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religion, Uncategorized, women in ministry

walking the talk

Yesterday, I started blogging again. Thus far, maybe three people have stopped by to take a look. While my readership may not be vast, I would like to give a shout-out to my church and pastor. Besides serving as a forum for discussion and thinking out loud, I started ‘a place at the table’ after causing a bit of a brouhaha on my pastor’s blog. Once again, someone brought up the ‘women in ministry’ discussion. If you’re a mainliner, skip this one. If you classify yourself as Evangelical or Catholic, you know what I’m talking about here. If you’re a woman and classify yourself as Evangelical or Catholic and are in ministry, pull up a chair. There’s a place for you here.

The discussion started with Pastor Eugene’s discussion of a group conversation with Rob Bell, a thoughtful and prominent Christian in town to participate in events surrounding the Dalai Lama and Seeds of Compassion. Somehow, this particular conversation got around to the topic of women in ministry, and Eugene asked the dangerous question: “What do you think?” People started commenting, and before you know it, it had gotten a bit heated and I had put myself out there and said what I was really thinking:

i liked the comment about the church being the ‘White Man’s World’. i like a lot of what Rob Bell has to say, as I like a lot of what some contemporary, intelligent, ‘emergent’ authors have to say. i just wish there came a day where instead of going to a conference where someone like Bell talks about why we should have women in ministry, or a bunch of White guys talk about racial reconciliation and poverty, that these same heavy-hitters would realize THEY ARE THE ONES feeding the power disparity, THEY ARE THE ONES who could be radically supporting women and people of color in ministry by stepping aside and handing the mic to someone else, and asking the audience to listen.

how often do evangelical men who claim to support women in ministry agree to serve as much needed mentors to women or people of color so that they can have exposure to the leadership, to what’s going on in church circles, so that they can learn? those in power are men, and if those wanting to learn are women, all too often they cannot find men willing to mentor them because they want to guard against any appearance of impropriety. as a woman, having my gender viewed as ‘dangerous’ at times is frustrating, to say the least, and honestly makes growth and mentorship opportunities in the evangelical world damn hard to come by.

for now, all too often, i feel like the picture above, especially in evangelical circles. and if i get asked one more time by a white guy ‘why are you so upset about this women in leadership discussion’ and told that i or other women are too emotional, or told that i just need to have some grace for those who believe i don’t have a genuine call from God…seriously, all of this talk is enough to make an evangelical consider going episcopalian.

Am I joining the Episcopal church? Nope. But honestly, there’s something to be said for being in a place where I can walk into a room full of pastors and people don’t ask if I work with youth or worship. Granted, I haven’t yet hit thirty, but neither of those are my calling. It’s also really, really nice to be in a place where your calling isn’t questioned every time you meet a new group of pastors. This is where the shout-out comes in. I serve as a member of the pastoral staff at Quest Church, and I’m part of the Evangelical Covenant Church. While in my protective Quest-y bubble, I have had the remarkable opportunity to feel honored and valued as a partner in ministry. Eugene has been great to work with, has supported my call to seminary and ministry, and has welcomed me as part of the Quest staff (with a pretty equal ratio of men and women). I haven’t been coddled or treated differently, the ride has been tough in many ways, but we’ve all been a team. As I finish my work at seminary, and find myself increasingly connected with other women who feel called into full time pastoral ministry, I am grateful and excited to share how my denomination treats the ‘women in ministry’ question theologically. It’s a justice issue, an issue of whether we truly affirm the priesthood of all believers and the radical call to equality and inclusiveness in Galatians 3:28. Really, instead of being about men and women, it’s about God’s calling, the Holy Spirit’s gifting in the lives of people, and about how the Cross changes everything. At times, I get so tired of fighting this battle again and again, and wind up responding to yet another discussion, part of another focus group or panel that wants to talk with, or about, women in ministry.

