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December 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.55.30 AMIn keeping with the historical practice of Friends (Quakers), Newberg Friends Church, (Newberg, OR) experienced the leadership and speaking gifts of women from its inception in the 1870s to well into the 1900s. The Evangelical Movement of the 20th century impacted both the private faith experiences of congregants and the larger practice of the church. This was evident in numerous ways, with one being the adoption, at least in practice, of Evangelical attitudes against women preaching in gathered worship. In the 1970s, Nancy Woodward, while not a paid member of the pastoral staff, powerfully asserted that she would use her gifts to serve God and the church, not being limited to “women’s roles.” Her modeling seems to have led to a return, within Newberg Friends, of full acceptance of women in all ministry roles.

In the early 2000s, Newberg Friends hired Gregg Koskela as its lead pastor. Gregg had served as children’s pastor previously, as a recent graduate of Newberg’s George Fox University (an Evangelical Quaker institution connected with the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends), and had most recently been serving as a Friends pastor in Boise, ID. Due to both his Friends background and classroom experiences at Fuller Theological Seminary, Gregg came to NFC “deeply concerned that women who demonstrate gifts of spiritual leadership be affirmed and given a place to exercise those gifts in the church.”  Throughout his now decade plus tenure at Newberg Friends, women have preached regularly, led worship, served and led as elders and deacons.

In 2004, Elizabeth Meeker Sherwood began to attend NFC, as she and her family had just moved to Newberg for her husband (and this article’s author) to teach at George Fox. A veteran of ministry leadership in para-church settings (Young Life), Elizabeth’s gifts soon caught the eye of Gregg who asked her to join the pastoral team of the church as the part-time administrative pastor. Koskela describes her as thriving in that role, “reforming our nomination process for committees, taking leadership of our trustees, overseeing our building manager, and completely reforming the structure and personnel of the cemetery our church owns, literally saving us from a huge financial black hole.”

Elizabeth’s ministry at NFC has extended well beyond behind the scenes administrative tasks, however. In her role, she has ministered to the Newberg community both relationally and from the pulpit. In describing her relational work, Melanie Springer Mock, (elder, GFU faculty and co-author of the soon to be released Chalice Press book, Meant to Be) says, “(Elizabeth) does the hard work of engaging difficult people. I have seen her use her gifts and calling to repair burned bridges, to make relationships right.”

Koskela feels that “her gifts are unique, because alongside those (administrative) duties, she brings an ability to communicate vision, and to preach prophetically with power. I have said publicly that she is in my list of top five people I’ve ever heard preach.” Springer Mock echoes that sentiment, saying, “her sermons are thoughtfully constructed and beautifully given; at times, what she says seems like prophesy.” One of her favorite song lyrics is an old Bruce Cockburn song about the need to “kick at the darkness, til it bleeds daylight.” 

In 2013, Pastor Koskela applied for, and received, a Lily Foundation grant that enabled him to take a four-month sabbatical, leaving the church in need of interim leadership. He says, “when it came time to recommend someone to be the interim lead pastor, Elizabeth was easily the first person who came to mind. Others had more experience on staff here, but her gifts and her big picture mindset made her the best person for the job.” Enthusiastically affirmed by the elders of the church, Elizabeth led the church capably during those four months. One striking characteristic of that time was her choice to have eight sermons of the sixteen-week sabbatical be given by lay women and men in the congregation. Newberg Friends is a congregation with a number of retired pastors, retired missionaries and present and retired college faculty in its membership and she could easily have called upon any number of these to take these preaching slots. Instead she chose to ask people who were “little heard voices”  in the congregation up to that point. As with all of her ministry leadership, Elizabeth brought a beautiful blend of clearly and powerfully using her own gifts and voice, while also enabling, nurturing and calling out the gifts of others.

Newberg Friends Church, and Elizabeth Meeker Sherwood’s ministry there (along with other paid and lay women), is a powerful testimony to what God can do in a church where men and women love, serve and respect one another and the gifting God gives to “the priesthood of all believers.”

December 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 7.21.04 PMTara Beth Leach:

“Your voice is important and needed in our context,” said Pastor Glen, Teaching Pastor at Good Shepherd Church in Naperville Illinois.  I wanted to believe him, I really did, but it was so radically different than what I had just experienced over the last year.

I was 26 years old, fresh out of Bible School and a spring chicken in ministry. Upon graduation with a B.A. in Ministry, I had dreams of standing behind the pulpit, preaching the Word of God, much like I had seen many men do in my tradition.

