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Delegates Discuss and Vote Deaconess Ordination

Story and Video by Celeste Ryan Blyden
Photo by Bryant Taylor

Yesterday delegates spent a considerable amount of time discussing and debating a portion of the church manual that outlines how to organize churches. Within this section, there was a sentence that made provision for the “ordination of deacons and induction of deaconesses.” The motion on the floor was to add a sentence that would allow divisions to decide to ordain the deaconesses. It read: “Deaconesses may be ordained in divisions where the process has been approved by its executive committee.” As you can imagine, this item was discussed at length as delegates eloquently, and sometimes vehemently, presented their cases for or against the motion. Amid the motions, amendments, points of order, and passionate speeches, there was even a motion to send this item back to the committee. In the end, by some miracle, they ended up dropping that “division” provision and voting the language as follows:

“When the nucleus has voted on all potential members, the church is a complete entity and ready for election of officers. Members then should choose a nominating committee, with the officiating pastor serving as chairperson. The nominating committee brings in nominations to fill the various church offices. When these have been elected, the elders should be ordained, unless they have already been ordained as elders. A similar but shorter service should take place for ordination of deacons and deaconesses. The church is then fully organized and ready for service.”

Now, technically, this was not a vote for ordination of women in ministry. It was an editing change in the church manual, one of many, many changes being considered by delegates. But it is significant because the delegates actually spent time discussing the role of women in ministry. And in the end, they made a change that must now be applied worldwide. What does this mean? Why is this significant? Ray Hartwell (pictured), president of Pennsylvania Conference, who spoke to the issue from the floor several times, explained it via video and in his blog for today. (Also watch for a full story from the Adventist News Network coming soon.)