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Naomi Walters, Stamford Church of Christ

An Uncommon Journey: Naomi Walters at Stamford Church of Christ, July 7, 2013

An Uncommon Journey

Naomi Walters

July 7, 2013

Stamford Church of Christ

My call to ministry is less like a Burning Bush or a Damascus Road situation, and more like a matrix of personal skills and life situations that make a particular path a good fit. My path is made up of steps that, only in retrospect, show that God was leading me to ministry, to what turns out to be this moment. Dale has already given you a sketch, but I’d like to share more with you about a few of those formative moments.

I was raised in the Church of Christ. My parents gave me a love of church. We were there Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Saturday youth group, summer church camp, potlucks (though we called them fellowship meals), small groups, picnics, work days…you name it, we did it. And church wasn’t just somewhere we went, it was what we did and who we were – you can go to a building, that is something you can do, but you can’t go to church ’cause the church is you – you know. My parents’ best friends were from church and my best friends were their kids. We lived in community. Churches of Christ were my people. And these were the people who gave me a love of Scripture: reading it, studying it, memorizing it, Bible Bowling it – even teaching it (to other girls and in children’s church, of course).

When I was deciding where to go for college, I only considered Church of Christ schools; I chose Rochester College (in Michigan). I started out as an English major, then became a Bible major because those were the classes I was most excited to attend. But I was intentionally “just” a Biblical Studies major, decidedly not a ministry major. My intention was to go on to get a PhD and teach college Bible courses. But even Biblical Studies majors have to take a preaching course, which I put off literally as long as I could, until my Senior year. And in that class I discovered that I loved preaching, that I was good at it even. But at this point, I didn’t think it was worth fighting over or fighting for. Upon graduation, I planned to pursue the M.Div., but, again, for the purpose of going on to a PhD and teaching college Bible courses.

For my M.Div., I chose another Church of Christ school, Abilene Christian University. This was the first time I had female classmates who wanted to minister in Churches of Christ; at Rochester the only other female Biblical Studies major was also “in it for academics” – at least at the time. So my first passion regarding gender justice in Churches of Christ was advocacy-based. It wasn’t for me; it was for my friends. Again, I put off taking the required preaching course until my last semester. Again, I found that I loved it. And again, it was confirmed that I was good at it. But this time around, I also found that I wanted to do it, that it was worth fighting for. What had started out as advocacy had turned into hope. Abilene is also where I met and married Jamey, who was planning to do a PhD and teach Bible at the college level.

These two factors led me to reconsider my long-held plan of doing a PhD: First, since it is unlikely that Jamey and I would receive tenure-track teaching positions at the same university in the same department. But second, and mostly, because I was ready to admit that my plans to teach were at least partially denial. (I was also able to teach a few undergraduate courses at ACU, and found that to be something that I enjoy and have skill in as well, so this is not to say that teaching is nowhere in my future; just that I was hiding behind it.) I was afraid that being honest, with myself and with others, about my desire to preach would open the floodgates, that it would consume my life and make it impossible for me to both be faithful to who God had made me to be and to continue to love God’s people. It turns out there was good reason for this fear. My initial steps toward speaking out for gender justice in Churches of Christ were met with anger, resentment, condemnation, judgment, disappointment, and confusion – by complete strangers and, more painfully, by some very close to me.

It was in the midst of this that we moved to Princeton for my husband’s PhD at Princeton Theological Seminary. In this time of transition, as we searched for a church home, I thought of leaving Churches of Christ so that I could more easily find work in a church. In fact many people suggested that I do just that – some suggested it to get rid of me, others suggested it out of concern for my spiritual health. I thought of it, but I never really considered it. I could no more leave Churches of Christ as I could leave my family. Just as I will always be my parents’ daughter, I will always be Church of Christ. Even if I stopped attending a Church of Christ and attended another church, Churches of Christ would not stop being my people. They are the tribe that formed me, that instilled in me the very gifts I now want to use for ministry. Although I am certainly not what my church intended or could ever have imagined, the fact remains that it made me who I am.