My tiredness does not usually stem from interactions at Quest; we are very up front about our theology and people who don’t agree tend to attend another church. My frustration stems mostly from the greater Evangelical subculture, with which I have a love-hate relationship in so many ways. Attending a seminary where women outnumber men, I don’t have to defend myself or my calling because of gender. Ever. That the calling and giftedness conferred by the Holy Spirit could be poured out on all flesh–literally–is taken as a given. That’s a big part of why I chose the school I chose. Fighting these battles out every time I enter a denominational class outside my school, when I go to any conference or gathering of Evangelicals, or when I greet pastors coming to visit our church makes me weary. As I continue working to serve God in pastoral ministry, I have to jolt myself out of the tendency to start thinking selfishly about how difficult it is to be a woman in Evangelical ministry, and instead rejoice that I have been called and gifted, and out of obedience, respond. Ultimately, it’s not about us as men or women being ministers of the Gospel, it is about the One we serve who chooses to reveal himself to and through us–men and women, broken and imperfect, but all loved by God.

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Discussion

16 thoughts on “walking the talk

  1. Welcome back to blogosphere, Leah. And thanks for your honesty about the issues we women face. We need more voices out there speaking truth to power about the issue while maintaining focus on the MAIN THING, Jesus reconciling humanity to God through Himself. Hang in there, sista!

    Posted by missional girl | April 21, 2008, 11:23 am
  2. Thanks for being willing to share your gifts in so many ways with the rest of us.
    And to take the heat and not give up when the conversations are repetitive or uncomfortable. I’ve learned a lot from you!

    Posted by Teresa | April 21, 2008, 1:08 pm
  3. Can we talk? Your comments on seeking mentorship really hit home. It took a long time and lots of healing to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me…and to realize I am not alone. It is so good to hear other women talk about this.

    Posted by Kim | April 21, 2008, 1:57 pm
  4. Hi Leah…
    As someone in the Covenant, a woman, in seminary, called and gifted as we like to say my experience and the experience of many other “sisters” is quite different. May this foster conversations, mentoring and renewal. Because as you wrote it isn’t about men or women it is about the One — it’s about God and serving Him and His body.
    Grace and strength to you from and by the Spirit ….
    Carol

    Posted by pathwayjourneys | April 21, 2008, 3:03 pm
  5. Hey Leah – great to find this space. I loved your contribution to the discussion on Eugene’s page. I was at the Bell event last week and like Rob a lot. But it definitely showed how messy and awkward this issue can be. I was just reading an article by Don Williams this morning on Genesis and gender roles that is very good (he’s a strong egalitarian, former Princeton prof and long time Vineyard guy). Here it is if anyone is interested: http://www.kingdomrain.net/content/view/64/33/1/2/

    Looking foward to more!

    Posted by beattieblog | April 21, 2008, 5:41 pm
  6. pe: thanks for the shout out and intro to the blogosphere!
    missional girl, teresa, and linda, thanks for the kind words.
    kim: i’d love to talk sometime and hear about your experiences.
    carol: it’d be great to hear more of your experiences too. thanks for sharing. i’ve spoken with quite a few other women in the covenant, and as with anything, each person’s experience has been different. I’m curious, are you at north park, or are you taking CEOP? it would be great to connect sometime.
    ryan: thanks for the link, this interpretation of Genesis is also used in the ECC’s exegesis of texts supporting women in ministry.

    Posted by leahklug | April 21, 2008, 6:09 pm
  7. Welcome back to the blogsphere Leah. I confess I am out of the contribution end of the blogsphere, but read many, as I find it as comfortable as a very large opinion section of the newspaper. I want to get back into it though. And soon.

    Now: Confession time!

    Looking back around the 10-11 year ago mark, I suppose I was one of those whom you became tired of in your first conversations about women in ministry. And I, now, realize what an advocate for what I now believe, that women are and should be involved in ministry, and that they have historically played a more pivotal role than men at times through scripture and other parts of the past 20 centuries.

    So, I ask your forgiveness for being one of those who egged you on. But I also ask you to rejoice in what the Lord has created out of those interactions.

    You see, last summer I joined a ministry that REQUIRES both of a married couple to be in ministry. 10 years ago, I would have objected. But, then I thought about periods of time where I can play future house-husband 0-4 days a week if it is found out that my wife is much more needed and valuable to the ministry than I am during a period of time. Why not?

    There are times where I stand back and say “wow,” for my wife truly makes ministry a joy, and finds better ways to do things all the time. Laura is truly a great partner to have in the ministry that has been entrusted to us.

    So, like the rest, don’t give up. Don’t surrender. But don’t go on a holy crusade either. There is a balance, and I’m sure you have realized that.

    Let’s talk further. You’d be surprised how much can change a person in 10 years.

