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A God-Given Calling

March 2, 2023
Garrett Christensen

Why Aren’t There More Female Pastors?

Garrett Christensen

Hebrew Bible and Old Testament professor Mathilde Frey talked about how women in the Seventh-day Adventist church are often seen as lesser spiritual leaders.  

Dr. Frey worked as a pastor in Germany for five years where she experienced “what it means to be a woman in the church as a minister.” She said, “I think at this point, we should be around 50 years or so that we have struggled with how the church has dealt with women, especially women in the church.” [1] 

According to a 2021 survey of the Seventh-day Adventist church, women make up 57% of all members. However, of the 20,000 Adventist pastors, slightly less than 4,000 are women. Of that, only 377 work in North America. [2-4] 

Dr. Frey said that women who enter ministry in the SDA church experience the same ritual of ordination as men do, but only “the male pastors receive the full ordination credentials,” whereas women pastors receive commissioning licenses. “The reason women are not ordained in the SDA church is based on a narrow and fundamentalist interpretation of some bible verses.” [5] 

Dr. Frey believes that the Bible as a male-dominated text (with only 3% female names of the c. 3100 male names) still holds room for perspectives about gender equality. For example, in the first chapters in Genesis, woman is created side by side with man, “they are equal partners,” Dr. Frey said, “That is quite a unique and innovative story coming out of the patriarchal social world of the ancient Near East. It must be heard today with its full significance and with the consequences it calls on us to carry out.” [6] 

For the completely male-dominated society of the Bible, this idea of women being equal partners with men would have been completely unconventional. “[That revolutionary idea] should be heard, I think, especially in our world today,” said Dr. Frey. [7] 

On women pastors, she said, “I’m really happy to be in a place where that is possible, but there is still a good long way to go to recognize these young women pastors and give them the same recognition as the male pastors.” She hopes change is possible within our church. [8] 

Dr. Frey feels she has a responsibility towards female students who want to be pastors, that is to “be honest about what they are going to experience, because when I graduated and became a pastor, I was not prepared for how I would be treated.” [9] 

However, those experiences still do not keep her from encouraging her female students to go forward into their God-given calling.  

Dr. Frey believes “change is possible, and it comes when people step into it and bring it about.” [10] 

 

References 

  1. Interview with Dr. Mathilde Frey, 2/23/23. 
  2. Gender statistics in the Adventist church. (n.d.). Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. http://bit.ly/3ks6zPc 
  3. Seventh Day Adventist Church statistics 2021. (n.d.). Seventh Day Adventist Church. http://bit.ly/41qE30O 
  4. Taylor Bates, N. (2022). 4,000 Women pastors and counting. Spectrum. https://bit.ly/3ECtDl3  
  5. Interview with Dr. Mathilde Frey, 2/23/23. 

      6-10. Ibid. 

 

Photo 

  1. Female students lead prayer during Mosaic church service last year. Retrieved on 2/24/2023 from ASWWU photo. 

 

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