And, again, there’s the question of advocacy. I have other female friends who want to preach. I have nieces. I have friends with daughters. Maybe someday Jamey and I will have a daughter. There are women, young and old, many of whom I have never met, who have been silenced and ignored. If everyone who wants Churches of Christ to change leaves, what will become of them? I felt – I still feel – that as long as God gives me the strength to stay, in fact even on the days that I’m not so sure I have that strength, Churches of Christ are where I’ll be.

This commitment is what brought us here to Stamford, even though it is a two-hour drive from Princeton. I had heard about Stamford in undergrad at Rochester from my friend and fellow soccer player, Hudney Piquant, who attended here. I had heard about Stamford while at ACU, that it was one of the few Churches of Christ in the country who had welcomed women into its pulpit. I had heard about Stamford from Justin and Kat Burton, who Jamey knew in undergrad. So we visited, and we could tell from just one Sunday that things were different here. This is the type of church that we wanted to attend. In fact, this is type of church that I wanted to work for and work with in embodying the mission of God in the world.

Those are the steps that brought me here. Like Jonah, I ran and hid and denied a little bit along the way; I’ll even admit that I have cursed my share of leafy trees. But it is clear to me looking back on my story so far that God was shaping me – through parents who modeled community life and gave me a love of church, through a community that encouraged in me a love of Scripture, through preaching classes I did not want to take, through professors and mentors, and through a hundred other people, skills, and situations – to minister to God’s people.

And it’s clear to me from Dale’s story that God was shaping you to be the kind of church that would provide space for me to minister – though it may be risky socially for all of us, though it may be costly monetarily for all of us, though it is always difficult to commit to live together in community.

So, as I stand here today, I have many emotions. I am excited. I am grateful. I’m a bit scared. But I’m confident that God will use you in this next year to shape and challenge me in ministry, and I’m hopeful that God can use me to shape and challenge you as well. I’m not exactly sure what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see what the God who clears a path through roaring waters, who reveals a way in the wilderness, who makes a stream in the dessert, and who provides a ministry position in Churches of Christ for a woman (!) will do among us in the next year.

It was hard for many to imagine this day would come. But, to the one who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory in the church – in this church, in you, and in me – to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!

Good news!: Naomi Walters named Minister in Residence at Stamford Church of Christ

Reflections on Announcement

July 7, 2013

By Dale Pauls

At the Stamford Church of Christ ​

 

This is a big Sunday here at the Stamford Church of Christ.  This is a landmark summer, and this is a big Sunday when we formally announce our one-year Ministry in Residence with Naomi Walters starting in September.  And so I decided to break from our series on Philippians and share with you more personally my own thoughts on this auspicious occasion.

I begin by thinking back to how I became a minister.  To many people it seemed fore-ordained.  I was a minister’s kid, more precisely, a minister’s son; so when I was in my very early teens I was already preaching sermons in small country congregations near where we lived.  I am glad that this was long before the days of audio-visual record and that there remains no evidence of those sermons, but it just seemed natural that I would be a minister.

Well, natural to everyone but me.  So I  took a detour on the way to ministry, studied pre-med, then psychology, then sociology, and only when I was already in graduate school in sociology at the University of Michigan did I feel drawn back to studying religion.  And that’s what I was drawn to, studying religion not necessarily ministry.  I was fascinated by Jesus and by things spiritual, but about ministry I was reluctant.

Still when three years later I graduated from Harding Graduate School of Religion, I already had a job waiting for me with a mission church in East Brunswick, New Jersey sponsored by the Madison Church of Christ in Tennessee.  A year later I had a job waiting for me at Michigan Christian College, now Rochester College.  Two years after that I was here.

Naomi’s path was a bit different.  No one expected her to be a minister.  To no one – except perhaps God – was it fore-ordained.  Many people otherwise close to her did not want her to be a minister.  Still she graduated from Rochester College in Michigan with a major in Biblical Studies and a minor in Counseling.  She then went on to Abilene Christian University where she excelled academically and received her M.Div.  There was no job waiting for Naomi.  It was well-known in ACU circles and circles that spread out from there that Naomi Walters was exceptionally skilled at preaching.  I heard her name, and I heard she was the best, long before I ever met her.  But no one was lined up to offer her a job.  For one reason only – she was a woman.

