I am (Pastor) Kristen

Essays — By on January 31, 2012 at 7:30 am

On Sunday afternoon I will ring a bell, be let in through the security gate, sign in, put on the required name tag and be escorted to the gym for my allotted hour. The generic name tag simply says “Clergy” but as the residents at the felony DUI incarceration and treatment center file in, I introduce myself simply as “Kristen”.

Leading the worship service at the facility once a month is a highlight of the many things I have the opportunity to do as Pastor. As I think back over the past week, I recall three pastoral counseling appointments in which discussions ranged from pornography and drug addictions, to loneliness, to an authentic search for true faith. I recall the specific prayer requests with which I have been entrusted, the invitation to a Pastor’s Breakfast by the local pregnancy center and the necessity of beginning to plan the community National Day of Prayer event. Notes for this week’s upcoming sermon are scattered on my desk, reminding me this week is our last in the current series, “Say Yes!”

To some this may sound like a brief snapshot of a typical week of a Pastor, and yet, because I’m a woman, the description might border on unscriptural at best, heretical at worst. A recent dialogue on my Facebook wall about the topic of women as pastors exploded, racking up 103 comments in just a few days. The discussion – sometimes heated, sometimes comical, always passionate – left no doubt in any observers’ minds that this issue is far from resolved and fully understood.

Regardless where you may stand on the issue – a staunch proponent, opponent, or undecided in the middle – I think we may agree on more than we disagree. While the potential list of mutually-agreed upon ideas could be quite long, a few key thoughts come to mind:

• The Bible is the Living Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and instructive for the realities of today.

• God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit live in perfect unity and community, without hierarchy, as the Trinity. The Trinity models to us God’s intention for our relation to Him, and our relationships with each other.

• As we experience the redemptive power of Jesus Christ in our own lives, we also long for others to know the same, and therefore understand our role in sharing His truth.

• The Great Commission is given to all, for all. There are no limitations, no restrictions.

• Women and men are both made in God’s image.

• Jesus’ death and resurrection is victorious over sin and death. Through His sacrifice, all things are made new.

• Our world desperately needs lights shining in the darkness. Any light who faithfully shines, bringing God’s truth and love through service, community-building, teaching, and witnessing, is a positive, God-intended occurrence.

• Each time we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” we’re talking about redemption, restoration, peace, unity, healing, love, justice, mercy, hope, forgiveness and holiness. We all are to be Kingdom-bringers.

 

Where the title of “Pastor” falls into that reality, I’m not exactly sure. But perhaps, it is a title not so much given as it is earned. As I am given opportunity, and am placed into positions to speak, teach, share, guide, mentor, counsel, pray for, and lead with the hope, truth and love of Christ, I will, whether the people gathered are children, women or men. And in so doing, if I am called Pastor, I receive the title with honor and humility.

Regardless of the presence or absence of the contentious title, however, I am Kristen – a disciple saved by grace through faith, fearfully and wonderfully made, faithfully attempting to honor God and serve Him with all the giftings and talents He has given. Aren’t we all called to do the same?

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    14 Comments

  • It saddens me when I see the hatefulness that comes from those who regard female pastors as heretical.

    Likewise, it saddens me when those who are for the inclusion of females in the ranks of clergy become just as hateful, casting those with whom they disagree not as Christians who simply have some theological differences, but as neanderthals. These folks pride themselves in being non-judgmental but in fact are anything but.

    Kristen, I am thankful that you have chosen the path of solidarity with all Christians, and set aside the hatefulness. In this piece, you focused on what matters. Excellent work. Thanks for this.

    • James,

      Thanks for your comments. I agree that both sides of the debate can become positively unkind, and even hateful. I have found myself in the middle of many of these discussions lately, and while they have stayed fairly courteous, they have also forced me to question, “Is there another way to approach this?” Because really, I’m just not sure people’s minds will ever be changed by debate and exegesis. Anyways, this article grew out of that experience and my desire to be about God’s work.

  • jo hilder says:

    Excellent. Both the article, and the author :)

    • Thank you very much! I love the power of the written word to express ideas, challenge thoughts and inspire hope. Such an honor to have the opportunity to share my journey with others…

  • Lisa says:

    Kristen,
    The title of your essay really grabbed me. I am (Pastor) Lisa. I am not the Sr. Pastor in my church and my duties are not nearly as all encompassing as yours, but it is my title too. I struggle with you. It is a difficult and sometimes lonely journey, I find. I have always been bent for ministry, as I am sure you are as well. I didn’t need a title or a paycheck to care for others and “speak, teach, share, guide, mentor, counsel, pray for, and lead with the hope, truth and love of Christ” as you put it. Thank you for sharing this today. It was a blessing.
    (Pastor) Lisa

    • Great to meet you (Pastor) Lisa!

      The journey can indeed be lonely and difficult. It becomes tiresome to feel like you constantly have to justify your position, role and calling.

      Thankfully, I am largely accepted and valued in my role. Others who have never considered the possibility of women pastors have begun to rethink their assumptions as they observe me. Even some of my most theologically conservative friends have concluded that they can’t deny how God is using me.

      I suppose that’s how change happens. In fact, it’s how I came to rethink my own views – I wrote about it on my blog, and am excited it will be published next week by CBE. http://kristenmarble.com/justice/from-complementarian-to-egalitarian-when-gods-call-inspires-change/. Have a blessed day!

  • Lizzie says:

    Beautiful. I’ve struggled so much with this in the past, hearing of neighbors and friends leaving a church just because of a new pastor – a female one. It never sounds fair, and I end up feeling like the one who has been slighted. I wish that there was no need for this post. Even if people don’t agree on your title, I’m sure no one could deny your heart for God’s people. Thanks so much.

    • Lizzie,

      I am sorry for your experience of being slighted and hurt. I would absolutely agree that this essay should be unneeded and obsolete. Perhaps it will be for our daughters’ and granddaughters’ generations. Hang in there and continue to allow yourself to be used by the Lord!

  • Here are some books God used to separate me from my small theology and gender roles and the church.
    –Community 101
    –The Blue Parakeet

    That, and I married incredibly well.

    • The Blue Parakeet was literally life changing for me. I remember reading it on a flight to Portland, with tears literally flooding the pages as I read words I longed to hear, but never knew were possible.

      Thanks for the heads-up on Community 101. I’ve heard that recommended from several different people…I’ll add it to my Amazon cart!

      And congrats on marrying well. :)

  • Kristen,

    Nancy Beach wrote a tremendous leadership book for women than men should read just to understand the issue from a woman’s pov. I lent it out and never got it back so no title.

    And marriage is quite the curriculum.

    • Larry – are you thinking of “Gifted to Lead”? I just put that book in my Amazon cart the other day after seeing it listed in the Willow Creek Resource Catalog. (Yes, my Amazon cart is quite busy!)

      Between marriage and parenting, it seems I have more to learn than I could accomplish in a lifetime…

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