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The Executive Committee of the Norwegian Union voted on Sunday to discontinue the practice of ordaining pastors. The action means a change of a previously established practice, but is loyal to the vote in San Antonio this summer not to allow individual world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to make decisions regarding the ordination of female pastors.
The document prepared for the Executive Committee refers to the General Conference Working Policy BA 60 05 entitled “Basic Principles,” which states: “The Church rejects any system or philosophy which discriminates against anyone on the basis of race, colour, or gender. The Church bases its position on principles clearly enunciated in the Bible, the writings of Ellen G White, and the official pronouncements of the General Conference.”
The ordination practiced within the Seventh-day Adventist Church for many years has been at odds with the basic biblical principle of the equality of all human beings. The backing material for the Executive Committee refers to the priesthood of all believers and states that it is impossible for the Church to respect the fundamental human right of equality without a reassessment of the way ordination has been practiced in the past.
During the past five years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has conducted a thorough study of the theology of ordination. After the comprehensive studies on the theology of ordination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church world leadership has been aware of the fact that there exists two opposing views on ordination by conscientious and loyal Adventists. World church leadership has failed to provide space for unions, which are of the conviction that the present practice is biblically wrong, to follow their conscience within the boundaries of voted church policy. This has placed the Norwegian Union in a very difficult situation.
“The Norwegian Union does not want to be rebellious or to break away from the global Seventh-day Adventist fellowship. This is very important to us,” said Finn F Eckhoff, secretary of the Norwegian Union.
The theme of ordination has been studied for more than 30 years. Still, it has not been possible to establish a clear biblical basis for the practice followed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Now the Church in Norway has decided to encourage world church leadership to establish a biblically-based practice that is not threatening the unity of the Church.
The action voted by the Norwegian Union Executive Committee has six points. Point number one is a request to the Seventh-day Adventist world leadership to revisit the recommendations in the report from the Biblical Research Committee of the Trans-European Division. The 871 pages report recommends the Church to admit “there is no biblical command to ordain anyone by the imposition of hands and that there is no consistent biblical formula for how a leader is inducted to office in the Christian church” (“The Mission of God through the Ministry of the Church. A Biblical Theology of Ordination – With Particular Attention to the Ordination of Women.” Biblical Research Committee, Trans-European Division, p 814).
From now on, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway will have a simple dedicatory prayer for a person embarking on pastoral internship. Similarly, there will be a dedicatory prayer for those who take the step from pastoral internship to regular pastoral service.
The Norwegian Union will operate with only two categories of pastoral employees from now on: 1) pastors in regular service, and 2) pastoral interns. The Norwegian Union will not report pastoral employees to the Seventh-day Adventist yearbook until the General Conference has established pastoral categories that are not discriminatory.
Union president, Pastor Reidar J Kvinge, stressed the fact that the Norwegian Union does not want to be in rebellion against the global Seventh-day Adventist Church. But the vote of the Executive Committee comes as a result of a conviction that equality between the genders is a biblical principle.
“It is a matter of conscience for the Norwegian Union”, said Pastor Kvinge. He added: “We cannot see any Biblical foundation for the ordination practice our Church has followed for many years. That is the reason for our vote to discontinue the practice. The New Testament does not give us a command to discriminate against women in pastoral ministry. God gives his gifts to women and men. The Holy Spirit equips women and men for pastoral ministry. We want to recognise that.”
For many years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway has treated men and women in pastoral ministry with equality. Pastoral employees have the same wage scale and terms irrespective of gender even if ordination has been only for men.
Click HERE to read the complete voted document from Norwegian Union Executive Committee.