Other women in her position, and there are others, in increasing numbers all the time, are simply leaving the Churches of Christ, but Naomi choose a different track and determined to do her very best to stay within our fellowship.  Almost two years ago, she and Jamey began driving up here from Princeton, New Jersey passing East Brunswick (where I began) on the way.  This past Christmas Day they brought into our lives dear little Simon.  This summer Naomi begins an on-line D. Min. program at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.  The D. Min. program is a practical program that supposes you already have a ministry position and ministerial experience.  The wise people who run David Lipscomb’s D. Min. program made an exception for Naomi.  But no one else did.  No churches did.  No churches offered her an opportunity to gain ministerial experience.

That is, until Naomi summoned up her courage and approached us wondering if we might be able to find a way to give her at least part-time ministerial experience.  So conversations began and then on Sunday, May 16th, she met for an extensive interview with our elders and ministers.  We were all blown away.  E-mails flew back and forth – the morning-after gist of which were, “Wow!  Could you believe that interview?”  Most of us had been part of many interviews; few of us had ever seen a person who interviewed as well as Naomi, who came across with her poise, wisdom and spiritual insight.

So we proposed a part-time year-long Ministry in Residence position for Naomi to all of you, and the response was strongly supportive.  As the current minister here, the support seemed maybe too strongly supportive.  My favorite response was in an email from Kelly Beel, “What about you, Dale?  You won’t be giving the sermon?”  Thank you, Kelly.  But that seemed to trouble no one else, and in fact wasn’t the case anyway.  I will be giving sermons.  Lots of them.  And they will likely be listened to with the same measure of interest and indifference as usual.  The larger point is this proposal was strongly supported.  So we sent Naomi an offer letter which she signed.  And that brings us to this day, Sunday, July 7th, 2013.

Still I am struck by the difference between my story and Naomi’s.  All because of gender.

And I am deeply disappointed that Churches of Christ have made such slow progress on all this.  Too many ministers who know better, who agree with what we are doing here, are simply, for the sake of survival, I guess, staying silent.  Too many churches are being held back by the traditional views of just one or two of elders (even when most elders are open to progress).  Too many people in the pews who have nothing to lose are sitting this out; in the process they risk losing much.

All this does not auger well for Churches of Christ.  I am by academic training a historian, so I find it natural to think historically, to catch a sense of the flow of history and to from that map out where the future will be taking us.  One day almost all churches will be gender egalitarian.  Outside of Catholicism, most in the West already are.  One day Catholicism will be.  And those movements that prove resistant to this will be in serious decline. Again, for most the decline has already begun.

I do not doubt that many people who resist change on this are acting in good faith.  But they are not studying the Bible.  They are not doing their homework.  They do not seek the original intent of Scripture nor do they seek to understand Scripture in its historical context.  So they do not understand that those passages that restrict women’s participation in public worship – 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 – address specific circumstances in the particular cultural context of their original first-century audiences.  They do not understand that Paul is calling his readers to live gracefully as disciples of Christ within thestrongly patriarchal patterns of their day.  They do not understand that he is guiding Christians in the setting in which they live; he is not advocating their patriarchal, even misogynistic, setting for all time. So they do not distinguish between what the New Testament says about the new life in Christ and the degree to which it was possible to implement this in first-century culture.  As a result, although they would no longer use the teaching, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters” (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; Titus 2:9-10) to defend slavery in our time, they will still use 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 or 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to silence women’s voices in our public assemblies in our time.

This is a big Sunday.  This is landmark summer, and this is a big Sunday.  By giving Naomi this ministerial experience we are fulfilling the vision of Peter in Acts 2:17-21 that God has poured out his Spirit on all people, both men and women; our sons and our daughters will prophesy.  By insisting in this place that the use of God-given gifts will not be restricted on the basis of gender, we are being true to the spirit of Christ, true to the goodness in the gospel, true to the freedom we have in Christ, and true to the original intent and the historical context of the texts in question. We help end patterns of prejudice and discrimination that bring shame to churches in our time.  We save our sons and daughters, and we play our part in seeing that women everywhere are treated with the same respect that men just naturally are by virtue of their being male.

