In this series, Adventist female pastors recently approved for ordination reflect on what women’s ordination means to them. Spectrum includes video interviews as well as their written thoughts on this affirmation by their local church conference.
I broke the wheat thins, poured the grape juice into a small cup, served Communion and baptized my brother in the play-acting of childhood. It is no wonder that later I found it nonsensical that I or other women could make the Communion Bread , make or buy the grape juice, and prepare the Communion table for serving those emblems, but could not break it or serve it. In those long-gone years my pastor / evangelist father neglected to murmur to me that in our faith’s traditional roles it is males, not females who presented and served the Communion emblems.
My father and mother mentored and encouraged me and other young women to give Bible Studies, but stopped short of pointing us toward pastoral ministry. I never questioned the theological validity or “reality” of the prohibited God -given female pastoral dreams and what that might mean in my future or for the future of other women until I, an adult female, realized God’s gradual call for me to enter full time pastoral ministry. I was the unpaid 20-year veteran pastor’s wife, ministering side by side with my husband, lovingly and happily participating in ministry, giving Bible studies, counseling church members, assisting in evangelism, and taking camp meeting assignments given to me by the conference camp meeting committee. Others – church members and even my patients – recognized my call and spoke of it. My heart knew it, but I needed my nursing dollars to provide the income for some of my extra ministries for the precious church members and interests of our churches.
I observed that male pastors within our conference were taken into pastoral ministry with less education and experience than I received, and given educational benefits, ministerial support and ordination. But when I, who had been ministering and carrying out requested pastoral-type responsibilities, finally asked to become a pastor, I received negativity and discouragement. I realized that I had carried responsibilities that were expected, but I, a woman, was not accepted. Fortunately, God had other plans and means, and in spite of the bitter pill to my spirit, God’s call won out.
My formal education finished, the certifications in hand, and the hours of ministerial experience officially met, I approached the ordination committee of the Ohio Conference. “This committee votes to ‘ordain’ you,” were the words they shared when my interview was completed. I have held those words of confirmation and affirmation, in spite of the beautiful Commissioning that I experienced, in my heart, and soon will hear the words of ordination. This completes the fulfillment of my childhood play-acting beginning call, my parents’ mentoring, and my late husband’s dying wish. It is another step for God’s church to make in following God’s personalized rooftop vision sermon to Peter. Don’t call common or un-ordainable those whom God has ordained or made pure.
In my more than 23 years as a pastor/chaplain, I baptize, serve Communion, hold funerals, perform weddings, speak in churches, and minister to people of all ages, genders, religions, and culture. Here and there, I get to spend time with birth parents and adoptive parents. I observe and feel joyful celebration for the adoptive parents and heart-wrenching sadness with the birth mother. I feel both of these emotions when I think of my own ordination ahead. For while I am affirmed within Columbia Union Conference, there are those whom God has called – educated women who have not been invited to ordination, have even been denied commissioning, and treated with disrespect, their call maligned. My prayer and desire in ordination is like Esther: to use my mentoring, calling, education, preparation, and ordination for “such a time as this” to promote unity, weaken the hold of prejudice and fear, encourage all believers, give future generations of women hope, and to strengthen God’s work and church.
Linda Farley is the chaplain at the Soin Medical Center, part of the Kettering Health Network, in Beavercreek, Ohio. Farley has been a health care/hospital chaplain for 19 years and in a pastoral role for four years before that, besides 20 years of team ministry with her late husband, Steve Farley. She will take part in an ordination service, though no date has yet been set.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4815