Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2013


The Seventh-day Adventist practice of ordination was specifically based on NT passages, yet the practice and its implications developed over time and were influenced by external necessities and the growth of the church structure and the mission of the church. While early on they did not want to go beyond the pattern outlined in the NT, they later modified this position and began to allow for adaptation of NT patterns in order to accommodate changing circumstances, insisting merely that all new developments be in harmony with the Bible even if they were not an exact reflection of biblical precedents. New regulations and refinements were not so much perceived as biblical prescriptions but as valid human applications of the principle of gospel order to ensure unity, order, and harmony in the church. While Seventh-day Adventists generally followed the practice of ordaining only those individuals for the ministry that had proven their divine call in evangelistic or ministerial field work, they sometimes also ordained individuals that did not have an experience in these lines of the work. When these individuals had proven their abilities and skills in other lines of the work (educational, administrational, etc.), the church frequently decided to set them apart too. Interestingly, although ordination eventually became a requirement for serving in administrative or educational leadership positions, ordination was not initially a prerequisite for these positions, because these were distinguished from the gospel ministry. Seventh-day Adventists were generally open to the engagement of women in various lines of ministry, yet it was not their practice to ordain them for the gospel ministry. In earlier years they practiced only the ordination of ministers, elders, and deacons, yet by the 1890s Ellen White recommended the ordination of people, both male and female, for various lines of ministry. Thus she emphasized that ordination was not an act linked solely to the clergy but she envisioned ordination as a practice that set apart and committed people to various specific lines of ministry such as deaconesses, missionaries, medical physicians, etc. Setting people apart for a specific ministry did not automatically turn that person into an ordained minister. Although the church began to implement some of these recommendations, it seems that it never really effectuated them entirely.