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Personal Stories

I have been pastoring full-time for ten years now. A decade. It seems like yesterday that I received a phone call from a friend on a large church staff, asking me if I would consider coming to work there as a care pastor. I clearly remember the moment, because I thought he was asking me if I knew of someone who might be interested in the job. I was attending seminary at the time and had a lot of ministry friends. It never once occurred to me that he was asking me if I wanted the job. I was so stunned I had to sit down on the floor while he clarified. "No, I am asking you. I would love for you to come on staff and work with us." In all the churches I'd been in up till that point, every single pastoral position was filled by men. Sure, I knew women's ministry director... Read more
“Look, I love what you do and how you do it – just don’t call yourself an elder!”  This statement was in the context of a home group bible study when the topic of eldership came up. The person who spoke was a deacon and very supportive of us in ministry but he just couldn’t get his head around the thought of women being elders. At another time, one of the elders said “If Liz becomes an elder, then I will resign” and at that time we assured him it wasn’t our intention to push the issue. Interestingly, I was already the associate pastor and we had a split income because we shared the ministry, but the concept of a woman elder was just too much to tolerate. Just this week I was talking with a friend of over 40 years and she was saying... Read more
"Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1 NIV). When I think back to my first sense of God calling me to vocational ministry, I am continually amazed at how awesome it was. I had first chosen to follow Christ while in middle school, but it wasn't until I was finishing up my junior year of high school that I truly felt I was being called to ministry. I was set on majoring in graphic design when I got to college, but as I was talking with a friend who was about to graduate, he told me about his own call from God to be a pastor. Suddenly, I felt the Holy Spirit burst onto the scene, pulling me in that same direction. I literally could not get that conversation out of my head for the next several days! Over and over,... Read more
This month marks the 31st anniversary of my ordination. I have spent about 28 of those years serving congregations as a pastor. As October rolls around, officially "Pastor Appreciation Month," I'd like to share my perspective on how you might appreciate your own pastor. Recently, a younger pastor, also a woman, wrote to me:   "I find being a pastor an incredibly awesome and wonderful calling. In what other job can I study God's word, proclaim the gospel, pray, reach out to the hurting--and get paid for it? I feel blessed and privileged to be able to serve in such a position."  I feel encouraged just by reading those words--that being female has not been an impediment to the vocation this woman has received. When I was ordained in 1983, I wa... Read more
As I reflect on my call to ministry, I am so grateful to those women who have gone before me, who courageously and faithfully fulfilled their own vocation by seeking after Christ. In doing so, they touched my life and helped me understand that I, too, could join the growing movement of women who are called to serve. First, there was Roberta Hestenes. It was the spring of 1984, and I, along with about fifteen other college graduates from our church, decided to attend our all-church conference at Mt. Hermon Conference Center in Felton, CA. Until this point, I had never heard a woman preach or address a congregation. My curiosity was piqued. I listened with rapt attention to Roberta as she delivered four compelling, articulate, and convicting messages over the course of a weekend. ... Read more
Sometimes I worry that since I haven’t dated yet I’m missing out on companionship and adventure. What it would be like to date someone? To avoid feeling this way, I create grateful hypotheticals: If I’d dated during college, I wouldn’t have had time to invest freely and deeply in as many friendships. Singleness gives me a different kind of relational satisfaction. If I’d been engaged after graduation, I couldn’t have moved to Kenya at a few months’ notice for my dream job. If I was married, I couldn’t have travelled to Ethiopia recently on less than a week’s notice. Singleness frees me to go wherever God calls me (1 Cor. 7:34). While I’ve had embarrassing moments and regrets, I’ve never gone through a breakup. Ma... Read more
Single parents constitute a fair portion of the global population at this point, an overwhelming majority of whom are women. In the US there is a steady increase in the percentage of mothers who raise their children alone and the odds are certainly not stacked in their favor. I have scoured the statistical websites that document in detail the social circumstances and societal assistance, or general lack thereof, which surround the lives of single mothers. While I do not wish to reproduce these findings here I do encourage anyone to take a good look at the observations, they certainly are revealing. I suppose my question is, how much support do we in our Christian communities actually offer to single mothers in need? How many churches have a ‘single mothers ministry’? Are we doi... Read more
I was a young child in the 1960's--a time when women were making small steps toward equality.  Even so, in the small Midwestern town where I lived, family and church structures were still fairly traditional. It was assumed that men would be the leaders in the family, the church, and the community. Women were often the followers. They typically cared for the home and children, making it possible for their husbands to take on those positions of leadership. This was seen as the best model for leadership in Christian families and in churches. As a young adult, I found that others in the Christian community saw it differently.  As I listened to their interpretation of Scripture, I began to reexamine my own beliefs and revised them to take into account the social context of pass... Read more
“Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30: 10-12). If there was ever an embodiment of these verses, it is in the lives touched by Channels of Hope for Gender in rural Durham. From middle-school children dramatizing the importance of HIV awareness, to children mesmerized by a math teacher, to Sunday School teachers, youth and pastors who have welcomed the liberating message in Scripture, one that free males and females from bondage—newness of life danced before us these past few days. Yet, the deepest transformation seemed to... Read more
Don’t be afraid to be big, women. That’s what I learned at a conference this weekend. Women are taught to be small. Tomorrow, pay attention to how women walk, sit and stand compared to men. You’ll notice women take smaller steps with their hands closer to their sides, cross their legs, fold their hands in their laps. Men are more likely to swing their arms when they walk, stretch out their legs, drape their arm over the seat next to them. And of course, mainstream American media portrays thin women as the ideal. We women aren’t supposed to take up space with our bodies. We’re not supposed to draw attention to ourselves in other ways, either. American girls’ achievement, particularly in math and science, starts dropping off in middle school. They... Read more