19 October 2019  |

Public statement of the executive committee of the North German Union Conference (Der Vorstand des Norddeutschen Verbandeson, or NDV) concerning a “warning” issued by the Executive Committee of the General Conference.

The Executive Committee of the worldwide General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in its autumn session on October 15, 2019, issued a warning against the NDV and several other union conferences, for our practices related to ordination. The warning was approved by a vote of 164 to 124. 

This warning was also given to Adventist church leaders from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Two North American Union Conferences (Columbia Union Conference and Pacific Union Conference) were also issued a warning for their practices regarding women’s ordination. 

The history of this issue in the NDV:

On April 23, 2012, the NDV delegates met and  voted 160 to 47 that in our NDV region, a female pastor could be ordained like her male colleagues. 

The arguments made in this in-depth discussion were three: 

  1. a) The social norm of anti-discrimination in civil and labor law, 
  2. b) A German federal law of 2006, the General Equal Treatment Act (2006 als Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz erlassen), prohibits disadvantaging any for the sake of race, ethnic origin, sex, religion, worldview, disability, age, or sexual identity. 
  3. c) The biblical norm, which Fundamental Belief #14 of the Seventh-day Adventist church states, “Distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us.”

The decision to commission rather than ordain:

Because the Working Policy of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church doesn’t provide an ordination of women, the NDV implemented the decision of its delegates by offering a path of equality for pastors in the territory NDV territory. The world Seventh-day Adventist church provides, in addition to ordination—a worldwide ministerial credential which is reserved for men only—a second form of credentialing called the Commissioned Minister Credential, which is also available for women and men worldwide. The only difference is that ordination has worldwide validity, while commissioning only regional. 

The first credential is called “ordination,” the second “commissioning.” Both are full credentials to ministry. The Union Conference decided that within its region it would provide both men and women only the second form of full credentialing, the Commissioned Minister Credential, which means means that all pastors in the NDV area, male and female, will have the same credential.

Reason for this warning:

In this recent decision, the leaders of the world church issued a public warning to the NDV, because the NDV has not implemented ordination (the worldwide ministerial credential), reserved only for men, to male pastors, but the only the Commissioned Minister Credential, available to both men and women. A general suspension of ordination, they say, is not compliant with the policy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 

Assessment by the NDV Board:

  1. The board of the NDV sees the warning of the world church leadership as unjustified. The NDV practices a form of commissioning, which provides equal treatment for pastors, as well as conforming to guidelines of the world church. An obligation to “ordination” is not given in the guidelines of the world church.
  2. The warning of the General Conference leadership is in connection with the 2018 procedure entitled “Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions,” popularly referred to as “compliance committees.” This procedure contains provisions which have not been applied in this case. Contrary to the public statement of the president of the General Conference, the NDV was not included in any official correspondence on this matter which would have warned us of noncompliance. Rather, the NDV president was warned only a few days before this latest meeting of a possible warning for noncompliance. In our opinion, the procedure did not comply with the 2018 resolution, nor the spirit of fairness and Christian respect.
  3. Before the proposal by the president of the General Conference to the delegates of the General Conference Executive Committee, we did not see any attempt to warn the NDV. The NDV president wasn’t consulted, so that the perspective of the Union Conference concerned could be heard. This needed to be presented before this decision-making body in a timely and appropriate manner. 
  4. We consider it questionable whether Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15ff were followed when the General Conference leaders took this warning to a public forum without first looking for solutions in a smaller circle.

NDV measures to deal with the warning:

  1. The Executive Board of NDV will examine whether and in what form objection can be raised against the statements made by the world church  (as provided for, for example, in the 2018 “compliance committee” document). 
  2. Together with the EUD (Inter European Division) executive committee, the NDV will analyze the situation and agree on measures to promote the unity and development of the world church. 
  3. The NDV Board will, as in its 2016 document “Opinion on Ordination” keep the focus of attention on the real, underlying concern that racial, cultural, educational, national, social and societal differences, as well as differences between men and women in our church, do not become divisive, based on Fundamental Belief #14 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church). That’s why we promote equality of pastors for our world church and implement it within our region.

Signed by officerrs of the NDV:

Johannes Naether, president
Friedbert Hartmann Dieter, vice-president
Dieter Neef, treasurer

The board of the South German Union Conference joins the NDV in respect to the subject of the warning and the proceedings. 

Werner Dullinger, president
Jens-Oliver Mohr, vice-president
Dieter Neef, treasurer 

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