At Issue Women in Ministry
An Outline of the History of Seventh-day
Adventists and the Ordination of Women
by Kit Watts*
Updated April 1995
- 1844: Messenger for God.
- Ellen Harmon, 17, receives her first vision and commences
a 70-year public ministry.
- 1857: D. Hewitt states that the force of Joel 2
supports womens public ministry.
- Review and Herald, Oct. 15, 1857, p. 190.
- 1858: James White challenges Review
and Herald readers.
- Urges that Joel 2 be viewed inclusively, noting that men
and man in Scripture "generally means
both male and female." Review and Herald, Jan.
7, 1858, p. 69.
- 1859: B. F. Robbins decries rules in any church
that invoke 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2
- to silence women. Review and Herald, Dec. 8,
1859, pp. 21, 22.
- 1860: S. C. Welcome supported womens
- claiming the "authority of divine revelation
that male and female are one in Christ Jesus." Review
and Herald, Oct. 15, 1860, pp. 109, 110.
- 1861: J. A. Mowatt declared it "a womans
right" to participate publicly in worship.
- Review and Herald, July 30, 1861, p. 65.
- 1861: Editor Uriah Smith supports womens public
- He quoted with approval a long extract from the Portadown
News, "Women as Preachers and Lecturers." Review
and Herald, July 30, 1861.
- 1868: M. W. Howard said Bible women (like
Priscilla) were viable role models
- for modem women. Review and Herald, Aug 18,
1868, p. 133.
- 1868: First Adventist women evangelists.
- Sarah A. Hallock Lindsey begins meetings in New York
state with her husband John. Ellen S. Edmonds Lane and
her husband Elbert begin a long career as co-evangelists.
- 1871: First woman General Conference treasurer.
- Adelia Patten Van Horn holds office from 1871-1873. She
and her husband later become missionaries to the Walla
- 1872: First woman is licensed as a minister.
- Sarah A. Hallock Lindsey is recognized for her effective
- 1877: Minerva Jane Loughborough Chapman becomes
General Conference treasurer,
- 1877-1883. Also editor of Youths
Instructor, 1875-1879, and 1884-1889.
- 1878: Evangelist Ellen S. Edmonds Lane is a
licensed minister, 1878-1889,
- working in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and
- 1879: Julia Owen, of the Kentucky-Tennessee
- is a licensed minister, 1878-1895.
- 1879, January 2: Adventists exegete Bible in favor of
- "May Women Speak in Meeting," Review and
Herald, by J. N. Andrews. Briefly exegetes 1 Cor. 14:31-36
and 1 Tim. 2:12 and defends womens public role in
preaching the gospel. Reprinted in Adventist Review, Feb.
4, 1988, p. 17.
- 1879, May 29. In a Review and Herald article,
"Women in the Church,"
- James White comments on 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 and 1 Cor.
11:3, and compares with New Testament and Old Testament
practice involving women in leadership (Ex. 15:20, 21;
Judges 4:4-10; Rom. 16:1-4, 6, 12; Acts 2:17; and Acts 21:8,
9.) Reprinted in Adventist Review, Feb. 4, 1988, p.
- 1881, December 5: General Conference Session motion to
- At the 1881 General Conference (GC) session a
motion is made to ordain women to gospel ministry. "Resolved,
That females possessing the necessary qualifications
to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be
set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian
ministry." Reported in Review and Herald, Dec.
20, 1881. Item referred to the General Conference
- 1884: Second SDA Yearbook lists
several female licensed ministers:
- KansasMrs. R. Hill, Mrs. H. Enoch. MichiganMrs.
E. B. Lane, Mrs.G. K. Owen. MinnesotaAnna M.
Johnson, Libbie Collins. Ellen G. White is listed among
those given ordination credentials by the General
- 1892, May 24: Biblical exegesis favors women.
- G. C. Tenney writes for Review and Herald, "Womens
Relation to the Cause of Christ." Regarding 1 Cor.
13:34, 35, and 1 Tim. 2:12, he argues that it is "manifestly
illogical and unfair to give to any passage of Scripture
an unqualified radical meaning that is at variance with
the main tenor of the Bible." Reprinted in Adventist
Review, Feb. 4, 1988, p. 19-21.
- 1895, July 9: Ellen White calls for womens
- In a Review and Herald article she says some women
should be set apart for service in the church by "prayer
and laying on of hands."
- 1897: Williams and Wightman licensed
- Helen Williams receives license as an Adventist minister
(1897-1914). Lulu Wightman receives license as an
Adventist minister (1897-1907, 1909- 1910. She is listed
in 1908 as an ordained minister. (See Josephine Benton, Called
by God, Smithsburg, MD: Blackberry Hill
Publishers, p. 80.)
- 1898, March 30.
- General Conference Committee issues ministerial license
to Mrs. S. M. I. Henry.
- 1898, December 6: First womens ministry
- S. M. I. Henry outlines her plans for "a woman
ministry" in a four-page supplement of the Review
and Herald. She traveled and spoke widely in the
denomination and her weekly feature for women appeared in
- 1899, March 4: General Conference Session.
- S. M. I. Henry addressed the GC delegates in a sermon,
focusing attention on the need for a womens
ministry. She urged women first to serve in the home as
Christian mothers and wives, and second, to minister to
others who came within their sphere of influence.
- 1900, January 6: Adventists ordain deaconesses.
- W. C. White participates in an ordination service for the
Ashfield church in Sydney, Australia, that includes deaconesses.
(The event apparently is not widely publicized and is
not rediscovered until Arthur Patrick publishes an
article in the Adventist Review, January 16, 1986.)
- 1900, January 16: S. M. I. Henry dies.
