September 21, 2015: The Adventist national denominational organizations in parts of Europe have decided to discontinue the practice of clergy ordination altogether, in the wake of the vote against ordaining women pastors at the General Conference (GC) Session in July. Yesterday (September 20) the executive committee of the Norwegian Union Conference took this step. The Danish Union Conference has made a similar decision, and the Swedish Union Conference will soon have a meeting to consider the decision.
The governing body of the denomination in Norway voted to discontinue the practices of ordination and commissioning, and replace them with a simple prayer service when a pastor is employed. The service that will be identical for both men and women employed as pastors.
This decision followed careful deliberation by the leaders of the union conference and its local conferences. Awaiting the July vote by GC delegates, the Norwegian Union Conference has not ordained any clergy since 2012, but instead commissioned both men and women called to pastoral ministry. Several of the pastors ordained in past years had requested that their credentials be changed from ordained minister to commissioned minister.
The Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) “consensus statement emphasized the importance that our Adventist understanding of ordination be biblical,” said Pastor Reidar Kvinge, president of the Norwegian Union Conference. “The monumental 871-page report of Trans-European Division’s BRI [Biblical Research Institute] study committee and our own studies have convinced us that the church’s present practice does not conform to the New Testament examples. We see God’s guidance in the San Antonio vote. A ‘yes’ would easily have overshadowed the underlying theological concerns our five year study process has unveiled. With the present unrest, however, our church still has an historic opportunity to make its practice more biblical.”
The statement voted by the Norwegian Union (see full text) argues that the Adventist debate about ordination has focused more on power, position and authority than on humble self-giving service. “The term ordination is not even found in the Bible. Furthermore, the words ‘ordained’ and ‘commissioned’ have come to signify a spiritual hierarchy that is foreign to the thinking of the New Testament church. This is why we will take a time-out from using those categories,” says Kvinge. “We will have two groups of pastors: intern pastors and pastors. And they will both be set aside for their task with a simple prayer session, and given the necessary authorization to function in their respective roles.”
The voted document, which calls the world church to revisit the recommendations given in the Trans-European Division’s Biblical Research Committee’s report to TOSC, also states: “Until a classification of pastors is established—a classification without a distinction based on a fundamental discrimination against female pastors—the Norwegian Union Conference will not report employed pastors who are serving in our area to the SDA Yearbook.”
“We do this to eliminate the possibility that our category of ‘pastor’ is simply converted to ‘commissioned’ or ‘ordained’, said Kvinge. “We want the world church to know that we no longer use these distinctions, because they carry connotations of a spiritual hierarchy.”