October 19, 2015: The governing body of the Adventist denomination in Italy voted at its most recent meeting to protest the vote at the General Conference (GC) Session in July against extending clergy ordination to women serving as pastors and chaplains. Because gender discrimination “violates a basic principle [of more importance than] religious sentiments and cultural characteristics of different territories,” the Italian Union Conference is “compelled to launch a respectful but powerful dissent.”
“We cannot accept the ministry of the women pastors operating in our territory will continue to be not fully recognized and, therefore, discriminated against,” stated Resolution 250 voted on September 16. The union conference “will evaluate appropriate actions to express such disagreement in a tangible way with administrative actions.”
It is unclear precisely what the last sentence in the voted resolution means. It may be true that the leadership of the Italian Union Conference has not yet decided what steps to take next. Italy does have a higher percentage of women among the Adventist ministers than most nations in the world.
This view is similar to that expressed by other Union Conference executive committees in Europe recently. The rationale for the Italian action is outlined in the preambles to the voted item. This includes the fact that extending ordination to women was on the agenda of the 1950 GC Session 65 years ago, many official groups of Adventist scholars have studied what the Bible says relevant to the topic and none have found any biblical prohibition to including women in clergy ordination, the issue was discussed again at the 1990 and 1995 GC Sessions, and the vote against ordaining women at the GC Session in July of this year ignored the opinion of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee.
The voted document also references a unanimous vote by the pastors in the Union Conference in September 2013 and a resolution by the executive committee later that month. A constituency meeting on February 25, 2014, also agreed that gender discrimination should not be permitted in clergy ordination.