I was fortunate to have many wonderful affirming opportunities in my first associate pastoral role.

When my husband and I moved back to the Chicagoland area, I was eager to land a pastoral position in a local church.  I excitedly began writing emails, making phone calls, and doing everything possible to contact leaders on our denomination’s district.  After months of assertive attempted communications, I heard nothing. Not even a response from the District Superintendent. No one reached out to me. I began feeling as if I didn’t matter, or worse…as if I didn’t even exist.

“Maybe you’re not really called; maybe you heard God wrong; maybe you aren’t gifted; maybe you should pursue something else,” were the words I’d hear, in my voice, rattling around in my head.

I began to pursue a career in what I knew how to do well, riding and training horses – I grew up on a small horse farm and as a competitive rider  I thought, if the church doesn’t want me, I’ll share the good news of Jesus in the horse industry.  I began riding north of 6 horses a day and giving lessons to young students.  But every night when I would get in my car to make my way home, dirt in my teeth, exhausted from the hot sun, I wasn’t dreaming about jumping 6ft. oxers on my dream horse.  I wasn’t dreaming about winning my first Grand Prix or making my first 100k on a horse sale.

Instead, I had visions of studying the Bible in research for hours on end and then teaching the all-consuming, all-powerful, all-encouraging truth to the Body of Christ.  I ached for it.  I longed for it.  And at the end of every evening, I would pull away from the barn, and these dreams, these visions, these hopes would carry my thoughts away until I pulled back up into my home.  I knew that I could no longer run.

Eventually, my yearning found me sitting behind a computer screen, sending my resume out to a few churches. Resumes lead to interviews and then a job offer for a part-time Senior High Youth Director position at a church of 4,000 in Naperville, IL.  I eagerly accepted the call and jumped in with both feet. After a month of serving at Good Shepherd Church, one of the Teaching Pastors pulled me into his office and affirmed gifts that he saw in me.    Then Pastor Glen said, “Your voice is important and needed in our context, how do you feel about preaching on a Sunday morning two weeks from now?”  Preaching? Me? I had such a hard time believing that they would actually allow me to stand behind their pulpit.  “Of course, yes! Yes!”

I was 26 years old, barely believing in myself. I preached a sermon to a loving, kind, and affirming group. The rest of the pastors heard me preach and kept inviting me back to the pulpit and eventually inviting me to the Teaching team where I got to preach 1-2 times a month. Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and I had the joy of serving in the teaching team for over 5 years.

The Pastors were my champions.  Many times my insecurities would creep in and I would question whether or not I was equipped to preach a particular sermon, but the Pastors would practically shove me to the pulpit.  Why? They believed in me.  And hardly a day went by that I didn’t hear those words from the pastors in some form or another.  They didn’t just tell me, but they showed me.  They mentored me; they championed my call; they sent me to seminary; and most of all, they gave me countless opportunities to exercise my gifts.

Like a weak, baby, budding tree in a nurturing tree nursery, I took root and grew at and with Good Shepherd Church.  And I blossomed because of Pastors believing in me, mentoring me, and giving me incredible opportunities.

Today, I have the opportunity to serve at an equally affirming context at Christ Church of Oak Brook.  The Pastors and people almost seem to go out of their way to offer words of encouragement and affirmation.  Last week I sat in a meeting with Executive Pastor, Bill Clark, and he said, “Tara Beth, you are uniquely gifted….You could even be a Senior Pastor of a church some day.”  Senior Pastor?  Well, we’ll see.  But it’s a gift to have male Pastors affirm the pastoral roles of women in the church. 

 

December 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 7.23.45 AMThis week is dedicated to Good News stories about women in ministry, some of whom are serving in local churches and others serving in parachurch ministries. This is Christmas week, and these stories are told in the context of the story of Mary.

The first story is about Alice Shirey and comes from my book Junia is Not Alonebut with an important footnote at the end!

Alice Shirey was a student of mine at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School way back in the old days when people were wearing leisure suits and not really even wondering what to do with women in the church. But she kept on and landed on her feet in the middle of America, in Iowa, an heir to Calvin’s Reformed churches. Let the stereotyping about America’s heartland begin because most of them are true in Alice’s case. A Northwestern grad with a master’s degree from TEDS in counseling and psychology, a Harvard husband, and a Campus Crusade set of beliefs that included some traditional views of marriage and women in ministry.

