“Appropriate” Reality

6 comments Written on October 15th, 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) and has a passion for sharing Christ’s love and hope with our hurting world!

When I graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in May of 2011 the keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Isolde Anderson, reflected upon her graduation from NPTS in the 1980’s. At that time there were only a few female graduates, and they were worried that a motion might be passed in the ECC to rescind the ordination of women. Rev. Dr. Anderson expressed how difficult it was to receive an initial call into pastoral ministry because very few churches were willing to consider a female candidate, and those who were open to this had very limited resources. Rev. Anderson’s first church was so small (only 25 people) that they couldn’t afford to fly her out for an interview.

The Covenant Church has come a long way in 30 years! The Covenant has made a strong commitment to affirming and supporting God’s call to women in ministry. In our class of 2011 half of the North Park Theological Seminary graduates were women! It’s exciting to see an increasing number of women entering seminary, pastoring churches, and serving in leadership positions in the denomination as well! However, we still have a way to go before there is a more balanced representation of women in ministry in the ECC; particularly in senior pastoral roles in larger churches. It’s interesting to note that while 23 of the 46 graduates in my class were women, the distribution of male/female balance was less equal in specific degree areas: 7 of the 10 MACF graduates were women, while only 13 of 34 of the MDiv graduates were women. Why this difference?

I believe part of the issue is that while the Covenant Denomination openly affirms women in all areas of ministry, the reality is that some people (and congregations) still view certain positions as more “appropriate” from men (i.e. Senior Pastor) and others as more “appropriate” for women (i.e. Children’s Ministry). I’ve heard people say, “It’s alright to have a female Youth Pastor, or Associate Pastor, or even an Interim Senior Pastor, but we can’t have our permanent Senior Pastor be a woman.” Why not?  If our denomination affirms that women are gifted and called for pastoral ministry, why not seek to call the “pastor” who best fits a church, despite their gender?

One of my hopes is that more Covenant churches will remove ‘gender’ as a ministerial qualifier (both spoken & unspoken), and will instead seek to call pastors because of their gifts for ministry, their fit with a church, and most importantly the leading of the Holy Spirit. As this qualifier is removed, and gifted men and women serve together, might all people be encouraged to faithfully seek and follow God’s call!

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6 comments ““Appropriate” Reality”

Thanks Becky – I am finding in the era of being politically correct that rarely will people articulate they hold this view publicly anymore but once you check the fruit of their conference, their church or the ministries they lead, it becomes so very apparent where their hearts truly lie. We seek to help others envision a day when hearts are changed and everyone will see women pastors and women leaders as God sees them. What will it take for men to challenge other men on this issue. What will it take for women to challenge other women? What will it take for women and men to stand in solidarity and challenge those who reject what God has given to us? We need to pray for hearts to change and for repentance to be evident so wounds can begin to heal. We must repent in our rejection of those God has chosen to lead in various areas of the kingdom. We must be willing to allow the Holy Spirit movement among us to be a peculiar people, radically challenged and changed to be more like Jesus. Thanks Becky for sharing your heart … and the experiences of far too many clergy women and women who are called to lead in kingdom work in the Covenant.

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Could you provide me with some Biblical references for male-female equality in the Bible? I am having an argument with my father. He says that women ought to be submissive to men and that men ought to be dominant in every aspect of life. He does not think that men should be stay at home dads. I think that men and women should be equal in society and I feel like God would not create half of the population of the world to be kept subordinate to the other half. Am I right? Is there Biblical evidence to back me up? 
Thank you,

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Hi Shelby — I’m encouraged by your asking for assistance, and for trying to seek answers from God’s word for your life issues. I’m assuming you’re in a Covenant church, and if so, your pastor should be able to help you always. But let me join in the discussion. The first and possibly the most powerful answer for you would be from the creation accounts in Genesis.  In Genesis 1 we are told that both men and women are created in God’s image, and that we are both have God-given responsibilities in our world. It’s only as a result of the fall that we read that men would dominate women, but that’s certainly not what God has prescribed as the way we would want men and women of God to operate in life.  
How we should relate to each other was well-modeled for us by Jesus and lived out in the early church.  Patriarchal dominance is a grasping and clutching for power, but Jesus never encouraged us to act that way. Blessings on you as you seek Godly wisdom and hopefully as your father will begin to do the same. Brian Wiele, 

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Shelby – I would like to encourage you to look back into earlier posts on this blog site. There are a number of book reviews and you may find them of interest as you seek biblical direction. Also, if you click on the picture of books to the left of this CBGE home page called Covenant Resources, you will be linked to a number of books and articles that may help. Let us know if you have any trouble finding these resources.

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Shelby- I also appreciate your questions and your desire to seek God’s truth in the complex matter of gender equality.  I echo Brian’s comments about the need to look at the broad scope of God’s story. There are some difficult texts, which when read alone, can lead people to believe that God affirms male dominance and the submission of women. One of these is Ephesians 5: 22 which says “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” However, when this text is read in a larger context we begin to see a broader picture of God’s love which does not affirm one gender’s dominance, but calls both men and women to share Christ’s humble compassionate love with each other. Right after this verse, Eph. 5: 25 says ” Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” And just prior to this we hear, “Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ” The Apostle Paul asserts the need for reciprocal love and submission in relationships with comes from on our mutual love for and obedience to God. Such submission does not involve controlling one another but devoting ourselves to loving each other like Jesus loves us! 

As Brien said, Jesus never affirmed patriarchal dominance, instead Jesus lovingly welcomed women and children time and time again! Jesus never sought to control or push down women or children, or men. In fact Jesus humbled himself and bowed down, so that we might be lifted up.  As Jesus laid down his life for us so we are to lay down our lives for another with Christ’s compassionate love.

As Jeff said I to encourage you to look back at earlier posts on this blog site which may be helpful as you continue to wrestle with these important questions. May God bless and encourage you, your father, and others as you seek God’s truth, grace and hope together.
With Hope In Christ>!

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Hi Shelby –

Here is a video link that was produced by Women Ministries for women who were discerning call and it really touches on the tough scriptures that you too may find helpful as you continue to understand what the Bible says about women in ministry. It is a discussion between two of our most respected professors from North Park Theological Seminary. Here’s the link: http://covchurch.tv/exploringcall/

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