Surprises are usually associated with the future—with something unexpected just around the corner. But surprises can also sneak up on us from the past. Sometimes the biggest surprises are discovered in the history we know the best—our own.
As I visited my family over Thanksgiving, I discovered a small, blue vest covered with brightly colored badges tucked away in a closet. A flood of memories washed over me as I realized it was the vest I wore to Pioneer Clubs at Good News Baptist Church when I was in grade school.
As I held the vest in my hands I remembered the accomplishment I felt when my mother and I sewed on the badges together and the friendship I shared with other girls during the meetings. I even remembered a bit of the theme song we sang together. It began with “We are pioneers for Jesus…”
The memory of my Pioneer Girl days came as a surprise to me because I realized that the egalitarian infl uences in my life went back further than I thought. Th ough I didn’t develop strong convictions about biblical equality until I was an adult, I now recognized that God had blessed me with many examples of women leaders in my life. These women never received credentials as pastors or professors, but they were certainly gifted ministers and teachers who led ministries in our church and reached out to our neighborhood with the love of Jesus.
I felt a similar sense of surprise and discovery as I worked on this issue of Mutuality. Because there seems to be so little historical precedent for women in ministry leadership, some Christians wonder if advocates for gift -based ministry are sliding away from a commitment to biblical authority and toward liberal cultural infl uences.
But authors in this issue of Mutuality provide many examples of amazing evangelical pioneers from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries whose commitment to biblical authority and to fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission convinced them that women needed to be free to use their ministry gift s and equipped to answer God’s call wherever it led. Unfortunately, as focus shifted away from the example of the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on all people in Acts 2 to increasingly literalistic interpretations of women’s silence and submission in 1 Timothy 2, women began to be excluded from Bible schools and ministry opportunities that initially welcomed their service.
Whether or not they received the right credentials or were remembered in history for their accomplishments, God has been raising up gifted women leaders—pioneers for Jesus—for ministry throughout church history. It’s time to reclaim our evangelical heritage of equipping and commissioning all laborers—both men and women—for the harvest God has prepared.
As I reflect on surprises in history and in my own past, I also look forward to surprises in the future. This issue on “heritage and legacy” will be my last as
editor of Mutuality, as I return to graduate school to finish my studies in Old Testament. Working on this publication has been a tremendous honor, and I’m pleased that Megan Greulich will serve as Mutuality’s new editor.
I thank God for the rich heritage of faithful examples I’ve been blessed with through CBE, and my prayer is that I could be a part of their legacy.