She had three kids and was running a medical research business, when Alice up and got the idea that she should run for the school board. Which she did and though she didn’t win, she spoke publicly and speaking publicly energized her because people were moved by her words.

She got to thinking God might want to use her teaching gift in the church so when her husband Chuck’s investment work flew with the rest of America’s economy, Alice decided to teach an adult church class on money. “People came,” she said to me, “and the next time even more people came.” Then she realized she liked it, so she taught another subject. An elder, after observing and sitting in her class made this observation to her: “Alice, you’ve got the gift. And we’ve been praying for a woman teacher in our church.”

The stereotypes are at work here so she and her husband spent some time renegotiating their relationship. Chuck has an MDiv from Fuller but isn’t called to be a teaching pastor; Alice doesn’t have the MDiv but she’s got the gift. Chuck has become Alice’s biggest supporter.

The next stereotype has to do with the pastor, so Alice found the pluck to speak to him. Alice now knew she had the gift of teaching, so she said to him: “I think I have the gift to teach and preach and I’d like to know if it will be safe for me here?” The pastor’s response: “Do you want to find out? How about July 6th? No one is scheduled to preach.” She spent six weeks preparing that sermon.

In America’s heartland Alice was a “lay teacher” for seven years, and the church battled the stereotypes by using them: that is, they explained that Alice was a “mom” and a “wife” and even a “stay at home mom,” and she kept on teaching.

Four years ago Alice approached the pastor with these evocative words, “I’ve been wearing this JV uniform for seven years now, don’t you think it’s about time I get a varsity uniform?” Sure enough, Alice can be seen wearing a varsity preacher’s uniform three out of four weeks in a church with multi-site campuses. Including at a little rural church that in 120 years has not had a woman preach. Recently one of the pastors on staff caught wind of what the good folks in that rural church thought and told Alice, “Alice, they like you.”

Junia is not alone. She’s accompanied by a host of women who have been gifted by God to teach and preach and lead. It’s time now to do something about it.

Footnote: Alice is now on the executive teaching team at Orchard. Wonderful good news! She’s not just got a varsity uniform; she’s coaching!

December 18, 2014

This post is by Bill Victor, pastor of Missio Dei Community Church at the University of Missouri and blogs here.

My beliefs on women in ministry changed to a more egalitarian view not because of a reaction to modern society and seeking to synthesize the Bible’s view on women with a more moderating stance fitting our evolving society. It happened through the course of scholarly research.

I was working on my dissertation at one of the Southern Baptists seminaries in the early 2000s. I generally had views of women in ministry that were in line with the leaders of the SBC (“…the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” Baptist Faith and Message, 2000).  A portion of my dissertation was on the concept of Paul and leadership. This chapter was dealing with the term for leadership in Romans 12:8 (proistamenos) and terms in Paul’s writings that might shed light on that gift of the Spirit. That led me to study how Paul refers to Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2.

This text identifies Phoebe with the function of “deacon.” Diakonos in Greek can serve as either masculine or feminine and could be understood simply in terms of a regular pattern of service undertaken by Phoebe on behalf of her local church. The term here in Romans 16:1 is variously translated “servant” (NASB, NIV, and KJV); “deacon” (NRSV); and “deaconess” (RSV). According to one commentator (James Dunn), if it were the case of a regular pattern of service, then it would have been expressed differently in Greek, by the usage of the verbal form of the term (diakoneo) or the more generic term for service (diakonia). Diakonos paired with the participle of the verb “to be” points to a more recognized ministry or position of responsibility within the congregation (pointing to deacon as the proper translation).

Phoebe’s duties as a deacon are not revealed in this brief introduction. At this stage in Paul’s writings, the understanding of ministry and office was not well defined. The form of ministry mentioned depended on the context and the needs of the particular congregation.

In looking at Romans 16:2, there are the curious translations of the term prostatis. It has been translated figuratively as “helper or support” (see NASB; NIV 1984; KJV; RSV; NEB; NJB). The term actually denoted a person of prominence in the ancient Greco-Roman world. The term should best be given the understanding here as “patron” or “protector.” (BDF equates this term with patron. The ESV also translates this term as “patron” and the NRSV and the NIV 2011 translate this term as “benefactor.”) The masculine form of the term was well established in this sense, especially for the role of a wealthy or influential individual as patron of a Hellenistic religious society.

There are two occurrences of the feminine form of the term in Jewish inscriptions in Rome. The term in these inscriptions should probably be understood in the sense of a patron or protector. If this term did indeed mean “patron”, then it would have been familiar to Paul’s readers in reference to patronage of a voluntary association or trade guild. In giving Phoebe this title, Paul acknowledges the public service this prominent woman has given to many believers at Cenchrea. 

