Tag Archives: women in ministry

An Easter Catechism: Living in the light of the Resurrection

Raphael 1499-1502 via wikipedia.org

It’s been nearly four years since I last preached a sermon. That changed this month, when I was invited to preach at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw on May 4th, 2014. The audio of the sermon has now been posted. Feel free to check it out here.

 

 

 

Graduation Blessing: A Husband’s Prayer For His Seminary Wife

Grad letter and writers blockToday the seminary held a “Blessing of the Grads” chapel service. Each grad was honoured to have a blessing read out from a loved one. What follows below is Charles’ letter to me. I am so thankful for  a husband who has supported and actively encouraged this educational journey.

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Amanda, as I have watched you tackle the challenges of graduate study while dealing with the challenges of work and home, I have been continually reminded what an privilage it is to be your husband.  You have been and continue to be a blessing to me and to our children.  My prayer is that God will open doors for you to develop the immense potential that we see in you.  My prayer is that our children will learn to understand what an amazing mother they have, and will look to you as an example of what a powerful woman of God can be.

Lord, make Amanda an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let her sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, Grant that she may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Amen.

Canadian Christianity — C&MA Ordain First Female Pastor

On Sunday, the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada ordained their first female pastor, Eunice Smith. Last year, the denomination voted to change the bylaws regarding ordination to allow for women to be ordained. From the news release:

Eunice has served the C&MA for more than sixty years. She has served in the Canadian Midwest District, the Caribbean Sun Region and the Canadian Pacific District. Eunice was ordained in Richmond Alliance Church, in Richmond, B.C., the church that she currently serves and calls home.

Rev. Jon Coutts, lead pastor of Richmond Alliance Church, deemed Eunice’s ordination “a celebration of God’s faithfulness to and through her over the years, as well as a meaningful, formal affirmation of her gifts and calling for ministry in the church.”

Eunice’s son, Rev. Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College, declared that Eunice’s ordination affirms the seeds planted through her teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Eshet Chayil! A woman of valour!

 

Women and Vocation Panel Discussion

Last year, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on women and vocation. The theme was Women in Academia. Last night, I was invited once again to participate on the panel. This year’s theme was Spiritual and Biological Parenting. There were four panelists in total. Three of us were mothers and the fourth panelist was a woman who has served in youth ministry for 25 years and did not have kids of her own. We talked about challenges, joys, and attitudes. We talked about how parenting fits or doesn’t fit with God’s calling on our lives. What follows is my main point that I made in bringing my perspective. It is a mash up of the notes that I took in advance and the comments that I made off the cuff while participating in the discussion.

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I think one of the most dangerous messages in the church today is that a Christian woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother. This is at the least bad theology, and at the worst heresy. A Christian woman’s highest calling is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Anything else is nothing more than an adjective. And so, that means that if my husband becomes more important in my life than my relationship with Christ then I have, in a way, committed idolatry. The same goes for my kids. If they become my all-consuming, then there is something wrong there. Now this isn’t to say I don’t love my kids and I don’t give them my full attention, but they are not, and will not be, the sum of my existence.

Especially given the life-stage I am in (mom with pre-school kids), I see a very dangerous trend where moms spend 24/7 with their kids and have no identity apart from them. On so many levels this can be unhealthy, not just for their Christian faith but also for their marriages. What happens when the children leave home and it’s just the husband and wife together again? Will they have anything in common? Will they even know each other? And the problem is that many of the “Christian” parenting messages out there seem to promote this absolute, obsessive imbalance as being “biblical.”

That being said, if I would to try to explain how being a parent fits within my calling to be a disciple of Jesus, then I would say that my children are precious gifts that have been entrusted to me by God, and my job is to be a good steward of the gifts that He has given me.

My identity and calling are not dependent on my being married and having kids. As someone who struggled, and still struggles, with infertility, I have had to learn that whether I am single or married, have kids or don’t, that doesn’t change my calling. I am called to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, to follow where he leads, and to obey the Holy Spirit as he works in my life.My identity as a disciple of Jesus is grounded not in my marital status or the number of children I have, but in the person and work of Jesus. I am not more Christian because I have kids, nor I am less of a Christian if I don’t have kids.

