Now that I have some time to catch my breath, I’m doing some reflecting on the year that was. Here are six thoughts:
1. Doctoral programs are no joke. The Masters wasn’t easy, but this program clearly takes it to another level. In the end, my lit review referenced 72 sources (out of more than 100 total sources processed) and it spanned 63 pages. That’s just a level above what I’ve done before. It also made for a very busy Fall.
2. Cohorts rule. I’m in a cohort with 7 saints and 2 professors from around the world. Among other things, this means that I have been given opportunities to learn about what God is doing (and wants to do) in all kinds of contexts. Along the way, I’ve learned about business as ministry on the Honduran island of Roatan, internet evangelism in China, hospital administration in Malawi, holistic inner-city ministry in Michigan, and church planting in Cairo. Truly, I end year one with a greater appreciation for God’s global mission and for those living it out, day to day.
3. My topic is compelling. It’s of course of interest to me, but practically every time I’ve shared what I’m studying, the other person has expressed curiosity and interest as well. I’ve realized that very few people or communities are talking about inter-gender dynamics. Frankly, it’s time we right that wrong.
4. We need some theologizing about inter-gender partnership. The first third of my lit review was a theological survey. And while plenty of ink has been spilled on the topic of women in leadership or ministry, comparatively little has been written about partnership dynamics from a theological perspective. We need someone to study male/female partnerships in Scripture in order to help us know what kinds of missional relationships we should be building. Who’s in?!?
5. A little bit of training could go a long way. The middle third of my lit review was an articulation of 7 qualities and characteristics that make for flourishing inter-gender partnerships in mission. And the more I think about the list, the more I think that with a little intentionality and creativity, we really can train people to build better partnerships. To me, thinking intentionally about opportunities to train men and women to build healthy missional partnerships could be the story of a little bit of energy yielding lots of fruit.
6. This is the right program for me. The DMiss offers a blend of concept/theory and “real world” application. In Fuller’s official literature, it’s a “contextualized applied research” degree. And that’s me. If it’s too heady, I lose interest, but if it’s too practical, I lose track of why we’re doing what we’re doing. This program is right in the middle, and therefore it fits me well. Good thing too, since there are three more years to go!
Next up is a break til March. When I emailed my professor to ask what I could do over the break to be prepared for year two, she replied, “relax.”
Last Spring, I had the joy of speaking here, on the topic of what the Bible teaches about women and men in leadership. For tonight’s talk, the topic is different yet similar. Tonight I’ll be helping the students understand the Bible’s call to be racially reconciled in the context of mission.
This means that, once again, I’ll be sharing Paul’s revolutionary and inclusive words to the church in Galatia from 3:26-29:
For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
This text has also made my literature review, as I’m working on tracing a theology of inter-gender partnership in mission. And, in the literature, the crucial issue with this passage is whether Paul is intending the text to have social implications in addition to salvific ones. In other words, in the work of Jesus on the cross, are we only equal before the Lord, and/or are we equal in our relationships with one another?
Those who see limitations on women’s roles in the church see only “vertical,” or salvific, implications. (Looking at you Tertullian). Others, like me, see both.
“It is clear that Gal 3:28 carries important social and practical implications. Ethnic-religious, socioeconomic and gender barriers are overcome in Christ. Paul’s repeated insistence on the practical implications of spirituality throughout Galatians necessitates that the equal standing that Christ has opened up to Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female not be divorced from a corresponding equality of social standing in the practical life of the church.”
In concert, here’s how Gordon Fee sees it, from the book Discovering Biblical Equality:
Paul asserts that in the fellowship of Christ Jesus significance and status no longer lie with being Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. The all-embracing nature of this affirmation, its countercultural significance, the fact that it equally disadvantages all by equally advantaging all—these stab at the very heart of a culture sustained by people’s maintaining the right position and status. But in Christ Jesus, the One whose death and resurrection inaugurated the new creation, all things become new; the new era has dawned.
Thank God that in Christ Jesus a new era has indeed dawned, one marked by freedom and equality, for women and men and with race and ethnicity as well.
As a result, I’m up to my eyeballs in words, and in wrangling them into something clear and compelling. Honestly, I find writing to be a schizophrenic process.
On one hand, it’s exceedingly difficult. Quoting Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Exactly.
On the other hand, at the same time the writing process is wildly exhilarating. Quoting Flaubert: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Amen. It’s a rush.
Anyhow, to help supplement the vocabulary, and to have a little fun, I asked some friends on Facebook to help me freshen up my word list. The result was a beautiful (and offbeat) collection of words. Here’s the list:
Extricate, extrapolate, acquire
Bloviate (I’m committed to finding a place for this one!)
Skullduggery, etiolate, salubrious, circumambulating
Disenfranchise, opine, run/ride roughshod, ameliorate
Obfuscate, recurse, traverse
Absquatulate, bowdlerise, fletcherise, hornswoggle, lollygag, peculate, skedaddle, subtilize, yaff
Now to see how many of these I can wrangle into an academic paper! And you’re more than welcome to add to the list in the comments!
