Give us a chance
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy … (Acts 2:17a, NLT)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … (Acts 2:17a, KJV)
One of the definitions of prophesy is “to speak as a mediator between God and humankind, or in God’s stead” (dictionary.com). One of the definitions of prophecy is “a divinely inspired utterance or revelation” (dictionary.com). It is our understanding that the word prophesy means to bring a message from God for the people of God. A modern-day understanding of the word would be what people do every Sunday when they step into a pulpit to share scripture and bring a word from the Lord for that congregation for that day.
As we begin this article, we want to thank Rev. Ben Gosden for his recent column in The Advocate. If you haven’t read Ben’s words, please do so. In his article, he referred to a video, created by the North Carolina Annual Conference, that highlights the difficulties faced by women in ministry.
As women who currently serve on the Cabinet of the South Georgia Conference, we wanted to take a few minutes to consider the message in the video and a question posed by Ben.
Watching the video is enough to cause some people to gasp. “What? No! Folks don’t really say things like that, do they?” The answer is yes. Yes, they do. We have had many of these comments made to us and we could add to the list of comments in the video, as we’re sure any other female in ministry across our conference could do also. As district superintendents, we have had people on Staff-Parish Relations Committees (SPRC) tell us that they don't want a female preacher. As pastors, we have had inappropriate comments made to us and about us to others. We have had people leave the churches to which we were appointed and not return until a male preacher was appointed. In and through all of this, we continue to hear God calling us to be and remain in ministry.
In Ben’s article he asked: “What could we all do, together, to ensure that ALL persons called to ministry – whether ordained or through lay leadership – be recognized for their gifts and celebrated to lead where God calls them through their baptism?”
Ben, you asked a question. We, as clergy women, would like to suggest an answer which we believe all clergy women would echo. Our answer is “Give us a chance.”
Trust that women (and men) who have struggled with hearing and responding to God’s call are walking in faith and believe that, because God has called us, God will equip us. Give us a chance to demonstrate that we can prayerfully discern God’s message for you and the congregation for this day and time and then deliver that message from the pulpit. Give us a chance to demonstrate the presence of God as we walk with you through difficult times. Give us a chance to sit with you when you’re grieving. Give us a chance to laugh with you and celebrate with you the joy-filled occasions that take place in congregations and communities. Give us a chance to show God’s presence in our lives as God uses our gifts and graces to meet the needs of the congregations and communities. Give us a chance to be in ministry with you. And to our male colleagues, we make the same request. Give us a chance to serve God and the church alongside you as, together, we offer Christ to the world. We have much to offer each other as we serve God together.
That’s all we ask. Give us a chance. We are thankful to those who have done that. With God’s help, may we strive to give all who are called by God to ministry a chance to live out God’s will in the ministry to which each is called.
Rev. Paula Lewis, Superintendent of the South Central District
Rev. Doreen Smalls, Superintendent of the Southwest District
Dr. Nita Crump, Director of Connectional Ministries/Conference Secretary