Are there ways parenting and my vocation conflict? Well, when we’re trying to juggle class and kids, Chuck’s job, and the cost of babysitting, it feels like a swirling vortex of conflict. But at the same time, this short term pain and chaos has a long term benefit. By pursuing my calling, by getting my degree I will be able to serve and provide for my kids (and coming from a single-parent home, this is hugely important. Too often women don’t think about the “what if something happens to your husband” be it divorce or death and you are on your own to provide for your kids?) and be a model for them of what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus.

 

Another Adventure in Anglicanism — Women Bishops and the CoE

So yesterday the motion to allow female bishops in the Church of England failed. Reading through my twitter feed in the hours after you would think the world was coming to an end. I get that it was an emotional vote. But declarations that the CoE is irrelevant, out of touch with culture, or worse, misogynistic were not helpful, nor does it reflect the reality of life in the Anglican church.

There were calls to have the vote overturned.

There were American low-church (even some no-church) evangelicals declaring that Anglicans don’t need no stinkin’ synods to tell them how to run their church.

And there was the media declaring that the CoE had voted strongly against women bishops.

There were people pushing the political agenda, over-emphasizing that women’s ordination is about “justice and equality” but forgetting that churches don’t (or at least shouldn’t) ordain a person simply because of politics of gender, but because of sacrifice, service and spiritual giftings.

The only level-headed reflection to the vote that I’ve seen so far has come from Michael Bird:

If I can try offer some words of exhortation to the haughty, the hurting (and perhaps the hysterical), let me say this:

1. Due process is due process. The debate has been had, the arguments put forward, voices were heard, and the votes counted. Many are disappointed as their hopes have been dashed. But the processes are there to make sure that all representatives in the COE get a fair say and no one gets to decide what that “says” is. This is an issue that needed a mandate and consensus. And it came up short.
2. If women bishops are put forward in the name of a diverse, inclusive, and broad church, you have to remember that diversity and breadth cuts both ways, it means including and empowering people to the left and to the right of you.
3. Women bishops are inevitable, clearly the majority wants it, but the timing will depend on constructively engaging and assuaging both the anglo-catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church rather antagonizing them or demonizing them.
4. This is not the last word. Discussion and debate will go on. Time for a cup of tea, an iced-vovo, and then some further conversations about mission and the episcopacy.

I’m all for women bishops, that’s no secret. But I am appalled by the reactions of other supporters who failed to guard their tongues, who failed to speak charitably about their brothers and sisters in Christ who voted against the motion, and who failed to demonstrate the love and patience that Christians are called to demonstrate.

Was the result disappointing? Yes.

But at the same time, it also was a blessing: the majority voted for women bishops, it was just that it failed to get a super-majority. There is hope in that. This is good news. It could have been much worse. It could have failed to receive even a majority, it could have been resoundingly defeated, but it wasn’t.

And dismissing the “no” vote because their representatives are old, grey-haired and out of touch with the times is not helpful. We need to listen to the older generation and to those with whom we disagree. We need to heed their wisdom. How we treat the older generation of Christians and how we treat those who disagree with is how we will one day be treated. As I’ve written before: “Are you listening just as equally to the stories of your elders and of those who disagree with you? Are you willing to do your part in reconciliation or are you expecting the older generation to unilaterally cave to your way of thinking? What happens in 50 years, when the new younger generation of [Christians] become disenfranchised and alienated from your ideas, experiences and politics?”

My One and Only Post on the Recent Hoopla Regarding #BiblicalWomanhood

One of the interesting things I have been following in the reviews and discussions of Rachel Held Evans’ new book, besides the almost tribalistic battlelines (complementarians don’t like it; egalitarians do), is the common complaint from complementarian reviewers that RHE creates a strawman. “It’s not what we teach!” is the common phrase.
To these bloggers, pastors and complementarian celebrities I will trust you when you say that you don’t teach a rigid understanding of biblical womanhood. But, my question is this: even though you may not teach/believe it, is it being taught at the lay levels of your churches?

It’s prevalent in your women’s bible studies, in your mom’s and babies groups, in your college and career women’s socials. There are older women in your churches who are mentoring the younger women (Titus 2) and are giving them copies of Debi Pearl’s Created to be His Help Meet. They are teaching the young single women that the only way that they will find fulfillment is if they get married and have babies. They are holding up Proverbs 31 as a rule rather than as a testimony.

Pastors, sometimes you encourage this through not through direct preaching but through actions. If a young woman approaches you after service and asks how she can service the congregation do you, without even considering her gifts and talents, automatically point her towards the nursery and children’s Sunday school?

