This is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.
The past week of my life was filled pretty heavily with church stuff. First, my church hosted our denominational meeting for those churches in our church family that are in cities. They talked about new developments in my seminary program, gave updates on the health of current church plants, adopted the 2014 budget, and ordained and commissioned new pastors to serve in churches across the country. It was a day and half filled with theology jokes, family talks, overdue introductions, and post-meeting sessions of cocktails and cigars on the front steps of the church.
Second, as I mentioned last week, my church spent yesterday celebrating it’s maturation from a “church plant” (a church that still relies on other churches for most of its support and leadership) to a full-blown self-sustaining, self-leading church. My parents came in town, the music was loud, the sermon was great, and we had a large block party after the service with a moon bounce, chili cook-off, and homebrew contest (the bourbon barrel stout won, by the way. It was called “The Nord’s Wrath”).
It was great, and it will be a block of days I will not soon forget.
But it was also important for another reason. At the denominational meeting, they approved an already-ordained female pastor into one of the main ministry roles at a church in San Francisco. We also heard updates from many pastors about their particular churches, a couple of whom were women.
(Let me interrupt here to briefly mention one of these churches, which has been on my heart since the meeting. Church of Grace in Southern California, planted and pastored by Rev. Deb Yurk, sounds like an incredible congregation in need of prayer. 10% of their people have severe mental and physical handicaps, 80% of their congregants are unemployed, and over half of the congregation is street homeless. As she said at our meeting, this is not the demographic most people would go after, but this is the church God has gathered, and she wants to lead them well. Please pray for them if you get the chance.)
And yesterday, I proudly received ordination as a Deacon while standing in front of my church and next to an incredible woman who was being ordained as an elder.
I’ve talked a pretty consistent game over the past couple of years about my acceptance and promotion of women functioning in all levels of church leadership. And yet, though I was in a denomination and church that also felt this way, I had not yet been able to witness and participate in this event I believed in so strongly. I had been powerfully ministered to by female pastors at other churches, but I had yet to receive it at my own.
But, this past week, I got to experience something I never saw growing up: women being ordained into the service of God’s mission and Kingdom at the highest places of church leadership. After spending years in congregations so vehemently opposed to this; after being a staunch defender of exclusively-male leadership in churches, I finally got to see the realization of one of the biggest shifts God had given me in my religious life.
And it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
No one batted an eye at any of this. No one thought it was “neat” or a “novelty”. No one said a word about it. These women were simply seen as “fellow laborers” in the Gospel. It was just entirely normal and uneventful and no different than any of the other millions of ordinations that happen every year around the world.
They were neither on a pedestal as some rare and exalted species–a badge of “how cool and progressive we are”–nor were they subtly treated as somehow “other” than the men. They were seen as the same as all of us: beautiful and broken Image-bearers of God, called to do the impossible task of serving God’s people and mediating his authority to them, while still being in need of his immeasurable grace and infinite Spirit.
And it was in this statement–more than any gender-based proclamation–that God’s truest and deepest Presence was shown to be at work. Would that all our churches had the blessing of female leaders being–frankly–a non-issue.
O God, make speed to save us; O lord, make haste to help us.
[image: no, that’s not my church. I just like the picture.]