Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shepastor: WTIM 2012 Conference Panel Discussion: Continuing the Conversation: “Women in Ministry Identifying and Breaking Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns ”

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 KJV
With wisdom, clarity, experience, compassion and resolve, our panelists, Rev. Peter Faass, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Shaker Heights, Ohio; Rev. Barbara J. Essex, Author, Bad Girls of the Bible, and Dr. Thomas Gilmore, Senior Pastor, Fidelity Baptist Church; Cleveland, Ohio reflected upon questions related to women in ministry breaking dysfunctional relationship patterns.
Earlier that morning, conferees had an opportunity to consider how they related to the dysfunctional behaviors found in the story of Sarai and Hagar (see last week’s Shepastor, highlighting the Plenary session, “Woman to Woman, Breaking the Cycles of Dysfunction in our Relationships,” led by Rev. Marie Onwubuariri). The Panelists were asked to respond to the following questions:
- Have you observed behavior patterns unique to women’s relationships? If so, talk about both healthy and unhealthy patterns you’ve observed
- Identify some things that play a role in how women relate to one another
- How might “the ministry” play a role in creating healthy or dysfunctional patterns of behavior? (specifically, how women relate to one another as well as to men)
- What things may hinder women from recognizing harmful behavior patterns, both personally and in relationships?
- What can mentors and leaders (male and female) do to assist women in identifying and breaking dysfunctional patterns of behavior?
Healthy patterns observed included women’s ability to communicate, support and share with one another, despite the “dog eat dog” behaviors observed at times in male counterparts (in leadership positions). Women have a tendency to take “meager fare” and use it to create something awesome and beautiful. For example, female pastors often use their many gifts and talents to assist small, fragmented congregations to be all that they can be.
Unhealthy patterns were observed as well. Unfortunate experiences in the past have caused some female clergy to become bitter, seeing men through a single lens of chauvinism and oppression. The admonition, “all men are not against women preachers,” was lifted up. A well known issue was raised and discussed – the limited amount of senior pastorates available to women can create a “crab in the bucket” mentality if we are not careful. One of our panelists, Minister Carol Shannon also brought to light the discrimination that exists against individuals with disabilities as relates to ministry opportunities. We must look beyond what is readily apparent, suspend judgment and be open to receiving the blessings that the Lord has for us through which ever vessel He chooses.
Suggestions to improve our relationships as well as identifying unhealthy patterns of behavior within ourselves included making the decision to “search ourselves,” before blaming others (what role have I played in the relationship problem?), choose to rise above attitudes and behaviors that are negative, divisive and or corrosive and instead, model healthy, responsible, compassionate and thoughtful behaviors. Through prayer and persistence, your example will break the cycle and begin a new healthier pattern!
It was suggested that mentors can make a difference for women in ministry by being available (answer phone calls, respond to emails, offer to take a woman in ministry out once a month or every other month to give her an opportunity to share, raise questions, vent, get advice, etc.). As opportunities arise, mentors can assist in opening doors for women in ministry – recommend women for ministry positions, give them opportunities to share their gifts and talents through preaching, teaching, providing workshops etc. Mentors can provide a safe place for women in ministry to learn and grow.
We praise God for the blessings given to us through the open and candid discussions we shared, the issues discussed and the recommendations made through our panelists!
Our final segment from the 2012 “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference will be shared next week as we reflect upon our workshops offered. . Post a comment or send me an email at
Until Next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

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