Seventh Day Adventists have a long history of worship in America beginning in the 1800s. Womens' contributions to the church also date back to the 1800s, when the popularity of the church created a shortage of pastors. In 1869, Sarah Hollack Lindsey became the first woman licensed to preach in the Adventist church. Women today still follow in her footsteps as they answer the call to became evangelists for the church. Their career choice is not without some controversy but persistence and faith can help overcome any obstacle.
Being a Adventist Evangelist
Understanding and accepting the Seventh Day Adventist doctrine is the first step in becoming an evangelist for the church. The Adventist church sets forth doctrines that differentiate it from other religions. The biggest difference is that church members celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday like other religions. The church also has set ideas about diet and dress. Baptism in the Adventist Church comes after an individual can fully understand the commitment they are making to the church.
One track to becoming an evangelist in the church is by obtaining a Master’s degree in Divinity from an Adventist college. Majoring in theology as a college undergrad can give you a good start, though master's degree programs exist for non-theology majors. Upon graduation from a master’s program you will be able to petition for ordination or licensure as a pastor at an Adventist Conference in your area. The conference is responsible for assigning you to a church where you will work as an evangelist. You may also work your way up through the ranks of the church by taking on ministries and eventually being appointed as a pastor by church elders.
Commissioned Versus Ordination
Women currently receive a commission when they become pastors in the Adventist church. In many other churches, including the Adventist church, the path to a ministry assignment includes a formal ordination. Ordination is the act of formally conveying a ministerial credential. Since women carry a designation of commissioned, they cannot undergo ordination. Despite the controversy over commissioned versus ordination, women still can preach in front of a congregation and lead a ministry. The church is working through these issues, so women interested in this career field should not be dissuaded by the internal debate.
Women in the Church
Controversy exists within the church concerning the roles women should play. Some pastors feel that the Bible dictates that women should play a more subservient role in the church. This means women can be deaconesses and prophets but not pastors. Some church conferences have already made the change to allow women to be ordained as pastors despite the controversy. The Pacific Union and Columbia Union Conferences both voted to allow gospel ministry ordinations for women. The world-wide leadership of the Adventist church has yet to embrace this policy.
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