by AT News Team

This week another governing committee in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America voted to take new steps toward the ordination of women who serve in pastoral ministry despite the current General Conference position on this subject. The Potomac Conference executive committee voted unanimously to instruct the conference’s Bylaws Committee “to begin a review process that would enable us to ordain women,” according to Dan Jensen, assistant to the president.
 
The constitution and bylaws of the conference include language about compliance with General Conference policy. Several sources have told Adventist Today that this section may be amended to either register a protest or include an option to ignore policy on this one issue. The Bylaws Committee has not yet met to discuss the assignment.
 
The Potomac Conference currently employs several women as pastors. It has brought the issue to the table at the Columbia Union Conference executive committee meetings on a number of occasions over the past four years.
 
This local conference has repeatedly requested permission to ordain women serving its field as pastors since the 1980s. It was the first local conference on record in which women pastors conducted baptisms and weddings. It was the first in the 20th century to hire a woman as an “assistant in pastoral care,” the credential agreed to by the General Conference when this issue was first acted on by policy-makers in the 1970s.
 
Some sources speculate that Potomac Conference is no longer willing to “wait for permission” on the topic. In 1995 its largest congregation, Sligo Church on the campus of Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, conducted an ordination service for several women who were employed as pastors and chaplains. At the time the North American Division administration told the New York Times that this event was seen as the ordination of local elders because the local church only had authority to ordain lay elders under Adventist polity.
 
The chorus of votes on this topic during March is “simply the surface indication of a deep, widespread level of frustration with the fact that the GC pushed the NAD leadership to back off on its policy vote to allow women to serve as conference presidents,” one retired denominational administrator told Adventist Today. “The push-back on this issue could create precisely the kind of disunity that the GC administration fears. The GC officers made a tactical error.”

These votes have all been taken by elected governing bodies. There has been very little opposition. Adventist Today has been told, off the record, of several other places were similar votes are planned.