- Former WCTU evangelist and founder of a womens
ministry within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
- 1902: Minnie Day Sype receives license as an
Adventist minister (1902-1956).
- As an evangelist raises up churches in the Oklahoma
Territory and Iowa, at times performing marriages and
- 1904: Alma Bjugg, a captain in the Salvation Army
who converts to Adventism,
- becomes the first native ministerial worker in
Finland. She receives a ministerial license.
- 1915, July 16: Ellen G. White dies.
- According to the SDA Encyclopedia, White was
"cofounder of the SDA church, writer, lecturer, and
counselor to the church, who possessed what SDAs
have accepted as the prophetic gift described in the
- 1918: Louise Kleuser pastors churches in New Haven,
- 1921: Mary Walsh is an effective evangelist in New
- Licensed as a minister from 1921-1981 when the church
decides not to allow even those women who have carried
the credential in the past to continue doing so.
- 1932: Maybelle Vandermark [Goransson]
- from Washington Missionary College with a ministerial
degree. Becomes associate pastor and teacher, assisting
Lester Coon in a district of churches in Virginia (Potomac
- 1933-1935: Woman serves as sole pastor.
- Maybelle Vandermark [Goransson] pastors a district of
Virginia churches alone from 1933-1935. From 1940-1952
teaches Bible at Washington Missionary College and is
assistant dean of women.
- 1945: Jessie Weiss Curtis receives license as an
Adventist minister (1945-1972).
- As an evangelist raises up several churches in
- 1948: Madelynn Jones [Haldeman] graduates with a
degree in theology
- from Columbia Union College.
- IdaMatilainen begins 40 years of evangelistic efforts in
Kainuu, a sparsely populated area of Finland near the
- 1949: Maybelle Vandermark [Goransson] completes an
M.A. in archaeology,
- SDA Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.
- Madelynn Jones [Haldeman] graduates from SDA Theological
Seminary with an M.A. in theology and biblical theology.
- First woman sponsored to seminary.
- Lucille Harper [Knapp] graduates from SDA Theological
Seminary with an M.A. in biblical languages. She is
believed to be the first woman ever sponsored to attend
the seminary (North Pacific Union).
- 1950, May 3: General Conference
Officers discuss ordination.
- "A. V. Olson explained. . . A statement from the pen
of Sister White, as found in the Review and Herald of
July 9, 1895, has been understood by some to provide for
the ordination of certain sisters in church service.
After some discussion, it was
- "Agreed, To recommend to the General Conference
Committee following the session that a small committee be
appointed to study and report on this question."Minutes,
GC Officers Meeting, May 3, 1950.
- 1955: Leona G. Running graduates with an M.A. in
Greek and Hebrew
- from the SDA Theological Seminary and joins the seminary
1961: Lucille Harper Knapp joins the religion faculty
of Walla Walla College.
- 1964: Leona G. Running completes her Ph.D. in
- from Johns Hopkins University. Continues teaching at the
SDA Theological Seminary.
1966: Margaret Hempe joins University Church staff in
Loma Linda as a Bible instructor.
- 1968: Margarete Prange graduates with a degree in
- at Marienhoehe Seminary, Darmstadt, Germany. Becomes co-pastor
in Biclefeld district 1970-1976.
- 1968, March 28: Letter from W.
- President, Northern European Division toW. R. Beach, GC
Secretary, requests counsel on ordaining women in Finland.
- 1968, April 8: Officers
discuss Northern European Division request for counsel on
- "The Northern European Division has requested
counsel regarding ordination of women. The question has
arisen in Finland. Historically, Seventh-day Adventists
have not ordained women. Yet it is believed that the
subject should be listed for the 1968 Council agenda. It
was "Agreed, to list on the agenda for the 1968
Autumn Council the subject of ordination of women."Minutes
of GC Officers Meeting, April 8, 1968.
- 1968, September 30: GC officers appoint committee to
- "The Home and Overseas Officers briefly discussed
the desirability of a study on the theology of ordination
of women." Committee appointed: H. W. Lowe, Raoul
Dederen, M. K. Eckenroth.
- 1970, June 5: GC
officers discuss role of women.
- GC officers agreed to appoint "an adequate committee
to consider this large topic . . . and to submit a report
for consideration at the 1970 Autumn Council."Minutes,
GC Officers Meeting, June 5, 1970.
1972: First woman ordained as local elder.
Josephine Benton ordained as local church elder, Brotherhood
Church, Washington, D.C., by Potomac Conference and Columbia
Union Conference presidents, W. G. Quigley and Cree Sandefur,
1972, June 21: Far Eastern Division requests counsel about
"The Far Eastern Division has requested counsel about
ordaining women. The Biblical Research Committee has been
assigned the task of studying the place of women in the
church. It is believed that the Far Eastern Divisions
request should be referred to the Biblical Research Committee for
study and counsel...
"Agreed, to refer the Far Eastern Division request about
ordaining women to the Biblical Research Committee."Minutes
of GC Officers Meeting, June 21, 1972.
1973, July 19: Study on "the role of women"
GC committee establishes an ad hoc committee on the
role of women in the church with the goal of studying womens
ordination as well. W. J. Hackett, GC vice president, serves as
chair; Gordon Hyde of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) is
- 1973: In Takoma Park, Maryland, Kit Watts joins
the Sligo Church
- pastoral staff, as minister of publications (April 2) and
Josephine Benton joins as an associate pastor (September
1). Benton is issued a ministerial license. Margaret
Hempe at the University Church in Loma Linda, California,
is acknowledged as a pastor.
Margarete Pranges success as a pastor in Germany
prompts her conference leaders to write GC leaders and ask about
ordaining her as an elder, one factor that leads to
Robert H. Piersons calling of the Camp Mohaven
1973, September: Camp Mohaven, Ohio.