The term could very well be related to the term “ho proistamenos” (the one who leads – Romans 12:8). One who stood at the head of and cared for a congregation, as the proistamenos did, would be compared to a patron who perhaps provided a meeting place along with social and political clout. Phoebe obviously had a position of prominence in her community. It has been speculated that she may have owned a house there and, as a wealthy, influential person was in a position to assist missionaries and other Christians who traveled to and from Corinth. If this were the case, her assistance could have taken the form of hospitality; furnishing funds for journeys; or representing the community before secular authorities. Whatever her role may have been, Paul’s Roman readers would most likely think of Phoebe as a figure of significance, whose wealth or influence had been available to the church in Cenchrea.

As I surveyed the terms Paul used for leaders throughout his letters, I saw similar characteristics between the gift of leadership (Rom. 12:8b), a patron (Rom. 16:2) and an overseer (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The Greek definitions for these three terms (proistamenos, prostatis and episkopos, respectively) have within their semantic domains the connotations of leadership, protection and care. The terms proistamenos and prostatis have similar roots (the verb proistēmi). The role of a patron and an overseer would have functioned very similarly within the context of the Greco-Roman voluntary association.

This would have put Phoebe in a role similar to what churches today call an elder. I found through my study no fixed pattern of leadership imposed on Paul’s churches. Paul’s method seemed to have been to wait until qualities of leadership emerged in certain members and then urge the others to acknowledge and respect those as leaders. One of the most obvious qualities of leadership was a readiness to serve the church and care for its needs.

Some men and women (like Phoebe) were in an especially suitable position to care for the church, those who had the resources to provide a place to meet and the social standing to represent the congregation. Certain members, gifted and called by the Holy Spirit, appointed themselves to use their position for the advantage of the church.

Phoebe was one of those leaders and that changed my views about women in leadership positions in the church. If Paul could call Phoebe a “patron” (which implied a position of leadership in the church), then why couldn’t I?

 

May 10, 2013

This summer at Northern Seminary I will teach a public-open course on Women in Ministry.

Here is a list of our summer offerings, and my course on Women in Ministry will be taught June 17-21. Here’s the official edu-scoop:

Women in Ministry will focus on understanding, recognizing and encouraging the gifts God has given to women in the church. The course will focus on biblical texts about women, both from the Old Testament and the New Testament, with particular concentration on problem passages. The course will also feature a section on husbands and wives and Christian marriage, developing how the Bible understands love. see also DM7110. 9:00 AM to 4:00 M June 17-21, 2013 (NT elective, Gen. elective)

If you are interested in this course, here is the contact information:  http://www.seminary.edu/about/contact-us/ or e-mail at: admissions@seminary.edu.

To apply for the course begin the application process at www.seminary.edu/apply.  You can audit the course, apply as a new student (at the masters or doctoral level), or transfer the credit back to your school if You are at another seminary.  Northern Seminary alumni can take the course for free as part of Northern Seminary’s new Alumni Academy.  There is an article about the alumni academy at http://www.seminary.edu/article/announcing-the-alumni-academy/

April 3, 2013

This summer at Northern Seminary I will teach a public-open course on Women in Ministry.

Here is a list of our summer offerings, and my course on Women in Ministry will be taught June 17-21. Here’s the official edu-scoop:

Women in Ministry will focus on understanding, recognizing and encouraging the gifts God has given to women in the church. The course will focus on biblical texts about women, both from the Old Testament and the New Testament, with particular concentration on problem passages. The course will also feature a section on husbands and wives and Christian marriage, developing how the Bible understands love. see also DM7110. 9:00 AM to 4:00 M June 17-21, 2013 (NT elective, Gen. elective)

If you are interested in this course, here is the contact information:  http://www.seminary.edu/about/contact-us/ or e-mail at: admissions@seminary.edu.

To apply for the course begin the application process at www.seminary.edu/apply.  You can audit the course, apply as a new student (at the masters or doctoral level), or transfer the credit back to your school if You are at another seminary.  Northern Seminary alumni can take the course for free as part of Northern Seminary’s new Alumni Academy.  There is an article about the alumni academy at http://www.seminary.edu/article/announcing-the-alumni-academy/

March 4, 2013

From Slingshot.com:

Almost 30 years ago when I started serving on staff as a church leader, my role on the Management Team was somewhat pioneering, at least for our church. As the first female on that team, and later, the first female Teaching Pastor, I sought to do the work of ministry as best I could, hoping that my gender would actually not be a big deal or a barrier.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I had, for the adventure of learning in the trenches of leadership, for the men and women who opened up a place for me at the table and made room for my voice.  If you would have asked me way back then what the landscape of women in church leadership would look like by 2013, here is what I would have predicted.

