Its new. Its a first for Seventh-day Adventists. Its the Womens Resource Center at La Sierra University in Riverside, California.
The idea originated with Madelyn Haldeman, professor of New Testament studies at the university, who with Sandra Hodge and Ginger Harwood developed a proposal that was formally voted by the university board in September 1996. A search committee proceeded to look for someone qualified to direct WRC, and in January of this year Kit Watts, for the past ten years an assistant editor of the Adventist Review, accepted the universitys invitation to be Founding Director of the Center. She appeared on the campus early in May.
Having served the church in various capacities for nearly thirty years, Kit Watts is
uniquely qualified for her new assignment. The locale of her service had included the
Communication Department of the General Conference, the book editorial department of the
Review and Herald Publishing Association, the pastoral staff of the Sligo church in Takoma
Park, Maryland, the James White Memorial Library at Andrews University, and a return to
the General Conference as assistant editor of the Review.
Participation in numerous General Conference conferences relating to the role of women in the church over the past twenty-five years equips Watts with a broad background of information and expertise. First was the historic Mohaven Conference in 1973, where a consensus developed that women could make a far greater contribution to the life and mission of the church than at present. A slight majority at a series of three similar conferences with representatives from the world field during the late 1980s concluded that qualified women should be eligible for ordination to the gospel ministry. It became evident, however, that the church in developing countries is not ready, yet, to ordain women.
One important result of this protracted study by the General Conference is that more than a thousand women are serving the churches of North America as ordained local elders. Also, women in ministry now enjoy equality with their unordained male counterparts with respect to officiating at baptisms and weddings. They also enjoy equality of remuneration.
It is appropriate for the Womens Research Center to be located within the
Southeastern California Conference, which employs sixteen women as ministers. Four of them
have been ordained to the gospel ministry in appreciation for their dedicated ministry to
the churches they serve.
Extensive historical research by Watts has revealed that during the first century of Adventism women had a far more important role in the life and mission of the church than in more recent decades. Some of them proved to be effective evangelists, and others distinguished themselves in administrative roles.
Until such a time as funding for the Womens Research Center makes a full-time budget possible, Watts will also serve two days a week as assistant for communications to President Lynn Mallery of the Southeastern California Conference.
Kit Watts has stated that she fully respects differing opinions in the church with
respect to the role of women. "We must be willing to listen to one another and to
respect one another. We must look for common ground. We must be sincere and honest with
one another in spite of our differences. We must also respect cultural and theological
differences, but what is essential in Adventism transcends all of these differences. We
need to work together in all areas that are essential."
First Printed in Adventist Today May / June 1997 Vol. 5 No. 3.