Doubt not

I’ve always had a good memory. I remember moving into our house in Pasadena, Texas, before I was three. My father had accepted the pastorate of a small Pentecostal church there. That one sentence provides a contextual frame to my young world view. I was the daughter of a fundamentalist Pentecostal pastor in the South. That understanding is important to have in mind when you consider another of my early memories. I don’t remember what had started my mind worrying, but I was wrestling with the concept of doubting God. I realize this isn’t a typical four-year-old concern, which seems currently to run more to playing with Tickle Me Elmo and wondering whether there will be chocolate pudding for dessert. But as I said, it’s important to remember the context I grew up in. Likely it was something I heard in a sermon that started the thought process for me, either one of my father’s, or one of the myriad others I’d heard. It was not at all unusual for me to hear three or four sermons a week, plus Sunday School lessons. Clearly I had ample input to glean from. [Read more…]

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I’m currently on my way to attend a conference targeted at women in ministry leadership, and focused on how best to advocate for and accomplish change in the circumstances of women globally. I am convinced that as we improve the lives of women, we will improve the lives of everyone in their communities. The challenge is daunting and I’m hopeful that the conference will inspire me with new ideas on how I can best participate in seeing this change happen. As I’ve prepared for the conference, one question has remained stubbornly unanswered. Invariably at these types of events you have the opportunity to meet a number of new people. The dilemma I have been staring in the face for the last couple of weeks is how to identify my profession when introducing myself. How do I answer the question “what do you do?” This is a uniquely American activity. In many other cultures it is considered rude to ask another person about their work. The polite thing is to wait for them to bring it up, if it’s mentioned at all. At the moment, I really wish the conference was taking place in Europe so I could avoid this question. [Read more…]

Should I stay or should I go? (part 2)

The second reason this story resonates with me comes from my own journey of deciding whether to stay in a Church which no longer advocates my beliefs, or separating from that community of believers. I faced the same dilemma of “should I stay or should I go” that is eventually faced by many who are part of a belief-based group, but recognize their on-going (and scripturally directed) responsibility to choose for themselves what they believe. This responsibility to choose can frequently stand in opposition to the definition of a group, that set of beliefs held in common which forms the foundation of the group’s identity. Just as the Anglican bishops experienced, I reached a crisis point when I could no longer remain within the community of Jesus followers where I was a leader. [Read more…]

Should I stay or should I go?

Recently three Anglican bishops in England were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. They were unambiguous in stating the reason for their break with the Church where they had risen to the ranks of senior leadership. While they had been unhappy at the prospect, they had been willing to remain within the Church as women were ordained as priests. However, they could not countenance the ordination of women as bishops. In other words they found the idea of a woman being in a position of authority equal to or surpassing their own as something to be avoided, even at the cost of breaking with their Church and losing their own positions. The three departing bishops had been part of a vocal minority lobbying to allow any priest or parish objecting to female bishops to “transfer” to a male bishop. (The irony is not lost on me that the titular head of their Church is the Queen of England, so from one perspective they have been under the authority of a more senior woman for some time.) [Read more…]

A quiet life

My experience of Church has primarily been in the pentecostal/evangelical tradition. In our view, high church liturgical calendar events were viewed as part of the beliefs of those who were liberal, even “lukewarm” (as in the description in Revelation 3), who’d lost their zeal and probably were not “really saved.” There was a desperation to our desire to remain zealous that seems common among fundamentalist traditions. On the other hand, my husband’s journey has included time spent in the Anglican church, as well as other high church traditions, giving him (shall we say) a somewhat different perspective on liturgical calendar events.

Since we married, one of the liturgical calendar events I’m gaining more exposure to is the observation of Advent. In exploring the meaning of Advent, I’ve been reading various blog articles and devotions focused on this season. One I read last month was written by a faculty member at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She focused on the humanity Jesus embraced as He was born, and how His willingness to be humble in this way is the foundation for the idea of living a “quiet life” as Paul instructed the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12). She pointed out that by becoming human as well as divine, Jesus humbled Himself to live as a human, growing as a human, growing in favour as a human (emphasis mine). Her contention was that in living His life in an ordinary, quiet way, Jesus gave us the example that living out our lives quietly pleases the Father. My description of this is that as we do our work, pay our bills, contribute to our communities, we earn the respect of our neighbours and confirmation from God that we are following His design. [Read more…]