Last night, one my closest friends officially became a
pastors, and leaders of our church were on hand to ordain Lynne and testify in
public that she had gone above and beyond all the requirements necessary to
earn the title. She has faithfully run our missions programs for 7 years,
mentored countless people, taught classes and Bible studies, and, oh yeah, she
just completed her Doctorate degree.
In truth, Lynne has been one of the most caring, qualified,
passionate pastors I have ever met, for the last 25 years. Working in a variety
of ministry settings, she has consistently labored to show people Jesus, to
bring freedom from oppression and justice to the poor. She has sat in meetings,
often the only woman present, and used her God given gifts of leadership in
spite of the belief of some that women shouldn’t have a place at the table.
will change about the way she ministers, now that the name plaque on her door
can officially read “Pastor Lynne Ellis.” She’s always given it her all,
regardless of the fact that the title was previously unavailable to her simply
because of her gender. She ministered with passion and a fierce love of Jesus
Christ because she understood that the calling on her life was from God,
whether validated by an institution or not.
But, last night, with scores of friends, family, and church
members in attendance, Lynne’s years of service were validated. My husband is
the Lead Pastor at our church and, as he prayed over her, I wept. I wept because I was proud of my
friend. I wept for the young women watching who witnessed a ceiling being
blasted out of their lives. I wept
for the old women watching who, while sighing deeply, had something healed in
their hearts. And , I wept because I’m proud of my husband, who strongly,
publicly, believes in women in leadership in the church.
My daughter (9) and Lynne’s daughter (4) sat together
watching the service and cheering for Lynne. The girls stared up at Lynne,
faces proud and smiling, totally unaware of what an historic day they were
witnessing. To them, Lynne has
always been a pastor. My son,
Caleb, took in the scene as well, asking, “Mom, why are you crying?” I responded, “Because, buddy, I think Lynne does a
really good job.” “Oh,” he said.
Lynne’s ordination is an important milestone for her but
even more so for women in general. Her ordination repeals a cultural limitation
and announces that women are valuable, that they can be leaders, and that God
uses them in powerful ways. It also counters some misguided theology of several
churches in our community here in the Northwest.
One male leader in particular frequently clarifies that the
target of their ministries, the very reason they exist, is to reach lost men.
He rails against a “chickified” church and insists Jesus would have spent his
Saturdays watching football and drinking beer. I understand that men in Seattle
need Jesus. I get it.
But, so do women.
As a woman who happened to be born with leadership skills, I
feel hurt by this rhetoric, excluded and marginalized by it. It pains me to
realize that in this particular church community, my gifts would not be valued
or utilized to their fullest extent.
With Lynne’s ordination, I believe the message both men and
women in our congregation and in the larger community will receive is this:
There is a place for women at the table. Women are an essential part of our target audience. Jesus died
for them, saves them, and empowers them with his Spirit to change the world. No
ceilings. No limitations. Only freedom.