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Ordained Pastors and Commissioned Pastors Compared

Some have asked about the differences in duties, responsibilities, and rights between ordained pastors and commissioned pastors. The following summary is derived from the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 18th edition (2010). For perspective we have included a comparison to the ordained local elder for the related areas of responsibility.

Ordained pastors (limited to males)

  • May conduct all rites and ceremonies
  • May conduct communion
  • May conduct baptism
  • May administer marriage vows/declarations
  • May preside at business meetings involving member discipline
  • May ordain elders, deacons, and deaconesses
  • May organize or unite churches
  • May serve as conference presidents

Commissioned pastors (may include females)

  • May conduct communion
  • May administer marriage vows/declarations, if they are local elders
  • *[May serve as conference presidents (only in the North American and Trans-European Divisions by recent actions)]  *This has been recently recinded due to GC policy.

Local elders (males and females)

  • May conduct communion
  • May conduct baptism, with permission of conference president
  • May preside at business meetings involving member discipline, with permission of conference president


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Ummm, if that were a true statement by JohnB, the Biblical Research Council would not have been given the task to research it. smh.  

I'm not sure which statement you are questioning the truth of, nor the "it" that the BRI have been tasked to research.

So, to clarify, the Biblical Research Center have been asked to study the theology of ordination. IIRC that was the study that you said you would await before you make further comment in regard to women's ordination.

I don't see how that affects the truthfulness of any part of my post above.



What would you do if teh BRI reversed themselves on the subject of ordaining women?  I first was in contact with BRI back in the late 70's.  At that time I wrote a position paper.  They responsed with a request to share it as it was, their words, the best they had on the subject. 

Subsequently, I again contacted them, but have not heard back from them.  But, I'm sure that there are few, if any, there now who were there back in the 70's.  But, God's word still reads the same, no matter what personnel are in the BRI.  Do we really need any human entity to give their approval on what the Bible says on any topic?  There is just something about that idea that does not ring true.


Maranatha :)


teresa and all

When I would give Bible studies, when I would come to different subjects, from time to time people would respond: "Oh, that is clear, I'll pray about it to see what God would have me to do."

That sounds noble, but it is not trusting God.  If God clearly gives direction, e.g. that the seventh-day is the Sabbath (the topic most often responded to in that manner), we do not have to study it out, research it, pray about it.  All of that becomes an attempt to discover some loop hole that can be used to avoid doing the obvious. 

Just like some of the fancy arguments that have been presented on this forum in an attempt to obviate the plain statements of God's word.  When we take God at His word, in context we show that we have faith/trust in Him, which is essential to our salvation. 

On the other hand, when we question the clear instruction found in God's word, we are showing doubts about God.

 There are two reasons for research.

1.  Pool ignorance.

2.  Pool information.

In the first case, human wisdom in used to in some way justify with "facts" some way to avoid following God's instructions.  Again, using the Sabbath as an example.  Various counsels of the church have deemed that the Catholic church had the right to make that change.  In following that decision, all who do so will be lost.  And it makes no difference as to the topic, the process is the same.

On the other hand, in the second reason for research, people get to gether to find all the evidence they can to support the clear instruction of God.  In such a case, they will trace the history of the Sabbath down through the ages and God's instructions on what is correct Sabbath keeping. 

On one case, the motive is to circumvent God's instructions, in the second, it is discover how to more accuratly obey His instructions.  IT all leads back to one's motive.  If one cannot understand God's clear instructions, all of the argument and study in the world will not bring enlightenment. 

When God gives instructions, when He says that all who go contrary to those instructions will die.  God is merely stating facts.  When anyone fails to want to submit to those instructions, they separate themselves from God.  Since God is the only source of life, in fact they will separate themselves from life and they will die.  So, this is not so much of a threat as it is a statement of cause and effect.

It does not take a committee to understand the many simple statements of God's word. 

Maranatha :)





Ray, one of the reasons that I have some faith in the BRI is that (hopefully) it will not be dependant on NAD theologians but will be taking input from the various institutes around the world. 

However, if they did reverse their position I would read it and assess it for myself. They may find that we have got it wrong. If so, they will, no doubt, prove their position from the Bible.

