Monday, November 15, 2010

And Your Daughters...

Although there is a shift in progress, in some places ministerial leadership is still an all boys club. I can recall my first semester at Drew. I heard the rumblings and grumblings from women whose ministerial gifts and graces were ignored, devalued, and outright rejected because they did not posses the correct genitalia that qualifies one for ministry. They were hurt. They were angry. They were silenced. They were confused. Most of these stories were voiced by women in historically and predominantly Black Baptist Churches—the very place where God has called me to serve. I must admit, I was frightened by these stories. I also must admit, I tried to make these stories my own. As much as their stories were true for them, their stories were not my story.

I am grateful to be under the leadership of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led man, the Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, Jr., who recognizes that God has called women and men to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His recognition goes beyond the surface. He is not simply pleasant to women preachers; He demonstrates his understanding of Scripture by nurturing and training both women and men in the ministry. He was the first Pastor in Bethesda's 122 year history to license women to preach, to ordain women to the Gospel ministry, and to ordain female deacons (not deaconesses). He has catechized a host of women from churches in the Metropolitan New York area as they prepared to be ordained into the Gospel ministry. I am the second woman clergy person to serve in the role of Assistant to the Pastor. Currently, our ministerial staff is equally balanced female and male. He invites gifted and powerful women into our pulpit to preach beyond Women's Day and Mission Sunday. Dr. Weaver understands that gender and genetalia do not make one more (or less) fit for ministry. He understands that it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, obedience to a call from God, being a student of the Word, and a love for God's church that makes one fit for ministry.

The prophet Joel uttered these words—from the mouth of God—to the people of Israel:

“ And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
(Joel 2:28-29 NKJV)

Lest we think these words are part of the old covenant, the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the people, used these words as fodder for his sermonic message. The Spirit of God can, does, and will use men, women, boys, and girls to proclaim what thus saith the Lord.

And your daughters...

I have had the pleasure, two weeks in a row, to witness an amazing move of God in ministry in predominantly Black Baptist churches. These events let me know that God is still on the throne, God is still moving, and that eventually people will catch God's vision...

Last Sunday we attended an ordination of deacons service at the Calvary Baptist Church in White Plains, NY. This was no ordinary ordination service. This was the first time in Calvary's 75 year history that they were ordaining women to the diaconate ministry. I felt chills as Dr. Weaver preached a word of challenge and blessing over the church and the women being ordained. I felt joy for the church and for those girls and boys who will grow in the church seeing women and men servings as leaders. I felt the Spirit as authority was conferred upon these four women.

Last night, after a marathon day at church, Pastor and I traveled down to St. John's Baptist Church in Harlem for an ordination service. The ordinand was a women that Pastor had catechized and prepared for ministry. She was also a women who went before council for examination the same night that I did. Although we were strangers on that night, as we waited for our turn before council, we affirmed each other, prayed with each other and encouraged each other in the Lord. She is now my sister and a co-laborer in the Gospel ministry. I was blessed to be counted in the number of those laying hands on her as God elevated her from Minister to Reverend. I was blessed to be able to extend to her the right hand of fellowship, welcoming her into this beautiful and strange vocation. If that wasn't enough, I found out in between the laying on of hands and extending the right hand of fellowship that she was the first woman ordained to the Gospel ministry in St. John's history. In that moment, I heard the shouts of that great cloud of witnesses—voices of those Daughters of Thunder—Jarena Lee, Amanda Berry Smith, Sojourner truth, Florence Spearing Randolph, Pauli Murray echoing in my heart.

One of the most poignant moments in the ordination service was during the charge to the ordinand delivered by Dr. Weaver. He charged the ordinand to be a preacher.
A preacher—nothing more and nothing less. He challenged her to be mindful of the nomenclature used to describe her ministry. He noted that when we mark ourselves—and are marked—as female preachers, we mark a distinction (which some might read as an inferiority). He called her attention—our attention—that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, bond nor free (Galatians 3:28). He reiterated the fact that it is her Spirit given gifts that will make room for her in ministry, not her gender. Although his charge was for this particular ordinand, I must admit that I kept his words and have been pondering them in my heart (Luke 2:19).

Amen and so be it.

image of Florence Spearing Randolph taken from

1 comment:

  1. Rev i loved the piece on And Your Daughters,keep on writting.