Is it mandatory that deaconesses be ordained?

Questions & Answers December 9, 2016

Q: I’m the head elder of a local church, and we are facing confusion on whether ordination of deaconesses at the local church is mandatory or if it’s something that local churches are permitted to do if the conditions don’t threaten church unity. — Tapuwa, from South Africa

A: At the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, a modification to the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual was voted, allowing deaconesses to be ordained. While the Church Manual is very clear that deacons must be ordained, the Church Manual does not mandate that deaconesses be ordained, according to the General Conference’s Church Manual committee chairman, Dr. Guillermo Biaggi, and Pastor Hensley Moorooven, the committee’s secretary.

On page 78 the Church Manual states: “Deacons Must Be Ordained — Newly elected deacons cannot fill their office until they have been ordained by an ordained pastor currently credentialed by the conference.”

However, a mandate is not given in the case of deaconesses. Although an ordination service may be held for deaconesses, it is not required. Regarding this, the Church Manual states: “Ordination Service for Deaconesses — Such a service, like the ordination of deacons, would be carried out by an ordained pastor currently credentialed by the conference. The ordination service should be characterized by simplicity and performed in the presence of the church” (p. 80).

While there is sometimes confusion about this (based on another statement in The Church Manual on page 37), it would be best if local churches would not feel pressured to ordain deaconesses if the local church is not ready to do this.

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