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History of Women's Ministries
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What is the history of Women's Ministries?
  • History of Women's Ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church
  • History of the North American Division Women's Ministries
  • Beginnings of Women's Ministries in Other Divisions
A Brief Historical Background of Women's Ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church

For inter-divisional Women's Ministries directors, and others interested in how women have ministered within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the following data presents a picture of the course of history from 1844 until 1998 of Women's Ministries.

A thoughtful study of the recommendations and actions taken will give an overview of what is expected from Women's Ministries officers by the members of the church body.

The carefully researched material offered here has been condensed from two articles presented in December 1990 and February 1991 by Kit Watts, assistant editor of the Adventist Review.

December 1844, Ellen Gould Harmon receives her first vision as she and four young women pray together in Portland, Maine, USA. Ellen's ministry lasts until her death in 1915.

October 1874, Mrs. Henry Gardner, a member of Battle Creek prayer band leading to formation of Dorcas & Benevolent Association.

1874, Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, superintendent of the National Department of Evangelistic Work for the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

1896, S.M.I. Henry enters Battle Creek Sanitarium, later becoming a Seventh-day Adventist.

1898, Mrs. Henry corresponds with EGW and outlines "women's ministries." Granted ministerial license from GC and became the first Women's Ministries Director for the General Conference. Writes 4-page supplement in R&H December 6, 1898.

1899, Mrs. Henry publishes weekly column in the Review headlined, "Woman's Gospel Work," filled with Bible studies, poetry, letters, and practical advice. She traveled across the states, speaking tirelessly.

January 16, 1900, S. M. I. Henry dies; 9-member committee works for a time; women's column disappears from R&H in June 1901.

July 16, 1915, death of Ellen G. White.

September 1973, First "Role of Women in the Church" committee meets at Camp Mohaven, Ohio.

April 1980, N. C. Wilson, President of the General Conference at the GC Session in Dallas, said the church must find ways to organize and use the vast potential represented by women's talents.

1983, North American Division Women's Commission founded through the Office of Human Relations.

March 1985, Commission on the Role of Women meets. Includes delegates from world field. Recommends an affirmative action plan be developed to improve women's involvement in the church.

July 1985, GC Session in New Orleans votes "affirmative action" for the involvement of women in the work of the church be a priority plan with church leadership, and to request leaders to use their executive influence to open to women all aspects of ministry in the church that do not require ordination.

October 15, 1985, the GC Committee establishes Women's Ministries Advisory, Betty Holbrook, chairperson.

March 1988, new commission on the Role of Women meets again. Recommends more study. GC Women's Ministries Advisory drafts proposal for President Neal Wilson outlining full-time position for a Women's Ministries director.

April 1988, Karen Flowers appointed chairperson of GC-WMA.

August 1988, the GC Women's Advisory adopts the following mission statement:

October 13, 1988, "Gender Gap," an editorial in the Adventist Review, commends the Oregon Conference for establishing a Women's Ministries Department. Proposes such a ministry worldwide.

March 16, 1989, "Forgotten Heritage," an editorial in the Adventist Review, summarizes the work of S. M. I. Henry, and calls for re-establishment of women's ministries.

March 19, 1989, Summit for leaders of nine SDA women's groups meet at invitation of NAD Women's Commission. Voted: to call for a full-time Women's Ministries director at the GC and NAD level.

July 12-17, 1989, Commission on International Role of Women meets in Cohutta Springs, Georgia; Karen Flowers presents WMA study on women in leadership throughout the world field. The 17 women members caucus and recommend a women's ministries office.

July 13, 1989, Karen Flowers, WMA Chair, presents the findings of "The Role of Women in the Church: An International Survey of Seventh-day Adventist Women in Leadership." This 57-page document presents a profile of 875 respondents from all divisions of the worldwide church and summarizes their concerns.

July 17, 1989, The 17 women members of the Commission on the Role of Women in the Church in caucus state: We recommend the employment of Women's Ministries coordinators to coordinate ministries for all Adventist women, both lay and denominational employees. (A) Full time at GC and division levels. (B) At least half-time at unions and conferences.

July 23, 1989, NAD Women's Commission (Camp Hope, British Columbia, Canada). The commissioners come from each union in North America, and vote to affirm the above recommendations, especially emphasizing that their division elect a director for Women's Ministries.

November, 1989, Dr. Ramona Perez Greek is appointed chair of the North American Division Women's Commission.

June 12, 1990, Karen Flowers, GC-WMA Chair, introduces the proposal for full-time women's ministries director to GC officers. No action was taken at this time.

July 5-15, 1990, the GC Women's Ministries Advisory sponsors booth at the GC Session, Indianapolis. A fabric wall-hanging depicting Adventist women serving Christ in every division of the world is used — will soon be displayed at GC headquarters. Women's Ministries was not discussed at this session.

July 12, 1990, President's Honor Roll, initiated by Karen Flowers, WMA Chair, and Neal C. Wilson. Each division president selects a woman to represent the Adventist women throughout his division who support the church with outstanding contributions.

