We knew that the recent World Congress of our church would not bring a breakthrough regarding the ordination of female pastors. We will have to be patient for a while longer. However, I remain convinced that this breakthrough will come. After all, it is becoming increasingly difficult to explain why the Adventist Church is dealing with this issue the way it is. What theological justification is there for still opposing the ordination of women pastors, while their “sisters” can be ordained as elders or deacons. Does this involve a different kind of blessing, a kind of blessing light? And, of course, it is absurd that a woman cannot be elected to lead a conference–because, according to the current rules, only an ordained pastor can be a conference president–but that there can be a female vice-president in our highest church governing body. Audrey Anderson, the former secretary of the Trans-European Division, succeeded Ella Simmons as one of the GC vice presidents.
We will have to be patient for a while longer. It is perhaps comforting to see that in other churches advocates of equal rights for women in church offices also had to exercise patience. I recently came across two interesting examples. In 1940 Nora van Egmond began her theological studies at the Free University in Amsterdam. She wanted to become a pastor in the Reformed Church (which would later become part of the PKN-the Protestant Church in the Netherlands). After completing her studies, she did all kinds of pastoral and other work. It took 22 years before she was ordained as a pastor. That happened only after the synod of the Reformed Church of 1969-70 fully opened the church offices to women. Later, Nora van Egmond said that, indeed, she had to wait a long time, but that it actually surprised her that the waiting time had not been much longer. She had counted on eighty years!
Other denominations in the Netherlands decided to appoint women pastors considerably earlier. Anne Zernike (1887-1972) became the first female pastor in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, a denomination with Anabaptist roots, in 1911, and Frederika Willemina Rappold followed in 1920 as the first woman to be confirmed as pastor in the Remonstrant Church. The Lutheran Church in the Netherlands took the decision to also admit women to the office of pastor in 1922. Seven years later, Pastor Jantine Auguste Haumersen officially began her work as pastor in the Lutheran congregation in Woerden. However, for decades it remained very difficult for women to find their place in the Lutheran male world. Until 1956 there were only four women pastors in the Lutheran congregations in the Netherlands. It was not until the 1970s that it was fully accepted that female pastors did not have to resign when they married! All in all, the Lutheran “brothers” asked a lot of patience from many of their church members. And women who wanted to become pastors had many obstacles to overcome. However, anno 2022 there are significantly more women than men in Lutheran pulpits in The Netherlands. (See Sabine Hiebsch, “Lutherse vrouwen op de kansel—1922-2022, Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Kerkgeschiedenis, pp. 56-71).
How much patience must we have before the biblical principle of full equality between men and women is accepted worldwide in the Adventist Church? We should expect change, probably, first of all from courageous administrators in the “lower” church organizations. What signals will Daniel Duda, the new president of the Trans-European Division, send? Will he dare to set a course of his own in this part of the world where discrimination against women meets with total incomprehension and is even illegal? Will union administrators dare to follow the example of their German colleagues–in deviation from what the General Conference still prescribes? Advocates of full equality between men and women have been very patient. This proved to be necessary, just as it was necessary in other denominations. But patience is running out!