This thought came to me in the context of thinking about the Church of England, my own denomination (the Assemblies of God), and women in ministry. It can also be useful for pastoring a church long-term, and a lot of other things as well, I suppose.
This past week the Church of England made the choice to allow ordination of women bishops. This was a huge step and I think a good one.
Belonging to the Assemblies of God, we take a lot of grief for being “fundamentalist” or “narrow” or what have you, but what gets lost in the shuffle is the Assemblies of God stance on ordination of women. We actually ordain women into ministry. Weird, huh?
It’s not perfect. I’m IN the AOG and I know it’s not perfect. But, of course, those not in the AOG couldn’t help but make sure I didn’t feel too smug about our position on the ordination of women, citing the lack of female leadership in our districts. It’s a problem I know all too well.
I’ve been in the AOG all my life and have been ordained over 20 years as an AOG minister. It is my choice. When I was younger I imagine I could have made a leap to another denomination or fellowship, but chose instead to stay with the AOG and work on this little thing with women in ministry. Here is what I know about me and my effectiveness: it means nothing. I will NOT be able to effect change in any leadership position within the Assemblies of God.
But here is where I came up with this thought this morning: “You can make the leap, or you can make the change.”
I could have chosen to make the leap. I could have left the AOG over women in ministry (the lack of higher levels of leadership being filled by women) or race or some other issue. Younger guys do it all the time. They are the one who then tend to smack me down when I try to point out how the AOG actually does something right. They made the leap to something else.
When you make the leap to something else, it could be the right thing to do. But realize this: If you make the leap and land in place where your issue is more to your liking (say they have women in district leadership) realize you did nothing to effect that change. You just joined something late and felt good about it.
I am not trying to sound cavalier in this, but I choose to stay in my denomination because I have decided NOT to make a leap, but make a change.
Didn’t I just say my being in the AOG effects nothing? Yes. Yes, I did. I cannot get one woman elected to district leadership. Not. One. I can’t appoint the next district youth director, who should be a woman.
But I have chosen to stay because I want to help make a change. Think of this: what if all those hundreds of years had gone by in the Church of England and everyone who wanted women in ministry had just left because it was the “easy” thing to do? There are people all along the way who stayed and slowly effected change of opinions. Decades ago those conversations began to happen. They didn’t make the leap. They made the change.
I am not trying to toot my own horn. I am giving my own rationale, and I AM “calling out” younger ministers who are in a position right now to make their own choices. They are in a position right now in their own fellowships or denominations to look at other organizations and think, “Wow, those folks do it so much better. I think I’ll go over there.” Again, it could be the right thing to do… My word to you is this: Just don’t make it the easy thing to do.
Why NOT stay and make the change?
Will I see female district leadership in my lifetime? It’s entirely possible. With my own denomination, in my time in ordained ministry we have finally elected an African American to one of our top national offices. We have female representation on our top denominational board. In my lifetime. I had nothing to do with it. But I stay here because I can TALK about it. I can ADVOCATE for it. (I can also not be elected to offices because I agitate too much, but I find I have too much fun at this.)
You can make the leap. Go to anther fellowship or denomination. In pastoring, go to another city or church. Make the leap. It just MAY be the thing to do.
Or… you can stay… and make the change. It has to start somewhere, right? Why not with you?
I decided to stay. I have advocated for women on church boards and women on my staff. We have those places filled with incredibly gifted women. I am thankful. It’s NOT district or national leadership, but where I can help… I do it.
My denomination has problems. So does yours. But it’s a beautiful Body of Christ and I’m not going to slam your denomination. Thank you for respecting mine.
Just some things to think about. Choices we make. Or don’t make. It’s up to us.