We’ve provided the following timeline of key events regarding the women’s ordination movement in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to provide history and context to current events. This material is adapted from the controversial book Women in Ministry by Randal R. Wisbey. (The inclusion of this material does not constitute an endorsement of the views presented in that book.)
- The church in Finland request that women be ordained.
- The General Conference appoints a committee to study ordination.
- The Potomac Conference ordains Josephine Benton as the first woman elder.
- The General Conference Biblical Research Institute begins studying the role of women.
- Twenty-seven noted Bible teachers and church leaders meet at Camp Mohaven. The ad hoc committee recommends that women be ordained as local church elders and with theological training be hired as “associates in pastoral care.” They also recommend a pilot program leading to women’s ordination.
- Annual Council votes to receive the report, but concluded that “continued study be given to the theological soundness of the election of women to local church offices which require ordination. … In areas receptive to such action, there be continued recognition of the appropriateness of appointing women to pastoral evangelistic work.”
- General Conference Spring Meeting vote to authorize women’s ordination as deaconesses and local church elders, provided “the greatest discretion and caution be exercised,” and also encourage women to serve as Bible workers and assistant Pastors.
- Annual Council permits unordained male pastors to baptize in their local church.
- The Potomac Conference assigns Josephine Benton to server as sole pastor of the Rockville Adventist Church.
- Association of Adventist Women organizes to encourage Adventist women “to achieve their full potential.”
- Women elders serving as pastors in the Potomac Conference are authorized to baptize.
- The Potomac Conference Executive Committee summoned to meet with General Conference leaders agreed to have women stop baptizing until the world church reached a consensus.
- Annual Council reaffirms General Conference Committee Action that women might be ordained as local elders.
- The Commission on the Role of Women in the Church meets for the first time.
- The General Conference Session in New Orleans accepts the work of the commission, voting for “affirmative action” by asking leaders to use their influence to open to women all aspects of church ministry not requiring ordination.
- Annual Council rejects North American Division request that women pastors with seminary training be allowed to baptize and solemnize marriages provided they were ordained as local elders.
- Contrary to the Annual Council vote of the previous year, Southeastern California votes to treat unordained men and women equally and Margaret Hempe baptizes two candidates at the Loma Linda University Church.
- Twenty-two seminary professors take a formal stand in favor of women elders at Pioneer Memorial Church.
- Adventist Women’s Institute organizes in California “to pursue full and equal participation for women in the church.”
- Time for Equality in Adventist Ministry (TEAM) is founded in Maryland with the goal of “working toward the ordination of candidates to the gospel ministry regardless of race, social class, or gender.”
- On July 12, the Pacific Union Conference urges the General Conference “to eliminate gender as a consideration for ordination to the gospel ministry.”
- North American Division Union presidents vote to send an endorsement of women’s ordination to the Commission on the Role of Women in the Church.
- The third Commission on the Role of Women votes “No” to ordination of women.
- The General Conference Session meeting in Indianapolis votes, “We do not approve ordination of women to the gospel ministry.”
- The following September, the North American Division establishes the Office of Women’s Ministry.
- In October the General Conference establishes the Office of Women’s Ministries.
- The Adventist Review publishes a series of articles in which editors take a pro-ordination stand.
- The General Conference Session held in Utrecht votes “No” to the request from North America that would make it possible for divisions to ordain women.
- In September the Sligo Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, ordains three women to full-time ministry in the local congregation. Similar services were conducted at the La Sierra University Church, Loma Linda University Church, and a few others.