Women Pastors and Chaplains Gather for Fellowship
Story by Visitor Staff / Photo by LaTasha Hewitt
Earlier this month, women pastors and chaplains from across the Columbia Union Conference gathered with union and conference administrators for the second time in two years. Before supper at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Md., the attendees took part in a debriefing about Annual Council 2019 where Columbia Union President Dave Weigley shared what the newly issued “warning status” means, and what it does not mean.
“It does not change your status in any way,” he said. “Neither did the vote [at the 2015 General Conference Session] in San Antonio (Texas) change your role. By policy, women may serve the Seventh-day Adventist Church as pastors, chaplains, elders, deaconesses and leaders.”
Rob Vandeman, executive secretary of the Union, added, “And that’s been the policy here in North America for 30 years. … The ordination votes at General Conference Session did not relate to the policy.”
During the rest of the event, the participants engaged in interactive activities designed to encourage self-reflection and create friendships, a lively post-dinner discussion about the joys and challenges of being a woman in ministry, and a prayer and anointing ceremony.
They were also treated to a firsthand look at new research from Andrews University (Mich.) about women who ministered in the early Christian church. “This research helps us know that women were an active part of not only the early church, but for centuries afterward up to the 12th Century AD, and why and how they all but disappeared,” said presenter Carina Prestes, an archaeologist and PhD candidate at Andrews. “We believe this information can help to inform present discussions in our church today.”
After the event, Sherilyn O’Ffill, a pastor who serves as associate director of Youth Ministries for the Potomac Conference, and is part of the event planning team, reflected, “This was a wonderful event full of laughter, good food, support and friendship.”
First time attendee Kandace Zollman, pastor for Nurture and Visitation at Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md., emailed, “Thank you for standing for us, and doing all you can to support women pastors in following the calling that God gives to those He has chosen.”
Those were the main goals, noted Celeste Ryan Blyden, Columbia Union vice president for Strategic Communication and Public Relations and chair of the planning team. “Because there are currently only 40 women pastors employed across the union, some understandably feel isolated and alone. We believe they benefit by coming together to fellowship with others who can relate to their story, journey and unique needs.”
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