Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shepastor: "Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013"

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.[a]
The LORD’s Answer
2 Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald[b] may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it[c] will certainly come
and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:1-3, NIV

“Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013”

October 25-26, 2013 history was made as leaders from approximately 10 Christian denominations came together at Wake Forest University School of Divinity to plan strategies for increasing equity and access for women clergy. Spearheaded by Rev. Sheila Sholes Ross and Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge Clanton, (Conference Co-Chairs)

Conference Purpose Statement: To advocate and network for clergywomen across denominations and cultures to facilitate access and congregational receptivity so that they find clergy positions in order to transform church and society.

Vision Statement: To facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches.

The goals of this historic meeting were to:

(1) Assess the progress of women clergy in gaining acceptance in the profession.
(2) Review issues hindering job placement and career advancement of clergywomen.
(3) Propose strategies to ensure fuller access for women to more senior leadership roles in congregational ministry.
(4) Address the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede women’s career advancement.

Jann and Sheila hope that “after the Conference, participants will serve as an activist group with the Equity for Women in the Church Community to implement recommended actions to be taken in denominational organizations, local congregations, and academic institutions.”

The conference opened with a moving challenge message from Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Using Isaiah 58 as a basis for his message, Dr. McMickle, quoting another source declared that
“Inequities exist because (1) We allow it (2)We condone it because of our silence and (3) We treat as second class those who are not like us.” He further stated, “You cannot use the same Bible to decry racism but oppress women.”
He passionately testified that his first pastor as a child was a woman, Rev. Dr. Mary G. Evans, Senior Pastor of Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago.

Our main facilitator, Rev. Cheryl Dudely, Global Religious Director (Arcus Foundation) led us in a thought provoking exercise called the “power circle.” Current senior/solo pastors, organizational heads and presidents were asked to come forward and form a circle on the stage. We were instructed to link arms so that no one could get into our circle. She then invited a few others to come and try to get into the circle. Members of the audience were instructed to remain silent and only to observe. Interesting things occurred… A few “weak links” let some in. Some went underneath to squeeze in, some pushed their way in and some remained outside. The audience was asked to reflect upon what they saw happening. Although we laughed about the experience, several major insights emerged.

Although one or two were easily “let in” they stood isolated in the middle of the circle – in, but not “apart.” One participant who pushed her way in talked about how she felt physical pain in the process. Another talked about the need to gain entrance by any means necessary. All of these observations reflect the reality women in ministry face as they seek to gain access to some very tightly guarded “circles.”

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, Professor of Supervised Ministry, Perkins School of Theology shared a moving reflection, challenging us to see the movement of God through various models of ministry and diversity. She cautioned us not to embrace a spirit of “It is what it is…,” but to believe God for new possibilities, big dreams and seemingly impossible realities.

We also broke off into small groups to consider the following…

Small Group Facilitators:

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo
Rev. Christine Smith
Rev. Dr. Mitzi Ellington
Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley
Dr. Christopher Hutson

Questions for Facilitators to Use in Small Groups

(prior to conference, groups were organized to reflect diversity of race, gender, and denomination) Cheryl Dudley set the background for this time with the Ruth and Naomi story.

1. Reflect on a time you had an ally of another ethnicity, gender, and/or generation. How did you work together to accomplish goals? What went well and how did you do this work?

2. How might this experience encourage solidarity among cultures in working for increased opportunities for clergywomen?

3. What are incentives for reaching across cultures in our work for clergywomen?

4. How do we avoid transactional encounters where one group feels it's being used by the other?

5. What are moral challenges when we decide to take stands not popular in our affinity groups?
Afternoon Small Groups…

1. How do we see the intersection of gender and race creating challenges for clergywomen in finding pastorates?

2. How can we work ecumenically and cross-culturally to accomplish our goals for clergywomen?

3. What local and national initiatives can we engage in together? Identify at least 5 local and 5 national initiatives.
We reassembled to discuss emergent ideas from each group. The following groups were birthed from our discussions…

Five activist groups: (1) resource development; (2) biblical scholarship supporting women pastors; (3) creation and support of new models of faith communities; (4) a national forum for clergywomen for networking, support, strategy, and mentoring; (5) a think tank for examination of power issues underlying barriers for clergywomen, looking especially at the intersection of race, gender, and class.

There’s so much to share about this phenomenal strategic planning conference! Stay tuned for additional highlights and progress on the work!

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Until Next Wednesday
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shepastor: "It Depends Upon Who You Ask..."

62Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch Matthew 27: 62-66 KJV

There’s an old adage, “consider the source.” People say this when scandalous reports are made, gossip is spread, cruel remarks are given or persons of questionable character share information – “consider the source.” In the text above, Jesus was considered a “deceiver.” If you asked the Pharisees, he was not only a nuisance, but a threat to their perceived power and influence. Jesus got in the way of their game plans.

The religious leaders had become abusive, manipulative, greedy and pompous. They did not care that Jesus brought love, encouragement, healing and deliverance to the people. He was messing up their plans, their image, their influence. People were turning away from listening to them and instead listening to God. He spoke truth. They spoke lies. He spoke love. They spoke hate. He preached deliverance. They laid heavy burdens upon the necks of the people. Jesus talked to His Father. They talked to Roman officials. Jesus sacrificed his life. They yelled, “crucify Him!”

To them, Jesus was a deceiver. To those of us who have received Him into our hearts, Jesus is Lord! It depends upon who you ask.

If you will dare to love, dare to speak truth, dare to make sacrifices, dare to preach deliverance, dare to stand up for what is right, dare to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, there will be those who call you names. You may be called a “deceiver,” a trouble maker, a nuisance, a provoker etc. But God the Father will call you His child. It depends upon who is asked.

