Full Mission – Women In Leadership

1 Comment » Written on April 27th, 2013     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Submitted by
Gary Walter, President
Evangelical Covenant Church

In the Covenant at our most elemental we are simply people of the Book who have joined together to do mission. So for us, these two questions are always paramount: What does the Bible say? And what does the mission need? These two questions are relevant to the work of the Biblical Gender Equality Commission.

bibleAs to what the Bible says,  as we read the entirety of Scripture, we are convinced the Bible normatively affirms women in leadership  throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Anna, Rachel, Hannah, Abigail, Ruth, Tabitha, Lydia, Priscilla…the list of stories recounting women in leadership in Scripture goes on. Of particular interest to me is Romans 16, written by the Apostle Paul. He lists 27 people of importance and influence, 7 of them women. There appears to be no distinction in leadership roles based on gender, listing both for the same positions, notably Phoebe as a deacon and Junia as an apostle.

As to what the mission needs, in my position I have the opportunity to see the difference women are making every week as senior pastors; church planters; staff ministers; missionaries; military, hospital, and institutional chaplains; faculty; camping staff;  leaders at conference and denominational offices; and positions in parachurch settings.  Our mission and ministry would be irretrievably impaired were we not affirming all the gifts of the entire body of Christ. For me, it’s simply this – if the Covenant wants to reach its full missional potential, then our members need to be able to reach their full missional potential.

woman preachingThe Covenant is seeing an acceleration of women serving in vocational ministry. Since 2000 we have gone from 76 credentialed women to 445, now one-quarter of our active ministerium.

With a slant towards laity, two Covenanters have recently published insightful materials around the enduring importance of the contribution of women.  Jenny Rae Armstrong is from a small town in Wisconsin. She warmly remembers her Grandma Irmadel starting and running the youth group as a volunteer leader in her rural Covenant congregation.

Armstrong wrote an article in Relevant Magazine looking at the trend that while women still attend church in greater percentages than men, women are actually dropping out of the church at a faster rate, and female volunteerism has plunged by over 30% in the past 20 years (source: Barna Research Group). She rightly says, “That a growing number of committed Christian women are fading quietly into the pews, then out the back door, should concern us.”

pew womanTo be sure, there are intersecting aspects to that trend (for example, an increase in the number of dual income families results in less available time to participate and volunteer). However, one factor of growing disenchantment is a gap in volunteer responsibility commensurate to the expertise women bring to the church.  In other words, talents go untapped or under-challenged.  And so best energies go to the work place where competence is more easily identified.

Armstrong’s challenge to churches is to do a better job of getting to know the particular competencies of all members, especially women, better pairing giftedness, education, and ability with substantive avenues of service rather than defaulting to filling the need of the moment with a willing volunteer.

Misional MomHelen Lee’s bestselling book, Missional Moms (Moody Publishers), deepens the premise. Lee attends a Covenant church in the Chicago area.  Christian moms come from a full range of personal and professional context, whether they are homemakers, full-time in the marketplace, or somewhere in between. As the introduction states, Helen’s book “affirms Christian mothers who desire to not only  build their homes in a Christ-like way, but engage the world with their skills, abilities, and interests.”

familyHelen underscores that being a mom does not subsume one’s principal identity as that of a disciple and ambassador of Christ. Motherhood is integrated into that identity, not substituted for it.  Nurturing that perspective doesn’t minimize the importance of a woman’s role with her family but it will serve as a prompt to not ignore the stirrings God has planted within her to extend her influence. Its subtitle is its message: “living on purpose in the home and the world”.

Not a bad word for missional moms. Or missional dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws, grandparents, cousins. Make that for the whole family of God.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

One Response to “Full Mission – Women In Leadership”

Thank you Gary for allowing the church to 
hear your words affirming women at all levels 
of leadership. May God continue to establish the 
work of Biblical Gender Equality. 

Report This Comment

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog