by AT News Team
The fifth constituency session of the North German Union Conference, meeting in Geseke on April 22 and 23, was the first gathering of official Seventh-day Adventist delegates since the 1881 General Conference session to vote approval of ordination for women serving in pastoral ministry. The resolution was approved by more than a two-thirds majority of the delegates.
The text of the action reads as follows: “Voted, to ordain in the North German Union female pastors [in the same way] as their male colleagues.” Pastor Klaus van Treeck, union conference president, told Adventist Today that the action is “without any limitations” in terms of when it will be implemented. It did not include language such as that in a similar vote by the Southern Union Conference executive committee in the United States deferring to the granting of permission by the General Conference.
“There was not change of the constitution nor bylaws,” van Treeck stated. The topic of ordination is not part of the constitution of the union conference. The action also did not involve a change in the working policy of the denomination in Germany. The working policy there is under the authority of a body named the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany (FiD) which is constituted of a joint meeting of the executive committees of the two union conferences in that country.
There was not vote taken to propose changes in the working policy because “the delegates didn’t want to push the South German Union … in the matter,” said van Treeck. “We didn’t want to open the way or to encourage others to oppose the guidelines of the world church or to join us in civil disobedience. We discussed the matter in the context of our culture and ask the world church for understanding of our situation and decision. We are respectful towards our brothers and sisters in any area of our world church. We feel deeply associated with them in the love of Jesus and in the unity and mission of the church.”
Although there was no mention of the precedent in China, clearly the North German Union Adventists are in hopes that the General Conference will take the same attitude of tolerance toward their cultural and legal context. In Germany both the law and social values strongly condemn discrimination against women in the selection of leaders in any organization, including the Church.
It was also voted to require that at least 40 percent of the delegates sent by the local conferences to the next North German Union constituency session be female. About 20 percent of the delegates at this session were women.
A third item voted by the delegates charged the union executive committee with implementing additional study of the topic of ordination, including research to be conducted by Friedensau University, the Adventist higher education institution in Germany. The findings from this study are to be presented to the Euro-Africa Division and the General Conference.
There was a motion to amend the union conference constitution to delete the language that requires that the president and secretary be ordained ministers. This motion was not passed by the required two-thirds majority.
The North German Union Conference covers 11 states in the northern region of the German Federal Republic, including Berlin and other major urban areas. It is made up of four local conferences with a total of about 20,000 church members among a population of more than 47 million. There are 346 local churches and 149 ministers, including two women.