The ad hoc committee convenes at Camp Mohaven in
Ohio [junior campi and discusses 29 papers from men and women
on the role of women in the church. The group included 13 men
and 14 women.
Recommends, That women be ordained as local church elders,
and those with theological training be hired as "associates
in pastoral care" primarily in multi-member pastoral
staffs. Also, proposes a pilot program that would lead to the
ordination of women in 1975.
1973, October: Annual Council calls for "more study."
Annual Council votes to "receive" the Camp Mohaven
report. It also votes "that continued study be given to the
theological soundness of the election of women to local church
offices which require ordination" and "that in areas
receptive to such action, there be continued recognition of the
appropriateness of appointing women to pastoral evangelistic work."
1974, October: Annual Council calls for "more study."
Annual Council votes to continue studying the theological
issues. Says, "The time is not ripe nor opportune" to
ordain women to gospel ministry.
1975, March: Spring Meetingends 100-year
policy of granting women ministerial licenses.
ALSO adopts policy permitting the ordination of deaconesses
and women elders.
Spring Meeting approves womens ordination as
deaconesses. Also permits women to be ordained as
elders if "the greatest discretion and caution" is
exercised. Urges women to become Bible workers, or even assistant
pastors, but notes that the church will grant them only a missionary
license, thus ending 100 years of granting women ministerial
licenses. (Emphasis added).
BRI papers on women in the church.
A set of 13 scholarly papers, based on the Camp Mohaven work,
is prepared by the Biblical Research Institute but is not
released to church members for study.
Mrs. W. H. Anderson (Central Union), Mary E. Walsh (Pacific
Union), and Mrs. Josephine Benton (Potomac Conference) are among
the last women listed in the SDA Yearbook as having
1976, October 28.
Biblical Research Institute director Gordon Hyde summarizes
the theological work done by BRI on women since Camp Mohaven in Review
and Herald. Asks, "If God has called a woman, and her
ministry is fruitful, why should the church withhold its standard
act of recognition [ordination]?"
1976: European woman becomes sole pastor.
Margarete Prange becomes pastor of the Galsenkirchen, Bottrop,
Gladbeck, and Dorsten churches in East Germany.
1977, February: First Adventist woman chaplain certified.
Frances Osborne, a chaplain for Huguley Memorial Medical
Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is certified as a Fellow in the
College of Chaplains at the annual national conference meeting in
1977, March: Spring Meetingdiscussion of womens
General Conference president Robert H. Pierson tells Spring
Meeting that the role of women is under continuing study and a
report will be given at the 1977 Annual Council. However, when a
poll of the world field is taken and shows a negative response,
womens ordination is deleted from the Annual Council agenda.
1977: Annual Council votes for Associates in Pastoral Care.
The 1977 AC designates the term "Associates in Pastoral
Care" to identify persons who are employed on pastoral
staffs, but who are not in line for ordination (women).
The debate over ordaining women elders heats up in many
churches, including Sligo Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, where
many GC employees who oppose it are members.
BRI papers on women released to Sligo Church.
Responding to a request by James Londis and Kit Watts, NAD
president Neal C. Wilson secures permission for Sligo Church to
reproduce 13 papers which have been unanimously endorsed by the
GC s Biblical Research Institute, and which find no
theological obstacle to ordaining women. In October, Wilson and
Raoul Dederen are among the guest speakers in a Wednesday night
series as Sligo Church continues the debate.
1978, January: Sligo Church fails to endorse ordination of
Although 60% ofSligo Church members vote in favor of ordaining
women as elders, the motion fails since the GC, Columbia Union,
and Potomac Conference have stipulated a "clear majority"
is necessary to settle the matter, (interpreted as a 66% or two-thirds vote).
- 1979, October: Annual Council votes
internships for women pastors, Bible instructors.
- AC provides special internship allotments for Bible
- Associates in Pastoral Care to be distributed by the
North American Division
- (NAD) beginning in 1980.
- Unordained males authorized to baptize in NAD.
- Changes in NAD Working Policy permit unordained seminary
graduates (male)1 to baptize, etc., in their local church.
New policy also allows them to qualify for certain U.S.
- 1979, Fall: Womens newsletter
- Women in the metro Washington, D.C. area, led by Viveca
Black, produce an Update of news for and about
Adventist women. Forerunner of The Adventist Woman.
- 1979-1982: American woman becomes sole
- Josephine Benton becomes pastor of the Rockville,
Maryland, Seventh-day Adventist Church.
1980, April 17: GC Session in Dallas. GC president calls
for womens involvement.
- In his keynote address, as his fifth priority, Neal C.
Wilson states that "the church must find ways to
organize and utilize the vast potential represented by
our talented, consecrated women." He said, "I
am not only urging that women be represented in the
administrative structure of the church, but also that we
harness the energies and talents of all the women so as
to better accomplish the task of finishing the work
assigned by our Lord."
1980: First Adventist woman earns Th.D. from SDA
Margit Suring of Finland earns her Th.D. in theology and
archaeology, from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
1982: First women pastors sponsored for M.Div. degrees
under the 1979 Annual Councils plan.
Walla Walla theology graduates Becky Lacy and Collette Crowell
are sponsored by their respective conferences (Southeastern
California and Upper Columbia) for the M.Div. degree at the SDA
1982: AAW organizes.
The Association of Adventist Women (AAW) officially organizes
with the goal to encourage Adventist women to achieve their full
Lang Van, who holds a B .A. in theology from Collonges in
France, teaches Bible to Cambodian refugees in Thailand, 1982-1984,
pastors Cambodians living in the north of France (1984-1991), and
moves to southeastern California to pastor refugees there.
