There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. –Galatians 3:28
This week we learned that a constitutional amendment affirming equality for women in the United Methodist Church failed to pass. Part of its slim rejection may have been because of a statement declaring God as neither female nor male. Whatever the reason, important declarations about the value of women in our denomination risk being unaddressed.
In the face of such a bummer, here is my Hallelujah:
The first sermon I ever heard in a United Methodist Church was by a woman named Judy, my mom. She was a Presbyterian pastor serving Kipp Presbyterian and Gypsum United Methodist church, so this was our introduction to Methodism. I already knew she was good. Every sermon she preached was deep and spiritual and poetic. Her pastoral care was loving. Her doctoral work developed a process for discipleship for small churches. Even as a rebellious teen I was learning from her.
Throughout her ministry, in a climate where women were not always accepted, she ministered with grace and grit. She’s retired now, but still preaching nearly every week, filling in at several churches in Northern Alabama. She keeps growing as a preacher, but she also writes awesome novels, about a fictitious pastor, Suzanne, serving a variety of churches in Kansas in the 1980’s. Hallelujah.
One of the best sermons I ever heard preached in a United Methodist Church was by a woman named Jan, my wife, who was serving at Bonner Springs United Methodist Church at the time. Although she writes many enlightening and insightful sermons, for this sermon, she simply recited the Sermon on the Mount out of The Message. She did it without notes, breathing to life this scripture I’d always loved, but never heard like this.
Today she is pursuing her PHD, working on the relationship between foreign born pastors and the congregations they serve in the Great Plains Annual Conference. Along the way, she teaches sociology to hundreds of students at Emporia State University and Southwestern College. Her classes on social problems and intimate relationships allow her to openly and honestly relate to students in a way not always available in the local church. Hallelujah.
The most recent sermon I heard preached in a United Methodist Church was by a young woman named Matraisa. A senior in high school. 6 months ago she approached me saying she’d like to preach. This Sunday, we made that happen. She stood before both services with a message about the Imago Dei, the image of God. Her powerful words reminded us that God did not make a mistake in making us the way we are.
Matraisa is one of several youth group members who are considering a call to ministry. She and I are part of the praise band together. She has been to gatherings and national discerning events for young people. She has been mentored by our wonderful youth director, Bri, and many others. She’s the type that looks forward to annual conference each year. She has hope for the future. Hallelujah.
Now, consider this:
Judy, decades ago, was the first person to have mentioned the possibility of ministry to Jan.
Jan, over the past several years, has repeatedly encouraged Matraisa about the possibility of ministry.
Matraisa, just this Sunday, modeled the possibility of ministry for the confirmation class who sat watching her preach.
Let the whole world know and believe what I have seen. Women of faith have proclaimed the Good News in many ways down through the ages, and they surely will for generations to come. You and I are so much the better for it.
Hallelujah. Preach on.