Bloggers, in your polemics against all things egalitarian, do you for a moment stop and consider that the women with whom you disagree are your sisters in Christ?

Celebrities, do you actively and respectfully engage with the arguments of the other side, or do you yourselves set up straw men (women) arguments to knock down, because it brings in the web hits and the book deals?

I’ve been a Christian for 17 years now. I became a Christian at the age of 16. I have wrestled with the question “what does it mean to be a biblical woman” for all of those 17 years. And while I am probably (definitely) more theologically conservative than Rachel Held Evans, she does have a real point to make.

For 17 years I have struggled through the minefield of messages and advice, trying to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. And yet, I have also learned that much of the “advice” that is given out by well-meaning lay leaders in the church is loaded with spiritual guilt and peer pressure. Not only is there a desire to be a faithful servant, but there is a social need to fit in. And when those pressures are combined with “biblical” wisdom, it becomes a power cocktail of stress and anxiety, one that leads to a salvation by works rather than a salvation by faith, as women try their best to live up to the expectations.

Here are just a few of the pieces of advice I have heard over the years by well-meaning older women eager to guide and mentor the younger generation of women, from a variety of congregations:

A woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother.

If you don’t invest 100% of yourself in your kids every single day, you are failing to show Christ to your kids.

If your kids walk away from the faith, it means that you weren’t obedient in your calling to disciple them.

If you work outside the home you bring spiritual unrest to the whole family, most importantly to your husband. Having a career demonstrates that you are selfish and have an unteachable spirit.

A woman should never have more education (especially theological education) than her husband, because it means that she is unwilling to submit to his authority.

College education is a waste of time since a mother doesn’t need a college degree to raise babies.

If more women would give up their careers and take their rightful place in the home then stress and worries of life would disappear, all their problems would be solved and they would live happily ever after.

Women’s bible studies don’t need to be deep and theological because women aren’t deep and theological.

Having sex is the ultimate act of wifely submission because women weren’t created to like sex; women have sex to show love to their husbands.

Men were born not knowing how to love; women were not born knowing how to submit. They have to learn it.

Make sure you greet your husband at the door with a kiss every evening, because he’s had a hard day at work.
Likewise, make sure that the house is tidy and the kids are quiet, because husbands don’t like coming home to chaos.

Indoor housework must be done by the woman; outdoor housework must be done by the man.

Post-partum depression is a sign that you are fighting your God-given call to motherhood.

These things were never preached directly from the pulpit. But they were a part of the mentorship and discipleship of several churches that I have been a part of. And what’s worse, is that when these things are wrapped in biblical proof-texts and “words from the Lord” there is no opportunity to think through, question or evaluate the claims. They are Gospel. They are Biblical. To question these nuggets of wisdom is to question the Bible or worse, God himself. And we are not called to question but to faithfully obey. And so while the spokespeople, the pastors, bloggers and celebrities may say that “this is not what we teach” please take care to realize that there are lay leaders and lay ministries directly under your authority and using your resources that are in fact teaching the very things that Rachel Held Evans is addressing.

Women Bloggers

I originally posted a list of Christian female bloggers last year. Since there is chatter, once again, about the top 200 Church blogs and the lack of female voices, I thought I would repost the list for anyone looking for some awesome blogs to add to their google reader. (and don’t forget to add mine if you haven’t already!)

* Carmen over at Seminary Mom, who has just started in Wheaton’s PhD program. She did her masters degree while raising three young kids.

* Elizabeth Scalia over at the Anchoress. I followed her when she made the move from First Things to Patheos. She writes from a Catholic perspective.

* Sarah at Emerging Mummy.

* The team of ladies over at Novel Matters. As well, Bonnie Grove at Fiction Matters.

* Suzanne McCarthy at Suzanne’s Bookshelf.

* Shepherdess at Shepherdess Writes. She is a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina.

* Rachel Held Evans. This is a great place for those with questions.

* Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping. I will admit that I usually find myself in disagreement with Julie, but I have learned a lot from her.

Her.meneutics over at Christianity Today.

Laura Ziesel.

Diana over at Just Wondering. Diana is a retired pastor.

April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels. April is a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University.

The ladies over at Women in Theology. This blog looks at issues from a Catholic/Feminist perspective.

Melissa at Sign on the Window.