Helen Tyler, a chaplain with the New England Memorial Hospital,
becomes the second Adventist woman to be certified as a Fellow in
the College of Chaplains. She completed an M.Div. degree in 1975
and a D.Min. degree in 1978 from Boston University.
Olive J. Hemmings completes a B.A. in theology at West Indies
College, and in 1989 an M.A. in New Testament studies at Andrews
University. She teaches religion at West Indies College.
1983: NAD Womens Commission established.
Responding to a proposal that originated with Otillie Stafford
and Jan Daffern, Warren Banfield, director for NADs Office
of Human Relations, receives approval to establish the NAD Womens
Commission. Alice Smith is the first chairperson. (She is
succeeded in 1986 by Thesba Johnston.) The commission is
instructed by the GC not to discuss womens
1984, March: Women pastors perform baptisms in NAD.
Potomac Conference Committee votes to permit eight local
elders to baptize. Three are women in pastoral rolesJan
Daffem at Sligo Church, Frances Wiegand at Beltsville Church, and
Marsha Frost in Virginia. The action precipitates trauma,
particularly at the Beltsville, Maryland, church where many GC
officers attend. Potomac Conference is chastised for defying GC
authority and policy.
1984, July: Second annual AAW conference.
Dialogue with church leaders sought but rebuffed. BRI papers
on women released after nine-year wait.
The Women of Mission Conference takes place at Andrews
University. Early in 1984, Dr. Richard Lesher, BRI director,
okayed the release of the nine-year-old BRI study papers on women
(which continued the work begun at Camp Mohaven). But when he is
elected as Andrews University president, his successor at BRI, Dr.
George Reid, rescinds the decision. Not until one week before the
conference is the decision reversed.
The first 100 copies of the 1975 BR! papers
on the role of women are officially edited and released to
interested church members.
(Julia Neuffer, veteran editor of the SDA
Commentary series, assists BR! in preparing the final
1984, August: Women pastors ordered to stop
baptizing in NAD. New study on womens ordination promised.
The entire Potomac Conference Committee is summoned to
Washington, D.C., to meet with the GC officers, and asked to
rescind their action that permitted women pastors to baptize (as
local elders). The GC promises to renew a study of the ordination
- 1984, October: Annual Council.
Women elders ordination policy reaffirmed.
- Annual Council reaffirms 1975 Spring Meeting
decision that women may be ordained as local elders.
Votes to "advise each division that it is free to
make provisions as it may deem necessary for the election
and ordination of women as local church elders."
Thus the provision is extended from NAD to the world
- Commission on the Role of Women in the Church voted.
- Annual Council also votes to call a Commission on the
Role of Women in the Church, with representatives from
each division, to study womens ordination. Vows to
settle the issue "definitively" at the 1985 GC
1984: First Adventist black woman becomes hospital chaplain.
Wanda Grimes Davis becomes a staff chaplain in the Regional
Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee. She wanted to become a
military chaplain but could not because the U.S. armed forces
required that all chaplains be ordained by the denominations they
Sally Kiasiong Andriamiarisoa, having earned a B.A. in
theology, becomes associate pastor in Mauritius, 1984-1986.
- 1985, March 26-28: Washington, D.C.
- Commission on the Role of Women in the ChurchI.
- A 65-member commission meets in Washington, D.C.,
including 15 women, and decides against "definitive"
decision on womens ordination.
- (a) more study, especially on Pauline material and
church history, to be reviewed by a representative group
in 1988, with actions to be brought to 1989 Annual
- (b) affirmative action for women in church
leadership roles not requiring ordination;
- (c) reform of present ordination practicesthat men
not be ordained unless in true ministerial work;
- (d)furt her study on the status of women pastors in
NAD to be considered at the 1985 Annual Council.
- Spring Meeting accepts the report.
1985, June 6.
Four deaconesses are ordained in the Geneva, Switzerland,
church. The action comes as a culmination of a nine-month study
and hearing speakers G. Steveny, J. C. Verrechia, V.
Haenni, E. Zuber, and F. Hugh. The Swiss/French conference
president asks the senior pastor in Geneva to stop the ordination
of women, believing that the Euro-African Division has not
authorized ordination of women to any post and will not until the
world church comes to an agreement.
1985, July 4-7.
Womens ordination discussed openly for the first time
during the first French-speaking Adventist Womens
- 1985, July: GC Session in New Orleans.
- Votes for affirmative action, more study on ordination.
- GC delegates in New Orleans accept the recommendations
from the 1985 Spring Meeting (above) to give further
study to womens ordination as ministers, to reform
ordination practices for men, and to provide "affirmative
action" by placing qualified women in leadership
roles that do not require ordination.
- Deaconess ordination contested.
- However, a motion to update the Church Manual to
reflect the churchs 1975 decision to permit the
ordination of deaconesses is protested by Hedwig
Jemison, and tabled, although the policy is not nullified.
- 1985, October: Annual Council.
- Annual Council discriminates between men and women
- Annual Council rejects the NAD recommendation that women
pastors with seminary training be allowed to baptize and
solemnize marriages as young men (in the U.S.) with the
same qualifications have been doing since 1979. Annual
Council states that women may work as ministers but
should not expect ordination.
- GC Womens Ministries Advisory (WMA) Committee
- In an action to educate the church on acceptable
leadership roles for Adventist women, Annual Council
appoints Betty Holbrook as coordinator of Womens
Ministries, in addition to her work as director of the GC
s Home and Family Service. An advisory committee of women
employed at the GC headquarters is setup to assist her.
Its members include: Shirley Burton, Jocelyn Fay, Beverly
Rumble, and Marie Spangler. Soon after, Elizabeth
Sterndale and Marjorie Felder are added. WMA is
specifically asked to encourage denominational editors to
include positive articles about women in their
- NAD Womens Advisory Representative.
