Long before Tish Harrison Warren entered the Anglican priesthood, she suspected that serving the church would be her calling. By her own admission, she was a “super churchy, super ‘good’ kid” growing up—the kind of person who, in the Baptist circles she ran in, seemed destined to be a missionary or a pastor’s wife.
What she didn’t expect was how challenging grace can be. As she recalls, “The first part of me discovering the gospel was figuring out I was a lot worse than I thought I was. Even though I was a ‘good church kid,’ there were dark parts of my heart—and still are—that run from God and want nothing to do with him….That’s what the cross was about.”
That realization transformed her, as well as her ministry. Now balancing her work as a wife, a mother, the co-associate rector (with her husband, Jonathan) at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, and the author of Liturgy of the Ordinary, Warren is refreshingly open about her neediness. “I am weak,” she says, “and this is such a big call. You have to live your life as a mother—and as a mother in the church—completely dependent on Jesus for grace and mercy that is above and beyond you.”
For today’s episode of The Calling, CT managing editor Richard Clark sat down with Warren—the author of the kickoff piece to CT Women’s much-talked-about #AmplifyWomen series—to learn more about growing up as a youth group poster child, her conversion to Anglicanism, and the surprising path that led her to the priesthood.
On discovering the gospel after growing up churched: “My understanding of the Christian life was that it was about becoming a better and better Christian, and that Jesus was an important and necessary rung in that ladder. Then I had this massive transformation where I saw that it was just the gospel all the way down. It’s just grace all the way down.”
On becoming Anglican: “We completely fell in love with liturgy. It was just over. We just couldn’t go to another church where they didn’t do the Sanctus.”
On her ordination: “I was a little naïve about how much this conversation [about women’s ordination] would come up. I was like this kid who loved soccer and played on my girls’ team, and then all of a sudden I found a coed team. I happily went out to the field to play soccer—and I got creamed. And I was like, ‘Oh no! It’s rugby!’”
On trusting one’s calling: “A calling is sturdy. I don’t have to protect it. I don’t need to be afraid of not getting every step right. Obviously, we need to be faithful to what’s revealed in Scripture, but we need to trust the Holy Spirit. If a calling is from God, it’s not up to us to make it happen.”
Warren has previously written for Christianity Today about women’s ordination, gender roles, ministry leadership, and the rural poor. Her popular CT essay, “The Wrong Kind of Christian,” described what it was like when evangelical groups like InterVarsity were kicked off campus at Vanderbilt University.