Over the last 20 years I have listened to all the arguments that have been presented and I have not heard one that actually gives a Biblical basis for ordaining women pastors. If they find that there is a Biblical basis then I must be prepared to adjust my convictions.

Personally, I believe that if there was a real Biblical basis that it would have been explained by now. The fact that the current arguments for WO are based on equality, authority and humanistic theories reassures me that there is no Biblical mandate to change what our church has been doing since it's inception, i.e. ordaining men only to the Gospel ministry.


We agree. 

You posted in the last paragraph:

"The fact that the current arguments for WO are based on equality, authority and humanistic theories reassures me that there is no Biblical mandate to change what our church has been doing since it's inception, i.e. ordaining men only to the Gospel ministry."

You mentioned some very interesting, and true, basis people are using who are pushing for WOPE.  Let's look at them.

  1. Equality = Satan fell in heaven over this desire.
  2. Authority = Satan wanted the same position that Jesus held in heaven.
  3. Humanistic theories = Eve felt that she was safe in disobeying God's express instruction, she felt that she was being even more careful then God was: "nor touch it" and this humanistic wisdom set a trap for her own feet.

It seems that many have not learned anything from Satan's fall and Eve's failure.  For, when we set aside the instruction as to who should be ordained, we are claiming that we are superior to the god who established those instructions.  When anyone, and the Catholic church is a good example of this, believe that they have a level of authority that can change what God has said, we are in fact claming to be superior to God.

There are some other issues too.

1.  Honesty.  When they present arguments;  which if those same arguments were presented to them, they would reject them out of hand.  But, they demand that others accept them, becasue they have presnted them.  This is intellecual dishonesty of the first water.  The foundation for any teaching, doctrine or practice must be a "Thus saith the Lorc.".

2.  The Trust factor. When anyone seeks to change what God has clearly spoken, it shows that they do not trust God's wisdom to get it right the first time.  They are claiming that our modern society is smarter then God and can make, what they see as needed, changes.  Such arrogance is hard to beleive, but we see it all the time.  

It always has and will always will be the only safe way to go; total and complete obedience to what God has instructed His people to do.


Happy Sabbath!

Maranatha :)

Very interesting perspective...

I Support Men’s Commissioning

Submitted Feb 2, 2012   
By David Hamstra


On October 10, 2011, church leaders announced a timetable for studying the theology of ordination over the next few years, the latest action following a promise at the 2010 General Conference session to study the issue.

Artur Stele, a world church vice president and director of the Biblical Research Institute, said the process would examine the foundation of ordination as well as its implications for church practices. (Adventist Review)

This is the latest in a series of debates, studies, and panels that have polarized the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the question of women's ordination since, by some accounts, the mid 1970s. (I've written previously on this topic here.) Opponents rest firm in the General Conference vote at Utrecht (1995), which shut down a move to allow the practice. Proponents continue to agitate for equality, most recently through the ONE (Ordain Now Equally) in Christ website.

Meanwhile, a proportionately small number of women continue to serve capably as Adventist pastors, and in some cases their ministry is exceptionally blessed. Rather than being ordained, these women are “commissioned,” which affords them the authority to do almost everything an ordained (i.e. male) pastor does except ordain elders and deacons or organize and disband churches.

This state of affairs seems to me untenable. On its face, there is no biblical support, and it is morally disingenuous. Either women can be pastors, or they can't. Either women are allowed to have authority in the church, or they aren't. In the scripture there is no such thing in scripture as an under-shepherd who has partial authority in the flock.

I don't intend to rehash the arguments pro and con women's ordination here. For me it boils down to one issue: Spiritual gifts come with the authority to use them. If a woman has been equipped by the Holy Spirit for pastoral ministry, the church is poorer for not recognizing this.

For this reason I fully support equality of men and women at all levels of church ministry. But, I hasten to add, I do not support women's ordination.

I have come to the conclusion that in the Seventh-day Adventist Church the term "ordination" has changed into something other than a simple recognition of God's blessing on a pastor's ministry. Ordination is now a word that is used to either attain or maintain power.

Those opposed to women's ordination are focused of defending the term in a way that excludes women from power, and those in favour of women's ordination are focused on expanding the term in a way that gains women power. Both sides of the debate are in a power struggle.