In hiring Naomi to this part-time Ministry in Residence we are of course stepping out in faith in many ways, including our absorbing her $20,000 in salary.  We did not budget for this.  And so we ask those of you who can to give toward offsetting her salary.  And we will be asking people across the country who support what we are doing, who see the significance, even the necessity, of churches providing ministerial experience to women like Naomi, to help us in this. ​

TOGETHER we will build a future in which people will no longer be held back or held down simply by how they were born, where all people will be respected, honored and empowered not for how they were physically born but for how they are spiritual reborn.  The gospel will again be heard as gospel that is for all the people.  And the world will know that we all live in a world lit by resurrection and open to the Spirit of God, a world of amazing possibilities, a world where grace reigns, a world where in all things God works for our good, a world where we are all called to befilled to the measure of all the fullness of God, and that this is as true for women as it is for men.

It is now our privilege to hear Naomi Walters.

from the room

Continuing reflections on the “Fierce Urgency of Now” session at the Christian Scholars Conference

If you haven’t read Jeff Baker’s preliminary remarks, take a moment and do so, as this introduction framed the session and sets the stage for these further reflections.

Three distinct, landmark initiatives were represented in the panel: the Women in Ministry Network, 1voice4change, and gal328.org. Each of these initiatives brings something unique to the effort, and each stands as an example of specific strategies for support of and advocacy for women in our churches. It was an instructive juxtaposition of a variety of foci and strategies, ranging from the quiet, peer-to-peer support of women doing ministry in Churches of Christ to the newly dubbed gal328 “Twitter Offensive” to 1voice4change’s call for women keynoters at CofC lectureships.

But what has stuck with me as I’ve ruminated on the session and the discussion is the commonality that cuts across the differences in these strategies, and the consensus from the room that what we need, more than anything else, is a way to invite others into the experiences of women called to ministry in Churches of Christ. We need to invite others into the personal narratives of vocation; we need to invite others to experience the ways in which God moves through and speaks through and blesses with the voices and minds and bodies of women.

This represents a significant shift.

What this wisdom from the room tells us is that we can’t assume that winning an argument about the meaning of a text or about the superiority of our hermeneutic is going to move us toward our goal of gender justice. This wisdom from the room tells us that what changes people, what changes minds, what changes hearts, is experience: an experience of the new, an experience of the Spirit.

This is good news, y’all, but it’s also not necessarily an easy sell for a church that has tended to set biblical truth and experience at odds, and has (at least traditionally) limited the movement of the Spirit to the inner illumination of the meaning of the text. Part of what must happen, I’m convinced, is that we must do some remedial theological work on our deficient pneumatology. We have assumed, wrongly, that human experience is inherently unreliable as a theological resource–because we’ve assumed the Spirit is not at work in our experiences.

So, we have work to do. But what’s new? There’s always work to be done. The wisdom from the room points us to some specific actions: first, let’s continue to collect personal narratives, and make good use of the narratives already gathered up and archived, in text and audio, at rudetruth.blogspot.com and halfthechurch.com; second, let’s support 1voice4change.com‘s initiative to bring the experience of hearing God’s Word powerfully proclaimed through the voice and presence of a woman to as many as possible at one time in a keynote at Pepperdine or ACU Summit.

Part of the good we will reap, I predict, is not simply that we will begin to see the women in our churches as full imagers of God–but that we will begin to see that God’s own self is more powerfully present in our human lives and experiences than we had been bold enough to imagine.

 

What’s New: “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” from Jeff Baker

I asked Jeff Baker to share his introductory remarks from the Christian Scholars Conference session, “The Fierce Urgency of Now.” What follows are his words, and even without the power of the in-person presentation I and others present were blessed to witness, these words are a stirring call to action. My thanks to Jeff for convening the panel, and for being willing to share these words here.

 

Good morning.   Thank you for joining us today to talk about strategies and tactics for social change within the Churches of Christ.

….

We are ambitious with this panel and want to be transparent with you all about our purpose and process today.   This panel is borne of discussions and frustrations we have experienced as we have considered and tried to seek change within our congregations, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.   We hope today to give some structure and to identify some tools and methods for efforts to generate constructive, sustainable and just change within our churches.

