Women’s Issues

The Hap-Happiest Season?

Post a Comment » Written on December 4th, 2014     
Filed under: Updates, Women's Issues
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Wonderful Christmas-Note: This post was written by Pastor Kelly Johnston of Wakefield (Nebraska) Covenant Church and published in The Covenant Courier, her congregation’s newsletter. We’re sharing it here because it captures an important idea for all of us to remember as we enter the Christmas season: our struggles don’t up and disappear as we turn the page (or swipe the screen) on our calendar. Let us be people who remember to notice others, who are willing to have spiritual conversation, and who will listen faithfully without judging to those who feel hurt and pain this Christmas. [Disclosure: Pastor Kelly is the daughter of Meagan Gillan, Director of Women Ministries for the Covenant Church.]

Dear Church,
Here we go again! Christmas is coming, and it’s supposedly the most wonderful time of the year, right? It’s the hap-happiest season of all! Right? Unfortunately, for many of us, hanging Christmas decorations, selecting gifts for loved ones, and nibbling on Christmas cookies simply doesn’t take away the sadness that lingers in the heart.

In the glow of Christmas lights, we need to remember the darkness that many of our friends and neighbors are facing right now. Some are struggling with depression – something much deeper than a case of the blues, passing after a few days. For some, this is the first Christmas without a loved one, and the holiday will never be the same. For others, this is the first Christmas after losing everything during this summer’s tornadoes, and the holiday will look different in their new reality.

As Christians, we can’t ignore the pain and brokenness of our world, especially during this season. Otherwise, we will forget why God sent Jesus in the first place. He did not send Jesus so we would all get new pajamas at least once a year. He did not send Jesus so we’d all fatten up a bit during the cold months.

God sent Jesus to break the power of sin, so that we no longer live separated from God. God sent Jesus to break the power of death, so that we have hope beyond this fleeting life. God sent Jesus to do away with Satan and all his schemes, so that the world finally is ruled by the one true and perfect King.

This is the hope of Christmas – that the true, living Word of God became flesh. Coming to this sad little planet as a crying baby boy, God took up residence among us to do a new work in our world and in our lives.

I pray that this Christmas will be the opportunity for some of our friends and neighbors who have been walking in darkness to finally see the great light of Jesus Christ, who offers hope, joy, and peace. Remember that the world won’t know him unless we make him known in our words and actions. Just as God sent Jesus to rescue the world from sin, he is also sending us to be his ambassadors.

This Christmas, let’s walk in the light of Christ and share it with our world.

Pastor Kelly

Pastor Kelly, Silas, and Parker.

Pastor Kelly, Silas, and Parker.

Kelly Gillan Johnston hails from Tucson, Arizona and lives in Wakefield, Nebraska with her middle school teacher husband, Greg, and twin boys, Parker and Silas, who are pretty busy 15-month-olds. She loves being outdoors, enjoying a great cup of coffee, and doing anything creative that she can squeeze into her mostly-full days.

More on Why They Stay

Post a Comment » Written on October 2nd, 2014     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Women's Issues, Women's Ministry

by Kay Marshall Strom

With one vicious punch to his fiancée, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice pounded the issue of domestic violence into our national conscience. We recoiled at the video of him callously dragging her limp body out of the elevator. But when she recovered, she surprised us by speaking out in his defense. A month later, she married him. We shook our collective heads and asked: Why?

When Sarah Kaplan asked that question on Washington Post.com, thousands of abuse victims tweeted their answers: I have nowhere to go… My children need a man around… He says no one else will love me… I’m afraid he would find me and kill me… I have no money… God says I must stay.

Some years ago, an editor asked me to write a book on domestic violence from a Christian perspective. I thought, That will be easy: Chapter 1. If he hits you, leave. The End. Then I started getting phone calls from women who wanted to tell me their stories. I interviewed many who stayed, and later visited some of them in the hospital. I asked the same question Sarah Kaplan asked, and I got the same answers. Especially the one about obedience to God.

To want to live by biblical principles is admirable. The Bible teaches us to love God first, then our neighbors as ourselves. That what he requires of us is justice, mercy, and humbleness before him. That we are to treat others as we want to be treated. Jesus modeled compassion. And healing. And forgiveness. He taught that we are not to judge lest we be judged.

The problem comes when a person chooses specific verses and reads them without context or consideration of their setting. With such random application, it’s possible to make the Bible seem to condemn or condone almost anything. In the case of wife battering, a common defense is the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. But that isn’t all Paul has to say on the subject of submission. He also speaks to husbands: In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies… (Ephesians 5:28). Most important, he starts this section on submission by laying down an overlying parameter: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Yes, women are to submit to their husbands. But men are also to submit to their wives. Indeed, submission is required of every one of us: to God, to family, to church, to authorities, to country. True Christianity doesn’t consider women as less than men. Paul made that clear in his letter to the Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

All one! That’s pretty clear.

