Great Disappointment 2015: The Struggle of Adventist Women to Achieve Equality in Ministry -- By: Patricia Conroy

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 29:4 (Autumn 2015)
Article: Great Disappointment 2015: The Struggle of Adventist Women to Achieve Equality in Ministry
Author: Patricia Conroy


Great Disappointment 2015: The Struggle of Adventist Women to Achieve Equality in Ministry

Patricia Conroy

Patricia Conroy is a California family law attorney. She received her BS from University of Maryland, and JD from Santa Clara University. She is currently an MDiv student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. This article was co-winner of the student paper competition at CBE's annual conference, held in Los Angeles, in July 2015.

For many Seventh-day Adventists (SDA), July 8, 2015, will go down in history as the Second Great Disappointment. For those not familiar with Seventh-day Adventist history, the first Great Disappointment occurred on October 22, 1844, when Jesus did not return, as some had predicted he would. This time, the issue was not the return of Jesus, but the culmination of a long, hard- fought campaign for equal treatment of women in the ministries of the denomination.

The vote was held in San Antonio, Texas, at the business meeting of the worldwide General Conference.1 While several issues were discussed, the issue of women in ministry was the most publicized and hardest fought. The vote followed two years of study by a committee appointed by the SDA General Conference known as the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), which produced voluminous reports. There was vigorous campaigning by both those in favor and against—in pulpits, in print media, and on the Internet. The motion was not about whether women can be ordained, but whether the decision to do so should be vested in the divisions of the World Church. The debate leading up to the vote, however, was all about the role of women in the church.

Probably the greatest irony in the controversy surrounding the ordination of SDA women is that it was co-founded by a woman, Ellen Gould Harmon White. A document titled, “The Twenty- Eight Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists” includes an affirmation of the prophetic gift of Ellen White. While her works are not considered to have the same authority as scripture, they are relied upon for “comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.”2

It is unlikely that anyone would dispute that White was a centrally influential leader in the denomination, from its founding in 1863 until her death in 1915. There is, however, much disagreement regarding White’s status as a minister and her opinion regarding the role women should play in gospel ministry. There is also a wide spectrum of opinion on the interpretation of scripture as it relates to the ordination of women.

This is not the first time the SDA Church has confr...

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