Now, we are not talking about change for the sake of change, and we not talking about style.  We are talking about culture and foundational principles, and we confess that this requires implicit judgment and criticism of a status quo.   If we believed that the Church of Christ were perfect and thoroughly righteous, we would not be concerned with change at all.

We believe that injustice remains (and even thrives) broadly within our tradition and that we have a gospel calling to confront it.

Next, we also are not focused today primarily on how change has happened historically, because, frankly, it has happened too slowly.   The Church of Christ is conservative (in the classic sense) and slow to turn.   With few exceptions, the Church of Christ largely lags behind the nation and culture-at-large in bending toward justice, even toward clearly acknowledged issues of justice like racial discrimination and segregation.

This naturally begs a question: what is the issue of justice about which we should be concerned today?

There may be many:  poverty and prosperity, economic injustice, domestic violence, war and pacifism, racial reconciliation, healthcare or the environment.

We are going to situate our discussion today within a cause in which we all are involved, the just and full inclusion of all people into the life and leadership of our churches, regardless of gender.   We believe that the Church of Christ  – with very few exceptions – has unjustly silenced and excluded women and girls from full participation and flourishing in the Church of Christ and that this is unscriptural and contrary to the will of God and a full vision of the church.

Our purpose today is not to persuade anyone of the rightness of this cause, but rather to discuss objectively and creatively how and why we can take action to change toward justice in our peculiar context, whatever the issue.   Whether you agree with us on the issue, we hope that we all can assume it for purposes of the discussion about social change.   Let us not debate the merits today, but let us consider the ways and means of effecting change.

One final note for framing:  The title of this session is “The Fierce Urgency of Now.”

This is a phrase from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.   He said:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

As we have advocated for change in our own congregations for the full and just inclusion of women, we often, very often, have heard from leaders, ministers and elders, that they agree and are sympathetic but that we must wait for fear of offending or hurting those who disagree.   This shifts the burden of persuasion and proof from the status quo and calls for slow generational evolution, which costs very little to those who would sustain the status quo.

If our cause is just, right, scriptural and good, then we effectively are sacrificing half the church to appease a few who admittedly are impeding a congregation’s growth toward righteousness.

Therefore, if the cause is just and right and if we should not be satisfied with “gradualism” or the old trope of letting an older generation die off, if we believe that we should change sooner than later, if this is the time, how do we do it?

This is our purpose today, to reckon how to provoke and sustain change toward justice in our churches right now.

How do we grapple with a religious tradition with no formal political processes and structures?  How do we seek broad change among radically autonomous congregations?

How do we advocate with little power for justice before those with nearly all the political power?

How do we make arguments of justice within a tradition with a strong adherence to sola scriptura but with a prevailing orthodoxy in oral tradition?

… Now let me share my working diagnosis of our task.  These are observable assumptions that I propose are real and important, but I invite my colleagues and you all here to critique and refine these ideas as we go.

I like to refer to social and political advocacy within the Churches of Christ as fighting against an amoeba.  It’s squishy and unstructured.  I question whether there is any such thing as the Church of Christ, at least any one thing.  There is very little to bind our churches across the spectrum of those who claim the name.  Even so, in the Churches of Christ, we have two institutions, congregations and universities, and this is where the action occurs.

If we had a political mechanism to access, movements for social change would be more straightforward, even if they weren’t easier.

At this moment in history, here is what I believe about seeking change in the Churches of Christ, and I hope that we will refine these ideas in here today.

First, this is the moment for massive social change on this issue.  Many, many churches are on the verge, and this is the moment to make them move.

Second, we can only achieve this by building power, and the only way to build power is to organize and encourage those who are willing to stand and speak and press their communities to move toward justice.  Jeanine has a suspicion, that I share, that there are thousands of people sitting beside unknown allies every Sunday morning but who all think they are alone.   We know that isolated individuals never move entrenched communities to change.  Rather, it takes a coordinated, organized community to amplify voices and build power to counter the power of the status quo.    In raw terms of activism, perhaps cynically but certainly realistically, the movement must raise the price of keeping the status quo so that it is greater than the cost of change.  Part of that cost is the righteous anger and constructive steps to move our community toward the path of justice.

