June 9, 2016: On Sunday a constituency meeting of the Netherlands Union Conference (NUC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination voted down a challenge to its policy of ordaining clergy without gender discrimination. The challenge began last fall when 789 church member signed a petition requesting a special constituency meeting to consider a list of concerns.
The constitution of the NUC includes a provision (which most Adventist conferences and union conferences do not have) that if more than 500 church members request it, a special constituency session will be convened. On March 6, the board of the NUC voted the agenda for the constituency session to convene June 5.
The NUC is the national organization of the Adventist denomination in the European nation and it is a “union of churches” entity that combines both the usual functions of a local conference and a union conference for the nearly 6,000 church members. Delegates were elected by the local churches and Pastor Rafaat Kamal, president of the denomination’s Trans-European Division was present for the meeting.
Based on the concerns expressed in the petition from the church members who requested the special session, the delegates were presented with a resolution that proposed to “maintain and protect peace and unit in the church” by ordering the NUC to “refrain from influencing the decision making process of local churches to ordain women as elder” and impose “a complete moratorium on ordination of women to the ministry … until the General Conference in Session takes action to change the … Working Policy.”
The introduction to the motion included quotes from Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:5-7 and 28), the writings of Adventist cofounder Ellen G. White (Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, page 260), the General Conference Working Policy B 10 22, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (page 29). There was a lengthy discussion among the delegates and the vote was taken by secret ballot.
A total of 76 delegates voted for the motion and 88 voted against it, so the proposed resolution failed. The stand taken by the NUC will not change. It has previously come to the conclusion that “there is … no explicit prohibition against ordaining women” and it is clear that the Working Policy assigns to union conferences the role of approving ordinations. While refusing ordination to women clergy “goes against the policy concerning discrimination [and] Fundamental Beliefs number 14.”