Thinking is Good

2 comments Written on August 9th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Brian Wiele is Lead Pastor at River Ridge Covenant Church in Olympia, Washington, and serves as Chair of the Commission for Biblical Gender Equality for the Evangelical Covenant Church, which exists to equip the church to articulate the truth about Biblical equality regarding gender; and to advocate for women in ministry and leadership in all possible venues within the church. 

Last week I had the honor of joining eight-hundred-fifty women for Triennial, the outstanding conference for ECC Women Ministries. As one of the two dozen or so men attending, my presence created a light-hearted cognitive dissonance, like seeing a giraffe standing among a group of swans. At six foot three, towering over the fifteen women in the hotel elevator, I was once again politely asked the question: “What brings you to Triennial?”

Thinking is good. It’s natural and healthy to attempt to resolve conflicting thoughts in one’s mind. “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” What’s up with that?

My official reason for attending was to co-lead with Pastor Abby Jones a workshop on the Develop a Deborah initiative. (You can learn more here). A small (two dozen) but lively and responsive group of women attended. The low turnout can partly be attributed to the fact that our seminar was added to the slate of workshops after many people had already registered. Realistically however, the topic of women in ministry is not necessarily the primary thought on the minds of many people.

Because of my role serving on the Commission on Biblical Gender Equality I was also invited to attend a breakfast for women clergy, at which the fortieth anniversary of the ordination of women in the ECC was celebrated. Near the end of the meeting, I was given the opportunity to briefly share about our commission’s hope for Develop a Deborah – that many local congregations would identify and encourage girls and women who have leadership gifts.

I told them that I could trace back my role on the commission and even my participation at Triennial back to cognitive dissonance, specifically the effect one woman had on the collective mind of our congregation. In 2007-8, Kirsten Kronberg Burdick was the first woman to serve our congregation for a year as a North Park Seminary pastoral intern.

No one could deny that the Holy Spirit was powerfully present and active in her ministry among us, especially as the year progressed. This had an unshakeable impact upon those in our fellowship who were not comfortable with the idea of women in ministry. Kirsten’s presence and pastoral gifts caused people to attempt to resolve the conflict in their minds – God was blessing them and speaking to them, but it was through a woman. Hmmm, what does that mean?

Thinking is good, but it’s not always comfortable or easy, which is why it’s often avoided or discouraged. An ordered and predictable life is much preferred; uncertainty can just make us grouchy. When someone rearranges the cupboards at home or the aisles at our favorite store, it causes an existential vertigo. If my long-held convictions are shown to be suspect, that means I might also have to examine other areas of my theology, so I’d rather not think about it.

Jesus made people think, which sometimes also made people mad. Parables without a moral application – what does it mean? Why is he talking to that woman? God desires to stir up the placid waters of our minds: When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you. (Psalm 50:21 NIV).

The Commission on Biblical Gender Equality is attempting to distill the Develop a Deborah initiative into one simple question: who is the girl or woman in your ministry context who follows hard after God? Whose obvious giftedness will subsequently stir up a healthy debate in the minds of those who like to keep God in a neat little box?

Yes, thinking is good. But may we never settle for thoughts that limit God or that lull us into a comfortable slumber. The people of your congregation may not want to think about women in ministry, but it’s vitally important that their minds be engaged on the subject. Our apathy can have the effect of stifling or discouraging that one person from living into the call of God on her life. I can’t imagine God would be pleased with that kind of thinking.

For the sake of the Kingdom, Develop that Deborah among you.

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2 comments “Thinking is Good”

So thankful for your leadership and advocacy, Brian!

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Thanks for your work, Brian!!! And thanks for your presence at Triennial. It is a beautiful thing to know that we have brothers in faith who are stirring things up in the name of Jesus for the Kingdom to be more fully realized! 

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