Third, unity is good.  Justice and reconciliation are better.   There will be conflict, and this is the decision to make.   Are we willing to be disruptive and confrontational, in creative and useful ways?   The Woman’s Suffrage movement ultimately required war-time pickets of the White House, arrests and force-feedings before we got the 19th Amendment.   The Civil Rights Movement required Bus Boycotts, Bloody Sundays, arrests, marches, sit-ins, Freedom Rides and the provocation of brutality and murder.   These were disruptive, creative, non-violent and fruitful, and we would not witness the justice they achieved had they accepted the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.    The question now is how do we move and act within the Churches of Christ to advance the cause of justice for all people in the church, to free those subjugated as lower-class Christians and human beings.    What will it to take, and how do we ensure that once the victory is gained that those who disagreed are not alienated, isolated and vilified?  How do we ensure reconciliation on the other side of justice?

Last, we must know and love our community and work within it as a prophetic ministry, not at enemies, but as members of a family who seek its good, full and abundant thriving.   We must speak its language and love its people.    There is too much at stake to burn it down, but there is also too much at stake to wait passively for another generation to pass us by.

What’s New: a report from CSC 2013

The Christian Scholars Conference–now the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars Conference, in honor of its founder and visionary of many years–has in recent years been a locus of cutting edge discussion in Churches of Christ theological issues as well as an increasingly substantive, cutting edge interdisciplinary academic gathering. It is, no contest, my personal favorite academic annual event.

In 2009, two landmark sessions initiated what has become a sustained, continuous look at issues of gender in Churches of Christ. The first session, convened and moderated by Dr. Ken Cukrowski of ACU, was simple in concept–and devastating in impact. A panel of a dozen women, of all ages and various occupations, told their stories of experiencing what it had meant to grow up in the Churches of Christ and what this had taught them–and what they had had to unlearn–about what it meant to be a woman, in church and in life. The power of making intentional space for these voices, these female voices which otherwise had no public space where they could be heard in our fellowship, was incredible, and even in the moment, those of us in the room felt it. It was a moment where the Spirit was palpable.

(This session, and the power of the narratives of these women, inspired the crowdsourcing project hosted at rudetruth, which is still open should anyone wish to add to the narratives archived there.)

This powerful session was followed the next day by an equally compelling and heartbreaking session, where we heard from those who had been–in the language of our memorial page–been called elsewhere. Micki Pulleyking, Katie Hays and Andre Resner courageously shared their narratives of working within, and leaving, the Churches of Christ, because of our deafness to the call for gender justice. I would like to make the claim that there was not a dry eye in the room at the end of this session, but I can’t be sure simply because I was too teary myself to see clearly.

What began in 2009 has been faithfully followed up each year by many, including Lynette Sharp Penya, who has presented her own cutting edge empirical research into attitudes on gender roles within our churches.

This year, in a session entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Strategies for Social Change within the Churches of Christ,” Jeff Baker, Natalie Dunn Magnusson, James W. McCarty III, and I talked about the various initiatives and groups currently working toward gender justice in Churches of Christ. And the wonderful news is, there are several–perhaps more than we on the panel even personally know about–but we represented three key groups: the Women in Ministry Network, gal328.org, and 1voice4change. The point, however, was not merely to promote these efforts but to talk about them as exemplars of different strategies for working toward social justice within our churches and our fellowship more broadly. (Keep an eye on the blog here, as this post serves merely as an introduction to frame a full report on this important session.)

In addition, several others in our midst presented their own research and scholarship, and we had our first ever gal328 meetup for Thursday breakfast–though I caught only the tail end. When I walked into the campus Starbucks I saw a room full of energetic people deep in conversation who all counted gender justice worth getting up early in the morning for. I am encouraged, and I hope you all were too!

And finally: there were an outstanding number of big red buttons distributed and displayed proudly on lapels and jackets and at least one baby carrier! As we continue to collaborate with our friends at 1voice4change.com, keep an eye on the website for updates.

