When I was a seminary student in 1987, I had a great female professor. She was a terrific communicator and skilled at equipping future pastors. However, the seminary I attended was affiliated with a denomination that did not ordain women for pastoral positions. It seemed incongruent to me that a woman could train pastors but not, herself, be ordained.
Because I worked for the school, I had access to the Dean and the President. It seemed like a good question to ask him. His short explanation was heartbreaking: The seminary is different than a church. In a church, people would stop giving to the denomination if women were ordained.
At that time, I didn’t feel I had the theological chops to enter the debate.
Still, my unresolved feelings towards this inconsistency gnawed at me. Strong women throughout my life have helped to shape my faith. My grandmother, mother and Sunday school teachers were formative for that journey. My wife has been and continues to be a strong influence on me as she lovingly speaks truth into my life. My daughter has challenged me to become more vocal about my views on women in ministry. Suzie Lind, a pastor at Journey Church, has encouraged me to write and speak about my personal experience with this topic.
As a pastor I have pushed against the limits placed on women. Skilled teachers are hard to find. Shouldn’t the issue be whether someone can teach, not their gender? Likewise, pastoring people is a question of giftedness and care while being able to empathize and speak into a person’s need. Gender isn’t necessarily a factor in that.
In 30 years, I have read a lot on this subject and sought to understand the valid points on both sides of the debate. To me, the idea of women in ministry seems something that Christ followers might disagree about but still maintain fellowship. It does not fall into the category of an essential belief.
And yet, over the years I have found people on both sides to be deeply entrenched. At times they have allowed the debate to turn into an unfortunate cause of disunity.
To be continued….