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Until Next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shepastor: “I Almost Cut It Down…”

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, NIV

For those of you who have been following Shepastor for sometime, you may recall my frequent musings on lessons learned from our family garden. Today is another one! Our rose bush seemed rather bereft of rose buds this year – lots of stems, thorns and leaves, but no rose buds. Two stems, however, seemed to start growing taller, much taller than the bush.

As I looked at the tall stems each day, I kept saying to myself, “You need to go out there, get the shears and cut those two stems down. They are exceedingly disproportional to the rest of the bush.” Full of thorns and somewhat ugly, the two stems persisted in growing taller. Finally, I said to myself, “This weekend is it!” That was Monday. However, when Friday came a strange thing occurred. The two tall, thorny stems had rose buds upon them. Puzzled, surprised and “out done,” I decided to leave them alone.

Each day, the rose buds grew larger and larger. Ultimately, they burst into big, bright, beautiful melon colored roses. Had I cut the “disproportional” stems down, I never would have seen the roses. The bush seemed to speak a metaphor for life to me… So often, we become discouraged when our proverbial bushes seem full of empty leaves and thorns. Then something begins to grow, but it appears to be so disappointing – still no roses, a waste if time. The bush speaks, “don’t cut me down – just let me grow!” Let God do His business in your life. That which seems barren, out of kilter, disproportionate and appearing ripe to be cut down may be on the verge of breaking forth into beautiful blossoms.

Don’t cut down your stems… Continue the work that God has entrusted to your care. Don’t cut down your stems…within the seemingly barren, thorn rattled stem is a beautiful flower bud about to blossomDon’t cut down your stems…you are on the verge of a break through – that ministry, that prayer, that hope, that dream, that vision, that blessing – don’t cut it down as a result of relying only on what your natural eyes can see. In the heavens, God has rose buds about to burst open into your reality.

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shepastor: "The Power of Naming"

19Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. Genesis 2: 19-20, NIV

I listened in dismay today as a news commentator, in conversation with a Native American community representative discussed a sports team’s refusal to change their name – a name that is offensive to our Native American sisters and brothers. Reportedly, the particular franchise owner declared that the team’s name would “never be changed.” Through out our Country’s history, names have been used to oppress, mischaracterize, marginalize, disenfranchise and humiliate people and segments of communities. Names can also encourage, empower, lift and support.

It never ceases to amaze me that people, even after they have been told that an individual would rather be referred to as “thus and so,” continue to disrespect the request and use their designated name for the person. The one who names has been given or asserts power and authority over the one who is named. If the “named” person stands up for themselves and states their prerogative regarding how they would like to be addressed, that person is somehow deemed overly sensitive, intolerant and maybe even arrogant!

Native Americans have a right to demand respect. We have a moral obligation to give them respect. They have a right to be offended when sports franchises, who make literally billions of dollars (with little if any benefiting the people for which their teams are named) continue to use names for their teams that hurt and humiliate a people. The aforementioned news commentator asked the Native American community representative if he thought their complaints would ever make a difference, seeing the sports team owners appear resolute in their refusal to rename their teams. I was impressed with his response. He declared (and I paraphrase),

“Our country is littered with peoples and systems that refused to change, whether it was regarding slavery, immigration, women’s rights, etc. However, the great thing about this Country is that when enough people speak up and stand up, change eventually happens.”

What a powerful statement! May we stand with our Native American sisters and brothers and reject names that hurt and offend anyone. May we have the strength to continue to “speak up and stand up,” so that change eventually can happen. May we resist the urge to “name” others when they clearly have a name they’ve chosen for themselves. And may we have the strength to continue to embrace and boldly declare the names that God has given us, even when others refuse to speak them. God knows your name.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shepastor: “Forgiveness is Counterintuitive, But Do it Anyway”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12: 21 NRSV

When we’ve been hurt, “burned,” mistreated, unappreciated etc., our humanness cries out for justice and in some instances vengeance. But as members of the body of Christ, we are called to a higher response. Jesus’ unusual example of unconditional love provokes us to rethink how we view others. Jesus taught us to bless those who curse us, bless and curse not (Matthew 5: 43-48). Jesus also showed us the power of forgiveness when he declared, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When we dare to love, to serve, to give, to “lay down our lives” in the face of insensitivity and mean-spiritedness, we show the overcoming power of Christ within.

When we resist our flesh’s cry to get back at those who hurt us, and choose rather to reflect Christ, we are empowered in a new and fresh way. When trust that the Lord knows all, sees all and will in time “set things right,” it frees us to obey His Word and determine to overcome evil with good. This does not mean that we become doormats or allow ourselves to be abused. It simply means that we choose the more excellent way. It means that we continue to give our highest and best to the glory of God. It means that we refuse to behave in ways that are not in line with our new nature in Christ. It means that we choose to forgive and not to hold onto bitterness, anger and resentment.

In the article, “Five Reasons to Bless Those Who Curse You,” author Michael Brown shares powerful insights about forgiveness…

Here are five reasons why we should bless those who curse us.

1. This is the way of a Jesus revolutionary, emulating the example of our Father. The Sermon on the Mount is a counterculture, kingdom manifesto where Jesus calls us to live by different principles than the world and religious establishment) live by. And in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave this explicit command: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43-44).

When we do this, we are emulating God himself, who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). This is part of our calling to “be perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).

To read the other 4 reasons, visit the link below…

Yes, forgiveness is counterintuitive, but we have been changed. As Paul declared, “it is no longer I, but the Christ that lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). That’s why Jesus declared, “They will know that you are Christians by your love” (John 13:35). We do things differently. May the treasure that is housed in our earthen vessels shine forth and glorify God and make our big brother Jesus rejoice!

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Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris