(RNS) The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has voicedhis "regret" that the church's Southeastern California Conference hasdecided to issue the same credentials to male and female pastors.

The executive committee of the conference made the move March 16. F.Lynn Mallery, president of the conference, said the decision reflectedthe need to treat "women ministers without discrimination."

Mallery said the committee respected the various views on thematter, but hoped "our fellow believers will also respect our moralconviction that men and women in this conference who are equallyqualified and have had fruitful ministries should be treated in the sameway."

Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,said the decision by the Southeast California Conference makes a unifiedposition more difficult on the matter of male and female clergy.

"The issue is not the rightness or otherwise, ethically, morally orbiblically, of the position that there should be no difference betweenthem," Paulsen said. "My regret is that the SECC could not, out ofdeference to the larger international family of Seventh-day Adventists,have held in check their exercise of `freedom,' knowing that the churchmakes her decisions sometimes frustratingly slowly, but in a verydeliberate manner with an eye to many issues.

"Moving together until we have agreed to give room to differ onspecific issues is the price we pay for unity."

The Adventist Church traditionally has a two-tier credentialingsystem for men and women, reported Adventist Press Service.

The churchrecognizes males in gospel ministry as "ordained" and females as"commissioned." Commissioned ministers are prohibited from organizingchurches, ordaining deacons and elders and serving as conferencepresident.

Nearly 10 percent of pastors in the 60,000-member SoutheasternCalifornia Conference are women. The conference serves five countiessouth and east of Los Angeles.