It is a photograph with historic implications.
What you see are 40 women—one is present but not pictured—employed in Australian-based ministry roles by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2018. They were among the almost 500 attending the church in Australia’s Empower Ministerial Convention at Avondale College of Higher Education, February 6-10.
The church hosted a reception during Empower in honour of these women. Those attending received gifts from Women in Ministry, which supports initiatives that build the skills, opportunities and networks for Adventist women in pastoral ministry, and from Avondale alumna Kylie Cullinan, Director and Leadership Coach at Sycamore Lane. Also attending to encourage and support: the president and the ministerial Association secretary for the church in the South Pacific, Pastor Glenn Townend and Dr Steve Currow, and the president of the church in Australia, Pastor Jorge Munoz.
The reception—if all women attended, there could have been 60 present—is a notable development in the history of Adventist ministry in Australia. Although many of the women have dual roles, 13 are ministering full-time as local church pastors. Six are pastors and chaplains and three are chaplains in Adventist schools or retirement villages. Eleven are departmental leaders at the conference, union or division level of the church. Three are conference administrators and two are serving in ministry and theological education at Avondale.
So, what of the future of Adventist women in ministry? It is promising.
Ready for some more numbers? Thirty-nine women—almost 30 per cent of the cohort—are studying chaplaincy, ministry or theology at Avondale. They are a mix of full- and part-time students studying on campus or by distance for five different degrees. Could this mean women will soon comprise 30 per cent of the ministry teams at Adventist conferences in Australia? Or perhaps even more?