By now, I thought we would see a much larger percentage of women serving as Senior Pastors, Executive Pastors, Worship Pastors, etc.  Women coming out of seminaries or the marketplace, according to my forecast, would discover several opportunities in local churches to fully express their gifts, to lead with boldness, to teach from the pulpit on a regular basis.  I thought that men of my generation, and certainly those younger than us Baby Boomers, would be enthusiastic advocates opening doors for women, recognizing the value of hearing the female’s voice both strategically and through teaching.  While historically, women have found places to lead in Children’s Ministry and Women’s Ministry.  I’m sure I thought by now that those options would be greatly expanded, building on those arenas and spreading to areas like Evangelism, Spiritual Transformation, Church Operations/Finance, and the Board of Elders.

I am fully aware of the barriers to this vision – theological positions, tradition, culture, denominational policies, etc. But hey, I’m also an optimist.  I thought we would see tremendous openness to exploring these barriers.  I thought more churches would open up studies and dialogue and wrestle deeply with the issues, digging into Scripture, and risking the inevitable pushback and controversy in a passionate search for the truth.  I did not think all churches would see a wholesale transformation to the egalitarian view.  But I had hoped to see movement – significant steps to empower women as far as any church’s theology would allow.  And to be completely honest, I thought my male counterparts of the day would challenge and disciple other male leaders to  display greater courage, take more risks, go out on a limb to open up whatever doors they could, to share the power/authority and seats at the table.

So what does reality show us now in 2013?  Certainly not what I envisioned and prayed for.  More women than ever are going to seminary, comprising 51% of students in divinity school.  The “Faith Communities Today” 2010 national survey of a fully representative, multi-faith sample of 11,000 American congregations found that 12% of all congregations in the United States had a female as their senior or sole ordained leader. For Oldline Protestant congregations this jumps to 24%, and for Evangelical congregations it drops to 9%. Of all conservative Protestant congregations, 1% are led by women; of African-American churches, just 3% are led by women.  And what has surprised me most is that many of those in the younger generations – both men and women – are even more devoted to a hierarchal position on women in ministry than their elders.

I rarely hear of a women serving as a Senior Pastor (with the exception of some mainline denominations), Executive Pastor, primary worship leader, CFO, or consistent Teaching Pastor (teaching from the pulpit at least once a month or more).  I hear from women on a regular basis about their loneliness and frustration, their disappointment about not finding ways to fully steward the gifts they have been given in the local church.  It hasn’t turned out the way I hoped. Young women who are bursting with leadership and communication gifts are still not seeing the local church as a primary option for them – too many of them who have sensed a heart level calling on their lives are heading instead to academia, the arts, or the business world.

So yes, I admit I am disappointed. But I do not despair.  Why?  Because of women leaders like Jeanne and Tracey and Barbie and Suze and Caron and Nancy and Andrea and Heather and Kimbra and so many others who show up every day at their local churches and lead with boldness and grace.  The statistics may not give cause for celebration, but remarkable exceptions fill me with hope.  Sweeping change on any issue is not the norm for local churches and denominations.  And yet…one life at a time, one team at a time, one church at a time, some are discovering and benefiting from the outstanding contribution of a godly, gifted woman whose voice becomes vitally significant in meetings of a few and in gatherings of hundreds or thousands.

Recently I was at a small dinner party where I met a businessman who attended our church 25 years ago.  Now he lives in another state, but he took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me what it meant to him and his wife to see me lead and teach all those years ago.  He said it was especially validating to his wife, who also has gifts of leadership, and he expressed thanks to me.

To every woman who is showing up day after day to use your gifts as best you can, I simply want to let you know that you have no idea the impact you are having.  There are men and women who will be enriched by your voice and perspective. Young boys and girls also have their eyes on you – you show them what is possible and redefine what is “normal” in church for them.  When you wonder if it matters, when you want to give up and stop putting yourself out there, taking risks and reading the negative emails, when you feel lonely at the table, when you are not sure if you are even doing the right thing…please don’t give up. Remember your church needs your voice, and your presence is providing a richer, fuller, truer representation of the God who calls us all, male and female, into the life-changing work called full-time ministry. The wider church needs to see more and more examples of how your contribution matters.

