Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Mark Kellner, Adventist Review/ANN

The issue of women's ordination will not be added to the agenda for the 59th General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the church's President Jan Paulsen said April 6.

Speaking to leadership at Spring Meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland, Paulsen said that a canvass of the church's 13 world church divisions revealed only three willing to accept a change in the current policy of not ordaining women to pastoral ministry, and eight divisions reporting the move would negatively impact membership. Two other divisions apparently did not respond.

The survey arose, Paulsen said, from discussions held during the January 2010 meeting of the church's President's Executive Administrative Council.

Paulsen's comments came in response to a question from Johann E. Johannsson, a pastor who is also treasurer for the church's Trans-European Division. Johannsson asked why the issue was not included in the Spring Meeting agenda as had been promised at last year's Annual Council.

"We had a full discussion of this and agreed at that time, that we would attempt to take the pulse of the global church on this matter of the role of women in leadership positions, the role of women in ministry and how we affirm that, by what credential, [and] by what process do we do that," Paulsen told Spring Meeting delegates.

He added, "There were three divisions that responded by saying either they were ready to affirm women in ministry by the process of ordination, or significant parts of their division would do it."

Of the eight divisions that declined to consider women's ordination, each included in their response a description of how women are engaged in leadership in their respective region. However, "They came back and said they would not ordain women, and the people in their part of the world would be negatively affected. ... [It would] seriously undermine the unity [of the church]," Paulsen said.

As a result, Paulsen said church leadership concluded there was "no basis whatsoever to bring to the session any measure. ... We felt we could not begin to address that question. Given the sentiments, the responses we got back, we have to leave it there."

However, he added, "in fairness to the global church, many of you say, 'There are changes also taking place in the church in our part of the globe. We are not where we were 10 years ago.' It's a process of education, a process of growth. Maybe a new generation is needed. I don't know."

At its 1990 and 1995 General Conference sessions, delegates considered the issue of ordaining women, but declined to do so on both occasions. Since ordination is, under church bylaws, required for certain offices including election to most executive leadership roles, the issue is likely to remain in under discussion for some time to come.