In November of 1996, after about 10 months of full-time fundraising and part-time Junior High study hall proctoring, I started getting paid to do ministry. It’s still mind-boggling to me that what started as a 3 year “blip” between college and the “real world” has now lasted 18 years.
Indeed, somewhere along the way, vocational ministry became the real world!
And when you’ve been doing this 18 years, you’ve learned a few things. For instance, I’ve learned how I’m wired (and how I’m not). I am an introvert. I love to write. Put me in charge of a conference, or a system, or a project, and you’ll be in good shape. And, for the love of God, let’s have fun while we’re doing our ministry work.
I’ve also learned how I’m gifted. Like spiritually gifted. And, for the most part, my gifts are in the “behind the scenes” things. I’m a director/administrator. I like to help new things happen. I have a passion for service.
Truth be told, at least in my contexts, this gift mix makes me somewhat unique. Because many of the ministers around me are gifted in different, “louder” areas. Like preaching. Or evangelism. Or discernment. Or healing. Or pastoring.
Which is why my initial reaction to being blessed to be a prophet caused me to recoil.
There I was, two weeks ago now, in a corporate prayer time, when a good friend of mine came over to me, laid his hand on my shoulder, and whispered this in my ear:
“I think God wants me to anoint you to be a prophet in your DMiss work.”
Me? A prophet?!? Heck no.
I mean, have you read the Old Testament? As a group, prophets strike me as ornery and cantankerous. They probably smell bad. They eat locusts. No one likes them. It’s like they’re permanently pissed off and in turn want to piss others off.
If that’s what the prophetic blessing entails, I’ll pass.
But, as I’ve received that prayer blessing and pondered it a bit, what if there was room for a different kind of prophetic ministry? Maybe one that involves writing. Or blogging. Or a certain DMiss program? What if you could speak truth into the culture–into the church culture–by doing excellent research, reading and writing?
Several months ago, I introduced you to F. Pierce Beaver, missiologist, professor, and prophet. In writing about the profession of missiology, my chosen field of study, Beaver wrote this:
“The missiologist is called to be the pioneer and to blaze the trail. The missionary will not escape from his (or her) uncertainty until the missiologist points the way, and the church will not move ahead in mission unless the missiologist sounds a ‘prophetic call.’”
Today I’ll start writing my Literature Review in earnest. The idea will be to enter the “conversation” that other authors, theologians, sociologists and historians have been having about my topic of inter-gender partnerships in mission. Over the course of some 50 pages, I’ll hope to discern what could make such partnerships flourish, in my organization and, more broadly, in the church.
And, in all of it, I’ll hope to be prophetic.
So, this introverted, fun-loving administrator is going to take his prophetic unction out for a test spin. We’ll see how this goes. I’m all in.
Well, except for the locust-eating part…
Yesterday, I had a fruitful morning working on scaffolding, or outlining, my literature review, due in first draft form on November 14th. Basically, I worked on forming my main headings and then slotting my 85 sources where I think they belong. The goal is to provide a context for the sources to engage one another.
And one thing that struck me this morning is just how multi- (or inter-) disciplinary my field of missiology really is.
For instance, the first section of my lit review is theological, as I trace the theme of inter-gender partnerships in mission through the Scriptures. Then, my second section feels more sociological, as I’m looking for qualities and characteristics (“Q and Ch”) that mark flourishing partnerships. Then, my third section is essentially historical, as I’m tracing InterVarsity’s organizational journey with gender.
On one hand, I love the diversity of this process. It feels great to examine my problem through multiple lenses. On the other hand, my head is spinning, and I am finding that I need to refocus as I move from one section to the next.
Anyhow, here’s a pic of the outlines thus far. Thanks for cheering me on with this!
It has been a pleasure to read through Carol E. Becker’s book Becoming Colleagues: Women and Men Serving Together in Faith.
In many ways, Becker has already walked down the road I am on right now with my research. Indeed, Becker’s text posits nine distinct criteria that must be present if a mixed-gender team is going to be effective in their work, and satisfying to those on the team.
Sounds like a familiar study!
And Becker breaks her nine criteria into two categories. Five are reflective criteria. For Becker, if a mixed-gender team is going to be effective and satisfying, it must have a regular pattern of pausing and reflecting. Now, stop right there, because this is genius. And unexpected, because I think most of us (and the teams we are on) jump right into active problem-solving. I mean, how many teams have you been on that actually stop and take a pulse of what’s happening in the community?!?
Becker’s five reflective criteria include reflection (yeah, it’s strange that the word governs both a category and a criterion), learning, believing (values matter!), naming (as in, understanding to the extent that you can rightly articulate what’s happening) and including.
And then there are four active criteria. The list includes communicating, working (too broad of a criterion, in my opinion), influencing (how a team manages power) and modeling. In these last sections, Becoming Colleagues is loaded with practical implications and action steps, many of which I will be borrowing from as a part of my own research.