And to the male leaders reading this…I implore you to ask yourself if you are doing all you can to be an advocate for the women in your setting.  Are you open to how God wants to use them? Are you willing to courageously explore this issue and listen to the Spirit and to your community, seeking where God would have you land?  Are you clutching to a male-only, boys club kind of leadership team; are you unwilling to share the pulpit – or are you humbly holding all of that loosely enough to make room for your sisters to join you at the table, to brainstorm at the flipchart, and to express their voice to your people?

This post was a risk for me to write, because I know how volatile the entire subject is, how divisive it can be.  I invite your feedback – whether you agree with me or not.  I only ask that we all learn to communicate our perspective with grace and care.  We’ve had enough angry rhetoric on this one.  Let’s just take a breath and try to humbly explore it together.  I know I could be wrong on any number of points.  I just want others to admit the same…and move toward greater understanding.  It’s my sincere hope that in 30 more years…in 2043…the picture of women leading and teaching in the church will look vastly different than it does today.  A girl can dream…

September 2, 2012

From Arise.

J. Dwayne Howell, Ph.D. is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in the School of Theology of Campbellsville University and was named Distinguished Professor in 2008. He is also pastor of Rolling Fork Baptist Church in Gleanings, KY. Dwayne has written and presented in the area of Old Testament and Homiletics and is chair of the Homiletics and Biblical Studies Section of the Society of Biblical Literature. He is also active in the Academy of Homiletics.

What about today? Influence of women felt at your church today? In what capacities and gifts?

*    *    *    *    *    *

Life experiences affect our understanding of the world around us. As it pertains to egalitarian views, they are a part of my growing up experience. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in Shively, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville. Raised in a Christian home, church was a natural part of my life. I knew that Sunday mornings and evenings, as well as Wednesday evenings, were spent at church. This was never a burden for me. I always seemed to enjoy church. However, it was not my family’s church experience that led me to egalitarianism. My father worked and made the decisions, and my mother stayed at home and “raised the boys.” While my parents often discussed decisions, my father was always the final arbiter as head of the household. The same was true of my church—men served as the leaders, deacons, and even the ushers.

Actually, the experience that led me to begin considering women’s gifts in the church and in the home came from my pastor’s oldest daughter. We have known each other since we were eight years old. Early on we butted heads quite often. She was outspoken and had a strong personality, as did I. I felt I had to offer a rebuttal to everything she said. As we grew, so did our friendship, but still we would often disagree. One day, the discussion of women as pastors was raised. I had never seen a woman as pastor. Instead, in my culture, I had often seen women as subordinate to men in church and the home. I cannot remember what she said to me that day, but I do know that I began to think. Where did I see women serving in my church? They had cared for me in the nursery, taught me in Sunday school, and led my mission and music education. My whole journey of faith up to that time, for the most part, was influenced by the women of the church. Even in my denominational tradition, Southern Baptist, women had played a significant role (even though it is not emphasized as such by the denomination). If Southern Baptists have matron saints, they are Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, for whom our international missions and domestic missions offerings are named, respectively. Many Southern Baptist children have heard the story of Lottie Moon, missionary to China, who was so dedicated to the people of China that she allowed herself to succumb to malnutrition so that others could have food. Such sacrifice was held up to us as an example.

While the challenge from my pastor’s daughter led me to question my own understanding of the role of women in the church and the home, that was not the end of my egalitarian journey. Through college and seminary, I was constantly challenged to adjust my views on women in ministry by my professors and as I met more and more women who were seeking to follow God’s call on their lives. Today, as both a pastor and professor, I hope that I can aid others in their experience and understanding of the role of women in the church and in the home.

April 12, 2012

On Tuesday we posted the first part of Ben Witherington’s 7 minutes videos on women in ministry. Here’s a second one. Take a listen and we can have  a conversation here.

April 11, 2012

The Pope does not agree with many of us. He has recently taken a firm stand against ordaining women. A fuller report can be found here.

Pope Benedict has restated the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer, delivered an unusually direct denunciation of disobedient priests in a sermon at a morning Mass on Holy Thursday, when the Church commemorates the day Christ instituted the priesthood.

The pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women’s ordination. “Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.

In his response to the Austrian group, his first in public, Benedict noted that, in its “call to disobedience”, it had challenged “definitive decisions of the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) such as the question of women’s ordination …” (more…)




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