Unfortunately there are Christians who admonish victims of domestic violence to go back to their abusers. Who caution about siding with women against men who “must have had a good reason.” Who warn about questioning God’s ways.
Yet more and more, churches and other Christian organizations are actively speaking out against abuse. During October—Domestic Violence Awareness Month—many leaders will be preparing sermons on the topic, leading book discussions, facilitating awareness training, and presenting other special projects in which their congregations can be involved. For instance, my church—Valley Covenant—is affiliated with a denomination that sponsors Advocacy for Victims of Abuse. They offer training around the country, including in Cannon Beach.

So, what is the Christian response to domestic abuse? Simply this:

First: Violence is unacceptable. Totally and absolutely. It hurts the whole family, and it damages us as a nation.

Second: Victims must not be blamed for the abuse. They are to be protected and cared for, not punished.

Third: Women, like men, were made in the image of God. Both deserve respect. Both have the right to live safely and without fear.

And so do children. For history repeats itself. Abusive homes nurture the next generation of abusers. Domestic violence can never be justified as Christian teaching. But, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control most certainly are.

Kay Marshall Strom is the author of 42 published books, including In The Name of Submission. She attends Valley Covenant Church in Eugene.


AVA’s Suggestions for the NFL

Post a Comment » Written on September 9th, 2014     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Women's Issues, Women's Ministry

The AVA logo depicts a flaming candle shining brightly in the midst of the intertwined letters; the light of Jesus Christ who is the truth, brings healing to the abused.

by Yvonne DeVaughn, AVA Director for the Evangelical Covenant Church

AVA (Advocacy for Victims of Abuse) stands in solidarity against all manner of domestic violence in our communities. We believe that God created women and men in the image of God, equal in dignity, worth, rights, and authority, and sin has distorted God’s created order (Genesis 1:26-27; Galatians 3:28).

Domestic violence includes all forms of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, verbal, spiritual, and financial abuse, including what is often a pattern of battering, threats, intimidation, isolation, and economic coercion, used by one person to exert power and/or control over another person in the context of intimate, dating, family, or household relationships. The epidemic of domestic violence is found in all types of communities and family structures, and devastates young and old women, children and men.

Domestic violence is never excusable. The exposure to and results of violence are so prevalent that it has become commonplace and almost a norm in our public and private lives. The sad and disturbing unfolding details of Ray Rice, running back for the Ravens, and his incident of domestic violence against his wife, Janae Palmer Rice has again brought national attention to this issue that plagues every community, including all faith communities. The NFL’s decision to terminate Rice’s contract under it’s newly-formed “no tolerance” policy is a step in the right direction and more organizations should follow their lead.

Unfortunately, using the pretext that domestic violence is a private family matter continues to obscure the critical need to address this blight within our communities and congregations. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The NFL and other organizations can go a step further in their “no tolerance” by not only putting policies in place, but by educating and supporting those under their charge (including their immediate families) to discover ways to develop and celebrate living non-violently.

But it should not stop there; accountability should also come from their peers. And the faith community should be the forerunner offering resources rather than roadblocks to ensure that our communities are safe and healing.

To learn more about the Evangelical Covenant Church’s efforts to fight Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual Abuse, click here, or email wmc@covchurch.org.
If you are in an abusive situation currently and need help, the National Abuse Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Why Women Ministries?

15 comments Written on January 7th, 2013     
Filed under: Women's Issues, Women's Ministry

January 7, 2013

Women Ministries of the ECC

Do we really need gender-based ministry?

Why Women Ministries?

It is a good question. We should be asking it—and not just to justify our existence, but to discern how we create vision and move forward.

I’ve considered this question often since you called me to this role. And I’m sometimes asked: Why should we have gender-based ministry if women can now serve in all roles in the church? Why do we need to single women out? The Covenant doesn’t officially have men’s ministries. Why can’t we just do things together as a church? Do women really need their own stuff? Great questions.

Listening to many voices, I’ve learned:

*Women want to connect with other women with authenticity and candor in a   faith-based setting without being judged. Whether introverts or extroverts, women are connectors.

*We are better together than we are apart, especially when it comes to life-changing, world-impacting ministry. Our combined efforts to fight heinous, women-specific problems like trafficking and abuse have
impacted parts of Southeast Asia, India, and Northern California. And we can do more.

*Some things are best done through gender-specific community. Healing from childhood sexual abuse or domestic violence is often best facilitated with women only.

*Women’s life stages are unique. Yet regardless of our season of life, we have needs to talk, process, unburden ourselves or just put our confusion and pain out there for others to help us heal.