September 24, 1990, 35 women representing various groups met in Pennsylvania asking the church to appoint a full-time Director of Women's Ministries at all levels. Duties to include identifying, assessing, and developing strategies to meet women's needs; generating and disseminating accurate information concerning the role of women in the Church; sponsoring retreats for the purpose of spiritual nourishment; directing activities to educate women regarding church governance and policies. At the GC level, this person should be a Field Secretary. At all levels this position should be fully funded, with travel budget, and budget to cover research, publications, translations, materials, and meetings.

September 1990, Elizabeth Sterndale is elected by NADCOM/GCC committee as a Field Secretary for the North American Division and accorded officer status as coordinator of NAD Women's Ministries.

October 4, 1990, Annual Council accepts GC President Robert Folkenberg's recommendation:

WHEREAS, Everyone needs affirmation of personal worth and the value the Church places on the individual's gifts and contributions; and

WHEREAS, Women represent a vast storehouse of spiritual gifts which await full development and utilization in the accomplishment of the Church's global mission; and

WHEREAS, Open dialogue bringing women's perspectives to leadership will bring greater balance and wholeness to decision making; and

WHEREAS, Women need to be nurtured spiritually, their unique needs addressed, and guided toward Christian service; it was

RECOMMENDED:
  1. To authorize the establishment of an Office of Women's Ministries at the General Conference to foster ministry by women to women in the world church. This individual will report to the President. (This position will involve an existing budget, not an additional one.)
  2. To request each division to identify its degree of need for Women's Ministries and find the best way to meet this need.
October 5, 1990, Rose Otis is elected first Director, Office of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

July, 1995, the General Conference in Session votes full department status to Women's Ministries.

July, 1995, Rose Otis is elected Director, Department of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

October, 1995, Ardis Stenbakken is appointed Associate Director, Department of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

December, 1996, Dorothy Eaton Watts is elected Director, Department of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

October 6, 1997, Annual Council elected Ardis Dick Stenbakken Director, Department of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

April, 1998, Lynnetta Siagian Hamstra elected as Associate Director, Department of Women's Ministries, General Conference.

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*Used by permission. General Conference Women's Ministries Handbook.

History of the North American Division Women's Ministries

The Women's Commission was formed under the direction of Elder Warren Banfield when he was Director of Human Relations. Dr. Thesba Johnston served as the chair of the Women's Commission. Her Christian leadership, expertise and experience in working with committees was invaluable. Elder Banfield was committed and very supportive, a man of God. It's original purpose was to serve as a liaison between the women in the pew and the leaders of the denomination.

In 1988 at the meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, Women's Ministries really got their direction as a result of a Town Meeting. The women attending were open and willing to share their needs. From that point on we in NAD began to think of our selves as Women's Ministries, moving beyond the original commission.

In 1989 during the meeting in Hope, British Columbia, Ramona Greek was chosen as the chair of the Women's Commission.

North American Division Women's Ministries Directors:

November, 1989,  Ramona Perez Greek is elected chair of the North American Division Women's Commission.

September, 1990, Elizabeth Sterndale is elected by NADCOM/GCC committee as a Field Secretary for the North American Division and accorded officer status as coordinator of NAD Women's Ministries.

November, 1990,  Ramona Perez Greek is appointed Assistant Director of the North American Division's Office of Women's Ministries

October, 1996, Rose Otis is elected North American Division Vice President and Director of Women's Ministries Department.

1997 – Evie VandeVere was appointed Associate Director.

December, 1998 – Mary H. Maxson is elected Women's Ministries Director, North American Division.

October, 2005 – Carla Baker is elected Women's Ministries Director, North American Division.



History of Women's Ministries in Other Divisions

January 24, 1991, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Far East Division is appointed (Dr Nancy Bassham).

March, 1991, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Euro-Asia Division is appointed (Ludmila Krushenitskaya).

May 8, 1991, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division is appointed (Thelma Nortey).

November, 1991, Birthe Kendel is appointed liaison for Women's Ministries, Trans-European Division.

May 21, 1992, the first Women's Ministries Director of the South Pacific Division is appointed (Carol Ferch-Johnson),

November, 1992, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Middle East Union, an attached field of the world church is appointed (Valerie Fidelis).

1993, the first Women's Ministries Director of the South American Division is appointed (Susana Schulz)

September, 1994, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Asia-Pacific Division is appointed (Linda Koh)

November, 1994, the first Women's Ministries Director of the South Africa Union Conference is appointed (Ivy Petersen)

July, 1995, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division is elected (Priscille Metonou).

November, 1995, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Euro-Africa Division is elected (Noelle Vitry).

December, 1995, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Inter-American Division is appointed (Waveney Martinborough).

January, 1996, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Southern Asia Division is appointed (Frances Campbell).

March, 1996, the first Women's Ministries Director of the Eastern Africa Division is appointed (Tswelelo Lekolwane).

April, 1997, the first Women's Ministries Directors of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (Mary Wong) and the Southern-Asia Pacific Division (Linda Koh) are elected.