Women’s ministry pioneer honoured for outstanding achievement

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Dr Carole Ferch-Johnson.

A pioneer of women’s ministries in the South Pacific Division has received a special honour.

Dr Carole Ferch-Johnson was awarded the Woman of the Year for Outstanding Achievement by the US-based Association of Adventist Women. She was presented with the award in a special ceremony in Loma Linda, California, on November 16.

“I feel honoured for having been selected to receive this award,” Dr Ferch-Johnson said. “There is, in my nomination, a validation for the work I have done, especially for its more challenging aspects.”

Dr Ferch-Johnson was the first director of the Women’s Ministries department for the South Pacific Division (SPD) in 1995 and has played a significant role in mentoring young women in ministry. She is a former lecturer at Avondale University College where she set up the first counselling service on the campus. She also served as a chaplain and pastoral counsellor at Sydney Adventist Hospital for 10 years.

Despite retiring at the end of 2000, Dr Ferch-Johnson has continued to support young women in ministry. Six years ago she was appointed by the Australian Union Conference  to the Ministerial Association with a special focus on nurturing female pastors. This then grew to include other unions in the Division.

“I have been thrilled to see ordinary women grow in confidence and establish belief in themselves to achieve their goals,” said Dr Ferch-Johnson, who now lives on the NSW Central Coast. “After a rough beginning, it gives me a great sense of hope to see the Church more fully accept the ministry of our female pastors and to see them do an incredibly good job in ministry.”

Dr Carole Ferch-Johnson with the other awardees.

Former SPD women’s ministries director Erna Johnson is among the many women nurtured by Dr Ferch-Johnson. She describes the mum-of-two as a “mighty woman of God”.

“Even though she is now retired, she’s still active and always available to inspire and aid women when asked,” Mrs Johnson said. “She is a real inspiration, not just to me, but to anyone who knows her.”

In recent years Dr Ferch-Johnson has undertaken doctoral studies at Avondale University College, graduating with her PhD in December 2017.

“Carole has long been a woman of distinction and great dignity,” Avondale vice-chancellor Dr Ray Roennfeldt said.

“She was a pioneer in ministry training at a time when few women were undertaking ministry/theology training at Avondale. She has dealt with personal circumstances that would have disheartened a lesser person and has been able to take the learnings from tragedy into a caring chaplaincy ministry.”

Current Division women’s ministries leader Dr Danijela Schubert described Dr Ferch-Johnson as a trailblazer and a role model.

The Woman of the Year awards are designed to recognise and celebrate the contributions of Adventist women. The Outstanding Achievement award is presented to someone who has made outstanding contributions to her profession, vocations, church, and/or community; has made unusual achievements despite difficult obstacles and/or prejudice; has wide influence that extends beyond a local setting; has made accomplishments marked by creativity, persistence and a vision to make a difference in the world; and mentors other women and encourages them to succeed.