*For those who know and love God, there is often a desire to work the scriptures into our lives as women, processing it through our distinct, inherent challenges and without stereotyped gender-based ideals.

*Women long for formal and informal mentoring—help and encouragement without over-directiveness.  With the great cadre of seasoned woman disciples in many of our churches, we are primed to abet those walking a path that already bears our own footprints from years before. It’s about those life stages again.

So do you resonate with any of this? Does it make sense? Do you see it this way, or do you have a different perspective? In a future blog post, I’d like to continue this conversation. What do we need to do to empower younger women to step up and take leadership? How can we open pathways for authentic sharing?

Drop your comment in below, and stay tuned. We have a lot to do together.

Meagan Gillan

Mending the Soul Training is Here

Post a Comment » Written on April 2nd, 2012     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Events, Updates, Women's Issues

Mending the Soul

AVA and Mending the Soul–a partnership to serve the Church!

NEXT MENDING THE SOUL TRAINING: May 4-5, 2012 on the campus of North Park University, Chicago, Illinois. Registration info HERE.

Through a new partnership with Mending the Soul of Phoenix, Arizona, Women MinistriesAVA (Advocacy for Victims of Abuse) initiative now gears up to launch a vital healing component in addition to its existing education and awareness ministry. Continue Reading »

AVA—It’s International!

Post a Comment » Written on December 7th, 2011     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Women's Issues

Newly trained AVA Regional Coordinators in Bogota, Colombia

Something wonderful happened a few weeks ago.  A group of more than 50 Colombian women and men joined together in Bogota for three incredible days of learning about abuse.  Pastors, church leaders, and volunteers of every stripe, came with a willingness to become Regional Coordinators in Women Ministries’ dynamic and growing Advocacy for Victims of Abuse initiative.  Wow. It’s international now.

Seeking to equip and empower Colombians to engage with the issues of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse, the conference covered a wide range of topics.  The goal was to bring people together in dynamic and lively, experientially-oriented learning exercises that gave participants tools and materials to prevent, reduce and advocate for abused women, children, and men, and share resources with others in their churches, ministries, homes, and organizations. Continue Reading »

Hold Them in Your Heart

Post a Comment » Written on November 16th, 2011     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Women's Issues
AVA Advocate, Katy McGehee of Manteca, CA.

AVA Advocate Katy McGehee of the Stockton, California Covenant Church.

You are terrific intercessors, most of you, I know!

So when I ask you to pray, it’s a tremendous feeling, knowing you take the request seriously.

Last Saturday I went to Stockton, California to participate in the memorial service for AVA advocate Katy McGehee. People gathered, grieved, cried, hugged, sang, read scripture, and promised prayers. I promised prayers. I promised your prayers. Thanks for being the kind of intercessors on whom I knew I could lean.

I don’t really know how a family copes with the circumstances facing the McGehees. When one family member ends the life of another, the grief and pain are so raw, so unfathomable; the way forward is choked and clouded. But the McGehees must go forward with their lives, even though it’s the most difficult, impossible, unthinkable thing to do. Continue Reading »

AVA Advocate Becomes Victim

3 comments Written on November 2nd, 2011     
Filed under: AVA (Abuse), Updates, Women's Issues

AVA Advocate Katy McGehee (second from left) of Stockton, California, was commissioned on September 29 at the Mission Springs Women Ministries retreat.

What sadness we feel as we have learned of the tragic death of Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA) advocate Katy McGehee.

Katy was found dead in her Manteca, California home on Monday of this week; her son, Dawson McGehee was arrested in connection with her death several hours later. Katy’s husband, Thom, was in China on business and returned home on Tuesday.  Three other adult children, Justin, Colin and Katelyn, also survive their mother.  

A member of the Stockton (California) Covenant Church, Katy served many people using her gifts of compassion, listening and comfort.  She received AVA training from Pacific Southwest Conference Regional Coordinator Kathy Melton and became a local advocate in 2010. At the Women Ministries Mission Springs weekend retreat in September, Katy was formally commissioned as a local AVA advocate along with three other women, including her good friend, Susan White, also of Stockton Covenant.  Continue Reading »

Miss Representation and You

Post a Comment » Written on October 21st, 2011     
Filed under: Updates, Women's Issues
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For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
–Psalm 139:13-14

God's love for you is unchanging and immovable. Count on it!

You are so precious and so very special to God. His love for you is vast, overwhelming, unchanging and free. I hope you grasp fully the love of God for you, and I hope you are able to fully live into the truth that you do not need to sell yourself, sell out or buy in to the lies that are so readily promulgated by modern culture. You’re terrific, just the way you are, and you don’t need to adapt to fit someone’s idea of what you should be. Accept that; live in to it.

How can you help the young women and men in your life understand this? Continue Reading »