    Posted by Chris | April 21, 2008, 6:23 pm
  8. dang gal! 7 comments! You’re already starting to kick some serious ass…

    Posted by Wayne Park | April 21, 2008, 6:29 pm
  9. geez. next thing you know, you’ll really want to kick me out of my office and take my job.

    Posted by eugenecho | April 21, 2008, 7:04 pm
  10. Leah,
    I was so glad to see that you had started this blog. I can identify with being tired sometimes with the women in ministry conversation, or more particularly, women having an equal voice in the church (I am not a pastor). What I really wanted to say however, was that I appreciate your willingness to be visible on this topic as it is often so exhausting and frustrating. The first time I came to Quest you had newly come on staff as a pastor and you spoke about what the title Global Presence and Ministry Coordinator meant etc. I remember being so excited to hear the term “global presence” in church, but also to see that there was a woman in a leadership position talking about equality. Your visibility was one of main reasons I came back to Quest and yours and Eugene’s willingness to discuss gender inequality has impacted me greatly. Anyways, just wanted to say that I appreciate your voice. Thanks!

    Posted by Meghan Burt | April 21, 2008, 11:34 pm
  11. hey Leah,
    this is kind of a shout-out from the peanut gallery in many ways; i am neither a woman in ministry or a man in ministry but i am deeply interested in the conversation and i want to learn more. i can’t say how many of us laymen are out here (’cause i don’t know) but i want to encourage you to keep blogging – show us trolls (*grin*) what it’s like to be you and help us understand the issues here better.
    thanks for being so honest and forthright.
    -chad
    {troll ducks back under bridge}

    Posted by chad | April 22, 2008, 12:22 am
  12. Thanks for starting this. Being a women in ministry also, I always love hearing others stories as well. I totally resonate with how people assume you work with youth or lead worship. You forgot to mention the assumption that we are also children’s pastors. All of which are important, but I wish people would see that God hasn’t gifted me in those ways necessarily. Also, I am the one in seminary and my husband isn’t. Most people assume that he is the one in seminary and I am not. Anyways, I don’t think I have ever met you, but my husband grew up at Interbay and my in-laws attend Quest. It would be great to meet face to face sometime.
    Sarah

    Posted by Sarah Hammersborg | April 22, 2008, 2:22 am
  13. wow, it’s an encouragement to hear from so many folks on similar journeys, and so many who are supportive. It’s a great conversation to have, and I’m thankful for those of you who are willing to walk it together.

    Sarah: it would be great to meet sometime…I I’m a big fan of your in-laws! if you’re ever in the area, just shoot me an email and I’d love to have coffee.
    Chad: thanks so much for the encouragment. 🙂
    Meghan: thanks also for the kind words.
    Wayne: I’ll have to plagarize some of your comments…I’m so excited about what’s up in bellingham…I need to get up there soon.
    Eugene: I like my office better. 🙂
    Chris: Glad to hear that you and Laura are enjoying ministry! No worries about the college days, I don’t remember you being a discouragement. Blessings to you both as you do ministry together!

    Posted by leahklug | April 22, 2008, 6:19 pm
  14. Evening Leah…
    I live in the Gig Harbor area and I am attending George Fox Seminary in a new masters program in Missional Leadership. We’re on-line and face to face one week each semester (fall/spring). Three yr. cohort, done in 2010 and then maybe go on and do an Mdiv (or not) we’ll see. No CEOP yet… I plan on coming up to Seattle in a couple weeks — maybe I should come by for coffee at Q cafe? 🙂 Are you coming to Tacoma for annual mtg? My blog is: pathwayjourneys.wordpress.com … that would fill you in a bit (just did a 27 day “reflectional journey” for a class project… whew!

    Good conversations ahead!

    Posted by pathwayjourneys | April 23, 2008, 2:34 am
  15. Hi Leah. Chatted with Mark Taylor today – he came by to represent SU for our Seminary Fair. I mentioned you, and he pointed to your face on SU’s banner. Dude, I’m faculty and I’ve yet to make a SPU banner! Glad to hear that you’re graduating (I’m sure you’re glad as well), and to have the blessing of you ministering more at Quest.

    Posted by bolim | April 25, 2008, 5:43 am

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About Me

wife, partner, daughter, and sister. traveler on the journey of faith. rage against the machiner. sometimes pastor.

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