Final Day of CBE International Conference in Toronto – July 19, 2008
The day began with Job.
Mary Gonsior, CBE staff member, led Sunday morning devotions in the beautiful “Room of Truth” prayer room designed by Mandolyn Johnson.
“There lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil…” (Job 1:1) Mary began to tell the story of Job’s wealth, his seven sons, three daughters and vast herds, in her own words. “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:3)
“But suddenly, for no apparent reason,” Mary reminded us, “Job is ruined. In a single, awful day, disaster strikes and Job loses everything in the world that he owns…he really doesn’t understand his suffering and so he no longer sees any purpose for his life…”
“I’m sharing Job’s story with you today,” Mary explained, “Because I want you to understand that Job’s situation is connected to the sense of pain, loss, and confusion that many women in the church today suffer as a result of the effects of patriarchy.”
She went on to talk about the good news – the ordination of women being seen as the most significant accomplishment of the women’s movement in churches in the last 30 years, according to respondents to a National Council of Church’s 2003 survey.
“But many women still do not experience encouragement and opportunity. In spite of being called and gifted to serve, they find themselves facing strong opposition to their calling from friends, family and church,” she said. The enrolling of women in seminary is actually slowing down. Mary told of a CBE volunteer, keeping her grandchildren at various times during the summer, watching as her 10 year old, visiting grandson could get up and lead worship in her church, but she could not.
Women who do find a way to move forward in their leadership gifts often experience the effects of backlash - the work of the “system” to correct itself backwards to the “way it was.” Mary commented that “this backlash against women in the church includes a general climate of suspicion or hostility, personal attacks, subtle and not so subtle demeaning of women, loss of job, and strained relationships with relatives and friends.”
Several in the room had these stories to tell. How the words brought comfort as they shed light on pain quietly endured.
But the story of Job is ultimately a story of hope and restoration. It’s a story of a good God who is faithful and of a man who wouldn’t let circumstances lessen his love and dependence on our good God. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him,” Job declares. (Job 13:15) That’s a tenacious faith!! And God restored Job. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:12)
Perhaps each individual woman at this Conference will not fully realize the use of all her gifts in her own lifetime, though we pray for it, but those coming after us…may their gifts be fully utilized in Kingdom work because we were here…