GC Coverage

Late Evening Discussion Points to Clarification on Ordination of Elders and Deaconesses

Wilona Karimabadi
Late Evening Discussion Points to Clarification on Ordination of Elders and Deaconesses
[Photo by David B. Sherwin]

Tuesday’s first late-evening business session addressed two items on the clarification of election and ordination for elders who are female and deaconesses. The discussion, which lasted almost until the close of the meeting, was filled with numerous questions and comments from assembled delegates, both in person and via Zoom videoconferencing.

Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, offered this useful context: “The ordination of elders and the action taken was to recognize that once a church business meeting votes a new elder, it is assumed that the authorization is granted for them to be ordained, so there doesn’t need to be a separate action for ordination. Once you elect them, it automatically assumes that permission has been granted for them to be ordained—regardless of whether they are male or female.”

At moments, the items under review were met with comments bringing up issues about women’s pastoral ordination—a topic that is not on this Session’s agenda. This led to lively discussion and passionate speeches.

“You have to read that within the context of the church’s position, which allows every division to make up its mind on whether they are going to have female or male elders,” Doukmetzian said. “The second piece,” he continued, “ is elders who are subsequently elected as deaconesses don’t have to be ordained as deaconesses because the ordination of an elder covers that as well.

So, once you have been ordained as an elder, that transfers over to your position as a deaconess.”

There was one singular action that the chair immediately referred back. But there were three where a vote was taken to refer back or not, and ultimately they were all voted down.

“Those will be referred back to the Church Manual Committee, which will meet Thursday at noon,” Doukmetzian said. “The full Church Manual Committee will review those requests and report back to the Session on any changes they are recommending or if they are going to stand. These changes to the Church Manual have been brought forward because of requests that have come from different divisions. Then they are discussed by the Church Manual Committee as language recommendations come forward, processed through AdCom, through Executive Committee, and then on to the floor. So the language has been reviewed and approved at different levels.” If the Church Manual Committee chooses to forego making any changes, it will be brought back to the floor to vote on the current wording.

These particular agenda items were brought forward primarily for clarification to make sure there was no ambiguity or confusion in the language that currently exists in the Church Manual. Official policy on these matters was not under review.

To follow the livestream of the church’s business sessions, visit adventistreview.org.

Wilona Karimabadi