I’ll conclude this post with one of the most precious and serendipitous moments of the conference, for me. I was on my way to the car when I encountered a friend-I-hadn’t-made-yet, who called me over and asked if I had a moment to chat. At the end of our conversation, a blessing was literally pronounced on me–right there in the parking lot. Many times I have received a benediction in church, but never before in a parking lot. And these (as I remember them) were the spontaneous words of blessing pronounced on this work: “you have God’s grace in your heart, and on your tongue.” May we speak our words in the knowledge and strength of that grace, friends. Amen.

–JTB

What’s New: a post from Heavenly Hats

…So I spoke. And I prayed. Clumsily, most definitely, but with excitement. I have always loved writing and talking and here was an outlet to do what I loved, about a subject I loved, in front of people I loved. I remember, as people came up to hug me after the service, the overwhelming feeling of disappointment I had. I could never do this at my church.

…Why did God give me gifts that were not female? Why did God give me the desire to teach and preach and pray, when obviously, it was against His will for me to do those things? I confessed to my friends that had I been born male, I would have majored in Bible and become a preacher.

Read the whole post here.

What’s New: a memorial page for those called elsewhere

On the menu bar you will see a new tab, labeled “Memorial.” When you click on it, it will take you to a new page. This page is an interactive wiki, and it is open for anyone to edit.

That may be a risky move, I know.

The idea behind it is simply this: women called to ministry in ways that question what we’ve been accustomed to call traditional “women’s roles in the church” have to face a choice–do we ignore the claim of God on our lives, or do we follow it…even if it takes us right out of the church we love and long to serve? Or to put it another way, do we serve God, or men?

Many women have, courageously, followed the example of countless biblical heroes and followed the call of God out of the familiar and into the unknown. They leave. Because they have to. Because the Churches of Christ give them no way to stay, even if they really want to.

And worse, when they leave, no one mourns their absence. No one mourns the loss of their voices, their gifts, their wisdom, their leadership, their presence. How can we miss voices that were never allowed to speak? How can we miss gifts that were forbidden use? How can we miss leadership that was never allowed expression?

This problem, of absence being unremarked because there was always an absence-in-presence to begin with, is what this wiki project is about. It is time to name our losses. It is time to grieve them. It is time to repent of the sin that caused them.

If you are a woman who has left the Churches of Christ because there was no place for you, please add your name to the Memorial. If you know of someone who has left to follow her call elsewhere, please add her name (with permission) to the wiki.

It is time we honored these women.

featured article: Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath by Paul Casner

I’m happy to say that, thanks to the help of behind-the-scenes tech gurus, the links are now all functional! However, switching from the old style sheet format to the new will take some time.

We’ll “feature” each article as it gets reformatted (though, again, all are accessible). There is such a rich collection of personal reflections, bible studies, and theological explorations gathered here on this site! It may have been a while since you last delved into them, or maybe you’re new to the site and just beginning to explore. Take your time. There’s a lot here.

Today, begin with Paul Casner’s “Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath.”

it’s a new day, it’s a new life, and I’m feeling good…

Welcome, everybody.

As we work out the remaining glitches in transferring the old site’s content, please let us know what problems you encounter and we’ll put it on our fix-it list! Right now, as some of you have noticed and reported, the article links are broken (and I assume this carries over to the other pages under the Resources tab as well). Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

In fact, the bulk of gal328.org is now organized under the Resources tab: the articles and essays by Lance Pape, Katie Hays, D’Esta Love, Mary Lou Hutson, Dale Pauls and many others; the congregational statements and studies on gender from Manhattan Church of Christ, Stamford Church of Christ, and others; the amazing and extensive annotated bibliography of study resources amassed by Christopher Hutson and others. Also under Resources you will find a map of gender inclusive Churches of Christ, based on data compiled by Lynette Sharp Penya and Stephen Johnson of Abilene Christian University, and a page listing links to other organizations such as One Voice For Change.

As we move forward together, sisters and brothers, let’s give thanks to those who started this good work. There are so many people who have gone before us, seeking to make the way straight, and it’s not been easy. Let’s honor them and their work by taking it up in our turn.

The time is now.