Today. At least one conference in the union was on record opposing the move prior to the July 29 constituency meeting and the president of another conference has promised his constituency not to move ahead with the practice at this time.
 
The Pacific Union Conference on the west coast has taken the same steps to end an impasse that began when the 1990 General Conference Session voted a package of contradictory positions on the topic. At that session in Indianapolis it was voted to recognize that the denomination’s scholars could find no Bible grounds for denying ordination to women, to authorize the ordination of women as local elders and at the same time to refuse to allow the ordination of women serving as pastors out of concern for “unity.”
 
The Columbia Union committee also voted to send a document to the GC officers responding to public statements that the GC leaders made after the July 29 constituency meeting. This document will be published in the next issue of the Visitor, the publication of the Columbia Union.
 
The North German Union in Europe has also approved the ordination of women serving as pastors and the Adventist Church in China has been doing so since 1980s. Ellen G. White, cofounder of the denomination, held credentials as an ordained minister.