Carolyn McCulley at Radical Womanhood.

View From the Rafters by Jennifer Harris Dault.

Rachael at Growing Up With God.

April Yamasaki‘s blog. April is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford B.C.

Another Canadian Christian Blog

Check out April Yamasaki‘s blog. April is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford B.C. Also, check out Emmanuel Mennonite’s church blog here.

Here a few links to some of her blog posts:

Why I believe the Bible encourages Women in Ministry

In my congregation, we work hard at having a mix of men and women in ministry–in leadership and behind the scenes, on Council, as deacons, as Committee members, as visible leadership on Sunday morning. The participation of both men and women is not just tokenism. It’s not some kind of artificial quota system. Instead, it’s a recognition that it takes all of us to be the church, it takes all of us to build the church, and God has given each of us something we can use for the common good of our life together.

Ministry is not about fancy titles or about whose name comes first. It’s not about whether men are better than women, or women better than men. Instead we are to serve God and to serve one another.

There is mutuality in ministry, where the church is not only about women submitting to men or about men submitting to women. It’s not only about the church listening to its leaders, or about church leaders listening to their people. But church ministry is about all of that–where we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and we submit to God (James 4:7) as we work together as the body of Christ, who is the head of the church.


Lectio Divina and Looking for Jesus

I have to admit that the nay-sayers have a point. Lectio divina as it’s practiced today can be overly subjective–how do I know that it’s God and not last night’s black bean garlic chicken that is speaking to me? How do I distinguish between the voice of God and my own imagination? That’s one reason to practice lectio divina in community–as it has been practiced in the monastic tradition–and to practice it also along with other disciplines of Scripture study that take seriously the historical, social, literary, and other aspects of the text as well as our own context today. As a check on my own wayward heart, the subjectivity of lectio divina is wisely also subject to community discernment and other study.

The ever-growing list of Canadian Christian Blogs can be found here.

Training Up Pastors — Issues for Female Pastors

Yesterday, I resurrected a post I had done two years ago on the benefits of going away to seminary. It was a pretty big hit, so I thought I would resurrect a couple of other posts from that series on Training Up Pastors.

 

When I took Pastoral Theology in college, the professor really didn’t understand why there were so many women in the class. Of about 15 students there were four women. We weren’t there to debate egalitarianism vs. complementarianism (and that is not what this post is about either), we were there to learn how to be pastors. As I wrote earlier:

Third, he didn’t really know what to do with women in the class. Included in our “textbook” were articles about “being a pastor’s wife.” And when a friend of mine asked if there were any articles about the experiences of women pastors, or about “being a pastor’s husband”, the professor’s response was “well, in all likelihood you will end up being a pastor’s wife rather than a pastor yourself.”

Whatever one’s views on women in ministry, the reality is that there are female pastors. Some are full-time senior pastors. Others are associate pastors. Some are filling the exact same function as a pastor, but to preserve the prescription that only men be elders, their titles are “director of such and such ministry”, “ministry coordinator” or some other clever rebranding.


Does being a female pastor require different training? Are there different expectations? Are there different tools that we need that male pastors do not?

Consider the following scenarios:

1. At Hip & Cool church, it is normal for several of the pastors on staff to stay until late in the evening working on various ministry projects. Very often the only people in the church past 8pm are two associate pastors, one male and one female. Both have spouses and families who have no problem with this arrangement, but several parishioners have seen the two them leave the building together, and the gossips in the church have begun to talk. If both pastors were the same gender this would never make the gossip mill. The pastors are oblivious to the gossip but it is beginning to affect the life of the church. Should there be boundaries for the sake of perception? (or even to prevent something inappropriate from developing?)

2. First Bapti-costal Church of Hello Town has just hired their first female pastor. In the past, it was always assumed that though the church was hiring the pastor, his wife would give the church much of her time by leading the ladies’ bible studies, playing the piano, and chairing the Sunday School committee. The church is not quite sure how Pastor Kate’s husband will feel about leading the ladies’ bible study and it turns out he’s never played an instrument in his life. What are the expectations of a pastor’s husband?