- Two days later Elizabeth Sterndale is appointed as Womens
Advisory Representative for NAD in addition to her full-time
responsibilities in the NAD Health and Temperance
- 1985: Lydia Justiano
is chosen chairperson of the Womens Ministries
- for the South American Division.
- 1986: Three womens
groups at the GCINAD become more public in their work
- to educate the church on various womens issues, (but
are told not to discuss womens ordination):
- (1) Shepherdess International (specific support
group for pastors wives);
- (2) the revitalized NAD Womens Commission sponsored
by the Office of Human Relations (which held its first
Town Meeting at Andrews University in the summer; NADWC
also agrees to gather material for a book on various
womens issues; and
- (3) the GC Womens Ministries Advisory Committee,
which began encouraging denominational papers to publish
more news about women.
- 1986, January 16: Deaconess
ordination attested among early Adventists.
- Adventist Review publishes evidence that W. C.
White ordained deaconesses at the Ashfield church
in Sydney, Australia, on January 6, 1900. This transcends
objections raised on ordaining deaconesses at 1985 GC
1986, February 8: Hispanic women ordained as
elders in NAD.
Robert H. Carter, president of the Lake Union Conference,
ordains three women elders at the Spanish church in Berrien
Springs, Michigan: Marcia Gomez, Antonia Elenes, and Vita Marquez.
The church business meeting had already voted overwhelmingly in
favor of their ordination by 250-4.
The Seventh-day Adventist Healthcare Chaplains Association
meeting in Denver, Colorado (during the National Conference of
the College of American Chaplains) urges the hiring of more women
1986, April 5: Church at Andrews University fails to
approve women elders.
Pioneer Memorial Church members (Andrews University) vote in
favor of ordaining women as local elders by 56 to 44%, but the
motion fails because the church board had stipulated a 60%
majority to settle the issue. The vote comes after a series of
Wednesday night studies including speakers Richard Davidson,
Patricia Mutch, and Russell Staples. Samuele Bacchiocchi emerges
as an outspoken opponent of womens ordination.
1986, May 2-4.
The 15th annual meeting of the West Coast Religion Teachers
Conference, meeting at Pacific Union College, vote 40-0 (with one
abstention) to support womens ordination.
1986, Fall: Southeastern California Conference votes for
SECC votes to treat unordained men and women equally regarding
the issue of performing baptisms. The effect of the vote, since
the church allows unordained males who are pastors to baptize, is
to give women that privilege also.
- 1986, October 25.
- The Newbold College Church in England ordains its first
- Aulikki Nahkola and Cynthia Bent.
- 1986, December: NAD Bible teachers support womens
- Roger Dudley of Andrews University reports that 83% of
Adventist Bible teachers in North America support womens
ordination. Dudley surveyed the religion faculties of 11
NAD colleges and the SDA Theological Seminary. The number
of questionnaires returned is 94 out of 131.
- 1986: Yvonne Oster becomes church pastor in
Lintioping, Sweden, 1986-1989.
- 1986, December 20: Women pastors resume baptizing in
- Pastor Margaret Hempe baptizes two candidates in the
University Church, Loma Linda, CA, at the request of the
pastoral staff and more than 100 members of the
University Church board.
Helen Tyler is certified as a Fellow by the American
Association of Pastoral Counselors.
1987, February: Bacchiocchi goes into print.
Samuele Bacchiocchi publishes Women in the Church, a
book that strongly opposes womens ordination.
1987, May 1-3.
The West Coast Religion Teachers reaffirm their call for womens
ordination during their meeting at Walla Walla College. In
particular, they name Madelynn Haldeman and Margaret Hempe as
1987, May 21: PMC votes for women elders.
Members of Pioneer Memorial Church (Andrews University) vote
to elect and ordain women elders by a 62.5% majority.
Prior to the vote, members had received a 12-page document
containing two position papers, for and against.
Senior pastor Dwight Nelson reverses his prior stand against
1987, June 4: Study shows that age affects opinion on womens
Roder Dudley puglishes date in the Adventist Review showing
that 46% of NAD pastors favor ordination of women to the gospel
ministry. Age is a factor. The majority of those under age 50
favor it, and the majority of those over 50 oppose it.
1987, August: Adventist Bible teachers in world church
support womens ordination.
Roger Dudley reports in Ministry Magazine on a study of
religion teachers throughout the Seventh-day Adventist world
church. Overall, 69% agreed that it was appropriate for women who
have demonstrated their calling to ministry to be ordained as
1987, October 7-9: NAD sponsors first gathering of women in
Of approximately 40 women in ministry in NAD, 23 attend
the first meeting for SDA female chaplains and pastors
coordinated by Bob Dale, assistant to NAD President Charles E.
Bradford. Facilitator of the meeting is Elizabeth Sterndale.
1987, October 8-11: Dialogue between church leaders and
women facilitated by AAW.
During its 5th annual conference, AAW succeeds in organizing
the first open dialogue between women and church leaders on such
womens issues as pastoral ministry, church leadership, and
ordination. Among those participating:
Neal C. Wilson, Charles E. Bradford, Warren Banfield, A. C.
McClure, and George Reid.
1988, January 22-24: AWl organizes.
The Adventist Womens Institute forms during a meeting at
McCormack s Creek
State Park (Indiana) and officially incorporates in California on
January 27 with Fay Blix as its chair. The group determines to
pursue for women full and equal participation in the church.
1988, February: Audio tape, "Our Stories."
