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‘Women’s time will come’ - Local Adventists looking to the day when females can be ordained

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Female members of the Chapelton Seventh-day Adventist Church leading a performance during a church function.
Vernal
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The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is sticking with its international body, which has ruled that women should not be ordained as ministers. But that does not mean that females are seen as inferior in the local church.

In fact, president of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Everett Brown is hoping that he will have the honour of putting a woman on the pulpit of the Adventist church.

According to Brown, he is certain that it will only be a matter of time before women will stand on the pulpit as ordained ministers.

"The vote in San Antonio did not, and does not, prevent a female from functioning in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have female pastors ... and one of my goals, and it's time I am going public with this ... is to employ the first female pastor in the church in Jamaica," Brown told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.

"So women can study for the ministry, and women are functioning as pastors in the church," added Brown, as he reiterated that being ordained as a pastor is a different story.

"Ordination to the gospel ministry is a decision taken by the organisation whether or not to set aside a person for life, as it were, so that this person functions as pastor for the world church," said Brown.

He noted that the international Adventist body has been wrestling with the matter for some time and has been seeking biblical support for the ordination of women.

However, it appears that the power wielded by some male-dominated societies in Asia and Africa has been the major obstacle to the further progress of women in the church's hierarchy.

BIBLICAL STANDPOINT

"The church has been looking at it from a biblical standpoint and wrestling with the question as to whether or not it finds support from the Bible to do this. In the Bible, there were males who were ordained," Brown told Gleaner reporters and editors, who questioned the position of the Adventists in Jamaica on the decision out of a 2015 conference in Texas, in the United States, where the majority of leaders in that denomination voted to keep women from becoming ordained ministers.

While not disclosing how the Jamaican representatives voted, Brown said that as leader of the local church, he participated in those discussions and persons were allowed to vote based on their position.

"At the end of the discussion, the majority of the church voted that at this point in time, they do not feel that there is sufficient support biblically to take this decision. It does not prevent women from functioning, but it does not give the church the authority to ordain its female pastors," said Brown.

In the meantime, director of Family, Women's and Children's Ministries in the local Adventist Church Dr Lorraine Vernal said that the vote was never about women's liberation.

"It was amazing to sit in the conference in San Antonio (Texas) and see men arguing for women to be ordained because some people think this was a women's 'lib' thing. It never was.

"The outcome, as we would hope, is that people would be respectful of individual's positions. Women argued against it. There were many women who were not for it. It was democracy at work and people voted their conscience.

"The individuals who represented Jamaica voted their conscience, and it was secret ballot," explained Vernal.

She said that because it was a world conference, the behaviours of persons from different cultures had to be taken into consideration.

"The time will come," concluded a confident Vernal as she spoke to the possibility of women being ordained as pastors in the church with the largest number of members in Jamaica.

According to the last population census, which was done in 2011, the local Adventist church had more than 322,000 members, up from 281,000 plus in 2001.