I see myself as a person in ministry with a congregation that is far wider than an individual local congregation. My congregation is fluid and ecumenical, sometimes international. I’m able to bring together my longstanding interests in books, leadership development, gender and racial justice, the church, and ecumenism. I can satisfy my academic interests without having to be part of the academy (that’s someone else’s call!). I also experience ministry with a layer of protection provided by human resources staff. If someone is inappropriate with me or unnecessarily interferes with my work, I have a place to go that abides by U.S. employment law. This isn’t a privilege people who work in congregational ministry often have.
Unity in Difference
I was nervous about the ordination process, but I had a surprisingly good experience. The reason is because the committee saw itself not as a gatekeeper, but as a partner in discernment. Instead of grilling me on my beliefs, they had conversations with me about my call. And while God hasn’t called me to parish ministry right now, he’s called me to important work. (Plus, my calling could always change.) I learned from the committee—and from many colleagues with whom I differ theologically—that we don’t have to police each other by doctrine, although such matters are important. We don’t have to invalidate forms of ministry that are different than our own. Rather, we can respect each other and our callings. The best manifestation of the church is one that is flexible and ample enough to create space for all the ministries to which we are called.
Welcoming more women leaders in the church is not about ensuring every woman will be a senior pastor, but that women are not de facto restricted from positions to which they are called and qualified. It’s about making space for women to serve as themselves in ministry—created, beloved, and called by God. And that’s worth working toward.
Laura Cheifetz is Vice President of Church & Public Relations at Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.