Last night, one my closest friends officially became a pastor.
The elders, 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.
Nothing much 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. “Cool.”
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.
Mike read the following quotation from John Stott, an esteemed Christian theologian, during the ordination. "If God allows women with spiritual gifts (which he does), and thereby calls them to exercise their gifts for the common good (which he does), then the church must recognize God's gifts and calling, must make appropriate spheres of service available to women, and should 'ordain' (that is, commission and authorize) them to exercise their God-given ministry...Our Christian doctrines of creation and redemption tell us that God wants his gifted people to be fulfilled not frustrated, and his church to be enriched by their service."
Suffice it to say that I'm more than stoked to be part of Overlake Christian Church.
So, Lynne, I’m proud to call you my friend and even prouder to call you my pastor. Thank you for hanging in there and seeing this through. Thanks for inspiring my daughter, who I believe might just be President one day. J