The Bible mentions three leadership offices—pastors, elders, and deacons— and the biblical qualifications for all are very similar. Elders, deacons, and deaconesses work closely with pastors, giving great support to the pastoral ministry and the local church. It is impossible to imagine the church working properly without them. Yet their incredibly valuable contributions to the church have not always received the deserved recognition and support from pastors and church leaders.
I salute the deacons and deaconesses of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose deep spirits of service and love are so vital to the workings of our congregations. I am proud that the General Conference, during the Annual Council on October 16, 2013, voted that the Ministerial Association be responsible for empowering, training, and equipping deacons and deaconesses in the church all over the world. This vote was so well accepted that during the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, USA, the following was voted to be included in the Church Manual: The Ministerial Association, in connection with the departments, promotes the training and equipping of deacons/deaconesses. However, the pastor, in conjunction with the elder(s), has the primary responsibility for training them. I am happy to report that since these important votes, deacons and deaconesses have been better recognized, trained, and equipped for their service, and their ministries in local congregations have received much well-deserved appreciation.
I would like to recognize the ministries of deaconesses in a special way: In the past, they were not ordained. But the world church, during the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, voted to ordain deaconesses as is already practiced for deacons. Some church members have since asked me if there are any writings from Ellen G. White to support that decision. Look at what she says:
Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister; but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. This is another means of strengthening and building up the church.1
What wonderful counsel from her! After that inspired declaration, it was published that “a number of women were ordained as deaconesses during Ellen White’s Australian ministry.”2
Since ordination is not a biblical principle but rather a biblical teaching and practice, some pastors or churches, due to cultural concerns or religious traditions, may take longer to accept White’s counsel and implement the vote. However, one of the church’s priorities is to keep its unity in doctrine, mission, and organization. As church leaders, you should be committed to that. For this reason, move forward prayerfully and with careful consideration, good spirit, and confidence to comply with official decisions of the church.
1 Ellen G. White, Daughters of God. 249.