My spouse is a Reverend. An ordained, credential holder in an evangelical Christian denomination. Not long ago, for that statement to be true, I would need to be a woman.
The times they are a-changin’. And there is still a ways to go.
Some of the most able Canadian church leaders are women. I am credentialed with a denomination that is over 100 years old and we have never elected a woman to any of the highest offices. A woman has never been on the ballot. I hope to live to see a new day. And I can imagine who could be the first woman to hold office.
I was newly ordained as a Reverend with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) in 1984. Every two years we hold a General Conference to conduct the business of our assemblies.
The ’84 Conference was the first time I was eligible to vote. The house entertained a motion to ordain women, a contentious issue with some of our pastors.Twice previously, in ’78 and ’80, the house defeated motions to ordain women. In ’84 I voted in favour of the motion. The motion passed.
In the December 1984 Pentecostal Testimony, C. M. Ward wrote, “This step of opening the pulpit to women is not only morally correct but morally mandatory…. It is the will of God to reach souls regardless of the gender employed.” I didn’t always hold to that view.
In the church of my heritage the stance was “children and women are to be seen, not heard.” And most decidedly, a godly woman was never to speak in a church, let alone become a reverend. My views changed. I’m married to a Rev.
While good, this was an incomplete step. Women could lead but only under the higher authority of a male.
In 1998 the voting members of The PAOC adopted another resolution that anticipated the full and unlimited involvement of women at all levels of our Fellowship. The resolution provided for gender inclusivity in all matters relating to the credentialing process and qualifications of candidates for the elected offices of District and General Executives.
The position has its detractors and supporters in other denominations.
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, ordained three women to the role of pastor in May 2021. The decision rattled many in the Southern Baptist Convention who believe the role of pastor is reserved for men.
Then in 2022, Saddleback selected Andy Wood as Rick Warren’s successor and the church’s lead pastor, and his wife Stacie Wood came on as a teaching pastor. On February 22, 2023, the Christian world took notice when Saddleback Church was disfellowshipped from the SBC for ordaining women and employing a woman as a pastor.
In defending their actions, SBC theologians alluded to the PAOC in citing erroneous biblical views. “I would have preferred for them to align their faith and practice with what the Bible teaches about pastors,” said Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.
The PAOC Statement Of Essential Truths (SOET) includes an observation. “The Holy Spirit empowers leaders, both female and male, to equip the church to fulfill its mission and purposes.” There are no restrictions on who the Holy Spirit will use to bear witness, in word and action, to the message of God’s Kingdom.
This point has a particular application: female and male are equally enabled by the spirit to lead the church. The word order here, with women being specified first, accents the PAOC’s commitment to this position.
Churches that include women in leadership roles as a Lead Pastor or Board member, free the work of God in advancing the Great Commission. Christian denominations that include women at the highest levels of leadership bode well for the future.
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