AAW produces a 67-minute tape and printed 10-page booklet
entitled Adventist Women in Ministry: Our Stories, featuring
women pastors and chaplains from Sweden, Norway, Korea, Great
Britain, Switzerland, and the United States. The material is sent
to the 77 members preparing for the GC Commission on the Role of
Women in the Church.
1988, February 4.
The Adventist Review publishes its first "AR
Seminar," focusing on women in early Adventism, including
reprints of articles defending womens public roles by James
White and J. N. Andrews.
Neal Wilson appoints Karen Flowers to replace Betty Holbrook,
retiring chair of the GC Womens Ministries Advisory
- 1988, March 24-27: Washington, D.C.
- Commission on the Role of Women in the ChurchII.
- 80 persons (including 19 women) from the world church
meet at GC headquarters in Washington, D.C.
- They recommend:
- Further study is needed before a decision can be made on
- Women testify to commission members.
- For the first time, women pastors are invited to speak
for themselves to the commission: Delores Robinson,
pastor from Southeastern California Conference; Penny
Shell, chaplain at Thorek Hospital in Chicago; and Eva
Nora de Monroy, from Mexico. (Marsha Frost, pastor from
Potomac Conference, was a commission member as she had
also been in 1985.) Several Adventist women teachers are
also invited to speak against ordination including:
Mercedes Dyer, Loretta Johns, and Launce Durrant.
1988, April: TEAM organizes.
Time for Equality in Adventist Ministry is founded in Maryland
specifically to work toward the ordination of candidates to the
gospel ministry regardless of race, social class, or gender.
Patricia Habada is chairperson.
1988, May 10, 11: NAD calls for end to discriminatory
NAD leaders call for an end to discriminatory policies
affecting Adventist women in ministry. During the meeting in Loma
Linda, California, they vote unanimously their objection to the
current discrepancies in how the church treats men and women who
have the same training and qualifications.
The Potomac Conference echoes the NAD stand and votes to cease
discriminating against women in ministry and permit them, along
with unordained males, to baptize and marry in the local church.
Madelynn Jones Haldeman graduates from the SDA Theological
Seminary at Andrews University, the second woman to earn a Th.D.
there. She is a member of the religion faculty of Loma Linda
University (now La Sierra University), Riverside, California
The Oregon Conference establishes a Womens Ministries
Department chaired by Marge Moreno.
1988, October: Study finds that nearly 1,000
women elders serve in NAD.
The Institute of Church Ministry (at Andrews University)
presents its survey reporting on the status of women elders.
Researchers Carole Kilcher and Gan-Theow Ng find there are 960
ordained women elders serving the 3,036 churches alongside 14,495
male elders. Seventy-eight percent of those churches having
women elders felt they strengthened the church. The survey also
revealed that women function as elders in churches of every size
and racial and cultural background.
1988, November 1.
Newbold College religion faculty pledges support for women
entering theological study and seeking a career in pastoral
1988: Chinese woman pastor performs baptisms.
Mrs. Hui Ying Zhou is reported to have baptized at least 200
persons in Wuxi, China. She attracts up to 1,000 to Sabbath
1989, January 29: Gender Inclusiveness Task
Delegates to the Southeastern California
Conferences (SECC) special constituency meeting establish a
12-member task force "to plan and implement a broad spectrum
of programs and materials on gender inclusiveness in family and
church." The action also states that it is the will of SECC
to ordain women in ministry as soon as possible.
1989, March 14.
- Seventh-day Adventist Healthcare Chaplains Association
meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, calls the church "into
a full recognition, by ordination, of the ministry of
- 1989, April 30: Ohio Conference wants to ordain woman.
- The Ohio Conference executive committee endorses Pastor
Leslie Bumgardner as a candidate for ordination.
- 1989, May 4: Columbia Union endorses woman for
- The Columbia Union Conference executive committee
endorses Pastor Leslie Bumgardner as a candidate
for full ordination no earlier than August of
1990 on the basis that it is "morally right
and theologically correct.
1989, May 21: SECC calls for womens ordination.
- The Southeastern California Conference constituents pass
a resolution (279-179) mandating that local qualified
women pastors be considered for ordination no sooner than
- 1989, June 7.
- The Pacific Union Conference executive committee votes a
resolution urging the General Conference "to
eliminate gender as a consideration for ordination to the
gospel ministry." They add that "we endorse the
ordination of qualified women to the gospel ministry in
divisions, unions, and conferences where deemed helpful
- 1989, mid-June: NAD union presidents endorse womens
- AD union presidents vote unanimously to send an
endorsement of womens ordination to the Commission
on the Role of Women meeting in Cohutta Springs, Georgia,
"in those divisions where it would be deemed helpful
- 1989, mid-June: NAD Officers resolution.
- By secret ballot, NAD officers endorse a resolution
similar to the one passed by the Pacific Union Conference
by a vote of 5-1.
- 1989, June: First black woman becomes
sole pastor of a church.
- Hyveth Williams, previously associate pastor at Sligo
Church, becomes senior pastor of the Boston Temple,
1989, July 12-18: Cohutta Springs, Georgia.
Commission on the Role of Women in the ChurchIII.
- Votes no ordination for women; some pastoral privileges.
- Commission members vote 56-11 in favor of a controversial
two-pronged recommendation brought to them by the
division presidents and GC officers present.
- (a) Women not be ordained to gospel ministry, and
- (b) that divisions may authorize qualified women
in ministry to perform baptisms and marriages.
- The commission has representatives from every world
division, and includes 17 women. (Three divisions decline
to send women: Inter-America, South America, and Eastern
- Survey of women in leadership.
- Karen Flowers, GC Womens Ministries Advisory
coordinator, shares results of an international survey
documenting the concerns of Adventist women in leadership.
- The women attendees make recommendations.
- Women commissioners caucus and submit a document to the
commission calling for positive actions toward Adventist
(a) equality and career opportunities,
- (b) full-time womens ministries
- (c) inclusive language in church documents,
- (d) affirmative action bringing women into
positions of leadership that do not require
- (e) accountability for progress toward these
- 1989, July 23.
- Under the leadership of Rosa Banks, newly elected
director of the Office of Human Relations (OHR), the NAD
Womens Commission adopts a mission statement and
goals. NADWC operates through the sponsorship of OHR.
1989, September 28: Women leaders support womens
A summary of Karen Flowers international survey
of Adventist women in leadership is published in the Adventist
Review. Sixty-five percent of the women surveyed feel that
the associate pastor of a local church should be ordained, and 74%
feel it would be appropriate for women to serve in this capacity.
The survey identified 1,872 women working as administrators,
departmental directors and associates, pastors, chaplains, and
Bible instructors. Of these, 875 responded to the survey.
1989, October 7: "Celebration of Equality."
TEAM sponsors the event in Sligo Church which features Charles
E. Bradford, Hyveth Williams, Madelynn Haldeman, Duncan and
Wilmore Eva, Harold Camacho, singer Pat Taylor, and TV
personality and Adventist pastor Clifton Davis.
1989, October: Annual Council.
Delegates vote 187-97 in favor of accepting the two-pronged
recommendation from the Commission on the Role of Women in the
Church, which met in Cohutta Springsrejecting womens
ordination, but permitting qualified women to baptize and perform
marriages (See above.)
A nod toward womens concernsbut no promises:
Delegates also vote to "record our appreciation for"
the womens recommendations from Cohutta Springs, as revised
by the GC officers, and state that they "encourage"
each organizational entity and institution to "give study"
to the concerns "so as to achieve the spirit and purpose of
this proposal." They also recommend that women make up at
least 25% of committees and boards "in those categories of
membership where a sufficient number of women are eligible for
1989, November 29: Womens studies degree.
The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences at Andrews
University votes to establish the first womens studies
program in Adventist colleges. Classes for the minor begin in
1990, January 1.
Ramona Perez Greek begins service as coordinator of the NAD
Womens Commission, succeeding Thesba Johnston. The
commission adopts a five-year plan with goals and objectives.
Volunteer commissioners are in place in every union in NAD and in
1990, February 23-28: Chaplains vote support, again.
Seventh-day Adventist Healthcare Chaplains Association meeting
in Nashville, Tennessee, votes strong support for ordaining women
- 1990, April: SECC educates constituents.
- The Gender Inclusiveness Task Force of Southeastern
California Conference produces
- (1) "Equals in Service," a slide program
featuring male and female theology students seeking a
place in the Adventist ministry.
- (2) "Whats Good for the Gospel," a video
encouraging womens full participation in church
life and ministry.
- (3) A pamphlet for readers of the Pacific Union
Recorder, authored by John Brunt, entitled "The
Ordination of Women: A Bible Perspective."
- 1990, April 8: Religion teachers vote
- The West Coast Religion Teachers vote unanimously to
reaffirm their commitment to womens ordination and
request the GC session delegates "to take no action
that would either forbid or compel the ordination of
women in the gospel ministry in any part of the world."
- 1990, June: AAW documents women in
- The Adventist Woman, vol. 9. No. 3-4, documents
the education, training, and public ministry of 62 women
from 12 different countries, and includes photographs of
- 1990, July 5-14: GC Session in
Indianapolis. Delegates deny ordination for
- In Indianapolis, GC delegates vote 1,173 to 377 to accept
the 1989 commissions and 1989 AC recommendation
that women not be ordained at this time.
- Women may perform baptisms and marriages in some
- By a vote of 776 to 494 the delegates choose to update
the Church Manual to reflect the policy adopted at
the 1989 Annual Council, which permits women to perform
marriages in divisions which so authorize.
- 1990, August: New books on women.
- Throughout 10 years of discussion on womens
ordination, the General Conference officers had urged the
Review and Herald and Pacific Press not to publish books
on the topic. Several books were stopped in manuscript
form, and the authors sought alternative publishers.
Bacchiocchi self-published in February 1987. In 1990 two
additional books were published:
- (1) Called by God, by Josephine Benton (Blackberry
Hill Publishers, Route 2, Box 121, Smithsburg, MD 21783),
240 pages. It devotes a chapter each to each of six
Adventist women in public ministry during the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century.
- (2) Women, Church, God: A Socio-Biblical Study, by
Caleb Rosado (Loma Linda University Press, Riverside,
California), 173 pages. Addresses such issues as Jesus
and the patriarchal system, "Is God Male?" and
- 1990, September 19: NAD Committee
establishes Office of Womens Ministries.
- Elizabeth Stemdale named as director of the new office.
- 1990, September 24: Leaders of womens
- Thirty-five women, most of whom are members of AWl, TEAM,
AAW, and the SECC Gender Inclusiveness Task Force meet in
Addison, Pennsylvania, and issue ajoint statement
responding to the 1990 GC decision to deny ordination to
women. The statement calls the church to implement equal
opportunity and affirmative action for women, and to
ordain women in divisions where the move would be
culturally acceptable. They also discuss an Adventist
Womens Coalition. A 17-member steering committee,
chaired by Helen Thompson, agrees to work on proposals.
- 1990, October: Annual
Council. GC also establishes Office of Womens
- On October 4, AC adopts President Robert
Folkenbergs recommendation to establish an Office
of Womens Ministries. Rose Otis is subsequently
- 1990, October 21: SECC sidesteps ordination issue.
- SECC constituents accept a recommendation by conference
president L. Stephen Gifford to establish a Commission on
Justice, by a vote of 370 to 128.