3. Secular research has suggested that women leaders are more negatively perceived even when they engage in the exact same leadership behaviour as their male counterparts (Eagly & Karau, 2002), especially when they engage in the more stereotypically-male leadership tasks such as the enforcement of discipline (Atwater, Carey, & Waldman, 2001). Perceptions of effectiveness as a leader are influenced not only by leadership style (task- versus people-oriented) but also by the gender of the leader who uses one particular style or the other, as well as the group members’ attitudes towards women in leadership (Forsyth, Heiney & Wright, 1997). What tools are there to help female pastors be aware of the perception of the congregation of how they lead, how they pastor and how they preach?

4. While the women at Community Church of Cowabunga are loving having a female pastor to talk to, the men in the congregation are feeling uncomfortable about approaching the pastor to talk about issues and struggles in their life. What can the female pastor do to serve the men in her congregation?

Feel free to post your own questions that you have struggled with.

TGC’s Reason that it is Complementarian

The Gospel Coalition has posted a video of a panel discussion between D.A. Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller on why TGC has chosen to include complementarianism in it’s doctrinal statement and vision for ministry.

A few things to highlight and comment on, though I encourage you to watch the video yourself.

First, John Piper says that the reason TGC is complementarian is three-fold:
1. Because TGC wants to protect and put safeguards around the Gospel
2. Because TGC wants to display the Gospel
3. Because TGC wants to release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing

Does a complementarian distinction protect the Gospel from heresy the way that the Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church did? Is complementarianism really on the same level as Christological and Trinitarian statements? Can we really safeguard the Gospel? The Gospel is dangerous and powerful and upends societies. It breaks chains and restores dignity. It provides hope for the downtrodden and it humbles the arrogant. How does a complementarian statement protect this bold Gospel? Is it even our job to “release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing?” Yes we are called to preach the Gospel, to live the Gospel, to participate in sharing the Gospel, but I would argue that “releasing the Gospel for maximum human flourishing” is primarily the job of the Holy Spirit.

Piper and Carson both allude to the “slippery slope” that is egalitarianism; that if you embrace egalitarianism you will begin to compromise or accomodate on other doctrines and ethics. Piper seems to blame egalitarianism for the current “badness” that is in our culture, everything from absentee fathers to the brutality of men. Is the brutality of men really due to the shift to an egalitarian culture? Right from Cain and Abel we have men practicing violence. And if he means brutality not in general but brutality to women, the Old Testament culture which was definitely not egalitarian had its share of brutality against women. And does not the “slippery slope” also work the other way? Is it not possible for complementarianism to lead to radical patriarchy?

Carson says that egalitarians are domesticating the word, rather than trembling at the word. To this I say, it is precisely because I tremble at the word that I cannot simply proof-text a verse and say that the plain meaning is clear. My trembling at the word leads me to study and to pray and to worship and to wrestle with it. When I come to 1 Timothy, my best answer is “I don’t know.” I can’t dismiss it, but I also can’t whole-heartedly ignore the cultural specificity of the instruction and say that it is 100% a timeless instruction. And as for Ephesians 5, I wish egalitarians and complementarians would spend more time not on the “submission” text of v. 22, but on Paul’s declaration in v.32 that it is a “profound mystery.”

Piper gives the example of a group of Christians, say a university fellowship, deciding it is time to have a woman preach because it is “fair” even though there are people in the group who believe it to be wrong, is an act of disobedience. Piper concludes that it just doesn’t work to have a Gospel movement that is both egalitarian and complementarian, because egalitarianism wins by default.

Keller seems to take a more nuanced and generous approach, (which is what has been the case outside of this video as well). Keller says that how headship plays out in marriage, in different cultures and in different ecclesiologies will look different. He defines a “gospel complementarian” as a person who does not upbraid the other side (egalitarians) for their understanding of Scripture.

Why Is TGC Complementarian? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

As well, Kathleen Nielson has written a letter “To My Egalitarian Friends”.

There will probably be countless reflections hitting the blogosphere over the next couple of days. I’ve struggled through this issue for years, and I don’t know that I have more to say. What am I? The best I can say is that to egalitarians I probably appear too complementarian, and to complementarians I appear too egalitarian. No matter what I do I’ll end up offending somebody. If I preach in church I’ll offend those who don’t think it “biblical” for a woman to preach. If I don’t preach in church I’ll offend those who say that I’m enabling the silence of women. While I think it’s important to have these conversations regarding gender and theology, I am not a crusader. I don’t want to be a crusader. I want to be a humble servant. I want to worship and pray and talk to God. And if God can use any of my gifts and talents to edify the Church, then I submit to that authority.