(RNS) Some male pastors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have changed their credentials in an act of solidarity with women who are not allowed to be ordained in the denomination.
The protest has occurred in several states across the U.S. after the global denomination voted in July not to allow regional church bodies to ordain women pastors.
Despite a worldwide ban, several U.S. conferences of Adventists have ordained women in recent years. But usually women may only hold a “commissioned” credential without being formally ordained.
Adventist officials said there is no pay difference between ordained and commissioned pastors.
Mike Speegle, senior pastor of an Adventist church in Fulton, Md., said Wednesday (Oct. 14) that he requested and received a change in his credentials late this summer as his way of supporting his female colleagues.
“In our structure, I can’t make them equal with me by ordaining them, but I can make myself equal with them by taking the commissioned license, which is exactly what they have,” he said.
Pastor Kymone Hinds, the leader of a Memphis, Tenn., church, took similar action. He and another minister, Pastor Furman Fordham of Nashville, Tenn., received permission from their regional officials.
“Though I am not in agreement with the position that you brethren have taken on this issue, I admire your willingness to act on your convictions and fully support your right to do so,” wrote Elder D.C. Edmond, president of the denomination’s South Central Conference, in a September letter to them.
Hinds said it was worth it to him to lose access to certain privileges of ordination: presiding over regional conferences; organizing churches; and ordaining elders, deacons or deaconesses.
“I wanted to stand in solidarity,” he said Wednesday. “We realize that our female ministers do the same work and have the same education but there is a glass ceiling over them.”
Courtney Ray, a pastor of an Inglewood, Calif., church, said the list of protesters includes professors at the denomination’s seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.
“It demonstrates solidarity with those being marginalized and it demonstrates to our congregants that we don’t believe in ordination as a sacrament that gives special power to some,” she said.
Dan Weber, communication director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said any change in credentials occurs at the level of the nine unions, or regional territories, within the U.S. and Canada.
“So far there haven’t been a lot of requests to have credentials changed,” he said Thursday.
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