All of that said, I’ll offer you one particular quote that caught my eye, from the introductory section on power. This being a blog about how power works in the Kingdom with regard to gender, it seems apropos to post here:
“To be effective partners, we need to know how to use our power positively and well so that we will be able to influence others toward constructive action. Effective mixed-gender teams do this. Because the ability to influence is the outcome of using power, I call the eighth criterion influencing.
This criterion is particularly important for men, almost always requiring a change in their view of power. The story of many failed mixed-gender teams might be different if the person in the position of power, often a man, viewed his role differently.
For women, the task is different but just as difficult. We women must stop fearing power and learn to welcome our own unique power as an ally. To do this, we have to overcome our tendency to rule out the use of power on the assumption that it’s always abusive. This is a skill we can learn from men, who are not afraid to use power as a leadership tool.
Before either gender can accomplish these tasks, both must understand a great deal more about power. There are many different kinds of power and there is a vast difference between power and the abuse of power.”
Want to read more? Either pick up a copy of Becker’s book…
…or wait 3 more years til I’m done with my research!
For those of you scoring at home, I now have just 26 days until my annotated bibliography is due, and just 54 days until the first draft of my 50 page, 100 source literature review is due.
Writing that, I may have just soiled myself a little…
As you know, I’m focused on inter-gender partnerships in mission, and it’s time now to dive deeper into what others have written about the qualities and characteristics that make such partnerships work well.
So in the name of keeping you updated, at the same time providing some accountability for myself, here are the next five books in my DMiss queue. The plan is to digest these this week.
1. Partnership: Women & Men in Ministry by Fran Ferder and John Heagle. From the back cover: “the authors develop a cogent rationale from scripture, theology and the social sciences for changing the dominant male-female stereotypes in order to construct a viable structure for collaboration in ministry.” Good thing, because I always like my rationales cogent…
2. Equal to the Task: Men and Women in Partnership by Ruth Haley Barton. I read this ages ago, but it’s time for a fresh look.
3. Bound and Determined: Christian Men and Women in Partnership by Jeanene Reese. Incidently, when you input that title into amazon, you should also input the author’s name. Otherwise, you’re in for quite an interesting selection of romance novels…
4. Becoming Colleagues: Women and Men Serving Together in Faith by Carol Becker. From the amazon page: “Through stories of mixed-gender teams in religiously affiliated settings-including congregations, agencies, educational institutions, and other faith-based nonprofit organizations-this book explores nine change factors critical to ensuring that men and women work together in mutually supportive ways.” Sounds fantastic.
5. Building Unity in the Church of the New Millennium edited by Dwight Perry. This one looks interesting. It’s a collection of articles about how the church can overcome barriers ranging from race to class to gender.
There you have it. Now either get copies and read them along with me, or cheer me on this week!
I’ve blogged before about flourishing, and to sum it up, the idea connotes someone being able to fully be themselves, as God intends them to be. For me, it’s akin to the Hebrew notion of shalom.
And when I speak of flourishing in the context of my academic program, I’m thinking about men and women each being able to fully be who they are in the context of missional partnerships. In other words, I’m interested in articulating a model where men can lead as men and where women can lead as women, and where both styles are appreciated and celebrated by the other and by the community.
Last week, for class, I read an article entitled “A Rethinking of Theological Training for the Ministry in the Younger Churches Today” by C.H. Hwang. Hwang, writing in 1962 in the South East Asia Journal of Theology, is credited with helping to launch the “contextualization movement.”
In this excerpt, Hwang is cautioning the so-called “younger churches” of South East Asia against embracing an imported “male pattern” of ministry. In the process, he’s really calling for a culture of flourishing. Enjoy!
One of the glorious aspects of modern mission is that there has been an unprecedented number of women involved in this world-directed ministry. How world-directed it has been can be seen by the fact that one of its most glorious achievements, directly or indirectly, has been that it was instrumental in the liberation of women in Asia and Africa from their age-long bondage of one kind or another, and in the enhancement of womanhood in these lands.
All the more, it is not only astounding that this missionary experience was never taken into consideration in the reformation of its pattern of ministry, but it is also a good example of the way in which the traditional pattern has been exported to the younger churches. For while the missionary impact on the womanhood of these lands was indeed revolutionary, yet, so far as the role and place of women in the ministry is concerned, the younger churches just repeat and imitate more or less the ‘male-dominated’ pattern. So much so that we find the new nations are more revolutionary in this matter today than the churches themselves!
True, in some cases, the younger churches are more advanced in accepting women into the ministry; but soon then the ministry is based on the ‘male’ pattern. That it does not work well is not to be wondered at, as the inherited pattern was only conceived from the ‘male’ point of view. The question is how can the ministry of women work well, when it is clothed in the male pattern!
Unless we can be liberated from this ‘mono-tary’ and ‘male’ pattern, we shall not be able to appreciate the true significance of the ministry of women in the body of Christ. Our attempt just to fit women’s ministry into the strait-jacket of our imported pattern may well be the main cause of our present predicament: to allow the women to go into the ministry and then find that it does not work too well!
Pressures both from within and without are compelling us to reconsider the pattern of the ministry so that it may include the special role and function of women in the ministry in our world today.