Heresy was my response to the colleague who gently suggested that he and his wife believed I should consider becoming a pastor. I had been a Christian for 30 years, nurtured by conservative evangelicals thinking that I would always have to struggle against the prejudice of being a woman in ministry. Of course, at that time, I was only a Director of Early Childhood Education, a job safe enough for a woman to handle.
We laughed together over my comment and he said he knew I would respond in that way. He continued that there was a book in the Church Bookstore he thought I should read, written by a Professor at Wheaton College. That sounded safe enough for me so I agreed. That conversation coupled with the book, Beyond Sex Roles by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, began a journey of freedom that will culminate when I meet Jesus, face-to-face.
Rough seas have not been absent from the journey. Not only difficult circumstances: being fired as Director Early Childhood Ministries; having a very successful growing Single Parent Ministry taken away and choosing to leave my supporting church and financial support, all related to being a woman in ministry. There were my own inward battles to face; battles of fear, unbelief and woundedness. Through it all there was One who has never left me, just as He promised in Hebrews 13:5. For my part I did not always walk in wisdom, certainly not egalitarianism when making choices of church or education. These were major gateways for fear to enter in and doubt to buffet my heart.
How could I leave the evangelical conservative culture I had known all my Christian life? They spoke my language, didn’t they? They read and appreciated the same books. Couldn’t I just stay quiet and take the opportunities offered to me?
Enter, from the East Coast, a Staley Lecturer to our west coast evangelical Bible College. Each night as I met with God he gave me the same message: make an appointment with Dr. L. I had the audacity to argue, but why do I need another evangelical male to tell me, women can’t? God’s response: make an appointment with Dr. L. Finally after three nights I acquiesced.
Before the appointed hour I was nervously waiting in the faculty lounge and a student walked in. He paced about the room with some agitation. I recognized him as a seminary student from Africa. As soon as Dr. L entered the room this student rushed up and explained he must see him now as he was leaving for Africa at the end of the week. Can you imagine my thoughts? They went something like, “There goes my appointment and there won’t be another one available at this late date.” Then the most amazing statement came from Dr. L, “I am sorry I can’t see you now I am meeting with this lady.” We did meet and he advised me to leave that college and go to another one in a nearby town where he had a professor friend who could help me. He encouraged me to follow what he perceived as God’s call and gifting for my life, to preach and teach without hindrances of gender restriction.
I would love to be able to say I walked through this open door of opportunity but I let many obstacles build a mountain based on fear. God continued to pour out His grace over the next seven years. He sent me to another state, another school and a time of intense physical suffering.
After experiencing a severe stroke in my 40’s I became involved in a small church in Littlewood, Colorado with a woman pastor. It was here that I first preached, from a pulpit. The response was measured but encouraging.
Soon, though, I returned to my hometown in Oregon to suffer a second stroke and move back into the familiar evangelical cocoon. But God wasn’t finished with my journey of freedom. In that cocoon I responded to a need in England within a missions organization. The first time of applying my health history shut the door but the second, said yes.
In 1997, in my early 50’s I left for the West Midlands, England, as a faith missionary, supported by my evangelical church. My heart was to encourage the English church as my job was to teach International students in Bible and evangelism. In the summers I taught conversational English to South Koreans and Germans. Soon, opportunities to preach in local churches began to cross my desk. I accepted these whenever I could. After a year of being open about these preaching events my home church elders asked me to stop, and I did, for six months. At that point I realized I must follow what I knew God was asking of me, not what men were asking. My home church’s response was, no response.
After almost four years of International ministry in England God had led me to an evangelical Anglican Church in a nearby village. Here I had the amazing opportunity to teach adults and often preach. I knew a freedom I had only dreamed about. Along with my Vicar I looked for a ministry where I could directly encourage the English church, the desire of my heart. No doors were available, never mind opened. So he created a position in our church and I left the missions organization.
My home church requested my presence there to explain what this change meant. The end result of that trip was God directed through an intense prayer time that I release the church as my financial and leadership relationship. I returned to England without financial support but God had it all in hand. My Anglican church raised the support and on we marched.
I was soon involved in Reader (Lay Pastor) training. After a year and a bit I sought counsel about being priested. That became a dead end, almost literally as I had my third stroke. But God wasn’t finished. Via the internet and a Christian Friendship site I met and eventually married my husband and moved to his home in southeast England.
Another evangelical Anglican Church and a great Vicar; I finished my Reader training. For three years I was blessed with preaching in 3 churches and teaching. We would still be there but …God.
We are now living in Latvia without the language but living the gospel in a very rural setting with a small sheep farm, where I am learning to improve my writing and taking any opportunity God brings. Why Latvia? God is not ready for that story to be shared, yet. John 10 speaks of the sheep, who know their shepherd’s voice. We were told to “Go, wait, listen, and while you are waiting and listening, encourage.” You can follow our present journey and unfolding story at:
Everyone has a story. It may be quite different from Kathleen’s or it may have similarities. Please take the time to write your story, either as a comment or send it in a Word document and we will publish it. (Liz & Trevor..admin.)