Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Underscore: Leaders and Members Weigh in: What Will a Yes Vote Mean for the Church?

Leaders and Members Weigh in: What Will a Yes Vote Mean for the Church?

Story by V. Michelle Bernard

Should the Seventh-day Adventist Church allow divisions to choose if women should be ordained in their territories? That’s the question going forward to the General Conference Session in San Antonio in July, and one that received support from the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee during its meeting in November 2014.

As the session approaches, many are now wondering what a yes vote could mean for the church. The Visitor hosted a Facebook chat March 25 to bring together church leaders and members from the Columbia Union territory and across the North American Division to discuss the vote, and what they think might be the best way forward as a denomination. Here is a summary of the chat:


Visitor: Do you think women’s ordination should be left up to divisions?

G. Patterson Gary Patterson

Gary Patterson, former administrator for the North American Division and Columbia Union: “Neither divisions nor the General Conference have the authority to say who may be ordained. That decision is delegated by General Conference Policy* to unions who confirm the recommendations of the local conferences. It may be that unions in a given division will agree to proceed with this decision, but it is not up to the division either to allow or disallow the unions the choice. It may be that the time has come to consider making divisions constituent entities with such authority, but at the present this is not the case.”

Sid Kelly, a member from Miami, Fla.: “Ordaining women should be a decision for the entire world church, not [the] divisions … fracturing the church … What’s next?”

Duane Thomas Duane Thomas

Duane J. Thomas, pastor of the Breath of Life church in Memphis, Tenn., and an alumnus of Pine Forge Academy in Pine Forge, Pa.: “This whole debate is so ridiculous, it is beyond words. How are we going to have a committee study the Bible on a subject that the Bible does not address? … I need someone to explain to me the difference biblically and practically between a woman commissioned and ordained.

May2015VisitorCover_400pxRead and share these articles from the May 2015 Visitor:


Visitor: Do you support a yes vote?

William "Bill" Miller William "Bill" Miller

William Miller, Potomac Conference president: “I support yes for many reasons, the most important for me is that if God calls someone to ministry, the church should recognize whom God calls. Ordination does not imbue special powers, but is a recognition of the activity of God.”

Fredy Reinosa, a member at Potomac Conference’s Roanoke Spanish church in Roanoke, Va.: “Yes! I fully support our church moving forward and allow[ing] women to serve as ordained pastors. There is no text in Scripture that prohibits the ordination of women. We have a woman as one of the founders of our church and it didn’t split our church. Let’s listen to the Spirit and move forward.”

Larry Boggess, Mountain View Conference president: “The research and researchers both concluded that there is not a clear biblical “thus saith the Lord” to ordain women. There was not a clear majority among the [Theology of Ordination Study Committee] researchers themselves, that the Bible supported that position. Thus, we must be so surrendered to God and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us God’s desire on this issue.”

Brenda Billingy Brenda Billingy

Brenda Billingy, pastor of Allegheny East Conference’s Metropolitan church in Hyattsville, Md.: “I fully support the church allowing divisions to make a decision that would be beneficial to their territory. Just be mindful that while we are debating, people are dying (physically and spiritually), and in these last days, all our energies should be focused on sharing the gospel with our communities, not on debating about the work and credentials of a female pastor. We need all hands on deck! Let’s move forward and get the work done!”

Susan Swayze Susan Swayze

Susan Swayze, a member of the Brunswick (Maine) church: “Absolutely not. [My] vote is a big strong no. There’s plenty of God-ordained work for women to do that does not require being ordained elders or pastors. We are living in the last days and have far more weightier issues facing our world church today on which our time could more wisely be spent. Times change but God never changes.”

Visitor: What would a yes vote mean for the church, ministry and mission?

Gregg Hutman Gregg Hutman

Gregg J. Hutman, a member of Ohio Conference’s Stillwater church in Vandalia: “I think a yes vote will bring the [Adventist] Church more into a modern day church. That it could potentially keep the young adults from drifting away and leaving the church altogether. I think it would bring a whole new perspective for the mission and for the ministry of our church.”

David Lamoreaux David Lamoreaux

David Lamoreaux, a member of Potomac’s Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md.: “For our congregation, I believe it would be seen as a breath of fresh air and what we have been hoping and praying for over quite a few decades. Of course, we were pioneers in ordination of women in ministry so we have been pushing for this quite a while. I see a majority “yes” vote in San Antonio as a boost to members to share the Christian Adventist message with more people with less chance for shame for the church being still in the Dark Ages as far as equality of treatment of women in ministry.”

Fredy Reinosa Fredy Reinosa

Fredy Reinosa: “[A] yes vote would mean that the Holy Spirit would work in our churches how He always wanted to do it. According to Ephesians 4, pastor, prophet, teacher, etc., are all gifts that the Holy Spirit gives how He wishes. None of these gifts are gender specific. I feel it will accomplish the mission that God wanted to fulfill in these last days as He has promised to pour the Spirit among all flesh!”

Visitor: Can we achieve unity through this issue?

Gary Patterson: “The notion has been advanced that the unity of the church and authority of the church will be diminished by opening ordination to women. The reality is that refusal to do so will destroy unity. One may legitimately ask why it is unity only if the vote is negative.”

Gina Saville Meekma Gina Saville Meekma

Gina Saville Meekma, a member at the Niles Westside church in Niles, Mich., and a former Chesapeake member: “Churches make their own decisions on ordaining women elders and that hasn’t fractured the church. We already have many women pastors who do almost everything that [male] pastors do. How would recognizing that God has called them to do what we already pay them to do cause problems in the church?”


Visitor: What’s the best way forward for the world church today?

Gary Patterson: “First, we need to recognize that the social setting and customs of the 13 divisions are different. Such matters should not be imposed by one division on another. Second, we need to recognize the conclusion of multiple commissions and study groups set up by the General Conference for over 50 years, which state that this matter is neither a biblical, theological nor doctrinal issue. The union authority in matters of personnel to be ordained must be recognized and upheld.”*

Larry Boggess_SiloLarry Boggess: “I strongly encourage readers to be in prayer for the leaders and delegates. May we as a people be a people of prayer all the time and not just when we think we need God’s guidance in time of crisis.”

What qualifies ministers for ordination, and who decides? To learn more, visit

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