- According to the recommendation, the SECC executive
committee is to:
- (a) "lead out in a strong concerted program in the
recruitment, hiring, education, placement, and support of
women in ministry," and
- (b) to work closely with denominational leaders "to
facilitate the ordination of all qualified ministerial
candidates without gender discrimination" and to
repot back on these efforts at the 1992 constituency
- The purpose of the Commission on Justice is to:
"fulfill the churchs goals of racial, ethnic,
and gender equality."
- SECC constituents reject a motion, endorsed by the Gender
Inclusiveness Task Force, to ordain women to gospel
ministry by a vote of 440 to 274.
- A progress report is requested in 1992.
1990: New GC president stalls discussion of womens
Robert H. Folkenberg advises denominational editors that
discussing womens ordination is off limits.
1990: V. Norskov Olsen publishes study of ordination.
Olsens book, Myth and Truth: Church, Priesthood and
Ordination, a scholarly study, supports ordination of
1991. Australian women publish research report.
Four women: Jennifer Knight, Pamela Clifford, Merolyn
Coombs, and Linette Lock, conduct research to study womens
perceptions of the SDA Church in Australia and New Zealand, and
publish a 125-page report, The Adventist Women in the Secular
World: Her Ministry and Her Church. Report pleads for change.
1992: SECC wants ordination plan.
Constituents ask executive committee to devise a plan for
ordaining women within its jurisdiction and to conduct all future
ordinations of men and women uniformly.
1992: Review and Herald publishes book, A Womans
In the planning stage by the NAD Womens Commission and
the Office of Human Relations since 1986, a book by 11 women
authors surveys issues for women in the church and society.
Edited by Rosa Taylor Banks, Office of Human Relations director.
1992: TEAM begins scholarship program.
Three women in ministry receive the first scholarships to
support their graduate studies in theology. This program grows
from small grants to an international program with gifts of $2500
or more to worthy recipients.
1993: NAD leaders call for ordination.
At a January meeting, 88% of the NAD ministerial directors
attending, along with the senior pastors of college churches, ask
NAD to authorize and promote womens ordination on a
1993, February: Healthcare chaplains elect first woman
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Healthcare Chaplains
Association elect Penny Shell president. For two years each she
will be president-elect, then president, then past president.
1993: AAW commemorates 20th anniversary of Camp Mohaven.
A special issue of the Adventist Woman marks 20
years since the Seventh-day Adventist Church convened the Camp
Mohaven Council on the Role of Women. All the original Mohaven
recommendations are publishedalongside the actions that the
1974 Annual Council actually took. Three men and four women who
were members of the Mohaven group share their perspectives. (Historic
photo of the group included).
1993: Womens ordination kept off the agenda.
Delegates find womens ordination, which has been under
discussion behind closed doors only, was removed from potential
discussion by Annual Council by the GC president. It is reported
that he hopes to prevent conflict and polarization by waiting
1994: SDA Theological Seminary professor publishes anti-ordination
Raymond Holmes, retired seminary professor, publishes the
Tip of an Iceberg, [sic] in which he argues that the
authority of the Bible, and all of Adventists unique
beliefs, are threatened if Scripture is interpreted to allow
womens ordination. The self-published book is widely
distributed. Endorsed by several highly placed SDA leaders, the
book gives the appearance of being the churchs "official
- 1994: GC president talks to SECC.
- In communication with Southeastern California Conference
leaders, Robert Folkenberg discusses ordaining women and
expresses hope that a consensus can be secured among
- 1994: SECC holds off on ordination.
- Ready to move ahead in ordaining women, SECC votes to
postpone and to take up the issue again at a November
1994 meeting to determine a course of action should
Folkenberg not get consensus at Annual Council.
- 1994, September 22: Atlantic Union Conference
Executive Committee (NAD) votes statement in support of
- Southern New England Conference President Charles Case
voted against the statement and asked that his name be
excluded and thus recorded.
- 1994, September 23-24: Sligo celebrates women in ministry.
- All eight women who have been on the pastoral staff since
1973 participate in a reunion. The program concluded with
a "procession of light" on Sabbath afternoon.
Marking the churchs 150th anniversary of
1844, and the 21st anniversary of Camp Mohaven, candles
were carried for 150 women in ministry as their names
were read in a special ceremony. Eighteen women carried
their own candles.
- 1994, October: AAW publishes second
list of women in ministry.
- Photos and stories of 90 women in ministry make up the
October! November issue (Vol. 13, No. 5) of the Adventist
Woman. Included are women from Sweden, Switzerland,
Canada, Germany, the Baltic Union, Russia, Norway,
Finland, and the U.S.
- 1995, April: Adventist publications
renew discussion of women.
- Ministry Magazine publishes issue that discusses
ordination of women and decision-making in the church.
- 1995, April: Pro-ordination book is
- TEAM Press publishes The Welcome Table. Setting
a Place for Ordained Women, in which 14 prominent
Adventist authors and scholars support ordination of
- Direct corrections or additional historical information
- At the time of writing, Kit Watts was assistant editor of
the Adventist Review, a position she held for 10
years. Currently she divides her time between La
Sierra University, where she is Director of the newly
established Women's Resource Center; and the Southeastern
California Conference, where she is Assistant to the
President (for communication).
*Vivianne Haenni provided valuable information
about Adventist women in Europe. Josephine Benton's book, Called
by God, documents historical data on several women ministers,
including Helen Williams, Minnie Day Sype, Lulu Russell Wightman,
Anna Knight, Jessie Weiss Curtis, and Mary E. Walsh. Much of the
research to update this document from 1990-1995 was done by
Rebecca Brillhart and Cherie Rouse.
At Issue Women in Ministry