plant century plant 1
Originally uploaded by LauraS.
According to Nature Songs, century plants bloom only once in their lifetime. The rest of their life is about waiting and growing.

In a mere 9 days I will be walking across the platform in Chase Gymnasium at Biola University receiving a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology. It has taken me 6 1/2 years to complete the 98 semester unit program (not bad for someone working fulltime). If I were a man, I would be preparing to seek ordination at my church. Frankly, if I were in another American Baptist church I would be seeking ordination. But I'm not a man and I'm not in another American Baptist church. I'm at TFB.

Oddly, my church's reluctance (refusal) to ordain me is not a major concern. It's not that I agree with this position. I don't. It's that I don't need to be ordained to do what God has called me to do. Of this I am thankful.

Of course the sad thing is that their reluctance is based upon a misunderstanding of ordination. They think this gives the 'pastor' special powers. Now, they and others holding their position, will deny this charge, but if you listen to the arguments they put forth, the assessment holds water. The sad thing is ordination has nothing to do with this. Ordination is the church saying they agree that God has called and equiped an individual for ministry to the whole church. No special powers. So, though such things are of interest to me and one day I may seek ordination, it is not my issue now.

A bigger issue for me is cultural compromise in how local congregations make decisions. The business model has infected our ministries, scripture has been set aside, and theology is considered useless to things like budgets and administration. Meetings are run by Robert's Rules of Order, with a bible no where in sight. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Now, things are changing at TFB--slowly--but there are many miles yet to cross and many detractors standing in the way. So, I must ask myself the same question Ann asked (regarding egalitarianism) over at Thru a glass darkly, Why do I stay? My answer is the same as hers: "for all its warts, my church is my home and God has not moved me anywhere else."

Like Ann, I have hopes for change. The changes are different, but related. I know that when we get back to relying on scripture as the only rule for faith and practice, honest exegetes will see that God calls and equips both men and women for ministry. I know that when we focus more on worshiping God that we will begin to see his priorities in expanding his kingdom. Our frankly petty issues will slip into obscurity. I know that there will come a time when the voices of the detractors are lost amidst the worship and work of a people following hard after God.

So, for now, I can wait.

After all, there is something to be said for persistence.



  1. Laura,
    You need to do what God is leading you to do, but I thought I'd share this:
    I took your tac (and Ann's, I read) almost 10 years ago now at a church where I served for 5 years doing work equivalent to an associate pastor...w/o the "title." After a while, it wasn't that I didn't get the title -you are right, a title means nothing in terms of whether it bestows more of the Spirit's gifting or equipping on you to do ministry - it was that it isn't right to withhold it. For me, it came down to realizing that I was enabling, not influencing, by playing their game. It wasn't like the Sr. Pastor was going to wake up one morning and say "Hey, Susan is gifted to do everything an assistant pastor does, and is doing those, we should ordain her! (this was in a denomination where an M.Div. is not a requirement for ordination, by the way) He just kept thinking "wow...wish I had more men in the church like Susan...."

    I'm not there any more. I didn't stomp away - God led me out. And led me to a denomination that freely affirms women in the call to any ministry for which the Spirit equips them. I don't feel like I'm compromising any longer or enabling the compromise of other women and the Spirit that dwells in them.

  2. If I felt the call to the pastorate, I would seek ordination for sure. But my calling is to train pastors and for that I need a Ph.D. (and for my discipline, a Master of Theology--next on the Talbot schedule). Even complementarian schools like Biola/Talbot respect the academic degree and Talbot is slowing hiring women professors (Biola even has a woman dean...scandalous).

    The other matter is a calling to teach collegians--which I already do. If the situation changes and I am removed because I am a woman, I will see that as the 'push' to a new church (though I feel one must also have a 'pull').

    A woman called to the pastorate should seek ordination, no question; for ordination is the congregation agreeing that God has called and equipped her. If her local church will not do that, then she must get with God and consider whether she has both the push from and the pull to a new congregation.

  3. Susan,
    The problem would be and is where to go. One of the sources of the problem is that the "Pope" of anti-egalitarianism, Johnny MacA, is local and has influenced evangelical thinking here. Laura's own school, Biola, has also had a similiar and perhaps stronger influence as well.
    What does this look like in the LA area? The mega-church up the hill from us belongs to YOUR DENOMINATION and they are worse than TFB at egalitarian practice - only male elders and "pastors". The mainlines may ordain women, but out here, the rest of their theology is quite liberal compared with other parts of the US.
    The only place where egalitarian leadership is widely practiced in SoCal is in the Charismatic/Pentecostal denominations, not somewhere where we'd feel at home. Even they have experienced some moving away from egalitarianism to complementarianism -Sister Aimee may have founded the Foursquares, but they seem to not like the idea of women pastors (unless the woman is married to one ala co-pastors).
    TFB does have sister churches within our denom that are light years ahead us of this, but the closest one is 30 miles away. Laura's correct about the lack of pull somewhere else.

  4. I guess there may come a time when the pull will be to plant a church (?)... who knows. It is a plausible option, but I'm not there (at least not yet)


  5. Ann,
    It is really sad to hear about that ECC church. Which one is it?

    Please dont misunderstand my comment as saying you guys need to move on...finding a good church at all is so difficult these days, and when you add egalitarianism into the mix, it makes it seem almost impossible. The important thing is to follow God's lead. HE will tell you not only if, but when, and where to go, if going is in order. When He led me away from the trad. church I was involved in, I couldn't have argued with Him! He made it that plain.

    I like that church-planting idea, Laura! :) I certainly enjoy what I'm doing these days, and work with a fabulous pastor who has done a ton of work to get me on the ordination track with the Covenant church. Getting that kind of support is a God thing in and of itself!


  6. The church planting thing has crossed my mind--especially as a woman in ministry with one foot in the conservative evangelical church and the other foot in the emerging church.

    But as you say, HE will say when.

  7. Susan,
    Nah, I didn't take your comment as saying that Laura and I needed to go elsewhere -it's just in any discussion about the "warts" of our present church, the reality of the world outside reminds us that our situation really isn't all that bad.
    I think one of the major differences is that Laura and I are both laypeople, not paid staff as you are. If you read my rant I posted about my job, you'll see I'm somewhat less tolerant of injustice in my career than in my church family. TFB has been my home for my entire 45 years of existence so I have a lot invested in it emotionally -Laura's been a member for 16 years (only). Still there are a lot of good things that outweigh the bad which is why this is not really a serious discussion about leaving.

    BTW, the church I was referring to is Rolling Hills CC.