Honoring Women Answering God’s Call
During the summer of 1980, after ordination as a deacon in the Western North Carolina Conference, I became a co-coordinator of The Divinity School’s Women’s Center. It was a heady time for me as I accepted God’s call to pastoral ministry.
The fullness of the time further expanded when word came that Marjorie Matthews had been elected a bishop in the UMC, the first woman in post-Reformation times to be consecrated bishop in a major Protestant denomination.
||Divinity students from the 1970s
When we received this incredible news, co-coordinator Karen Chakoian and I jumped up and down with joy. This was incredible-a wonderful act of God breaking into history.
Karen and I talked to Dennis Campbell, who was then director of continuing education. Together we organized a continuing education event called ”Faithful Preaching to the Eighties” with Bishop Matthews as the keynote lecturer/preacher. Our theme reflected Bishop Matthews’ love of preaching at the same time that it celebrated women preachers as a new reality for the church. As I recall, all of the guest lecturers/preachers were women.
During that same school year, Karen and I worked with other students and faculty to assemble a ”hymnal” featuring inclusive language for York Chapel worship. There was some hostility from a male faculty member, and, in its final format, the hymnal was not particularly well done. But we felt it was an accomplishment simply to finish it. The gender exclusive language had been quite painful for us.
For me, the Women’s Center was a safe place, a place that honored who I was as a woman answering God’s call. I have always been thankful to have been a co-coordinator.
Seeking Theological Excellence
For at least six years, my serious reading has been guided by The Divinity School. The Spring '06 Divinity is excellent as expected, and the first articles I read were Bob Wells’ “Resurrecting Excellence” and Jonathan Goldstein’s ”A Third Way.”
I learned that Mr. Freeman, who was Episcopalian, is now Baptist. Once a Baptist, I am now Episcopalian. John Henry, Cardinal Newman, who was Anglican, then at the midpoint of his life Catholic, reminds us: “Lead, Kindly Light, we all seek.”
So it would be well for us to join the Jewish prayer of thanking God for a gifted teacher, on the page or in the pulpit, who shows us how to read and see and move forward in our search and journey.
Theological excellence would certainly be, as listed in “Resurrecting Excellence,” the
first point of pastoral excellence. I have read 50, maybe hundreds, of Christian books that don’t get beneath the surface of the given subject. Yet, Dr. Ellen Davis, in her introduction to Getting Involved with God, writes that parishioners are “eager to engage the biggest and most difficult questions of biblical theology.”
Dr. Davis pushes the envelope of traditional theology, acknowledging that “after all, God is not an easy catch (77).”
In my opinion, theological excellence calls for guidance, understanding and the healing of the pastoral scene, both for pastor and parishioner. Then with Cardinal Newman we can thank God that daily He gives us “something new to know and something new to love.”