Yet according to Jesus, in His Kingdom you don't gain power by fighting for it but by giving it away.
“The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.  Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. ... They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’

“But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly.  Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher.  But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant.  All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up." (Matthew 23:2-3, 7-12, CEB)
“Do you know what I’ve done for you?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am.  If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do. (John 13:12b-15, CEB)
“Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b, CEB)
“You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around.  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave—just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” (Matthew 20:25b-28, CEB)

Church offices and leadership structures are clearly necessary, as the apostolic church quickly discovered. But when an office or title becomes the focus of a power struggle, it's time to step back and recover Jesus' simple message of servant leadership: Instead of trying to elevate yourself, focus on elevating others. Instead of trying to be first, go serve those who are least. Instead of joining the race to the top, start a race to the bottom.

In that spirit, I propose the following: That Adventist pastors of both genders be, not "ordained," but "commissioned." After all, neither term is applied to pastors in the Bible, so we're free to change the terminology when warranted.

In fact, the term "ordained” comes from the Roman ordering of their society into plebs and patricians, the Gentile lords Jesus condemned. In the early Roman Catholic Church, ordination developed as the means by which a layman joins the elite order of the clergy.

On the other hand, "commissioned" carries, to my ear at least, the implication of "commissioned to serve," which is what a minister is supposed to do in the first place. Changing the term would also connote, in the context of the ordination debate, that Adventist pastors are less obsessed with their own power and position than they are with empowering and elevating others. It would signify that male ministers do not advance in God's upside-down Kingdom by allowing women to join them up on their level, but instead by moving down to a level where all can serve according to their gifts.

Therefore, I do not support women's ordination; I support men's commissioning.



David made some good points.  However, he, as with myself many years ago, has not yet seen the whole picture.  Something that I am still coming to see more clearly. 

The mistake I  and many others made was to see this as a gender issue, since that is the way that feminist portrayed it back in the mid 70's.  It is only in the last some 20 or 30 years or so that I discovered that is not the case.  David has been lead astray by the current climate that it is a power struggle.  Again, that is not the heart of the issue, that is only a diversionary tactic as was the gender ploy. 

The real issue is a submission issue.

The same issue is involved in the final test of which day should we worship on.  Will we submit to God's claim that the seventh-day is the Sabbath; or will we follow the popular claim that that has been changed and now we can choose the day of worship?

It is the same with ordination.  Will we follow God's instructions where only quaified males are ordained as spiritual leaders, or will we do everything we can to change God's plan with all kinds of fancy argumentation? There is only one position that will be in harmony with what Heaven is seeking to find in the character of those who will be saved.  That is the pattern that was the motto of the life of Jesus.

"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."  John 5:30 NASB

When it is admitted that: "On its face, there is no biblical support," that is really as far as we need to go if we are in fact following the example of Jesus.  For such a program is of human origin, therefore to follow it is not to be following Jesus, who should be our only example.

Happy Sabbath!

Maranatha :)

This state of affairs seems to me untenable. On its face, there is no biblical support, and it is morally disingenuous. Either women can be pastors, or they can't. Either women are allowed to have authority in the church, or they aren't. In the scripture there is no such thing in scripture as an under-shepherd who has partial authority in the flock.

This is what the author is stating has no Biblical support...The next paragraph further stresses this. Just clarifying....

Hi there Ray, after reading the history re: introduction of commissioning...and coming across this summation; which by the way was spot on even as far as I am concerned; in view of what transpired, could not help but strongly agree with the author.


In this way a process that began with a plan to reduce income taxes (a) produced the concept that ordination is merely a matter of church policy, and (b) developed into the concept that commissioned women ministers are equivalent to ordained male ministers. (..C Mervin Maxwell)


Amazing the lengths, people will go to and have already gone to; to bring about change to God's simple do's and dont's.



Dr. C. Mervyn Maxwell was a close personal friend of mine.  He was instrumental in shareing much information with me about his personal experiences dealing with this topic.  While I am not free to share all he shared with me, it puts beyound question that the tactics that were used to get approval for women to be ordained went WAY over the line. 

The one point that has always impressed me is that if the tables were turned and those advocating women's ordination were being presented with the lame arguments they have used, I doubt that very many would accept their own arguments.


Maranatha :)

Bumping up....


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