Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thawing out in Orlando

This time next week, Synergy2009 will be in full swing, and I can hardly wait! Women (and men) will be gathering in Orlando from 29 states so far, representing a variety of Christian ministries and theological seminaries.

I've just returned from the wintry Chicago area, where I thoroughly enjoyed (from indoors) the first snow storm I've witnessed in years. Outdoors, I felt the bitter cold of single-digit temperatures. Best of all, I spent the weekend with the women of Wheaton Bible Church—a group that really knows how to have a good time (consider that an understatement!), but where there is great hunger to dig deeper into God's Word.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've also interacted with the women of Asbury Theological Seminary here in Orlando and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois—all fresh reminders of why I do what I do and why Synergy is so important.

Seminary training is vital. Landing a job in ministry is a significant accomplishment. The job search is often a major challenge and the point at which a lot of women hit a wall that eventually causes them to choose another line of work.

Synergy is building a support system for women training and searching for ministry jobs and women already in ministry positions. We focus on continuing education, networking with others who are in the same line of ministry, and tackling issues and problems that come up on different ministry fronts. Eventually, our goal (at least one of them) is to do more to help connect gifted women with fulltime ministry opportunities.

If you're among those migrating south for this year's Synergy conference, you can look forward to warmer temperatures and to refueling for the challenges and opportunities ahead. If you're not coming, please keep us in your prayers, and start making plans to join us at Synergy2010.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feeling Warm Up North

I live in Florida . . . where it is always summer never winter. So it's a shock to my system whenever I head north to colder climates. It feels like tumbling out of the back of a wardrobe, suddenly finding myself in the bitter cold world of Narnia.

This week I traveled with my friend and fellow Synergy promoter, Susan Nash, to the snow-covered campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. On our arrival, Dr. Alice Mathews, GCTS's Academic Dean, delivered on her promise of a "a very warm welcome in frigid, icy, snowy New England."

Her greeting wasn't the only reason I felt warm in wintry Massachusetts.

Chilly outside temperatures can't beat off the warmth I feel when I hear the passion of women to study and learn, to pursue a deeper relationship with God, and to follow His call to minister to others. I feel even warmer when I see theological seminaries putting out the welcome mat for women and hear of professors valuing the presence and contributions of women in the seminary classroom.

I feel a different kind of heat (more like fire!) inside when I hear stories of respected Christian leaders and even beloved mentors attempting to dissuade women from pursuing a seminary education. Or when I hear, as I did this past week, of studies that focused on female graduates from two leading evangelical seminaries over the past decade indicating only 13% of them have been able to find jobs in ministry organizations.

What is wrong with this picture?! Are the challenges the Christian church faces so small, that we can do without these ezer-warriors? I think not.

My hat goes off to the many women who, without the benefit of seminary training, have studied and done their best to teach God's Word. What some have accomplished with one hand tied behind their backs is extraordinary to say the least. At the same time, I have to wonder what more they could have done with the tools and training available at evangelical seminaries. Or how the church might have been strengthened and seminary communities themselves been enriched by involving, better yet recruiting, women at the seminary level in the study of theology and Scripture.

What possible advantage can there be to the church in making sure women know less or are less well-equipped for ministry? Where is the verse that says a woman should only know so much about God and no more? And what can we do to make the most of this growing resource of trained women God has called into Christian ministry?

Both kinds of heat fuel my commitment to Synergy. This is at least one place where we believe in women and are getting behind them as they train for, seek and engage in ministry opportunities.

Next weekend I'll be digging out my winter coat, gloves, and scarf again and heading for the bitter cold Chicago area where I'll be meeting with the women of Wheaton Bible Church and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And where, I'm pretty sure, instead of shivering, I'll be feeling a lot of warmth inside as I interact with women who have a passion for learning and who are moving forward with their seminary training.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Texas Women

Women are doing theology in Texas!

I just returned from the Lone Star State where I was part of a panel discussion for Irving Bible Church's women's Bible study, along with Sandi Glahn, Dallas Theological Seminary faculty, Jonalyn Grace Fincher, author of Ruby Slippers, and Jackie Roese, IBC's teaching pastor to women. Other women's groups would do well to check out what these Texas women are doing (click here).

This wasn't your typical "women's" gathering. There were no doilies in sight. And the handshakes, I have to say, were noticeably firmer than I usually encounter in women's groups across the country. The sprawling church facility was also appropriately Texas-sized. My Texan friend, Judy Douglass, would have felt right at home.

What is more, there was no side-stepping hard questions or refusing to come clean with the kinds of real issues that touch down in everyone's lives. These Texas women were dead serious and fearless when it came to asking honest, probing questions about God, Jesus, truth, faith and doubt, and why bad things happen in this world and in their private lives.

I can tell you, it's scary to be looking down the barrel of the kinds of questions they were asking. On the other hand, I was also heartened to find the discussion both mentally stretching and utterly down-to-earth. With deeply personal concerns driving the questions, this was a great example of what it means to "do" theology.

They opened the discussion by showing the YouTube below, which shows how even children can't help doing theology.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Something to ponder . . .

"We live in a time when everyone's goal is to be perpetually healthy and constantly happy. . . . If any one of us fails to live up to the standards that are advertised as normative, we are labeled as a problem to be solved, and a host of well-intentioned people rush to try out various cures on us. . . . The gospel offers a different view of suffering: in suffering we enter the depths; we are at the heart of things; we are near to where Christ was on the cross."