Gratitude for Faithful Saints and Thoughtful Conversations

3 comments Written on July 28th, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Rev. Rebecca Poor (Becky) is ordained to Word and Sacrament, has an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary, and is the Senior Pastor at Saranac Community Church, a small rural town in western Michigan. Becky is the Great Lakes Conference Liaison for Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women (ACCW) has a passion for sharing Christ’s love and hope with our hurting world!

The Evangelical Covenant Church affirms “…the biblical basis for service in the body of Christ is giftedness, call from God, and godly character-not gender “(*Called & Gifted, p. 2). As a woman who has been gifted and called by God, I’m truly thankful for the Covenant’s position on women in pastoral ministry! I don’t think I realized how important this affirmation was until January 2011, when I formally entered the call process.

Prior to that I had served as the Pastor to Youth and Families at Bethany Covenant Church in CT for 11 years. Feeling very affirmed in my calling there, and seeing a good balance of men and women in my seminary classes at North Park Theological Seminary, I admit I never really thought about the barriers that might exist as I sought a new calling. However, as I began interviewing for a lead pastor role, I began to understand that not all churches affirmed female pastors, even in the Covenant. In fact the church in which I now serve had previously questioned the role of women in lead pastoral roles (women had served on the Church Council and in supportive ministerial roles).

Knowing the rich faith heritage of our congregation, I understand their concerns were not due to closed-minds, but a strong commitment to God’s Word and will. They honestly wrestled with difficult texts which led them to question the Biblical role of women in pastoral leadership. Yet they decided not to dismiss the tough questions. Fully embracing their adopted ECC identity they chose to ask “where is it written?”

Interim Pastor Paul Bengtson, Associate Pastor Jeffrey Kahl and SCC’s Pastoral Search Team intentionally invited the congregation to enter into thoughtful conversations about women in ministry. They did this through many of the steps which Corrie listed in her blog last week: they invited female guest preachers, taught a Sunday School class using the *Called and Gifted curriculum, and preached sermons about the roles of both male and female leaders in the church.

When I candidated in July of 2011 I understood there was still some concern about calling a woman to a Senior Pastor position. However, the church discerned I was the person God was calling to serve their flock. My husband Ken and I also felt God’s affirmation, and I’m so glad we did! I love serving in this community and am truly thankful to God for this wonderful ministerial call! I daily rejoice in the privilege to walk and grow with this faithful, loving, mission-minded congregation! I feel truly blessed! Yet I do not take this blessing lightly.

Although many women are serving in ministerial roles in the Covenant Church, the position of “Senior Pastor” is still predominately male. I wonder how many Covenant churches choose to overlook called and gifted lead pastors because of their gender? While I deeply appreciate the Covenant’s stance on women in ministry, I believe this position in itself is not enough. There is also a need for many Covenant Churches to intentionally enter into thoughtful, Bible-based conversations about women in ministry. As we engage in such encounters together, you never know how Jesus might open someone’s heart and mind to present a broader vision of His Kingdom.

Recently some faithful saints at our church shared with me that they had never considered having a woman as a senior pastor, and had even voted against my call. However, they chose to stand behind the vote of the larger church. They are so glad they did! And as they’ve seen the Lord working through me and through us, they’ve changed their minds and now fully embrace our partnership in ministry! We have truly grown to love each other and to celebrate our God-given mission together!  Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow!

With Joy and Hope In Christ,

Pastor Becky Poor

Called & Gifted Study Materials can be found at the Covenant’s Website at here. These resources include an informational booklet, DVD, and facilitators guide for a 9 week study group. These materials help people explore where their own view of women in ministry came from, understand principles of interpreting scriptures and then carefully examine many relevant Biblical passages.

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3 comments “Gratitude for Faithful Saints and Thoughtful Conversations”

Becky – Thanks so much for sharing your journey and the journey of so many women who are serving and/or waiting on a call. More local churches should have opportunities to wrestle when scripture and their personal convictions are in tension and local churches should provide opportunities for congregations to experience the giftedness of women who serve and/or wait to serve as senior pastor. God bless you and the congregation you serve. Their faithfulness and affirmation has allowed God to demonstrate what anointing looks like on all that are called to lead as pastors irrespective of gender. Thanks for giving voice to your experience Becky.

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Becky’s post illustrates well the “catch-22” we are in as a denomination. People need to experience women in ministry to appreciate and accept it. But how does that happen for people who are poised to vote “against”? Hooray for people like Paul Bengston and Jeffrey Kahl who are brave enough to start the conversation. This also highlights the importance of “unexposed” churches bringing women in to preach and partnering in other ways with women leaders to give their people a chance to broaden their experience. 

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As part of the Commission on Biblical Gender Equality when these materials were commissioned and developed, it is gratifying to see that they are being used to such good effect. Echoing the comments above, I would encourage the Covenant to be a little more creative in finding ways to have Covenant churches experience women in the pulpit and as lead pastor in a low-risk way. One way would be to create a corp of women who are trained in intentional transitional ministry to serve in churches and who would absolutely not be in the running for the job! The “corp” might need some support in their interims between calls, but if we truly want to make our ministers look like the rest of the church, this is not an overwhelmingly expensive or difficult proposal.

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