Catherine of Siena


[Friday morning, 27 September]  On Saturday September 21 a female pastor was ordained in the Hague (the Netherlands). The Dutch Adventist Church decided not to wait for the decision of the Adventist world church, but henceforth no longer to differentiate between the status and privileges of male pastors and their female colleagues.  It was also decided that a female pastor who had already been working for many year as a ‘commissioned minister’ would now be listed as ‘ordained’. I can only rejoice about this positive development.

Earlier this week I was invited to speak in the worship period of the union committee of the Adventist Church in Italy. This governing body was meeting for two days in one of the buildings of the Adventist educational center in Florence. After the worship I was asked to stay for a few moment and to report on the view of Dutch Adventists on the position of women in the church. I had the clear impression that a majority of those present agreed with the Dutch position and would be happy if the church in Italy would follow suit.

It remains strange that it appears to be so difficult to treat men and women on an equal basis. There are so many historical examples of women who performed at least as well and as strongly as male leaders. After having finished my ‘intensive course’ in Florence, I have a few days for touristic activities. Yesterday I visited the exquisite, historical city of Siena, at some 80 kilometers from Florence. The medieval cathedral is a beautiful and imposing building where there is a lot to see, in particular if one looks at the marble floor with its many mosaics. The 130 or so sculptures of medieval popes, who look down upon the believers from their high place just under the roof, are also unique. Of course, I had to buy a richly illustrated book as a souvenir of this memorable visit!

This visit to Siena led me to think of Catherine of Siena. She was a medieval mystic (1347-1380), who rose to great fame in the Catholic Church. She was intensely involved in church-political business, advised several popes and was able to persuade Pope Gregory XI to return from his exile in the French city of Avignon to Rome. Truly an example of female power in the church.

Last Wednesday I held a lecture for a group of students and teachers of the Italian Adventist college. Some non-Adventist pastors had also been invited. I addressed the topic of ‘Building Christian Communities Today’, focusing in particular on the postmodern challenges. Three persons responded with some pointed remarks to what I had said—among them a Waldensian pastor and a female Baptist colleague. This immediately made me think: Why can the Italian Baptists have female pastors, while the Italian Adventists have not yet moved to that point?

For today and tomorrow a short trip to the Adventist youth- and conference center near the city of Poppi is on my agenda. It is a tradition that the student body of the Adventist college in Florence has a special weekend in Poppi at the beginning of the academic year. Tomorrow they will have a church service, where I hope to preach about the topic of ‘real faith’—or: what it means to be an authentic Christian. On Sunday I will start the journey back home, with a detour via Venice.

It was a pity that during these past few days I was not able to closely follow the political events in the Hague. But perhaps a week in Tuscany and a few days in Venice are to be preferred over the political turbulence in the Netherlands.