Living Into Our Convictions

2 comments Written on May 4th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

imageAs most of you already know, I am very committed to biblical gender equality. I am an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, was the senior pastor of a church, wrote a dissertation on how churches form identity in young women, and consider myself a pretty serious feminist. In the last 9 months, though, all of that has been put to the test. What has challenged all of my beliefs and made me question my own commitments? Church shopping… Yes, church shopping.

Last July I moved to Moon, Pennsylvania, a city just west of Pittsburgh, a city with no Covenant churches. Yes, there are Covenant churches in Pittsburgh, but with a toddler the 45 minute Sunday morning commute into Declan’s naptime (as well as the minimum 60 minute weekday evening commute) just isn’t possible. I’d really like to find something that is closer to home, something we can eventually be involved in during the week as well as on Sundays. So, I began church shopping.

I have met some lovely people. Heard some decent sermons. Enjoyed some great worship. Of course, I’ve also been ignored, struggled with a squirming toddler through a service with no childcare, heard some terrible music, and been shocked by how quickly you can realize you don’t fit theologically with a congregation. Mostly, though, I’ve been challenged to figure out what my non-negotiables are. I’ve been challenged to think of church through the eyes of my son. I’ve had to decide what is most important to me as I consider what I want my son to understand about God and about women pastors.

Do I choose a congregation that has great worship, a strong children’s ministry, but does not believe in women in ministry? Is a church with a woman pastor enough? Even if they have no children’s programs? What if they say they are supportive of women, but always use male language for human beings? No gender neutral language of any kind. What if they use gender neutral language for human beings but never for God? What if they do use gender inclusive language, support women pastors, but don’t affirm scripture the same way that I do? Or what if I just don’t like the worship? What if I don’t feel like I am getting anything out of the sermons even though they are preached by a woman pastor with a theology that I agree with?

How important is this to me? I know many people who choose to go to churches that don’t affirm women pastors because they like the preaching and worship. I wish I could take that route, but I can’t. I can’t because I am a woman pastor. I can’t because I don’t want my son to grow up thinking that women can’t be pastors. I can’t because I think it really matters that we understand a God who is neither male nor female… or both… or beyond. I can’t because I don’t want anything to get in the way of my child knowing that both men and women are created in the image of God and bear that image to the world in the same way.

I am frustrated sometimes that others are allowed to compromise on this issue in ways that I can’t. Even jealous some days. I wish I didn’t care. I wish it didn’t make me so angry sometimes. I wish… dare I say I wish I was never called to be a woman pastor? No. I don’t wish that. But it sure would make life easier at times.

And so I will keep looking. Asking God to give me a sign when I have found the right place, the right place for me and the right place for my son. May God give me the willingness to compromise on the things that are matters of preference and the strength to hold to the things that are central to my faith.

And may God give each of you the courage to do the same. May you be willing to look beyond the music and preaching to the image of God… and of humanity that is being conveyed. May you have the courage to fight for good theology in your churches. And may you raise sons and daughters who never question God’s equal creation and call of women and men into this world and into ministry.

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2 comments “Living Into Our Convictions”

I am glad for your voice, and felt comforted in your process of finding a church home.  I feel less alone as my family has detailed complicated church longings too.  I get the not budging on things that are core and wishing it were simpler.  I will keep you and your search in my prayers and wish you Godspeed in finding a place to camp for now.  Peace of Christ to you in the journey and thank you for sorting through all of your thoughts.  It matters and you matter.

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Jo Ann – I remember how difficult it was to find a faith community where I didn’t have to compromise the beauty offered to us through being a member of an inclusive, diverse and gifted church home. I also remember walking with my daughter through her college years when she also struggled to find a church home in New York. What a sad witness to Christ this is, to have so many poor examples of hospitality and welcome. I will pray God directs you to a place where the witness and testimony for Christ’s love, ministry and justice are lived out and are a part of the DNA of the members and the corporate body who all call their church home. Catherine

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